Chimney crown re-mortar bid - overcharged?

Discussion in 'Roofing and Siding' started by andrewm1, Feb 13, 2014.

  1. Feb 13, 2014 #1

    andrewm1

    andrewm1

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    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.
     
  2. Feb 13, 2014 #2

    bud16415

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    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.
     
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  3. Feb 13, 2014 #3

    nealtw

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    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.
     
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  4. Feb 13, 2014 #4

    andrewm1

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    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: "Ok...at 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!)
     
  5. Feb 13, 2014 #5

    nealtw

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    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.
     
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  6. Feb 13, 2014 #6

    nealtw

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    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.
    __________________
     
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  7. Feb 13, 2014 #7

    andrewm1

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    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.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2014
  8. Feb 13, 2014 #8

    mudmixer

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    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.

    Dick
     
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  9. Feb 13, 2014 #9

    oldognewtrick

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    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.
     
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  10. Feb 13, 2014 #10

    andrewm1

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    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.
     
  11. Feb 13, 2014 #11

    oldognewtrick

    oldognewtrick

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    We're open 24/7 365 stop in any old time, we're here to help whenever we can. Hope your repair works out well for you.
     
  12. Feb 14, 2014 #12

    nealtw

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    Yes, you should have got more than one quote and a writtin break down of what would be done from each.
    The down side of that is that each guy that comes along comes with his own idea of what needs or should be done and you end up with three or four quotes that you can't compare because they all include different work to be done.
    There is nothing wrong with you saying you thought the job was bigger than it was and asking for discount, he should not get angry, he can just say yes or no.
    But I would count the hrs a little more generous than you did. If I come to the house for a quote I am taking time off another job, I hope. I'm driving a work truck so I can carry a ladder, I would allow an hr for me to travel to and back andf if I get the job I want to get that hr paid for and the half hr I spent there. Two men, one hour is two hours plus the hour for each to travel to and from and the n the the guy that came to seal the chimney, two trips, two hours for travel plus the 35 minutes.
    When you talk about the hours worked are you including time to set up ladders safety rope if they used them and power washer.
    Then it comes down to what is a fair price for labour when it includes trucks, ladders, gear, insurance WBC and the fact that he has made these investment and is ready to do the job for you.
    As a simple rule if I have a man in a truck and pay him $25 an hour and then charge $50 an hour for only the hours on the job, I am losing money. If it's a small crew and I'm included I might be able to work for $60 but that would include the travel time and the time I spent figuring the quote.
    The thing is with quotes you win some and you loose some, and that,s true for both parties.
     
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  13. Feb 14, 2014 #13

    andrewm1

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    I see..there sure does appear to be quite a bit of invisible accounting behind every bid and every hour when the client actually sees someone "working" on their house..good to know. Lessons learned indeed! Best,
    A.
     
  14. Feb 14, 2014 #14

    nealtw

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    Just currious with out detail, how do you get paid for the work you do.
     
  15. Feb 14, 2014 #15

    andrewm1

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    I am not in the home repair or any similar kind of occupation (explains my ignorance doesn't it). So typically there is a deposit to bank account every couple of weeks, the rest is pretty much automated to the point that nobody really knows how it works except maybe 3 people on the planet who sit in some HR Payroll Office dungeon, and even they mostly don't know but just push the right buttons now and then ;)

    Come to think of it, it's pretty odd. I almost never even see or touch paper money, and only handle checks when I pay a contractor..

    In other words it's a very boring and I might add, impersonal and 'sterile' way to make and spend money. No money is ever really seen or experienced in a direct way. It's just numbers, piece of plastic at best, digits in a column on the online bank statement. Even those numbers exist only in cyberspace..bits and bytes, electricity and a few gazillion on-off switches... That's about it.

    I can only imagine how fun it must have been back in the medieval times, when people actually swapped chunks of silver and gold for stuff..can you imagine the zeal and excitement? No wonder all those markets in ancient cities (in Middle East, India, etc.) are so loud and 'for real'. Probably a leftover from the good old days when you got gold coins in exchange for a chicken or a sack of rice or whatever.. The Gold Rush days must have been similar - no wonder tempers ran hot in those saloons!

    I suspect if I had to deal with tangible currency more often, I would value money differently. It's kind of like wars and violence, in a way - we consume so much of it through news stories and movies, there is endless destruction. But how many people have ever seen a real knife or gunshot wound? Completely different ballgame. And completely sobering. So, I suppose if I accepted my monetary sustenance from real human beings instead of some abstract account transaction, it might change how I deal with people...but I haven't had too many opportunities to directly experience that. If you do have such experience, I would be curious to know how you perceive that...what does it do to your sense of money, its worth, and how does it affect how you treat other people?
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2014
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  16. Feb 14, 2014 #16

    nealtw

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    When I asked, HR never came to mind but I can see why it's only the numbers in front of you that you can see. Fair enough.
    Contractors really live the American Dream.
    Freedom to not have a master except for the customer, the employees, the government, the bank, the insurance company, equipment that breaks down at worst possible time and on a really bad day lawyers.
    Freedom to make as much money as he wants except for all the things and people above.
    Come to think of it, the only real freedom we have is to go broke at any given time.
    Freedom to get bigger or smaller is one of the toughest parts of the job, laying off emplyees and parking trucks and equipment that might not be paid for is just slightly harder than growing a business, you take on more work and work longer hours try to figure out when to hire more people and buy more equipment, it can be tough out there and made worse when there are bad contractors who really do rip people off.
     
