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Question DetailsAsked on 2/10/2013

is it appropriate to ask details of labor costs on a bath reno? Demo, electrical, plumbing, etc?

I have a quote that has a material allowance breakdown, but the rest is just a bulk number. The quote does include the overall scope of the job, but I was hoping it would include the cost for demo and removal, plumbing, electrical and maybe even the cost to install the tile. what other things should I expect to see in a contract, or ask for?

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4 Answers

Voted Best Answer

Yes, you can ask for these items. Second Century Homes answered your question well - most contractors do not do a break down to prevent haggling on items that shouldn't be part of the discussion. People sometimes forget to allow the builder to make money. . . Builders also want the entire job, not the nickle and dime menu selected items - you may find the contractor says "Thanks, but no thanks" if you ask them to remove portions of the work.

The real question is why do you need this break down? If you are thinking you will do the demo yourself to save money, you can certainly tell your contractor this - but I would be willing to bet once you buy or rent the tools, haul the trash to the correct disposal dump (many trash dumps will not take home building materials anymore) and clean up / prep for the new work - you will have spent more and delayed the project more than just letting the professionals do it. Plus, do not be surprised when they still have to do additional demo work that you didn't know would be needed to complete the job, etc.

Also keep in mind that cutting portions of the work out of the job to do later is not a money saving move. You will find that the cost for the individual items go up when done seperately - the contractor has to come back multiple times, has to set the equipment back up, possibly pull seperate permits, schedule the work crew / subs, etc.

If you are asking for the break down to compare bids, then again, tell the contractors what numbers you want to see. If you are doing it because you feel the total price is too high, have a discussion with your contractor; they may be able to suggest ways to save costs, etc. Ultimately if you know the materail costs, and have the total figure, you can do a pretty good estimate of the percentage for labor and profit in the job.

It is your project and your contract, so you can ask for anything you want on the quote - just be clear on why you want the information so the contractor can work with you.

Good luck!

Answered 7 years ago by Kenny Johnson


The person who gave you the quote may have thought you wanted only a ballpark figure, so that's what you got. Now that you have it, yes, ASK for more details. You "should expect to see in a contract" whatever you would like to see. You're paying the bill.

In fact, you should get at least one more detailed quote, preferably two.

Answered 7 years ago by Oleron


The client quotes I provide do have a line by line cost for the tasks requested to perform the job - demo, framing, repairs, plumding, etc. - but do not have a breakdown for the exact cost of labor, overhead, materials, etc. for each line item. For example, my cost to install a new interior door might be $150, including the new door, installation labor, purchasing the door, transporting the door to the job site, removing the old door, mortising the hinges, and cleaning up. All of that is included in the one price.

What many contractors have found in providing line item pricing is that clients "cherry pick" the lowest cost items, and decline the rest of the quote, leaving no profit margin that comes from a "blended" (high margin and low margin) quote, That is usually the reason for having a single, bulk labor quote.

You should always ask for line by line pricing for major work tasks, but realize that a lot of "behind the scenes" effort occurs prior to the contractor actually arriving on site with the materials, labor, tools and building code information needed to successfully complete the work.

Reputable contractors will usually explain why the costs may be higher than you would expect if you did the work yourself. For examples, they may have special tools, or extensive training. Or compliance with government regulations may dictate a specific work protocol (e.g. RRP practices for removing lead paint, using safety harnesses during new roof construction, etc.) that increases client costs.

Answered 7 years ago by Second Century Homes


The most basic answer is you can ask for anything you want. However, realize that a ridiculously broke down estimate takes time to write out which may or may not still be free to you. Also, this is a red flag to the contractor you will be difficult to deal with in one way or another so he is going to automatically add a little to the cost to compensate for this. Years in the business has taught us the little flags that tell us to walk away from a job or charge enough to make it worth our while.

It's often more confusing to the average customer, often to the point of losing the job, when there are multiple numbers on the estimate. I've found most customers are very happy with detailed explanations of the work to be done and a price to do it all. One number, not multiple. I get a lot more questions or lose the job to confusion when I get too detailed. It's a happy median. It also creates confusion in the event there is a dispute and the off chance it goes to mediation or court. The more complicated, the more easily confusing it gets.

If you are going to ask the contractor to do more free work before possibly getting the job be prepared to explain why and possibly just ask him to sit with you and go over the estimate provided, explaining where the budget is going to be spent. That should answer most of your questions. Either way, the contract should be well detailed in terms of what will and will not be done for the money.

Should you choose to do some of the work yourself discuss this with your contractor ahead of time. Sometimes it does not save you money. I've had customers promise to do certain aspects of the project and then not finish them on time or not up to par. Those rare occassions where I've gone along with it has cost them penalties because I can't give my guys unpaid days off. If they are scheduled to work a job they need to be on it. Also, a couple of times the customers have botched the work and we've had to redo it to proceed with our parts. It rarely works out well.

Be candid and open with your contractor with your intentions and wants. As long as you have good communication the worst he can say is that he won't take the job and you'll need to find someone else to help you. You aren't necessarily paying for the work being done because rarely is it unique from one contractor to another. You are paying for a contractor you mesh well with and can communicate effectively with.

Todd Shell
Todd's Home Services
San Antonio, TX

Answered 7 years ago by Todd's Home Services


Todd nailed it. [Pardon the pun.] You're establishing a relationship with the contractor, so make sure you're both speaking the same language. If you're trying to nickel and dime the contractor, expect the same back atcha. Maybe the two of you were meant to be. Seriously, this is one of the many reasons why you should have at least 3 bids. It helps you focus on what you want and what you're willing to pay, and it creates a better picture of the expected end result, for both you and the contractor.

Honestly, if you've ever done your own demo and haul away, you know what a pain in the rear it is. It is definitely not a matter of just asking a bunch of burly guys to come by with sledgehammers and a pickup, and giving them a keg as payment for their services. As for the rest of it, a good contractor knows what percentage/overhead to charge so that the customer gets a job well done and the contractor stays in business. If you think that's unfair, you also believe in the tooth fairy and the easter bunny.

Answered 7 years ago by Oleron

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