An Education in Estimation

What have your parents and grandparents always told you? Always get three quotes for anything and everything you can.  It’s sound advice for a standard vehicle, new computer, or even a roof replacement. However, it’s not the same for more complicated endeavors like remodeling a home. A project with more than one or two variables can have extremely different outcomes that will likely result in bids that are all over the map.

2020 saw an upward trend in “Design+Build” companies vs utilizing a designer and then finding an outside contractor to take on the actual construction and building of the design. Design+Build companies are designers/architects and builders all under one roof, which has many benefits.  At RU for example, we are both contractor and designer. The Design+Build business structure allows the contractor to be involved with the designer and the homeowner at the beginning of the process, rather than the end. We will often discuss a ballpark budget goal with the client at this point to make sure that the project is a good fit for both of us, rather than providing a bid. Unlike a historical bid, these ballpark numbers are meant to guide the design process until plans and scope are approved, at which point we can develop a sound quote. 

What does it take to get an accurate estimate?

An accurate estimate (or bid) involves detailed input and time that usually requires a fee for the design work and estimate. While preparing an estimate, we take measurements and note details such as electrical, HVAC, and plumbing. We will solicit current pricing for materials and review the project with specialty trades to obtain quotes for their portion of the work. An accurate estimate takes tens of hours or more and requires a deep level of knowledge. Although getting multiple estimates is not always a terrible idea, using pricing as the primary determining factor for who you hire is! Although budget will be a consideration for any renovation, the determining factors in choosing a contractor should also include things like communication, experience, temperament, competency, and trust.

How to spot a shady contractor

There are many good contractors in the Design +Build world (take Renovations Unlimited, for example!). Unfortunately, there are shady contractors out there as well. Who do you trust? Who is telling the truth, and how do you spot one before it’s too late? A common practice of a shady contractor is to provide a low initial estimate, to hold a client “hostage” once the project is underway. They will then overwhelm the homeowner with “necessary” change orders that keep inflating the original proposal price. Keep in mind, these contractors do not review possible issues before the contract is signed and then surprise the homeowner with “unforeseen problems”.

Don’t get us wrong, there are always unexpected surprises in this industry. But, lowball bids from contractors who haven’t put the time necessary into creating a proper scope are a recipe for disaster and should set off alarm bells. To make a long story short, simply receiving three bids and comparing the ballpark budgets between firms is not productive. However, interviewing three contractors and choosing the one you trust and feel comfortable with, backed up with a well-documented contract and detailed scope of work is an investment worth making!.

At Renovations Unlimited, we know that choosing the right contractor for your renovation can be stressful. If you’re thinking about starting a home renovation, we’d love to talk to you about your South-Eastern Michigan area project, hear your ideas, and help you with the process!


Renovations Unlimited is a full service, Michigan Company specializing in Home Remodeling. Whether designing your brand new home or fixing up your existing home, we have built a reputation on achieving highly respected clients that give excellent referrals for our work

Edward Buczkowski

General Contractor


Serving South Eastern Michigan

Edward Buczkowski in Brighton, MI on Houzz
Edward Buczkowski in Brighton, MI on Houzz

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