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Shopping for a contractor can be difficult and it can be hard to understand the quotes you are given. You can receive a very wide range of prices for the same project and the scope of work within each quote can be very different too. This makes it hard to know which one is right, if anyone is over charging you, or if someone is just trying to scam you. Below you will find some things to look for within the quotes you receive from your contractors that could help you decipher them.

1) Different Kinds of Contractors

The first thing you want to pay attention too when you are shopping for a contractor is what kind of a contractor they are. Not only what trade they offer, but what scale they can offer it on. Most contractors can fall into one of four categories:

1) Trades: These contractors focus on one trade. They will be plumbers, electricians, framers, or possibly HVAC technicians. They will only offer services in one area of construction, but they will be experts in that area. They will also have all the licenses, insurances, certifications, tools, and anything else needed to get the work done within it. Keep in mind that while the Trades are great in the area of construction they serve, they most likely will not be able to help you with any other of area of construction. They either will not have the tools, manpower, knowledge, or experience to do so.

2) Handymen: Handymen will be the cheapest of the contractors. They have the least amount of overhead, tools, employees, and often times work alone. They are good for getting small projects around your house done like unclogging a sink, swapping out an outlet, repairing small sections of drywall, or any other small projects that show up around your house. When hiring a Handyman, you should make sure they have their license and insurance and should not hire them to renovate entire rooms or for projects that require multiple trades. They most likely do not have the resources, tools, knowledge, manpower, nor the ability to complete projects of that magnitude.

3) Home Remodelers: Home Remodelers get confused with General Contractors a lot. The easiest way to tell them apart is that Home Remodelers do most things in house, whereas General Contractors work with a lot of Subcontractors (Trades). Home Remodelers will always be cheaper than General Contractors and always take longer than General Contractors. They will likely have a crew of 4-5 guys and can handle renovating an entire room or house. However, no one can be a master of all the trades. Home Remodelers will not be able to give you a 100% correct renovation. For instance, they may know framing very well and so will frame any walls or doorways correctly, but maybe they don’t know plumbing very well and so can only give you 40% correct plumbing work. Maybe they are comfortable with electric and can complete any wiring work that needs done with 80% accuracy. They will complete the job to the best of their ability, but keep in mind that there will be areas of your project that don’t get done as well as they should. If you are trying to renovate your bathroom or home on a tight budget, a Home Remodeler could be a good option for you, just keep in mind that you will be sacrificing some quality to get their lower prices and be ready to discover some issues when they are done.

4) General Contractors: General Contractors will be the most expensive contractor but will give you the best result and get it done the fastest. They also have the highest amount of Overhead Operating Expenses. Their employees will most likely focus on one trade (mostly finish carpentry), and you will have a Project Manager dedicated to your project. His Job will be to ensure quality, that the schedule is kept, that the job gets done in budget, and ensures that the job gets done correctly. You wouldn’t hire a General Contractor if you only need work done in a specific trade but would hire them for projects that involve multiple trades. They have most likely spent their entire time in business building connections and finding Subcontractors that provide excellent quality at a reasonable price. However, they markup their Subcontractors’ prices to cover their management time. They will work with their Project Managers, Subcontractors, and Employees to complete your project in a timely fashion and get it done right.

When getting quotes for a job, make sure you are getting them from the same kind of contractor. If you are seeing vast differences in the quotes, you are getting back, you may have received quotes from a Handyman, Home Remodeler, and a General Contractor.

2) Review the Scope of Work

There are many ways to do a job, and every contractor is going to have a slightly different way of doing it, and each type of contractor will have a different process to get it done. These Scope of Works will greatly affect how much your job will cost, more so than the pricing differences. Below you will find 3 different quotes for renovating the same bathroom. There’s one from a Handyman, one from a Home Remodeler, and one from a General Contractor. I will explain the differences for each quote. (The prices associated with each quote are examples only and are not to be used to budget any projects)

1) Handyman

This quote is the cheapest. It also includes the least amount of work. You will see that it doesn’t include very much. It is mostly a cosmetic update of your bathroom. No shower replacement is included, no plumbing/electrical repairs, and no bath exhaust fan. This is also all being done by one person who may or may not be certified in all the trades they are doing themselves. There could also be a lot of charges that get added to your final payment. A lot of older homes have plumbing and electrical issues, this quote doesn’t account for that. There may or may not be issues hidden in the walls of the bathroom that were either not discovered or just ignored as well.

2) Home Remodeler

This quote includes more than the Handyman’s quote. They are demoing the bathroom completely, replacing the fixtures, relocating the plumbing, updating the electric, and addressing the exhaust fan along with the cosmetic updates. However, they are also doing everything themselves, and so may or may not be certified in all the trades they will be doing themselves. The bathroom will be updated and more modern, but there may be some issues due to the fact that the trade work was not done by the certified professionals.

3) General Contractor

This quote is more expensive than the others. However, all the work is being done by certified, licensed, and insured professionals. The entire bathroom is also being updated and any possible issues are being addressed. There is a very slim chance that there will be any problems when they are done, and it is not likely that there will be additional charges added to your project. However, you will be paying a premium for this. The General Contractor will also complete the project faster than the other contractors as well.

When it is all said and done, the most important thing is that you are paying for what you want, and that you can make an informed decision. If you just want a cosmetic update, maybe the handyman will be all you need for a small project. Maybe you want the entire room or house updated, but can’t afford a General Contractor and you are ok with it not being perfect. In this case, maybe the Home Remodeler would be best. Or maybe you want a close to perfect bathroom and you don’t mind the higher price. If so, find a General Contractor. When you are collecting quotes, make sure you carefully examine the scope of work associated with each one, and try to identify what kind of contractor gave you the quote.

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