Almost any contractor is willing to come out, take a look at the job, and give you a bid. The only question is: How accurate will that bid be?
At an early stage of the game, chances are that the contractor will make a high bid, figuring that you do not really know what you want and will change your requirements over time. The contractor has to build in protection in case you end up wanting something substan¬tially different from what you are now asking for. Often a contrac¬tor’s bid will include a variety of options. Here’s a typical ballpark bid for an upgraded kitchen:
Complete Kitchen Cabinets, Installed
All new cabinets, in stained wood $11,400
All new cabinets in plastic white $7,300
All new cabinets with glass doors $12,200
Existing cabinets with new doors and veneer $6,100
Existing cabinets sanded and restained $4,200
Since you don’t know what you want, the contractor is offering you a variety of options to choose from. Of course, each option is still a guesstimate, probably high, of what it will really cost. You have to sit down and pick out the specific cabinets, the stain you want, the configuration, whether you want to buy new or refinish old, and so on. Obviously, the choices you make will dramatically influence the cost. Nevertheless, the contractor’s initial bids here can help you see relative costs and what it will take to do the job with different types of materials.
How do you find contractors to give you guesstimates? Ask friends who are pleased with the work they had done. Ask real estate agents. Look for cabinet shops, tilers, kitchen specialists, and so on in the phone book.
Call several. Ask them to come by for an evaluation. Most con¬tractors will do this for free. Typically they will stop by and spend around an hour with you. They’ll give you options, possibly with a quick sketch of what they plan to do, and supply a ballpark estimate of costs.
Also check out contractors who specialize in remodeling jobs. They’ll come out and look at your overall job, suggest options, per¬haps come up with a brief plan, and give you a variety of costs depending on the options you choose.
To get an accurate bid from a contractor, you need to have a set of plans, a list of specs (an indication of the materials you want), and a timetable for completion. If you don’t have all that, you’re just getting a ballpark figure.