Home Repair Contractors: All About Estimates and Bids

Written by  //  January 13, 2014  //  Building Contractors  //  Comments Off on Home Repair Contractors: All About Estimates and Bids

Perhaps the most critical step in any home repair project is obtaining bids from contractors. A bid not only puts a price on the work you need to have done, but can tell you a lot about the contractors you are considering for the job. If you don’t know what to look for when assessing a bid or estimate, don’t worry. The tips below provide a thorough checklist to help homeowners determine the accuracy of bids for several types of common home improvement project.


Whether it is interior or exterior, there are things that any bid for painting should include. Think about the project in steps and the first step is preparation. Ask how the contractor will prepare the surface to be painted? Does it need to be scraped or sanded? What type of primer is required, if any? Is a power wash appropriate for the surface in question? How will the contractor protect your plants, landscaping, windows, floors, etc.?

Once you have evaluated the preparation step, you can move on to the painting itself. You’ll want to know what brand of paint will be used and whether the contractor will pick it up or if you will need to? Ask about how many coats will be applied and what type of finish (eggshell, matte, gloss, semi-gloss, etc.) will be used. Be sure to inquire about application techniques because some contractors will favor brushes and rollers while others will favor spraying. Which do you prefer? Does one mean more cost?

The final consideration is clean-up. There will be debris, leftover material, and other items to be removed. Ask about who keeps leftover paint and whether there will be any left for touch-ups? Be sure to get the paint brand, color, and finish so that you can fix damage in the future.


Landscaping can be very hard to assess because of the huge variety of plants and materials involved. Fortunately, there are a few things that you can look for that will tell you if a landscaper is reputable. The first of those things is planting depth. All plants should be planted below the surface of the ground. It is never acceptable to place plant in a shallow hole and then mound dirt around it. The dirt will eventually erode and leave the roots exposed to rot, insects, and animal damage. If you live in a cold area, the plant may die when winter comes if the roots are not placed well below the surface.

Beyond planting depth, ask about preparation and the equipment involved. How will the landscaper protect your lawn and existing plants? Do you have an irrigation or watering system to worry about damaging? What about laying out the project before digging?

You will also want to look into things like the soil that will be used as backfill, whether fertilizer is to be used, and how long the contractor guarantees the health of the plants and the quality of the installation. Be sure to ask about watering and don’t forget to ask about how the contractor will clean up.


When it comes to roofs, the most critical thing you need to assess is flashing. Flashing is the part of the roof that is placed anywhere that roofing materials (shingles, slate, steel, etc.) meet walls, siding, chimney, pipes, etc. Flashing failure is the number one cause of roof leaks, so you need to be diligent about assessing how it will be installed.

As a general rule of thumb, flashing should be applied in valleys (where two sections of roof connect) and anywhere else that regular materials cannot prevent leaks such as at the peak, around edges, and near anything that protrudes through the roof. A great way to assess how much new flashing should be installed is to look at the old. The new stuff should cover all the same places that the old does (unless the old flashing was inadequate and led to leaks).

A special type of flashing is the drip edge, which is installed at the ends of eves and protects the overhang of the roof from water damage. You want a full drip edge that extends the whole way around the roof. If you live in a cold climate, be sure that ice shield is applied over the drip edge and that it extends at least two feet past all exterior walls.


Plumbing is relatively straightforward to assess. You’ll want to get a quote for the work up front and make sure the contractor sticks to it. Ask about the material that will be used (copper, PEX, plastic, cast iron, etc.) and why that choice is being made. If it is an emergency fix, expect to pay more. It is always cheaper to schedule Fred handyman DC, for instance, than to call with an emergency after hours. Sometimes you cannot avoid an emergency call, so it’s a good idea to know who you will call in such an event.

Wrapping Up a Bid

As a final note, when all is said and done, be sure to get the bid in writing before any work commences. Every bid should not only contain prices for labor and material, but should also list your expectations as to what the contractor will do and in what time frame the work will be completed. Be sure you both sign the agreement so that you are protected if something goes wrong.

Alan Rosinski loves his work in home maintenance. He understands how routine maintenance can help a home last in great shape for years. He often blogs about his veteran experience in common repairs and managing maintenance.

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