Can You Do It For Less?
Updated: Feb 19
I have been asked, "can you do it for less?" by my clients many times over the years.
"We found someone who can do the job for half of your quote."
When clients say they found someone who will do the work for less money, what should I tell them?
Why The Difference?
Since construction is a highly specialized industry with professionals charging significantly more than others due to their knowledge and expertise, this statement may be met with some contention.
Certain elements of a construction project are inarguable. For example, the cost of a sheet of drywall is universal to clients and contractors alike. And unless you're building a city block full of condos, suppliers aren't able to negotiate for your 10-20 sheets, because it's not real volume.
The real variable is the company. The skilled tradespeople behind the company are what will make the difference in the finish product. The experience, the processes, the quality of tools and even the software they use. Everything goes into the product that is produced.
With this in mind, a contractor should tell the client that rather than taking their chances with an unknown subcontractor who may well struggle to complete the project correctly and on time, they would be better served working with a company they know can do quality work because it's what they do well every day.
With enough experience, a contractor should be able to foresee "surprises" that may arise on the job before even setting foot on site. Knowing the age of the house will give clues as to what type of materials were used, if the wiring and plumbing are up to modern codes and if there are any risks of asbestos or other hazardous contaminants.
"They're not cheaper, just less expensive"
The contractor offering to do the job cheaper is simply trying to establish themselves in your area. They haven't yet proven themselves on projects like this and you may very well get what you pay for. Don't be tempted by low bids, even if they seem "too good to be true" because more than likely, they certainly are.
If we look at the issue of paying the cheapest possible price, more often than not, there are expenses that are either unaccounted for or forgotten. A contractor might have "hidden costs" to cover travel expenses, equipment purchase/rental, the cost of materials used (which may be different from what is expected) and so on.
What Do Your Savings Actually Cost?
Remember that quality will always triumph in the long run. While the cost of a small project can be relatively high, the idea is to amortize that cost over the length of the project's lifespan. So if a bathroom can be expected to last a minimum of 25 years, that $25,000 price tag breaks down to about $85/month over it's lifespan.
Another thing to remember is that there are always expenses that can be cut out of any project, but it should never come at the cost of quality. Some contractors might not buy the materials they say they will; some might use sub-standard equipment (or even worse "home depot specials"); or worst of all, pay their workers bottom-of-the barrel wages or not have their team covered by the CNESST in case of injury or sickness (this one can end up being a huge problem for you if they get hurt on your property without proper coverage!)
Some will even forgo paying income tax, avoid remitting sales taxes they've collected (while assuredly claiming the highest possible expenses to lower their tax obligations at the end of the year), and more often than not , simply disappear when the job is done (and in some cases, before the work is even complete), not to be heard from again.
Where Is My Money Going?
When you pay for a renovation, you're paying for a few things. Namely, the raw materials used in construction that you won't ever see again (think: studs, plywood, screws, plumbing and electrical), the finish materials (think sink, faucet, tiles) and the labor. The arduous task of demolishing your bathroom and building something to 2021 standards in a building that might be 60 or 100 years old.
Moreover, the price of labor covers costs that keep you, the contractor and their employees safe. A portion of the price of labor is earmarked for licensing, bonding, insurance, workers compensation, and the costs of running a business.
As such, it's not unheard of for a client to call and say "I found someone who can do the job cheaper," but it can be unwise. Construction isn't like shopping at Walmart — there are no $8 hammers or two-for-ones on nails. A contractor has to invest in tools that depreciate quickly, cover the cost of expensive consumables, and transport those in cases in their work truck.
Most importantly, a contractor understands that if they don't get paid what they're owed, the next project doesn't get funded. Construction projects take a long time to set up and bring to fruition. Contractors need money in the bank at all times to be able to pay their employees, buy consumables, and cover general overhead costs.
They contribute enormously to the economy by supporting crucial local manufacturers, small businesses in the form of subcontractors and suppliers, on top of collecting and remitting taxes that fund universal healthcare, education, infrastructure and social programs.
What You Should Look For
In most cases, a contractor's work is only visible when it's done badly or not at all. Construction can be messy and inconvenient for those who have to live and work around it, but a company that does a good job often enhances the value of the property they've worked on significantly. A good job is a job that looks like it never happened in the first place.
It is tempting to go with the cheapest contractor for a job, but you should be looking at your contractors qualifications and what they offer. Although it may seem like an easy decision to just hire someone who will do the work cheaper than anyone else, this can come back and bite you in the end. Make sure that any contractor you choose has good reviews from other people so that their quality of work matches up to yours standards!
A good contractor will provide a decent product at a fair price. While this might be more than you expected, understand the scope of everything happening behind the scenes for the company and, perhaps more importantly, behind your walls.
Montreal Contractors is a qualified company, holding an active bonded license as a General Contractor and Specialized Contractor with the Régie du Bâtiment du Québec (RBQ License: 5767-5480-01), ASP Health & Safety Certification and a $2M liability policy. Our employees have all passed background checks, are registered with CNESST and have their ASP Health and Safety certification.