dgmarie

Is an itemized quote an unreasonable request?

dgmarie
September 24, 2014

We are working with a vendor whom we found recommended via Angles List.

Our original quote included only labor and installation cost estimates because we had not picked out materials. Things like estimates for drywall, paint, grout were included.I understand the materials are a big cost driver and were unknown at the time.

The second quote after meeting with designers included the first amount plus a large increase for the addition of Kerdi, large mirror, cabinet refacing, shower door, fans, granite. There is no breakout of these individual cost items. Just a lump sum. The contractor is providing these, doing the refacing and handling delivery.

On top of this is my costs to buy fixtures, toilets, tile, lights. I know those prices. I have a list from the decorator. Those are on me to buy and have delivered via Amazon because the prices are very competitive.

When I went back to the contractor to get an itemized quote of the materials (not every drywall screw, but the big ticket items like the shower door or the kerdi or granite or the cabinet refinishing) I got push back that he didn't do itemized bills because clients in the past wanted to do certain item install themselves which left him in a mess to work around.

As the client, I think it is within reason to want to know specifically what I am buying. Not just a $10K adder for "materials."

I am not trying to be difficult, but my husband is saying this is giving him warning bells.

Please advise. It's a $25K project right now and that is a lot of money.

Comments (21)

  • jrueter

    I asked contractors when I was researching to provide itemized quotes to make it easier to compare. Some balk at doing it, but some don't.
    They weren't super detailed, but for example the countertops line item said something like "natural stone counter up to $XX/sqft with basic edge detail installed with cutouts for sinks and faucets - $XXX"
    Some of the other line items were drywall/painting, electrical, plumbing, demo, shower door, tiling (labor and materials, excluding the tile itself), cabinetry.
    Whether they are itemized or not, try to get a fairly detailed quote for the work being done.

  • Mr_Garden

    I regret not getting better itemization from my contractor before starting the project. It lets things get pretty sloppy and grey when it comes to the final cheque.

    The contractor may want to save some fluff for overruns, and he may also not want to put that much effort into a quote that may not go forward (a lot of quotes donâÂÂt).

    That being said, the start of the reno is typically when youâÂÂre the happiest with the contractor. If itâÂÂs suspect now, it is likely not to bet a lot better.

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  • numbersjunkie

    I think most contracators have a big markup on materials and they dont want you to see that and decide you want to purchase certain items yourself. To some degree, the markup covers the cost of the designers (assuming they were his people), the convienence of his showroom (again assuming he had one) and the added cost to cover possible damage during delivery or install - an important concern for items like shower doors.

    I'm surprised to see Kerdi on the list - that should have been in the original quote along with paint, drywall and grout.

    When I did my kitchen, I purchased everything myself except the cabinets. The contractor was fine with that since I had already done my research and had selected all my appliances and finishes. But he would not even start the demo until I had everything on site - he wanted to get in and get out without worrying about delivery issues which I understand. It worked for us, except when granite was delayed (my fabricator, not his), we had a longer than normal wait to get him back in to install appliances.

    I'm not sure its a red flag - many contractors work that way. They cater to people who want his staff to provide project planning and design services - a turnkey solution. There is a cost associated with that, and when you start comparing every item to the Amazon price, he knows he will lose.

  • jewelisfabulous

    I, too, find it odd that the Kerdi wasn't part of the original quote for labor, drywall, etc.

    As to the other items (shower glass, cabinetry, granite, fan), my contractor made those into "allowance" items because there's just way too many variables to try to price that for me in an umbrella bid.

    Basically, they estimated what a mid-range price was for those items, but it was up to me to work within the allowance (or pay the difference if I went over). Since their idea of "mid-range" and my idea of "mid-range" differed, we did go over the allowance amounts for all our selections by $3k or so.

    For example, the allowance the contractor estimated for shower glass was $1400. However, because I wanted Starfire glass with Showerguard coating, I spent $2400. When it came time to settle up at the end of the project, I knew we owed the contractor the $1000 over the allowance for the glass.

    I did use the contractor's suggested vendors because they already had experience working well together. I don't know if there were any kick-backs involved, but did receive the contractor's discounts (at the tile place, I got 25% off retail). I was fortunate that each of the vendors* still gave me the invoice for my selections so I could see exactly what I was spending. The contractor paid those invoices out of the payments we were giving them at certain intervals of the project.

