Author Topic: Contractor (Friend) Went WAY Over Budget on Bathroom Reno -- What to Do?  (Read 1867 times)

ReadySetMillionaire

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My wife and I decided to finish the unfinished bathroom in our basement prior to our baby arriving here in March. This room was completely blank. No ceiling, no floors, no drywall up, so no mysteries hiding.

My good friend (I was in his wedding) is self-employed fixing homes.  Being that I am also self-employed, I wanted to support his business. 

He provided an estimate of $6,250 -- $3,750 for labor and $2,500 for materials. This estimate was literally written on a napkin when we grabbed a few beers one night.

He wrapped up last week. Took him and his partner 3+ weeks. 

Anyway, he just sent me an invoice, and our materials totaled $4,758 (almost double his materials estimate).  Now, we did buy a nice vanity, but everything else was pretty standard. I honestly have no idea how he was so far off.

He also added $500 for plumbing labor. This was a change order I authorized. So my total authorized budget (estimate plus this) was $6,750.

What irks me is I was CONSTANTLY on him about the material budget. He knows my general financial outlook. He always said we were "in the ballpark."

So my total is about $9,000. He said he was "shocked" when he put the invoice together and agreed to deduct $250 off materials, so my total out of pocket is $8,750.

I called a contractor client of mine, and he said $8,750 for a basement bathroom, especially one with concrete dig-up, is a steal -- he said he would have charged at least $15k. He's been to my house several times so he knows exactly what area of my house this is; so, this guesstimate isn't out of left field.

So what would you do? If this were any old contractor, I'd pay him $6,750 and tell him to pound salt. But this is a good friend. This took him three weeks and he worked hard, and the bathroom looks amazing for a basement bathroom. I don't want to stiff him, but man, this is rough.

I'm meeting him for beers later and wanted to know how hard I should fight this.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2019, 11:58:19 AM by ReadySetMillionaire »

Lady SA

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Re: Contractor (Friend) Went WAY Over Budget on Bathroom Reno -- What to Do?
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2019, 11:58:57 AM »
Depends on if you want to keep this friend or not. Either way, there will be resentment.

If you are willing to torpedo the relationship, you can fight it. Then you transfer the resentment to him (towards you). This may or may not be fair, but you won't be able to control his feelings toward you.
If you want to stay close, I'd just pay it and mentally note to get a more solid estimate for any future work done to your house. It does sound like either way, you got a pretty good deal on the bathroom, so you could focus on that fact. This way, you end up keeping your resentment yourself, is that a tradeoff you are willing to make?
A middle ground might be to probe to see if you can meet in the middle and pay around $7750, considering the upcoming baby. You'd have to read the situation to see how hard you could press. If he is resistant, then you'd need to commit to either giving up and paying or torpedoing your friendship.

And I might gently tell your friend in either case that it was pretty unpleasant getting that surprise bill, so for his other clients he should make sure to provide more reasonable/accurate estimates up front or be more open when things are going off the rails so the client still has time/resources to react. Maybe that would be a good opening to probe his willingness to meet in the middle.

Mostly, this just reads as a textbook reason to not mix money with friends or family. I'm sorry you're in this situation, it totally sucks to have this introduce resentment and upset to your relationship.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2019, 12:05:03 PM by Lady SA »

ender

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Re: Contractor (Friend) Went WAY Over Budget on Bathroom Reno -- What to Do?
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2019, 12:03:09 PM »
I'd ask probing questions about how/why the material estimate was off by 200% before deciding what to do.

And this is why you want a written contract/estimate for things even with friends. It solves this problem entirely in advance (admittedly this isn't useful advice for you now).

driftwood

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Re: Contractor (Friend) Went WAY Over Budget on Bathroom Reno -- What to Do?
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2019, 01:07:08 PM »
Pay what he invoiced you.

You didn't bother to do a real contract, and according to your other contractor source you are being way undercharged for the product provided. Pay up. Enjoy your new bathroom.

