By Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch, MBA
Prices are rising everywhere: at the grocery store, at the gas pump, and in the housing market. I had an old friend who called me the other day about Re-Bath prices and remodeling prices in general. He said, “the price of remodeling is too high!”
My response was, “You’re right. The prices are too high. I can’t believe it either.” I told him, “You should see my costs. Everything from freight shipping to glue to drop cloths for cleanup has gone way up. In fact, tell me an item that’s not going up because I don’t see anything staying the same, including insurance and labor costs.” At Re-Bath, we install bathrooms in a week or less, so we must have a diesel truck that will pull a large trailer full of all the materials, tools, and supplies for the job. I had to buy a truck about a month ago and I just about gasped at the price. But we have to install bathrooms, so what choice did I have? I could complain about how the price of the truck was way too high or I could buy it and keep my business operational.
The next thing my friend said was, “Well, tell me how I can get this done for less money.” And I told him that you can get it done more cheaply, but it will be more painful, take longer, and the quality probably won’t last. We’ve seen showers done in tile that didn’t even last a year before they leaked, whether the reason was that it wasn’t properly waterproofed, the wrong types of materials were used for the application, or the quality of the job just wasn’t up to par. The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low prices is forgotten.
Another option for keeping your costs down is to do it yourself. My crew doesn’t do the kind of work I need, which made me realize some of the main problems homeowners face. Number one, it’s hard to pick a good contractor who’s really going to do a good job, and number two, when you do find them, you have to manage them.
People in the remodeling industry tend to be good at the work. They know their craft, they can do it well, and they can make money at it, but they’re not necessarily good with money management, people management, material management, or business management. That’s the frustration that the customer feels when the guy he’s picked is a good worker and craftsman, but schedule management becomes the homeowner’s job, which can be a challenge they didn’t expect to have to deal with.
Recently I had some work done at my house and it reminded me why remodeling is so hard. I would have had my guys do it, but they don’t do this type of work. The guy I hired was pleasant and an excellent craftsman, which is what I looked for, but it was still a difficult process and I had to stay on top of the schedule as well as the ordering, storage, and use of materials. I’ve learned over the years that people want excellent quality work, and there are a lot of craftsmen out there who can do excellent quality work. Granted, there are not as many as there used to be, and the ones who can do the work as well as run a business are fewer and fewer. So if you plan to hire your own handyman and schedule your own trades, you’ll need to lower your expectations about the paperwork, your scope of work, and realize that there will probably be some frustrations before you finish the job, and even afterwards.
Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, is the president of Re-Bath in Shreveport. You can contact him at 318-216-4525 or by visiting www.rebath.com/location/shreveport.