OK to ask GCs I would't use to do a bid?

la_koalaOctober 20, 2010

You all were such champs for weighing in on my question about the Estimator guides, that I thought I'd start a new thread on this specific question:

- Is it honorable/ethical to ask additional GCs to participate in a bid process when I already know which ones I'd prefer working with?

I've interviewed 6 GCs for a kitchen remodel (old home, with all its potential surprises) and talked with their references. Out of the 6 initial interviewees:

  • One has not returned any follow-up calls, so I think he's not interested in the project.

  • Two are tops--I'd be happy with either. (Not that they were *perfect*--just that I feel I can work with them and either would do a great job).

  • The middle two each had some idiosyncracy that I'm just not sure I'd be able to work with.

  • I didn't like the attitude of one of the six (he didn't listen well and likes to do things his way).

I'd like to do a bid process-certainly with the two GCs that are at the top of my list. But I'd like more than two data points so that I can accurately assess the estimates. I'm a homeowner without the specialized knowledge needed to have my own idea of what it should cost.

At the same time, I feel reluctant to ask someone to go through all of the effort of doing the bid process if I'm fairly sure I wouldn't hire him, even if his was the lowest bid.

- What do you think? Am I being silly to feel this way?

- Should I continue to interview more GCs, to get at least a third that I like as least as much as my "top two"?

Thanks in advance!

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worthy

If you think you need more than two "data points", why would you get the extra one from a contractor who you've decided in advance will not get your business?

Some contractors are a bit brusque because they've been lead down that garden path before and time is not in endless supply.

You have to live with yourself, so you know the answer to your quandry better than anyone else.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2010 at 11:45PM
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kaib

You have to live with yourself, so you know the answer to your quandry better than anyone else.

Worth repeating...

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 5:58AM
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snoonyb

Could it be, that the person declining to return your call is the perceptive one?

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 8:19AM
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unsub1

Yeah, I found the GCs I talked to, to be pretty leary AND weary from being falsely led down paths over and over and over. When we found ours, I quickly informed the others and tried to be honest with them at all times.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 11:55AM
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la_koala

If you think you need more than two "data points", why would you get the extra one from a contractor who you've decided in advance will not get your business?

Yeah, when I read that out loud, it sounds crazy. Thanks worthy for saying it so concisely. :-)

I think I was swayed by advice I got from a few Gardenwebbers who said "get lots of estimates". I should have realized that really means estimates from those that I would be delighted to have do the work--and not simply everyone.

unsub1, thanks for weighing in with your experience. I don't want to contribute to someone feeling they've been falsely led down a path. As worthy said, I have to live with myself--and I wouldn't want to feel like I hadn't been honest. Life's too short as it is!

Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 8:41PM
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sue36

"The middle two each had some idiosyncracy that I'm just not sure I'd be able to work with."

You aren't sure you could live with the idiosyncracy, or you know you couldn't? There is a big difference. Most guys in construction have "idiosyncracies". Actually, I think most people do. Is it something that could materially affect the job, relates to honesty and hard work, or is just annoying? If the guy swears, says "bless you" constantly, or something like that, I'd put up with it. If he insists you wire money to his bank account in the Caymans, I wouldn't.

My BIL is extremely unusual...and talented. He can sometimes be a pain to work with, but the end result is always amazing and he is honest as they come.

So, if you could tolerate the idioyncracy I would get bids from them, if you wouldn't then I wouldn't bother. Only get bids from people you would consider. And remember, the person who put together the best bid package isn't necessarily the best builder. Talk to references, ask to see job sites under construction and complete (they will need permission for that, but if their customers are happy they will likely agree).

    Bookmark   October 22, 2010 at 5:37PM
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newyorking

I would go ahead and get them to bid. You will be surprised at how much the costs are hidden. I realized that we had not covered a lot in our initial bid, and it would have helped to ask for more details - I realized after the construction was well under-way! GCs are used to doing multiple bids and not getting jobs - its just the way it is. In any case, once construction starts your GC has all the power and you have no power, so now is the time to do your due diligence and find the best contractor even if it means getting their bids. It will help you negotiate and compare notes as well.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2010 at 1:53AM
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texasredhead

The general contractor will be using subcontractors to do electrical, plumbing, painting, etc. Presume you are getting new cabinets and that you will be choosing the cabinets. Then you have the cabinet builder taking measurements. Oh, by the way, who has designed the new kitchen? You expecting the GC to do that?

Do not think the GC will always be there? My son and I are master electricians. The architect has laid out the mechanicals so we can follow the prints without the GC being there.

Finally, determine if the GC intends to pull permits for all the work being done. If he tells you permits are not required, run, don't walk away from this guy. AND, if you are spending a barrel of money, you need to educate yourself very quickly.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2010 at 3:52PM
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la_koala

Hi all, the OP here,

sue36, thanks for the great advice about going to see job sites!

You wrote: Most guys in construction have "idiosyncracies". Actually, I think most people do. Is it something that could materially affect the job, relates to honesty and hard work, or is just annoying?

