hard bid 1.0

We got the hard bid back on Friday. As expected, it's higher than the soft bid we got back in late March. Not fatally higher (thank goodness!), just hmmmmm higher. I figured (hoped?) it would come in no more than 10 percent higher, and that, indeed is what it came in at. However, 10 percent of a lot of money is a lot of money (10 percent of it, in fact). Nonetheless, we engineered some budgetary head room in our budget to accommodate upgrades and uncertainty. And it looks like it was a good thing we did so! Most of the increase is due to choices we've made in materials, appliances, lights, and HVAC. The builder's estimate of the base house appears to be right on the money.

As a (probably over)general aside, let me note that nobody knows your house better than you do. This includes the architect and the builder. This is not a grumpy jab at the architect or builder; it's just a statement of (overgeneralized)fact. This may be different (and probably is) on higher end design-build projects where the architect is involved in every detail, but for more modest projects, the architects haven't detailed everything and they and the builders are juggling multiple projects in their heads and on their drawing boards. It all becomes a jumble: Your house is in there somewhere, but things can get foggy. Unless you've completely delegated the design of every detail of the house to the architect, you need to pay attention to the details and review things closely. You're part of the team ensuring success! Now back to our regularly scheduled program...

The analysis below goes into much more detail than a casual reader would want to suffer. I include the details to show the more-than-casual reader (potential building homeowner?) our thought process, right or wrong, and lingering questions and issues. The approach: A line-by-line review using the headers in the budget to organize questions and comments. Since I'm horribly forgetful (and since there is so much to review), I have to take notes to organize. It also makes it easier to share here!

