5989369

Home renovation

Bobby
September 12, 2019
last modified: September 12, 2019

We hired a contractor for our new home Extensive renovations and so far have spent $95k, completely gutting, and replacing all old copper piping.. We are working in stages and each stage we get an estimate but they seem to be getting higher and higher.. I feel like he might think he has us by the family jewels. he quoted us $28k just to replace the front door entrance! My question is I’d like to reach out and start getting other estimates on things like replacing all the interior doors, smoothing The texture walls, and definitely a new estimate on the front door entrance.. Our contractor will still have a ton of work with us but my thinking is that if he sees me getting other estimates on certain jobs it will keep him from gauging us and maybe start giving us reasonable pricing.. FYI he of course knows we have the $$$ to spend which makes us more leery of his estimates..

What would be the protocol in this situation??

Comments (51)

  • Denita

    He is charging you $28,000 to replace a front door? Or $2800? Is it a whole rework of the entry including a portico or just a front door replacement? If it is just a front door replacement without adding structural or other items to the entry, then $28,000 certainly seems to be very excessive. Could it be an error?

    I agree with JudyG, a detailed discussion with your contractor first is in order. And it is true, the construction industry is small enough that most know one another in the region - and talk. You don't want to find yourself as 'that client' that burned "joe the contractor". Find out what's going on. I too would be stunned at a front door replacement cost of $28,000. That's why I think this is an error.

  • millworkman

    You're putting the cart before the horse. You needed a clear concise scope of work (even in phases) and had each priced competitively PRIOR to hiring this guy. He does have you by the short hairs now and you obliged him unfortunately.

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  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    Is there a contract?

  • Casamacho

    What does the 28,000 include? What does the itemized bid say? I've seen front doors that cost close to that amount, it totally depends on what finishes you are choosing and the amount of labor. But it does sound astronomical.

  • Bobby

    Yes!! $28,000 was his quote To replace the two front existing doors.! But I do have some serious champagne taste ! Hand carved 2 inch thick mahogany doors with the matching 12 inch hand carved wood trim. And we don’t have a contract which is awesome I think . Also, hes not known in my area with other contractors cause he moved here not too long ago. . His first job was for our best friends business building and perfect fast and reasonable. Of course we wantEd to hire him for our new home purchase ! But geez, he keeps getting higher and higher for each scope of work! ! i’ve already told him I’m gonna start getting other estimates for some of the work. He‘s always quik to say whatever, go ahead that’s the best price I can do ...I’m thinking he doesn’t believe I will .. And I’m not talking about hiring another contractor, I’m just talking about hiring people that do specific jobs like carpentry, doors etc.. And thats very easy to do .. We have a million dollar budget(which of course we didn’t tell him) , but at this rate we will blow past it..!

  • PRO
    The Cook's Kitchen

    Do you really want to put yourself in the position of acting as the GC? Do you have experience pulling permits? Hiring, monitoring, and pay schedules? Hiring trades individually makes you responsible for coordinating the schedule, quality control, and responsibility overlaps.

    Would it not be better to pause for a bit and develop the whole scope of work for the project? And then document that planning so that communication with any contractor would be clear? Then you wouldn’t be surprised with a 28K door. A quote that I do not find shocking given your further explanation of the specifications. Moderating some of your want list can help you remain within budget. A 10K door can be just as great looking!

    Perhaps if he just moved over from LCOL to a HCOL, that HCOL is catching up to him. The market prices for qualified labor don’t vary by a huge amount, because everyone has that higher overhead that they are dealing with.

    Just modifying the door project would be enough to pay for a couple of design consults and some proper planning. Best of luck with your project!

    Bobby thanked The Cook's Kitchen
  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    So you have champagne taste with a pepsi budget and you think you are being gauged maybe step back and rethink your needs instaed of wants and IMO a contract is alwys a good idea even if you think it is awesmoe to not have one .

  • Bobby

    You’re probably right as far as him moving to a HCOL!! It’s terrible...I guess I can always take a whittling class...

  • Bobby

    Yes Patricia! if a million dollar budget is Pepsi.. I guess i need a few more million in my budget for champagne ..

