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Old 08-26-2010, 03:34 PM   #1
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My Dilemma: To Hire a contractor to do Everything, or Hire individual tradesmen;

Hi, Everyone.

I have a dilemma. Maybe some of you can offer some advice.

I have to do some remodeling on a small house I inherited. I ONLY have $25,000 to work with. I want to rent the house out.

It needs quite a bit of work. I have been able to do some of it myself, but I have reached the point where I will now have to spend the money on the things that I cannot (or don’t want) to do.

What I need in this house are the following: a Totally new kitchen, including floor, new carpet, paint in and out, some repair to the walls, air conditioning (California…and there is no air in the house, only a heater), new floor in the bathroom, old fireplace dry walled over.

I have two choices, as I see it.

1: Hire individual tradespeople or companies that do one thing ie: installing a kitchen., hiring a painter, etc.


2; Hiring a remodeling contractor to do everything for me.

The house is just shy of 1000 sq ft. It also desperately needs some landscaping, as it looks like the “Munster house” on the outside.

Contracting it myself:

I have done some research on this. I have enlisted the help of a friend who is a professional landscaper, so he has a lot of contacts in the business. He thinks that I can do it quite effectively by piecing the work out myself. He has referred me to a painter that he has used on his own house many times, and he has referred him out to at least 50 of his own clients, and has always gotten excellent reports back. He charges $125 a day…I would supply the paint.

I have found a company that will do what I want in the kitchen for a total price of $10,000. I really like them , their work looks good, and they have a lot of choices.

Carpeting from Home Depot or Lowes will be about $1800.

I have not entirely researched this, but I have been told by one contractor that I can have central air installed in this house for about $6000-6500.

The Landscaping will cost me about $5000, which will include a new lawn, sprinkler system, and a new concrete walkway. NOTE: I will receive a significant discount on the landscaping, as I will be bartering some of the work in exchange for designing a new web site for the landscaping.

So, by contracting my self, the numbers would look something like this:

Landscaping: $5000
Kitchen $10,000 (including ceramic tile floor)
Painting $1800
Carpet $1800
Air $6000
Bathroom floor tile $300

Total: 24,900 MINUS an unknown discount form the landscaper for building him a website.

Having a Contractor do it all:

I searched Angie’s List, and found a contractor that had a LOT of very good recent responses, and over 200 total reports. It turns out that they were within walking distance of my house, so I walked over, and made an appt for an on-site estimate.

The owner came over to the property, and we talked for a while and he took some notes. We made an appt to meet at his office, and of, course, he wanted me to bring my wife. He gave us both a printed list of the items that would be accomplished.

They were:

New kitchen (He included a fair amount of detail…they do NOT include the sink. ), and there would be VINYL flooring, not ceramic tile.
New carpet
Paint inside, and paint/repair of the two large panels of wood siding on the house exterior…but that’s all on the outside.
Repair, replacement of various electrical outlets.
Drywall over old fireplace.
New Toilet
New floor tile in bathroom (NOT ceramic tile, but same vinyl as in kitchen)
NO air conditioning
NO landscaping
He provided a fair amount of detail with regard to things like baseboard, etc.

Price:…..well, he wouldn’t give me a final price, but he knows my ABSOLUTE MAX is $25,000. He said he does not want to give me the price until I have talked to other contractors. I suspect that it will be right at $25,000, perhaps a little less, but he would NOT give me a price, and would not let me take the printouts he prepared.

He says he can do the entire project in three weeks.

As I said, he is highly rated on Angie’s list. While we were there, he got a couple of current customers on the phone to talk about their projects, and they both raved about him and the service. He also should me stacks of “thank you notes” and an entire binder full of questionnaires that had been filled out by customers after the completion of the jobs. They all, of course, were glowing.

I liked this contractor, because he was very enthusiastic and seemed to care about service a LOT. Nice offices and staff, had a nice showroom, and they seem to be a very legit business.

So, therein lies my dilemma. For about the same money, I can get substantially more by doing it piecemeal( Air, Landscaping…). Or, have it all done by one company.

Your thoughts?

Any thoughts or ideas would be GREATLY appreciated. This is a HUGE decision for me, and I am simply unsure of which way would be better.



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Old 08-26-2010, 04:13 PM   #2
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it's a difficult question to answer without knowing what the price would be from doing it either way. the other big issue is do you have the backbone to deal with a bunch of different subs? if not maybe it's worth the extra money to let someone else deal with it.

it would bother me that your guy wants you to talk to others, but won't give you a price or even the print outs showing the scope of work he will be bidding on.

I can kinda understand why he wouldn't give you a price.. he figures if you tell the next guy you got a bid of $20k, they'll tell you they can do for $18k. But if he gave you the unpriced printouts and let you shop them around, then you'd truly be comparing apples to apples.

I guess you could do nothing, wait a few days, and say you've talked to three other contractors and are ready to hear his price. When he asks you what they are quoting, you could play his game and tell him you won't reveal that info as you don't feel it's fair to them since you didn't give them his price....

it sounds like you might be better off acting as your own GC, that way if you end up with a rotten apple or two you won't get hit too hard. On the other hand if this guy is as good as you think he is, and all you have to do is write a check and let him handle, that's tempting as well.

if it were me, just based on the info you provided , I'd tell this guy to pound sand and just piece it out myself. but that may not be the right answer for you... good luck


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Old 08-26-2010, 04:58 PM   #3
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Don't ever tell them how deep your pockets are. Let them bid on the job specs.

Last I looked, Border's had a book on being your own general contractor and farming out each task. Problem is I forget what percent of the total you can save by doing this.
Look at it as "negative tuition". You'll learn a lot being a GC/project manager and you save money by doing it.

And you'll learn a lot about tradespeople in a big hurry. If 2/3rds are competent and 2/3rds are honest, your odds of finding someone who is both is 4/9ths, about 40%.

Stock up on Pepto Bismol, though. Good luck.

While you're in Border's look for the books by RS Means. This publisher prints ZIPcode-corrected prices for just about any task.

Last edited by Yoyizit; 08-26-2010 at 05:14 PM.
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Old 08-26-2010, 05:49 PM   #4
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You made a mistake by telling him your total budget.

Prices vary by the area you're in but $10k for a kitchen that will be in a rental home sounds high to me.

Get a price from the contractor and if he's close to what you want to spend but does not include AC and landscaping then you should go with the first option.
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Old 08-26-2010, 10:06 PM   #5
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You forgot a couple of important answers to unasked questions. Is a license required in your state? Is the contractor you have talked to licensed, insured?

List what you want/need done. Get written pricing from 3 GC. Compare what each will/will not do. Will subs be used or will the work be done in house? Will you be furnished license/insurance proof for subs? If anyone says they will work under the table, immediatly show them the front door and remove them from the list. After spending $25,000.00, will the rental return show a profit?

In my experience, 90% of the time when the owner is acting as their own GC, the job takes much longer and costs more than the original budget. The more complicated the job, the more need for a competent GC. The 4 commercial kitchens we have worked on this year have cost more in time and money because there was not a GC. We have one job right now that should have been completed in April. Four months have passed and the job is still not done. I also expect some work to be re-done because of code non-compliance. Most of the problems would have been avoided with the services of a competent GC.
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