J Boogie

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Re: Contractor (Friend) Went WAY Over Budget on Bathroom Reno -- What to Do?
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2019, 01:48:44 PM »
Pay what he invoiced you.

You didn't bother to do a real contract, and according to your other contractor source you are being way undercharged for the product provided. Pay up. Enjoy your new bathroom.

Yeah, totally, do this.

He did you a fucking solid, not quite as much of a solid as either of you expected, but he did you a fucking solid.

Thank him and pay for his beers.

J Boogie

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Re: Contractor (Friend) Went WAY Over Budget on Bathroom Reno -- What to Do?
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2019, 02:03:10 PM »
I'dd add that I'd echo what others have mentioned about contracts. 

You never requested anything official, so he probably just gave you his best quick and dirty estimate. He probably wasn't keeping track of things all that closely throughout the remodel, so he probably just gave you an easy answer.

That's the thing about deals between friends, precision generally isn't valued as much as it is in a professional setting. You're more or less trusting that he's not going to screw you and vice versa. Friends don't need to ensure they're not getting screwed.

So in the end he didn't screw you, but he did whiff on the estimate and failed to keep track of costs very well. It's totally understandable that you're upset about it, but there's no upside to taking it out on him. Do you honestly want him to eat more costs and lower an already well lower than market hourly rate? He delivered you a great bathroom at a great price, and it sounds like he's a great friend. Just not great with numbers.

Midwest

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Re: Contractor (Friend) Went WAY Over Budget on Bathroom Reno -- What to Do?
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2019, 02:13:06 PM »
I would try to determine why materials were so much more but remember he is a really good friend.

I did a friend a solid by recommending a contractor.  The friend heard the number quoted and thought it included materials (ridiculous assumption given the price).  The contractor was quoting labor only and the situation was compounded by some of the materials picked.

Did you help pick the materials?  Did you contribute to the overage in your selection of materials?

Personally, I would value my friendship more that the additional costs if he's not screwing you.  Given the discussion with the other contractor, sounds like you got a great deal even at that price.

mm1970

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Re: Contractor (Friend) Went WAY Over Budget on Bathroom Reno -- What to Do?
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2019, 02:17:05 PM »
I would also pay the invoice.  I agree that it is a total steal.  Bathrooms aren't cheap.

I've talked to a few contractors recently - several neighbors are having additions put on, etc.  Materials costs are through the roof right now.  They've tripled in the last few years.

Case

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Re: Contractor (Friend) Went WAY Over Budget on Bathroom Reno -- What to Do?
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2019, 03:02:46 PM »
My wife and I decided to finish the unfinished bathroom in our basement prior to our baby arriving here in March. This room was completely blank. No ceiling, no floors, no drywall up, so no mysteries hiding.

My good friend (I was in his wedding) is self-employed fixing homes.  Being that I am also self-employed, I wanted to support his business. 

He provided an estimate of $6,250 -- $3,750 for labor and $2,500 for materials. This estimate was literally written on a napkin when we grabbed a few beers one night.

He wrapped up last week. Took him and his partner 3+ weeks. 

Anyway, he just sent me an invoice, and our materials totaled $4,758 (almost double his materials estimate).  Now, we did buy a nice vanity, but everything else was pretty standard. I honestly have no idea how he was so far off.

He also added $500 for plumbing labor. This was a change order I authorized. So my total authorized budget (estimate plus this) was $6,750.

What irks me is I was CONSTANTLY on him about the material budget. He knows my general financial outlook. He always said we were "in the ballpark."

So my total is about $9,000. He said he was "shocked" when he put the invoice together and agreed to deduct $250 off materials, so my total out of pocket is $8,750.

I called a contractor client of mine, and he said $8,750 for a basement bathroom, especially one with concrete dig-up, is a steal -- he said he would have charged at least $15k. He's been to my house several times so he knows exactly what area of my house this is; so, this guesstimate isn't out of left field.