  17. Feb 14, 2014 #17

    bud16415

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    Being myself fairly new to the forum and not working directly in the trades, I sometimes see a thread like this and answer first before the pros or long time members post and wonder how my answer will be taken, as to not feel compelled to join the majority. I use the same thought process in answering your question as if I was in your position and I have been many times. Sometimes with home repairs sometimes autos. Just about every aspect of our life is interconnected with a monetary set of checks and balances. That Neil correctly called “Free Market”. Much of the world doesn’t understand this system nor do their government endorse it. In a different model you would call the fairness contractor and they would advise you yes all home repair is one price per hour and it would also be unfair to put you ahead on the list before others. You might have to wait several weeks or months for your repair.
    You have learned some valuable lessons that you could have paid much more for in collage and not learned and also found a nice forum to use in the future willing to help you.

    The thing about Free Markets or Free Enterprise or Capitalism is the consumers also get a vote and competition is the restraint. Along with Capitalism we also have free speech and you have ever right if you can defend your displeasure to tell anyone you want you felt the price you paid was too high for the service provided. Contractors won’t last long if enough people are displeased with their work.

    I once had 5 quotes on a new roof for my house. I had them set to come out thru the day and the first 4 were slick sales guys that measured the base of my house and used a computer and printed out a quote, all within 5%. The last guy showed up at dusk driving a truck and he was covered in dirt and was about 60 years old. I didn’t know he was there as I had given up and I knew he was there when I heard the ladder go up on the house. He walked around on the roof for 30 minutes and came down. Said did u get any other quotes and I said yes. He said for about X amount and I said yep you are right on. He said well you have some bad wood over here and over there if you want to go up I can show you. He said your gutters are shot and your soffits need work. You need new flashing and the chimney needs pointed and sealed and the crown is shot. And a cap wouldn’t hurt. He said he has to compete so he would do what the others said they would do and beat their price but they had planned to up charge me for the wood repair etc. when they found it. I asked him what would you do if it was your house and he said all the above plus a couple other things involving ventilation. He gave me a price for the whole deal and I said we have a deal. He said well not so fast don’t you want to see my insurance papers and some references first. We sat and talked roofs for a couple hours on his tailgate. After doing my roof I had him do my mothers and have referred him and now his sons company to dozens of people.

    As to tangible money I’m the last person in my company’s location with over 5000 employees to get an actual paycheck I go to the bank each week and cash my check and make a deposit and get cash back. Both work and the bank have strongly pushed me to go computer and on line banking and I tell them I like to see and feel my money and I like the interaction of my boss handing me a check and then the interaction going to the bank. I even like to pay a bill in person when I can. To me it adds worth to the experience. Maybe we are being dumbed down to that experience intentionally. Something to think about.
     
  18. Feb 14, 2014 #18

    nealtw

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    Bud; I'm the other way, I'm so used to digital and plastic when I get cash I forget to spend it.
     
  19. Feb 14, 2014 #19

    andrewm1

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    This is really good stuff..opens up a page of the homeowner experience where I have only started to scratch the surface. But I am still on the fence on how deep I want to get in. I think some people are naturally more inclined to work with their hands (and are good at it) and 'speak' that language well. Others would rather delegate. For example, I probably couldn't talk roofs for a couple hours with anyone - not that I couldn't come up with some good questions and ideas, but it's just not what I'd want to go that deep into. A 5-10 minute specific description of issues with my particular roof would do. No topic is objectively more worthy or interesting, it's just a matter of fit and taste..and knowledge. Maybe, as I deal more with these issues, I will be able to deepen my knowledge and some interest will follow. For now, I don't really care about what's above my head, as long as it does its job and keeps the rain out ;) This (as you guessed) is my first house-home, been renting apartments mostly until a few years ago. The house is about half a century old, and I have a feeling I need to gradually replace *everything* in it down to the baseboard (literally - a lot of them are unglued are are simply *leaning* against the wall...) I know for a fact that I would rather not do any home improvement - something renting just can't be beat for...but when push comes to shove as in this case, her we are. But first things first.

    The problem was only half-fixed, apparently - they closed (hopefully) the entry for new water, but did nothing to what's already collected in the no man's land between the roof and the ceiling.. Well, they should be coming in sometime in the next few days to try to address this..with a fan or something... I expect there here must be a sizable area covered with mold on the flip side of the ceiling sheet rock.

    Again - there is a space of about 7 inches between ceiling and roof, no attic, just insulation - I think foam. There is a tiny rectangular hole that I can open and peek into but can't see much, insulation and scaffolding all around. Extremely hard to get to/access without cutting open from the roof ro the ceiling..

    I am guessing the correct solution would involve ripping all that out, taking out the insulation, drying everything thoroughly, and re-doing the sheetrock/repainting etc. (basically replacing a good chunk of the ceiling on one side of the house)...

    Is this assumption correct? What plan of action would you recommend?
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2014
  20. Feb 14, 2014 #20

    bud16415

    bud16415

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    On cell now so reply might be shorter. 50 year old house are you sure you have drywall and or insulation? You may have plaster over something else.
     

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