Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates? - General Discussion - Contractor Talk
View Poll Results: Choose one of the below:
I give free estimates for residential 50 64.94%
I do not give free estimates for residential 8 10.39%
I give free commerical estimates 15 19.48%
I do not give no free commercial estimates 3 3.90%
I believe estimates are a privilege, not a right 8 10.39%
All customers have the right to a free estimate 15 19.48%
None of the above options apply to me/my company 2 2.60%
Anarchy! 5 6.49%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 77. You may not vote on this poll

Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?

 
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Old 10-22-2007, 01:30 AM   #1
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Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


Do you give free estimates?

Why or why not? City and State?
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Old 10-22-2007, 08:00 AM   #2
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


I give free labor estimates, but if they want a material take off or a lot of consulting, there is a duducted service call/consuting fee. If I get the contract, it is deducted from the proposed price.

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Old 10-22-2007, 08:39 AM   #3
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


Stopped giving free estimates officially last week, no regrets so far. I suggest everybody start moving toward the same thing. Most of your fears are in your heads, customers will give you less resistance then you think.

And the thoughts of "Nobody else is doing it, so how can I do it" I've found to be totally irrelevant.

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Old 10-22-2007, 09:23 AM   #4
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


Saves on the fuel bill, too!!
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Old 10-22-2007, 10:28 AM   #5
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Finley View Post
Stopped giving free estimates officially last week, no regrets so far. I suggest everybody start moving toward the same thing. Most of your fears are in your heads, customers will give you less resistance then you think.

And the thoughts of "Nobody else is doing it, so how can I do it" I've found to be totally irrelevant.
That is what I have found also. The internal dialog in my mind was 100X worse than the reality.
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Old 10-22-2007, 11:59 AM   #6
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


For the most part I stopped giving free estimates across the board. With the huge increase in gasoline prices I cannot afford to drive around giving free bids.

The fact is nothing is free; we tack on the cost of a 'free' estimate to the bid anyway. I often inform my customers of that. If we began, as an entre industry, to charge for estimates it would generate more income and improve service. Our industry is one unparaleled when it comes to free estimates. Doctors do not give free exams, lawyers don't give free trials, so why do we give our time and expertise away for free? Why sell ourselves short, as if our time does not really mean anything?

Time is always money.
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Old 10-22-2007, 01:26 PM   #7
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


IMO, an estimate is part of marketing. During the visit you have a chance to not only measure, but also sell your attitude, competence, and communication skills.

Last month I was looking to have major pool renovation done. I needed not only a cost estimate, but ideas as to what should be done. I called a company that has been sending me pool care fliers for the past number of years. He was from another state but still just 45 minutes away. He wanted to charge a deductible $75. I was not shopping for the lowest price. I was looking for the person who could give me a feeling that he understood my needs and had the experience to fix the problems unique to my situation. This required face talk. I had planned on talking to four different pool contractors. If each charged a deductible $75, I would be out an additional $225.

As I initially stated, estimates, IMO, are part of my marketing strategy. Marketing is part of the cost of doing business. If you are giving 100 estimates and only receiving 10 jobs, perhaps you need to re-vamp your marketing skills.

Many folks screen their calls. In time you can tell the tire kickers from the serious buyers.
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Old 10-22-2007, 01:54 PM   #8
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


Quote:
Originally Posted by daArch View Post
IMO, an estimate is part of marketing. During the visit you have a chance to not only measure, but also sell your attitude, competence, and communication skills.

Last month I was looking to have major pool renovation done. I needed not only a cost estimate, but ideas as to what should be done. I called a company that has been sending me pool care fliers for the past number of years. He was from another state but still just 45 minutes away. He wanted to charge a deductible $75. I was not shopping for the lowest price. I was looking for the person who could give me a feeling that he understood my needs and had the experience to fix the problems unique to my situation. This required face talk. I had planned on talking to four different pool contractors. If each charged a deductible $75, I would be out an additional $225.

As I initially stated, estimates, IMO, are part of my marketing strategy. Marketing is part of the cost of doing business. If you are giving 100 estimates and only receiving 10 jobs, perhaps you need to re-vamp your marketing skills.

Many folks screen their calls. In time you can tell the tire kickers from the serious buyers.
The fact remains that you get what you pay for. You do not see a free doctors for ten seonds and expect to get your problem cured. You go to a doctor, pay him a nice sum, get a thorough exam and have your questions answered. Like the human body, a large project is fraught with complexity and requires experience and knowledge.

