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The Many Risks in Choosing the Low Bidder

The Kodama Way - Building the Job You Want, On Time and at a Fair Price!

There are 2 types of low bidder:

  1. Contractors who don’t have the experience to bid your project properly, or
  2. Contractors that know plenty of shortcuts on quality you won’t notice until it is too late


Choosing the low bidder almost never works out. The “savings” can look substantial in comparing bids. If the lowest bid also fits your budget it can be even more attractive.  Before you sign any proposal please consider this information carefully.

  1. Ethical contractors provide their best price up front and will include all the details on materials and installation methods. The low bidder will use their price as a point to start negotiations. They know there will be plenty of places to make up the profit once the project is started.
  2. If a bid is 15% or more below other bids it won’t be based on the same materials or installation methods. A 15% profit is a standard practice. If a bid is 15% or more below other bids, the contractor is working for free. Of course, no one works for free. The low bidder will likely substitute lower quality materials or take short cuts on installation in order to save labor costs.
  3. You have probably been given this advice, “Don’t give your budget to a contractor.”  What you may not realize is that the choices you make will have more impact on the final price. For example, kitchen cabinets can cost $10,000 or $50,000 for the same kitchen. The labor to install either type of cabinet will essentially be the same. Check online for the manufacturer’s reputation and warranty. If you can’t find them online, don’t buy their cabinets. If a contractor knows what your budget range is then they can help guide you towards product choices that meet your needs and are within your budget.
  4. Check their references fully before hiring. You can also learn more on our references page. Low bidders often save money by not being properly licensed and many don’t carry insurance or don’t carry enough insurance. Contractors like this are cheating the government. They will just as likely cheat you.
  5. Ask for the New Mexico license and then verify that it is current at the state website. Ask for the insurance agent’s contact information and get their insurance certificate directly so you will know it is current.
  6. Contracting without a license in New Mexico is against the law.  If a contractor is working without a license, the Division may stop the construction project and file a criminal charge of unlicensed contracting in Metropolitan or Magistrate Court.
  7. Do a Google search to find stories about unethical contractors. The stories typically describe trusting homeowners that lost their deposit or were left with an unfinished project.

Windows – This is one area that every low bidder will take advantage to make more money at your expense. You won’t realize the problems until the installation is complete and you have lived with the new windows for a while. Bargain windows (10 windows for $999 etc.) are rarely a bargain.

You will spend more for energy and incur more repair issues than the up-front “savings.” Well-made windows are custom manufactured to fit each opening. This ensures proper sealing of the opening.

There is a process to properly install your new windows. If the proper techniques and materials are not used, the result is air leaks and water damage.

Doors Bargain doors are available at all the big box retailers and most are mass produced with 4-9/16” jambs.  The jambs are designed to work with 2×4 walls with ½” of sheathing on each side. Older homes in the Santa Fe area have different wall thicknesses and will require custom jamb extensions and to properly fit the doors. These are steps that the low bidder is going to shortcut and the resulting fit and finish won’t look right, even to the untrained eye.

Paint – If the surface preparation is done quickly or not done at all, you will end up with uneven seams and lines from the rolling brush. Trim work that is installed sloppily looks even worse when it is painted.

Professional painters also carry the proper insurance so that if they spill paint on your floors, they pay for cleanup and replacement to the paint. 

All professional painters and remodelers are required by law to be trained in safe lead practices and certified through the EPA when working on homes and buildings built before 1978. These laws are designed to protect your family from potential lead poisoning from exposure to hazardous lead dust.

Cabinetry – TYou can spend $10,000 to $50,000 on cabinets for the same kitchen. Spending a lot of money isn’t necessarily the best decision, but going on the low end rarely provides cabinets that look good and last. Some of the issues with poorly made cabinets include: drawers that come apart, loose hinges, shelves that warp, and finishes that look worn quickly.

Measuring cabinets takes years to master. When the measurements are not correct, the installer must make major adjustments. The installer may even need to order replacement cabinets, which will delay your project for weeks.

Granite, Marble and Stone Surfaces – These materials look fantastic when the measurements are correct and the installation is proper. This is usually a big investment, too. If it isn’t done right you will feel like you made a mistake. The template is the key. If it isn’t prepared correctly, it won’t fit.

Plumbing – Most plumbing components are hidden in the walls. Cheap plumbing components can leak and cause expensive damage to floors, walls and ceilings. Leaks can also lead to problems with mold. Mold problems are very expensive to remediate and can result in insurability risks. If the mold problems are severe enough they house may not be saleable either.

Framing – If the framing is not installed properly, you will have ongoing problems with drywall, moldings, casements and other trim work. Cabinets won’t fit flush with the walls and ceiling. The gaps will be almost impossible to fill and it will look unprofessional.

Sheetrock and Drywall – You’ve probably noticed nail pops, seams that show and uneven sanding at other homes. These issues usually don’t show up until the seasons change and after you have paid your final bill. Most of these are almost impossible to fix without starting over.

Ensure that your contractor does NOT use sheetrock from China, which has been documented to cause serious health problems.  This is one more way that the low bidder will make money at your expense.

Electrical – The consequences of cheap electrical work can be disastrous. Insist that the work be completed only by a licensed electrician.

HVAC – Installation of an inefficient or inadequate unit will be more expensive in the long run. The cost of energy is heading ever higher and the energy efficiency (SEER) rating will have a direct impact on your monthly utility bill. If your system is inadequate or unbalanced you will have increased utility costs. Uneven airflow distribution means the home won’t heat/cool appropriately in all rooms.

All of this information may leave you wondering if there are any ethical contractors. The good news is that there are reputable home remodeling companies that have the experience to turn your dream into reality.

If you are ready to renovate your home, contact us at (505) 490-6527.

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