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The Remodeling Contractors Estimate: Comparing Apples to Apples.

If you’re getting multiple remodeling estimates for a project you need a good system for comparing them. Every contractor has a different way of writing up an estimate. Some might be quite simple and vague, others will be more detailed. Here is our advice for evaluating a remodeling estimate.

Scope of Work and Allowance Sheet

In a remodeling contractors estimate the scope of work generally governs the labor costs. The allowance sheet outlines the materials to be installed. We’ll review both here and explain how to compare them.

Step 1. Examine the Scope of Work

A detailed scope of work will list everything to be done on a project and include 4 important pieces of information:

  1. Description of the work, incl who provides the materials
  2. Type and Quantity of materials
  3. Method of installation and quality standard
  4. Who will provide the materials

It’s not unusual for the scope of work on a kitchen or bathroom remodel to be 4 or 5 pages long.

For example:

A Good Line in a Scope of work:

Install Engineered Wood Flooring

Remove 120 linear feet of shoe molding in kitchen

Remove existing vinyl flooring in kitchen, including any glue residue

Level floors to within ¼  inch over 10 feet, no depressions should exceed ⅛ inch

Install vapor barrier

Install  250 sq ft of engineered wood flooring over concrete slab. Floating install.

Install 120 sq ft of new shoe molding

painting and caulking of shoe molding to be done by homeowner.

MKB will provide all flooring and install materials

See Allowance sheet for details on exact flooring included in the estimate.

This outlines clearly what is to be done, how it is to be done and to what standard. It lists the quantity and identified who will purchase the materials. It also lists what will not be done.

Bad Line in a Scope of work:

Install 250 sf of wood flooring

This ‘bad’ version leaves too many unanswered questions and that can spell trouble. It’s another good reason to pay for an estimate. When you pay for a service you get a better result. Many free estimates are worthless.

2. Are the Allowances Detailed and Accurate?

Just like the scope of work the material allowances must be detailed and accurate. Allowance should also be line itemed and have the following information:

  • Description of the product of fixtures
  • Quantity and quality of the product
  • Budget amount allowed in the estimate

You always want to check that the allowance amount is reasonable. Some remodeling contractors estimate will low ball the allowance sheet (sometimes intentionally but often because they just don’t know how much things cost because they are not product experts). For example:

A good allowance item:

Kitchen Cabinets

10 Base cabinets, 9 wall cabinets and 2 tall pantry cabinets, Allure series cabinets from Fabuwood, Galaxy frost door style and color, Includes Blum soft close door and drawer hardware, ½ inch plywood construction and wood drawer boxes with dovetail joinery.

3 drawer bases, 1 spice pullout and 1 trash pullout included

$5800.00 Allowance (to be updated once kitchen design is complete)

This clearly outlines what material is included in the estimate. You can research that item further if you like to make sure it’s what you want and check that the allowance amount is reasonable for that item.

A bad allowance item

Kitchen Cabinets:  $3800 allowance

By comparison the bad allowance line item leave much to be desired. It gives you little to no information to help you make a decision or compare the costs.



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