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2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

Posted by greenhaven (My Page) on
Wed, Apr 23, 14 at 22:51

I have approximately 30 sq ft of backsplash to be installed, 2x4 honed marble tiles on a mesh backing, and an accent strip cut to two-inches wide, also on mesh backing. Pretty straight forward job.

I don't mind saying I paid about 500 bucks for the materials, including grout, but the first install quote I got was 1200 bucks! Local home improvement/contractor/home builder company.

Today I finally got my email quote from another local guy, does construction, and such installations for a living, but his quote for install was $450.

Which seems to be the one that is completely off the wall? For $450 I will gladly pay for install, but would I be making a mistake hiring somebody with such a drastically lower quote?

What am I missing, and what questions do I need to ask of this guy? The first quote-er justified the cost with their licensed, bonded, insured status, but the other guy is a legitimate registered business and I must also be insured.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

I don't know where you are but we just paid $1500 for all materials and labor (NOT including tile, but it did include lots of expensive grout) for the flooring in our master bath and the large walk-in tiled shower. The floor alone was around 70 square feet, and the shower over 100. The guy who did our tile was hired by our contractor and is the guy he always uses. He did an excellent job and was, in fact, almost too OCD about it, if that's possible. We're in the Pacific Northwest.

I would ask for some references and be inclined to hire the second guy, but in my opinion the first quote is crazy high.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

Oh, and I'll add that the floor was in 1x1 mosaic on a mesh backing, so I know it can't be grout costs that are driving yours up. Our tiler used epoxy grout as well, which is pricey, and we still were only at 1500.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

Can you ask to see some of #2's installs? Backsplashes are pretty straightforward.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

I dunno, but with two quotes so far apart I would probably get a third quote. Our bathroom remodel quotes ranged from $20k to $70k. We ended up getting six quotes in part because of the range. (And went with someone on the low end, where nearly all the quotes clustered. The $70k guy was out of his mind)


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

I would get another estimate. I think one estimate is too high and the other is too low. It involves coming back to your home twice, and a good contractor would charge for that. Whether it involves a small job or large one, the set up is the same. I would expect to pay somewhere in between those two estimates. I think I paid 1200 for my glass installation, but it was not a straight-forward type of install.
By the way, I having been following your renovation and am in awe of what you have been able to accomplish. It's looking great!


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

Hey, thanks, all! I had a feeling it was an opposite end of the spectrum thing. I was as shocked by the second one as I was the first!

Alright, I will try and get a third estimate. Timing is tough, now, with Spring FINALLY here and tax returns on the loose.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

The first guy knows his costs of doing business, the second does not. The first guy will remain in business, the second will not.

If you're feeling lucky, hire the second guy and when he's out of business you'll still have $750.00 to get his screw-ups fixed before you're in the hole.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

Trebuchet, for that kind of money if I am feeling lucky I will do it myself, ha ha!

I ran my own landscape design business for a few years before discovering that I am NOT a businesswoman. But I did learn that low ball quotes will inevitably get jacked up out of necessity and it is far better to over bid than under bid. People hate going over budget, imagine that?


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

Two years ago I paid $875 for the installation of approx. 45 sf of subways for my backsplash. I paid separately for the tile itself. I live in the SF Bay Area and assume costs are higher than average. This was the slightly higher of two bids I received, but I got a better vibe from this guy. When I hated the color of the first grout (my choice, my bad), they charged me $125 to rip it out and replace, another trip to my house.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

When we've gotten out-of-line high bids for anything, it's usually because the job is a small one. The high quote is usually a 'Make it worth my while' number. It might help to ask how long the job will take, then see if the per-hour rate feels reasonable to you.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

I'd check the contractor's licenses, too. Unlicensed hacks abound around here and they stay busy, too, because people hire them. Big differences in the price quotes could also be do the fact that one guy has overhead (insurance, workers comp, etc.) that the other guy isn't carrying. It also could be that one guy knows what the heck he's doing and the other doesn't.

