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Types of Home Improvement Quotes

There are several different types of home improvement quotes used by contractors today: estimates, bids, time plus materials, price not to exceed and hidden damage. Below you will find a description of each type.


This is an educated guess about the time and material costs necessary to complete your medium to large job. Usually, you will be provided a low and a high number that normally range within 20% of each other. The advantage is that you pay the actual cost and no extra mark up to cover contingencies. The disadvantage is that you do not know your exact cost in advance, but if you are comfortable with a price range then you can save money.


This is a firm quote on labor and materials for your job and will be the amount you pay. The advantage is that you know the exact cost up front. The disadvantage is that the contractor has to plan on unforeseen problems and your cost will be substantially higher than other methods because the contractor has to charge more to cover the risk of unexpected costs.

Time Plus Materials (T + M):

You are charged only for the actual time worked and materials purchased. Though most companies do not allow it, Handyman Matters will advise you on materials to buy and help you make a shopping list so you can buy your materials and do not have to pay us for shopping time or warranty markup on the materials you want.

The advantage of this method is that it is the least costly (estimates are always calculated at a higher hourly rate) and fastest way to have many small to medium sized projects done. Also, it is easy to expand your to-do list without changing any contracts. The disadvantage is that you do not a have a firm price up front, but rather an approximate time frame.

Price Not to Exceed:

This is like T+M but provides the homeowner with a price the project will not exceed. Typically, the contractor will quote you a price they are sure of, taking all unexpected problems into account. This method will be slightly more expensive than T+M, but it is your second best choice to keep your costs down on small to medium sized projects.

Hidden Damage:

Damage discovered that could not be seen before starting your project is not included in any of these methods. Ethical companies will notify you of this and give you a written change order with any additional costs as a result before proceeding. Handyman Matters' policy is to stop work, inform you of any problems we discovered, and give you a written change order detailing all the additional costs for you to approve before continuing your project.

Depending upon the scope of your project, Handyman Matters can work with you in any of these ways, and we have found it's best for you to choose T+M for typical "handyman work", and the Price Not to Exceed option for larger projects.

Consumer Guide Contents

  1. Making Sure The Job Gets Done Right The First Time
  2. Making Sure They Can Do the Work
  3. Ensuring Your Contractor Will be on Time
  4. Making Sure You Get a Fair Price and the Final Bill Won't Exceed the Quote
  5. Types of Home Improvement Quotes
  6. Ensuring Craftspersons Won't Be Rude or Messy
  7. Communication and Job Progress Updates
  8. Guarantees on Work Performed
  9. Home Improvement Contractor Availability
  10. Legal Questions to Ask
  11. Convenient Contractor Check-List (21 Questions to Ask to Make Sure Your Project Gets Done on Time and on Budget)
  12. Letter from the Handyman Matters President and Founder

Printable Version (PDF)
of the Consumer Guide