Home remodeling: the science of comparing contractor bids

Posted by Jeffrey Anderson ~ November 13, 2012

Get three bids for your remodeling projects -- you've probably heard the mantra countless times. But now that you have your bids, are the total prices the only important consideration? Well, of course, they can carry a lot of weight when making your decision -- especially if you're operating on a tight budget.

However, that total figure should only be one part of the process when comparing bids from contractors. Examining your estimates in depth can sometimes reveal that the low price isn't always the best choice.

What to look for in your contractors' bids

Large construction projects that use an architect's services leave very little to chance. They usually have very detailed blueprints and specification books to ensure all contractor bids are complete and for the same scope of work. The architect may even specify minute items such as the type of door hardware to be installed and the mix for the concrete in the slab. If a detail is missed when pricing the project, it's the contractor's responsibility to make it right if awarded the job.

Unfortunately, you probably don't have the luxury of spec books and detailed drawings when bidding out your home remodeling project. This means the responsibility falls on you for ensuring each contractor's price covers all aspects of the job. A few items to look for when comparing bids:

  • Work description -- This is where the old adage that "you can't compare apples to oranges" is applicable and in this context, it's very true. Are all the contractors' pricing the same gauge of vinyl siding for your remodeling project? How about exterior landscaping: is putting down sod in everyone's estimate or has a contractor planned on just using seed and straw? These little differences can add up to a big variation in the total price and what you're getting when the job is complete.
  • Completion schedule -- Do all the contractors anticipate finishing your home remodeling job in about the same amount of time? Schedule may or may not be important to you, but if your kitchen is out of service while the project is underway, it may be worth a few extra dollars to get the work done as soon as possible.
  • Proper credentials -- Always check to ensure that each contractor bidding your home remodeling project has proper licensing and insurance coverage. While an uninsured contractor's low price may look attractive, having to pay for any damage they might cause could ruin your day. And don't look for help from your homeowner's policy carrier as they rarely pay for a claim when it involves contractors without proper credentials.

Check the total prices when comparing your three contractor bids, but what's contained in the body of their estimates can be just as important to your remodeling project and its budget.

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