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Should I expect a more detailed estimate than this?

Posted by Helena2013 (My Page) on
Tue, Jul 30, 13 at 20:38

Am I being too picky/expecting too much info in a hardwood flooring estimate?

I had two different floor guys to take a look at two areas of the house I just bought:

Room #1 has original oak floors from the early 1960s; we just removed the fireplace and so the space where the hearth was, needs to have oak pieced in. Then sand and refinish the floor.

Area #2 is a combination of 3 bedrooms and the hallway (part of this hallway runs across the opening to room #1 so they are adjacent. The original 1960s oak floor was ruined by the prior owners who screwed more than 50% of the total area down to the subfloor (splitting most of the planks in the process) in a futile effort to stop the floors squeaking. So they covered this area with carpet and we discovered it when we pulled the carpet up. Too much to repair, the oak was ripped up and the subfloor secured properly. So now it needs new oak flooring.

Received the first estimate which says for Area #2 "Install red oak natural" followed by a price for material + labor for "install and finishing".

I was surprised to see red oak quoted because the other guy had commented that the adjacent to-be-repaired-and-refinished floor is white oak.(not sure if he is right or wrong about that, as I am not floor species savvy, LOL). I am not planning to stain any of these floors btw.

Anyway, shouldn't I expect a new-oak-flooring estimate to include the following information:
* width of planks to be installed
* grade of oak (clear, select, or common #1)
* type of sealer/topcoat (oil based or water based)
* how many coats over the sealer (I like as smooth a surface as possible, would love to get prefinished engineered but can't afford the much higher cost over site finished)
... or am I being "too picky" in wanting all that info?

Not sure if the other floor guy's estimate will be any more detailed than this one. Guess I should have asked at the time of inspection but I just assumed that the quotes would have all the above info included, since IMHO it should be important to the homeowner making the decision.

Now I'm wondering if the first guy was correct about the existing room #1 being white oak. Maybe it's red? It does have almost zero knots in it, so I am guessing it's probably Clear or Select. Which means if the quote(s) come in for #1 Common, the new stuff will look awful next to the old ... right?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Should I expect a more detailed estimate than this?

Nope not picky at all. All my estimates include detailed information.
Everything you thought should be in it Should be in it.

Sometimes people can get screwed over where the H.O. Has one idea and finds out their floor contractor had a different one.

I suggested asking for a new estimate that clearly states exactly the size of wood. The species. The grade of wood. The amount of coats to be applied. And the types of finish to be applied.

Also make sure if you have any add ons like wood floor vents or any special install requests. Like headers at doorways. Make sure everything you want done is in the estimate.

RE: Should I expect a more detailed estimate than this?

Do not hire a professional who is too lazy or clueless to provide you with a detailed estimate. Yes, the quote AND the contract need to spell out in detail what wood will be installed (specie and grade) and what finish materials will be used and the number of coats.

If you do not hire a competent and skilled professional to do your job, you most likely will be sorely disappointed. The weave in material MUST match in specie, grade and sawing characteristics, or it will look like a repair, no matter what the finisher attempts to do post install. A real professional can do these things.

A real professional will be able to list all of this in the estimate and contract. If all the candidates you interview cannot provide that, then you need to continue to search for the company or the artisan who can give you what you want.

You are NOT being picky.

RE: Should I expect a more detailed estimate than this?

Thanks guys, I was beginning to think that I'm turning into the Homeowner from Hell as far as expecting a lot of information from contractors/professionals re: jobs.

I know that if I were in their place I would want to specify as much details as possible, so as to avoid future misunderstandings; you know what they say about "ASSuming" things!

Even with written specs from me, I'm running into what I call the "sneak attack upgrade" from a couple of vendors (not flooring). I gave a local Hunter-Douglas shop a detailed list (with measurements!) of what product I wanted to put on what windows, asking for their price for the goods. I researched all the products online beforehand AND went to a couple of stores to see them in person. So I was really specific as to product. It took them 10 days to finally give me an estimate, and what they priced out was not the product I had asked for but the "better" version (i.e. the more expensive Architella honeycomb shades instead of the basic Duette, and NewStyle shutters instead of the less expensive PalmBeach, and adding headers to the roller shades even though I never asked for them). When I pointed this out, the person (shop owner) said she had "automatically" priced out the "better" product "Because that's what most people are happier with". Helllooo? If I'd wanted the (IMHO not worth it) pricier product I'd have asked for it.

