Carpentry bid questions

Alex402September 3, 2011

I am about to undertake a major remodel. The house is a total fixer--was bank owned. I am planning on GC'ing the project myself. I got someone to give me an estimate for all the "carpentry" work on the job. The carpentry includes:

-Framing a 1000 square foot basement and with bathroom and separate utility area (drywall and plumbing will be subbed out)

-Some reframing on first floor (adding coat closet, removing wall between kitchen and living room)

-Installation of new cabinets in kitchen

-Installation of new interior and exterior doors

-Installation of appliances

-Overall supervision of subs hired by me

-Replacement of soffits and fascia on exterior

-Replacement of about 25% of siding (cedar siding)

-Purchase of all framing lumber and exterior siding

He gave me an estimate of $38,350 for all this work. Does this sound reasonable? He also said:

-Demo included for additional $3,000

-Dumpsters included for additional $3,000

-Everything not mentioned above will be subbed out to licensed third party contractors

I live in Massachusetts if that makes a difference.

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As far as the pricing goes, it sounds really low to me for the work described, especially in MA. (I'd expect at least double, plus about 50K-70K in materials.) He may not be an actual licensed and insured contractor. Warning bells! A rough carpenter shouldn't be anywhere near millwork installs and kitchen cabinet installs, and asking him to do these jobs beyond the normal scope of a carpenter is asking for trouble. Removing any walls except for the most rudimentary non load bearing ones should always be done only after you've received an inspection from a structural engineer. A carpenter isn't qualified to design the support a home needs to not fall down.

You're going down a tricky road here. You say "you" are GCing the project, yet you list in this person's duties, the very duties of a GC. You need to decide what your role is and what his role is. It needs to be clear. Because at this point, if you have him "supervising" the plumber for instance, he has zero power to stop the plumber from doing an incorrect job. The plumber doesn't work for him. You hired the plumber. Unless he has the power to hire and fire subs, pay those subs, and make them do work over, then he isn't going to be an effective "supervisor". The subs will walk all over him because they can. And unless you are onsite constantly, scheduling the subs, using both the carrot and the stick, and enforcing quality control, you aren't performing as a GC either. It's a recipe for miscommunication, delays, and over budget problems. It will be "he said, she said" a thousandfold.

You may also run into another issue with the bank and your insurance company if you are financing this reno through any type of loan, especially a 203 loan. If it's a cash project, that's another story. Banks will NOT work with DIYers. There's too big a risk of the property ending right back up in their hands. You will likely have to have an actual GC for the job, and you won't be able to "help" in any role except for minor things like painting.

Don't forget to have the GC pull the correct permits and use only licensed and insured subs. MA has a lot of hoops to jump through for a project this size to get off the ground. I hope this property is a real bargain!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 8:04PM
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All the materials accept for framing lumber and siding are purchased by me. Can't imagine framing lumber and some siding would cost 50k-70k? I know he's licensed--the number seemed high to be given that they are not doing (in my opinion) all that much work. The wall it not load baring--it more of a "half wall" it doesn't go all the way to the ceiling.

I agree that he won't be a very effective supervisor. I will mostly be doing that myself. I am financing with cash and will be pulling the permits as a homeowner.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 9:00PM
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"Not all that much work" !! You've just described a 90-100K remodel without breaking a sweat. And that is with some pretty serious bargain hunting and every single thing going correctly and you don't need to touch the contingency fund. :) You live in one of the most expensive labor markets in the country---and the most regulated. The permits alone are likely to cost you 3-5K and weeks of waiting . Some of your projects have a good potential for hidden issues. And you've gotten one estimate from a low ball contractor You need at least 2-4 more estimates here from other contractors. Not only will they bring fresh eyes to your projects, but their estimates are likely to be clustered around a close range, giving you greater confidence that you are getting realistic numbers from those neither too high nor too low.

Things you've forgotten or didn't address in your outline.

*Insulation for your basement project.2K+ Wiring needs for your basement project. 3K Flooring needs for your basement project. 5K HVAC for your basement now that it is to be living space. 2-15K The plumbing alone can run anywhere from 5-15K depending on a number of factors.

