Here are some simple examples of what we’re talking about:
You requested two estimates for replacing your broken panel. Ah! Sad.
Estimate A – includes a Square D breaker panel and breakers (or maybe they don’t even name the brand of panel).
Estimate B – includes a Siemens breaker panel and breakers.
We’re not saying one is better than the other. It’s just that these two estimates simply aren’t comparable, because the panels aren’t the same and it may mean a difference in quality of materials and will likely be a big enough difference to the bottom line, that you think the better estimate is Estimate A, because it’s cheaper. The fact is, it’s not actually cheaper. It’s just different.
Compare Apples to Apples – Ask for like estimates. If you’re happy with a Square D brand panel or not knowing the panel’s brand (but you really should know the brand) and breakers, go back to the contractor who supplied Estimate B and ask them to switch the Siemens brand with Square D. Or, vice-versa, call the Estimate A contractor and ask them to include a Siemens brand panel (check that the sizes match though). Now you can really compare the two estimates.
You requested two estimates for wiring your new hot tub. Yay!! #HOTTUBTIME
Estimate A – includes labour time for digging a trench to bury the supply cable.
Estimate B – does not say anything about trenching.
In this case, it’s hard to tell which estimate is better. Estimate A includes labour time for digging a trench, which takes a lot of time and physical strength. It’s really hard work. Maybe you’re okay with paying an electrician their regular rate for digging a trench, but maybe not. But at least Estimate A recognized the need for trenching. Estimate B doesn’t even say trenching’s NOT included. So, who will do the trenching? Are you going to do it? Either way, you are left wondering and can’t really compare these estimates.
Compare Apples to Apples – Ask for like estimates. Call back the contractor who supplied Estimate A and ask them to take out the labour time for trenching. If you can’t do it yourself, you can always contact a labour-ready company to send someone over to dig the trench (be sure you know the required width and depth-first) for you, which would be cheaper than having an electrician do it. If you don’t feel like going to that much trouble, call the contractor for Estimate B and ask that they include trenching. Now, we’re comparing, if not the same, at least, very similar estimates.
You requested two estimates for adding some pot lights in your living room. Hey, bright idea!
Estimate A – includes Labour, Materials, and Permit and Inspection.
Estimate B – includes Labour and Materials.
Hmmmmmm. This is a tough one. Or is it? Now you’re wondering if you really need a permit for the work being done. Does that mean that the Estimate B contractor is not going to take out a permit? Does it mean they think a permit is not needed? Or, if you decide to go with them without asking, is it possible you will get charged for one anyway. Who knows? Unless, of course, you ask.
Compare Apples to Apples – Ask for like estimates. Call Estimate B contractor and ask whether there is a permit required to add the lights. Or, better yet, Call Estimate A contractor and ask why they included a permit. Truth is, Estimate A which includes the permit is right about the requirement. Permits are required for most electrical work except fixture installations and small repairs. So, that means, the other contractor might not know what they’re doing, or worse yet, they do know, but they don’t care, because they just want the job.
The moral of this story is that “It is good to ask questions.” Compare Granny Smith Apples to Granny Smith Apples. Don’t worry about calling the contractors who prepared the estimates. The whole point of getting estimates is so that you can compare the cost of one contractor’s proposed work to another’s. If you don’t ask questions, you simply won’t be able to do that. You’ll be comparing apples to elephants and that’s just crazy, right? Plus, you’ll just be wasting your time and the contractors’ if you don’t put the effort in to making sure you’re comparing the estimates properly. A worse thing could happen too. You could choose the wrong contractor and they charge you extra for stuff they didn’t tell you they would charge you for (yes, this happens) and it leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth no matter how many times you brush your teeth or rinse with Scope.
We do not want your mouth to taste bad. At Barr Electric, we welcome your questions about our estimates. So, bring it on!! Now, call for an estimate and we’ll show you how it’s done. Our contact info is below.
Now…how do you like them apples?