One of the most common questions we get upon initial contact with potential clients is “do you charge for estimates?” It’s a fair question, as many clients don’t have a ton of experience working with contractors and just simply don’t understand the potential upfront costs and are trying to understand the process. Even for clients who may have worked with contractors multiple times, many contractors are set up differently and have their own processes. After being in some type of contracting business for close to 20 years, let me explain how paying for a design on the front-end of a project will actually save you money.
“Proper planning prevents piss poor performance”. It’s an age-old adage that is true in many aspects of life, and it most certainly applies to construction projects of any size. If you don’t go into a project with a well-thought-out and detailed plan then you are just hoping things go well and stay on budget. Without a proper design/plan, this is a rather optimistic outlook.
A design allows people with experience (your contractor and design professional) to slow down and really look at all aspects of a project. They may consider many more factors not just related to costs, but also how the new project will interact and connect with the existing surrounding elements. Having the time to think through different details of a project allows for a better functioning project, more accurate estimating costs (because less things get assumed or potentially missed like when someone is trying to plan/price a project from memory or from some notes), and less allowances that need to be carried on a project.
A design is also a great way to communicate for both parties on what both are agreeing too. We have all seen it before in different aspects of our lives where people agree to something but each side had a different understanding and assumptions of what was being agreed to. Getting a design for a project down on paper makes its pretty black and white as to what the scope of a project is and what it isn’t. This is beneficial for everyone involved in a project. Specifically relating to costs, it allows things such as the following to be clearly defined:
• The scope of work, what the project will entail, and what the project will look like at the end. It’s never fun if you thought that the pricing you received includes something because it was briefly mentioned during a walkthrough, but it was never actually included in the costs provided. Often times without a plan and a descriptive pricing schedule, these things can become “surprises” for both sides later on in the project because the scope of work was never clearly defined both narratively and visually.
• What materials will be used, as often times a lot of different materials are discussed during the initial phases of a project, and depending on the project there can be a lot of different materials for different areas of the project. Getting things on paper eliminates confusion and also helps capture changes as they are made. Materials are a big driver of costs on projects, so ensuring that the proper materials are being used when pricing projects is a great way of ensuring accurate costs.
• What trades are involved in the project, such as forgetting that plumbing or electrical needs to be reconfigured to coincide with the new project scope.
• A good plan, which will make the permitting and inspection process easier when dealing with the local building inspectors, saving time and money
• Determine if the project will really be 100% done, or if there are other things that will need to be done outside of the scope of the project to really complete the project. A good plan allows for these areas, which can often be overlooked from a cost perspective to be more easily identified and included in the overall costs.
Trying to get accurate pricing up front on a project without a design can be disastrous. At least one side of the equation will leave the project unhappy with the process, and often it will result in both sides (contractor and client) unhappy in one way or another Home projects are generally one of the largest investments that many people will make in their lives, so why would you ever want to do that without a good plan? There are some people out there who still think that a free estimate that comes back with a low price is the best way to start a project. To each their own, but please understand how different that is likely to be at the end of the day when compared to a properly planned and well-thought-out project.
As your hardscaping & outdoor patio company, Boston Outdoor Living’s entire approach to our business is centered around quality. This starts with ensuring that we have the best team members suited for our projects and goes to ensure that we invest in the best tools and equipment that we can consistently rely on to install our projects on time and on budget.