Dear PoPville – Using a Contractor on a on a day by day basis?

Photo by PoPville flickr user ekelly80

“Dear PoPville,

I have a 15 year old row house that was poorly constructed. My first floor is sagging very badly and in danger of falling in. I’ve had an inspector come in and give me suggestions on what needs to be done to repair it.

On that note, I went on a site that’s very reputable and contacted a contractor to come in to take a look at it. After much investigating, photo taking and discussions, he suggested a price and said that it would take 5-8 days of jacking up the floor, replacing the joist hangers, nails, replacing the shoddy, weak cross beams with stronger grade beams, re-routing some of the plumbing that’s in the ceiling, etc. My basement is unfinished so you can see the sag, nails coming loose from the walls, etc. and it’s very easy to access the joists and make the repairs.

My question is this – he wants to do the job on a day to day basis, materials not included. While I would like to do the job at a set price. Does anyone in PoPville know if it’s a good idea to pay for a job like this on a per day basis? Or is it better to pay per the job? Finally, does anyone know of a good framing contractor who can repair a badly sagging floor.”

30 Comment

  • Seems fishy. I’d get at least two others to take a look and give you a real quote.

  • I would get at least a couple more estimates. This sounds weird. I don’t see why a contractor wouldn’t want to give you a set estimate for time, materials, and labor.

  • Call these guys before you do anything day-by-day:

    Their up-front pricing isn’t cheap, but you actually wind up paying what they say you’re going to pay, and they do great work.

  • its a terrible idea. We did hourly rate with one and after 4 weeks the project was 25% finished but we had exceeded the original bid. Get a set price with payments split at 25-33% completion rates.

  • I have two guys that I pay by the day. The arrangement has worked very well for me because it gives me freedom to keep adding projects to their lists (and with an old house, the projects keep coming) without having to negotiate further. Sure, get a couple of quotes from other people, but don’t rule this guy out – a daily rate might be worth your while financially.

    • Do you recommend them and, if so, can you share their contact? I have a whole bunch of lil things and a “handyman” type situation like this sounds PERFECT.

    • But this is a specific job, not a bunch of different projects. If they can’t anticipate the costs and amount of work throughout the project I would steer clear.

      Imagine them having your floor jacked up and suddenly changing the scope of the job? Or material costs? And then leaving if you can’t satisfy them?

  • Sounds like a recipe for them disappearing and not finishing your job

  • Don’t do it. I did a reno project where the guys were hourly and it was 40 percent over budget and took three times as long.

    Is this leon home improvement??

  • Seems like a really bad idea, just in principle. Talk to this guy more and check him out with references, Angieslist, etc.. It may be the case that his concern is that he won’t know how much work he needs to do until he jacks up the floor, etc., and he doesn’t want to tell you a price that ends up losing him money. If that’s the case, just contract a flat fee for him to jack up the floor, then talk about another contract to complete the rest of the work when he can estimate the time.

    But it almost certainly also is the case that someone getting paid by the day or hour has no incentive to work quickly and efficiently. He’ll take his time, and you’ll have to pay him for the pleasure. Plus, he’ll have high incentives to walk away if a better job comes along, and you can be in the lurch — a job 75% done and a guy telling you to pay him for the work he did. Contractors notoriously underestimate the amount of time jobs will take, anyway.

  • my suggestion would be that you could do day by day, but you will have to play a very active role in project management. Get him to lay out a plan, with as many details as possible, for what would need to be done. Talk about time lines for each step of the way. That way, you can track to the plan. Getting an estimate for the whole job is good, but if they find something that was unanticipated, you are not sure that you will not blow your budget even if it was priced for the job.

    Other quotes, however, seem critical. You need to have a metric to see if what the guy is telling you is reasonable. Unless you know a lot about how to do that sort of work (which you might) it seems very hard to be able to judge what one person tells you.

  • We once paid movers by the hour and got burned. I would say don’t do it. Get a fixed price with payments made in installments based on % completed, as mentioned above.

