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7 Steps to Save Money Next Time You Hire a Contractor

By Our Home from Scratch on Apr 10, 2014

Everybody loves saving money, right? I don’t think I’ve ever met someone that didn’t. If you are a reader of this blog, then you know that the best way to save money on any home project is to do it yourself. Now we all know that isn’t always possible. Sometimes we just have to bite the bullet and hire a contractor. That doesn’t mean you’re a lousy DIYer. It’s just a normal part of home ownership.

However, just because you have to hire a home improvement contractor, doesn’t mean you have to get raked over the coals and overpay. In fact, there are multiple steps you can take to ensure you save money every time you hire one.


1. Define Your Project Scope. No matter what home improvement project you have in store for your contractor, you need to put bookends on it. You need to tell the contractor exactly how much work you need to have done and what to NOT have done. Don’t let the contractor determine the scope, because they are almost never going to try and get LESS work out of you. More work equals more money. Keep in mind though that sometimes you don’t have much control over the scope, especially if more work IS required because of some unforeseen circumstance. For example, you hire an electrician to add a ceiling light and he finds older knob and tube wiring that needs to be replaced, which raises the cost of the work.

2. Ask for an Itemized List of the Job’s Steps with Prices. Don’t accept a quote for a multi-stepped job that doesn’t breakdown each major portion and the associated costs of each. For example, if you are having your bathroom remodeled, there should be a cost for the demo, the flooring, the wiring, the plumbing, the vanity, the drywall work, the trim work, etc. Each of those subtasks should have individual costs. This cost and process breakout is crucial for you to have a clear understanding of both the scope and the steps required.

3. Identify the Contractor’s Pain Points. Most specialized contractors will perform a variety of work that’s outside their area of specialization. Some electricians may occasionally HAVE to do some drywall work. Some plumbers may occasionally HAVE to do some wiring. It’s just part of their job. Doesn’t mean they like doing it nor does it mean they are any good at it. If that itemized list of tasks for your project contains items that your contractor isn’t very good at, you can potentially cross it off the list and save those costs.

4. Identify Steps you can DIY. One great way to save some costs is to do those pain points yourself. Most jobs require some amount of prep work like demo, painting, trim work or clean up afterwards. Those are great opportunities for saving some money.

5. Look for Steps you can Hire Out for Cheaper. Even if you’re not capable or interested in DIYing any of those pain points, you may be able to identify individual steps that can be done by other contractors for less money. So if you’re having that bathroom redone, maybe you can find a cheaper tile guy. Redoing your kitchen lighting? Maybe you can pick out your own fixtures and have a separate drywall contractor make any necessary patches.

6. Ask for a Discount. You won’t get a break on the price unless you ask for one. NEGOTIATE! Tell the contractor that you have another quote for a little less, but you’d rather use them. You’d be surprised how many will lower their price. You also may be able to swing a discount if you have future work coming up. You can use the current job as an audition for other offers. You also could promise to give a detailed, quality review on Angie’s List (affiliate link), if they’re interested.

7. Follow through on Your End. If you offered to do some of the work yourself, if you offered to hire out a portion of the job or if you promised future work or a good Angie’s List review, make sure you follow through. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot and spoil a good opportunity. Don’t burn your bridges with quality contractors.

Do you have any advice for saving money hiring contractors? If so, I’d love to read them in the comments.

As always, if you think this post is helpful and worth reading, please share it.

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