Unfortunately, Tre, the lowballer who goes out of business will just be replaced with another. Sad, but true.

I don't understand this .... "It might help to ask how long the job will take, then see if the per-hour rate feels reasonable to you." Licensed contractors are not working for you as an employee to be paid by the hour. They have business costs and overhead that need to be paid. They take risks when they take on your job ... liability, guaranteeing the product, etc. ... and deserve to be paid a fair price for their work. That is why they give you a bid for the price of the entire job rather than saying, "Just pay me xyz per hour".


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

Allow me to respectfully disagree with chisue, please.

The per hour rate is none of your business, unless you are sharing risk by doing the job by time and material.

Homeowners are notorious for comparing their hourly rates of pay to those of contractors, conveniently forgetting that they are employees, while contractors are employers or self-employed.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

The first quote is around $1.50 per square foot and that I believe is reasonable. The second quote is kind of silly. I agree that he just doesn't want the job because it's too small.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

$1.50 per square foot?? I cannot imagine anyone installing tile for one dollar and fifty cents per square foot. That is not reasonable, it is ridiculous. How can anyone make a living installing tile for $1.50 a foot???


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

I don't think people are literally comparing hourly charges apples to apples. Maybe some are that naive and inexperienced. When someone is charging them large sums of money, they want to know what they are paying for, and yes how much of that is a labor charge. It's their money , afterall. Unless someone is gouging, I see no reason it should be some big secret. People get taken advantage of that way.

When they charge like or more than doctors to, say, install a backsplash, it is going to raise eyebrows and people want to know how that makes sense.

Doctors are people who know full well the costs of doing business, insurance and liability. Risk and responsibility. They wonder about the charges too. As they should and to not get taken advantage of because they have money.

Our money and what we choose to spend it on most certainly is our business - and that includes the reasonableness of the charges. One would next have to wonder, why the big secret?

This post was edited by snookums2 on Thu, Apr 24, 14 at 14:40


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

Backslashes are typically by the day and not the foot also need to be gussied than floor tile, hence they run higher.
Proper backsplash is tile one day and grout next, seal on third. It is done all at once, just not recommended. What are they doing? Are they sealing?
"and an accent strip cut to two-inches wide, also on mesh backing" does that mean they have to cut those for you? If so run away from the cheapest.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

Oh I love this place, I always learn so much!

Yes, I always felt embarrassed to charge as much as I did for design and install services for landscaping, but even at what I thought was a high hourly rate barely made me money in the long run even with little overhead. By the time I figured fuel costs and time spent behind the computer and paying for my help it was break-even or a loss. Needless to say I am no longer in business for myself. ;o)

$1.50 a square foot seems like a typo. Did jerzeegirl mean $150 a square foot? That math adds up better, lol.

jakuvall, even the second guy said it would be two days if I did the sealing myself. Tile one day, grout the next. Sealing a third day or I do it myself. I am sure I could cut the accent strips myself, they are (approximately 1") square mosaics laid out in a regular grid, so it is really just cutting the mesh between every two rows. They are nothing that needs to go through tile saw.

This is it, but in 12" x 12" sheets:

 photo 0324141815_zps16f8c24c.jpg


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

Snookums, people are making a mistake if they decide how much a contractor should get paid by the hour and then try to find someone to do the work for the amount that they have deemed is "reasonable" for a contractor to make. My guess is that someone could find any number of hackers willing to install their tile (or do any other construction type job) dirt cheap and then they will be on here crying because their job turned out like crap. Construction work is hard physical labor and takes a good amount of skill, knowledge, and experience to get the job done well and fast like everyone wants it to be done. Contractors don't have the benefit of a DIY schedule that allows them to spend days on end leisurely putting up a backsplash. The way to find out if a bid is reasonable is to get several quotes for the job, making sure that each bid is for identical work and materials. One should also take into consideration if all of the contractors are equal in regards to insurance coverage, workers comp, length of time in business, etc. A new, inexperienced guy just starting out is likely to give much cheaper bids than the guys who have been around a while. There is a LOT to be said for experience in the construction field, and people often mistakenly think that every one is the same and the only determining factor is price.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

"A new, inexperienced guy just starting out is likely to give much cheaper bids than the guys who have been around a while. There is a LOT to be said for experience in the construction field, and people often mistakenly think that every one is the same and the only determining factor is price."