Contractors are more apt to give you time, answer your questions and do a methodical bid and inspection... when they are paid for their time.
Another fact is that if you get a bunch of contractors in giving you free estimates, you will most likely pay twice as much with pre-existing issues not addressed, change orders, code violations and work delays. Most contractors are not Superman, it takes time to do a good bid, considering all the visual facts and costs involved.

My recommendation that if you are going to spend thousands or tens of thousands on a remodel or addition, etc, it is well worth your time and a few hundred dollars to get the right guy for the job, rather than a good-sounding free guy hired on a whim. BTW, in CA most legitimate general contractors charge anywhere from 95-150 dollars for an estimate; most written bids done right take anywhere from 3-6 hours and often they include pictures and research and itemized costs, so that the customer ends up informed.
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Old 10-22-2007, 02:29 PM   #9
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


Quote:
Originally Posted by daArch View Post
IMO, an estimate is part of marketing. During the visit you have a chance to not only measure, but also sell your attitude, competence, and communication skills.

Last month I was looking to have major pool renovation done. I needed not only a cost estimate, but ideas as to what should be done. I called a company that has been sending me pool care fliers for the past number of years. He was from another state but still just 45 minutes away. He wanted to charge a deductible $75. I was not shopping for the lowest price. I was looking for the person who could give me a feeling that he understood my needs and had the experience to fix the problems unique to my situation. This required face talk. I had planned on talking to four different pool contractors. If each charged a deductible $75, I would be out an additional $225.

As I initially stated, estimates, IMO, are part of my marketing strategy. Marketing is part of the cost of doing business. If you are giving 100 estimates and only receiving 10 jobs, perhaps you need to re-vamp your marketing skills.

Many folks screen their calls. In time you can tell the tire kickers from the serious buyers.
LOL

In today's business climate if your determinations of who is legit and who is not, of who is to be considered a viable candidate for your job and who is not - can only be determined by when those candidates are standing in front of you... well, there's your problem. And the #1 reason why charging for estimates dumps people like yourself off the radar.

Where would you have actually initially gotten the names & phone numbers of the 4 potential candidates you might contact?

Are there actually 4 legitimate pool contractors who will ultimately even qualify to be considered for your project?

The bottom line is if all you are going to do is pull 4 random pool contractors off of the yellow pages and rely upon your face time to determine they're qualifications then you're all the more reason to charge you for an estimate.

If you go and research your potential contractors through their websites and then an initial phone call to your short list, being in the business I have a feeling you could most likely limit your qualified contractors to 1 or 2 right off the bat instead of your 4, or even 5-6.
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Old 10-22-2007, 04:04 PM   #10
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


Quote:
Originally Posted by metroconstruct View Post
The fact remains that you get what you pay for. You do not see a free doctors for ten seonds and expect to get your problem cured. You go to a doctor, pay him a nice sum, get a thorough exam and have your questions answered. Like the human body, a large project is fraught with complexity and requires experience and knowledge.

Contractors are more apt to give you time, answer your questions and do a methodical bid and inspection... when they are paid for their time.
Another fact is that if you get a bunch of contractors in giving you free estimates, you will most likely pay twice as much with pre-existing issues not addressed, change orders, code violations and work delays. Most contractors are not Superman, it takes time to do a good bid, considering all the visual facts and costs involved.

My recommendation that if you are going to spend thousands or tens of thousands on a remodel or addition, etc, it is well worth your time and a few hundred dollars to get the right guy for the job, rather than a good-sounding free guy hired on a whim. BTW, in CA most legitimate general contractors charge anywhere from 95-150 dollars for an estimate; most written bids done right take anywhere from 3-6 hours and often they include pictures and research and itemized costs, so that the customer ends up informed.
I'm sorry, your answer has me baffled.

1) I got what I paid for, matter of fact I chose the contractor with the highest estimate, as do many of my customers.

2) "You do not see a free doctors for ten seonds and expect to get your problem cured." huh???? Who cured what in ten seconds for free? This comment is irrelevant, sorry. BTW, when we chose a PCP, many allowed a free visit to talk about our needs and what they provide.

3) When I go on an estimate (free) I give them my undivided attention, answer their questions, ask relavent questions, and do a methodical bid and inspection. Anything less, IMO, is unprofessional.

