Project quotes: understanding the breakdown of renovation costs

Orange wooden kitchen with white splashback and pink accents

Avoid getting caught off guard with a big bill at the end of your project by making sure you know what’s included in a tradesperson’s costs – here’s what to look out for when pricing up.

Getting and understanding quotes from tradespeople can be one of the most important aspects of planning a project. They can determine whether you’ll be able to get it off the ground by providing you with a clear indication of how much it will cost and how extensive the work is.

Once you have a project in mind and have researched the necessary trades for the job, it’s wise to start reaching out for quotes. 

But knowing what you need to look out for can be complicated. So, we’ve gathered some practical tips you can follow to ensure you choose the right tradespeople for the task at hand.

Understanding project quotes

“Firstly, getting too many quotes can be counterproductive, too – calling in three is usually the best,” says Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Understanding quotes is essential to a successful kitchen project, such as this Olive and Barr blue Shaker-style kitchen
Shaker kitchens from Olive & Barr start from £10,000.

“Make sure you are aware of the difference between an estimate and a quote. An estimate is a uniformed guess of the total cost. A quote will include a breakdown of the costs and may take a bit longer to produce. But don’t let this put you off – a good builder is a busy builder.”

Much of a quote relies on how much information you can provide – so the more detailed you can be, the more accurate the tradesperson can be. This will also make understanding project quotes you receive easier.

“For larger projects, such as an extension, I always recommend issuing a detailed design package to contractors which includes drawings as well as a written specification, and your architect will be able to assist with this,” advises Katy Esdon, director at Esdon Architecture. “Providing full tender packages ensures that contractors are able to price fairly and cover all aspects of what is required, ensuring that nothing is missed from the price.”

Take a close look at what’s included

“When reviewing a quote for smaller projects, try to consider what is and is not included in the price,” continues Katy. “For example, if you are planning a bathroom renovation, has the contractor included the sanitaryware itself in their price? Or will you need to source and purchase this yourself? Will the tradespeople deal with bringing in any additional contractors – for example an electrician – as part of their price? Or will you need to make separate appointments?”

Don’t forget to factor in VAT, too. This is often excluded from initial quotes and instead added at the time of invoice.

Once you get offers in, it may be tempting to opt for the cheapest as that cuts down the time working on understanding quotes down. But that might not necessarily be the right choice. Keep your eye out for red flags before you commit.

“There are some warning signs when it comes to going through quotes,” says Thomas Goodman, property and construction expert at Myjobquote. “Ones that are unusually low are something to be aware of, but there are others to look out for,” he adds. “Lack of providing a detailed breakdown, no materials specified, not including the formal company name and registration number, not including an address or contact number, and not including VAT details.

“Also, if a tradesperson is not willing to put their offer in writing, it’s a bad sign.”

Featured image: Bespoke kitchen by Wood Works Brighton. Price on application.

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