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Old 03-10-2016, 08:31 AM   #1
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Why aren't my contractors itemizing quotes?


Am I expecting too much here?

I've been shopping for a general contractor to remodel my kitchen, but their quotes have been fairly light on detail with a giant total price and sign here to begin work. Little to no price itemization.

All I'm looking for is "tile floor - $1000, cabinets $8500, counter top $3500, backsplash $800." This way I can decide if it's worth it to take certain items myself.

The last guy hasn't gotten back to me, but he said he doesn't like when customers cherry pick. Well too bad? Group items together then if it's a multitasking project. When I give estimates for software, it's just based on hours of labor. Wouldn't that be nice if everyone did that. My AC guy does this, labor and materials. Boom! And fixed pricing I just stay away from!
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Old 03-10-2016, 08:40 AM   #2
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I don't think you asking too much. Quotes I get might block out things out like demolition, waste, floor, walls, paint, cabinets etc. They contain allowances as well for materials . For example an allowance for counter top. The allowance may be 3500 for example. If the counter top I end up choosing cost more than that, I need to pay the difference . If it costs less the contractor takes some money of the job. It likely won't include nitty gritty detail. The floor item might say some thing like remove existing flooring , reinforce sub floor , install ceramic tile , grout and seal.

I would not entertain a quote without some detail.
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Old 03-10-2016, 11:44 AM   #3
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Probably because they're lazy or have something to hide.

It's not like you're going to have #1 do the tile, and #2 do the countertops and #3 do the . . .
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Old 03-10-2016, 12:56 PM   #4
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or maybe it's so you don't nit pick it to death and they loose part of the job because you want to DIY
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Old 03-10-2016, 01:15 PM   #5
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most contractors dont break down their estimate so small that you the homeowner will go out and price every piece of material then cry why is he making so much...you can ask like what kind of counter top and tile, but the price is usually based on what you specked out to be used for items that arent standard like sheet rock and wood beams..
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Old 03-10-2016, 01:40 PM   #6
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Exactly. He might be basin his price on the entire scope of the job. Making a little extra on backsplash and a little less in the floor, etc.... If you take in the backsplash and it sucks a chunk of profit out of the job then they take the hit. Some things will go smooth and other may not go as planned and require extra work. Guys base the entire project in the price, when the scope changes the price may go up. We sell valves, wanna buy a large quantity we will give you a better total discount. But don't come back later wanting the big discount price when your scope goes from 100 valves to 10. Total job, total price. As long as the scope of work is listed what's it really matter how it breaks down? Remember, everyone needs to make a living, I don't mind paying for quality work from a professional at a reasonable price. If you are looking for work and price is the biggest factor then I tell people either DIY it or go to Home Depot at 7 AM and grab some Mexicans sitting in the curb looking for work and a sandwich.

Last edited by Olcrazy1; 03-10-2016 at 01:48 PM.
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Old 03-10-2016, 01:49 PM   #7
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If you want detail, why not prepare the job breakdown (without the figures) yourself. That way all the bids will be in the same format. But don't expect all the numbers to be the same. Even when you define the buckets, some bucks get tossed in a bucket other than the one you expect.

If you are using it for bid analysis and to assist with change orders, There shouldn't be a problem with it.

But if you want to cherry pick certain items, or question the overhead and profit percentage, you are asking for trouble.
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Old 03-10-2016, 08:12 PM   #8
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A contractor will rarely if ever itemize a quote. They aren't trying to hide anything. For one, it takes a lot more time to do it (that they aren't getting paid for), and it normally means they're about to be micromanaged. And they (we) hate to be micromanaged.

Some will, for a fee. But most won't do it for free because they're too busy. And we're getting to the time of year where if a contractor isn't busy, there's a reason why.
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Old 03-10-2016, 10:32 PM   #9
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Contractors screen customers and projects just like owners, but do not use just the $s as a measure.

If they smell a problem, it is better to give a simple "comp" bid to avoid the detailed negotiating/haggling that is usually not worthwhile. The more details, the more meaningless discussions.

In the end you could get a lower quality contractor because the only way he can get a go is to be cheap. Usually, good general contractors know who they are dealing as far a subs and do not need to go into a job with all the details.

