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decornovice_gw

STicker SHock !!!!

decornovice
11 years ago

I spent a lot of the summer with a relatively minor but activity curtailing injury. Blistering heat and nagging "hurts" prevented me from getting out too much for actual kitchen design shopping. However, it gave me plenty of down time to lurk on this site, research products on the internet, and plan kitchen layouts on Lowes website (CAD program). I have preliminary selections ruminating in my mind, but am following GWer's experience and trying to budget all the pieces before commiting to any. Having said that, I am off from work today and had contractors arrive this morning for essentially "labor only" estimates. Since I have a relatively unforgiving footprint with limited layout options, I provided them with my plan and they agreed with my reasoning.

Both estimates were from big firms; I had scheduled their visit via a NJ trade show. In any event, both firms priced the job to gut the room to the studs, provide the services of licensed plumbers and electricians to hook up plumbing for an icemaker for the refrigerator which will be relocated, and to install a 200 amp service box to upgrade "this old house" and provide a dedicated 50 amp outlet for an induction range, install a new ceiling, lighting (6 hi-hats), under cabinet lighting,drywall, refinish existing H/W floor from beneath linoleum and plywood subflooring, installing about 24 linear feet of cabinetry (20 lower and upper cabinets), and painting the finished room. They are not tiling a backsplash, as this is an area I chose to "save". (haha!)Basically, they would be providing labor and the minimal supplies of drywall, insulation for the one outside wall,primer, paint, hi-hat lighting, outlets and switch plates. The kitchen is 16x11 at its widest part, but it is "cut up" space which renders the kitchen considerably "smaller" in terms of usable space. Anyway,I would still need to budget cabinets, appliances, and granite countertop and installation.

The one estimate was 41,000 with an immediate 10,000.00 discount, the other, 32,000 with a "coupon" offer of 1,000. Neither place pays the permits (another 400 - 500.00 ) and one was not including the dumpster ! (another 800 in this area) THAT is WAY outside my expectations as I thought the entire remodel would be completed for 30,000.00 - 35,000. (12,000 cabinets -- I've gotten that estimate -- 7,000 online appliance shopping, 4,000 granite -- GW research; and then I estimated with hopes of saving/paying less for a 500.00 sink, 200.00 hardware, 500.00 permits).

Given the scope of the work, (demo and re-install) I didn't expect the labor to cost more than the cabinets. I was "guess-timating" about 10,000 labor. What's out of line, ME? or the estimates? (Preliminary research on budgeting the kitchen based on home value puts me at about 35,000.00 and various cost calculators on that budget puts labor at a lot less!) I am not in any position to DIY (except the painting) but I'm thinking that perhaps I should GC it? The problem with that is: I don't know where to begin...sequencing...stoppages...logistics of letting people in the home...(I leave for work by 6:45 am) Advice!??? If that is realistically the cost of labor, I'm wondering if I should "quit before I begin".

Comments (46)

  • billp1
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    We live in southern NY State and we are contracted to do much much more work then you have listed.Kitchen about the same size as yours. two hallways and a small powder room off the kitchen are being gutted. Our cabinets were about the same as yours but we are also installing four doors all new lighting, moving some plumbing, about 500 sq ft of tile as well as new ceilings and walls that will be primed and painted.
    Total cost is $19,800 for labor and dumpster as well as all construction materials. I am paying for the cabinets, Tile, Doors, bathroom vanity and toilet, appliances and kitchen hardware, sink and faucet....

    Find a general contractor and get a much better price

  • ricew0
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    What's out of line, ME? or the estimates?

    I don't know the answer to your question, but the fact you live near NJ and both independent estimates were 31K after all coupons,etc, would argue that this appears to be the going rate for such firms in your area. One choice would be to go with a remodeler recommended by others (like Angie's List) etc, who has no or few employees. Such a person would be cheaper if you could find someone reliable.
    As far as the "GC it" yourself, it does not sound like you have much experience with such things? I plan to GC my kitchen remodel myself, but have built 14 houses (so far) for Habitat for Humanity, and have an independent remodeler who comes highly recommended to help with the things I don't have time for.
    Unfortunately, no easy answers :-(

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  • mamabear2010
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    You would think in this economy... But I think it also depends on where you live. Looks like you are in NJ? We are in suburban Philly. We are doing a gut-job and pretty basic, straightforward stuff. To me it sounds fair - our figure was $46 before negotiations, and we were able to bring that down to $43 (I don't know if we could have gone further or not). This is for labor (which also included a $1200 allowance for backsplash - nothing fancy - our backsplash is now $2100, however), electrical work and including hi-hats (8), and our hardwood flooring. It did include the dumpster, porta-potty, etc. Our cabinets are an additional $35, so we are also at labor being more than the cabinets. With appliances and light fixtures, hardware, countertops, sink, faucet... we are over what we wanted to spend when we began the process.

  • artemis78
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Not sure where you're located, but that's in line with the bids we got from general contractors for a 13' x 18' kitchen with a similar scope of work in the SF Bay Area. The bids ranged from $30K to $60K not including cabinetry, counters, appliances, etc. We didn't have that kind of cash, so opted to manage the project ourselves, which is going to land us right up against $30K for everything.

    BUT---it is a pain in the neck to do things this way, so it does "cost" you---just not in money. It requires some flexibility from employers (both of us had to be home one day this week to supervise crews, for instance), finding the individual contractors, and scheduling them in a way that makes the job run smoothly (e.g., right now I am trying to pin down the electrician we want to use, since we had hoped he would start on Monday...not looking promising!) For us, it is still absolutely worth it, since it's the only way for us to get the kitchen we want, but if you need to be able to hand the keys to someone and show up again after work to a finished project, you need a GC (or need contractors you really, really trust!)

