If you are planning on doing a remodel, chances are you will at some point be evaluating a bid from a contractor. And, given that there are so many elements to any given job, these bids can be quite difficult to navigate. Here are six things to pay attention to when reading contractor bids fine print.

Understanding the Costs

The first thing you should look at when reading a contractor bid is how the costs associated with it are displayed. Your bid should be broken out into three sections pertaining to costs: demolition, installation and materials. Material costs are usually fixed and so do not fluctuate throughout the job. Labor costs are estimates based on educated guesswork and experience. While it is the sum of these things that combine to equal your estimate, they should always be itemized separately for complete transparency.

Materials Breakdown

Your bid should include a clear breakdown of the quantity of materials that need to be purchased so that you know exactly how much you will pay for this expenditure. For example, a transparent bid might specify a certain number of sheets of plywood, a specific square footage of carpet or how many gallons of paint. If these numbers don’t appear, you need to be sure to ask for them.

Inclusions and Exclusions

A home Pro’s bid should tell you exactly what the contractor is offering to do and what the contractor is leaving as your responsibility. For example, although you may be expecting a full-service yard makeover, a landscaper’s bid may only agree to install sidewalks and flowerbeds, but not to handle any additional landscaping. There may also be an exclusion that says they are not responsible for tearing up your lawn throughout the job. Pay special attention to inclusions and exclusions so you know exactly what to expect from your job.


Most general contractors will use subcontractors with specific expertise to handle portions of the job. For example, contractors often hire electricians to wire the house because they do not hold that expertise themselves or local regulations demand it. For the sake of being as prepared and in-the-know as possible, your bid should specify exactly what work will be completed by sub-contractors and when the sub-contractors will be working on your project.

Permitting Fees

Many construction and renovation projects, even minor projects, require one or more permits from the city. These permits are usually excluded from your bid, so you should be aware that this is something you may need to do yourself and that there could be additional fees associated with them. Keep in mind that if you ask, your Pro will most-likely do this work for you, and if so, include it in the cost of a permit in the bid, but you usually need to ask.

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About the Author:

Pro.com is a full-service home remodeling and construction general contractor serving the greater Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego area. Home improvement is hard, and we make it easier for you every step of the way. That starts by understanding your goals, whether it’s making a space more livable, expanding your home, repairing damage, adding room for relatives, or something completely different. We’ll work with you to ensure you’re happy with the project from start to finish.