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What to Look for in an Estimate

Posted in: Screen Porch Questions, Deck Building Questions, Deck Contractors License, hire a decking contractor, Contracting Questions, outdoor living, outdoor living spaces, Hire a Contractor

James Moylan

Thursday, March 19, 2015

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How to Determine if Your Contractor’s Estimate is Accurate

Most contractors in Maryland and Virginia will break down a project into thirds when conceiving an estimate. In practice, these thirds consist of (1) materials, (2) labor and (3) overhead expenses and profit. However, the total presented in an initial estimate is not always an accurate projection of how much a build will actually cost, be it a deck, screened porch, or outdoor kitchen design. Inexperienced or shady contractors do not always account for additional fees, unexpected costs, and other pricey details that can arise after a build is started.

So, how can you determine if your contractor’s estimate is accurate? Begin by closely examining the outdoor living space estimate and ensuring it accounts for the following six factors:

  1. Permit costs. The estimate should include the actual cost of all necessary permits, as well as the cost of having your contractor go through the process of applying for and obtaining them for you.

  2. Interior cleaning. For interior remodeling projects, your addition contractor’s estimate should include the cost of a thorough cleaning of dust, debris, and materials as well as any necessary repairs. Their work isn’t finished until the space is ready for the big move-in and is as clean as - or cleaner than - it was before the project began.

  3. Exterior maintenance. For decking, screened-in porches, and other exterior projects, your contractor’s bid should include comprehensive exterior maintenance and repair services. The bidder should plan on repairing any damage to your yard, replanting grass, and putting down seed and straw if necessary. Exterior spaces should be left free of debris, dust, and waste, and landscapes should look neat and professional.

  4. Unforeseen costs. A high-quality, experienced builder will know what to expect in certain types of projects and their estimate should anticipate any unforeseen and worst-case-scenario costs. They should be prepared for complications such as mold, plumbing, and electrical problems, and be able to handle them without passing extra costs on to you in the form of change orders.

  5. Specialty requirements. Any design build firm in Maryland should be intimately familiar and up-to-date with local building codes and include the cost of any specialty requirements or permits in their estimates. For instance, when estimating the total project cost for a deck,  the cost of obtaining an electrical permit and installing an outlet should be included since local area codes require at least one electrical outlet on all exterior decks.

    When estimating the cost for an interior remodel or home addition, a credible contractor will factor in the price of adding smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Without these details, your project won’t pass an inspection which in turn can add days to your overall build time.

  6. Suitable, quality materials. If you are having a screened-in porch or other addition added to your home, you’ll want to make sure the materials your contractor plans on using match the style and caliber of your house’s existing materials. It’s important that the trim, gutters, roofing, and building materials of your new addition match the existing structure, or else you run the risk of it looking out of place or tacked on. Make sure the materials budgeted into the estimate are of the same design, caliber, and quality of the existing features of your home.

Do not be afraid of thoroughly interviewing potential contractors about their project estimates. It is your responsibility as an educated consumer to ask questions about costs breakdowns and charges or fees that are unclear or seemingly redundant.

You should also follow up research into your unique project and building area codes with questions for you contractor about how they plan to address any concerns you have or problems you foresee. An experienced and knowledgeable design build firm in Virginia will be able to stand behind their estimate and explain his pricing choices with confidence, clarity, and pride.

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