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Good Work Ain’t Cheap and Cheap Work Ain’t Good

A general contractor lays tile in the shower during a bathroom remodel

A Different Perspective

In our line of work we often get asked, “why is it so expensive?” This is a loaded question, but generally when you are looking from a homeowner’s perspective, you only see a certain percentage of what actually needs to be done by your general contractor. Think about it this way. If you have a bedroom wall that is 10 feet long by 10 feet high, you only see 100 square feet of the surface. You will see the painted drywall, trim, at least one outlet, and possibly a switch. However, what you cannot see is the stud framing holding up your walls, the vent pipe that comes up from your basement bathroom, and electrical wires running to other portions of your house. You also have the steel plates that cover plumbing, nails, screws and drywall tape used to hide those screws. You’re not seeing the fire blocking required at 10 foot intervals for code or the insulation protecting you and your family from the outdoor elements. Materials can add up very quickly without even factoring in labor costs.

Lower prices are not always better

Where am I going with this? If we know anything about the contracting world, it’s that some general contractors have a great ability to skimp on some materials to give you a good LOOKING finished product. This contractor looks good to you as the consumer, because his prices are lower and his time frames are shorter. However, I implore you to see past these temptations and look for quality you can trust with a contractor who does it right. 

Good construction is hidden behind the walls

The biggest rooms I would spend the extra money on is your kitchen and bathroom. Not only is your ROI in these rooms the highest, but these are the spaces that cost the most when they fail because they have the most moving parts. A perfect example of this is a bathroom shower. It seems simple to put cement boards up, lay some tile on the wall, add grout, install fixtures and call it a shower. And you’re right, it is a shower. But it will only last a certain period of time before issues start to appear. When the issues arise however, hold on to your pocket books. A shower is a space that has a large amount of cost behind the walls.

Using the best products

To do it right, it starts with the proper plumbing connections (supply and drain) and mixers of good quality so it doesn’t fail in 5 years. There’s a reason reputable companies are more expensive. THEY LAST AND ARE GUARANTEED.

After proper plumbing comes the start of your mold and waterproof systems. There are a million systems that offer great products. To name a few, Hardibacker and Redgaurd offer taped seams, Schluter Systems carries great products such as waterproof membrane boards, and Wedi Systems offers great products all around. When used correctly, these systems create a good foundation for waterproofing your walls and shower pan in order to start sticking tile. However, this is a place that a general contractor can be frugal in their costs. These systems are not cheap, so can I go put up some sheet rock and then cover it with thinset and tile? I sure can. Will you as the homeowner know that I have done this? You will now.

Waterproofing

If used, there are two layers of waterproofing ability after you add the wall board up. After we waterproof and mold proof the wall board, we use a thin set that is a waterproof membrane as well. We cover the entire surface in the thin set, giving it a perfectly flat surface, as well as adding a strong layer to reduce water leakage issues. We then stick tile and finally grout. Grouting is the final waterproofing step, but I bet if you have a shower older than 5 years, you can see some cracking in the grout. This means the first line of defense against water in your walls is failing. If your general contractor used the correct system and took into account waterproofing the studs the correct way, this is not an issue that needs to be immediately addressed. Will you as a homeowner know this? Probably not.

A nightmare waiting to happen

I have been on jobs where water has been running down the backs of shower walls for years. The in-laws are in town, staying in the guest bedroom for Thanksgiving week and the shower gets used more than regular. All of a sudden you have water puddles forming in your living room from the upstairs bathroom. This is probably the last thing you want to have happen while you’re trying to sleep off your turkey coma preparing for round two. When we pull the drywall down we realize we are not only dealing with a water leak, but we have mold and rotting occurring in the structure. We now have a large renovation that has to occur AND the bathroom that started the issue has to be redone. All because we wanted to save some bucks on the front end to get that dream bathroom. What a nightmare! You pay out of pocket with no insurance help because now it is considered neglect.

Always ask questions

Ask your general contractor how they ensure you have a product that will last a lifetime before you sign their bid. Be sure to ask questions that will guarantee you are getting the product you deserve. High priced bids can just as easily overlook some important steps that will take years to rear their ugly faces. Some of our other blogs have touched on ways to verify the contractor you are wanting to hire is worth their weight. Check out our blog on the variability in home remodeling estimates here https://vigeoconstruction.com/variability-in-home-remodel-estimates/

Transparency is key

The moral of the story is good construction is often hidden behind the walls. When you are on the hunt for a general contractor, please receive multiple bids. Narrow them down and interview the contractors you have chosen. Verify they are doing what they say they are going to do and make sure you trust the team you hire. If crews are available and have a lower bid, there is often a reason behind it. Transparency is absolutely key. Vigeo uses a service that gives daily updates to our customers with pictures and descriptions available on your phone as an app. This ensures we have full transparency with our customers and leaves the guesswork out of it. And always remember, good work ain’t cheap and cheap work ain’t good.

Are you planning a bathroom remodel and need some inspiration? Check out there top bathroom design trends from HGTV https://www.hgtv.com/design/remodel/bathroom-remodel/bathroom-design-trends-pictures.