    Good luck! If you do decide to be the GC I'm more than happy to share our experience. :)

  • breezygirl
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    We're dealing with sticker shock at my house also. Our estimate for the kitchen and entire living area side of the house came in at over $115K!!!!! WHAAAAAT?? Yes. Some of that $ is for the non-kitchen parts such as new hardwood floor at 12K, see-through gas fireplace, labor to tear out the old fireplace, etc.

    Labor costs are huge. Plumbing labor was well over 3500. Plumbing fixtures are not included (two sinks, two faucets, two soap dispensers, one new garbage disposal, reuse existing disposal.) Electrician is over $4000 as we also need a new panel.

    Like you, I couldn't believe it either. We are now considering GC'ing this ourselves. Our GC's profit/overhead is about $20K of the $115K. We can save that right off the bat. I'm also worried about doing the GC'ing as I've never done it either. I've learned an enormous amount from this site. There have been past threads about being your own GC that I read and was glad at the time to have a GC. Doing it yourself is lots of work!

    Through my nearly a year of planning and research, I've found a drywaller, plumber, cabinet maker, wood floor installer, roofer, and tiler. I would need to find an electrician, rough carpenter, and finish carpenter.

    One tip I picked up from my brother who had a friend build his first house as his own GC was to ask the tradesperson you have at the house doing one job, "what comes next?" They'll tell you. They may even be able to recommend someone to do that next job.

    I'm a SAHM with a young baby and a 5 y.o. It would be easier for me than you with your work schedule, but I'm sure you could do it if you have some flexibility at work.

    You'll get much better advice from others here who have done it, but I just wanted to sympathize with your pain as it's mine also! I'll be following this thread! If you don't get much reponse, post a new thread with "acting as your own GC" in the title. Best of luck.

  • breezygirl
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Just in the time I took me to write my post you've gotten lots of good info.

    BTW, what is a hi-hat? A can light? (Maybe I shouldn't be considering doing this myself.......)

  • doonie
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Remember, in most cases of remodeling, the real expense ends up being more than the estimate. In our situation, the expense of a quality GC was worth every penny. I know things were done correctly. He also comes back to fix things in a timely manner. My DH & I leave for work at 5:30 to 6am, so a trusted GC and foreman were invaluable.

    Like rice said.."no easy answers"

  • kitchenaddict
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    hi decorn...

    I would get a couple more estimates. At the very least you can see if these are in the general ballpark.

    KA:)

  • kerrys
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Oh my! This is scary! I'm waiting to get a bid from my contractor. It it comes in that much over what I'm "hoping" it will be, it may mean putting off the remodel and saving for another year.

    My kitchen budget is about the same as yours -- $35K tops with a tiny bit of wiggle room.

    I echo the advice to look at independent GCs. Talk to anyone you know who has work done for them.

    I am a single lady past the 60 mark, and my almost 40 year old kitchen has seen its day and then some! I don't want to have to wait too much longer! I too, am not in a position to GC this myself although the thought has crossed my mind more than once.

    I'll be watching to see how this plays out, and I'll post my bid when I get it.

  • decornovice
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    You are all fabulous. Yes, I am in NJ. I have little to no flexibility with my hours during the week.

    On a whim, just after posting here, I called another contractor whose card I picked up at a cabinet place this past summer. When I called his cell, he happened to be in the area at a supplier and came right over to see "if he'd be interested" in the job. He called an electrician while at my house and will reschedule another visit with the electrician this week. At that time, the electrician will take a look at the scope of his work, the "GC" will measure, etc. and then he'll get back to me with an estimate. I am hoping that the estimate will be FAAAARRRR more reasonable. Despite the fact that he wasn't planning a visit and did not have his truck, he was not as much about "firm presentation" via a powerpoint and pricing from a laptop preloaded with price points. He will be the one estimating the job and also on the job with his crew for all crucial points. (He checks on them during demolition, stays/works during rywalling, cabinet installation and finishing) He was forthcoming re: the licensed professional subcontractors that he uses, and he does not stay while they are on the job. I am hoping that the prior quotes from the big firms included A LOT of overhead and his are in line with my expectations.

    Well, he was barely out of the house when and I got back onto GW and founnd all these great replies already!!! I love this place:) Thank you so much ...and keep them coming :) I will keep you posted. I have off on Veteran's Day and I am expecting that this guy will revisit then, if not some evening before then. (He's waiting on the electrician's return call) I am going to try to set up other estimates for Thursday, so that I can start over with the whole "three estimates" wisdom. I just wish I had a friend's recommendation. Sadly, when I inquired about contractors from few friends, they supplied the name with a resounding "but...NO, I wouldn't recommend them!". I will keep you posted; Good luck with your estimate !

  • weissman
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    >>>>Both estimates were from big firms

    That may be part of the problem. Big firms typically charge more than smaller ones and independent contractors. They probably also have a huge markup on the subs they use. You need to get a bunch more estimate.

  • marcolo
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    First, get more bids. The bids I got on my bathroom ranged from 1X to 2X to 3X. The lowest-cost bidder isn't always the worst contractor, either.