  • Definitely get at least 2 more estimates, and perhaps ask those contractors what they think about the other contractor’s pricing approach. Any contractor who has experience should be able to give a pretty accurate estimation of the time and cost of materials the job will take. Also, it would be helpful to see if there are reviews on your contractor that state how accurate the estimate of time/cost was, among other things.

  • Yes – get other estimates! The opinion of what needs to be done can also vary a lot. I had tile floors put in recently (two small areas) and got estimates from $700.00 to $1375.00! The guy at the tile store said it should be $6-800.00. And never use Renaissance Handyman – Mike Jones.

    • Agree on the variance in estimates…the three estimates we got for our basement were $40K, $52K, and $63K. Allow for wiggle room in the estimate, but a contractor who knows what they’re doing should be able to give you a fairly accurate picture of what your project will cost.

      • Comparing pricing only is meaningless. You need to look at the scope of work. One contractor might not be factoring in the cost of subflooring, etc. while the other is just going to lay the finish work on regardless of what they find underneath.

  • Call Jose. He can do anything. 301-281-1166.

  • I would run as fast as possible away from this guy

  • Also a good rule of thumb, and how a lot of project bids are selected, is to NEVER use the lowest price. Many times the lowest and highest bids get tossed out. Also, 3 estimates is usually a good amount. Anymore than that and you’re just wasting people’s time.

  • The only contractor I trust for hourly is eric urban at urban carpentry. No cheap but usually hits his estimate. Run from charles romero & bold construction. Do not go with lowest bid & most importantly talk to references with completed projects.

  • Would not recommend it. He either wants to do the job day-to-day because he isn’t sure the extent of the work, or he wants to be able to bail the job if something unexpected happens and he doesn’t know how to fix it.

    You should contact a structural engineer to determine what needs to be done to fix the sagging floor, and what new beams/joists should be installed in their place.

    Sometimes jacking up an existing sagging floor needs to be done slowly, over the course of several days, in order to prevent damage to finishes and structural members.

    Let me know if you need the number of an experience DC engineer.

    You will want to get a quote for the entirety of the project.

    Once you have a plan for your contractor to bid on, this is simple. Remember, the cheapest solution is almost never the best solution (especially with construction). Cost-cutting is likely what caused the problem you are now faced with.

  • Any competent contractor should be able to give you a itemized estimate for a complex job. Often the devil is in these types of details (one contractor estimates low grade materials, while another high end). It’s not rocket science to figure this stuff out and most of their data is published (work rates, materials, etc.).

    Any contractor who can’t give you an estimate has probably not been a contractor for long. Proper estimating is what keeps good contractors in business long term. Bad contractors come and go because they get in over their heads, quote too low and the quality of the work suffers because they want to maintain their profit.

    Also, good contractors don’t take small jobs without healthy profit margins. They don’t have to.

  • The American Institute of Architects has standard Owner-Contractor agreements available that are very well-written to protect the client. You don’t need to have an architect to be able to use the agreement as it is between you and the contractor. If the contractor flatly refuses to use standard AIA contracts, don’t waste another minute on him. Also be careful of exceptions they take from the standard agreement.

  • As long as you hold the 1st 7 days of work, a daily plan as to what will be accomplished that day, and counter balance the cost. How many people will be working with him. Get references. It sounds like a great offer but it does have risks for disspointment. Get other estimates and re nogotiate down by 15% with the daily guy, as it is the same way the others will treat you anyways or any other. Keep in mind most small to medium size contractors have no real JOBS right now, so they are trying do a multiple of small/medium size jobs at once, so very unlikely they will dedicate all their time to your needs.

    Good luck.

  • Thanks so much everyone. I really, really appreciate all of your suggestions. I’ve already contacted one of the references and hope to meet with them soon.

    Thanks again. You helped so much.


  • Slightly off topic, but PoP, why are you looking in my bedroom window?! Seriously!

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