4) "Another fact is that if you get a bunch of contractors in giving you free estimates, you will most likely pay twice as much with pre-existing issues not addressed, change orders, code violations and work delays." WOW. Is that how it is in your market? Remind me not to move THERE ! Again, sounds exceptionally unprofessional.

5) Free guy? Whim? Where do you get these ideas? Yes it takes me 3-6 hours for an estimate also, considering initial phone conversation, travel time, measuring, figuring, writing, follow ups, sheduling, etc. This is why I realize my time "at the wall" needs to be charged accordingly. Don't worry, estimates aren't "free", they are just included in the cost of doing business as is advertising, insurance, education, office supplies, etc etc

Hey if charging for estimates works for you and your customers, so be it. It doesn't work for me and I don't expect it to work for my customers. Maybe Left and Right coasts are inherently different. But I know many installers in Calif, and I can not name one off the top of my head that charges for estimates.
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Old 10-22-2007, 04:37 PM   #11
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Finley View Post
LOL

In today's business climate if your determinations of who is legit and who is not, of who is to be considered a viable candidate for your job and who is not - can only be determined by when those candidates are standing in front of you... well, there's your problem. And the #1 reason why charging for estimates dumps people like yourself off the radar.

Where would you have actually initially gotten the names & phone numbers of the 4 potential candidates you might contact?

Are there actually 4 legitimate pool contractors who will ultimately even qualify to be considered for your project?

The bottom line is if all you are going to do is pull 4 random pool contractors off of the yellow pages and rely upon your face time to determine they're qualifications then you're all the more reason to charge you for an estimate.

If you go and research your potential contractors through their websites and then an initial phone call to your short list, being in the business I have a feeling you could most likely limit your qualified contractors to 1 or 2 right off the bat instead of your 4, or even 5-6.
again, another baffling response.

"can only be determined by when those candidates are standing in front of you"

I do not know how to respond. Do you hire help without interviews? Without them "standing in front of you" and having face talk?

"my problem" ???

No, my SOLUTION to hiring the right person.

"Where would you have actually initially gotten the names & phone numbers of the 4 potential candidates you might contact?"

One of them installed our liner twelve years ago. (he's the one I eventually hired because he ANSWERED all my questions and PROVIDED solutions to my situation)
Another kept sending us fliers - he's the one that wanted $75
Another upon recommendation from a freind
The last from buying supplies at their storefront - he was the LEAST attentive to my needs

"Are there actually 4 legitimate pool contractors who will ultimately even qualify to be considered for your project?"

Sorry, that comment borders on the rude. Condenscending at the best. Won't go there.

"The bottom line is if all you are going to do is pull 4 random pool contractors off of the yellow pages and rely upon your face time to determine they're qualifications then you're all the more reason to charge you for an estimate."

Please, read previous to understand your erroneous supposition.

Shoppers like to see what they are buying before investing tens of dollars, let alone tens of thousands. They go and test drive a car - for FREE. They go and look at jewlery - for FREE. They pick up and handle a camera - for FREE. They pick up, shake, and tap a melon - for FREE. Home owners can't come to us and get a feel for our products, we have to go to them. Can you imaging having to PAY to enter a store to just LOOK at the goods ????

Sorry, you've sold yourself and a few others on this, but I ain't buying it.
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Old 10-22-2007, 06:44 PM   #12
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


An argument for the ages.
I charge some people, if I think they are pricing a project that will probably never get done. I always charge for design work. I always qualify the caller, I wish I did this when I started out. Now I ask for a fee, most times.

As for squeezing a melon for free, I should hope so, but if that melon could talk back and tell you how ripe it was would you pay for that information?

I called a lawyer today, he wants $250 for me to drive to his office to advise me on a matter. That $250 is basically for an estimate.
People that have paid for my estimates considered it a reasonable request.
So in summary
Some will pay, some wont pay, but the payers will increase your closing rate.
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Old 10-22-2007, 08:29 PM   #13
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


Quote:
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I'm sorry, your answer has me baffled.

1) I got what I paid for, matter of fact I chose the contractor with the highest estimate, as do many of my customers.

2) "You do not see a free doctors for ten seonds and expect to get your problem cured." huh???? Who cured what in ten seconds for free? This comment is irrelevant, sorry. BTW, when we chose a PCP, many allowed a free visit to talk about our needs and what they provide.

