As we head into the new year I think it would be a good idea to cover how to compare renovation quotes that you've received from different contractors. As is often said, "the devil is in the details." For any renovation project, you must have a reasonably detailed scope of work in order to be able to effectively compare quotes that you've received. Sadly, the level of detail and transparency offered in the scope of work will vary from company to company, and as such, this can often be a hindrance to the homeowner in terms of being able to properly judge value for money.
The best way to help explain this would be to give you an example for something seemingly simple, like a quote for painting a bedroom.
- Paint bedroom walls, closet, ceiling
- $240 + tax
- Paint bedroom
- Prep all walls with inspection for cracks and damage, repair nail pops in drywall and Spackle as required
- Move and cover furniture as required
- Remove receptacle cover plates and mask off fixtures as required
- Paint all walls in bedroom with 2 coats of Sherwin-Williams Emerald paint
- Paint ceiling 2 coats Sherwin-Williams flat white ceiling paint
- All trim (window casing, door casings) to be painted 2 coats with Sherwin-Williams Pro Classic semi gloss white paint
- $425 + Tax
Although the 2 scopes of work I've described above from 2 hypothetical companies seem to offer a price for the same job, the similarities end there.
Company A has provided only one line describing the paint job and has given a cheaper overall price to the homeowner. If the only criteria for awarding the bedroom painting project were based on a lower price, the job would assuredly go to Company A. However, if one wanted to properly compare the service that Company A and Company B are offering, one would quickly realize that such a comparison would not be possible based on the provided information. Company A has identified nothing regarding brand or quality level of paint product being used, what prep (if any) they are going to perform, and whether or not the trim in the room will even be included.
It is quite possible that the lower price provided by Company A is based off of cost saving tactics like using cheaper paint, skipping preparation, and even omitting certain steps (like painting trim) in order to save money. Worse still, many homeowners may have the implicit expectation that the steps offered by Company B will simply be included with Company A. This is a mistaken assumption and homeowners would do well to ask the right questions prior to proceeding with the lower price.
If the right questions were not asked, and the homeowner had Company A perform the work, they may soon find that no preparation was done to correct small imperfections like cracks or nail pops in the walls, and a mediocre quality paint was used on the walls, resulting in poor longevity and thin coverage. They may also find that their light fixture has paint all over it from not being properly masked off, and that all of the trim and door casings were left untouched and not painted at all. The homeowner in this case may be left unsatisfied with the overall quality of the job, and worse, would have to reach into their wallet for a second time to pay Company B to come in and correct the poor quality work.
Realize that the "smoke and mirrors" approach offered by Company A would not be saving you any money at all, and yet, is precisely the type of approach used by many contractors who do not care about the level of service or quality that they are delivering. As a homeowner, you should always do your due diligence in comparing quotes, be sure to ask the right questions, and never purchase a service based on price alone.
That about wraps my thoughts up on this topic. With Spring right around the corner and renovation season coming, it is so important that anybody looking to hire a contractor to improve their home understands that a properly detailed scope of work is an extremely important part of comparing multiple quotes. If the company you've selected to do the work has not provided this, you may not be getting what you thought, and in fact might end up with a lot less.
Happy New Year!