How to compare home improvement project quotes
Submitted by Roone Unger, founder and CEO of EXOVATIONS
If you have ever solicited quotes for a home improvement project, you were probably more confused about what you were paying for than when you started. The more quotes you receive, the larger the variance between proposals might have been.
Pricing is in the details. Regardless of the type of project – siding replacement, window replacement, roofing replacement or any other home improvement – the price on the quote really doesn’t mean anything without knowing the specifications of all the work to be performed.
For example, “Replace all siding on the home,” is not a specification. Does that include removal of the old siding? Probably, but it may not include the disposal of the waste. All siding manufacturers require a moisture barrier, or house wrap, between the structure and the siding. Would this be included? Very doubtful. What about inside corner boards, outside corner boards, window trim, window flashing, and cornice molding?
Describing the process of replacing the siding on your home should be specific and should contain a list of specifications, such as “Remove all existing siding and place in contractor provided job site Dumpster.”
Window replacement pricing can be just as confusing and sometimes misleading. A $189 window does not meet the same specifications as a more expensive window. In fact, it does not qualify to meet the Federal Energy Star qualifications.
Replacement windows are manufactured using many different materials, including vinyl, cellular PVC, fiberglass, wood and aluminum clad wood. A double pane window can be produced using single strength or double strength glass for each pane. The glass can then be coated with a low-E, or low emissivity, coating. The low-E coating can be applied to one or both panes of the glass. If it is applied to both panes, it is typically referred to as low E 2.
The low-E coating will lessen the ultraviolet sun rays and reduce the heat infiltration in the home. The glass coating efficiency will be reflected in the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SGHC) rating. The air space between the two panes of glass can be filled with a gas with denser than air, such as argon or kryptonite, which increases the insulating value of the glass and would be reflected in the U-Value rating.
The other things that can affect window replacement prices are grids. Grids can be installed between the two panes of glass which is referred to as grids between the glass (GBG). Grids installed on the interior and exterior of the glass are referred to as simulated divided lite (SDL). The grids can separate multiple panes of glass, which are referred to as true divided lite (TDL). Again, pricing is in the details.
There are two ways a contractor can earn your business. He can try to be the lowest price or the best value. The lowest price typically comes with a large amount of risk. A low price typically means the following: low overhead (lack of capital, needs large down payment), no business location (moves around a lot), no workers compensation insurance, no general liability insurance, no business license, and no contractor’s license.
The more items on the above list that apply, the greater the risk to the home owner. The best value is typically achieved when the customer knows exactly what they are going to receive (detailed specifications) from a company that has solid reputation with a history. They will supply a large reference list of previous customers in your area, require little or no down payment, provide proof of insurance with a contact and phone number, proof of business license and a state contractor’s license.
The “highest price” is the perceived diminished value you will receive from not necessarily the most expensive quote. Don’t think what is described above will result in the most expensive quote. Pricing for all reputable contractors is basic economics. The more material and labor you purchase, the lower the costs you will be able to obtain. The more material a company purchases will enable them to negotiate larger discounts from the distributors. In fact, they may be able to buy directly from the manufacturers.
Labor is the same way. Do you think a roofing crew would prefer to work three days a week on average or five to six days on average at a little lower rate? It does not matter whether contractors subcontract labor or if they have employees doing the work. The people who are good at what they do and are highly specialized in their field want to be paid on their performance – a per job rate, not an hourly rate.
The benefit to you is access to the highest quality craftsmanship and name brand products with superior warranties at the most competitive prices. Remember, pricing is in the details. Don’t make assumptions or rely on verbal commitments. Keep all contractors accountable. The more you keep them accountable to you, the customer, the more they have to account for each other. The greater the competition leads to higher quality materials and workmanship at more competitive prices, but this cannot be obtained without the details.
Unger is the founder and CEO of EXOVATIONS and Total Exterior Franchise Systems, headquartered in Atlanta. He has been in the home improvement and building industry for more than 20 years. EXOVATIONS is an award-winning home improvement contractor for siding, roofing, windows, doors, gutters, decks, gutter protection systems and its own under deck ceiling system, Deckbrella. EXOVATIONS has grown into one the largest replacement contractors in the southeast since its inception in 1996 with three locations serving metro Atlanta and middle Georgia. EXOVATIONS is offering franchise territories throughout the southeast.
As of Aug. 19, 2011, this service provider was highly rated on Angie’s List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check AngiesList.com for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie’s List.