50 Shades of Remodeling…well maybe not 50, although if you contacted 50 companies, you would see all the different shades of each company!
However, you’ve decided that you do want to redo your the “shades” of your home, whether it is your kitchen or bath, or even add on to the house. First question is “I wonder what something like this might cost”. So you call three (or more) contractors, which is what you have heard is a good idea; since if you don’t compare how will you know you have gotten the right deal? The three contractors come to your house and you discuss the project with all three. Here is where the process falls apart.
You have some idea of what you might want and you discuss this with contractor #1. He makes suggestions and adds to the idea. He leaves with his perception of what you want.
Contractor #2 comes over and you discuss the project with him. This time you offer a little more information because you are wiser from the discussion with #1. You may have also gotten some new ideas since you spoke to #1. #2 offers more ideas and different suggestions. He leaves with his perception of what you want.
Contractor #3 enters and now you have an even better idea of what you want. More discussion happens and as you might guess he has some new and different ideas. He leaves with his perception of what you want.
All three contractors know at this point that you want to, let’s say remodel the kitchen. This is where the possible apples to apples comparison stops. Unless you have given each contractor a plan delineating the exact project and a list of the exact materials to be used, you will receive three estimates on three different kitchens.
At this point, the three estimates are almost useless. What is useful is that you have met three contractors and have gotten some feel for who you like. Regardless of the estimates, if two of the three contractors made you a bit nervous do you want them in your house for a few weeks. Do you want to deal with them if you have a small issue with something in your project.
You may also be thinking, but I’m going to ask for a line item breakout, this way I can definitely line up apples to apples. What you have to understand is that remodeling is not like going to the grocery store where you can pull out one item and it has a direct effect on the cost; it is more like the entire recipe, if you don’t have a main ingredient, the recipe fails. A good example is a built in frig. If you pull that out of your estimate and put in a freestanding frig, your cabinetry expense will change, your plumbing and electrical could possibly change and installation will definitely change; it’s like a domino effect.
Another factor that you must take in to account, not each company operates the same way, so if you’re thinking a line item break out is going to let you compare apples to apples, it won’t happen since you’re dealing with different companies run by different individuals all with different business models. Also, keep in mind if you’re getting that estimate for “free”, at some point you will in fact be paying for all the “free” estimates that the company has provided since at some point they have to earn the money for their time and travel expenses. The old adage, nothing is for free applies in this case!