We all love to rant and I appreciate you situation. On the other hand,
you and I both know why the contractors function the way that they do.
Too many people ignore the contractors caveats as he says "this is an
extremely crude estimate that I really hate to give over the phone, blah,
blah." And some homeowners fail to mention important details over
One of my neighbors pressured a contractor for a "rough estimate" over
the phone. Impressed with the price, he took some time off from work
one day to met the contractor at home. The on-site estimate was about
4 time the phone estimate and my neighbor went ballistic - accusing the
contractor of low-balling him with the phone estimate (which the contractor
didn't want to give in the first place!). I don't know the contractor, but I
know that he has a very good reputation in our area and seems to have
a record of fair estimates and good work. He wasted his time on the phone,
wasted his time on the visit to the home, he's not getting any revenue
for this effort, and he has an irate homeowner who is badmouthing him.
You may not like my suggestion, but when I can't get estimates easily,
then I type a description of the work & take a photo or two if helpful.
I send copies to several good contractors along with self addressed
envelops, a map & directions to my home and a typed note explaining
that I am aware that such an estimate can be very inaccurate. For
exterior work, I give them a fair amount of time to reply since some
of them will stop by and look at the work when they are in my area.
This sounds like a lot of work on my part, but after doing this several
times, I've already got some good "boilerplate" from previous times
to make it easy to do again. For example, the map & driving directions
haven't changed in many years and I've got a photocopy machine at
home to copy them with little hassle. Etc.