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How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estimate?

Posted by dasistgut (My Page) on
Tue, Mar 3, 09 at 21:07

I am dutifully trying to get 3 estimates for a kitchen remodel. The first contractor came out, took measurements and supplied an estimate the next day. The second contractor came out, took measurements and never got back to me. I called his office and they said, "he is working on it". Is this secret contractor talk for "we don't want that job", or is one week a reasonable amount of time to wait for an estimate? This is not the rebuilding of the Taj Mahal, it's a simple kitchen cabinet replacement with a few cosmetic changes. The second contractor was supposed to be the 'good' one, so I'm bummed.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

"The second contractor was supposed to be the 'good' one"

That could be a very good reason it's taking longer. The "good ones" are busy!


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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

Argh. I have been waiting for two and half weeks already!!! It is driving me crazy. We were giving them plenty of time (since it's a big project with many options they needed to work through) but today I am going to call and check up on them. It is totally killing me not to know what we can afford to do, I can't order cabinets or source materials or anything!


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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

If you couldn't wait 3 to 4 weeks for multiple responsive bids you should have put the project out to bid sooner.

Contractors have to make a living while finding the time evenings and weekends to bid enough jobs to actually get one.

I find that the main reason for taking more than two weeks ( a bid any sooner than that is usually a high guess) is that the documents are not complete and it takes time to call for clarification or to make and explain your assumptions in the bid.

Over the years I have lost sympathy for anyone who is in a big hurry unless they are willing to pay a premium for putting their work ahead of other work. When your job is being built and the GC doesn't show up sometimes or can't work overtime to make up for lost time, guess what, he's visiting other job sites and putting together bids.


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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

I know several contractors. If they took more than two weeks to do a bid-----they don't want to mess with it. The other way to signal that is to bid way high.

If a contractor is too busy---they should say so. And give an estimated time they could do the work.

However, now, there should be a LOT of contractors needing work---you might select a couple more to do bids.


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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

My observation is this: sometimes a contractor is feeling a potential customer out and senses that he wouldn't get the job anyway, but doesn't want to say so. And sometimes a follow-up call lets them know that the customer is serious and then things kick into a higher gear.


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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

Very good comments, thank you. I guess we have done everything we can by following up with an inquiry. We're not in a hurry by any means, but promising an estimate by a certain date and then blowing it off is just plain unprofessional.


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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

" but promising an estimate by a certain date and then blowing it off is just plain unprofessional."

That's true. A reputable contractor will get on the phone when they cant make an estimate date and re-schedule. If they get that project, the same m.o. should pertain to them not being able to be onsite on a given day...not just not show up. It only takes a few minutes to call and leave a message! a reputable but extremely busy contractor needs to communicate and schedule a reasoanble time. Break it, call!

Otoh, If you set up a time with potential bidders and something comes up, you need to let them know as well. There's nothing more frustrating than to make an appointment with a potential customer, knock on the door, only to find no one home. Time is money and communication is a two way street contractor/client.


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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

Also depends on what the contractor has to work with... ie how well is the scope of work defined ?
Are there plans for layout etc; are there specifics as to matls, mfrs, etc; detail as to dimens, etc ?
Any bid should at least have some sort of sketch and description to define the scope, with allowances for unknowns, whether provided by the owner or the contractor.


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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

When a contractor bids a job he must get his subs to look at the documents, visit the site, and get back to him with bids. To rush this process is difficult unless the project is really big or the subs are desperate. It's a bit disingenuous to say a contractor is "unprofessional" if he can't make the requested bid deadline; he owes you nothing. If he doesn't meet your expectations take the other bids and move on. Oh, you wanted as many bids as possible? Then I suppose you'll have to be more flexible.


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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

A big difference is an "estimate" versus a "bid".

I can give "free" estimates, might take 30 minutes or several hours of reviewing plans. It'll be a nonbinding estimate.

You want a binding bid? That I get paid for. That might take 5, 10, 20, or 40 hours, depends on the scope of the project and the materials used. That'll be binding, and if you accept the bid the amount gets taken off the price of the contract.

But yes, lack of communication is frustrating. And that's unforgivable. All it takes is a simple phone call to let you know that he's either working on it or he's not interested.


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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

Thought the 'bid' vs 'estimate' would get some attention.
Trouble is, some home owners (and contractors for that matter) dont understand the difference.
Also, a non-binding 'budget' (imho a good word to distinguish) estimate is sometimes difficult to adjust later... unless its 'down' :)
But, its a good distinction to be aware of for sure !


