Copy of letter sent to Remodeling Contractor

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Hi Al,
Thank you for your truly eye opening information regarding the quote request, and your attached remodeling cost averages pdf.
I had a contractor friend back east suggest when I first mentioned what I needed, that I could save money in the living room by buying a Festool Track Saw and cut the engineered flooring myself, I thought he was kidding me. I have another friend who builds high end cabinets, and furniture, who says a Festool Domino tool is the greatest thing since sliced cheese for joining wood, and way faster than making mortise and tenon joints. Yeah, I though, nice, but a high priced tool that since I won’t be making production runs on cabinets just seemed like it was out of line for my purposes, with no real ROI.
Then I saw the average major kitchen upgrade cost 54,000 dollars. I already have the tools needed for the cabinets and stuff, plus I bought cabinet grade plus wood and high quality wood for the face frames. I also purchased high end sliders for all the drawers and shelves for the cabinets as well and my total material cost was around 2,000 dollars.
The way I figure it, your kitchen upgrade figures of $54,000.00 just allowed me to buy all the Festool Tools I dreamed about, plus a CNC machine to make some rather fancy door’s, molding with enough money left over to upgrade some of the major tools in my garage. I am now able to justify the costs to my wife and I would still be saving major money for the total cost of the job.
So in the end your eye opening quote and attachment has been quite beneficial to me.
When time comes for you to retire I am sure you will be a very happy man, may you live long enough to enjoy it all.
Regards, Xxxxx Xxxxxx
Sent from Mail for Windows 10
From: Al Xxxxxxx Sent: Thursday, August 18, 2016 2:23 PM To: XXXXXXXX.com Cc: XXXXXXXX.com Subject: construction costs
Hi Xxxxx, I wanted to get back to you as soon as I could check on some historical numbers that I have. I have attached a copy of a national cost average for different types of additions and construction. I categorized your project as a family room addition. You can see that the national average for a mid-range family room is $80,765. It is even more expensive on the West coast, ($95,529). That doesn’t even include the division of the existing living room into a bedroom and office and also the kitchen remodel. If you had called me and asked what I would use as a cost for room additions, I would have said use $250.00/SF as a beginning cost and it might go up or down from there. Your proposed addition of 18.5’ x 16.5’ comes to about 305 SF. If I multiplied that by $250 it comes to $76,250 which is close to the national average. Unfortunately your budget of Under $20,000 doesn’t get us very close to what it is going to cost. I’m sorry about the news but I wanted to get it to you as soon as possible. Thank you for contacting us and we wish you the best of luck. Sincerely, Al Xxxxxx
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ What a way to estimate costs?
I think he would have been far better off to say something like the job was smaller than he would like to take on or something similar.
I already had one that thought it wasn't worth his while, in so many words, and wasn't interested.
I could pay someone to draft it up with an engineers stamp on it and GC it all myself, doing all the electrical, and the water line myself, but I would like to get it cranked out faster using someone active in the trades. IYKWIM.
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On 8/20/2016 1:32 PM, OFWW wrote:

;~)
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On 8/20/2016 1:32 PM, OFWW wrote:

