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Why cheap may actually cost you more

Updated: Apr 7, 2019

As a company we are often compared to competitors who are cheaper. In fact, there have been times where we come in twice as much as other bids. It is daunting sometimes even to us... how we can be so much more expensive. In reality are we really more expensive?

Certainly the answer can be quite nuanced. When preparing an estimate for a client we take into consideration a multitude of variables for a job request. Often times there are items included that most home owners are not even aware of. We are professionals and with the years of experience we have in the field we inherently know what will be necessary to include in the costs of a job.

One major cost we carry is the required insurance policies that cover not only our liability but also the liability of our clients. At a minimum a contractor should carry liability insurance which covers accidents or damage to your property which may occur during a renovation. Although rarely, especially with highly experienced contractors, accidents do happen, so be sure your contractor carries basic liability insurance.

A second part of coverage not to be overlooked is worker's compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation insurance (also known as workman's comp insurance) provides benefits to employees for work-related injuries or illnesses including medical care, wages from lost work time, and more. If your contractor does not carry the basic coverage, workers injured on the job site become the responsibility of the owner of the property. Be sure to ask for copies of current coverage.

Certainly the cost of carrying the proper insurance isn't the sole driver in what causes one contractor to be more expensive than another. Sometimes, in the end, the consumer decides on the ultimate quality of a product. You have products of good quality that are $100 and you have products of good quality that are $20. The rule of thumb is that if you have something that costs more it more than likely has more expensive materials or labor put into it which means better quality. What is motivating you as the consumer to purchase a new kitchen or bathroom? Is it out of necessity? A bathtub is leaking and causing damage to other areas of your home? Has your shower become so deteriorated that the walls are beginning to cave in? Have the doors on your kitchen cabinets started to fall off?

Maybe your kitchen or bathroom function just fine but it has become so dated you are ready for a change. Whatever your motivation is to make this purchase you must keep in mind these are the two most important spaces in your home and need to be renovated to certain minimum standards.

We are all motivated by price to a point, but there is an important crossroads to consider when making decisions based solely on price point. Reputable contractors will take into consideration the importance of upgrading plumbing and electrical when estimating a renovation. The building codes change often, and practices allowed as little as 20 years ago are outdated and should be addressed during a renovation. Any major renovation involving work on structure, plumbing, or electrical almost always require a permit. The building inspector is employed to look out for the best interest of the home owner and ensure that practices being followed are up to current code standards. Sometimes these may require costly upgrades and alterations to the existing infrastructure of your home. Although sometimes frustrating, please consider these as opportunities to increase the structural and mechanical integrity of your home and many times the quality of life and safety of your family.

These above mentioned items definitely help us to better understand expensive but don't account for all of the expense. Materials have become far more costly over the past decade alone. Basic building materials such as lumber, screws, nails, wire, copper, plumbing parts, lighting, fixtures, and so many other items are far more expensive. This is an area where the old adage, you get what you pay for, really means something. We highly suggest staying away from the cheapest fixtures when making selections for your space. Realizing that there is a limit to a budget, it is important to work closely with your contractor and try to put in the highest quality items when it comes to cabinetry, plumbing fixtures, and a variety of other highly used items. Saving a few dollars now may result in early replacement of these items due to failure, or having to replace these items multiple times over a shorter period of time. Spending just a few dollars more upfront can save you a lot of money in the long run. Using a shower faucet is a great example to point out the importance of making smart decisions with your money. A shower faucet can be purchased as cheaply as $60. The components are sometimes sub par in quality. Manufacturers put the cheapest materials they can find to offer something so inexpensive. When this faucet fails and needs replacement it is a very costly expense running into the hundreds of dollars. Stretching that budget to $200 for this one item can pay off in the long run by having decades of reliable use, and when servicing is required, it has built in components that are easily replaced. Motto is, buy the best quality you can now to save in the long run.

The final leg of this chair is skilled labor. You could have purchased the highest quality materials and components but if the contractor installing them is unskilled it really doesn't matter. The fact of the matter is, the skilled labor work force is shrinking, and truly knowledgeable craftspeople are a precious commodity. Today's products often times require specialized training to install and an ongoing commitment to keep up with best practice techniques in building and assembly. In some scenarios not using the proper fasteners, screws for example, may result in the premature failure of a shower. Contractors must be vigilant in keeping their knowledge of product compatibility and industry standards as current as possible. This requires taking on going training courses and spending many hours researching best practices.

So is all of this really expensive? Again it is partly added expense, but also just where we have gotten in the actual cost to do a renovation. Contractors take on an incredible amount of liability and responsibility when he or she steps into a home to conduct a renovation. A general contractor can easily be compared to a general practitioner who needs to know a lot about a lot of things. Do you actively seek out a "cheap" doctor? Typically, if you have an illness or need to have surgery, you look to find the most competent, highly trained physician to do the job. Shouldn't the same be true when it comes to renovating your home? Maybe next time instead of asking why are you so expensive...maybe you should wonder why the other person is so cheap.

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