Points to ponder:
  • I really like how the builder organized the bid. Not as much detail as I would like or need (more on that later), but still quite a bit of detail. He also compared this hard bid to his soft bid for each line item. It's nice to see how close he was in un-upgraded categories and to see what's causing the budget diversions. 
  • Some details on the budget diversions:
    • Earthwork and Drainage: No change
    • Concrete: 4 grand higher
    • Masonry: About 11.5 grand lower
      • We substituted Hardie for some of the stucco
    • Metals: No change (but still allowanced at this time)
    • Rough Carpentry: Essentially unchanged
    • Insulation: Unchanged
    • Roof and Sealants: Essentially unchanged
    • Openings (doors and windows): 12 grand higher
      • Soft bid didn't include storefront doors (+2.5 grand)
      • Windows (+9 grand) 
      • Garage door (+2.5 grand)
    • Finishes (drywall, tile, flooring, painting): 2 grand higher
      • due to painting
    • Specialties (mirrors, shower doors, appliances): 3 grand higher
    • Cabinets, trim, and countertops: 17 grand higher
      • 13.5 grand higher due to cabinets
      • 3.5 grand higher due to countertops (greater area)
    • Plumbing and fixtures: 2 grand higher
      • plumbing is 2 grand lower
      • fixtures are 4 grand higher
    • Mechanical (HVAC): 4 grand higher
    • Electrical: Essentially unchanged
    • Lighting: Unchanged
      • but none of our choices (which are higher cost) were bidded
    • General conditions: Unchanged
    • Builder's fee (a set percentage of the build): 3 grand higher
  • Net increase: 35 grand; however, if we take out the upgrades from the allowances and whatnot (appliances, cabinets, fixtures, HVAC, garage door) the builder's bid was pretty much on the mark (2 to 5 grand higher depending how you split the hairs). Not bad. If you're sizing up how close the bids get, make sure you are comparing apples and oranges...
Some questions we asked [and answers we got]:
  • Square footage:
    • Why is it different (2,260) than what the architects have (2,372)? [turns out it's 2,281!]
  • Earthwork and Drainage:
    • Does the bid include all the site work (i.e., removal of trees)? [yes]
    • Will the removed trees be chipped and used onsite? [no]
    • What is the allowance for the wall for? (Is this for the Mies wall in the front or the sound wall in the back?) [still discussing...]
    • Will this include removing the old sidewalk to the old house? [yes]
  • Concrete:
    • Why is the driveway still shown as an allowance (and unbidden)? [waiting for specifics from landscaping]
    • Why is the city sidewalk still shown as an allowance (and unbidden)? [waiting for the specifics from landscaping design]
    • Is the grasscrete considered in the bid? [waiting for specifics from landscaping design]
    • Does the bid include the path from the driveway to the house? [waiting for specifics from landscaping design]
    • Will it cost extra to throw some glass on the pad? [no answer yet...]
  • Masonry:
    • Is the Hardie included in the bid? [yes]
  • Metals:
    • When/how can we get a bid on the railing? [need a design]
  • Roof and Sealants:
    • Does the bid include the gutters as specified by the architects? [yes]
    • Garage roof should be standing seam metal instead of that fancy-schmancy white stuff. [it is]
  • Openings (doors and windows):
    • Does the bid include storefront for the whole front of the living room? [no]
    • What are the interior doors made out of? [solid core birch]
    • Need to include specific specs for door hardware... 
  • Finishes (drywall, tile, flooring, painting):
    • What is the extra cost of smooth drywall vs. light orange peel? [smooth drywall is an extra $0.75 per square foot]
    • Does the bid include wood for the ceiling of the living room and associated eaves? [believes so but will confirm...]
    • Does the bid include wood for the art wall? [believes so but will confirm...]
    • Does the bid include tile for the backsplashes in the kitchen and laundry? [needs to check...] 
  • Specialties (mirrors, shower doors, appliances):
    • Can we see the details of the bid from the appliance subcontractor? The appliance bid seems high... [yes]
  • Cabinets, trim, and countertops:
    • Youch!!!
    • Does the trim cost use trim as envisioned by the architects? [yes, but using standard trim up the stairs]
    • Does the countertop number include the countertops in the laundry? [yes]
    • No casework in the powder... [yup]
  • Plumbing and fixtures:
    • Can we see the detailed bid from the subcontractor? [sure]
    • What is "bathroom access"? [hooks, toilet paper holders, towel racks]
  • Mechanical (HVAC):
    • Ducted multi-splits? [nope]
    • May want a higher-SEER unit... [OK]
    • Can we see the detailed bid from the subcontractor? [yes]
  • Electrical:
    • Subcontractor bid doesn't include trenching? [nope]
    • Central vac? [forgot; will add]
    • Does the bid include the Kidde fire alarms? [yes]
    • How would sound wiring/speakers work? Can we do it? [needs wiring plan] 
    • Which switch and plug plates are being used? [Decora]
    • Does the bid include "solar ready" readiness? [it's pretty much solar ready]
  • Lighting: 
    • Need to factor in our choices... [waiting on bids]
    • What brand of cans? [waiting on bid]
So.... What are the next steps? I think the cabinet bid of 23 grand can be brought down to half that by using IKEA. The kitchen, bidded at 16 grand by Kitchen Craft, can be had at IKEA for about 5 grand (not including installation). The kitchen appliance bid came in seemingly high. The vent hood can be had for 1 grand less (to be fair the spec sheet listed the 900 cfm model instead of the 300 cfm model). For some reason, the sub has the stove/microwave/cooktop listed for $1,500 more than we can get them online (perhaps because of freight?). The plumbing fixtures come up for 2 grand more than we can get them online (installation? shipping?). Dealing with those four items would save us 17.5 grand (unless we're missing something...).  Changing the garage roof from that fancy-schmancy white stuff to standing seam metal should save a grand. However, our interior light choices are about a grand higher than what the builder has at the moment. And we don't see things on the bid like the central vacuum and doorbell. That stuff = $$$.

We need to work out the "division of design" between the landscape architect and the architect-architect. We were thinking that the architect-architect had already spec'd out and designed some of the hardscape (in fact, he did). We'll discuss in our face-to-face meeting when we discuss the hard bid. The landscape designer has pretty much honored the hardscape put in place by the architects; nonetheless, the builder doesn't know this (and we suspect he's had experiences where the landscape architect and the architect-architect have not seen eye to eye...).

Ultimately, I feel we need to get the cost of everything on the table before we make any decisions. At that point we need to decide whether we cut or expand the budget to accommodate our desires.

The most excellent news is: We have a house we can afford! Whoop! Whoop! Now it's just ironing  out the details... 


  1. Is the smooth drywall at 75 cents per ft extra mean 75 cents per floor space (e.g. about $1725 for the whole house) or 75 cents per wall surface foot (probably a whole lot more than $17250?

    1. hmmm.... hadn't thought of that... Looking at the spreadsheet, the salient metric shows up as "2,744 sf" which is square ground footage of the house + garage (which means the garage is getting finished out: didn't realize that!). He multiplies that number by $3.75 to come up with the total cost, so an extra $0.75 adds a little over two grand to the total cost.

      The bride really likes that sooper smooth bidness (as do I). Maybe we can do sooper smooth downstairs and light orange peel upstairs, although that goes against our consistency principles... Certainly we can do something less than sooper smooth in the garage!