THAT is one of the reasons I kept my rate down when I first started, because I knew that I would make mistakes and take extra time figuring stuff out. People were very patient and willing while I found my professional balance, so-to-speak.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

$1.50 a square foot seems like a typo. Did jerzeegirl mean $150 a square foot? That math adds up better, lol.

Neither - at 30 sf, the first quote is $40.00 psf and the second is $15.00 psf (that's probably where the typo came in).


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

Just noticed this in the OP's original post ... "The first quote-er justified the cost with their licensed, bonded, insured status, but the other guy is a legitimate registered business and I must also be insured."

There is no reason to assume that a person doing business has insurance coverage or even a license or even a clue as to what they are doing. Just because they give you a business card with a license number on it, doesn't mean they actually have a license. I can't count the number of times I've looked license numbers up to find that they were not active.

Here in California, there is no requirement to have liability insurance. If you don't care if they have insurance, no big deal. Sometimes I don't care either. But the uninsured guy's overhead will not be the same as the insured guy's.

Workers comp is required but is common practice for contractors to claim exempt status, which means they tell the license board that they don't have any employees so that they can maintain their license. I hired an electrician once who claimed he was insured, but when I checked him out, I found out that he claimed "exempt" and therefore had no workers comp policy, yet he still had an employee working on my job. I asked him about it and he still claimed that he had insurance. I asked him to have his agent send me the certificate and a little while later he showed up and removed his stuff from the job, telling me that he didn't think we could work together.

My main concern was that they were working with electricity and his "employee" was just a young kid and I didn't want him getting hurt on the job on my dime.

As a side note in response to the last post, IMHO, a guy who still needs to learn on the job and spend extra time figuring things out shouldn't be in business for himself as a contractor. He needs to be working under someone else until he has gained enough experience that he won't be making unnecessary mistakes on my job. That's what apprenticeships are for. Only MY opinion, though.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

Sorry!!! How silly of me. Yes it was a typo!!!!! My backsplash cost $425 dollars and it was about 25+ square feet. It cost about $15 a square foot (not $1.50).

What costs $1.50 a square foot is if you want to use epoxy grout, that gets added on to the price per square foot.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

I'm sort of looking forward to getting quotes for my very small backsplash (total of about 20 sf, and shouldn't even need many cuts). We would hire the tiler who our contractor used on our bathrooms, except...although he did a very fine job of tiling, he was a flake! I'd be happy with a price of $500 or less (I understand that smaller jobs often cost more, in the sense that they still have to give up their whole day (or two) to do this -- transportation takes time, etc. Maybe I can find a tiler in my neighborhood Ha Ha). Our tile is "in production" and should be done around the end of May.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

Very pretty accent tiles!

I'd get a third quote.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

jerzeegirl, now who is the dummy? I can't do math, it would appear, lolol! Although I kinda could have told you that....

jellytoast said: "As a side note in response to the last post, IMHO, a guy who still needs to learn on the job and spend extra time figuring things out shouldn't be in business for himself as a contractor. He needs to be working under someone else until he has gained enough experience that he won't be making unnecessary mistakes on my job. That's what apprenticeships are for. Only MY opinion, though."

