Home repair estimates are never easy. You might think common repairs are easy to estimate but our homes are built one at a time, making them unique. The person estimating repairs often doesn't have access to all the information needed to know how long a job will take, so they rely on the average of similar jobs they've done in the past. When a home professional, whether a plumber, handyman or builder gives a homeowner an estimate, it really is an estimate … not a fixed price!
For example, one of my handyman jobs where we remodeled a bathroom in Portsmouth, NH ended with an unhappy customer, who'd previously been happy with our work. When I say the poor survey response, it was time to call the client and here's what I learned.
- Finished bathroom was great and met all expectations.
- Communication during the job was excellent.
- Problem was due to a budget overrun … because we found the bathtub wall and exterior window were rotted and needed to be replaced, but weren't part of the estimate!
The homeowner forgot about a leak discovered several years earlier, and never repaired. There was lots of hidden damage adding a large home repair project, to the bathroom remodel. We replaced a window and insulation, added structural support and new drywall, causing the project to exceed our estimate.
With small home repair jobs like this, it's hard to absorb extra time when a problem is discovered after the repair estimate is given to the customer. That's why home builders, remodelers and handyman businesses use change orders to outline the cost of new features or home repairs, added to the scope of a job already underway.
Problems Affecting Home Repair Estimates
For fun I'll use a small home repair at my house. My husband can handle most small projects. We had a leak in the master bedroom shower, found when a stain appeared on the ceiling over the dining room table. We removed enough drywall to figure out the water was coming from the shower (black streaks on the floor joists) and called our plumber.
Once the leak was repaired, my husband thought it's just a small opening, so he picked up drywall to close up the hole. Oops, drywall comes in lots of different sizes (thicknesses) from 1/4 inch to 5/8 inches (see Home Depot's Drywall Buying Guide) and after he bought the wrong drywall, decided to let my old handyman company finish this home repair.
Home Repair Estimates: What's Included
When homeowners think about painting a room, or other home repair projects, they focus on the time it takes to paint, replace a toilet or whatever the steps are to complete the work. The reality is much of the time spent on home repair projects happens before and after the actual “painting”.
So let's explore the steps involved in most home projects, whether a home repair or you're updating some feature in your home. We'll explore in another article, why it's so difficult to estimate each step.
- Research and pick the product or materials you want to use.
- Buy products and materials you need for each home repair, and homeowners may need to buy a new tool.
- Plan project schedule so you have enough time for setup and cleanup each day, and know when your home repair or home update will be done.
- Prepare the work area to protect your furnishings. This might include painters tape, plastic sheeting to protect furnishings or more extensive prep when lead paint is involved (read about Lead Safe Rules from the EPA).
- Setup tools and materials to insure safety for workers, and to let them work efficiently.
- Get to work …
- Clean up tools like paint brushes and work site, putting things away.
Home Repair Estimates: Homeowner or Handyman?
Hopefully you now see why small home repair projects take longer than you think. Three (3) small repairs might require setup and cleanup in 3 different areas of the house, and use different tools and materials. That's why I always recommend homeowners pick a few home repair skills to learn, along with the tools to complete the work efficiently.
Projects that require skills and tools you'll only need once in a lifetime, are best left to home professionals unless … home repair is a hobby for you? If you want to save money on home repair projects, ask your pro if you can buy the materials and handle setup and cleanup? They'll often say yes, as searching multiple stores for matching roofing shingles or screen fabric takes more time than anyone realizes.