Q&A / 

Getting Construction Estimates and Bids

Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary defines the word estimate as follows: "to produce a statement of the approximate cost of." Based on this definition you can understand why the bids you receive from different contractors rarely match. Estimating is not an exact science. There are too many variables.

However, using historical data indicating how long it takes to do specific job tasks, and using accurate up-to-date cost figures for materials, a person can get pretty darn close to the actual cost of a remodeling job. Heck, I used to do this every day for 20 years. There are thousands of builders and remodelers who also do this every day as well.

Thus, if you are planning to build or remodel, accurate cost figures can be developed. The problem is, jobs often experience cost overruns or they run over budget before they even start.

Why?

That question has been asked a million times by homeowners. There are hundreds of reasons. Here are just a few: poor plans, poor soil conditions, hidden damage, change orders, etc. But one of the most aggravating experiences a homeowner faces is receiving quotations for a planned job that far exceed his or her budget. The heartache this causes is immense. Months worth of planning, hopes, and dreams are shattered when the bids are delivered.

This frustration is avoidable. All you need to do is assemble a written description using plans, photos from magazines, or a simple verbal description outlining exactly what you want. Based on this preliminary description, builders or remodelers can sometimes offer preliminary square foot job costs. They can do this by comparing your description to recently completed jobs. If your job is unique, this may be a difficult thing to estimate.

You can also refer to cost estimating guides. These are detailed books and tables that break down each aspect of a construction project. They have cost figures for many cities throughout the USA.

Remodeling Magazine used these types of books to prepare the cost estimates for their 2003 Cost vs. Value Report. You must use these figures with caution when calculating your project cost. Modifying a project just a little bit can add thousands of dollars to a job. Difficult or tight building spots can also add money.

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