Home Repair Costs

By: Gary Foreman

Is there a web site where I would be able get a general idea of what different prices/costs for a project or job would be before I hire a handyman or contractor? For example, where could I find the cost to replace a kitchen/bath faucet? Or to run an electrical line from the circuit breaker to a new outlet? Or the cost to have someone install a toilet or kitchen cabinets?


Anthony has a lot of company. Repairing and remodeling our homes is huge business. According to a Harvard University study over $115 billion was spent on contracted and do-it-yourself repairs in 1997. Over any two year period most homes will experience a repair or remodel. No wonder home centers are so busy!

The web does provide resources for Anthony. One site that lists estimates for repairs and remodels is www.homeinspectorlocator.com. They have a comprehensive listing of jobs. Unfortunately, they can only provide a price range. They state that job costs will vary based on the size of home, materials used, where in the country the home is located and other factors. In other words, it's just a rough estimate. For instance they quote "$300 and up" for replacing a toilet. Adding a 120 volt electrical circuit costs "$150 - $250".

If Anthony is considering a lot of repairs he might want to pick up a copy of "HomeTech Remodeling and Renovation Cost Estimator" or "Interior (or Exterior) Home Improvement Costs". They break costs down by materials, labor and profit.

Part of the difficulty of estimating prices is that each home and job is different. Building codes and practices vary from place to place. And that will affect the way a job must be done and it's cost.

For instance, kitchen cabinets come in a variety of quality levels. And there are a lot of things in Anthony's kitchen that can affect the time it takes to install them. Naturally, that will change the cost of his job.

One way to get a feel for costs is to visit your local home center and total all the materials required to do a job. Then add an amount for labor and profit to the material cost.

Of course, the only way to know for sure what a specific job in your home will cost is to call one or more contractors to get an estimate.

Who should Anthony call? He can begin by asking friends for recommendations. The best referral comes from someone who has already used the contractor. Ask someone who works in a related business. Often they can point to a good contractor. Look for contractors that carry the proper licenses and insurance.

Try to get at least three estimates. Any less and you won't really be able to compare them properly.

Make sure that the contractors are bidding similar quality materials and workmanship. Sketch out what you want the finished job to look like. You may also want to have them give you options for the next better or worse level of materials so you have additional information when comparing quotes. Explain that you want them to get any necessary permits.

Get the estimates in writing. You don't want to depend on memory. Your goal is to put the bids side-by-side for comparison.

The low bid isn't always the best bid. It could be due to lower quality materials or a contractor who is desperate for work. Working with a contractor who has some slack time is fine. But a desperate contractor could go out of business with your job half done.

It doesn't hurt to ask a contractor if they can lower their price. Or you may want to ask if there's any part of the job that you could do that would reduce the cost. Sometimes a homeowner can do demolition or prep work and save a few dollars.

Competent contractors should be willing to provide a list of past customers who will recommend them. Take the time to call a couple of people on the list. Most people are willing to spend a few minutes discussing their experience.

Once the job is started make sure that you get the proper documentation from the contractor showing that they've paid for materials used on the job. You may be responsible to the supplier if the contractor doesn't pay. You don't want a lien on your home. Without the proper releases you could end up paying both the contractor and their supplier for the same materials.

It sounds like Anthony has a number of repairs and changes planned for his home. Hopefully they'll all go smoothly and within his budget.

Gary Foreman is a former purchasing manager who currently edit's The Dollar Stretcher website www.stretcher.com/save.htm You'll find hundreds of free articles to help you stretch your day and your dollar.

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