    Second, get bids from immigrants. I don't mean illegal immigrants hanging out at the Home Depot parking lot. I mean legitimate contractors with funny names and hard-to-understand accents but well-respected businesses. Rich people who renovate generally prefer perfect English and articulate proposals. For that reason, a lot of native contractors have gotten fat, lazy and entitled from overcharging the bejeweled Real Housewives who will sign any check no matter how large, as long as the contractor doesn't trill his r's. You can deal with trilled r's if it will save you ten G's.

    Third, just say no. You dictate how much you will spend, and no one else, a notion completely lost on most contractors. Plenty of people are out of work and will be happy to work for a lower rate. I don't think people should starve, but the idea that calling an electrician on your cell and telling him to show up Tuesday entitles you to drive a Lexus has pretty much gone out these days.

    Quite simply, contractors' expectations are out of line with what the current market will bear. Many still don't understand that, and prefer to turn down jobs and not work rather than offer a reasonable price. Those guys are not long for this world.

  • decornovice
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    billp, Thanks, that's reassuring!

    artemis, Thanks for your offer. I may be taking you up on it !If I can't contract a GC within budget to begin in February or this winter. I may be forced to GC it myself this summer.

    ricew0, You guessed it ! re:"it does not sound like you have much experience with such things?"...I have less than "not much". I have none! ouch.

    breezygirl, I think I am "dated". By "hi-hats", I am referring to recessed "eyeball" movable lights, or maybe can lights (staging?) I may be using the term incorrectly; I guess I should check into what the GC was visualizing when he stated that in the supplies he'd cover. (Actually, I won't, because I'm not using the GC who used that term !) Thanks for making me think a moment about it, though, because now I will be sure to know that the GC and I are on the same page when the electrician comes. I hear you! I've just convinced myself that I shouldn't be GCing this! I'm sooo hoping I won't need to...

    kerrys, Good luck with your estimate. I can fully appreciate not wanting to wait any longer. I have been witout an oven for longer than I care to admit, simply because I've been reluctant to fix it since I was planning to remodel "soon". I've actually done fine without it most of the time, but miss it terribly for entertaining and holidays.

    weissman, That's what I've been thinking since my original post. I will be taking your advice,coupled with the insights offered by billp and, hopefully, will find a much better offer.

  • coffeebeantown
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    If you have the time, keep getting bids until you get to a price you can live with. Then, go back to the contractor that you felt most comfortable with and tell him you liked him and would want him to do the job, but that you have a bid that is lower than his. See if he will match your lowest bid. I just did that with my cabinets and cut $1,900 off the total cost. I was shocked when the guy said he'd match the price. Sometimes you just need to ask.

  • hilarymontville
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I have to stress getting more bids. I'm also in NJ and there are lots of guys looking for work. I got five bids when we did our renovation - all recommended from friends that had used them. I picked the one that I liked the best and told him where he needed to be to get the job. He adjusted his numbers accordingly and we are about 98% done and very happy with the work. Keep looking and I'm sure you'll find someone who's numbers work with yours.

  • warmfridge
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I know this is very dependent on area, but that seems high for labor. I paid my GC $32K for demo (gut to studs), labor, custom cabinets with lots of pullouts/drawers, granite, marble tile for backsplash, elect, plumbing, and unanticipated roof repairs. (I bought appliances, sink, faucet, lights, and cabinet hardware for another $8K).

    I agree with others who said to get more estimates.

  • billp1
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Break it down this way
    If four men worked in you Kitchen for forty hours a week and they worked for five weeks to complete you kitchen you would pay each man $320 per hour.

    Not the going rate any where that I am aware of.


  • jgopp
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    You have to figure in "unseen" things as well. I've set my "budget" at $120,000 including appliances, a large figure of it is that my house is from 1920 and needs tons of plumbing and electric that are just going to have to be done. Wall removals and stuff just tack onto the budget, plus I'm doing my mudroom. Not saying I've hit my budget, running right now about 40,000 under "budget" thank god. There will be four people working about 9 hours a day for 8 weeks, plus the cost of the cabinets and countertops. Everyone has a breaking point though. Don't get into something you can't afford only later to find yourself regretting it.

  • katsmah
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    decornovice, there is a lot of sticker shock. I'm also in NJ and my total price for this reno is about 1/3 more than what I originally (before GW) thought I would spend. Of course, that was before I even thought about removing walls. This is my 2nd time around using a 'design & build' firm. They are the most expensive. I wish that I had hired my own GC because I can't fire the one who is assigned to my job right now. If I had hired him separately, I would have fired him by now. Instead, I just have to watch him like a hawk. One of the down sides to a design / build firm.

    Whatever you can do outside the kitchen contract will save you money. I had to have my electric upgraded for the kitchen project, but hired an electrician separately to do so before the project started. After getting my contractor's cost for hi-hats (yes, I call them that also) and UC lighting which wasn't included in the contract, I bought them myself at a significant savings. Anything that the contractor purchases for you may have his overhead added.

  • dianalo
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    The estimates for our job varied by quite a bit. The 2 "biggest" firms (by that I mean well known/famous/,most advertised) were $50k higher than several others. A smaller firm was $70k over. We had a few in the range we are paying and went with the one with the most recommendations. They went back and "sharpened their pencil" when they knew where they needed to be. They helped brainstorm minor concessions to get us to a price we could handle. I found out recently that they did extensive work on our friends' house and were on budget with costs and time.

    I used the word "budget" a lot when discussing our plans with any professional. I probably came across as cheaper than I actually am, but I did not want them to think I was going to throw cash at them either, lol. I think the contractor has been surprised in discussions since that we have some wiggle room, mostly because I have done better at work than expected since he first bid and I am on commission ;).

