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Sat Apr 27, 2013, 05:51 PM

Question on dealing with contractors

I have one currently working on my house who is giving me bids as he goes and is fixed price. Reasoning for this is because of hidden damage that couldn't be quoted until demolition was done (yep - I had rotted floor joists).

So in one of these bids, he cites the shower repair as "install shower base" and at the bottom, it says "Labor and material cost $2,200"

That was dated April 6th. On March 5th, I gave him a check for $1,000 to buy the shower base because of the lead/shipping time.

Now, he is telling me that "oops", he forgot to include that in "materials" in the $2,200 bid because I gave him a check in advance.

Questions:

Any recommendations on how to handle this?

Does $3,200 even sound reasonable for a shower base, drain, greenboard, membrane and plumbing behind the walls? Quote specifically does not include faucet and tile work. This is a 4x5 walk-in shower with no door.

It is reasonable to ask for receipts from the "materials" on a fixed bid project where something has been claimed as being missed?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

16 replies, 2383 views

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Arrow 16 replies Author Time Post
Reply Question on dealing with contractors (Original post)
Ruby the Liberal Apr 2013 OP
OffWithTheirHeads Apr 2013 #1
Ruby the Liberal Apr 2013 #2
Wash. state Desk Jet Apr 2013 #3
Ruby the Liberal Apr 2013 #4
Hassin Bin Sober Apr 2013 #5
Ruby the Liberal Apr 2013 #8
Hassin Bin Sober Apr 2013 #12
Ruby the Liberal Apr 2013 #13
mbperrin Apr 2013 #6
Wash. state Desk Jet Apr 2013 #7
mbperrin Apr 2013 #10
Wash. state Desk Jet Apr 2013 #14
mbperrin Apr 2013 #15
Ruby the Liberal Apr 2013 #9
mbperrin Apr 2013 #11
Wash. state Desk Jet Apr 2013 #16

Response to Ruby the Liberal (Original post)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 06:41 PM

1. Depends on where you live.

 

If you are in the SF Bay area, that's probably cheap. If you are in Tucson, not so much. You don't ask for reciepts cause he is buying wholsale and selling to you retail. That is part of his profit margin and you probably couldn't buy at his price anyway.

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Response to OffWithTheirHeads (Reply #1)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 06:48 PM

2. Thanks for the heads up.

Northeast, about 1/2 the cost of living as Central NJ.

Not worried about his profit margin - he has been telling me all along what things are costing with his 25% discount as he is asking me to choose between options A and B. He has been upfront about his markup.

I guess my concern is that I have a fixed bid for price X that is now "I forgot/misquoted" and he wants to add a time & materials element to it because he screwed up and forgot something - from almost 2 months ago. Is it reasonable to request proof of cost when one fixed bid (of 12 for this project) needs to be changed to T&M after the fact?

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Response to Ruby the Liberal (Reply #2)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 08:19 PM

3. I don't think he forgot anything.

I think he elevated his bid because he figures you will go for it.

Nobody is off by a thousand or more.

Nobody. It might just be what you call bait & trap. when one works on time and materials on a contract bid ,one also must know how to estimate time and materials in and including the unforeseen -,experience is how that plays out. either there is a lack of that or he's baiting ya.

I could be wrong ,but somehow I don't think so.

Sometimes slippery contractors use the unforeseen factor to raise the bid up into the sky-bid low to get the job than raise the bid -,the unforeseen-that which one cannot bit across is the avenue they use to elevate the cost.

I think you better stop with that befor it goes too far. If you are committed to the shower floor than stop with further bids until it is done than bring in other contractors to bid on the rest.
Or tell him to get it right or just get.

Look over your contract agreement in legal terms.

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Response to Wash. state Desk Jet (Reply #3)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 08:27 PM

4. Thanks for another set of eyes/ears on this for me.

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Response to Ruby the Liberal (Original post)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 09:37 PM

5. Is he pouring a concrete shower base or installing a pre-made pan?

What system is he using? If you know.