With the skimpy floor estimates I have no idea what the price quoted is for, thus have no idea whether it's a fair one or not. It did cross my mind that perhaps I should have specified EVERYTHING when they came to look at the site though, so perhaps it's partly my fault for not doing that. I asked for these details by email yesterday, so hopefully I will be getting a response by the end of this week.

RE: Should I expect a more detailed estimate than this?

Update: The guy with the vague and ambiguous estimate has never responded to my emails asking for more details. Scratch him off my list permanently.

I have appointments next week for 2 other flooring people to come for measuring/estimates. Hope they are more professional than the first two!

RE: Should I expect a more detailed estimate than this?

Definitely should have square footage, species, grade, brand of finish, number of coats and any other detail, like who installs the shoe molding.

You are not the HfH ... you are asking for a reasonable amount of detail, one that ensures you and the contractor are talking about the same job.

I once got a bid that said, in full: upgrade house wiring, $2500

RE: Should I expect a more detailed estimate than this?

Had a third flooring person in today for an estimate; will see how soon/how well their resulting response is.

Still waiting for a call from flooring person #4 who said he would try to get back to me with an appt date before this weekend (this was on Tuesday).

In the meantime things have come almost to a screeching halt because other than one other part of the job, everything else has to wait until new flooring is down.

I was hoping to move in no later than Labor Day; no chance now. :-( :-(

RE: Should I expect a more detailed estimate than this?

I generally write a brief but complete description of what I'm going to do. I don't include the square footage to avoid haggling. My philosophy is that I'm providing said floor or refinishing as specified in areas as listed. If I misfigure the square footage I wouldn't come back to the customer and ask them to pay more.
You have to factor in that quite often, floor installers and refinishers may not even be high school graduates. Also, quite often, they may be more talented and/or honest than more educated or eloquent peers. When my best installer/finisher was asked on a pre-employment questionnaire what higher schooling he had, his answer was "nun".
I'm dealing with something similar trying to price a roof replacement. They guy who did an excellent job on my roof 20 years ago can barely type a passable proposal. It's very disconcerting.
My feeling is that if you get a good feeling from someone, that could trump a flowery proposal.
As to the difference between Red and White Oak, the best way to identify it is by cross cutting a few pieces. When viewed from the butt end, Red Oak has visible holes where the soft grain is formed. White Oak is much tighter.
Visual surface identification can be tricky. Old Red Oak can turn brownish and look like White Oak. Old White Oak could be very uniform and not exhibit it's characteristic color variation. If you have a select grade floor and there are pieces that are part dark/part light, it's almost certainly White Oak. If it's very uniform and the surface texture is quite grainy, it's probably Red Oak.

RE: Should I expect a more detailed estimate than this?

Well so far I've gotten one out of the last two flooring estimates. It was properly detailed, and only about $100 higher than the first guy as far as the repair/refinishing (area #1) goes.

The second area (the one that would get all new wood, site finish) was quoted as $1150 more than the first guy. First guy (the one with no specs other than "approx 600 sf, install new red oak and finish) was $4800. Second company was $5950 for the same job spec'd out as Select or better, 2 1/4" wide, etc etc.

No word from the other quote as yet.

RE: Should I expect a more detailed estimate than this?

This is now getting beyond frustrating.. :-/

Refinisher "A" (the same one who submitted the bare-bones quote for the separate new-install area) had quoted me $825 (no sales tax) to repair (install new oak) an area the size of the former fireplace heart,now removed, and strip/refinish the entire room which is 16x19. But he never responded to either phone messages or emails asking for clarification of his vague new-area quote, which gave me a bad feeling about using him.

Refinisher "B" quoted me $904, including sales tax, to do the same job. This refinisher also separately quoted for the new-install area and alternatives to same in prefinished engineered.

Yesterday after getting better quotes for the new-install area using prefinished engineered from a different company entirely, I emailed Refinisher B saying that I would like them to just do the repair/refinish 16x19 room (the third company does not do repair/refinish, only new installs of various hard floorings). They responded by email that the $904 quote was based on them doing the ENTIRE job (even though they supplied separate quotes) and if I want them to do only the one room it would be subject to their minimum repair/refinish charge which is $1150 plus sales tax.


Now I am up the creek because that job should be done first before any of the other flooring, and my choice is either to sign with them to get on the schedule ASAP (and pay several hundred dollars more than I expected) -or- start from square one again and try to get more flooring guys in for estimates which... going by recent experience... will take weeks to even get them in the door.

At this point I am disgusted. There was nothing on the $904 quote to indicate that it was based on them doing "the whole thing" and I clearly indicated to them at the beginning that I was getting separate quotes for the different flooring option areas of the house.