    I agree with all the people telling you to get many bids. It is tedious after a while, but you pick up ideas or questions from almost every one of them, so you will be learning while you are auditioning. The one who is competent, reliable and reasonable will get your job, as it should be.

  • taggie
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Quote: "Break it down this way
    If four men worked in you Kitchen for forty hours a week and they worked for five weeks to complete you kitchen you would pay each man $320 per hour. "

    How are you getting that? By my math, if the quote was $31,000 and if you have four men working for forty hours a week and they worked for five weeks to complete your kitchen, you would actually be paying each man $38.75 per hour.

    I have no clue whether 20 man-weeks is the right amount of work for that job or not. I'm just questioning the math.

  • doonie
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Taggie has an excellent point. Plus that $38.75 has to include the benefits of the workers too. We live in a smaller community than it sounds like many of you do. So, in our situation we went with the most reliable and reputable of the contractors. We don't have any large firms here. One of the contractors wouldn't even come look at the project! Anyway, of course you should get more bids, but I would also add you get what you pay for in some respects. Lots of analysis to be done by you, but it will be worth all the homework you have done in the end.

    We ended up adding to our project, and adding a little more, deciding to get it done in this current stage of our lives. So, I had to double our initial budget. Like Jgopp said, you don't want to get in over your head. It seems like things generally tend to run over budget, except for a few of the very disciplined, who seem to be DIYers! In addition, you never know what problems you will uncover in the midst of the reno that will need to be fixed. We discovered part of our attic needed more insulation and we had to extend our foundation out further due to excess fill from the initial construction. I would come up with a maximum budget and then lower it by 30% so you have wiggle room. If you stay under, then you have saved money!

  • marcolo
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Plus that $38.75 has to include the benefits of the workers too

    I'm trying to work out in my head how pounding nails and cutting wood adds up to an $80K per year job. This may take me a while.

    Last night I was thumbing through old family photos. I remembered that when I was a kid in the '60s (oops, did I say that out loud?), my parents added on a den and a first-floor bathroom, and gutted and redid the kitchen. My dad was a factory worker, and not in a high-paying industry like automotive, either. How come they could afford to do so much, and I can't--even though I make more than Dad ever did?

    Home renovation costs used to be driven by people's incomes. Then came a credit bubble, and lots of "free" money was thrown at cabinet companies, contractors, furniture stores and the like. All that demand drove up prices. The bubble is over, but many contractors don't realize that. They're still waiting for the Lexus.

    In addition, you never know what problems you will uncover in the midst of the reno that will need to be fixed.

    This is something contractors say all the time, because they've hoodwinked consumers into believing it. You come to bid on work in my 1924 house: what the f$%# do you think you're going to find behind the walls--metal studs, corrugated steel roof and new sheetrock? Pex tubing? Lutron dimmers? No, you $#@%%)*@, you're going to find closed-up junction boxes, frayed wiring insulation, settled insulation, plumbing that cuts through king studs and joists, and all the same stuff you've found at every other old house you've ever worked on. Now, if a contractor finds that the main beam of the house has somehow broken clean in two, or there's an asbestos-stuffed corpse in the ceiling, that's one thing. But otherwise, the whole idea that "we don't know what we'll find is a scam--a ruse to make a perfectly-predictable condition into a pricey change order that's outside the contract.

    Also, I have to say, when I read all the GW posts about GCs, it occurs to me that many people do not understand what a GC's job is. A GC is not a project manager. He is not, usually, a firm owner whose full-time employees are working at your house. He doesn't have a team of office people to take your calls and do follow-up, unless he's part of a design-build firm. Unless you are building an addition or an entirely new house, he will not even visit your site very often. A GC is first and foremost a sales rep. He's the guy who schmoozes the customers, gets them excited about their "dream" and closes the deal. A GC supervises your project only in the same way that an account rep does; he often doesn't actually know how to do some of the work himself (such as electrical), so he relies on knowledge and abilities of the subs. Tradespeople work through GCs because it is hard and expensive for them to find work on their own individually. So, yes, it's a great thing to find a great GC, but remember, what you've actually found is a really good sales rep.

  • doonie
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Marcolo,

    I am not making any value statement on the cost of $38.75 per hour. I was only indicating that the amount is not all take home cash. In addition the GC has overhead costs to cover and obviously wants to make a profit too. Just giving people some variables to consider when comparison shopping. Value is determined by the purchaser.

    As far as hidden costs, I explained what we found in our reno, and we chose to address them and improve them. We did not have to. We chose to.

    And boy are you ever down on GC's! There are some very excellent ones out there. And there are some schmoozers too! My GC was at my site everyday. The thing is, I approached the GC first with my ideas, not the other way around.

    Anyway, I think you have a very sharp sense of humor, but today it seems a little harsh and patronizing?? Sometimes it's hard to tell with this cyberspace stuff ;) (Or maybe I've just had too much coffee and no food yet!)

  • marcolo
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I am not making any value statement on the cost of $38.75 per hour. I was only indicating that the amount is not all take home cash

    Again, subs are not a GC's employees. They do not receive employment benefits. They just get a check. Big design/build firms have employees. Large contractors, like electrical or plumbing companies, also have employees and may offer benefits. But the electrical or tile sub your GC brings in is not his employee and does not receive benefits from him. If the sub is a person, not a company, he has to buy his own benefits, true. But keep in mind there are huge numbers of working people in this country with no health insurance who would kill to make $80, or $50 or even $30 an hour.

