For most homeowners who are planing to remodel, getting bids from contractors can be a daunting task. For one, deciphering the bids amongst the different contractors can be misleading if you’re not actually comparing apples to apples. Unless you have been “schooled” in learning to understand how to interpret bids, you risk choosing the bid that could get you into trouble. By that I mean what you thought was included in the bid isn’t even detailed in the bid or the language is vague and open to interpretation. And then there are those homeowners who are more motivated by the bottom line cost to perform the project and use that as their guide in choosing the contractor. Then they get burned, which happens more often than not as pricing alone should never be the driving force in choosing a contractor.

Unlike bids, estimates is when the contractor will give you a ballpark price to perform the job. You can define estimates as the approximate price one would charge to do work that is less clearly defined or detailed and is based on limited information. In remodeling and hiring contractors, this is not the way you want to go. It is a sure fire way to increase the costs it will actually take to perform the job once the work begins as the “unknowns” will surface and you’ll have to pay for the extra work or materials.

But it’s not uncommon for some contractors to give estimates for repairs or for minor renovations. Usually because the homeowner wants an idea of what it may cost them and is it doable within their budget. There’s nothing wrong with getting an idea of what a project will cost, but that estimate should never be the final number. Instead, you should request in writing a detailed breakdown of the work to be performed and materials to be used. This would be considered a “bid” or “proposal” that contractors would provide to the homeowner to review and compare to bids provided by others. Then, that final bid or proposal would be incorporated into the contract along with contingencies, protective legal clauses, payment schedule and standard contract language.

So, estimates are based on incomplete information and are just that: an estimate. Bids or proposals are based on detailed, accurate information with known variables and it’ the latter you want to use when choosing a contractor to perform your remodel.

For more information on how you can have a successful remodeling experience and avoid a remodeling disaster, check out my Home Remodeling Bootcamp For Women (and The Men Who Love Them!) and get informed!