    *In my area, the only vendor that tends to be a little squirrely about telling the homeowner the exact cost of their selections is the granite slab sellers. They prefer to ask about your allowance and then direct you to the row of slabs that are in that price "range" without telling you specific prices. Fortunately, the fabricator (a separate and independent business from the slab vendor), told me exactly what my slabs cost ($600 each) and how much the fabrication/installation cost.

    Hope this helps.

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC

    I won't break apart proposals for potential customers. Potential customers need to educate themselves as to my reputation and previously satisfied customers, that's their business. My markup and supplier discounts are none of theirs.

    Wanting labor and material breakdowns are a huge red flag for me too. I went against my better judgement the last time this happened and burned for nearly a thousand dollars. Never again. If you ask, we aren't right for each other.

  • dgmarie

    The Kerdi was not part of the original shower bid because the initial cost included sheet rock etc as he said many people weren't interested in using Kerdi because of the cost. I was so it was added in.

    As a client, I like to know I am not getting ripped off. I have no desire to deal with someone who wants to hide his 500% markup on granite, for example. Additionally, as the client I have zero idea what my final cost will be. If I don't know what my granite allowance is, only that is says "granite included" what happens when I go to the granite showroom, alone to choose. Which price slab do I pick?

    I recently purchase an entire HVAC system which included a detailed description of the unit, the model, the capacity, the cost and the labor to install. Why shouldn't the bathroom remodel be any different? I am purchasing product and labor.

    I am not, by the way, getting a particularly sweet discount. He won't even touch the items his designed chose for me via Amazon because he said I cannot beat the price. And his tile discount is only a lousy 5%.

  • live_wire_oak

    What's important is the details. Then the bottom line. It's much less important to know the allocation of $ for each of the details. If the details are in line with what you want, and the bottom line is good, then only the allowance items are the unknown. In your scenario, the granite would be an allowance.

    If you want to know the specific price of each and every part of the project, then you want a bid using time and materials rather than a fixed price bid. That is more transparent as to pricing for individual components. It's also usually a lot higher in the end than a fixed price bid. A fixed price bid gives you a firm total, with the exception of those allowances. If a contractor can manage a 500% markup on anything in a fixed bid and still meet your bottom line (unlikely) then he's losing his shirt on another component of that bid. It averages out. What he's trying to avoid is someone picking apart the bid and pulling out the higher profit items while leaving him with the lower margin ones. The bid is a TOTAL package, not a la carte ordering from a menu.

  • amberm145_gw

    What about the option to sub out an item for something more cost effective?

    For example, if you can see that of your $10k project, $5k of that is granite counters, and $2k is just your shower head, someone might decide that they'd be happy with tile instead of granite, or suddenly the body sprays aren't so attractive.

    I do recognize that the margins, markups and discounts aren't the customer's business. And it can be a pain if the customer decides to save money by DIYing stuff.

    But I think it's fair that if a customer is concerned about the budget, they be given an itemized breakdown to see where they can make compromises. I guess if you only want customers who don't have a budget, that's your prerogative, but perhaps that needs to be stated up front.

  • millworkman

    I would be leery of using someone who uses drywall n a shower, and states that most people will not use Kerdi or a topical waterproofing due to cost. That is pretty much an automatic out in my book.

  • live_wire_oak

    The correct way to approach the inevitable "I can't afford the whole project" scenario is to ask the contractor what could be cut to meet the budget. Let the person quoting you the price make the suggestions first. If the products, like the granite, are unknown, then the allowance number is a guess, and the total is still up in the air until you make your pick. You could pick a $900 remnant for a double vanity, or you could pick a $5000 super exotic if it's an allowance. If you specify that super exotic on the front end in the bid documents, let's hope that you already have an idea that you're not picking a budget product. It would be like specifying a 5 star hotel on Priceline and expecting to get it for $79. Even when you name your own price, that's not going to happen.

    If the numbers still aren't right for you, then the project's scope is still too great. If putting in a super premium granite costs too much, it costs too much. It doesn't matter who supplies it. Move on to cultured marble. On the other hand, a budget granite can be had for about the same price as cultured marble. So if you have 1K listed for countertops, you have a wide choice of product that can still fit your budget. Just not Blue Bahia granite.

  • jerzeegirl

    The reason why vendors don't give itemized quotes is because they don't want you to take the list and shop it around (and maybe they don't want other cabinet companies to know what their prices are). It's a lot of work to put together a quote and so I can kind of see where they are coming from. Why work on a quote if you are really planning to find a lower price and use someone else? The only place I have ever gotten an itemized quote was Lowe's - every single item listed in great detail.