Common practice when asked to give a _preliminary_ estimate is for the bidder to make an educated estimate/guess based on what it has historically cost _him_ to do similar jobs ... <emphasis on the _informed_ aspect of giving a "preliminary" estimate>.
Then, IF it is established by the customer to be roughly within their budget, both the customer and the contractor will ideally work together to refine a "contract price".
IOW, a contract price that is based on the specifications required by both parties (IOW, containing elements such as cost of code compliance, materials and labor by the contractor; and degree of trim, fit and finish, etc., desired by the customer, and within his budget).
Not all potential clients will provide their ideal budget figures upfront; and not all bidders/contractors are dedicated enough to maintain the type of historical data to give a realistic "preliminary estimate", so, as you have experienced, they will use some internet generated figures to suss out the potential client's budget.
It is also a common practice for contractors to bid unreasonably high on jobs they don't really want to do, hoping they don't get the bid, and, if they do, that the high figure will make it worth their while
Either party finding themselves in the scenario in the last two paragraphs should probably decline to participate further.
Personally, I stay far away from those scenarios, as they have proven to be a waste of time for all involved.
One of the biggest time savers for all involved is for the client to be upfront about budget considerations. The contractor can than tailor a realistic bid that will illustrate what the client can expect for that amount he can afford to spend.
Nutshell: the contractor did you a favor by telegraphing his business philosophy (i.e, an obvious lack of historical data/experience) upfront, making any followup a waste of your time.
While all the above may be obvious, surprising how many don't understand the process ... probably because it is not covered on DIY cable shows by reality TV contractors with cute buns/tits. ;)
--
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On 8/21/2016 10:15 AM, Swingman wrote:

[skip]

Let's not get too carried away here, Karl. I can think of one or two of those "contractors" who could do my kitchen, er, or DO me in my kitchen! ;)
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On Sun, 21 Aug 2016 10:41:20 -0500, Unquestionably Confused

[*] SWMBO is an HGTV junky.
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On 8/21/2016 10:57 AM, krw wrote:

[snip]

Ah, that would be NO! I was thinking more along the lines of Alison Victoria on "Kitchen Crashers"

So is mine. We also have a 8 yr old granddaughter who watches a number of the shows religiously. She keeps an active schedule but she has them DVR'd so she doesn't miss anything.
Good shows with great ideas. I wonder just how many folks get the underlying meaning: "You can do amazing things if you're handy with a checkbook!" ;)
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On Sun, 21 Aug 2016 11:27:31 -0500, Unquestionably Confused

Those kinds of shows have given my wife some understanding of it all, some. Makes it easier for me to explain the realities of it all.
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On Sun, 21 Aug 2016 11:27:31 -0500, Unquestionably Confused

Ditto. Since the Olympics have been on, I've about OD'd on HGTV, though. The one show I do like is Fixer-Upper, I think it is. Chip is funny as hell.

Lotsa great ideas but I don't have the eye and I don't go for the furnished job, right down to the color of the napkins. I already have furniture I like (some very nice). I'd like to see them keep closer to the real world.
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On 8/21/2016 5:59 PM, krw wrote:

[snip}

+1 for Fixer Upper. Chip is a few fries short of a Happy Meal at times but between the two of them they certainly can turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. Joanna has some great ideas and really knows how to put the frosting on the cake with her sense of style. I don't think that I've ever seen a job that they tackled that didn't turn out first rate and they've started with more than a few I would have approached with a Caterpillar or a match and jug of gasoline.
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On 8/21/2016 9:15 AM, Swingman wrote:

business. My professional organisation reckons that labour costs should be charged out at 2.5 to 2.7 times base salary. When I ran a small company, I went through the exercise from scratch and damn me, it came out within that range. Graham
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I've always gone another route, various, but the bottom line after all is said and done. Overhead is going to cost 42%
Even when you bid against non-union companies many of whom screw their employee's. And no, I am not against non union companies, just against the guy who works in the trades for a few years and thinks he knows it all and that he is getting ripped off if he is getting paid 30 bucks n hour, and the company charges 65 to 70 (old, old scales)
So he starts his own business, no license, a personal truck, the most basic of tools, and starts underbidding jobs because he doesn't know any better, little by little they learn about insurance costs, and so one, but they seldom go much beyond a year in the biz. Yet we would have to compete against them on small jobs.
Life is fun.
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I understand fully what you are saying, I appreciate adults who can say they aren't interested in the little Jobs, etc. I told them up front per the phone the scope of work needed, square footage, etc.
When I spoke to them here at the jobsite, I laid it out again, with the drawings. After going over them I was surprised at the time that they took no measurements, didn't look at the electrical panel location, only showing in interest in the bearing wall in the center of the house looking back from the roof line.
Then when I saw what he wrote I understood why he showed such little interest in the jobsite.
Having worked with many residential contractors in my early years, migrating to Comm'l, Industrial in my later years, plus architect's, engineers, etc. I am pretty familiar with the processes.
Unfortunately I have been retired too long and not kept track with some of the people, and the ones from my early years which would be the most beneficial to me know are long since dead or retired. :(
Seems odd, but the very first person I contacted seems to be the best suited to the Job, and he said I should get two other rough estimates first. I have done that and now going to call him up to get moving on the jobs. I only wish that some of the men I did business with in the past were still around. I know that I could act as a GC, but that would require already knowing the subs and who is reliable, does good work, and who isn't. I don't have time for that.
What you wrote is fine advice, and I recommend that anyone reading this thread pay attention to it, especially if they didn't work in the trades themselves.
Thanks, Swingman.
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On Sunday, August 21, 2016 at 10:16:02 AM UTC-5, Swingman wrote:

Well said, as usual.

I will give a "cigar" estimate (the time it takes me to smoke a good cigar) to educate a client on what to begin to understand what they can expect on a remodel/addition, but quit after that. I try to manage expectations and discourage the "hey, we'll work together to make this happen attitude". W e are partners in a way until the contract is signed, then I am a service p rovider with a clearly defined task.

Without specs and a <<detailed>> scope of work, there is no project. I hav e been sued (unsuccessfully) and have had my reports and findings used in m ore than a few court cases when I have provided inspections and opinions fo r attorneys and their clients. The upshot of those experiences is the mand atory requirement that all work be specified as closely as possible in writ ing on the contract.
These days, with all the DIY experts, the YouTube experts, This Old House e xperts, the Google experts, and on an on and on... I make sure sure that th e client understands my contract completely before they sign. I don't liste n to second guessing once the starter gun is fired and we are off. It is m y responsibility to make sure the client understands completely how the who le process works before we start, and since my entire business is referral (and has been for decades)I need happy clients that have carefully managed expectations. This all plays into what you are saying, Karl.

NO, they dont'. They will happily waste your time, effort and talent getti ng and estimate, getting an education, and learning about the business in g eneral. Their project is something they are "looking into", sometimes in th e most lazy way. I know it sounds arrogant, but I no longer meet with peop le on the weekend or in the evenings unless I feel some kind of commitment. I don't want to go a client's house on a Saturday while they are drinking beer, shuttling kids around, taking care of weekend chores, etc.
I use the same reasoning I used when training loan officers to sell money. If they won't take off an hour or two early from work to borrow $250,000 f or a mortgage loan, just how serious can they be? How much respect for you as a professional do they have for you if they only want you talk to them when they only have time when it is completely convenient and comfortable f or them, when they have nothing else of greater importance to do?

For me, this usually has more to do with the client than the work itself. If I think they will be a PITA, I do charge more if I think they will need more hand holding. When client can't figure out why I don't do things like Joe Silva or the Property Brothers (and then lecture/educate me from their TV experience), or they are calling to make sure I didn't let the dog out, or asking me and my guys to unload fertilizer, and on a on... sure they ge t a higher price. OTOH, if they turn out to be just fine, I wind up giving those folks as much as I can off the cuff.