Mostly I agree with you, and for myself I interned over three seasons, but nothing quite prepares you for all the responsibilities of business ownership. And if someone is straight, right upfront, about their being new it is up to the client to decide whether they are willing to work them (me.) Thank goodness, though, that it is not my problem anymore. Still love me some landscapin', but I will work for someone else or not at all.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

I felt like the key point in chisue's post wasn't so much to figure out the hourly rate, but to look at the time each expected it to take to figure out why the rates were so different. If one thinks it'll take 2 hours and the other thinks it'll take 12, then that's going to factor into their total cost.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

California contractors incorporated as Limited Liability Corporations are required by law to have liability insurance:

7071.19. (a) As a condition of the issuance, reinstatement,
reactivation, or continued valid use of a license under this chapter, in addition to any bond required under this article, a limited liability company shall, in accordance with this section, maintain a policy or policies of insurance against liability imposed on or against it by law for damages arising out of claims based upon acts,errors, or omissions arising out of the contracting services it provides.

I can't believe the state only makes this requirement of LLC's.

An honest licensed contractor who is worker's compensation exempt can comply with the law by hiring his help through a temp agency.

This post was edited by Trebruchet on Thu, Apr 24, 14 at 17:49


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

It could be that the first guy is going to pay someone else to do the job and the second guy is going to do it himself.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

South Florida here, when we had our backsplash done 5 years ago, we paid our GC $600 labor for 40 sq ft. We could have had it done cheaper, we had a quote for $400 from a licensed, bonded and insured tile company, but we went with the GC because his tile guy was going to be there anyway.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

"An honest licensed contractor who is worker's compensation exempt can comply with the law by hiring his help through a temp agency."

I guess that's true, but I can honestly say that I have never ever heard of anyone doing this. Probably because they would have to pay the agency fees above the hourly wage that the worker gets and the whole reason people are claiming they are exempt when they aren't is because they are trying to avoid spending money. I don't think complying with the law is their main objective. Besides, the last place I'd look for experienced construction workers is a temp agency.

"I can't believe the state only makes this requirement [liability insureance] of LLC's."

I'm surprised, too, because California loves to regulate the heck out of everything. However, for every law there's a dozen ways to skirt it. Cali has workers comp laws and licensing laws, but people still find a way around them. The reason that there are so many unlicensed contractors out there is because there is a market for them. They wouldn't be in business if people weren't hiring them.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

several years ago I had my backsplash installed (mine was 2" squares on mesh backing) and I already had purchased the sheets. He had me go purchase the grout (color) I wanted. We installed it only 6" high (cut sheets in half). The top edge was a 12" liner.

My neighbor was having her kitchen totally remodeled and I got her tile guy to come over and do my backsplash while he was at her house. Two afternoons, about 2 or 3 hours total (I only had about 20 linear feet, so 10 sq ft).

He wanted $250.00 to do the entire job whereas the tile store a mile from my house wanted $450.00 after originally stating they could do it for $200.00


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

" The reason that there are so many unlicensed contractors out there is because there is a market for them. They wouldn't be in business if people weren't hiring them."

The longer you shop, the lower the price will go. If I offered haircuts for $1.00, I'd have no customers, but those same price shoppers will hire a Craigslister. Ironically, your hair will grow back; your backsplash won't.

They're getting exactly what they're paying for. Since I'm in the repair business, they'll be mine eventually.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

Does the second guy know you have marble? My tile guy gave me a hard time when you found out it was stone and not ceramic. Also I would want to see his other work. There are good tile installs and bad. This is something you will see everyday so you want it to be good. We have tiled 3 different bathrooms with 3 different people and pricing hasn't been a sign of quality work necessarily.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

"Our money and what we choose to spend it on most certainly is our business - and that includes the reasonableness of the charges."

snookums2:

I agree completely, however, my cost of materials and labor, and the time it takes me to meet the agreed specifications are no one, not even the customer's, business.


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RE: 2 tile install quotes, miles apart; what am I missing?

"Does the second guy know you have marble? My tile guy gave me a hard time when you found out it was stone and not ceramic."

Yes, I made it very clear to both that it was marble, and added "natural stone" in there just to be clear. The first guy did mention something called "grout release" because of it being natural stone. I have not done my homework enough yet to know what this means.


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