    I'm glad your GC came by every day, but that's unusual except for really major projects.

    And I understand that you added on largely unrelated projects because you saw the advantages of getting them out of the way while work was already going on in your house. That's not what I'm talking about. GCs regularly express shock, shock to discover an old kitchen isn't insulated, or the wiring behind the walls is bad, or there's some brass pipe behind the sink that needs switching to copper. That is a bait-and-switch tactic, plain and simple. All of those issues are not only predictable, but 100% certain in a old house. But if a GC puts them in a contract, he can't be paid extra for them.

  • live_wire_oak
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    COnstruction work is a seasonal endeavor, very much like commission sales. There is feast and famine. Just because someone makes $40 an hour during their busy season, doesn't mean they make 80K for the whole year. If someone was to look at a real estate agent's renumeration after a good May or a jewelry sales person's March check after a busy February Valentine's sales, or a toy salesperson's January check following a good December, they'd be grossly misled as to how much those jobs actually paid.

    That $40 an hour has to last for the winter months that no one is starting projects because of the snow or the summer months that are slow due to 110° heat. Most of the time, self employment taxes have to be taken out too, as construction workers are rarely "employees" of companies. A good rough carpenter's take home wages, if he's good, and doesn't have too much down time, might approach 45-50K a year. A finish carpenter will command higher wages due to a higher skill set, and a plain jobsite laborer will get less. Skilled trades, like electricians and plumbers have a lot more overhead, even though they command higher wages up front. Their take home pay isn't likely to be much above the 80K. THese are trades for working class people to make a good living wage, and many of them still require extensive training and education in order to work legally at those trades.

    If you'd do the job for less than your quotes, then please DIY it! :) It does take a lot more skill than "hammering nails into lumber".

    Don't forget that you'll be dealing with homeowners who look down on anyone who makes a living with their hands, yet know more about your business than you do so consequently want to tell you how much you should charge for your services. The good news is that because you generally work for yourself, you don't have to work for people you don't want to work with, or you can charge them enough to make it worth your time in dealing with them.

  • dianalo
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I think Marcolo is right on in many ways. I told our GC to expect that our house has not been cared for and that I did not want to hear about "surprises" that were no big surprise.

    I made sure to tell my "GC" that I want either his brother, the project manager or himself on site every day for the majority of the day. I get the sense that the guy who bid my job and has been my contact person is actually the go between for me and all the people who will actually work on the job. When he bid the job it was for his entire team and not separating out a GC price and labor price. I just want some sort of supervisor there or nearby most of the time. I plan on being there a lot as well, so hopefully, less will fall through the cracks that way.

    I do not expect my GC to pick up a hammer and do the work, but I do expect that he makes sure it is done well, on time and he keeps on top of things. As a real estate agent, I do not build or decorate houses, but it is my job to make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible for my clients. I know things that they do not know and cannot know when selling or buying a house because I have the benefit of 20+ years of being involved in the process day in and day out and also keeping abreast of goings on with my colleagues. I have to take continuing ed to keep my license and learn new things all the time from educational sources and experience.
    That said, there are a lot of bozos running around with real estate licenses who are not as professional or knowledgeable as I am. I say this not to brag, but because I work hard at what I do. I imagine anyone who deals with me comes away with a favorable view of real estate agents and those who deal with a bozo feel the opposite. There are a percentage of good and bad in every field and some fields have little oversight to knock the bad ones out. Hopefully, the bozo GCs don't get referrals and change careers when business dries up. The hard thing is the people who hire them before that happens. In this economy, those who are not good at what they do will find themselves out of work faster than before. I have had my best year this year despite seeing news reports every day about how bad the housing market is. You just need to find a good GC to help you through. That may be easier said than done, but they are out there....

  • kitellie49
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I own a cabinet showroom and I have a relationship with a contractor who does all the work himself. When customers ask, "Do you install?", I give him the opportunity to bid on the job. He probably gets 80% of the jobs he bids on. The only time he doesn't get the job is if someone has a friend/relative to do the work. He is a one-man-show. He has been in my area doing this for about 35 years and if he needs help one day, he hires one of his retired friends. He knows electricians/plumbers, and brings them on board also. I have done dozens of jobs with him and have never had a problem - except he usually gets lost the first time going to the job : ). Find a guy like this. Your estimate is very high.

  • katsmah
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Bravo Marcolo!! Excellent post. Of course my contractor put all the nonsense about "without seeing what may be hidden" into the contract. I told him up front before the contract was written that I knew that the main waste stack was behind a cabinet 10" into my kitchen and I knew there was A/C duct work above a cabinet in the corner. These were not 'hidden unknowns' that would require an up charge change order. Before I would sign on the dotted line he had to change the contract to reflect these items were not 'hidden unknowns'.

  • artemis78
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Also, for whatever it's worth, our project is small and about half our contractors are paid time and materials. (**Note that this is not recommended for larger projects---but it works quite nicely for us with a tiny house where all the parts are visible.) We're paying $45-$65 per hour for things like plumbing and finish carpentry. So a bid that works out to $38.50 seems pretty reasonable to me, if the estimate of work time is accurate. Our house is a bit easier than bigger houses in that we really can see most everything (especially now that a couple of walls are open!) but I always ask contractors to tell me how long they think a task will take and what they might find that would delay it. If they can't do this, we pass---but almost all have been very upfront about it, and over the years, the time estimates on other work we've done this way have run pretty close to reality. (This is important for the trades that aren't hourly, too, since that's how I'm scheduling them---I try to pad the estimates by a couple of days before the next trade comes in, for those that can't overlap easily.)