You mention membrane. Is that membrane for walls or shower pan?

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Response to Hassin Bin Sober (Reply #5)

Sun Apr 28, 2013, 01:55 AM

8. Heya HBS

He purchased a Schluder modifiable base and Schluder Kerdi membrane, greenboard drywall and generic pipes. Membrane was for the walls only (the base just needed thinset). Shower is just under 4x5.

Thanks for any thoughts on this.

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Response to Ruby the Liberal (Reply #8)

Sun Apr 28, 2013, 08:11 AM

12. That makes a little more sense re: $1000 for materials.

The good news is that is a state of the art system for building showers. So we know you are dealing with someone who knows how to build a shower. That Kerdi stuff is suitable for a steam shower and will keep the moisture AND water inside the shower where it belongs.

I can't tell you how many nightmare stories I've seen or read about regarding poorly constructed showers that leak and turn moldy because the installer had no idea how to build a leak-proof shower. Apparently there are still people out there who think tile and grout are meant to stop water from migrating to your floor and walls.

I always say I would never but a home with a walk in shower unless I saw it built. I had a client almost buy a condo with three walk-in showers. They moved in and didn't close due to financial troubles with the builder - by the time they moved out six months later, every shower was leaking. I used to think tubs with showers were kind of dummy-proof but I just replaced a tub for a friend in a ten year old condo. The tub (and drywall below) had been "repaired" over and over since the condo was purchased.

When I heard $1000 dollars for material, I thought that was really steep for some dry pack mortar (4 bucks a bag) and a $60 dollar pan liner. But I know that Kerdi stuff is expensive. And that is a good sized shower.

Not sure what to tell you regarding his oops/price. I'm of two minds on the subject. I've been on both sides of the equation and can understand mistakes and mis communications happen. I also know there are unscrupulous contractors that like to play games.

I suppose you could always bring in another contractor to give you a price for a similar build. That could get messy. Especially if you can't find another Kerdi guy.

You could also post over at the John Bridge tile forums. There are a bunch of pros over there who do Kerdi. In fact, it's their favorite system. They are a REALLY friendly bunch over there.

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Response to Hassin Bin Sober (Reply #12)

Sun Apr 28, 2013, 08:38 AM

13. Yikes!

Okay, that makes me feel better.

Still having trouble making the leap from $2,200 to $3,200 though. If the base + membrane are $1k (that I prepaid in March), is there a possible justification for $2,200 for greenboard, pipes and labor to put it all together? Thats what I am not connecting. It isn't even full walls as one of the walls is glass block (which is a seperate quote).

I really appreciate the opinion on the Schluder Kerdi. According to Zillow, I am $130k upside down on this house and wouldn't have even done this if it wasn't for the mold issue. Sounds like that was the right choice, but no one will ever know. LOL!

I appreciate your help. I am going to be talking to him this afternoon and just want my head straight before I address this.

On edit - I just found the Alumni Photo Album on the John Bridge site. Man alive, could that have saved me some time!

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Response to Ruby the Liberal (Original post)

Sat Apr 27, 2013, 10:11 PM

6. Tell him the oops belongs to him, and he will need to eat that.

It's minor, since there are multiple jobs as you move along, and he can do it or walk, and truly don't care which.

I was in the remodeling business for 15 years, until I wore my shoulders out, and not on any job, small or large, including a 2600 square foot house built along the Colorado River, did I ever take one dime up front for materials and labor. I quoted a firm price, and when the job was done to both our satisfactions, we got paid the agreed amount.

Truthfully, anyone who can't front their own materials is too small-time for me to trust my home to. If they're that short, how can they buy insurance or account for errors? If he does not agree to stand by his original bid, I'd run him off, and we'd be even right where we stand.

Otherwise, it's the camel's nose. I can't tell you how many jobs I finished up that others started over the years we were in business. And I enjoyed the work, but when I could no longer do it, we had to release about 18 months' scheduled work for some really nice people.

