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Question DetailsAsked on 2/26/2013

Should I tell a contractor what my budget is?

We are going to be putting in a bedroom and adding a bath in our attic, plus remodeling our kitchen. I'm wondering if we should share our very strict budget with a contractor before getting a quote?

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22 Answers

Voted Best Answer

There are two sides to this and everyone will have an opinion. I can tell you that from a contractor's point of view a customer that is up front with me is much easier to work with and the entire experience is much more pleasurable to all parties involved. If you treat your contractor like there's always something to hide from him expect the same in return. A good contractor is going to take your budget into consideration and make recommendations based on that budget. When possible, he's going to estimate the work 10-20% under your target to leave room for the unexpected. With any remodeling work, there's always the possibility and likelihood that there will be surprises that will have to be added such as mold damage, improper existing framing, etc. The cushion allows room for the project cost to grow without going over your budget. If no problems are found and you decide to spend that money some of the final finishes can be upgraded or other projects added.

Another good arguement for disclosing your budget to your contractor is to save you both some time and aggrevation. You may have a $10,000 budget and want $30,000 worth of work. Wouldn't you like to know your desires aren't possible before you get your hopes up or spend money on design fees for plans you can't afford? Likewise, the contractor doesn't want to put in the hours of calculating the estimate only to find out it was all for nothing or that he has to refigure for a much lower cost after pricing what you specified.

Be fair and honest with your contractor if you expect the same respect in return. You'll get a lot more out of it with the right contractor.

Todd Shell
Todd's Home Services
San Antonio, TX

Answered 7 years ago by Todd's Home Services


The quick answer is absolutely. A good contractor can work within a wide range of budgets, provided you're not expecting to spend only a few hundred bucks, of course. Providing spending parameters for a bath addition and kitchen remodel means that you won't waste the contractors' time and yours with features and fixtures that you can't afford.

And Angie's List recommends getting at least three detailed estimates from highly rated contractors you've found here.


Answered 7 years ago by HughV


A good contractor also will probably be able to suggest ways to save money on certain items. Don't go into the process thinking that contractors are determined to use every penny of your budget and leave you with a half-finished project. That's not in the long-term best interests of a contractor any more than it is for you! Even at this stage, before you've done a single thing, it's better not be shopping for a Rolls-Royce if all you can afford is a perfectly acceptable, standard American car.

Answered 7 years ago by Oleron


Yes within reason is okay to disclose with the realization virtually all budgets are underestimated. Did you use an architect to design your changes? If not your budget may be a pipe dream.
Jim Casper 40 years doing Home Improvement Contracting
ps for ideas on roofing,gutters,& gutter covers see my blogs


Answered 7 years ago by jccasper


no you dont tell them your budget. why get an estimate if you are going to tell them the budget.

get your 3 estimates.

see how closely the figures match.

throw away the low bid and negotiate between the other 2.

i have seen it that a project costing $250,000, had a low bid of $180,000

the job had already been awarded for the $250,000 but they got other prices just to compare apples to apples and they got this ridiclous bid $70,000 below the project cost.

so if they had been stupid enough to show the low guy their budget, well who's laughing now.

don't reinvent the wheel.

sometimes homeowners out think themselves with all this social media jargon. it's been done this way for ever and still works very well.

Answered 7 years ago by pats fan


Ensure your budget numbers are accurate so that you are able to correctly evaluate contractor proposals that may be based on different labor rates, material costs or government fees. Base your budget on credible sources such as an architect or comparable projects in the neighborhood. Always provide a range for the budget - perhaps a spread of 25% from high to low - so that options can be provided by the contractor in terms of different material grades or finish levels.

Providing a budget target helps save everyone a lot of time and energy responding to your RFP. Some contractors work at the high end of the business, and others work at the low end. Being upfront with everyone at the start of the project will help you obtain a solution that fits your budget as fast as possible. As stated by others, get three bids. If your bid package is highly detailed, the bids should be close to each other - probably within 10 to 15%.

Find the contractor that fits your personality and communication first - than select on price second. Best wishes for success!

Answered 7 years ago by Second Century Homes


It depends upon the project you are looking to complete. A project that has different design considerations and multipule options (fixtures, manuf., etc) then YES be upfront with your contractor. If on the other hand your project is very straight forward (ie: cutting down a tree or cleaning out gutters) then get 3 estimates and choose.