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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

Agreed.

Two of the biggest problems in the initial phase of all projects are the lack of communication and the use of misunderstood allowances.

The communication problems can ether be what the initial poster is suffering from...literally NO communication...or it can just be semantics or the use of misunderstood terms, like "estimate" versus "bid".

I absolutely abhor straight dollar value allowances along the lines to "$6000 for flooring". I've never allowed them in any of my contracts. If the person I'm building the house for doesn't know what particular type of flooring they might use, we talk about square foot pricing when we're putting the budget together.

I'll let them know that, for example, hardwood installation installation will be $2.00 a sqft abnd tile will be $5 a sqft. While shopping, let's say they like hardwood in the $6-$8 per sqft range. So right there we're looking at $8-$10 per sqft, or $24K to $30K in a 3000 sqft house.

It brings the $6000 allowance into perspective, in that in reality the $6000 will only cover installation labor and materials cost will be a budget buster.

It also puts them a bit more control of the budget. If things are going well and they want to splurge, or if they splurge elsewhere and need to cut back on flooring, they know that +/- $1 in flooring material cost means +/- $3000 in the budget.

Anyhow, I apologize for the tangent, but yes, clear communications in the beginning can save so much angst afterwards.

Mongo


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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

And the amazing thing is, how many homeowners dont want to be bothered with 'communicating' in the beginning, they just want to get the job done asap and as cheap as possible !
The communication then starts between lawyers after the job is mostly done or totally screwed up :)


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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

How much did you pay?

You are complaining about the time for something you are not paying for?


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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

"....A big difference is an "estimate" versus a "bid".
I can give "free" estimates, might take 30 minutes or several hours of reviewing plans. It'll be a nonbinding estimate.

"You want a binding bid? That I get paid for. That might take 5, 10, 20, or 40 hours, depends on the scope of the project and the materials used. That'll be binding, and if you accept the bid the amount gets taken off the price of the contract.... "

Is this the norm for residential work? Getting paid for a bid proposal?
I have worked both sides of the municipal and commercial bidding process. Never once did I get paid, or charge for a "Binding Bid" And what is a binding bid? Contracts are binding, bids are just that, a bit for the job. We did require a deposit for the bid documents, that was refunded when the contractor returned the plans and contract docs. I am not against anyone making money, but I wouldn't pay for an estimate either.

Rusty


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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

If I work, I get paid. I don't work for free.

If you call me to your house to discuss a kitchen and bath addition, I'll bring over a portfolio of previous work. We talk about your ideas, we compare them to my previous work, and I can give you an "estimate" or a ballpark figure of what your job might cost, compared to my previous work, adjusted for the level of finish that you're asking for.

If you tell me to get lost, or I tell you to get lost, it ends there.

If we decide to go further?

Now I need to work up proper plans and a proper dollar amount for the work to be performed. Permitting, material costs, subs costs, etc, etc. That might take me 2 or 8 or 40 hours, depending on what the job entails. I get paid for that.

When I'm done I have a set of plans, a materials take-off list, and a firm price. You accept my bid by signing the set-price contract. If you choose to not sign, then the plans and other paperwork are yours to keep. Build it yourself, shop the paper around to other builders, toss them in the trash. Your decision. You paid for them.

I simply choose to get paid for my time instead of doing paperwork for free. It keeps me from wasting my time, and it keeps you from wasting my time.

It works for me, as I'm booked through the fall of 2010.

And this is residential, not commercial or municipal.

And I wouldn't pay for an estimate either. Why should I pay you to tell me how much you think the job is going to cost?

A "binding bid" is the dollar number on the contract. It's the amount of money you agree to pay for the scope of work specified in the contract when you sign the contract.


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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

Lots of good information to read through. I have nothing to add other than I gave them about 4 weeks on average to come up with a realistic estimate. They were neatly typed up, and I saw that a lot of thought and preliminary planning had to go into such an estimate. Most contractors have a "daytime job", and have to do this kind of paperwork at the end of a day, or the weekends. So a little bit of patience is probably in order.


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RE: How long should it take for a contractor to provide an estima

Sometimes a nudge is necessary. I work with a kitchen guy who's good, but can be lax in getting plans together. Give the guy a friendly call.


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