One of our goals is to improve the image of the construction industry. We’re doing that by educating contractors on how to conduct themselves as professional businessmen. If enough construction-related businesses operate professionally, the buying public will treat contractors like the legitimate, professional business owners that most of them are.

One of our readers, Shawn Van Dyke of RedBud Construction Services, a professional contractor, shared a note he recently received from a homeowner (edited for clarity and brevity):

“We would like to propose the following work be done for $14,000, over a 90 day time period in the following phases. Please let us know what you think.

1st – This proposal is for fixing foundation, removing existing foundation (if necessary) and installing new 8″ block and installing existing brick back to match rest of foundation. Price also includes installing entrance door at side of house w/ steps or an indoor latch type door w/ steps in the utility room . This proposal also includes installing French drain at side of house. (Optional) Build a 8’x10′ treated wood back porch w/ wide steps (so a large appliance could be taken up)

2nd – Proposal for roof tear off and put back including putting down rolled tar-paper roofing underneath. Fix broken truss’s, replace plywood that’s damaged and remove chimney below roof line. Install Owen’s-corning fiberglass shingles 30# roof felt, and ridge vent, bearing in mind bathroom will need to be vented.

3rd – Replace roof on garage, repair and replace damaged wood on garage, use fascia board instead of guttering if desired; Install Owen’s-corning fiberglass shingles 30# roof felt (25 year warranty type) or metal roof of long lasting quality. repair and replace garage windows (use clear plastic windows (?)) remove, adjust, repair and replace large garage door w/ agreed on alternative.

4th – Replace kitchen and bathroom flooring with ceramic tile w/ sufficient subflooring and appropriate supporting material to increase life of tiles. remove carpet, repair hardwood flooring and stain floors, installing any new hardwood flooring as needed (4 rooms of hardwood flooring and one tiny spot). repair and paint plaster inside home (all rooms except front bedroom); do NOT paint non-painted wood areas. paint kitchen so paneling doesn’t show and spray ceiling. vent bathroom, repair/replace rotted wood, add vanity GFI outlets , replace drywall if necessary to keep walls from continuing to show/produce mildew. pressure wash outside

Payment schedule: First 1/2 phase payments may be paid after phase work is begun. Last 1/2 phase payment will not be paid until phase work is completely done.

  • phase one $ 3000
  • phase two $6000
  • phase three $4000
  • phase four $2000

This price includes demolition and hauling off construction waste. All material and labor is furnished by contractor with a 1 year warranty from date of completion.

That note was written by the homeowner. I wonder what he tells his doctor when he goes in for a visit?

Shawn’s response – “Are you asking me to put together an estimate for this work? If so, I would be happy to come by and prepare a detailed estimate. I charge $75/hour to prepare project estimates (assuming you do not have project drawings and specifications).”

In a later note, the homeowner said, “Didn’t expect ‘free work’. Just had a different expectation based on the service providers we have dealt with in the past year who provided competitive estimates/quotes for a project/job without charging the prospect for the opportunity to bid/compete for the job. We are each obviously operating under different sets of expectations based on our respective past experiences . . . Regarding ‘professional services’….hm. Guess we weren’t getting that before and got what we paid for.”

Shawn’s final note to the homeowner was well-said:

“No problem. I have learned not to compete with guys that provide free estimates for complex projects. You have 4 phases listed. I would be doing you a disservice by throwing something together ‘to compete for the job’ as opposed to spending the proper amount of time developing a quality scope of work and if I tried to compete against those guys that are willing to cut price in order to get a job, then I would be out of business.

Typical clients spend $300 or $400 having RCS prepare the proper scope of work. Minor in comparison to the overall project costs, when you consider the thousands of dollars that can be argued about in the end or the potential for contractor or client mistakes. I would rather pass on a job that may keep me busy than enter into a contract with someone without everyone being on the same page.

Your response is very typical and I understand. There aren’t enough contractors that act like professionals (specified scope of work, written contracts, downpayment required…) so when we do act like professionals, most folks think we are being unreasonable. The reason we charge what we charge is we are experts in this business and we want to remain in business and what we provide are quality and service above all. Construction just happens to be the manner in which we provide it.”

We educate contractors, and you are educating homeowners. Thanks, Shawn, for sharing your experience.

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