3) When I go on an estimate (free) I give them my undivided attention, answer their questions, ask relavent questions, and do a methodical bid and inspection. Anything less, IMO, is unprofessional.

4) "Another fact is that if you get a bunch of contractors in giving you free estimates, you will most likely pay twice as much with pre-existing issues not addressed, change orders, code violations and work delays." WOW. Is that how it is in your market? Remind me not to move THERE ! Again, sounds exceptionally unprofessional.

5) Free guy? Whim? Where do you get these ideas? Yes it takes me 3-6 hours for an estimate also, considering initial phone conversation, travel time, measuring, figuring, writing, follow ups, sheduling, etc. This is why I realize my time "at the wall" needs to be charged accordingly. Don't worry, estimates aren't "free", they are just included in the cost of doing business as is advertising, insurance, education, office supplies, etc etc

Hey if charging for estimates works for you and your customers, so be it. It doesn't work for me and I don't expect it to work for my customers. Maybe Left and Right coasts are inherently different. But I know many installers in Calif, and I can not name one off the top of my head that charges for estimates.
First of all, California has some of the most qualified, educated and experienced contractors in the world. The Contractors Exams here are reported to be equivalent in difficulty to the State Bar Exam (the one lawyers must pass, not the one for bartenders). Perhaps our standards are a trifle higher here than in some other places. The customers expect the best and they usually have the money to pay for it. But, every market is different; what works here may not work wherever you are and vice versa.
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Old 10-22-2007, 08:43 PM   #14
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


Free estimates in my area is expected. I wish I could charge, but I know the phone will stop ringing the second I do. It's not a big deal though because I get most of the jobs I want.
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Old 10-22-2007, 08:51 PM   #15
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


I answered "Anarchy" as there wasn't a "sometimes" option. A lot of my customers are repeat, I very rarely charge them for an estimate. A new referral customer will likely get charged for drawings, or detailed estimates, and very likely if it's one of those "give me a price for tile and another for vinyl and another for vinyl tile and another for...." I do a bunch of roofs, and have never charged for an estimate for them, but again, it's all referral work, so I generally get the job anyhow.
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Old 10-22-2007, 10:49 PM   #16
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


[quote=reveivl;306814]A lot of my customers are repeat, I very rarely charge them for an estimate. [quote]

Good point. I never charge repeat customers. That would be self-defeating. Maybe we'll set up a committee which will review the other committee that will create a new, more accurate poll instead of actually solving the issue...

The results will be reviewed by a new committee but not subsequent to the previous committee. Somewhere in there has to be a tailgate safety meeting on how not to poke out your eye with a pen. That's simple enough....
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Old 10-23-2007, 12:45 AM   #17
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


As of right now I do give free estimates. I didn't charge because I am in my first year and did not want to not get an opportunity to get some business. Come the first of the year, I am going to start to charge $25-45, I'm in Alb, NM. I think it goes without saying that you would never charge a repeat customer. Any referrals that I get from previous customers I might or might not charge. It will depend on the job. I think Finley is right, the fear is in our head. Also, since it is my first year, I have learned alot about giving an estimate. The more you look, measure, ask, ect., the better prepared you will be when you get the job, and the better of an estimate you can give.
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Old 10-23-2007, 01:30 AM   #18
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


Quote:
Originally Posted by daArch View Post
Shoppers like to see what they are buying before investing tens of dollars, let alone tens of thousands. They go and test drive a car - for FREE. They go and look at jewlery - for FREE. They pick up and handle a camera - for FREE. They pick up, shake, and tap a melon - for FREE. Home owners can't come to us and get a feel for our products, we have to go to them. Can you imaging having to PAY to enter a store to just LOOK at the goods ????
Quote:
Originally Posted by silvertree View Post
I called a lawyer today, he wants $250 for me to drive to his office to advise me on a matter. That $250 is basically for an estimate.
People that have paid for my estimates considered it a reasonable request.
So in summary
Some will pay, some wont pay, but the payers will increase your closing rate.
Both of those are great arguments. Although, I had the need for a lawyer when I was younger, and I was seen by 5 or 6 without having to pay any fees. I think that lawyers only charge fees depending on the type of case it is. Mine was traffic related. The lowest cost lawyer I found was $1500, the highest was $10000(those are retainer fees). I decided to represent myself, it cost me $150 in fines.....
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Old 10-23-2007, 09:24 AM   #19
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


Sorry DaArch I can't go into more detail without revealing things I don't feel comfortable with revealing on a public forum. If you are more interested PM.