Many years ago there were contractors that were not honost with consumers and thus over the years all consumers assume that ALL contractors are out to just take their money. Don't stereotype all contractors as such, must contractor are fair, honost and want to help and serve you the consumer. The best customer to anyone in business is a happy customer and a customer that will refer business with out hestitation. Before you call a contractor and ask for them to consult with you and provide a written estimate for your project do your homework first. Ask friends who they may have used, call or email the Better Business Bureau, read reviews on Angie's List. Then only call the contractors that you have the best feeling about. If you take this approach most times you will weed out those contractors that are only concerned about the here and now and not a long term satisifed and happy customer.

This is how I operate my business and every year I am amazed at the number of our customers that thank us for being fair, honost and truly working with them to achive the best product for a fair price. For me this only makes sense, treat others as you would like to be treated.

Answered 7 years ago by jbruce


Great question. Without any reference to a budget amount you are leaving the contractor too many unknowns to expect a credible quote. I suggest providing a broad range initially for your budget so as to guide the contractor in the initial estimate. If he can work within this range, and you like his approach, then begin a collaboration on choosing various major elements to the project; such as, appliances, cabinets, tile, flooring etc. Then ask for an undated estimate.

When all the major design and build elements are defined and agreed on, ask for a final estimate or quote. It is worth taking time for this process so that you are happy with the remodeling during construction and with the long term value and asthetics of the final product.
Norton West
Norton West and Co


Answered 7 years ago by Norton West


This can be a tricky question to answer, Let us assume you are screening and researching the contractors before they come into your home.

I think it is safe to give them your expectations up front , You can give them an ideal of what your wanting to spend minus 20% of your total expenditure. Let them tell you the cost.

Good Luck,


Answered 7 years ago by Singingsweep


I know I'm late in the conversation but, if you have a contractor you trust the answer is absolutely. As a bathroom remodeler I can tell you if we have a budget we can give you much better options with the space. Price should never drive your choice on selecting a contractor totally. I suggest telling all the contractors bidding your budget and tell them to give you the best options on ideas you suggest within that budget. You will be surprised how much easier the process will be. Also make sure you do your homework on the company you select. Get 8-10 references and call them don't just trust that they are legit. If they can't provide 10 move on because they don't have enough experience more then likely in that area.

Good Luck!


Answered 7 years ago by hockeycoachtim


Only if when you buy a new car you tell the sales guy how much you can spend before you even know the msrp!!! NEVER disclose your batna. Decide what you are willing to tell him you'll spend and allow yourself a big cushion for cost overruns. Because it will cost more than you think. It Always does...

Answered 7 years ago by L5S1


There is no clear answer on that since it depends in part on what you know how to do. First and foremost in any project is to decide you upper limit. If you do not know that number there is little point to worrying about costs. Second, every project no matter how small or how large always costs more than anticipated. For your own sake, take 20% off the top and set it aside. I run construction for commercial and industrial customers and this money, the contingency, is your insurance. Odds are you will tap it, but never plan on using it for your basic budget. That way when something goes wrong, you have resources to manage.

When you plan a remodeling project, the first thing you need to do is price everything you want to buy and assemble the list. If it is special order or you are totally committed to those items, feel free to buy. If you have time, you should delay. Next, make sure you have a detailed list of what you want done and what you understand is needed. Include the list of things you would buy. Then go out to 3 reputable contractors for pricing. If part of the project is an extra, ask them to separate that out as a separate price. Drop the bid, high or low , that is most out of whack, then call and talk to the others. If the numbers are within 80% of your budget, tell them what you want to spend and ask if there have any recommendations. Sometimes they will tell you then can buy the toilet or tile much cheaper even with the markup. Or they may tell you you have to buy 10% extra of a intem like tile to cover waste. A good contractor may also ask if you have a few wish list item you want but did not include due to budget. They might not be able to install everything under your budget, but they can make it cheaper for adding things down the line. An example would be to put extra beams in a wall for hanging future cabinets.

