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Understanding Your Contractors Remodeling Estimate
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Understanding Your Contractors Remodeling Estimate

In order to ensure you get the most accurate and comparable estimates from your contractors, you should have the best idea possible of what you are wanting to accomplish in your project.

This preparation may include speaking to an architect and/or designer to get written plans and design ideas. For example, which walls may need to be moved, material selections and more, will all help you in your detailed project outline. The more details you can have planned out, and on paper, the better chance you will be able to get an apples to apples estimate from your contractors.

If you want to get an idea of what your project might cost, try these online calculators to get a baseline estimate. This Old House Web provides estimated remodeling and repair cost. Improvenet shows average remodeling cost according to your living location. Once you have a baseline estimate, you can add those numbers in our Kitchen Remodeling Calculator and Bathroom Remodeling Calculator to get a baseline estimate for the averages you have to spend on your material selections.

Comparing Estimates

The better-detailed project plan you have, the easier it will be to see the difference in pricing. Just because one price is lower than another doesn’t mean both estimates have the same scope of work. That’s where the importance for scope of work (project outline) comes into play.

The more detailed an estimate is, the better it is for you as the homeowner to distinguish the differences in estimates. Two common and general types of estimates are generic category sum pricing and line item pricing. The generic category sum pricing is going to have the estimate broken out in generic categories with a single price, just how the name describes it. For example;

  • Demo the kitchen – XX price
  • Appliances – XX price
  • Flooring – XX price
  • Lighting – XX price

Some contractors may include a general price for materials in the generic category pricing if they know what the homeowner is looking for. Such as builder grade, or special/custom grade cabinets. Then it will be up to the homeowner to stay within those allowances, even though those allowances are not listed out in detail. Or the contractor will not include material selection in their generic category sum pricing; it will only include labor charges. If this is the case, the homeowner then needs to figure out on their own how much their material selections will be for each phase of the project. This type of estimate can also be referred to as – Cost Plus. Typically these estimates are billed by the actual hours it takes to complete the individual task and overall project. Some homeowners like this pricing because it helps ensure the project is done well and corners are not cut because the contractor didn’t factor in enough labor hours into their bid. The flip side is that with generic category pricing the cost can become out of control.

A line item estimate is typically more in-depth. Some homeowners may like this because they see every detail and cost associated with the project. Some homeowners may not like this as much because they have trouble understanding the estimate and it can look like additional and unnecessary work was put in the estimate. For example;

  • Instead of just demo the kitchen, the line item estimate could have all items listed that need to be removed in the kitchen like floors, baseboard, toe kick, including proper containment, dumpster, etc.
  • Same goes for the installation of the materials, painting two coats, can ceiling lighting, carpet pad and carpet, brush nickel finishes, etc.

The nice thing about a line item estimate is that you know your exactly what you’re getting in every room.

First Restoration Services uses line item pricing for all our estimates. We believe this helps keep the homeowner and the project manager on the same page and lowers any miscommunication on the project. We feel the homeowner and project manager will be much more in sync regarding the project timeline, costs associated, materials to be used and more when using a detailed line item estimate. What typically happens when you receive one generic category pricing estimate and one line item estimate, is that it could look like two different projects. This is why it is important to be prepared and have a detailed project plan. This will force the contractors to stay within the project details you have outlined for them, instead of a contractor adding or leaving items off their estimate they don’t feel is necessary. We also encourage you as the homeowner to request a more detailed estimate from your contractor if you feel the estimate is missing key details.

Quality of Work Space

If you are about to hire a remodeling contractor for your home while you are still living in the space, one of the questions you should ask your contractor is how they keep the workspace clean. The workspace in an occupied space is very important because any material removed (drywall) becomes an airborne pollutant. Especially with young children and elderly adults, the airborne pollutants could cause respiratory problems. Ask your contractor what type containment and air quality measurements will be taken to ensure a clean work environment.

Other questions to ask:

  • What does the contractor lay down to protect your floors during construction
  • How are the contents handled in your home
  • Who completes the final construction clean


Once you have agreed on a scope of work and price with a contractor, it is time to sign a contract. Here are 10 items every remodeling contract should include.

  1. Job description/scope of work
  2. Start and completion dates
  3. Payment terms
  4. Proper authorization – acquiring regulatory permits
  5. Change order procedures/limits
  6. Detailed outline of cost & materials
  7. Proof of license, insurance, etc
  8. Termination clause & dispute resolution
  9. Description of warranty
  10. Specific exclusions
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