  • morgne
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    "Surprises that are no big surprise."

    I really don't know what to say to that. It's true that we know there will be issues when the walls are opened. But we don't know what type of issues there are or how extensive they will be.

    I would never work with someone who stated that there were no "unknowns" in a remodel. To me that would be a huge red flag about expectations. I'm sure they wouldn't work with me either! ;)

  • artemis78
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I read the surprise bit more as assuming things like old plumbing and wiring if the house is old versus bidding as if it might be new, and then adding a surcharge when you discover it's old. That makes sense, though of course there are lots of other unknowns (we found an old sink stack when we took down our wall---it was an old laundry porch, which I knew, so it should have occurred to me, but didn't...so that gets added to the plumber's scope! That was our only demo surprise, happily.)

    We did also have one electrician on the other end of this spectrum, though. He developed his bid on the premise that the wiring in the wall would all need to be replaced. Which would make sense in a house this age had we not paid ungodly amounts of money to replace the k&t just three years ago (you can *see* the new wiring quite easily!) I suggested we set up the bid assuming that it didn't need to be replaced, and it could be added scope if something was amiss. He still insisted that he wanted the estimate to be an all-inclusive wiring upgrade because "you just never know." Except when you do...

  • snickersmom
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I just got on here to post a link to an interesting video of a kitchen remodel- (see View A One-Minute Kitchen Remodel) and I couldn't resist your "Sticker Shock" headline! FYI the kitchen in the video I just posted the youtube link to was +/- $50K (for everything, I'm told)and of that around 1/3 was labor. Maybe that will help-but the kitchen in the video is in the mid-west, and generally things are a little lower cost here. Good luck- get more estimates! I feel your pain!

  • allnewappliances
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Decornovice - what part of NJ are you from. We live in North NJ and just finished our kitchen/bathroom remodel. Our GC was very reasonable with price (the price was around the same that were quoted, but our kitchen is very large - we went from 2 rooms to one large kitchen). The price include total gut of two rooms into the one kitchen, new walls, new electrical, new HVAC and new plumbing, etc. Price did not include cost of cabinets, granite and backsplash tiles (cost, but the intallation was included) The GC came by almost every day to check on things in the morn and then sometimes again in the afternoon.

  • katyde
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    We are 1 week into our 43 y.o. colonial home kitchen remodel - kitchen/laundry rm with new floor plan, removing a closet, relocating another, changing laundry room layout, new doors. Total about 270 sq ft floor space with 60+ sq ft granite, 27 linear feet cabs + 6x3 island.

    We just got the final quotes from the GC and subs (they needed to see under the drywall to give the final #s) - our total will be coming in the expected budget ($50-60 total), with $23.8 being GC and subs including all of their costs (demo/new walls, all finish work and putting up a beam which was a huge job!) + drywall/HVAC/electric/insulation/plumbing - but NOT tile, $19.5 being custom cabinets which we spec'd as really nice all wood boxes in lieu of inset doors, $4.5 going to flooring and backsplash tile and install (note: install is a buddy job, would have cost more...), $ 0.6 for faucet alone!, $0.5 for cabinet hardware, $5.5 being granite/sink, I bought our lighting separately for about $1.6 for everything (less than letting electrician "buy" supplies), and $6 for appliances delivered.

    My initial "budget" was $40 but we could not get the new room layouts and high quality cabinets for that cost and I feel it will be worth every cent, but it is hard to see those numbers written down...

    I will add: when you shop for your own supplies, like we did for lighting and tile, I suggest asking the retailer for the contracter prices up front, since we are almost all using contractors. That included the cabinets. I got their costs almost everywhere and paid them directly after passing the details by my GC, since I picked out all of the details myself.

    Off topic - I just painted one wall BM's "shenandoah taupe" as a trial - anyone reading this have it? It is sooo pretty! I hope it looks good tomorrow in the day light!

  • drmkit
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Decornovice, we just finished remodeling our kitchen, and had a great experience with the GC (sorry, I’m not in NJ). He was certainly no sales rep. He came by at least twice a day, discussed details with the workers and made sure everything was done according to the plan, addressed any concerns I had, and if I was unhappy with anything, he saw to it that it was rectified immediately. All this for a tiny 10X11 kitchen with no change in the layout and no major structural work!
    Just wanted to say that there are good GCs out there, and I hope you find one soon.

  • decornovice
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    WOW ! I'm gone for a day and look at all the action I missed!

    Marcelo, I tend to agree with you. In hindsight, I also realize that I made the mistake of having "design-build firms" visit for estimates. I went to a home trade show/fair and scheduled two appointments while there. However, while I was at their display,I did tell each firm that I had done my own plans, had visited cabinet dealers and was interested in contractors only. Perhaps they feel anything is possible, but I really cannot see why they would even visit my neighborhood where the houses cannot bear the costs of remodels they were pricing. If they were going to price the job for a design and other services that they were not supplying, I wouldn't have wasted either of our time. An independent GC came by and is returning on Thursday with his electrician and I will be more prepared.
    I will take everyone's advice and get several more estimates.