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    It is all relative where I just came from a million budget would get you a pretty basic house no frills at all.

  • Bobby

    I understand but this budget is on the renovations of a already 7 figure home we just purchased. Maybe that’s another problem. No deals when getting estimates..

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes

    The best projects are those designed and costed in advance with fixed contract pricing. However, that's not always the way they proceed for a variety of reasons.

    Where the scope is not well defined and/or the project is on a fast track, you might consider doing it on a cost-plus-management fee basis. The management fee could be a percentage of the job cost or a fixed amount based on the anticipated scope of work. In either case, you would see all invoices for work performed and the contractor's potential to "gouge" you would be abated.

  • Bobby

    CRH I agree but since this is my first time doing something like this it has been so confusing. But maybe I am a client from hell because I insist on finding and purchasing bout 50% of the items needed? Only because rt off the bat he was sending me to the “Neiman Marcus“ of plumbing supply and I refused to pick out 2k toilets etc! He said don’t worry bout the pricing they give him a “good deal”.. I thought, well they’d have to give you 75% off in that case.... So I told him I wld buy Kohler toilets and tubs and fixtures etc at Home Depot and online myself and he said fine but then sends me a worded email telling me it’s a big mistake to buy ”cheap” plumbing and how we will end up with issues down the road and that he’s just looking out for us. Well, I’ve lived in 40yr old homes with original Tubs and toilets and never had a issue! Even things like the door hinges i want he sends me the link and theyre $50 each! I need tons btw. So I find exact same online for $12 each.. I have plenty of time researching and purchasing most of the things needed. So is that the problem? That I’m not using his contacts for all the home items? i just figured let me pick and pay or he can pay for most of the things since Im able to find much better pricing, not to mention I don’t need designer toilets! Id rather put that $ into the designer kitchen appliances and cabinets which I believe adds value to your home.

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    Who is acting as the contractor of record, you or the builder.?

    To control costs let him know you're bidding the work competitively. But that requires a clearly defined scope of work which usually means drawings and a contract.

    If you can afford $1 million, why don't you hire an architect and stay out of the fray? It would probably save you money.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    Hmmmmm...is it better and wiser to use an architect who has been through hundreds of similar jobs, or a home owner with his first remodel...the world wonders...!

  • cpartist

    I hate to say this but it sounds like you're doing this bass ackwards. First as stated you need a completed plan of what you're wanting and a budget for all the items you're wanting. Then you need to bid it out to different contractors. Then you call all their references, check them out online, etc.

    BTW: Is this guy licensed? Are you getting proper permits to do the work?

  • cpartist

    Hmmmmm...is it better and wiser to use an architect who has been through hundreds of similar jobs, or a home owner with his first remodel...the world wonders...!

    Gee what could possibly go wrong when a home owner who doesn't have a contract with the GC and doesn't have a full scope of work?

  • live_wire_oak

    And wants a 28K door but doesn’t understand why the door is 28K. :rollingeyes: emoticon. The money is already gone on these impulse buys and the basic construction needs will be left half done. There’s no outline of work. There’s no list of materials. There’s no plans to not just buy whatever the impulses want to buy. Saving $100 on some cheap plumbing fixture doesn’t pay for a 28K custom door. Skewed priorities aren’t even being discussed with a sense of the ironic here.


    1M is nothing in some renovation markets. It will slip through your fingers buying candy at the candy store. Someone needs to make you eat your spinach and yams and wait for dessert. You can’t have milk shakes and lemon drops for every meal.

    If you don’t want to end up with a project that is 1/2 completed but has a lot of expensive products sitting around, then you need help from someone with experience. Otherwise this is a recipe for a foreclosure from your bank and fines from the city for not getting the proper permits.

    Hire a pro immediately. It’s not clear if you need a good architect or a good designer. It depends on what structural alterations are planned. Which you can’t even articulate on a forum, and likely to the professionals involved either. But whatever the scope, you need to hand over the reins. You’re your own worst enemy. You don’t know what you’re doing at all. But want to do it aggressively and fake it. Get humble. Or the money will drip through your hands like those melted milkshakes.