So what would you do? If this were any old contractor, I'd pay him $6,750 and tell him to pound salt. But this is a good friend. This took him three weeks and he worked hard, and the bathroom looks amazing for a basement bathroom. I don't want to stiff him, but man, this is rough.

I'm meeting him for beers later and wanted to know how hard I should fight this.

This is why you don't do business with friends.  But assuming your client's estimate is accurate, you're basically a cheap-ass.

It comes down to trust.  Presumably you trust him, since you call him a good friend.  Good friends don't fuck each other over, or try to take advantage of each other.

In your shoes, I'd say to my friend, "look, I didn't expect this to cost nearly this much, but I am willing to trust you since we are good friends.  Can you please just promise me that you're not trying to take advantage of me, and confirm that you simply underestimated the true cost of the work?  If so, I'll pay, enjoy the nice bathroom, and move on".  Look him in the eye.
Given that this guy is a good friend, this should allow you to sleep at night.

You don't really have many other options.  If you don't pay what he has asked, you probably lose a friend, and he'll probably tell your mutual friends that you are a cheap MF'er who robbed him.

You two could sue each other, but that's hardly worth it.

Best case scenario is that he made an honest mistake, and still gave you a good deal overall.  Worst case scenario is that you made a mistake of mixing business with personal life, and also by not using a contract.  Chalk it up as a $2000 life lesson.


OtherJen

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Re: Contractor (Friend) Went WAY Over Budget on Bathroom Reno -- What to Do?
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2019, 04:03:46 PM »
I would also pay the invoice.  I agree that it is a total steal.  Bathrooms aren't cheap.

I've talked to a few contractors recently - several neighbors are having additions put on, etc.  Materials costs are through the roof right now.  They've tripled in the last few years.

Shit. We have to replace our roof this year. Tariffs, Iím guessing.

I agree with everyone else. Our full bath remodel (rebuild from subfloor and studs) cost $12k and it wasnít particularly fancy.

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Contractor (Friend) Went WAY Over Budget on Bathroom Reno -- What to Do?
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2019, 04:07:25 PM »
Got beers with him. Went line by line through the invoice. He apologized for being so far under and said he underestimated the plumbing, drywall, and electrical. That probably accounts for 60% of the overage.

Paid him in full and paid for his beers.

All is good, although this was a learning experience for my own business ó canít treat friends any differently than other customers. I think he was a little lax here assuming I wouldnít care, and that was a mistake on his part.

Everything is good though. Thanks for the replies.

socaso

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Re: Contractor (Friend) Went WAY Over Budget on Bathroom Reno -- What to Do?
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2019, 04:15:42 PM »
I was going to chime in with a "tariffs" comment. In the industry I work in they are going bonkers and lots of my clients say the tariffs are affecting them, too. If your friend based his materials estimate off his past experiences and didn't actually price out what was needed then tariffs could have messed up his numbers.

Goldielocks

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Re: Contractor (Friend) Went WAY Over Budget on Bathroom Reno -- What to Do?
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2019, 11:36:52 PM »
Pay him and thank him for all the hard work.  A friend / contractor actually completed a job for you in only 3 weeks. That is awesome.   Friends often put friends they gave a deal to as their last priority.   You got an overall steal to boot.   If you are angsty about it, don't hire him again, just keep him for the beer buddies.

He was poor at estimating and at tracking the invoice / progress, but monthly invoices / progress reports are common even with the best of the contractors, and with a project that ends in less than a month, nearly impossible to keep you informed in a more timely way.  Could it have been better communicated?  yep.   Could it have been worse?  HELL YES.

I hired professional contractors, with references and qualifications, and it went the same way, except costed 2.5X what they estimated, and they kept forgetting to submit sub trade and material invoices in their monthly progress reporting, and then randomly getting us to pay up when they were discovered later.  We went the whole project thinking it was 50% over budget but ended up at 2.5X over budget because of this.