No matter what you do though, NEVER change anything based on talking. Always ask for changes in writing. Most problems are the result of mis-communications and they can be expensive. Putting everything in writing keeps everyone on the same page so there is no finger pointing. And always expect something to go wrong because something will. When it does, don't get excited, just resolve it. And take pictures along the way.

Answered 7 years ago by Dutchman61


I wouldn't. Primarily, you are getting estimates for their LABOR, as most of the materials simply cost what they cost - it is helpful that you get their view of how they value their time and skills - without knowing how much you ultimately wish to spend. Always ask them to break down their estimate separately for labor and materials.

Please consider breaking this down into several smaller projects. This is much better and gives you the chance to try out a contractor with something smaller, and he knows that he will ONLY get a shot at the rest of it if he takes good care of you!

All too often contractors start out strong and then quickly enough show their true colors and start cutting corners and getting lazy, once they start thinking that you like them and that they are "doing you a favor" - instead of keeping it professional, and doing a good job.

The materials are what they are, for all the basic stuff - lumber, drywall, compound, screws, wire, etc, etc. I've had mere carpenters value their time at incredibly different rates for rough carpentry, from $200 - 500 a day. And way too many guys are like, "oh we can do it all". That is nearly always BS. No one can do it all or knows it all. There is just too much to know. Good drywall guys are SPECIALISTS. Same goes for Tile guys. There's a big difference between guys who are good for rough carpentry and finish work. Few of them are good at both.

Granted, depending on what you choose for the finish stuff - cabinets, tile, flooring, countertops, trim, moulding, sinks, etc - can VASTLY effect the outcome. But that is your money and your choices.

Answered 6 years ago by Jefferson


8 to 10 references, my god it's guys like you that have the construction and remodeling industry ruined. Let me ask you what is your exact trade/job when it comes to a bathroom remodel.? Are you a carpenter/tiler/plumber??, what exactly do you perform.

please don't tell me you do it all, because I have never met anyone who could no matter how good they are.

so your references no matter how many, includes several trades.

my good man you live in la la land.

have you ever been taken advantage of by a homeowner?.

why is that a contractor no matter what the job is never asks a homeowner, can you afford this?. Can I see your bank statement to make sure you can afford this.

i think it is you who lacks experience my man.

8 to 10 references, my god.

Answered 6 years ago by pats fan


No. Heck no. Here's a good example. We very recently needed to find someone to install about 500 square feet of exotic wood flooring (we already have the materials). We contacted about 12-15 top-rated Angieslist contractors. Out of the few who did get back to us, we got 5 quotes, 2 of them were literally just over the phone. They "didn't feel it would be necessary to even see the space".

Here were the bids:

$4000 (sight unseen), $2800 (sight unseen), $2500, $1500, $1450

We didn't "share our budget for this". Why would we? We asked them to bid the job. That's it. All of them should be well-qualified and they are all highly rated. We were interested in how THEY value their time/resources - for an apples/apples job.

Do you still think that you should tell them about your budget? Your choice. From my standpoint it isn't their business. I'm asking them to bid on a project. Invariably I'll get some very high bids, medium bids and a few more reasonable ones - ALL from "highly rated contractors".

Source: Jeff - eastern PA

Answered 6 years ago by Jefferson


A well design, well defined project (scope of work) is the key to have good proposals that are pretty close to each other. In this case we don't have to share our budget.

To have a well design, well defined scope of work, we either have to spend lots of research time on it (for small project) or have to hire someone to do it for us.

If we don't have a clear defined scope, better share your budget, get the proposals and modify them as needed to gradually shape what you will get within the budget.

Good luck.

Answered 6 years ago by Guest_94299006


If you're still shopping around for contractors then it's not totally necessary to let them know what your strict budget is. You can simply ask for their opinion on the cost of your renovation and then compare it to other estimates. That being said, once you choose a contractor it's very important that you let them know your budget and needs so that they can meet them accordingly. Honesty and transparency with a contractor you trust is the best way to get your renovation completed within your budget and in the best way possible. If you have any other questions about dealing with your contractor be sure to check out the links I've listed below. Good luck!