Dick
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Old 03-11-2016, 06:43 AM   #10
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There are times that I will break out phases of a larger job--but only if that phase is an option and might be eliminated---

If ,remodeling the kitchen , requires something---demolition and disposal, for example, what is to be gained by placing a separate amount on that?

Tiling the back splash--that might no be wanted (and costs a surprisingly large amount) will often be priced as "possible additional need'--

Rather like a restaurant menu---appetizers and desserts/beverages priced separate from the main course--but the main course is not broken out into 'meat,vegetables,gravy and cooks wages'
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Old 03-11-2016, 08:48 AM   #11
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Thanks all, good info. I get the feeling contractors are filtering out $25k kitchens when there are plenty of $35k jobs to be had. My strategy might be to say my budget is a lot less in the beginning. I want quality work - I just don't know how much each option costs. I don't need to move the walls and ceilings if it will cost too much.
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Old 03-11-2016, 04:23 PM   #12
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I can see why they may not want give an itemized contract initially but would probably come back with a more detailed estimate when you are closer to committing to hire them. In my experience with my kitchen reno, I think the important question to be asking is what is their level of experience with renovations in general and kitchens in particular. I went with a general contractor whose specialty was new home construction and he was ill prepared for the special circumstances that are sometimes encountered in the demo process. We wound up doing some negotiating on the fly when he realized he was going to have to do more demolition that he initially thought he needed. The lowest estimate you get is not necessarily the one you want to hire.
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Old 03-11-2016, 09:51 PM   #13
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I find being open to discussing the approximate costs of certain options when planning the job is needed---

I want the homeowner to end up with a house they can be proud of--within their budget----so openly discussing all possibilities (and the costs) will achieve that end.

sometimes a person might dismiss a real good design feature because they assumed it was going to be to expensive---only to find it was not so bad.

Other people want some features that are unbelievably expensive--(like moving a staircase) and can't understand the costs.

Frank ,open discussions , are needed---that is how I deal with design and pricing.

Once the design and budget are lined up---I'll give a 'turn key' price---
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Old 03-23-2016, 11:33 AM   #14
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Re: Why aren't my contractors itemizing quotes?


I have been a remodeling contractor for 40+ years. I have created a spreadsheet based on construction divisions (Masonry, Site Work, etc.) that is 100+ columns long and six spaces across. The tasks are broken down into materials, sub-contractors, allowances, etc. This helps me add up the cost of the job and is helpful for the homeowners so that they can see where their money goes. The budget may call for $5 sq ft tile (tile only) and there is 500 sqft of tile required. I always plug that in as an allowance item. Most homeowners have not considered the exact tile and layout while the project is in the planning/stage. So once the project is ready for tile that number may change (had a client quadruple their tile number last week.) Also, using tile as an example, tile design factors into the costs and square footage required, as some designs are more time consuming and create more waste. Typical homeowners don't think of this until it is explained. I do upfront pricing with my clients, so they have some measure of control over what they select and where they want to put their dollars. Most costs----framing, concrete, drywall, etc. are fixed. Undetermined selections (carpet, plumbing fixtures, etc.) are broken out as allowances and the costs can go up and down.

One problem hinted at in previous posts is DIY'ers "cherry-picking" line items and wanting to provide their own materials. Ordering the correct materials and stocking them on the job in a timely manner is not as simple as it sounds. There are timing issues, warranty issues, things not fitting together issues, defective parts issues, backorder problems, the list is endless and continual. In most cases this creates work for the contractor that they are not supposed to be charging for. The same goes for selecting sub-contractors and doing part of the work yourself. If a client wants to paint their project fine. But don't be sending your in-law to do the electrical because he owes you money. Recipe for disaster. Remodeling is teamwork and most contractors have a group of guys who know each other and work together and handing off the baton to someone who is going to drop it costs everyone on the job time and money. And who wants that?

An itemized quote is a great worksheet to understand where the dollars go and tweak the project accordingly. For large projects, ($500,000 plus) homeowners often get a downsized version while the comprehensive version stays in the office.

Unless there is a good relationship between the homeowner and contractor (friends, family) etc. most contractors will pass on letting a DIY'er get involved in their business and final product. Also, there are safety and insurance issues when a homeowner wants to get too involved. The goal should be to pick a good contractor and let them handle the project.

More info for DIY'ers is available in my book, "Psychotic Remodeling: True Stories From a Serial Remodeler," available on Amazon or your favorite online bookstore.
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