We are getting kitchen cabinets made by a local custom cabinet maker.
The total cost of the project is about $20k.
We have just asked him whether the two island pieces can be stained with
a different dyes (he uses dyes rather than stains). He said that it
would cost an extra $750.
I did not expect to incur an extra cost here, so I was very surprised by
this answer. Before I ask a follow up question, I'd like to educate
myself as to what might the reason for the extra cost. My naive thought
was that there should not be an extra cost to closing a jar, putting it
back on the shelf and opening a different jar, but clearly there is more
to it than that.
What is it?
Thanks in advance,
He knows he's got a live one on the hook.
By the way, I took the liberty of posting this in rec.woodworking (a very
busy newsgroup). I see you've tried alt.woodworking. If I recall, the rec
group is much busier. But I could be wrong.
I, also, would like to know his rational for that additional cost.
Kind of sounds like the decorator, who was redecorating my brother's
house. She had made a list of things to be done. My brother decided
one item was to be scratched from the list. His bill, to that point,
denoted a 2 hours charge for scratching the item off the list. He
fired her! He hasn't been returning her subsequent phone calls.
In general with contractors it seems best to finalize your
requirements before asking for a quote. Then decide if the total
price is worth the finished product. If you get into "how much did
each piece cost" or "what will it cost if I change this" after the
quote that will lead to frustration. If you change anything that is
an opportunity to charge you for the change.
Theoretically nice but clearly one never can fully appreciate or
anticipate every possible nuance in any project of any size...
But, change orders are the heart of many operations...in the former life
in the nuclear utility (vendor) business there was one particular vendor
that was notorious for low-balling initial bids and always ending up w/
higher end costs w/ change-order costs than the highest initial bid.
With time it became so apparent our sales engineers developed a whole
presentation policy based on their past performance. Not easy to deal
with as individual, of course...
It should be written in stone _in the contract_ that folks who can't
make up, or change, their minds need to pay ... not the contractor.
And, as it should be.
Decide, after the quote and agreement, that you want a different type of
Lazy Susan in a corner cabinet, or arbitrarily change the size of the
refrigerator or microwave, can cause two entire walls of cabinets to be
redesigned, both uppers and lowers. Something as seemingly simple as
changing the counter top thickness can necessitate a complete redesign.
Depending upon the underlying material a particular color being applied
can sometimes mean extra steps in application, number of coats,
difference in top coats, etc. Some dyes are expensive and not readily
available in all locales. This can easily double the contractor's costs
if a color you originally specified has been purchased, shipped and paid
Then take into account that many, if not most, of these jobs are based
on a materials cost plus a percentage factor for overhead, labor and
profit ... change your mind about something already purchased and you
understand how quickly a change can become seemingly "unreasonable" on
While the OP's original problem seems a bit out of line on the surface.
Best thing is to simply ask for an explanation of the charges for the
What is a given is that a contract without clear cut provisions for
"change orders" is dangerous for both parties.
First off, changes after the fact do cost money. FWIW I am having a home
built by a know builder. Adding 1 more ceiling fan to the previously agreed
on 8, resulted in the extra price for the fan, plus a $350 admin. fee. They
absorbed the admin. fee with out me asking, as a courtesy.
But $750 does sound high unless some of this work is being "farmed out" to
other contractors, and or he is getting a discount for materials all in the
FWIW, when buying my last 2 cars, from two different dealerships owned
by the same firm, they wrote up the invoice with a $150 "administrative
fee". Both printed new invoices without that fee upon "request". Hope
that may save someone some $.
Sometimes with changes you have to mark it up. Sometimes you eat it
and shut up for the good of the "cause" I have to say in both
instances above they seem a little high. I glad swingman's guy ate it
$750 sound way high IMHO, but I'm not the one doing it...
If the fee is in the contract, there is no argument. It could be a
legitimate fee to cover the costs of making all the changes,
administratively, that a corporation has to do when they become a
corporation, just to cover their butts. Or it could be that *plus* some
just to keep clients from constantly making changes they consider to be
"no big deal."
"Playing is not something I do at night, it's my function in life"
Welcome to the real world.
Change orders are a fact of life.
Change orders cost money.
Change orders enhance the contractor's bottom line, if the contractor
is running the business correctly.
How long do you suppose it would take (in actual hours) to "administer" one
more ceiling fan into the equation? We're not talking about doing the actual
installation. We're talking about paperwork.
So, how long?
Contractors do not charge for paperwork directly. That point would be moot.
When I spec'd a home with a builder I demanded plywood subflooring and
stated I would pay the cost. He told me some outrageous figure that was
about twice what I would pay for just the plywood without any rebates or
compensation for the OSB board not used.
I agreed to pay it and then was told,
"We don't build that way, anyway. Go elsewhere, is you want that". I did.
As Lew stated, this is where the contractors make their money...not on
competitive specs. Hurts, but when you do it, you will too.
..and that is OK in your book?
To each his own but for the inconvenience of doing it differently (for
I disagree with Lew, that if your total margins are going to be
expected to come from your extras, you're doing it wrong. Extras are
an inconvenience and shouldn't cost a builder money (including his
normal margins)..... but as a profit centre I think it is wrong.
Now if a client's changes become such that it starts to infringe upon
the availability of the shop space and manpower to move onto the next
project, hit them hard with 'discouragement fees'.
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