Yes, I agree that most people do--I certainly have them! In my original post, I was trying to be succinct (because I usually write a lot and didn't want to overwhelm in the initial post), and I used that term instead of going into more details. I actually meant idiosyncracies about how they ran their business, more than the men themselves. From what one described, it sounded like he had way too much on his plate already, and one of his references confirmed that. So yes, you're right--I should keep in mind that aspect of whether it's material to doing a good job.

(just curious, what specifically do you have in mind when you say your BIL "can be a pain" to work with? I don't mind if someone's grumpy--it's about when he gives me that "don't you worry your pretty head little lady about all this, let me handle it" message when I ask a question that makes me wonder.)

Hi newyorking, thanks for weighing in about this (
GCs are used to doing multiple bids and not getting jobs - its just the way it is.). One of my best friends said something similar, adding that for some, doing the bids might be practice that they need to get better and better at estimating. I honestly don't know if that's true--or how many manhours it is that a GC puts in to do a bids. Part of the bid process is for them to come with their subs to go through the job site, so certainly that is some hourly time that they aren't compensated for.

Hi texasredhead, were you responding to my original posting, or to one of the others? You did point out some key things to keep in mind--do you think I should continue to interview more potential GCs if I do already have an architect who's done a plan (for new walls and roof) and a KD who's done the kitchen layout?

I am curious about the comments that implied that license- and reference-checking would be done after the bidding. I was thinking that I wouldn't even invite someone to bid whose references I hadn't checked or whose license I couldn't confirm. Do you all normally do those steps after the formal bid process?

    Bookmark   October 23, 2010 at 6:33PM
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texasredhead

la_koala, my comments have to do with the permits required by your city for all major work. The permitting process is for your safety to make sure your GC and his subcontractors are doing work in accordance with local and special ordinances. This is a seperate issue from the licensing requirements of the various trades. As an example, my son and I are licensed master electricians. Our license is with the state of Texas. We also have licenses with the various cities in which we work. Our licenses cost each of us around $600 a year. We require that permits be pulled either by us or the property owner before we will do any work on the job site. Our work has to pass muster by the city inspecter. I hope I have explained myself.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 1:54PM
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sue36

Since you asked...my BIL is a perfectionist who, like many perfectionists, thinks his way is the only/best way. I know how to handle him, but he sometimes "upsets" other workers and my DH (but in his defense, he caught several code violations in our house which probably prevented it from burning down). He doesn't like being told to make something "good enough" to save money or because the other person (homeowner, for example) thinks he is wrong. He has little tolerance for people that know less than him or people that *think* they know something but really don't. He also takes great offense to his honesty being challenged (which I have never done). I know how to question him, and I do my research. He respects me and I respect him. He is not at all chauvininist or anything like that.

I would check licenses before you ask them to bid, but references after.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 5:20PM
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texasredhead

Assume BIL would never think of pulling a permit because he knows more than the code inforcement officers. And then there would be that awful requirement that work be done to city code.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2010 at 3:48PM
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chrisk327

Much like worthy said, only you can answer it.

However, here is my experience. Getting good tradespeople to actually come out to an estimate and give you one is hard. I've had a number of no call backs, pushing off estimates etc. its frustrating.

You're not just deciding on price, you're deciding on a company. ultimately putting numbers on people may change what you think of them if one comes in twice the other.

if it were me, I wouldn't ask anyone to bid on the project who will never get the job. I wouldn't feel bad about having a 3rd place guy bid the job if he has a real shot at it even if he isn't your favorite.

frankly I've had a hard time getting 2 quotes for each trade, never mind 4.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 10:14AM
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texasredhead

There are a lot of issues involved in the quoting process. To begin, a general contractor is just that. As electricians, we work with some GCs that we seldom see to one that is on the job constantly doing some of the construction work himself.

However, most GCs have a group of subs with which they work. So often the quoting process for a GC involves having his subs offer their quotations for the job. Most of the time we have prints to use to figure our quote. But we do most of our work for our own customers. That means we might not be available for a particular GC when he/she might need us. Same may apply to plumbers and other trades. However, most compitent GCs have plan B subs.

This is all coupled with the fact that the GC may sense that he/she may actually not be in the running for the job. Guess what, don't expect a response.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 10:55AM
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la_koala

Thanks everyone for the follow ups.

texasredhead, your comments are spot on. I know for sure that I want the work done to code, permits appropriately pulled (the GC pulling the building permit and the electricians and plumbers pulling theirs, etc).

sue36, I applaud your BIL for pointing out code issues that ought to be fixed. While I do have my own perfectionist tendencies, when I'm in an area that is not my expertise, I try to be humble enough to be open to learn from them. I do want to know *why* a person thinks something is "not good enough", and not simply be told because that's just the way it is. (a) I want to learn and (b) I might agree with them if I learn the reason why. :-)

chrisk, thanks for weighing in. Your comments reflect the way I feel (and I felt it strongly enough to post about it). I like your comment about inviting a bid if I feel the person has a real shot at it. It occurred to me that during the days of the bidding process itself and whatever questions and discussions come up, I might find myself liking the 3rd guy best after all.

Thanks all!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2010 at 7:19PM
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