DIY Home Improvement, Remodeling & Repair Forum

DIY Home Improvement, Remodeling & Repair Forum (
-   Roofing and Siding (
-   -   Chimney crown re-mortar bid - overcharged? (

andrewm1 02-13-2014 11:59 AM

Chimney crown re-mortar bid - overcharged?
I got a bid from a local roofing company for the following repair on a 2000sf torch-down roof:

1) Power wash entire chimney.
2) Apply 1 scratch coat of mortar on chimney crown as needed between bricks.
3) Allow to dry and apply two coat of brick sealer.
4) Check entire roof and install torch down patches by chimney and lower skylight as needed.
5) Remove all equipment and debris promptly.

The estimate is for $750 before tax. I assumed the repair would take a good amount of time and the fee justifies the time spent.

The actual work took no more than 2 hours on site: about 1 hour of work by 2 people to power-wash and re-mortar the chimney, and apply two small (palm-sized) patches in a couple spots on roof. And about 30-45 min total of one guy coming out twice to reapply water sealant liquid to chimney (basically hand-spray it from a large jug).

I am wondering if the cost is reasonable for the work???

It basically adds up to about $350/hr for two guys for 1 hour, and $350 for less than 1 hour for one guy. The supplies were just the equipment they typically use and some mortar...

As a comparison, a few months earlier I had another person (also a contractor, but with smaller business) come out and spend about 7 hours changing the flashing on the chimney, for a total of $350 (roughly $40/hr after including some supplies).

To me, the comparison of the work suggests the mortar job was overbid by about 100% of what it reasonably might cost.

One additional issue is that the water that was already under the torch-down material was NOT dried as part of the repair, and continued to cause condensation on the ceiling sheetrock...

I am wondering what your thoughts are before I try to press the issue.

bud16415 02-13-2014 12:23 PM

Hi and welcome to the forum.

My thoughts are strictly based on the fact you got an estimate and by the sounds of it only one. And you accepted it and authorized the work for the quoted amount. They did what they said they would.

If you had been away that day and not known the time it took you wouldn’t know that to factor in.

We have a lawyer in town that’s quite straight forward if you ask him to read a contract he tells you he charges $500 per hour for reading. Sounds like a lot for reading but that’s what he charges and he has lots of work.

Why didn’t the first guy that did the flashings do the rest of the work?

Now not getting the roof dry first might be an issue. I’m not sure how they would do that though. Someone might say that water was already in and any water damage that was done or would be done with the left over water is a different issue.

If there isn’t something that you asked for and didn’t get I don’t see you having any recourse.

nealtw 02-13-2014 12:58 PM

Andrew: Welcome to the site. It might be a sign of the time but you figured the first guy made about $40 an hr. Did you consider is time traveling, his gear, his truck and other expences. He could likely do better on welfair.
Then apply all those cost to the second guy and throw in the extra cost of just having empoyees.
We can always work by the hr but customers alway want the charge out rate to be justified. Most contractor don't charge for their quotes and someone ends up paying for that time too.

It comes down to a simple question. If the chimney turned out to be worse than thought and it took days to fix would you have paid more than the quote?
I don't think you over paid anyway, as long as what they did was good work.
You won't likely find a roofing contractor to work at drying out the ceiling inside. The attic should be dryed out and if you don't have access some drywall should be opened up so it can dry out up there and prevent mold fom growing. That would be a diffent contractor.

andrewm1 02-13-2014 02:45 PM

Ok, lets talk costs
Thanks for the feedback. Part of what worries me about the bid is that they didn't tell very much about how much it would take. At least lawyers are upfront about pay by the hour?! He went up there and inspected the chimney before giving the estimate, I am confident that he was 100% certain on how much time such work should take, it was all right in front of him. I don't remember any specific estimates on time, the best guess is he may have mentioned 'a few hours' which says very little.

I clearly made the mistake of not shopping around. To be honest, I would like to see a breakdown of all fixed costs associated with this particular job that justify the $750 tag for 2 hours of work. I could use a lesson in contractor finances. You know, this is actually an interesting topic - I honestly would want to know! I wonder what the fixed/overhead costs are of keeping an office with an assistant, and be able to pay oneself (the owner) a decent salary, after paying all the guys you contract to do the actual work... If it adds up to less than $6000/month, then I paid my share of the overhead, and still overpaid by about half the amount. My off-the-top math suggests that about 40-60% was pure profit margin... Which means charging 100% above cost. So here is my sense of the contractor's thought process: " most with everything factored in it will cost me $350. Why don't I double it? Sure! $750!" I want to understand contractor cost accounting so I can understand the cost breakdown and get a sense of the true value of the labor, overhead, and variable costs. This will give an ability to understand true cost, and thus FMV of the work. I am not saying I don't want someone to make a living, but I am saying I don't want them to make a living by charging exorbitant fees and getting away with vague estimates with incomplete disclosure.

I am open to your feedback on this - is my math way off or am I missing something...(besides a technical ability to DIY this stuff!)

nealtw 02-13-2014 03:17 PM

It is a matter of supply and demand. If I'm busy and can't find enough men to get all the work done in a timely period and someone calls about a small job like yours, I might show up and throw out a high quote. If everthing is slow and I can't get enough work for myself and ever employee that has been layed off is now my competitor, I'll take a job to pay the next bill or feed the kids or what ever is important this week.
As the customer it is your job to get the very best deal you can but as a salesperson it is my job to squeeze every dollar out of a job that I can (within reason).
That is just free market.