Answered 6 years ago by lbf91


Yes, after he has provided you with his proposal. The key point to remember in quotes is what the job SHOULD COST. Give the contractor as much information and detail of what it is you're looking for, sort of a need, want, nice to have list. Once the contractor has an idea of what it is you're looking for, he should then have a pretty good idea of what level work he will have to perform - top of the line, high end, average or on a shoe-string budget. Too many people have a misconception of what it takes to perform a remodel, build an addition, etc. It is up to the contractor to itemize the the total cost, material, labor and allowances so that the homeowner has an idea of what the project SHOULD cost based upon your wish list.

Answered 5 years ago by Guest_98547253



Answered 5 years ago by Guest_9168976


Before you decide on hiring a contractor, you have to ask a series of questions. If you tell them your budget, and it's ridiculously low, but they still give you an estimate, you might just end up with a bad experience as the price was already completely unrealistic.


Answered 5 years ago by thomasj92


Being a remodeling specific contractor for many years, budget is one of the first questions we ask of prospective clients. We all have time constraints in our busy lives and from our perspective if a client is thinking of spending 10,000 on a job that may cost 2-3 times that. We try to educate them why and what might be some options for them to consider. Options may be to make cosmetic improvements in lieu of a total overhaul. We are professionals at what we do and strive to provide for our customers in many ways including managing their expectations. Sometimes that means bringing reality to their dreams. For potential clients that treat us like we can't be trusted we begin to sense that is more like how we should feel toward them. Look for highly respected contractors that have a great track record for successful projects similar to yours and establish an open relationship early on. You will both be better off in the long run.


Jon Brewer

J Brewer & Assoc., Inc

Chattanooga, Tn

Answered 5 years ago by Guest_9437005


Your project as specified above needs much more information to properly quote. If no more information or clarity is asked by or given to you then you might get three quotes say, from 45K, 65K and 85K.

You might think it is crazy but ALL THREE quotes might exactly be very fair;

Without more information the quotes might be based on Contractors perspective the way they sized up you and your home. The car you drive, your current interior, your profession, your clothing, jewelry, area you live... etc. are all visuals that paint a particular lifestile. And lifestile has levels of quality, detail in product and workmanship. Don't get me wrong... this doesn't mean we simply charge more for the same work, we don't; The work changed in many ways in level of care, complications, special orders etc... if you go up from basics.

All three quotes can be put together with integrity and value but if your not on the same page on the scope of the project you won't win.

As a contractor we do budget, mainstream and very high-end work, so three levels of life if you will. Choice of product, supplier, resale of home, timing, custom work, other trades, degree of detail expected are all things I discuss with my clients. Oftentimes I ask for sources of their inspiration (magazine, pics from web etc...) and ask for visuals.

I have been wrong or misguided and quoted 'high-end' whereas my client wanted 'budget' or 'mainstream' level work done and so I did not get the project. Also the other way around that I quoted too low and throughout the process my client started buying all these expensive materials that steered me in a different direction and it was time for a conversation of clarity.

Some clients see a project completed elsewhere that inspires them to do the same but have no idea what the costs are. Not providing clarity will likely cause some friction during the project.

Example: Quoted for a floating laminate floor over tile as this was specified as such and clarified by discussing types of flooring and costs. My client was going to buy the flooring and have it ready on the start date.

Upon our arrival we see some skids of hardwood solid oak flooring instead of laminate. A totally different job at cost, not even near what we quoted but she liked it better and thought what difference could make?. It was still completed but this client was not happy (because of the added costs) and a waste of my time because it was reflected on me.

Once clarity is established on a project with a few visits to a client I often do ask their for budget and find 90% of clients have no problem with that since a level of trust has been established. It also helps that we only work on client referrals and do not advertise. My client must be happy otherwise it has been a waste of our time. Often times there are contingencies during a project that need to be addressed.

In the odd case we do go over budget but it has always been because of contingencies. In the end the client ends up with a finished project they can include to a re-evaluation of their property and, just like the tv shows, always comes out on top with more equity.

Answered 4 years ago by twinbarrel


I don't see the relevance in asking what my "budget" is. I have no "it depends on what you want" scenarios (Obviously I want quality work). I already already KNOW what I want done. I have DETERMINED the scope of work (I am an engineer and a project manager). Just tell me what you charge to do specific, DETERMINED tasks A, B, and C. Why would a contractor make it seem impossible to answer such a simple question?

Answered 2 years ago by Robert3750

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