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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi I'm getting ready to start my business and plan on doing a lot of remodeling and repair work at first. My question for the contractors in pa and other people is; how would you bid the remodel or repair work when you have no idea what your going to have in material wise or labor wise? Being that under the law you are required to have a contract that dictates a total price, changeable by change order of course. It seems irrational to me to bid it, give a total price, then deal with constant change order after change order because of unknowns. If you bid high you may not get much work but mostly end up profitable, if you bid on what you know you'll have work but expect lots of hidden conditions the customer will get mad at the price increase and change order headaches. I can already hear them now, "Shouldn't this have been already included?" I know that's what a hidden conditions clause is for but don't think all that would make many customers happy. Any advice would be appreciated.


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When you bid a project, you should take into account the date it was constructed.

This actually tells you a lot, based upon your experience.

There are certain things that you "expect to see behind the walls".

If The place has been "remodeled", all bets are off.

"behind the walls" clause is usually for:

1) Some dumb a$$ burying a junction box.
2) Antiquated electrical work.
3) Termite damage (behind the drywall)
4) A dangerous framing condition. (behind the drywall)
5) A tiled shower that is leaking.

These are only the broad strokes.

There are others...

Good luck.

Post an intro!

We'd like to know more about you and your trade.
 

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Bid high, because you will lose your butt on the first few jobs. Equipment acquisition will kill you in the early years, be sure to build a big tool allowance into your budget. Even if you think you have the tools you need...you don't.

Experience certainly helps, but that's where you need to detail the scope of work and ensure the client understands what's included, what potential problems there are, and typical change order process. Being upfront and them understanding what's involved is the key. Why would they be mad if you tell them that extra work cost more? They shouldn't be mad if you are clear with them before they sign and they trust you...but don't get in the habit of low balling then taking on extras as you go along.


What is your background? New construction?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Communication is definitely key. I know time is the hardest thing to estimate until you have a really good feel for it, even then in a remodel you may be way off. I'll get an intro up soon, but my background is broad. I've done a lot of remodel of older balloon homes and I've worked on a couple new homes. Weirdest thing I ran into was a balloon framed home with brick laid in the cavities.


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This is not intended to be harsh, just being direct. If you don't know how to build the job on paper step by step, dissect it piece by piece in your brain you have no business trying to bid it. You need to know exactly what needs to be done, materials, tools, equipment etc. to accomplish the job, provide an accurate project cost to the customer, and most importantly make a profit.

Stick to things you know very well at first and take small steps into larger unknown territory. Eventually you'll learn that nothing is what it seems and everything you touch wants to put you out of business.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I appreciate your honesty. Estimating in my opinion is the number 1 key to a successful business. If you don't know what your business costs to run and charge accordingly or if you don't know what it takes to complete a job you'll be out if business before you ever start. The question is mainly geared towards jobs that even a seasoned pro can't fully understand every piece of what the job will take.

For example, I talked to my grandfather in law who got some fascia work done who had someone look at repairing the fascia and loose gutter. He wanted the subfascia replaced if rotten and some holes sealed up. The guy told him I can't give you a solid price because of so many unknowns and he understood and had the work done. Now the guy did the work and I assumed billed time and material. The issue that arises with this is that under the HIC law that is illegal. How are people getting around this aspect of it?


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Matt, real simple, you need more experience. I think we both know that. Be honest with customers, but more importantly, and sometimes harder, be honest with yourself. You know your capabilities and shortcomings better than anyone.

Don't bite off more than you can chew.
 

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Ill second or third the YOU NEED MORE EXPERIENCE comments. Let me be honest with you ok?

First off, I dont know about huntingdon, but in my neck of PA, ANYTHING built before say 1998 - 2000 is Pandoras Box. Some remodels thats Ive had to RE remodel that were done 3 years ago are the same way. You cant SEE behind the walls, but you NEED to know what to expect. Price accordingly.

Second, if you dont know what you will need in material, you should NOT be bidding a job at all. When they call you and you set a date for an estimate - You should have gotten the info from the home owner about what they wanted done, then taken your measurements and what have you and then priced out said materials and such.

Third, If you get called for say, a repair of a leaking sink, you CAN charge a service call PLUS materials etc... See below (Im just going to make up figures as I go, so bear that in mind)

Service call (Charged if you will complete the work) - 30$
Diagnoses - cracked supply line, said line will cost 5$ plus tax (.30 cents) so $5.30
Your hourly rate - 20$ (Because you went, diagnosed, ran to where ever for the line and then installed it, all told about 40 minutes)
You have now billed $55.30

Write up a bill, collect payment, leave them a copy of a paid bill, and on to the next one.


That said, what happens when you call a plumber? Call goes like this -

Yea we can take care of that toilet thats not flushing, my service call is 125 for up to an hour, 75 an hour after that Plus cost of any parts I may need to replace.

See what I mean? In all honesty bud, you need more experience in this before you set out on your own.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I appreciate the criticism, taken right its humbling. I know I'm young and need experience, everyone regardless needs more experience. I think I may not have asked my question in the right manner because I feel you guys are over analyzing. I do know how to look at a job and know fully what material will be needed and have a decent understanding of time. But I know people have looked at jobs and gone wow, this ones gonna be challenging to get right. The plumbing example is a great example of a service type repair but the law is for over $500 in work and typically those repairs won't be over that threshold. I guess my question should be more along the lines of, how are contractors still doing time and material contracts for home remodels when it is illegal? I'm not against them by any means, but I do think there are much better contract options than that.


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"Being that under the law you are required to have a contract that dictates a total price"

I'm not familiar with PA's consumer laws, but I think you're thinking into it too much.

Write up an accurate scope of work and price that. If the scope of work changes it's because of a few reasons: Additional requests by the owner(s), Deletions,, Clarifications, Unknown conditions.

If the unknown condition arises you must determine if that "unknown" condition was truly an unknown and that an Experienced Professional Contractor who is well seasoned in his/her field could not possible foresee such a condition. This is where one must be honest and reasonable with the owner(s).

This is where experience comes into play. It's not in the books.
 

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I can already hear them now, "Shouldn't this have been already included?" I know that's what a hidden conditions clause is for but don't think all that would make many customers happy. Any advice would be appreciated.
Matt you just answered your own question.

If you don't want to hear "Shouldn't this have been already included?" Specify all the details in your contract. Also specify there will be an extra charge if any unforeseen situations should arise and that will be priced accordingly.

Everything else you should already know, what materials you need, how long it will take you and what you want to make... and don't forget to include all the legal stuff you must have on your contract to meet local Consumer Protection laws.

Good luck!
 
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