Many may find my position extreme, but it's really just expecting him to abide by his own expertise. If an honest error, he'll learn, and it certainly won't break him. If a dishonest scheme, you're better off without him.

Just my 2 cents.

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Response to mbperrin (Reply #6)

Sun Apr 28, 2013, 12:19 AM

7. A bit too extreme !

That is a bit extreme. Contract bids are broken down into phases . Demo is the first phase as a rule. A check comes at the completion of each phase .you will find that a common place where banks are part of the it-say for example the loan agreement. That's how it's done.

Your way ,what if it's a very big job and yer in it for $50.000 or more,the clients go broke and file for devoice ? As this was happening they add on a lot material wise just because they feel like it.

What do you do with yer loss ?Do you eat it and move on ? does yer family go without because yer credit card bills require payment and int rest ?

A well written contract agreement covers both the client and the contractor.

You know you get into 1700 square feet two floors 40 offices and on the remodel lighting alone and cost oh,say $12,000 or more. That's just the lighting materials. 1700sq.ft is the roof !
so thats a lot of building !

And paint and carpet and building and demo,tile on and on -man that adds up.

They hire independents to save money . Independents don't have 3-million or more operating capital. !

And it is a well know fact on the client end that independents don't have a huge overhead that is included in the bill .

When the loan is $50,000 or less the bank as rule leaves it to the applicant to pay the contractors/contractor.However in some cases those banks want to see how it's being spent if it's a home upgrade improvement. If thats the case the money is released in phases upon completion.Bids are broken down into phases-4 or five or as many dependant upon the length of the project. I mean the client will end up paying the int rest on the credit card buy's,you got to know that.

and you run up big bills with those suppliers and they call in demand payments don't they ?
The educated homeowner in the remodel game knows how it works.

There has to be trust between the client and the contractor.

That might have to do with people asking people if they know any good trust able contractors !












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Response to Wash. state Desk Jet (Reply #7)

Sun Apr 28, 2013, 03:30 AM

10. In 15 years, I never had a client fail to pay in full what they owed.

In return, we never failed to finish a job. We didn't do giant jobs - the biggest we ever did was a nice vacation cabin for a little over $320,000 20 years ago.

We always had the cash reserve to do any job we bid - I never charged a dime of supplies, and I haven't banked since 1978. None of our clients required a bank loan - they paid on completion. Never dealt with commercial people at all - their dishonest ways are just not for me, and I knew that ahead of time.

Our contracts were very simple - the client knew what they had, and they knew what they wanted to end up with, so I bid a dollar amount to do that - quite pointless to break it up into some imaginary categories of supposed materials costs which differ from real, and disguise labor as materials and all that. They needed to know how much money and how much time.

I worked with my grandfather as a young man, and he worked until he was 86, crawling under houses and in attics. When he died, he had a three year waiting list of people who wanted him to do their jobs. He made it simple for them.

Now perhaps things are just different elsewhere, but in this part of the country, you do what you say, and if you're not bright enough or experienced enough to do that, work for someone for wages. I do act in an extreme way, because these are people coming into your home and altering where you live, forever. I don't need some amateurs or trainees to do that - I need someone who will get it done, on time and for the dollars agreed. Worked here for my grandfather and for me. I just had the misfortune to wear out my shoulders - I can't lift my hands much higher than my head and for just a few minutes at that, or I'd still be working at that - it's a good job, a real puzzle, and never a dull moment.

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Response to mbperrin (Reply #10)

Sun Apr 28, 2013, 02:01 PM

14. Your method was as good as it gets.

I agree with you in that there is never a dull moment and each job presents a challenge.(the Puzzle ) !

Commercial contracting is a big step up from residential repair & remodel. When you make that leap as a residential contractor it is in most cases because of a lucky break.It's a different game all together.A name in the business helps a lot-that means word about the kind of work you do spreads. When honesty is your policy that goes a long way.