  • jewelisfabulous

    By the way -- $25k is a pretty standard price for a master bath remodel; some might even say that's a low price depending on the size of the room, the quality of the finishes, and the area of the country where you live.

    It IS a lot of money, for sure, but it's not at all out of the ordinary (ours was $33k and my friend's was $27k -- about the same size room, but different amenities and finishes).

    The problem is that you don't know what quality of (say) cabinetry you're getting because there aren't enough details in the bid. What wood? How is it joined? Custom staining/glazing? Soft close hardware? Type of door/drawer style? Etc.

  • dgmarie

    I didn't mean literally drywall, just not the kerdi. That special bathroom drywall stuff. I can't remember the name, but no not just drywall.

    My husband's friend commented his bathroom was 8 x 10 and paid $36k. Ours is more like 15 x 12. with a 7 foot square double shower, double vanity, etc.

    thank you for all your comments. It is good to have a perspective.

  • weedyacres

    What amberm said: the itemized quote helps me make value decisions about what's in/out.

    I don't typically approach projects with a total budget in mind, I add/subtract things based on my perception of their value. The itemized list lets me make choices like "granite counter for $2K? ok. Upgraded glaze on cabinets for $2K? Nah, I'll change to a different stain that gets me close enough."

    The guessing game of "what's your budget" and "what can I get for $X" just isn't how my brain works. So I'd appreciate and value a contractor that itemized. If one didn't, I'd be suspicious that he/she was hiding something.

    When I'm quoting jobs (I have a service business), if there are 4 items on the list, I'll put the price for each rather than lumping them together. I think more transparency builds trust, and I like educated customers.

  • chispa

    I got 3 bids for my master bath and all the GCs itemized their bids as part of their standard business practices. I had bought all the fixtures, tiles, lights, etc. already, so I only wanted a labor bid. The 3 bids came withing a few hundred dolllars of each other, which is pretty rare, but reassured me that I was being charged the market rate.

  • bundy123

    This is kind of interesting as I have run into this in the past.....I know that materials are marked up and I understand why. I have an issue though, when the mark up is 200%. We had to get an estimate on getting drywall done (not a patch but 2000 square feet) and they balked at providing the line item. They ended up having to provide the numbers for the insurance company and we found out that they were charging 20 dollars a sheet of drywall. That was not for the finish or hanging that was for every single sheet for an 8 foot sheet. The response was we get charged to have it delivered. (nope the supplier delivers anything over 50 sheets for free), then it was well we have to go order it and on and on with inane reasons to justify the price. Had they done a flat 20% on the top I would not have had an issue. They were already getting a hefty sum to hang and finish the drywall. Needless to say we didn't end up going with them.

    Its always hard because I want the people that perform work for me to be paid and to put food on their table and I know they have overhead for insurance etc but I cannot ever justify an over 200% markup.

    Larger than 20% markup on the one of a kind tub that was hand made by unicorns that they will have to warrant the install on maybe...drywall Heck no.

    And for the record I have no issue with paying for a quote on a large job. If I want a detailed estimate there is a cost for that time to provide it and I am willing to pay for that time to get the information that I need to make an informed decision.

    Do I always want a line item for materials? No but if I see that the estimate is way out of line with other estimates or with known costs then I am going to question it. I am not going to tell you that I will go by the drywall myself and then you can hang it so I can save 2 bucks a sheet but we will be having a discussion on pricing when you are charging 20 dollars when a sheet is 8 dollars. If a contractor does not want to provide it at that point then we will not be doing business. Just as it is your choice not to provide it, it is my choice to walk away...especially when I know I am being gouged.

    Thankfully it does not happen often and for the most part people are reasonable but there is always the few bad apples.

  • bundy123

    And for Treb, here is an example of why not providing a price can sometimes be detrimental.

    Lets say I get a quote from Acme fabricators and one from Treb for 20 square feet of uba tuba with a straight edge.

    The one from Acme is 5 thousand and the one from Treb is 6 thousand. I ask for a break out and they are both charging 30 dollars a sqare foot for materials. The extra is for fabricating. At that point I would be asking Treb why his fabrication is higher. Not because I want the cheapest price but because I want to justify the higher price. Treb than comes back and says well, Bundy when I fabricate you will have invisible seams and your edging will be at a perfect 90 degree angle etc. That's where I say okay Treb is worth the extra and make my choice. If you come back and say I don't break it out then how can I justify why I would go with the higher price when I have no idea what is in materials and what is in labor.