  • Bobby

    Guess I should mention the contractor is/was also a friend . Hence no contract.. of course he’s licensed bonded & pulling all the permits,, and we have architect drawings etc.. But it was impossible to give a full scope of work on such a huge endeavor. Because there are so many things I want to do .. Thanks to Pinterest!! But I need to see the finished work and then make decisions on adding more or not.. I might want to add a window here or there and want lots of ornate detail work, crown, wood trims, ceiling designs etc.. A toned down Taj Mahal maybe .. But I’m nervous it will be over the top so I decided to do in stages . I did get other estimates on custom closets that were bout half his estimate. So I’ll be using them instead. He really doesn’t care cuz he’s super busy anyway..

  • Mittens Cat

    I'll leave the contract advice to the experts--I'm just writing in support and empathy.

    We just got our first paint bid for our 2,250 sq foot remodel---a single story, empty ranch house with no real challenges and new drywall with super smooth finish. The guy took all of 10 seconds to look around and said, "$26,000?" Yes, we're in an "affluent" area, but there is an 8 year old dented Prius in our driveway, not a new Porsche. A basic paint job for $26K? Almost as laughable as one of our early GC bids--$1,000,000 to renovate kitchen, two baths and add 750 square feet on a flat lot. That "bid" took less than a minute.

    Someone needs to develop an app where you could upload dozens of photos of your home, plus all relevant details, then the contractors bid....without knowing what Zip code you're in.

    Bobby thanked Mittens Cat
  • Bobby

    Yes! I guess im on the wrong complaint board. Haha . Where are my fellow homeowners who have GCs who think we’re paying their kids college tuition with just one job!

  • live_wire_oak

    Zip code is entirely relevant as a factor. So is the intangible through the computer screen quality of work. Higher overheads for contractors result from that higher COL area. Their mortgages and insurance is higher too. The hassles of dealing with higher expectations costs more too. The 10K per tiled shower guy has the skills to command that, where the 3K guy—doesn’t. You cannot expect the work to be at all “the same”. It won’t be.


    You can’t pick up a Beverly Hills house and put in the outskirts of Franklin, KY. Nor can you fly out the 5K KY “good” shower guys to BH and get 5K work. You’ll have to put them up, feed them, and lower your standards of quality both. They aren’t going to have the exposure and background to conceive of that level of work.

  • Mittens Cat

    The same paint contractor painted my friend's house two towns away last year. Her house is roughly 200 sq feet bigger than mine, and the crew had to work around a full house of furniture, appliances, etc. She was charged $8,500. I doubt "overhead" had anything to do with it. :)

    Bobby thanked Mittens Cat
  • tatts

    So, he isn't charging you $28,000 to install new front doors. That figure includes the cost of the doors--which is completely out of his control. What is he charging to INSTALL the doors? That is the only cost that he has control over.

    Be fair; tell us what his real charge is and how much the doors actually cost.

  • Bobby

    Mittens Cat exactly! Ours started with reasonable pricing. Bait and switch is what he’s done. But in our situation I know damn well it’s because he knows we have the $$$! Unfortunately that’s how a lot of people are in this world ..

  • live_wire_oak

    So structure the contract as a simple cost plus contract. Cost plus 25% is a fair market fee for a custom project GC, and divorces compensation from location other than the subs increased ancillary costs. You are responsible for your budget, not him. You get to pick the best option from the subcontractor bids, and you get full transparency.

    You do require construction plans and a contract for this. It’s far riskier to both parties to do anything without a contract. Risk on any project increases costs. So does backtracking snd performing the same work twice because of uncertain plans without a good overall vision.

    Do you want real world help? Or do you want to just gripe that you are “being taken advantage of”? Because you are the one that’s creating the job problems that allow that feeling. To get your job under control, and for you to have a feeling that you are getting your money‘s worth requires that you do the job according to construction industry standard procedures. Not on the fly with no plans. That is the most expensive way possible to do any job. Yet you picked that. And are just now understanding the entirely predictable issues that it produces. But you don’t appear to want solutions that will fix your issues. Your mom will give you sympathy that’s what you want. You’ll just get practical advice to help you if you post here.

