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Builders Suck (or ‘How Not to Run a Business’)

Seriously, builders suck. Contractors, builders… whatever they're called. The guy who built the house I live in has a phone that doesn't even have an answering machine anymore. It just rings and rings and rings. He promised a quote/bid last week, and when I talked to him last week, he said this week. It's Friday. Several others have failed to return bids on time, too. Not that getting ahold of these people is easy - moms and wives answer the phone an inordinate amount of the time, and when they don't, you usually get someone's answering machine. Not a business answering machine, no - a "you've reached the Smiths, please leave a message - BEEP" answering machine.

Grrrrrr. Seriously - if I'm gonna spend $15,000+ on something, the least someone can do is return a call, honor a promise, or even get a second phone line with an answering machine with the business name in the outgoing message!

At any rate, we got our second bid today - $17,945.50 - so almost $1500 more than the bid we received yesterday. This bid breaks everything out - each piece of equipment, etc. That's good to see. I have to clarify some details with this builder, and I'll do that soon.

I've clarified some of the details with the second builder, and I'm writing the numbers down here:

Permits and Inspection:                   $300.00
Frame, beam, supports, posts, etc:
    Material                             $3577.50
    Labor                                $3900.00

Here's the first problem: this design includes a beam but also one, possibly two posts in the garage. I'm not sure I'm willing to do that as at least one post would be close to the area in which we open our car doors.

New Door:
    Material                              $187.50
    Labor                                  $75.00

We're probably looking at a solid wood door to cut down on noise, which would bump this cost to a little more than $187.50. Closer to $250 or so.

Electric - 6 outlets, 6 lights, box:
    Material                              $592.50
    Labor                                 $975.00

We can change these plans later. I'm not sure if six lights is what we envision, but at the same time, extra light wouldn't be too bad.

Insulation, walls, floor, ceiling:
    Material                             $1170.00
    Labor                                 $600.00
    Material                              $802.50
    Labor                                $1755.00
Windows, twin, double-hung, etc:
    Materials                             $750.00
    Labor                                  390.00

We'd save quite a bit (~$500) here going only with a single 2' octagonal window. The savings would more than pay for the thicker door (above) and carpet installation (below).

Millwork, trim, baseboard, etc.:
    Materials                             $303.00
    Labor                                 $300.00
Finish, door, casing, base, paint:
    Materials                             $187.50
    Labor                                 $780.00
Flooring allowance:                      $1200.00
Trash:                                    $100.00

The flooring allowance shown here is for 51 yards of carpet. The room is just over 400 square feet, so $1200 is something like $2.87/sq. foot. Not the best carpeting, plus we'd have to add in the padding (~$100) and labor (~$200), wiping out the savings from the window lickety split.

So, all told, this bid is currently in second place out of two by quite a substantial margin: poles in the garage + an extra $1500. Ho hum.

6 Responses to "Builders Suck (or ‘How Not to Run a Business’)"

  1. Dude, try and find a contractor in florida right now... Be glad your not still down here.

  2. absolutely do not ever hire someone who is hard to get in contact with, or doesn't seem eager for the job. just dont do it.

    Building in a new kitchen took 8 months, and was done poorly, and guess what: the contractor was exactly how you described these people you're talking to.

    My kitchen was a fuckin' 2 month job max, and that's allotting enough time for 30 minute breaks every hour, working only 3 days a week.

    Luckily my insurance company was paying the bill. UNluckily, they put us up in a hotel "for a month or two" which turned into 8. again, they paid the bill, but at least i got a TON of points to use at any marriott. 🙂

  3. I must take exception to your comment that (all) builders/contractors suck. Although I must admit there are some low life, con men giving builders a bad name, particularly in hurricane ravaged Florida. I have been a builder/contractor for over 20 years and assure you I have voice mail at my office, on my cell phone, and give my customers my email address as another alternative communication method. (This works great for punch lists, change orders, etc.) I don't do much remodeling, but after reviewing your estimate, anything between $ 15K to $ 18K seems like are really reasonable proposal. If the builders are not making deadlines in turning in bids, they will NEVER make your completion date. (you need a drop dead completion date). If they are difficult to contact now, they will be impossible to contact during the project. My advice to you is; 1). call your local homebuilders association and ask for a recommendation, ones that specialize in remodeling and/or room additions; #2 require those contractors to furnish references and contact those references; #3 have a dealine on the proposals (2 weeks would be sufficient); 4. DO NOT pay more than 10% of the project upfront; 5. make it clear that any additions to the original proposal needs to be documented and signed by all parties; 6. require a certificate of insurance, which would include their workmans comp. and general liability (completed operations); 7. require a full set of specifications, all the things they are furnishing, model numbers, products names, etc., 8. only pay for the work that has been completed, example: 10% down, 45% after the rough framing and mechanicals are completed, 45% upon completion and acceptance of the project. The ideal situation would be to pay 10% down and the balance upon completion. Personally, I would not require anything down, and the balance of the entire project due upon completion/acceptance, but thats just me. (It's not much money). Good luck with your project. They key is getting a contractor that is interested in doing the job and you feel comfortable with. If you both aren't on the same page, that can be a real pain.

  4. Man, sorry to hear about that. TanMan's advice is spot on. Wish we were in Erie or you in Atlanta...

  5. Don't expect any real work from anyone the week or two before Christmas.

  6. [...] we had the bonus room built above our garage, I wrote this post. Unfortunately, we've again run into the same problem - getting a contractor to call us [...]