Bottom line is there are different types of customers out there. Look at 2 generalities:

Craiglist customer - Hot buttons - price, price price - are they willing to pay a estimate? Most likely not. Why? Cuase they are price shoppers AND they are not concerened with quality much at all, they falsely believe that everyone they hire will deliver the same product no matter what they pay for it, therefore pay the least with no regard to how or who is going to deliver it.

The opposite of the above buyer - has concerns about quality - believes there can be a difference between the outcome of hiring contractor A versus contractor B, has a need that is more than plug round object into round hole that a monkey could do...

Latter buyer will be willing pay you for an estimate just about every time, especially if he has done a little rudimentary research such something as simple as view your website.
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Old 06-05-2013, 11:30 AM   #20
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Re: Poll - Do You Give Free Estimates?


Yes, I do believe we should charge for estimates. I just received this email requesting a quote. Does he seriously think we will do all this for free? An "ESTIMATE" is free, not as shopping list. They didn't even provide their phone number.

How would you respond?

"Hello,

We would like to reno our condo (1300 sqft). Since we will be getting possession of the condo on the 21st, I am unable to give you precise measurements of the cabinets and areas. However, I have some photos which will hopefully give you an idea of the work involved.

We have a list of things we would like to have done.

Task Area
Replace tiles with laminate Foyer
Change main door locks Foyer
Paint walls Foyer
Adjust entrance door level / frame Foyer
Paint walls Laundry
Change laundry piping to braided piping Laundry
Kitchen Cabinet refinishing / re-glazing Kitchen
Install new hardware (door handles, slow close hinges and sliders) Kitchen
Update appliances (fridge, dishwasher and range) Kitchen
Install over the hood microwave Kitchen
Install backsplash / reglaze Kitchen
Replace countertops (cut out for undermount zero degree sink- sealed and finished) Kitchen
Replace garburator Kitchen
Replace sink with zero degree double SS sinks Kitchen
Replace undersink plumbing fittings Kitchen
Replace Flooring with Porcelain tiles Kitchen
Replace light fixtures Kitchen
Install GFCI Kitchen
Paint walls Kitchen
Reglazing tub + surround Main bath
Reglaze Wall tiles Main bath
Paint walls Main bath
Refinish / reglaze vanity Main bath
Install counter tops (cut out for undermount zero degree sink- sealed and finished) Main bath
Install sink + faucets Main bath
Install toilet Main bath
Reglaze floor tiles Main bath
Install GFCI Main bath
Replace light fittings Main bath
Reglazing tub + surround Guest bath
Reglaze Wall tiles Guest bath
Paint walls Guest bath
Refinish / reglaze vanity Guest bath
Install counter top (cut out for undermount zero degree sink- sealed and finished) Guest bath
Install sink + faucets Guest bath
Install toilet Guest bath
Reglaze floor tiles Guest bath
Replace light fittings Guest bath
Install GFCI Guest bath
Paint walls Living room
Replace carpet with laminate + underlay Living room
Replace light fittings Living room
Replace fireplace tiles Living room
Replace electrical fixtures (sockets, dimmer switch) Living room
Remove fireplace mantle and replace with brick tiles for the entire wall Living room
Replace fireplace glass Living room
Replace blinds Living room
Paint walls Den
Replace carpet with laminate + underlay Den
Replace blinds Den
Adjust door / door frame Den
Paint walls Master bedroom + closet
Replace carpet with laminate + underlay Master bedroom + closet
Replace blinds Master bedroom
Paint walls Bedroom
Replace carpet with laminate + underlay Bedroom
Replace blinds Bedroom
Replace door and adjust Bedroom
Replace electrical socket with Outdoor outlet Decks

Please provide estimates of the cost and time that would be required for each of these projects. Also quote with and without materials. Does the cost include removing and disposing the old fixtures/cabinets etc?

Do let me know if you have any questions that I can help with."

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At DrywallTalk.com we cater exlusivly to professional contractors who make their living as a contractor. Knowing that many homeowners and DIYers are looking for a community to call home, we've created www.DIYChatroom.com DIY Chatroom is full of helpful advices and perfect for DIY homeowners.

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