Keep in mind that most of this article focuses on larger scale projects that take a lot of time to draw and quote. I don’t take the same approach with smaller projects.
I’ve been hearing a lot of rumors lately about contractors, especially landscape contractors, charging for construction quotes. I find this really interesting because one of my biggest hurdles as a General Contractor is all of the time I spend estimating projects. Most where the client isn’t ready to start, or doesn’t know what their specific type of project is going to cost. Sometimes it ends up being a waste of everyone’s time, and that’s not good for the client or the contractor.
Now, there’s a difference between an estimate and a quote for those of you that didn’t know. The difference is this, an estimate is an educated guess. Nothing more, nothing less. And a quote is a hard price that a contractor will stand by. This quote is based on the drawings and specifications put forth by both the local building department and the customer. The customer ultimately controls what they spend, which is based on their specific project. But an actual quote can’t be generated without the proper documents and drawings. More on that later.
It sounds pretty unprofessional to tell a client that I’m going to “guess” how much their project is going to cost. But that’s basically what a contractor is doing when they estimate a project. Now it’s based on past projects, per square foot costs and the professional opinion of someone that eats, breaths and sleeps estimating. So I am usually within 10-15%. But there are times where the customer throws a bunch of really nice fit and finish our way after the estimate is generated, and the hard quote ends up being astronomically higher than the original estimate. This isn’t good for me, or the client.
So how do we avoid this? It’s a delicate dance, and it’s one most haven’t quite figured out yet. Hard quotes take time, and time is money to someone in any business. Here’s my thought process on the topic. If you come to me with a project in its infancy without any drawings or a design from an architect. In order to generate a hard quote, I need drawings. Bottom line. Not only for my estimating purposes but to provide a scope and scale for my subcontractors and suppliers. If I’m going to be working with the client on a floor plan layout and details while generating those drawings, I’m going to need to be reimbursed for that work. An architect or building designer would charge for those services, why shouldn’t I?
That said if a client comes to me with a full set of structural and architectural drawings from an Architect or Building Designer. It’s a whole lot easier to come up with a hard quote. Almost easier than if I were to do the drawings myself. I basically send them out to all of the trades or subcontractors. Do all of my carpentry take offs and labor estimates. Compile all of the information and prices required together, and can then provide a hard quote to build the project. I don’t usually charge for doing quptes like this, because it doesn’t involve all the time it takes to draft enough drawings to generate the price. It’s already been done by the Architect or Building Designer.
So there are two options for a prospective client. Go to an Architect or Building Designer and have plans drawn. Even preliminary drawings work well. Which will probably be the more expensive route. Or they can hire me to work with them on a preliminary layout, and enough drawings for the trades to price the project with a hard quote.
Either way, the drawings have to be done and paid for. It’s up to the client on whether they want to hire an Architect or myself to draft those drawings. I base the pricing for drafting projects on the specific project and my hourly rate. So the larger the scale of the project, the more it’s going to cost to generate those drawings. I also like to do a free meeting on site with the potential clients to go over the current situation, and what they want to do with that situation. That initial meeting is always free, but anything further than that without blueprints is going to have to be billed.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. You can reach us by phone, email, or below in the comments. Thanks for reading!