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Question DetailsAsked on 3/24/2015

When is a contractor over charging you?

We are going through an extensive master bath and closet remodel. The majority of the work is in the bathroom, it has been gutted and we've moved a wall (and will use existing closet pieces, reorganized). The contractor has subbed out normal things such as plumbing and electrical, but when they have asked the contractor to make drywall cuts for access, he then charges us $250-$400 a piece, etc. I realize this is out of the scope, as in actual area of the bathroom, but it all feels related. Should we be charged additional for this? Lastly, they just charged us to support the sub that was putting in an exhaust fan too. It feels like these things should be part of the job?We're over a couple thousand in these costs.

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2 Answers

Voted Best Answer

Assuming below that all this work is part of the same remodel job he is contracted to do for you, AND that the subs are working for him, not for you directly:

This is NOT normal. If the General Contractor (who you call "the contractor") bid the job for a certain amount, then he is responsible for seeing that the work is coordinated, and that the subs perform to their scope - which would normally include THEM cutting their own access points, in coordination with the GC on WHERE they are cutting and that they do it before finish surfaces are done by the GC or other subs. The GC would normally handle the access point repair and refinishing as part of the overall project finishing work.

However - if you are working on a time and materials contract, then he might be milking it - letting the subs lean on him for this sort of thing, in exchange for them maybe having bid lower to get the initial estimate lower, or who knows what. Some GC's see part of their role as helping their subs get the most $ out of the job, so they give him low bids in the future so he can be the low bidder and get the jobs - so he tries to pass things like this through to the owner.

You should have balked the first time he tried this - it would have stopped pronto, and he would have told the subs to stop leaning on him for it - or if he wants to do the access cuts to control where they are cutting and what they are potentially damaging, then he should either be deducting his costs from THEIR bills to him if he considers that part of their scope - or if he thinks it is part of his scope, then he should have made allowance for it in HIS bid - either way, should NOT be considered an additional or change order item, because cutting (and repairing) access holes is a normal part of the scope of work for that type of job.

I would suggest a sit-down, and explain you feel this is part of the basic scope of work for the job, and he needs to either

1) knock it off from here on, or

2) retract the extra charges or backcharge the subs for the work and refund the money to you. Doing that will probably ruin your relationship with him for the rest of the job, of course - and he could reasonably argue that you approved the prior ones and paid for them so that is money under the bridge, and he might well win in court on that. However, if you draw the line now, having paid for it in the past (unless you specifically agreed that access point cutting was an extra outside the scope of work) does NOT mean it is necessarily automatically approved for the rest of the job. Your best solution is probably to stop at the status quo - not get money back, but pay for no additional work that is not approved IN ADVANCE in a change order.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


Thanks LCD. I've been looking through the contract and I think the exhaust fan should definitely be part of the job, but I'm worried they will say that needing to cut additional drywall holes is due to "unknown or concealed site conditions" per their contract. We needed to use bigger pipes in a few areas but then again, they're also charging us to remove part of the sub floor to get access to the plumbing (that doesn't sound right).

Here's what the contract says:


The contract is based solely on the observations Contractor was able to make with the site and structure in its current condition at the time this Project was bid. Should Contractor encounter unknown or concealed conditions (including, but not limited to dry rot infestation, concealed wires, and concealed physical conditions below the surface of the ground) before or during the performance of the Work that are at variance with the conditions indicated by the Owner or in the Contract documents, or differ matirally from those generally inherent in the type of work being provided in this contract, Contractor is entiteled to an adjustment of the Contract Price and Time for Performance and the Contractor shall charge $55 per man hour, plus the cost of materials x 1.15, for the performance of additional work, caused by unknown or concealed site conditions by Change Order within 10 days after observance. Contractor shall also not be responsible for the repair of concealed underground utilities not located on prints or phsycally staked out by Owner which are damaged during construction. Owner acknowledges that existing conditions upon the premises, especially electrical and plumbing, may violate applicable building codes and regulations. Owner agrees to compensate Contractor for any addiitonal work perfromed by Contractor as a result of such conditions on a Tim and Materials basis as specificed above ($65 per man hour plus the cost of materials x 1.20).


Answered 4 years ago by Guest_9924971


I see nothing about what you have said (cutting access to utilities) that would be unexpected - his scope of work, one a complete bathroom remodel, would include accessing pipes and maybe wiring to relocate them to the new appliance configurations - and putting in code- legal bathroom fan.

IF the existing piping was undersized in the walls or floors, then enlarging that might justify a change order - but only to the extent it was not being rerouted or replaced in the normal course of the work.

From what you have said, I don't see anything out-of-scope.

If you have an architect on the job, you might ask him about this and show him the contract phrasing to see what he says - and if he agrees with us (as I am sure he would) you could ask him to talk to the contractor about "standard practice" and "normal job conditions" - because I do think the contractor is milking you, possibly because he underbid the job so is trying to recover some of his losses.

Other alternatives would be flat refusal to pay for the access costs as an extra - and then going after his bond if he stops work.

You could also, if a Premium member on Angies List, use their dispute resolution process.

You could also have an attorney prepare a letter to the contractor about cutting access to work on utilities being a normal part of the job (assuming these have all been in the bathroom/closet area, not elsewhere in the house) and that the extra charges are considered unjustified and are not accepted. Discuss with him the issue of the ones you have already paid for - whether that constituted "acceptance" of them or if you can demand those moneys be credited to the overall job contract payments and that upon review of the contract terms you are revoking your payment for them as a change order. This presumes you did not actuyally sign a change order for them - which would pretty much lock them in iron as they are, though maybe or maybe not for future such issues - attorney can advise you on that.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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