My clients never expected me to front out material monies or the cost of any helpers that were required. I never marked up materials and the client pays the tax on those materials . Keeps the cost of having my tax's done end of the year down. When I go through suppliers I have the supplier add in the tax to the bill.Keeps my book keeping costs down.That in turn saves the client money='s low overhead.

My grand father was a contract electrician and my father was an electrician by trade-I know your method well. Some of my grand fathers ways figured into my business practice.
People like it.

They must because they won't leave me alone and I'm retired- but they keep calling. So I guess it's semi retired from it. The puzzle ,the challenge-it gets you I guess ,perhaps even addictive.

Time and materials it's quite simple.



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Response to Wash. state Desk Jet (Reply #14)

Sun Apr 28, 2013, 02:29 PM

15. Generational knowledge is a great thing, and it gives us a special bond.

Seems like it's dying out in this part of the country, though, and that's a shame.

It IS addictive, the puzzle.

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Response to mbperrin (Reply #6)

Sun Apr 28, 2013, 02:08 AM

9. Thank you for adding your thoughts/experience to this dilema.

I am an MBA and my initial inclination was "sorry for your luck in that you chose to fixed bid rather than time/materials".

Then again, I get honest mistakes and don't want to screw the guy over. I just don't know enough about quoting this stuff to know if he is telling me the truth.

This project was estimated at $10k (barring unforseen hidden damage - the reason for the work being mold) and a months worth of work. Project started on March 18 and tile just started going up Friday and is at $19,000 and counting. Twice the price and twice the time is taking its toll (going to the gym every AM to shower in public for 2 months doesn't help matters) but I want to do right by this guy.

Appreciate you weighing in. As I recall, you own multiple rental properties - thanks for your thoughts.

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Response to Ruby the Liberal (Reply #9)

Sun Apr 28, 2013, 03:34 AM

11. Sorry you're having trouble at all.

Sorry if I came on too strong, but I really do have a peeve about people who make remodelers look bad. We do own a number of properties, and customer satisfaction is really important there, too.

Good luck, and I certainly hope when all is said and done that you end up with a good job, whatever the in-between complications.

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Response to Ruby the Liberal (Reply #9)

Sun Apr 28, 2013, 03:41 PM

16. What I am seeing over those numbers

is the cost doubled. It it looks like the old bid low to get the job than elevate the price across ed the unforeseen .

now in the business of remodel the unforeseen- water damage to the wood and walls is that which will raise the cost, but I think the guy left you totally in the dark about that cost elevation which in turn gave him plenty of leverage to elevate the total cost.

Now you made mention of a month extra work.
1.Is he doing the work himself ?

And 2. did he give you any idea of what the total cost could be before he started the project ?


And thats a key question.

From $10,000 to $ 20,000 , -that happens ,but from my experience people want the facts up front.

If you had absolutely no idea this was coming,than I think you really better sit down with this guy.

Because it's this guys job to see to it that you are satisfied-happy with the finished result as well as the price tag. He needs to come down a little.

What's happening here to you is exactly why people ask around about other people's experience with contractors. A bid for 10 that turns to 20 or 30 turns to 50 and so on. The question do you know any contractors means do you really know somebody.
Would you bring that guy back in to do another job later in time - 10 turns to 20 ?
I suggest you think about that question .

I receive Christmas cards from clients/friends every year if that tells you anything.

You should have been made aware of cost elevation every step of the way and he should have given you some idea through his experience what the total cost could be before he started that job.

Confronting him may seem difficult- if you don't ask for a little relief on this cost elevation ,than you won't get any. It's that way.

Sit down with the guy.
It seems to me that 25% discount went away before he even started the project.

Sit down with him-it's about bringing the price down a little at this point in it.
You do not want to leave him any more room to elevate or add on to the cost.
Because if you do,he will.

Those are my thoughts to it sight unseen.

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