*Removing a wall means that you will need to address the floor where that wall was located. That could be harvesting hardwood from a closet to blend in and then refinish the whole floor to complete replacement of the flooring on the first floor. 1K-10K You will also have to redo the drywall, and getting that level will be a challenge. Electrical will most certainly need to be addressed, and possibly plumbing and HVAC. $$$ A structural engineer's report will run $500 to $1500. If you need to have structural needs addressed, you're talking 5K to 10K.

*New kitchens require a pretty good update to your electrical system and rewiring a lot of circuits. If you already have a 200 amp subpanel and the kitchen was done sometime since the 80's, you might only have a 3K electrical bill for the kitchen. If you have an old 60amp panel, then you're talking a whole new service and panel for the home. 7K You'll need to address lighting needs as well as the dedicated circuits that the fridge and MW will need. 1K You'll have to deal with the flooring. Sheet vinyl will be the least expensive choice at around $500. Even laminate counters will be more than 1K for most kitchens, and you can spend around 5K for bottom end cabinets. If you want something better, double to triple that. You still have the sink, faucet, lighting fixtures, ventilation system, paint and other details to pay for.1K for low end. You'll be opening the walls up for some of this, and there's no better time to address the insulation needed.

* You're gonna get another sticker shock when it comes to the door issue. A plain jane interior door that's not hollow core will run you $150, plus another $100 for the install. Multiply by x number of doors. What about closet doors? You can't replace all the others and leave the old closet doors. Exterior doors can be $200 for a builder's grade steel to $5000 for a medium grade wood with sidelights. Don't forget the work your trim and drywall will now need as well as the paint. You'll be painting all of the trim for sure minimum.

*Most appliances will need their own dedicated electrical circuits and will also need a plumber. Appliance prices vary wildly from a 3K first apartment type of package to a 30K+ one for the serious cook.

*There is no point in replacing the soffits without replacing them with vented soffits. There just isn't any better way to vent your attic and there's no better time to do it. Vented soffits will need you to tweak your attic insulation for proper airflow, and I'll bet you don't have enough insulation. Hardly anyone does. Then you'll also need to install a ridge vent in the roof peak for the hot air to exit the home. Whirlybirds and power vents don't move enough air. 5K+++

*Cedar for siding is pretty pricey. Even more so if you're talking $hake$ instead of lap. There are plenty of cases with homes having their original 200 year old siding because the home was constructed and maintained correctly. Siding on homes doesn't just fail without some cause. Water infiltration is the primary suspect. I'll bet that the drainage plane behind the shingles is compromised or non existent and that the window flashing is also done incorrectly if at all. You have a lot of warning issues with damaged exterior systems here, and that means you'd better have a pretty good contingency fund before tackling those issues. You are very likely to have to increase the scope of the work due to hidden damage once you begin the project. This has the potential to quickly turn into a 70K project, especially if you're dealing with wood windows and no water barrier under the siding.

This home has some pretty serious potential issues that can quickly run through a budget without completing your list. It's far better to tackle a few of those key "bones" projects that may have hidden issues like the siding and soffits and have a pro do them right while you live with the more cosmetic issues like a kitchen redo. A basement reno could be a DIY project for you where you learn enough skills to be able to also at least partially tackle the kitchen reno. And do some research on the Kitchen Forum here to see if you might tweak the utility of the kitchen while you are dealing with it's cosmetics, especially since you are removing walls.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 3:36AM
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I don't think anyone could have explained what's involved in a remodel better than what GreenDesigns posted.

We've done remodels in the past and had to deal with nearly every issue GD mentioned.
If you've never dealt with the trades, nor done a remodel before, I'd suggest you try to find a highly recommended GC.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2011 at 10:59PM
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Thanks GreenDesigns for giving such andin-depth posting. But I don't think your getting quite what I'm asking. The above number $38,350 DOESN'T include any of the plumbing, insulation, drywall, electrical, flooring, NO materials (except for framing lumber and siding). All I was asking is do the members of this forum think the $38,350 which is only for the carpentry related labor in the above mentioned scope of work.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 1:07AM
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In the Chicago area, I can call and have a 30 yd dumpster delivered and picked up for $500. Did that last summer - twice - second dumpster was delivered within 4 hrs of call. We also had our basement demo'ed last year, including disconnecting all electrical, for $1000.