    I can relate to the "old house surprises" line, as well.
    Artemis, I agree the "hidden surprises" work both ways, and seemingly both in favor of the contractor! (builds in the cost when not necessary because the homeowner has already remedied the issue, and leaves it out "uncertainties" that are highly predictable/probable.
    One of the design-build contractors ( more accurately, a sales rep.) insisted there might be pipes behind my soffit preventing 42" cabinets. I indicated that if I couldn't garner more cabinet space, I'd have a service call for my wall oven or replace it and go with a kitchen facelift beyond that! Suddenly, he was reassuring me that I was probably correct when I proffered that the soffit was more likely a design choice since the kitchen had been remodeled,probably sometime in the early 70s He added, "but we can't tell until the demo", whereupon I got on step stool, removed a ceiling tile (Yes, that's how old the kitchen is!) and stuck a long barbecue fork into a 3-4" hole that had been drilled into the concealed soffit, apparently for an old clock mechanism. I sent the fork in every direction showing that there were no pipes along the only run where upper cabinets would be installed. We agreed to disagree that there "might" be some further down toward the electric oven (@#) Had I known how high his estimate would be, I wouldn't have bothered with the "climb"!
    Later, an independent GC cautioned me that there may be asbestos on my hardwood floors beneath the 1/4 plywood subfloor. He seemed unconvinced even though I explained that I had seen the flooring; in fact, I was heartsick, years ago, when my new wall-wall carpet and linoleum were delivered to find the hardwood revealed at installation. I have long since removed the carpeting and finished the LR and DR floor. I'm eager to do the same with the kitchen. He spent five more minutes trying to convince me that tile was the way to go! I wonder why??? (No, I don't mean to sound anti-GC. He seemed very sincere and hardworking. I'm just a cynic now !)

    Basically, I agree that there are foreseeable circumstances in old homes that should be absorbed into the costs of doing business. There are, of course, major "unknown bummer factors" which require renumeration and I wouldn't be unreasonable under those circumstances. However, contractors do need to accept the realities of the age of the homes and also acknowledge the history given them by the homeowner!

    I'm just going to count those design build firms as a step in the wrong direction, and get back on the right track. I'm sure it will all come together at some point in time.

    snickersmom, Thanks for sharing the video. Wouldn't it be great if that was real time for a remodel...Go out to dinner, come back and it's done! Wishful thinking ! (MOOOVE THAT BUS !)

    allnewappliances, I'm in central New Jersey, just off the GSP. If you think your contractor would come down this way for an estimate...???? I'll email you.

  • decornovice
    Original Author
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Two posts in the time it took me to reply ! Yes, dmkit, I'm sure there are good GCs out there. I had come to the decision to "start again"..forewarned is forearmed. Thanks for your wishes, I'm sure I'll find a GC.

    Katyde, thanks for the info. Consensus seems to be that I wasn't unreasonable with my estimates and I should "keep on keepin' on". So glad you found a paint you liked. I love BM paint. I'm planning to paint my Family Room taupe/tan color, I'm going to check out the Shenandoah that you recommend. I've use BM historic colors in the past...love 'em. (I've done little to no work besides maintenance on my house for the past 10+ years)

  • Sharon kilber
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    My husband is a license GC, and out of the money he, pay's employees, Federal taxes, State taxes, City Taxes, license, sale tax, ads, in the phone book, on goggle, and yahoo. He, has to buy tools, truck's. Pay the BBA, plus more plus he, works very hard making sure the job is done right. Being a good GC takes lot's of time and hard work. Not to mention all the report's he, has to make. Like tomorrow is sunday, and he, has to meet with a couple, that is the only day they have to meet with him. So just because some think he, may be going home with the 35000 or more. He,is not. If you get a good GC who will treat your home and project like his own than he, is worth his weight in gold.

  • francoise47
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    We are also in central NJ and are just about to start a major kitchen and bath renovation. We've gotten several estimates from reputable, highly-recommended small contractors (not design and build) in the area. The contractors' labor costs (not figuring in any materials) have consistently been bid at 50,000 dollars for an estimated 10 week project. This is entirely in keeping with what my friends who have recently renovated kitchens and bathrooms in NJ have found: they have all told me that they ended up spending 1,000 dollars per day for the labor. It may be helpful to know that we live in a mostly middle-class town with houses built in the teens and twenties with an average price of about $350,000.

  • katyde
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Good luck decornovice! Not too many people post about $$$ on this site but frankly we all need to know how much this really costs. The online calculators are WRONG. They estimated my labor at $9. I am spending $23.8.

    Of note our GC's are actually a small husband and wife custom remodeling duo (he is a carpenter, she is an architect - we know them socially and trust them ALOT), and they are doing the demo/construction/install and finish work themselves, so they are a little "high end" - as in pricey. Our house is tight as a drum and we want this kitchen to look new in another 45 years like our old one did, though dated, and they are worth the premium to us. Their work around here is usually in mansions (really!) so we are getting a good deal here, even though it is still steep.

    I know from my research that 15% of total home value is a typical kitchen gut/remodel budget which is how we came up with our budget of $60-70 max, but wanted to stay under $60. And our kitchen is not going to look too fancy after all this! Plain and simple frankly.

    FYI: Shenendoah taupe is looking a little dark, off to look for more colors!

  • allnewappliances
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Decornovice - around what towns do you live and I can ask the contractor if he goes to your area. His primary focus is Morris and Essex county, but I can ask if he goes to your area too.

  • antss
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    marcolo - you obviously have some pent up frustrations left over from your bluecollar childhood.

    You also have no clue about how the industry works either!

