5 Things to watch out for when reviewing a bid for your renovation

reviewing contractor bid - Modern kitchen with food preps on the table

A contractor’s bid is so much more than a breakdown of expenses. It’s one of the most important documents in the renovation process, offering a high-level overview of the entire project. Typically, when reviewing a bid for your renovation, it contains: 

  • Services provided
  • Timelines: How long the project will take
  • Costs
  • Exclusions: What the project doesn’t include
  • Specific terms/conditions: “The small print”

A contractor’s bid is the blueprint for kitchen or bathroom renovations. It determines whether the renovation project will be a success or a complete failure, but few homeowners read these documents properly or understand what they mean.

The problem is there’s no industry standard for renovation bids. Different contractors use different terms and present different information in different ways. It’s confusing. And it’s even more confusing to compare renovation bids from different contractors side-by-side. Let’s clear up the confusion for good. 

1. Is it even a bid?

A contractor might present a homeowner with an official-looking document, usually with a fancy letterhead, by mail or email, with no context whatsoever. Is it a renovation bid? Or an estimate? Or an invoice? It’s time to put our detective hats on. 

reviewing contractor bid - typing matching

If the document lacks substance — no services to-be-performed, no price details, no exclusions, etc. — it’s probably a rough estimate. If a contractor quotes a fair price, you will really want it to be a bid and not an estimate, but one can never be sure which one it is. Not really.

We recommend homeowners contact the contractor and dig deeper.

2. A bid for your renovation is NOT a full breakdown

reviewing contractor bid - calculator

Don’t expect bids to contain highly-detailed breakdowns, with hundreds of specifics attached to each one. A thorough contractor will spend hours creating project break-downs when the time is right, but they don’t have time to do that when bidding on projects.

But a good bid should always — always, always, always — list the meat and bones of the renovation project. What is being changed? Are fixtures moving? Is there going to be a tub, a shower, or a shower/tub combo? Make sure the critical items are spelled out.

3. What IS included in a renovation bid?

reviewing contractor bid - To do list tick boxes

Some bids skimp on the details, but genuine contractors always tell homeowners what to expect if their bid is successful. Recipients should scan the document; everything they need is probably right there in black-and-white. 

After the first read-through, homeowners should ask themselves these questions:

  • Does the bid include all costs? Or labor only? 
  • What about rough materials?
  • Does it include the finishes like cabinets, counters, and tile?
  • What about appliances? 
  • How long will the renovation take?
  • And, perhaps most importantly, how much will it cost?

Talking about costs, good contractors list the final costs (or as close as possible) on all bids. This means telling potential customers about all costs — the good, the bad, and the ugly. This isn’t the time for contractors to conceal hidden fees, extra expenses, or sneaky service charges. Ask the contractor to clarify that all the things in the next section are included. Which brings us to…

4. Check exclusions

And then there are exclusions:

  • Some contractors charge for labor only; others for labor and raw materials. 
  • Some exclude “big-ticket” materials like kitchen appliances and custom shower doors; others include them. 
  • Some exclude required expenses like parking permits, portable toilets, and removing any debris; others include everything.

Every contractor is different. But all contractors should list exclusions on renovation bids so homeowners don’t expect a higher quality finish than what they might get. 

Some contractors don’t list exclusions and assume homeowners will read between the lines. This will lead to problems later on. 

5. Compare electrical, plumbing, and mechanical work

reviewing contractor bid - sink washing a tool

When reviewing a bid for your renovation, you’ll see that electrical, plumbing, and mechanical work make up a big chunk of renovation costs. Depending on the property, location, and other factors, homeowners might require a lot of work to bring their space up to code. 

Homeowners should double-check — and triple-check — infrastructure information on renovation bids and contact contractors if they have questions. Homeowners who misinterpret this information could end up spending thousands — or tens of thousands of dollars — in change orders.  Not to mention delays.

Talking about change orders, homeowners should review a contractor’s change order policy with eagle eyes. Some contractors reserve the right to charge costs for charge orders because of “unforeseen circumstances”. That’s why friends will tell you to keep a 20% contingency fund. The reality is change orders can add much more than 20% to a project. We have seen increases of 50%, and even 100% or more! That’s why Skylight has a 100 percent budget guarantee and never increases the price because of so-called “unforeseen circumstances.” We believe we’re the ONLY company that does this. 

Final word

Reviewing a bid for your renovation, at times, feels like solving algebra. Many contractors struggle to explain the scope and costs associated with kitchen or bathroom remodels on paper, confusing homeowners. At Skylight, we’ve spent years perfecting the estimating process so we can provide clear, accurate, and honest renovation bids. We believe homeowners deserve more from the entire remodel process, including the estimate stage. 

If you need help scoping out and budgeting for your renovation, contact the Skylight team today. You can also call us at 1 (800) 961-2580, or get a quote here.