So, you are reviewing a few quotes from competing Virginia Contractors trying to win your kitchen remodel, solar panel installation, or simple home repair job. Now, you’re trying to choose the right one. Beyond price, do you know what to look for in a contractor’s quote that can help you narrow down your options?
Here are our tips for making sense of competing construction quotes.
The scope of work, or the description of the proposed project given in the quote, should be very specific. Everything you discussed as part of the project should be included in the pricing that you are given. This may include having plans drawn, fees to hook up utilities, permitting fees, engineering (if required by your locality), materials, labor, travel fees, and any other items that may arise as job costs. It is best not to assume that any quote covers these or other potential costs unless you ask, “What other costs may arise that are necessary for the completion of this project, that are not included in your quote?” Get this answer in writing, as well as how any potential changes will be handled.
If you are hiring a Contractor on a time+ materials basis (as opposed to a flat fee), the estimate should include things like how long they think your job will take, how you will be charged for man hours, (per man, per crew, per day?), and what the materials markup will be as well as the Contractor’s best estimate of what the final price may be. If anything arises during the job that would significantly change the estimated final price, make sure your Contractor will stop work until this is discussed and agreed upon. You will also want to make sure that the Contractor will provide an itemized list of the materials you’re being charged for if you request it.
Beware of Contractors who want to work without permits. This is illegal if the job includes structural changes, plumbing changes or hookups, or all but the most minor electrical wiring. You may be told that it’s not necessary to acquire building permits, or that it just adds to the cost of the job. Meeting the licensing and insurance requirements for being able to obtain permitting is expensive for Contractors so some skirt this by working without permitting. If you have any questions about whether permitting for your project is legally required, call your building inspector’s office and ASK. Permits and inspections can be costly but they are very important and serve to protect YOUR interests as the property owner. Repairing a poorly done job can cost many times more than having it done correctly the first time, and recovering your money after the fact may be nearly impossible. The building official is truly your friend.
If you encounter a Contractor using hard sell techniques like “This pricing is for today only!” or “I have some leftover material I can throw in at a discount if you sign before someone else”, walk away.
Often these Contractors quickly hook you with what they insist is a discount price, then add in extra costs later on that you (reasonably) thought would be included. For example, some Richmond companies selling backup generators come out and pressure customers into signing contracts on the spot. Later the customer discovers that buried in the fine print is an exclusion for the costs of having a plumber pull a permit and run gas piping to the unit. This can cost thousands of dollars over and above their quoted price, but by then it’s too late.
If materials are included in the quote, that should be specified, as well as the manufacturer in some cases. For example it usually doesn’t matter where your contractor sources his nails or a few 2×4’s…but you may prefer the quote and contract specifies the brand or source of premium materials you’re paying extra for- such as Solar Panels, granite countertops, specialty windows, and mechanical components. If these items are not specifically described in the quote, you need to request that this information is clearly listed in writing in the final Contract so that the Contractor can’t substitute cheaper materials than what you are expecting. (It’s also a good idea to request the Contractor give you the literature and warranty paperwork for these materials at the time of installation, so that you know that what you got is what you paid for.)
If materials are listed as “allowance” items, it means that you are going to be expected to choose them yourself within a given pricing parameter, and that if you choose more expensive materials (either the cost of the materials themselves or the additional costs of labor to work with the chosen materials) you’ll be charged the difference. It’s important to pay attention to the allowances and double check materials prices before you sign a Contract.
Payment schedules should be listed specifically so that you know what your obligation will be. It’s not uncommon for Contractors to require a significant down payment before they get started, to cover things like permitting fees and materials that they need to purchase up front, but the Contractor’s terms should generally follow the progression of the job and payments should be tied to the progress of the work, not days on the calendar or other arbitrary factors. Be wary of getting too far ahead of what the progress of the job actually costs. A reputable Virginia Contractor will generally allow you to hold back at least a small portion of the payments due until the job is complete to your satisfaction.
Old Dominion Innovations, Inc. wants you to be completely satisfied with the Contracting and Solar Panel Installation work that we do, so we are committed to educating our clients. We are happy to go over any competing quotes you may receive, and explain any differences between our quotes and others so that you can make the best choice for your particular project. If you ever have a question about choosing a Contractor or reviewing a quote, don’t hesitate to reach out to our friendly staff of building pros. We know that choosing a Contractor can be a stressful and confusing process, and we want to help!