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Old 02-07-2011, 09:43 PM   #1
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Did I get ripped off?


My wife and I decided to renovate our small 10x12 1980's kitchen at the end of last year. As my remodel experience is minimal, I didn't feel confident doing all the work on my own. I had 2 weeks off work around Christmas so I thought this would be the perfect time.

I was told about a guy that did really good work that would likely be interested in taking the job. After meeting with him a couple times to talk about our plans, he proposed this arrangement:

I would pay for material, work along with him and pay him $25/hr. He estimated 10 days (8-9 hr days) to complete the project. This would basically entail demo'ing the old kitchen including tearing out a wall, and drywall soffit. Installing new ceiling drywall, installing some recessed lights, under cabinet lights, tile the floor, install new cabinets, butcher block countertops, sink, etc.
On top of the $25/hr I would pay him an additional $500 "profit". In my mind I was thinking ok... It's going to cost us $2500 plus material to do this job. I will learn some skills along the way and hopefully have fun doing it.

Long story short... I ended up paying him for over 90 hrs over 11 days and there was still several days of additional work to do (base cabinets, countertops, appliances, trim, paint, etc. There really weren't any unforseen issues except that we found hardwoods under the linoleum that we salvaged. Some of the boards had to be replaced, but much of the sanding/scraping involved was done by my wife and I at night after he left. In fact we did a ton of work each night after he left. I ended up having some friends come help me finish all the work after his 11th day. Doing the work without him turned out to be very rewarding and fun.

Before we started he kept saying it was going to be much cheaper for me to pay him hourly than to have him give me a set price that "would include a lot of built in time for potential unforseen issues that may come up". In the end... he was WAY off on his estimation of time. I do feel like he is talented but his lack of any sense of urgency is what ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth.

How do you feel about his pricing structure. Does that sound fair? Thanks for your opinion.

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Old 02-07-2011, 10:27 PM   #2
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Did I get ripped off?


You were dealing with an inexperienced individual who sounds like he put in considerable effort into your job.
You ask a question without providing any pictures or job details.
Sounds like you were both inexperienced.
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Old 02-07-2011, 10:35 PM   #3
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Did I get ripped off?


The only one that can really answer that question is you, but, sounds like your handiman did get you through the front end of the project. You are aware that a full blown, contracted, kitchen job depending cabinets would start at 35K and go up from there.

25$/hr is a bargain price for an experienced trades man, you have to consider that he is paying for all the back ground costs if he is truly a contractor.

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Old 02-08-2011, 07:44 AM   #4
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Did I get ripped off?


You didn't post your location---so labor costs will be hard to compare---My helper earns more per hour than that--although he is highly skilled and very competent-

What you are describing sound like a "Major" kitchen job--walls,ceiling electrical upgrades--cabinet install appliance install?--

Might have been higher than you hoped--but all in all doesn't sound bad to me.---Mike----
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Old 02-10-2011, 11:10 AM   #5
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Does not sound bad at all. If the work is quality, then you got a steal.
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Old 02-10-2011, 12:14 PM   #6
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Did I get ripped off?


yeah i agree with others, you got a good deal, even with the possible lack of "sense of urgency" and more hours than expected.

if you learn one thing, remember that an estimate is just that, an estimate. almost all estimates are low, that's the nature of the business. your best bet is to learn to do as much as possible yourself and you will get a much better sense of the time it should take for certain jobs as well as the cost of materials.

most contractors mark up the cost of the materials to build into their profit. sounds like this guy didn't.
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Old 02-10-2011, 12:52 PM   #7
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Did I get ripped off?


How many changes did you have, how many add ons, how many up grades or did you stick straight to your original plan, did you pick up the materials or did he? Did the job order go by your plans or did he make the plans. What I am asking is was there anything you could have done that he did?

Please know it is very tough to do a remodel or build with someone who doesn't know a lot about what is going on as most of the work and thinking will fall on the one who does know the most and how to do the work. It is almost like training a new hand from scratch. There is no way he could know what level of experience you had.

Guesstimating is very hard to do especially when all the variables are unknown. It is like him guessing how long it will take you to do something and guessing on things beyond his control. I think you came out pretty good considering all of this.
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Old 02-10-2011, 02:35 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by jiju1943 View Post
How many changes did you have, how many add ons, how many up grades or did you stick straight to your original plan, did you pick up the materials or did he? Did the job order go by your plans or did he make the plans. What I am asking is was there anything you could have done that he did?

Please know it is very tough to do a remodel or build with someone who doesn't know a lot about what is going on as most of the work and thinking will fall on the one who does know the most and how to do the work. It is almost like training a new hand from scratch. There is no way he could know what level of experience you had.

Guesstimating is very hard to do especially when all the variables are unknown. It is like him guessing how long it will take you to do something and guessing on things beyond his control. I think you came out pretty good considering all of this.
Thanks for the reply. I appreciate everyone's input. I certainly learned a lot through the experience. After paying him for 11 days of work, plus $500 I still was left with the base cabinets, countertops, sink, appliances, crown and base mould and paint left to do. This turned out to be a great opportunity for me to learn a lot out of necessity. My wife and I didn't have the money in our budget to pay him for all of this additional time, so we did it ourselves with the help from some friends. Together we all figured it out and the kitchen looks great. We paid someone else to come finish the floors after we (my wife and I) scraped and sanded all of the old adhesive off in the evenings after our contractor left. we are very happy with how everything looks. I will post pictures asap.