  • Bobby

    Tatts I showed him a photo of the doors I want and he said the total cost including installation is $28k!! He never broke down the price for me .. I told him i found doors online that are pretty close to what I’m wanting for about $6k but he said I cannot order doors online because of the precise measurements and that he wouldn’t be willing to install them . He said if I choose to go with someone else I need that company to come out measure and install....

  • Bobby

    Live wire,.. Does that mean if the kitchen floor tile is $5000 it would be $6250 total for that part? Because if thats the case then I’m totally getting screwed!

  • live_wire_oak

    Yes, the tile *material* would be that. *Plus* the tile labor, plus the GC markup. If the subcontractor gave a 20K bid to lay the tile, the contractors markup portion on that labor would be 5K for his duties of getting bids, coordinating schedules, and supervising work. So, $6250 for tile, plus 25K for the tile labor. $31,250 total. If there are no change orders. Labor is always the most expensive part of any construction. Skilled labor doubly so.

    Is this guy legal? Licensed in your state? As in currently licensed, since he is new to the location? With insurance? Permits getting pulled?

    Also, if you can’t tell the difference in 6K doors and 28K doors, there’s another source of issues. Discernment of details that make the difference is a learned skill through experience.

    This is why there is a booming industry in knockoff designer goods. Appearance at a glance is good enough for some to think that the product is “the same” when it’s very far from it. Carry a 1K knockoff Birkin for a year and it’s done with. Carry a real 20K one for 20 years and then have portions rebuilt to carry for 20 more. Yet it looks “the same“ to eyes without the training and experience. It’s the same on the lower down scale with Coach vs Coach outlets vs Chinese knockoffs. It doesn’t matter what price point you are at if you can’t discern quality from the non quality. Quality renders a value beyond expense.

  • Bobby

    FYI I have an authentic Birkin and a replica and trust me, there’s Virtually no difference! My replica is a beautiful leather too and I’ve carried it for years and hasn’t fallen apart.. lol And the fact that just about every single thing is made in China and even high end furniture made in Vietnam makes me unconcerned.. BTW the 28k quote for doors I want are actually from a company in Mexico. So what’s the difference between a Mexican and Chinese skilled artisan ??

  • chispa

    I did most of my remodel project by hiring an interior designer to draw scaled plans/drawings of what I wanted. I then had the jobs quoted for labor only and stuff needed behind walls. I purchased all the fixtures, appliances, lights, etc. at my local mid/high quality plumbing and tile stores. This was all spelled out upfront in the contract. The contractors I used were willing to work and "partner" with me for the projects. I am also willing to pay above average for their rates, because I expect above average work, attitude and pride in their work.

    You need plans and scope of work or you end up with your current scenario ...

  • PRO
    The Cook's Kitchen

    Perhaps if you gave your general location, someone might have architect contacts in that area. Good luck!

  • cpartist

    FYI I have an authentic Birkin and a replica and trust me, there’s Virtually no difference!

    LMAO. I had to look up what a Birkin was!

  • live_wire_oak

    They start at 20K for something that will carry more than a cell phone. People speculate in them, similar to anything collectible. I don’t own a knockoff or a real one either one, because I kinda find them horridly stuffy looking no matter what. As though you need have a terrible public school nickname like PowderPants, smell like nervous horses, and have bad British teeth to even consider one.I do have a bit of a clue as to how to tell the difference. I own a couple of Poshmark sourced vintage Coach. Handbags are merely useful tools. Beyond a certain point, the cost doesn’t benefit their use as a tool. To me anyway.

    It’s the same with those awful plastic pediments above front entries foisted off onto McMansions by the dozens. They are visually similar to the traditional wood carved ones, but only from the street to a non expert. To those with an educated eye, they’re horrid tasteless film set monstrosities. Which pretty much describes the state of home building today. Fake form over actual substance. And people who can't tell the difference.

  • hollybar

    I can tell a real Birkin from a fake at 50 paces. But doing a major remodel without a detailed plan and a contract, no can do. OP, I get that you want to source some of the items, we did as well. But IME that isn't so much a way to save on the overall costs as it is a way to up the quality of the finishes.

