When it comes to tile you can also spend a dollar a square foot or you can spend $15. I find I can get a very nice tile for between two and three dollars a square foot. Set your sights there.
Now that you already know the materials you want in your bathroom, sit down and write up a good scope of work to share with your contractor. This is very simple and anyone can do it. It will usually consist of demolition and haul away, installing new cement backer board at floor and surround, installing tile at floor and tub surround, installing tile grout, installing all new fixtures and connect plumbing, installing hardware and prep and paint walls. You can get more detailed but even this basic scope of work will help tremendously with your bidding process and eventual construction contract.
With your material list and your scope of work you’re ready to start calling contractors. To find contractors I suggest asking friends and neighbors. You can also go down to your local home improvement store. I recommend showing up at 6 a.m. when it opens.
There will usually be at least a half a dozen work trucks and vans in the parking lot. Write down the phone numbers on the vehicles. There are two benefits here. One, you know the contractor is actually active in the trades and you know they work in your area. Second, you know they start early. Ideally you want a contractor with between three and 15 employees. You want them to be established enough that they’re not going to disappear half way through your job but small enough that their overhead costs are not going to inflate their labor costs.
Finding a good and cost efficient contractor is no easy task. Most people recommend interviewing at least three. I recommend you call many more than that. When you tell them your plan at least half of them will decline to bid your job. I would also say that at least half of the remaining contractors will fail to pass your background and reference check. If you call at least 12 contractors you’ll probably find three to five from whom you can get full bids.
This is a lot of work but this is how you save big bucks. You don’t just need to find a good contractor. You need to find a good contractor at the right time. I find that if a contractor is in need of work at a given time then they’ll give you a good price. If not then their bid will likely be thicker. Be careful in relying on a contractor who was recommended by a neighbor. That contractor’s situation may have changed.
This is all a lot of work but this is another way of doing it yourself. Rather than strapping on a tool belt you’re taking on project management type of duties and it’s much easier than hauling out piles of old drywall and old tile and spending two days hunched over tile work.
In your discussion with the contractor, tell him that you only want him to provide labor. You may not feel comfortable buying all the miscellaneous items like drains, P-traps and water lines so you can negotiate to have the contractor provide those. But just consider the fact that if the contractor’s employees have to go to the hardware store then he’s still got to pay his employee’s $58 an hour to roam the aisles of a big box store. Work with the contractor to get a detailed materials list before going shopping.
I don’t know about you but it’s hard for me to make a run to the store in less than two hours. Every item you have on site and ready for the contractor is time and effort saved in labor cost. And, I’ll tell you, anytime your workers leave your project there’s no guarantee when they’ll come back. This drives construction managers crazy, too. This time is hard to track. If you choose to have the contractor buy the materials then make sure you have an agreed upon budget for these items in your contract.
Now when you approach the contractor about wanting to pay only $2,400 for his or her labor you might hear the phone click so try this approach instead: Tell your contractor that you’re willing to pay $2,400 in labor for five days of work. If the project exceeds five days, you’ll pay another $75 per day for up to four days.