Some random thoughts from a relatively young first time home-buyer...

-So it sounds like $25/hr is a great deal for someone who does good work. But does the client usually pay a sum of money ($500) on top of the time?

-Also... in a typical "time + material" job as he called it, does the client usually pick up the material? I am thinking about stuff from HD like drywall materials, hardware, light fixtures, wire, etc. I was fine with picking everything up, but he insisted on going with me. Therefore I was paying him for the drive time and time in the store. Not to mention this was time that he was not working in my house. I picked up and assembled all of the cabinets (ikea) during hours that he and I were not working together (nights and weekends).

-When paying hourly... how do most handle lunch, cigarette breaks, phone calls etc?

** in hindsight this was a really valuable experience for me. I did learn some stuff from him. I also know more questions to ask in the future when negotiating with someone. I also learned that I am capable of doing far more on my own than I previously thought.

* I can also better see the benefits of having several folks give me a set price on a project. However... based on many of your comments we would never have had the budget to do this project. We simply had a budget in mind and this guy said it was doable b/c it would take about 10 days and I would pay him $25/hr.

-I know times are tough for everyone right now... but should it be a red flag when the contractor you are considering using doesn't have any other jobs lined up? I am in the Atlanta area.

-I really appreciate everyone's input on this topic, I apologize for sounding so ignorant. I will post some before,during,after pics asap. Thanks!
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Old 02-10-2011, 03:01 PM   #9
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Did I get ripped off?


It doesn't sound like you had anyone else bid on the job. This alone is an educational experience. Next time you have a job planned, do the research before you hire someone. Come up with a detailed plan and hand it out to contractors for bids. Make sure their licensed and insured. You don't some clown working on the electric or gas lines without the proper training.
These professionals will cost more then a local handyman, but the job will(should?) be done properly.
In all the talk about cost, you never once mentioned who upgraded the electric, passed inspections or gas work done.
Curious.
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Old 02-10-2011, 03:20 PM   #10
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Quote:
I know times are tough for everyone right now... but should it be a red flag when the contractor you are considering using doesn't have any other jobs lined up?
Not in these times, everybody I Know is eking by.

It sounds like you got a fair deal if the work was quality.
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Old 02-10-2011, 03:25 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cleve99 View Post
-Also... in a typical "time + material" job as he called it, does the client usually pick up the material? I am thinking about stuff from HD like drywall materials, hardware, light fixtures, wire, etc. I was fine with picking everything up, but he insisted on going with me. Therefore I was paying him for the drive time and time in the store. Not to mention this was time that he was not working in my house. I picked up and assembled all of the cabinets (ikea) during hours that he and I were not working together (nights and weekends).

-When paying hourly... how do most handle lunch, cigarette breaks, phone calls etc?
Sounds like he is a self-employed employee, working for wages and a small bonus, and no idea how to run a business or be properly "self-employed."

He may be skilled but he is very inexperienced. Probably has no licenses, insurance, or worker's comp, and doubtful he pays taxes.

Where I live if you hire somebody with no WC and he gets hurt performing work on your property, it's your responsibility.

As far as T&M, that just means you pay him for any time spent and any materials he provides. If he picks up materials then you pay him for the time to do that. If you pick them up, then you don't.

Employees usually lack any sense of urgency unless their employer gives them one.

Sounds like he worked hard on the job and you paid him employees wages (+500) to do it. As far as paying out for skilled work, you got a deal. You only got ripped off on experience because you trusted his time-line estimate.

Hopefully he takes that $500 and registers in a small business class

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Old 02-10-2011, 03:54 PM   #12
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Here is a before, during and after picture. The "during" is a picture of myself and a friend. This is exactly what the kitchen looked like when the contractor left after 11 days. What you can't see in the picture is the wall that was taken out. I actually took the wall out one night, but he did the drywall work around the outside to make it look finished. The "finished" shows all the work that I did after he left (excluding the floors, I paid someone to come in and finish them. They had nasty black tar/adhesive all over them. I was very pleased with how they came out. The cabinets, farm sink, and butcher block (oak) countertops are from Ikea. I will post more pics that show the rest of what you can't see of the finished project later to the project showcase part of this website. Thanks again for y'alls input.
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Old 02-10-2011, 04:01 PM   #13
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big improvement. nice find on the hardwood too.

can't believe someone would floor over that. same thing with a house my mom recently moved into. ugly pink carpets. ripped them up and found a decent oak floor. refinished them and they are amazing.
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Old 02-10-2011, 04:07 PM   #14
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How much did the dog get paid for his supervisory services?

Looks like the project came out pretty well.
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Old 02-10-2011, 04:46 PM   #15
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You got what you asked for. You wanted someone cheap who knew what they were doing to help you take care of the stuff you could not do by yourself. You could have called a professional contractor who would have given you a firm bid, did the work while you were at work and you would have had no hassles, no headaches. Thats what you pay the GC for. You chose to be your own GC. You saved a lot of money, the GC would have charged you 3 to 5 times what this guy did. What you forget in the equation is the opportunity cost of your time, and the value of your "sweat equity". No contractor is gonna want to work along side you. You got a great deal with this guy, it just may have been a lot more work managing him than you anticipated.

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