How To Get An Accurate Construction Estimate

In the construction industry, estimates without descriptions often have little value.

When getting estimates from different contractors for a home improvement project, make sure the quotes involve comparable time and quality, says Kenneth Turnage II of K2GC, an Antioch-based general contractor.

“A lot of contractors do lump sum estimates,” he says. “You’ll see ‘X amount for dry wall.’ The contract should specify precisely which walls or how many square feet. That way, you don’t hear later that ‘it wasn’t included in the estimate.’”

Mr. Turnage says your objective is to minimize or eliminate change orders, those pesky 11th-hour revisions to your contract that so often account for cost overruns. He warns there will occasionally be unforeseeable problems that’ll necessitate a change, “but there should be no reason for the contractor to charge significantly more.”

Mr. Turnage recommends you only use contractors with a physical business address as opposed to a post office box. Communicating with your contractor should be easy, and a lack of a physical address suggests otherwise. It may be they operate out of their home, and Mr. Turnage says that’s fine, but you should at least find out where it is. Pay a visit and see how the business is set up. “If it’s in disarray, that’s a direct indication of how they’ll treat your home.”

Confirm your contractor is licensed and insured, and that their workers’ compensation insurance is paid, says Mr. Turnage. Make sure the subcontractors are getting paid. And most of all, he says, trust your instincts. “If you’re leery about your contractor after a few appointments, you may want to stay away. Sixty percent of this job is communication; only 40 percent is the work itself. If you can’t communicate your expectations to your contractor, how will you ever get the outcome you want?”