Sorry, just need to vent.

RE: Should I expect a more detailed estimate than this?

"They responded by email that the $904 quote was based on them doing the ENTIRE job (even though they supplied separate quotes) and if I want them to do only the one room it would be subject to their minimum repair/refinish charge which is $1150 plus sales tax."

When a flooring contractor assesses a job and quotes prices, the assumption is that it is for the entire ball of wax. The contractor figures in all costs when giving the estimate, including time and travel costs, and works in profit. When you pick just one item for the contractor to do, that directly cuts into the profit projected after costs. At $904, that 'job' is now something the contractor doesn't want to do. The higher figure, $1150 plus sales tax restores enough profit. That is my best guess as to what is going on here, but I'm not a mind reader by any means.

RE: Should I expect a more detailed estimate than this?

Hi glennsfc, what you say does make sense; it hadn't occurred to me that perhaps I hadn't made it clear enough to this particular estimator that I was getting competing bids for EACH different type of flooring areas. She may have thought that when I spoke of competing bids I was talking about the whole ball of wax, as you said....not "competing bids for the repair/refinish" + "competing bids for the new-oak install in areas A/B/C" + "competing bids for the engineered wood install in areas A/B/C" + "competing bids for the engineered wood install in area D".

That said... if I were in her place I would/should have mentioned either at the time of measuring OR on the resulting quote, something like "Prices based on entire site job" or if they were quoting them separately as I intended, "Discount available for combining quotes". Because if the $1150 + tax minimum had been mentioned at the time of measuring, I would have viewed their numbers in an entirely different light. The other estimates were separate and distinct and so it turns out that I was not comparing apples to apples, numberwise (although I had assumed that I was).

I have a call in to another refinisher, hope he calls me sometime today. At least, now that the other areas have been decided upon and ordered, he will only be asked to quote for the repair and refinish, LOL

No confusion possible there.

RE: Should I expect a more detailed estimate than this?

I think you are focused too much on finding the lowest price. You need to hire for skill. Only bring in someone that you know their work not only looks good but is also installed properly, to industry standards. Make sure he knows his stuff. That's where the real dilemma and value is.

RE: Should I expect a more detailed estimate than this?

Exactly price is immaterial if it looks horrible!

RE: Should I expect a more detailed estimate than this?

I would love to hire for skill but the problem is how to find them. :-/ Both I and other family members have had bad experiences with the jobs that various refinishers have done (only once, back in the late 1990s, did I get a nice refinishing job but when I called him five years later for a subsequent house he was no longer in business). People tend to just throw Home Depot grade carpeting over old wood floors, or else replace them with some level of prefinished, in my area; the higher end homes do have wood but frankly I don't know anyone with that kind of house that I could ask! My daughter bought a house in 2009 and used a floor guy who was recommended by someone else, and he got a terrible job. Was so disgusted that she ended up throwing carpet over it three years later.

I did call two companies that were recommended to me by a realtor who deals in higher-end houses; one asked how many square feet I was talking about, and then said that the job was "too small" (they don't take any jobs at all that are less than 2000 sq ft). The other came to look at the house, wasted almost an hour of time, and then said that it "wasn't the type of job that they do" and that I'd "be better off finding a one-person refinisher". In other words my job wasn't upscale enough for them.

Living on a fixed income, cost is something I always have to factor in. I know I won't be able to afford to do any of these floors or other renovation work again, and at this point in my life this is absolutely my last house.

RE: Should I expect a more detailed estimate than this?

Well, I got a recommendation for a floor refinisher last Thursday, called/left message that evening, got a call back Friday evening saying he would call me the next day (Sat) to set up an appointment to meet at the site on Sunday. Sounded promising, however Saturday came and went with no call to set up appt. Called at noon today, Sunday (out of deference any Sunday activities he may have), got voicemail, left a message that I am still available for appt today if that still works for him, otherwise please give me a call to set up appt one day this week. It is now 5:30 pm and am hoping for a callback sometime before the end of today.

Not so sound TOO whiny but... why is this so hard? This scenario plays over and over, regardless of whether it's someone to give an estimate for a job, or to fix a plumbing issue, or for an estimate for how much to remove a tree or prune it back, or whatever.

I have a hard time understand it because I spent many years in the business world and I never treated customers (either existing or potential) in a cavalier fashion. If I said I was going to call them at X day or time, that's what I did; and if something unavoidable prevented me, I would call them immediately with abject apologies and explanations, feeling lower than dirt for not being able to keep my word about doing something when I promised them I would. Guess I am the proverbial dinosaur.

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