Getting and reviewing price quotes

Price is a critical aspect of your renovation project. What will it cost to do the job you want? Alternatively, how far can you go on a set budget?

Determining the cost of a small project is usually fairly simple. Just make sure all the contractors bidding the job are providing the same services and materials.

For more complex projects, it often takes a few conversations with contractors to define the project to the point where they can begin determining costs. 

For large project projects, it is often necessary to develop the complete design, specifications and plans first as an initial and separate job.  Depending on the level of work involved, expect to pay a fee to have this done. Many renovators offer design and plans development services. If you have purchased such design services, you can use the completed material to ask contractors for a formal price quote. Having contractors price the job based on identical design and specification information will make evaluating their quotes much easier.

The level of detail required in plans will vary depending on the scope, size and complexity of the project. This can range from simple sketches or diagrams to full construction drawings for projects that involve altering the structure of your home.

Specifications are detailed descriptions of the specific materials and products you want to be used in your project. For instance, if you have decided on the brand and model of bathroom fixtures, these specifications should be included.

Alternatively, you may choose to work with a designer or architect and have them get price quotes from contractors.


Experienced renovators can sometimes offer an educated opinion or price range on the spot, based on similar jobs they have done in the past - for instance, a per-square-foot estimate for additions or basement recreation rooms, or a rough cost estimate for upgrading your bathroom. This can be helpful upfront to make sure that there is a realistic fit between what you would like to do and the budget your have in mind. However, be aware that the cost of a project can vary greatly, depending on many factors, including the current condition of your home and the types of products you decide to use. A guesstimate is not a price quote.

Price quotes and bids

Price quotes and bids are the same – if written down they represent a renovator's offer to perform your renovation for a specified price, based on the description of the work included in their bid.

This document should specify the materials and products to be used (including brand names and model numbers), labour requirements for their crew and any necessary sub-trades, with accompanying costs for each item. Expect the price quote to include payment details such as payment timing and amounts, and what progress milestones each payment is associated with.

Up-front payments or deposits are usually required if you decide to accept a price quote and sign a contract, but deposits should not generally exceed 10% of the total cost of the work. The exception would be instances where the contractor had to purchase custom materials or products you have requested that are not returnable and must be pre-paid by him. Expect providing and additional deposit in this situation. 

A written price quote is legally binding and becomes part of the contract between you and the renovator, should you accept it.

How many bids should you get? There are no hard and fast rules. On large projects, it is not uncommon for homeowners to interview several renovators, check their references and previous projects, and then choose one company to work with throughout the whole process, including developing plans and budgets as well as doing the actual work. In other cases, homeowners will go through a formal bidding process with a number of firms before deciding which contractor to hire.