    Conversely the opposite can happen when the prices come back and Acme is charging 50 a square foot then I am going to wonder is it because Acme has gold plated Uba Tuba or is he putting a huge mark up on the materials.

    As a homeowner I am not always looking for the cheapest price but I have to stay within my bounds and generally do so but sometimes it behooves me to move outside of them when I find a contractor that has the ability to do something extraordinary. I know that there are homeowners that are interested in the bottom line only but that is not always the case.

    Please understand I an not trying to single you out but rather to provide another side to the story. I have seen your invisible seams and I know your work is incredible but if we were doing a first time quote how would I know that I should be paying Treb a bunch more than Acme because he is worth it?

    I hope this is taken in the spirit it is given

  • sjhockeyfan325

    I really don't think you and Treb are saying anything different, except that you're saying you have the right to the info necessary to justify the higher bid AFTER you've received the bid, and he's saying you should have vetted him and his work BEFORE you even asked him to bid (so you'd already know the answer - that his seams and edging will be perfect; and you should have vetted the other guy too so you'd know whether his will or won't be)

  • Niki Friedman

    I like the way Trebuchet works. You give him the number and he tells you what he can do for that amount. That's how we wanted to work with our design build. Didn't exactly work that way at first but we got there.

    I also like the itemization. Not because I'm trying to undermine the contractor but because the customer needs to know for budgetary reasons what they can control. For example, we have an allowance for $940 for backsplash tile and grout. This is ridiculous as we plan to use $6/SQ ft subway tile (this is for our kitchen). So, now I know that I've got an extra few $$ in the budget and i can swing for that light fixture I've been eyeing.

    It's a partnership plain and simple.

  • bundy123

    Vienna that's a great way to put it. Partnership is a great word.

  • Tammy Copland

    There is a saying, and I have to say it..."Time is money."

    In most cases, a request for an itemized list/quote is unreasonable.


    1. Have you paid for the five or more hours the contractor spent compiling your project specific itemized quote? If not then you only get the bottom line price of what it will cost to do the project. Until you pay for it, the contractor still owns the work done thus far.


    2. If you need an itemized list then you say this up front, and request an itemized specification quote or "Bid package" and you should expect to pay for that service. This you typically get from a designer and that designer is paid for their time.


    3. In addition to the itemized list, those creative ideas the professional brings to the table provide a certain level of value, worthy of compensation. A commitment to purchase from the contractor who put in the time and had the creative ideas to help you work through the best solution for your project, will get you closer to an itemized list, depending on the contractor and project scope.


    4. YOU MUST EXPECT TO PAY MORE than the contractor pays, for any and all of the materials purchased by the contractor. They are spending their time figuring out what they need to buy, then they have to go to the store and spend hours picking it all up. They have to load it in a truck, take it to the job-site if not a warehouse for storage, depending on the scope of the project. That is time they are spending on "your" project, most add a % to the retail cost or an allowance is put in as a lump sum for certain materials. This is for any professional service you use. Who would ever spend two hours in Lowes shopping and load and unload a complete list of items necessary for a remodel project with out some compensation.


    5. Budget friendly contractors, or a handyman. Consider this, you went to that professional to help you with a project. You can not ask him/her to work-out all the in's and out's of the project and then provide you with an itemize list so you can price shop the list of items. If you want to pay Amazon or even Lowes prices, then you should consider putting in your own time to compile the list of items and find a budget contractor that is willing to work with you, procuring your own materials. Some contractors are ok with this.


    ________________________________________________________________

    Don't loose site of why you hired the contractor in the first place. Time is money. Don't ask the contractor to provide you with something that you are not willing to pay for. A standard remodel project has a huge list of items and will take a contractor a lot of time to list out. Would you order a burger at a restaurant ask them to break down the price of the lettuce, tomato, bun, pickle, burger, ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise? If so then you would probably not be eating out but instead, going to the grocery store for the ingredients to make it yourself at home.


    Oh, let's not forget that often they are using a lot of their stock materials that they purchase in bulk and wouldn't be able to itemize anyway.


    Focus on the project and is it worth the price the contractor quoted you. When you agree to the overall price and feel it is a good value for what you are getting, that makes for a much healthier and trusting relationship with your contractor. This makes it more fun and satisfying in the end, when you feel like you have gotten a good value for your money. So, let go and enjoy yourself.



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