    A GC can be a project manager or not. Can be a sales man on not, can, and often is, both. He or SHE might have employees and might not. That $40 an hour to a sub doesn't just go into that plumbers pocket ( less uncle Sam's cut) like your "salary" does. (S)he gets to pay our uncle just like you but, many get the privilege of sending a lot of that money in ahead of time in quarterly estimated payments, not taken out of a paycheck every two weeks like most people on salary. You should try paying your tax bill in advance - you'll love it! Out of that $40/hr comes professional fees an licenses and overhead like a phone or two, and a vehicle that gets outasite gas mileage and some have offices believe it or not, and then there is workman's comp insurance so if he steps on a nail at YOUR house you are protected, and many even have something like obamcare too, and lets not forget one of the biggest - Liability Insurance - you want your slave.... I mean contractor to have that , right marcolo? I mean you don't want him accidently cutting a water pipe and flooding your house and then leave you with the bill simply saying "sorry maser, I dinnen mean ta , I guess ya can whip me."

    So, what do you suppose all that is worth? Would you like to pick up some of you're job's overhead like contractors do? You can easily give your employer back $$$ for use of the phone & pay ALL of your health care costs, and buy your own computer and pay for the internet out of your salary - sound good? While your at it why not round up and pay him for your desk/chair and pencils, pens and all the reams of paper you use?

    Another thing none of you math wizzes have taken into account in the scenario is that the bid @ $40/hr include some material, drywall, paint, cost $$$ and should be deducted BEFORE you start computing labor scenarios. So, now we are really talking about less than $40/hr or $80k/ year , which really isn't - see weismann's explanation.

    To all of you that think the "hidden conditions" is just a scam - grow up. If contractors included everything that might happen in your job's bid you'd soil your pants when you saw the estimate/contract. You'd also never do the job because it'd be too expensive. The vast majority of people that did decide to move forward would be overpaying especially when no asbestos laden corpse or flesh eating mold was found in your walls or it turns out you really didn't need an all new electrical system. You'd be obligated under the contract to pay for that stuff whether you needed it or not. -OR-

    Do you folks think the contractor is going to assume all the risk for what might be there AND only charge you if it actually comes up? Get a clue gang. - AND / OR _

    You'd all then be complaining that remodeling prices are ridiculous (even worse than in this conversation) and the threads would be about "how can I lower/ afford my remodel"

    And- why isn't a plumber or carpenter with 20 years experience worth $80k? Is your broker that just yaks on the phone all day, tells you to buy COKE and sell DOW and buy as much Fannie Mae as you can - "it's going through the roof" AND who is WRONG more often than not, worth $150-$500k + bonuses a year and deserving of that Maserati? Or what about the Calif. prison guards that takes home $122k a year, or the actor on the silver screen that get $10 -$40 million for 6 months work? Oh, he's worth it , cause "he's dreamy". Even better is the one whose only talent is she's recognized all over the world often gets $1milion an appearance - can't even tell the difference between cocaine and bubble gum. That's certainly a trait more valued by our society than making sure you kitchen floor is level or that hot/cold water flows to your sink for 30 + years without a problem or the lights work and don't burn your house down - so now I'm probably the one who has no clue. Oh, what about that mechanic at your Ford or Honda dealer that is charging you $90/hr? he even gets to work in a climate controlled building.

    Sure stuff is expensive - and I'm not saying that the OP should accept those two bids, but this is a two way street. Just because you you only have or are willing to spend $24,635 doesn't mean you can get a new kitchen in YOUR house - especially the one you really really have been salivating about.

    BTW marcolo, what do you think is fair for the nail driver to earn a year. What would you really like to pay him?

    How about:

    1.your auto mechanic
    2.your broker/financial planner
    3.your minister/rabbi/priest - they should prob. do it for nothing?
    4.the TSA worker at the airport
    5.your kid's teachers
    6.your accountant
    7.your Gen. Practice doctor

  • doonie
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Antss was able to provide a much more detailed explanation of the overhead costs I was trying to get at in my brief posts.

    The value of a project is determined ultimately by the purchaser in a free market system. If the price is too high, then the purchaser can choose to walk away.

    I can not say enough good things about my GC. He is expensive for my area. But he also has an excellent reputation in the community both as a human being and a professional. It was a pleasure to work with him and he fully deserves my money if I am silly enough to want my dream kitchen that I actually don't need.

    There is a happy medium between the homeowner taking advantage of the GC and the GC taking advantage of the homeowner and I think it starts with morality and ethics, which is easiest to determine, in my opinion, by reputation (actions versus silver tongued words.)

    Anyhoo, that's my 2 cents and it's back to the homemade vegetable soup and poppy seed cake now;)

  • lpb313
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I live in central jersey and we remodeled our 11X15 ft. kitchen 2 years ago-we used Kitchen Expo on New Durham Rd. in Edison--we bought our cabinets from them and they helped us with the design and used their contractor-he was wonderful--we paid about $15,000 labor included gutting, installing cabinets, replace 2 sliders, replace 1 window, install appliances and new drywalland install backsplash. The electrician cost about $4,000 extra and the cabinets were a separate cost and another $1200 for building materials. We bought our granite elsewhere but they had great prices on some granites. We are thinking of using them when we remodel our bathroom.

  • lazy_gardens
    11 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Look for a smaller contractor ... the big guys have a lot of overhead in their showroom, advertising, appearances at trade shows, etc.

    Ask your friends and neighbors who they have used.

    My neighbor - a fully qualified GC (licensed, bonded, insured) - works out of his home office and relies on word of mouth to stay busy.