Feb. 4 2021

Why NOT to Ask for an Estimate

by Bennett Bottorff

If you’re starting to plan a home remodeling project in Seattle, you have likely been told or perhaps read that you should get project estimates from multiple contractors before hiring a company and moving forward.

While it’s a good idea to bring up costs and your preliminary budget during your initial consultations and interviews with professional remodeling contractors, asking for a construction estimate is not as helpful as you may think. The main issue is that, for most contractors, the estimate is more or less a rough guess that doesn’t account for several of the extra fees and expenses associated with remodeling.

Can a Remodeling Estimate Be Accurate?

When you think about accuracy in terms of renovation estimates, the term refers to the degree to which the final project costs align with the upfront quote you were given by your professional contractor. Unfortunately, in the construction industry, your job estimate often ends up being inaccurate, which is frustrating for both you and the builder. It can also put a strain on you financially when expectations aren’t met. Here is a look at some of the main reasons why estimates so often go wrong:

1. Using Past Projects as Benchmarks

When contractors give an estimate, they often use benchmarking to project your average remodeling costs. That means taking figures from past projects of a similar nature and applying them to yours. However, those projects were completed in a different time and using different materials, which means the data is not tailored to your specific remodeling vision. As a result, you’re left with an imperfect comparison and a ballpark range that is overly generic.

2. Making Assumptions

Along the same vein, a remodeling estimate is often based on assumptions regarding numerous details, from project specifications and construction methods to logistical support, delivery timeslots and access requirements. However, as you make different decisions regarding your own home remodel in Seattle, the construction estimate gets less and less accurate. It may also happen that you make inaccurate assumptions based on a lack of sufficient communication from your contractor. For example, there may be items you assumed were covered under the contractor’s bid or subcontractor’s bid, but they’re not. Nonetheless, those costs don't get included in the initial estimate.

3. Unclear Plans and Specifications

Details are critical when it comes to designing a kitchen remodel or bathroom makeover. If items are left unspecified or unclear, it leaves room for confusion and misinterpretation. Then, you have to spend money righting a wrong that could’ve been prevented in first place. You can make an estimate more accurate by ensuring your construction drawings are complete and accompanied with detailed specifications.

4. Price Changes

One of the main factors that affects your final project price is the type and quality of materials, fixtures and appliances you use. However, the costs for these products is subject to change, depending on the market. The prices for construction materials have been especially volatile in the past couple years. If it’s a small change, it might not affect your overall remodeling cost too much. However, dramatic increases can have a greater impact. The same goes for labor rates. Depending on the time of year when you're remodeling or other external factors, the cost of labor can fluctuate. If your remodeling contractor uses old, outdated figures when giving you an estimate, then it’s not going to be accurate.

5. Inadequate Allowances

Construction allowances are a common part of the remodeling process. They are often integrated into an initial bid or job estimate to help cover unexpected issues that may arise or the cost of items included in your project scope that aren’t specified in enough detail. Including this sort of contingency in your total project price is a good idea if the homeowner is using a traditional contractor. However, sometimes contractors will set unrealistically low allowances in order to keep their initial estimate attractive to prospective clients. If those items are more expensive than anticipated, your project price will inflate unexpectedly. Additionally, some contractors charge a markup on allowance upcharges. However, these are not issues you will run into when you work with Innovative Home Renovations, as we offer a price guarantee for construction costs.

6. Cost Omissions

Another reason why the estimate for your Seattle remodel may be inaccurate is because it doesn’t account for all the less-common costs associated with home improvement. These may include items like land development, surveying to confirm property lines, foundation work and landscaping, particularly if you are planning to expand your kitchen or add on a bathroom beyond your home’s existing footprint. Even if your remodel is not that expansive, some unexpected costs that may crop up include those for:

  • Building permits
  • Waste removal and disposal
  • Temporary power
  • Site prep
  • Setting up dumpsters
  • Dining out and/or staying in a hotel
  • Getting your old home up to code
  • Remediating pest damage

You should plan to personally estimate and keep track of costs that aren’t directly related to design or construction. However, the others should be included in the project estimate for a more accurate expectation of the total price.

What is the Alternative to No Estimates?

Although estimates have become an accepted aspect of residential remodeling in Seattle, there is a different way to approach your project. Rather than asking for a remodeling estimate and then developing your project plans using that figure, another option is to select a qualified contractor that helps with both design and construction using a guaranteed price model.

At Innovative Home Renovations, we eliminate the guesswork in terms of budget and timeline so you can set realistic expectations based on accurate numbers. You pay an initial design fee to get started, but before moving on to construction, you receive an exact cost for your home remodel without hidden fees or expenses. The result is a seamless, stress-free project with costly surprises for you.


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