Contractor Comparison: Are you really comparing Apples to Apples?
Many times we hear our customers say they want to get multiple bids on their project before they make their decision on whom to hire and we understand the reasoning behind this. A lot of times the projects are a huge investment for them and their families and we want to make sure our customers are as educated as possible so they don’t make a decision they will regret.
After our customers have received multiple bids, the question comes up “Why are so and so’s prices higher than most other companies when comparing apples to apples?” We tell our customers that it rarely is actually apples to apples. If you were shopping for a new washer or dryer, it would be logical to seek the best price. But this does not make sense when hiring a contractor. Yet the public is endlessly encouraged to seek out competitive bids, supposedly to compare “apples with apples”.
Bidding seems to be a misconception on several counts. Here’s why:
- A bid reflects only an initial price, not value.
- Competitive bids may say more about a contractor’s desire for a job or his/her ability to provide enticing estimates, rather than the value of a job to be delivered
- Bids say nothing about the contractor’s skill, character, or level of professionalism.
- Professional contractors help prospective customers balance what they can afford with what they want.
- Even when consumers can accurately articulate their wants, they may not know their needs. For instance, can you really just build an attached sun room on patio slabs?
When hiring a contractor, a customer should be paying for more than a set of installed products and services. Contractors are employed for their specialized experience in design, building codes, construction and engineering principles, craftsmanship, safety and security issues, and business principles. They’re hired to schedule and manage skilled tradesmen and to ensure their work meets certain and definable standards. Finally, all consumers want a contractor who can be trusted to protect their property and what they value in it.
We suggest an alternative to the bidding process.
- Start by getting contractor referrals, particularly from reliable sources, who have had similar work done. Ask if the job progressed as promised? Did they get the finished product and services they contracted for? Did they receive full-value? Would that contractor be the first on their list for future projects?
- Interview candidates for whom you have a good initial feeling. Get professional references and check them. Review portfolios. Review the appropriate documents: contracts, sample proposals, change orders, etc. If possible, visit finished work and work in progress sites. Conduct a second interview with the best prospect. Explain the job. Evaluate whether the contractor understands the objectives and is enthused not just about getting the job, but also about building it! Declare that there is a budget. Know what you are prepared to spend, can afford to spend, or what you are willing to borrow to accomplish your vision. Be prepared to share that information.
- Ask your first-choice contractor to prepare specifications, a budget, and a construction management plan.
- Review and revise all the elements with the contractor and negotiate the price if possible and practical. Be honest in sharing any other additional work you have been considering. Most often you will get a better price before the job starts since the contractor can plan for this work in advance. If you wait, the contractor must adjust the schedule, work force, deliveries, and other factors, which can cost more.
Consumers do not need to be overly anxious about remodeling when you choose a contractor based on value, not the lowest bid. So, in the end it is important to not only look at the price, but also what you are getting for that price. Find out if the contractor is knowledgeable about the products they use, ask for references and actually call past customers and look at previous jobs.
Like the saying goes “When you pay too much, you loose a little money, that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the job it was bought to do.”
What to ask your concrete contractor before making your decision:
- How long have you been in business? This is different than the number years of experience they have.
- Can I see your contractor license?
- Are you insured?
- Who will be working at my house on this job and are they able to answer any questions as my project is being installed?
- How long will this project take your craftsmen?
- What type of equipment will be used for this project?
- How do you ensure proper slope of my project so water runs away from the house/garage?
- What type of base is used and how much?
- What type of reinforcement do you use and how do you ensure it will not fall to the bottom of the concrete?
- What concrete mix design do you install and what is the aggregate?
- How thick will the concrete be poured? The forms must be 2″x6″‘s in order for the thickness to reach 5 ½”.
- How do you apply the curing compound and sealer?
- How do you install the control joints and how deep will they be?
- What is your guarantee for this project?