  • tatts

    "I showed him a photo of the doors I want and he said the total cost including installation is $28k!! He never broke down the price for me .. I told him i found doors online that are pretty close to what I’m wanting for about $6k."

    "Pretty close" is not THE DOORS you asked him to price! Jeebuz. Common freaking sense.

    The doors you want are BMWs; the ones that are "pretty close" are Hyundais. Get real.

    Get the real price for each without blaming the contractor. You're just wasting everyone's time here because you simply will not listen. The source of your problems is you--this is a business transaction and you need to develop business skills (and mind what people are telling you).

  • PRO
    Beth H. :

    (HU,,,can I have your source for the knock off Birkin?! lol)


    as for the above, 25% is usually the going rate. you can't order custom doors online (well, you can, but what if you have specific measurements? ) High end doors (2" mahogany) are not cheap. in fact, there is another OP on here who had a custom house built and she used double custom mahogany doors. maybe she will see this and comment on that part. Nidnay is her handle. https://www.houzz.com/hznb/photos/1-new-build-in-process-phvw-vp~146837675

    Install price is a whole other thing. it just depends on the size and the amount of work involved. that 28K quote is for him doing precise measurements, install, delivery, unloading and purchase. All of that is time and labor. Go find yourself a door to fit that space, put it in your prius and drive it home to unload! maybe he'll give you a better price on the install. lol

  • chispa

    Lisa, that is a bit unfair because we don't know the location of the OP!

    In many areas of LA that million dollar house is barely Walmart level, as it is mostly land value. Lots of missing data. Would love to hear the GC's version!

  • Bobby

    Trust me Lisa my home will end up being in a magazine when I’m done with this baby.. Guaranteed! I just don’t want to be taken advantage of ..

    Beth what’s a Prius?

  • Bobby

    Well, aren't you full of yourself.


    if being confident and having a keen eye for decor and a degree in interior design I guess I am . : )

  • Bobby

    Front doors I love but in a deeper chocolate stain .. . I guess they do look like 6 figure doors after all.. : (


  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    I suspect the magazine will be in a language I won't be able to comprehend.

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes

    @RES 3d Sketches,

    You can always look at the pictures...

  • Bobby

    RES 3d.. Wow you are right about that ..Why is it every time i find a design I love it’s in some alien like language!?! And Charles Ross you just gave me a great idea! I’m gonna have the photo made into a life size poster print and glue it onto my ugly existing doors .. TY!

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    While you're making changes try choosing a screen name. You can revise it anytime.

    Bobby thanked RES 3d Sketches
  • Lisa

    Troll. Just look at its comments.

  • live_wire_oak

    Fixed price quotes have zero expectation of being broken down into anything other than an accurate description of the work and materials used. How the number was arrived at is proprietary business information that a customer has no right to. Some contractors do a bit of a breakdown, but most don’t include everything. In a fixed price contract, the written scope and the bottom line price is the price, take it or leave it.

    Only time and materials or cost plus break down to transparent elements. They are also the riskiest and to the homeowner going over budget. They usually end up the costliest in renovations. Because people can’t control their wants without a design guideline framing in appropriate choices, and the budget that goes with them. This is how people end up with 70K ranges in a kitchen remodel, and end up 500K over budget total for the whole project.

    A fixed price contract is a hard number you can put in your spreadsheet. Cost plus relies on the consumer to control themselves and stick to a budget. It only works for a well documented specified project where the consumer exercises great upgrades.

    A gel stained molded plastic door is pretty far from hand carved mahogany.

    You can’t stop a train wreck by trying to stand in front of the train. You can only step aside and try to change the track that the train is on. And potentially help any survivors.

    I sure wish this contractor would get an account and post on here! His eyes must have rolled so far back in his head that he’s blind and he’s bitten straight through his tongue.

  • Bobby

    Actually my GC loves me ! Hes told me I’m not the first crazy homeowner and won’t be the last ..

  • greenfish1234

    Bobby, let’s see some pics of the progress!

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