How much refuse are you expecting to generate? As GC, why aren't you arranging for dumpsters yourself?

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 7:03AM
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I can get an entire new home of 3,500 sf. + framed for that money here.

But labour prices are always local. So your best comparison is competitive bids.

A rough carpenter shouldn't be anywhere near millwork installs and kitchen cabinet installs, and asking him to do these jobs beyond the normal scope of a carpenter

Wow! What a generalization.

I thought that way, too, when I first started building in the '80s. Until I was advised not to even use the term "rough" carpenter, as it was an insulting appellation dreamt up by tradesmen seeking a competitive advantage.

A properly trained carpenter in an apprentice system can do anything with wood. (And often a lot more things as well.) Specialization is a result of North American mass-produced housing, which depends on lots of semi-skilled labour. As a result, a framing crew, for instance, may consist of say one carpenter and a six-ten man crew of assistants, many of whom just showed up one day with a toolbelt and steel toed boots and were suddenly "carpenters".

Of course, the OP doesn't even say the person they're dealing with is a carpenter or that they're even doing the work themselves.

As gd pointed out, there's a lot more to this simple job than may first appear to the novice diy general contractor.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 11:59AM
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If no materials at all are included in this quote, and no plumbing, electrical, insulation, flooring, or drywall finishing is included in this quote, then you are close to a ballpark. Expect the quotes for all of the rest of the labor needed to at least equal this quote. But, you are not treating this job as one to be supervised by a GC if you are going this route. A GC would be the one to get the quotes from the trades and manage the whole bid package. If you are getting individual bids for everything, then you are the GC, which as was previously pointed out, difficult for anyone without a construction background and with a full time job to accomplish, and impossible to delegate to another member of the crew without also designating financial responsibility to that person as well.

Your project has schizophrenia, and that should be corrected in the planning stages before you ever plan a single disbursement. I'm surprised that any bank is working with you on this project, as they are usually much more strict in their oversight when renovations of a previously bank owned property are under their umbrella of responsibility.

Rethink the scope of the project, your responsibility in it, and continue to get bidding on the revised scope. You never ever go into a project like this with only a single bid, and especially one as fractionated in responsibility as yours seems to be.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 11:41AM
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Speaking from the perspective of a DIY-er, not a hirer of labor, I can offer the following input:

-My brother and I framed about that much square footage in my sister's basement (bedroom, bathroom, storage room, a couple closets) in 2 days.
-I can frame out a closet in about 2 hours if the saw is nearby, not down the stairs and out in the garage.
-I can demo a wall in about an hour (doesn't count rerouting any wiring, plumbing, or ductwork).
-Mr. Weedy and I installed kitchen cabinets in a large kitchen in 2 days.
-Is the door replacement simply door replacement (5 min) or also frame tearout and reinstallation of a pre-hung (30 min)?
-I installed a dishwasher in a couple hours. Ranges are plug-in, wall ovens could take a few hours, including cutting out the cabinet to fit them.

I haven't done soffits, fascia, or cedar siding, so can't comment on those fronts.

2x4s are $2 each: a few hundred bucks for materials to frame the basement.

Note that the above times are for a reasonably competent DIY-er, often figuring things as I go. A pro should be faster because they've done it a million times whereas I've only done it once or twice. But you could take my times and multiply by a reasonable hourly rate to come up with a ballpark to compare.

If I give him ample amounts of time, allowing a week to frame the basement and demo the kitchen wall, a week to install cabinets (maybe there's crown molding and light rails) and appliances, a week to replace the soffit and a week to replace the siding. There's a month's work, which makes $38K minus materials seem high to my DIY eye. Which is why I DIY. :-) I do agree with the others that the best way to benchmark his price is to get additional quotes and that you shouldn't both be supervising the subs.

What would he be demo-ing for his $3000? Kitchen cabinets come out in a few hours. You can get free demo on many things by offering the materials on freecycle if they remove/haul away (we did that with a houseful of worn carpet and padding).

That's way too pricey for a dumpster.

And yes, people can be competent at both framing and finish carpentry. And lots of other things.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 10:29PM
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With your times/numbers I'm getting a little over 10k. Which seems low to me. I'm getting another estimate. We'll see where this goes.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 12:13AM
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