Preach it, Karl! On the other hand, I have had some unintended results from the DIY group. I have about 3 or 4 clients a year that have all sizes of projects they have contracted themselves that fail. When they get my name from my referral net, they are usually so pissed off at ALL contractors tha t they leave me alone and let me work. They are usually very relieved and pleased when I take care of them, and glad it is all over. Many of those p eople become long time customers.
No matter, I still get fooled. I recently spent about 40 or so hours helpi ng a prospective client define his thoughts and the scope of work on about a $150K remodel. He told me he was going to use me to do most of the work, and to provide overall supervision on the job. He changed his mind after he got my typed scope of work, and decided to do it himself. 40 hours gone . I don't get all the work I bid on, and don't expect to. But I would hav e never spent that kind of time with him had he been honest with me and tol d me that he might try to do it himself. With my road map, he decided to t ake the plunge.
However, my fellow contractors are providing a great education for him. Th e paint contractor he wanted to hire (and had a handshake agreement with) d ecided to take a better paying job that will give him work until mid Novemb er. The flooring guy that removed and replaced about 2500sq ft of brand ne w Brazilian cherry flooring wouldn't wait for him, so he has new floors in a house that isn't painted, the walls haven't been moved, and walls/trims/c abinets haven't been prepped and painted. The granite top guys are coming out, but without his painter, they will be installing new tops on cabinets that are to be refinished in place. The cabinets have all new hardware, hi nges, slides, and other hardware and they haven't finalized a paint color.
More education will be coming for him, no doubt. He is now 2 months behind the original schedule (that's right... two) and is hoping to finish the wo rk by November 1st. He feels this could be done and they will probably mak e it since he cut the scope of work literally by 50% from what we planned t ogether.
I am not "bagging" on anyone that contracts for themselves. I have a lot o f clients that take on smaller projects all the time with great success. T hey pay the right amount, get a good job, etc. The complaint I hear the mo st from them is that they can't get the contractors to finish 100%.
This subject just hit a hot spot with me and I thought I would chime in wit h a look from the other side of the fence.
Robert
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On 8/23/2016 2:25 AM, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

I recently did two bathroom remodels. I thought about contracting it myself but know someone that does that sort of work. He probably saved me $thousands and got me top quality work. I also saved by going to the local plumbing supply for better price and quality than the big orange or blue stores.
He has 25 years of doing this so by now knows who to call. I would have spend many hours just trying to find out the best tile guy, plumber, etc. I know enough to avoid the big ads in the Yellow Pages.
Oh, paying cash helps too.
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On 8/23/2016 1:29 PM, Ed Pawlowski wrote:

Had to work out of state a couple of times, and working outside the reach of your proven subs and tradesman can be tough on the budget, particularly if you generally work in a large urban area.
That's the time when two guys, who can do it all, or most all of it, really shines.
... and long as both of them are still relatively young, that is.
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On Sun, 21 Aug 2016 16:16:43 +0000, Nicholas Holloway wrote:

Haven't seen a good troll in a long time. This one comes to us via Romania and Finland.
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Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

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On Sun, 21 Aug 2016 17:25:08 +0000 (UTC), Trenbidia wrote:

Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private pocket, and do not pull it out and strike it merely to show you have one. If you are asked what o'clock it is, tell it, but do not proclaim it hourly and unasked, like the watchman. -Lord Chesterfield
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On Mon, 22 Aug 2016 03:21:39 +0300, Larry Blanchtard

No, as odd as it sounds, it looks like it'll be riding on a donkey, wearing a rainbow flag with a crescent moon on it.
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wrote: *trim: A boring series of adjectives deliniated by the word stupid.*

Don't let that guy bother you... In the words of a famous Jedi "The ability to speak does not make you intelligent."
But do keep the good insults coming. I enjoy creative insults.
Ever read the Avril Lavigne article on Uncylopedia? If you like creative insults, it's a good place to start. (Check out Hydrogen while you're at it. Not full of insults, but still a good read.)
Puckdropper
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wrote:

My addition has three walls to frame, existing exterior wall only requires closing the window. is 16.5 X 18.5, requires no interior plumbing, electrical is 125 per circuit, plus front door and entry way.
Given your outbldg size less than 1.5K would insulate and drywall it, material costs, so as a guesstimate based on your figures the total material cost for my extension should be less than yours, including electrical as no sub panel is needed.
In any event I emailed the original contractor so we could finalize the figures. So I should know within a couple weeks.
No one will be working at this property without insurance.
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