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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi guys, couple questions for a newbie. New to contracting for homeowners, most of my work experience was working for remodeling contractors and in the past 15 years doing flips, condo conversions, and renovating my own rentals.

Been doing contracting for clients for only a couple months now and was asked about renovating and existing bathroom. I have done many bath renovations, guts, new master baths etc. but have never done is one for a client.

First question, or concern, after briefly discussing bath with client, he says "doesn't need any plumbing just want to hook up new tub to old drain". Well every bath I have ever done needed a ton of plumbing but I discover how much after the demo. So how do you guys deal with the unknown?

Second question, obviously need to incorporate installing tile into my estimate, different styles require different amount of labor to install, do you guys insist on homeowner making a style decision right from the start or do you use allowances or just wing it?

Thanks for any and all help
 

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Subsurface issue clause in your contract.
Allowance on tile
Allowance on plumbing fixtures which you didn't mention.
Allowance on cabinetry, glass and mirrors including shower doors, electrical fixtures, bath fan, accessories like towel bars, tp holders, robe hooks, door stops, sinks, faucets, toilet, etc.
Fixed cost on demo, debris removal, permits & licensing, electrical, plumbing, tile installation and setting materials, HVAC, etc.
Then add OH, and profit which only you will know how to do.

If I took the wind out of your sails, sorry. But it sounds like you might have missed a few things.

No worries though, we all had to start somewhere and in many cases learned the hard way in order to do things legitimately.

PS: How is your company set up as far as sole prop, sub S, LLC, etc.? Insured? Licensing and Work comp?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Could you elaborate on a subsurface issue clause? Is their some standard language I should incorporate into my contract?

As far as allowances go, could you be more specific? At my first meeting with client should I try and educate them on prices for different material or set allowance to what I think is appropriate for the job?

Your last question, I am LLC, have 2mil liability and minimum comp only have one employee presently. Have had CS license mass. for past 20 years.

Spent first four years in the trades as an electrical apprentice, Boston local 103. Got tired of jack chaining a thousand 2x4 drop ins. I thought I read somewhere Chicago electricians can't use romex, has to be emt or bx is that true?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
OK, understood. If I give them a 300 dollar allowance for a toilet it doesn't matter to me if its 100 or a 1000 same labor. Tile is different, cant' tell by the price of the material how much labor is involved, unless I know the style, that's why I mentioned tile and not towel holders etc.
 

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Could you elaborate on a subsurface issue clause? Is their some standard language I should incorporate into my contract?
Since I'm feeling generous here's my subsurface clause direct from my standard contract. That's all I have the energy for tonight.

10.1. If conditions are encountered at the construction site which are subsurface or otherwise concealed physical conditions or unknown physical conditions of an unusual nature, which differ naturally from those ordinarily found to exist and generally recognized as inherent in construction activities, the Owner will promptly investigate such conditions and, if they differ materially and cause an increase or decrease in the Contractor’s cost of, and/or time required for, performance of any part of the work, will negotiate with the Contractor an equitable adjustment in the contract sum, contract time or both.
 

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Since I'm feeling generous here's my subsurface clause direct from my standard contract. That's all I have the energy for tonight.

10.1. If conditions are encountered at the construction site which are subsurface or otherwise concealed physical conditions or unknown physical conditions of an unusual nature, which differ naturally from those ordinarily found to exist and generally recognized as inherent in construction activities, the Owner will promptly investigate such conditions and, if they differ materially and cause an increase or decrease in the Contractor’s cost of, and/or time required for, performance of any part of the work, will negotiate with the Contractor an equitable adjustment in the contract sum, contract time or both.

Wow this means nothing in court
 

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OK, understood. If I give them a 300 dollar allowance for a toilet it doesn't matter to me if its 100 or a 1000 same labor. Tile is different, cant' tell by the price of the material how much labor is involved, unless I know the style, that's why I mentioned tile and not towel holders etc.
I generally quote a set price for the tile, then stipulate what style that price covers (I always start out at standard 12x12, in a simple square pattern), then go on to state that additional tile styles can be quoted separately if homeowner desires.

