We have an article posted on our website titled “Ten Cardinal Rules for Construction Business Owners.” Our Ten Cardinal Rules are what we consider the ten most important things the owner of a construction-related business needs to do to succeed.

I want to talk about rule number six, “You shall get written quotes on all items that exceed $300 on your estimate.”Get Written Quotes

Last week I got a call from a coaching client. His salesperson sold a high-end kitchen remodel and didn’t price out the exhaust hood installation. He assumed the install would be minor; he was also influenced by the homeowner who insisted it wasn’t a big deal.

It was a big deal. Without getting too technical, the hood range for the project is rated at 1000 CFM and requires make-up air dampers to bring air in when the hood is in use. After discovering the problem, the contractor brought two different HVAC contractors to the job site. The first had zero interest in the project. The second quoted $2,250 and that didn’t even include the dampers or running all the necessary cables.

I probably don’t need to tell you that the salesperson is no longer employed by this contractor. This wasn’t the first big omission he had made in an estimate, but it was the last.

Our coaching client called right after meeting with the second HVAC contractor. The owner was also present at the meeting and argued that $2,250 was way too high and it should only be about $400. The discussion went from bad to worse; the homeowner got upset with the contractor and told him that he’d do the install himself. Our client wanted to know my opinion.

Under normal circumstances, I believe that letting a homeowner do their own work, especially something technical like this, in the middle of a project is a bad idea with nothing but problems and delays ahead. This situation is different because I’m not sure it can get worse. The exhaust and makeup air system were not well designed and there are still several questions about the install. I suggested he let the owner do the job if the owner wanted to, provided the project stays on schedule. The contractor took it a step further and had the owner get the permit. He also suggested the owner call the inspector to meet with the owner at the job site so the owner would know exactly how the inspector wants the installation of the exterior blower and interior exhaust hood completed. So far, everyone is happy.

Technology is changing. Because of today’s tight homes, many building codes now require makeup air on any installation where the external blower exhausts more than 400 CFM. It’s complicated and technical, so much so that one manufacturer (Broan) has a makeup air damper tool to help calculate the size and number of dampers required.

If you aren’t sure, ask questions. It’s cheaper to ask questions than to eat the cost of the problems that can show up later. That’s part of the thinking behind Cardinal Rule #6. Talk to experts. Take the time to track down details before you quote a job. You can wipe out the entire profit on a job, and more, if you don’t estimate carefully and accurately.

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