For the lawyer, my guess, you haven't used one. They do tell you their hourly rate, they don't tell you how much they charge for using there car to travel to court, different rate for court time, photo copy prices, courier costs and what he chargees for parking in his lot.

nealtw 02-13-2014 03:27 PM

I just borrowed this from Inspertor D, he was funny back in 2006 He forgot about the lam going to sloughter.

Contractor - A gambler who never gets to shuffle, cut, or deal.

Bid opening - A poker game in which the losing hand wins.

Bid - A wild guess carried out to two decimal places.

Low bidder - Contractor who was bluffing and is wondering what he left out.

Engineer's estimate - The cost of construction in heaven.

Architect - Thinks 3 dimensional, draws 2 dimensional....missing one dimension.

Critical path method - A management technique for losing your shirt under perfect control.

Strike - An effort to increase egg production by strangling the chicken.

Delayed payment - A tourniquet applied at the pockets.

Auditor - Person who goes in after the war is lost and bayonets the bodies.

Lawyer - Person who goes in after the auditor to strip the bodies. (Good thing this is family orientated)

And saving the best for last....

OSHA - A protective coating made by half baking a mixture of fine print, red tape, split hairs and baloney....usually applied at random with a shotgun.

andrewm1 02-13-2014 03:49 PM

That's more like it, and confirms what I thought...instead of numbers we get vagueness. But I know that when the contractor does his monthly payroll or balances the books for taxes, it does indeed get very precise. I will walk away from this whole thing with a few lessons learned for sure. For starters:

1. Don't count on word of mouth advice of someone who doesn't care about cost of repair of their home as much as you do.

2. Get multiple bids.

3. When you mention to a contractor you would like more explanation about the reason you paid $750 for 2 hours of work, prepare that he will immediately resort to used car salesman tactic of raising his voice and temper, trying to psychologically pressure you to back down. That's when you know you touched a sensitive area (too close to the balls), and there is indeed a problem there. The softest spot gets defended most vigorously.

4. This is an awesome forum!

p.s. to be sure, I will apply some more pressure to the weak area. My goal is not to irritate - although I am sure that will indeed happen very fast (I already tried, and it already did - took a split second!) The goal is to educate myself, even if at a cost of getting yelled at (if one chooses to get worked up, it's his choice). In the end, I know there is no way I can get money back, it's water under the bridge. However, I do believe I have a right to have an itemized breakdown of the total price - something I DID NOT get with the original bid. All he provided was a subtotal for an itemized list. I just want to see how he will explain $750 for capping a chimney. That will be very educational.

mudmixer 02-13-2014 04:34 PM

Andrew -

You forgot to check the references to see if the work the contractor did was up to standards.

Itemized prices after the fact are not worth talking about if you wanted a price for the job. If it was time, materials and incidentals you might get a breakdown to see if they are in the range of reasonableness, but that is after the bid, fact and completion.


oldognewtrick 02-13-2014 04:41 PM

Andrew, first off welcome to House Repair Talk.

Now, I'm not sticking up for the company you contracted with, but here's my take on this. You feel that what you paid more for a service than the service was worth. Has the service that was preformed provided the benefit that you were looking for? If the problem has been corrected then he fulfilled his part of the agreement, if it has not, then he needs to make it right at no additional cost to you, in my opinion.

I am a roofing contractor from middle Tennessee, when I go to a job I have my time of travel to the job to evaluate the situation, the time meeting with the customer, and travel time to the next job. I have gasoline, vehicle insurance and maintenance of my vehicle. I have an office with a secretary. We pay property taxes, business taxes, workers compensation and general liability insurance. Work comp and general liability insurance is 41% of labor. We have telephones, water, lights and heat. I have employees. They have payroll taxes, health care. When I send 2 men in a truck we figure 1 hour travel time each way. Trucks take gasoline. You must have vehicle insurance. Truck and equipment to roll up on a job we probably have 80,000.00 of capital expenditure sitting in the drive way. We have the hard cost of materials and the time to go get them. Roofing is one of the top 10 hazardous occupations, period.

If I send a truck to replace 1 shingle, we charge a minimum of 250.00 and believe it or not, we won't make money. We we contract with a customer, your paying for the work, our time, our expertise and our knowledge.

Did your contractor charge you to much, I don't know. Heck he may have charged you to little.

Now, you entered into an agreement with a service provider. He should have provided you with a scope of work before the job began. It doesn't matter if it took 1 hour or 10, IF the work was done properly. The time to negotiate is before, not after the completion of the job.

Like I said, I'm not sticking up for him, but next time get a quotes from several different contractors and make a decision of what is your best course of action and think of this as a learning experience.

Just my :2cents: and worth every penny you paid for it.

andrewm1 02-13-2014 04:48 PM

Thank you for an AWESOME reply. Much appreciated. There is much valuable info and much to learn about still, but it does give me excellent well considered information to understand the financial side of the 'other side' of this equation. I have to say it sounds tough to operate your own business...lots of moving parts. Thank you again and pleasure to participate in this forum! I am sure I will visit again.

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 04:34 AM.