But by the time I get to that point (sending a written estimate), I generally already know what kind of tile they want because we discuss it in my initial meeting to take measurements, etc.
 

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So the customer knows the condition of the existing plumbing? Obviously not, so that tells me he's concerned about costs and is setting you up.


Never allow a customer to set your standards of quality. If they do, walk away. I've done countless bathrooms and kitchens, and I know exactly what needs to be done inside the wall cavities and beyond. Even if the house is fairly new I'll probably rip all the mechanical out since neanderthals probably installed them originally.

as for tile, as said above with allowances. It's actually a very simple process, but you must set a basic price and ensure your customer understands what that price includes.

For example: Tile allowance: $800.00 for all tile , tile accessories, shampoo shelf. Contract price includes the installation of owner selected tile, approx 6" x 8", installed in a straight/parallel pattern on all three tub surround walls, from tub flange up to inside corner of tub wall/ceiling, and side walls finished with bull-nose not to extend beyond tub area etc.. etc.. Contract price also includes the installation of one (1) owner selected pre-fab shampoo shelf. Grout to be cementitious grout in owners color choice etc.. Just explain what you're will to do for what allowed price.

If the owner goes out and decides to get fancy with inserts, boarders, tiles of different thicknesses, Epoxy grout, etc.. you just adjust your price accordingly.

The purpose of allowances is to give the owner a set price so you can get the ball rolling, and owner understands the job can be done for that price unless they decide to change material specifications
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I generally quote a set price for the tile, then stipulate what style that price covers (I always start out at standard 12x12, in a simple square pattern), then go on to state that additional tile styles can be quoted separately if homeowner desires.

But by the time I get to that point (sending a written estimate), I generally already know what kind of tile they want because we discuss it in my initial meeting to take measurements, etc.
OK, this makes sense Thank you!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Since I'm feeling generous here's my subsurface clause direct from my standard contract. That's all I have the energy for tonight.

10.1. If conditions are encountered at the construction site which are subsurface or otherwise concealed physical conditions or unknown physical conditions of an unusual nature, which differ naturally from those ordinarily found to exist and generally recognized as inherent in construction activities, the Owner will promptly investigate such conditions and, if they differ materially and cause an increase or decrease in the Contractor’s cost of, and/or time required for, performance of any part of the work, will negotiate with the Contractor an equitable adjustment in the contract sum, contract time or both.
Thank you very much for your help! I must say though for this particular job I am not crazy about the "unusual nature" language. My fear is, knowing this is an older house probably over 100 years I've learned the hard way that when I tear the tub out there's probably an old cast iron pipe that's rusty, rotted and pitched the wrong way and possibly 2x8 joists hacked to nothing. Can this me considered unusual nature?

Should I just factor into my price what I think I am going to find? or try to warn the homeowner ahead of time that we could be looking at substantially higher costs if the plumbing, framing , electrical is substandard?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
So the customer knows the condition of the existing plumbing? Obviously not, so that tells me he's concerned about costs and is setting you up.


Never allow a customer to set your standards of quality. If they do, walk away. I've done countless bathrooms and kitchens, and I know exactly what needs to be done inside the wall cavities and beyond. Even if the house is fairly new I'll probably rip all the mechanical out since neanderthals probably installed them originally.

as for tile, as said above with allowances. It's actually a very simple process, but you must set a basic price and ensure your customer understands what that price includes.

For example: Tile allowance: $800.00 for all tile , tile accessories, shampoo shelf. Contract price includes the installation of owner selected tile, approx 6" x 8", installed in a straight/parallel pattern on all three tub surround walls, from tub flange up to inside corner of tub wall/ceiling, and side walls finished with bull-nose not to extend beyond tub area etc.. etc.. Contract price also includes the installation of one (1) owner selected pre-fab shampoo shelf. Grout to be cementitious grout in owners color choice etc.. Just explain what you're will to do for what allowed price.

If the owner goes out and decides to get fancy with inserts, boarders, tiles of different thicknesses, Epoxy grout, etc.. you just adjust your price accordingly.

The purpose of allowances is to give the owner a set price so you can get the ball rolling, and owner understands the job can be done for that price unless they decide to change material specifications

Wow, thank you. You are absolutely right, without having set a foot in that bath I know what's underneath the floors and I know if it were my house or even a flip I wouldn't hesitate to tear it all out. Great advise. Very much appreciated thanks.
 

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Welcome to the party!!! It is a choice all contractors have to make in their careers. You are correct that anything that old is shot and has to be replaced, no question there. It comes down to trust. Will the homeowner trust your professional opinion or some meat head that yes's them to death in order to get the job, then bang them later. Most homeowners go with the meat head and the lower up front price. You can only do what you think is right. Homeowners, generally, like easy and cheap, long worded contracts with complicated wording make them suspicious. Though it is the proper way to proceed, It is the "no problem", "I can do that" response which usually gets the Job. If you can marry these two tactics you are golden.... Just my two cents.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Yep, that pretty much sums it up. I guess I'm not sure which guy I want to be. The guy with the long winded contract or the guy who factors in what I think I am going to find and give myself enough cushion to cover the unexpected. Definitely don't want to be yes man hacker.

I'm used to flipping properties, sometimes buying without ever stepping through the front door but mostly spending about 30 minutes inspecting and creating a budget. So I am used to rolling the dice. Obviously this is different, one small job can't make it up somewhere else.
 

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Yep, I have done both as well. They are two different worlds. But what you will have to master is, like a potential flip, sizing up the customer in less than 30 minutes and deciding on how you need to proceed. They require TLC and Every customer is different. You have to trust your gut on how to proceed with each project. It is an art! Good luck!
 

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Ok.. I posted that last post as a joke, but not really. If you're doing a bathroom remodel that involves removing old tile or other floor covering and you don't already KNOW that you're gonna find a certain amount of water damage, then you're pretty naive. If you can't see it, or feel it when you apply pressure from above, then it's most likely negligible and won't take much to fix, and if you CAN feel or see it, then you can plan for it but these nice people didn't call you to remodel their NEW house...it's an older house, sometimes really old, and at some point there were kids living there that continuously splashed water on the floor. You really should be expecting damage.

If you've done a lot of work as you claim, (and I have no reason to doubt you) then you know about how long it's gonna take you to remodel this bathroom. Decide how much you think you should make, estimate the material as best you can, then add 10% for all the things that you won't remember to figure and believe me, there will be things that you dont' remember to figure.

I make my living doing kitchens and bathrooms and the busier I am, the more it costs the HO because I'm not trying as hard to get the job, and most of the time I get it anyway, bidding at that higher price. So what does that say about my bids? .. that I normally bid too low? ... or that I bid to make sure I stay busy and don't run out of work? It says both, but that's always the $64,000 question.

We could fill up forums on here asking each other and talking about how much to charge for remodels, but there's never gonna be a "set in stone" price that you can just pull out of a hat and pass along to the next guy. Let's say for chits and giggles you ask how much I charge to lay tile. I say $5 sq ft labor plus materials. The next guy reads the thread and says, "Wow, I'm only charging $4.25, maybe I should raise my price. How much do you charge for the 1/4 rd?" Well... my price is all inclusive, why is yours not? See what I mean?

I live in rural South Carolina. I'm never gonna be charging as much as the guy working in downtown NY City because I don't have the same circumstances, expenses and overhead. And never will. Only once have a done a remodel where I had to worry about the parking situation. There's a Lowes or Home Depot less than 20 miles regardless of where I work so materials are never a problem either.

I've been self employed for over 30 years but I've only been making my living remodeling for about 12 years or so, and BY FAR, the learning curve in this business is greater than anything I did in the past, but hang in there and maybe take your lumps every once in a while and you'll get better with age and as long as you're doing quality work and not screwing over your clients, the referrals will come and you'll be able to build. I know this probably didn't answer your question like you wanted, but I hope I gave you something you can take home.

Good luck.
 
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