We all know Mike Holmes, the Canadian GC, from his TV show. Well, I've just read his book "Make It Right," and I found his section on "Hire Right" to be most interesting.
He argues spelling out, in great detail, what he is quoting. He specifies the work, the methods, the materials.
Here, many (including myself) have advocated making the quote vague, to avoid giving the customer a 'shopping list.' Mike says that's not good enough. To quote from his book:
"If I'm doing a bathroom, I'll tell you everything about those tiles: what material they are, how much grout they'll need, the type of thinset I'll use, how I'll prep the floor. My quote shows the square footage of insulation, vapor barrier, and drywall; the linear footage of trim, how many doors, doorknobs, and handles, the style and price of the faucets and shower heads- every detail is in writing."
Another interesting quote refers to his approach to 'negotiation:' I will present a price. This price is not negotiable. I do not present you with a higher price so we can negotiate down to my real price. I give you a set price. ...... If people can't afford my quote, they have two options. Wait, continue to save .... (or) Look within my quote to see if there's anything you can do without."
I think it is a TV show. (somewhere between "flip this house" and "Rocky and Bullwinkle")
My wife was the super on a couple of "habitat" houses, that was televised and what you saw on TV had nothing to do with actually building the house. When I asked the producer he said it was just entertainment, not a documentary or an educational program.
It's VERY apparent that he targets jobs started by unlicensed contractors -- of which Ontario, Canada, seems to have no limit.
Canada is reaching the end of its own super construction boom -- years and years after America.
And during this boom, all of the screwy construction gambits we so know and love south of the 49th parallel have found their place in the Great White North.
More than a few of his shows revolve around GC's taking on work they can't possibly get a handle on -- just so that they can get a fresh chump to hand them a fat deposit -- and then advance funds out of all proportion to the job completion.
Holmes even once flew to LA to take over a fiasco in Los Angeles.
And normally the story is always that the HO was trying to get it done on the cheap -- typically working without a building permit/ inspections -- with the results being a pie-in-the-face.
As for his 'bidding' logic: his SHOW is picking up ALL of his expenses: he's in show business!
You see the same crazed tempo all over the DIY channel. Of course, it stands in studied contrast to how a REAL DIY project unfolds: slowly, haltingly... until it/ they run out of gas.
Reality bites: You just can't expect HOs to NOT free-ride any design advice. It's the ONE THING that they can't get right themselves. It's the core reason for your economic being: your knowledge base.
The NEC is written as gobble-di-gook for a reason. It's so that only people knowledgeable in the art can make any sense of it. ( You see that whenever attorneys write up anything. )
A workable solution is to have a General Standards of Work which you can self-publish with a laser printer/ inkjet. In it you detail the quality of materials ( specification grade ? ) methods, ( EMT/ MC/ Romex ) etc. that constitute your operational art.
Specifically state that there will ALWAYS be someone able to quote underneath you. However, any such APPARENT cost savings come at their own price: surprises and extras... hack production values that REDUCE the value of your home comes the day you have to sell -- and their inspector arrives. ( At which point, you discover what has to be removed/ entirely rebuilt/ upgraded -- to meet the market's expectation. )
[ I spent two man-weeks ripping out 'expert' 'self-help' DIY wire-hacking at my sister's home, year ago. She managed to knock down the asking price $90,000 -- in a hot real estate market -- because of the visible code violations/ hack work -- aka cabling crime.]
Because of this dynamic, I photograph shody work and use it to illustrate to prospects just how crappy work can get -- yet pass inspection.
Another factor: wire sizing. NEC permits entirely uneconomic, undersized conductors. It's drafted to stop fires/ injuries. It does not, in any way, attempt to size conductors for best economic performance.
So it permits #12 when the math says #10 is economic. The cost of electric power is so high relative to the cost of up-sizing home runs only an idiot/ HO would scrimp on copper. All of the expense is in the labor -- all of the performance is in the conductor.
( Upsizing usually pays all of its expense back in less than eighteen months. Where else can you earn 66% per annum on a AAA credit risk? )
If anyone were to detail their bids in the manner of Holmes DIYers will take that as proof that they're idiots to hire on a 'free design team.' The idea that the design is zero cost is, of course, promoted by the big box retailers and the national manufacturers. For them, it's an annoyance that ANY labor is required to install their products.
Even a stopped clock is right twice a day .... whatever else one might say about Mr. Holmes, he's put an idea out there that I think merits discussion.
So, he has a TV show. I have a cat. What's that got to do with anything? The man has written a book, and put forth his thoughts. I selected just one of those thoughts for discussion in this thread.
Ironically, some of the critical comments parrot some of Mike's other thoughts. One example: he advocates always doing better than code minimum.
TV show or not, the man does actually have a contracting business - and he was contracting long before he ever had a TV show.
I would think the membership here would be more sympathetic to his views. I can't speak for others, but I watch his show, and it's like watching a diary of my life, sorting out some layer cake of kludge just to get things working.
More germane is the matter of quotes, which is one key element in how we deal with customers. That fine art is what makes a sale happen, and what leads to a happy customer at the end of it all- or, not.
Oddly enough, I cannot tell for the comments above whether anyone agrees with Mike's take on quotes - or if they disagree.
If you don't want to be paid for the design part of your job, you can give the design for free and only charge for the labour. If you want to be paid for design and labour, you shouldn't do either until you have a contract. Quotes must be specific, but they don't need be "how to" guides.
The part about never negotiating price just means that he is uncompromising. It doesn't really mean it's a fair price.
TV only shows the parts that make the actor's look good. You won't see the scene where the customer refuses to pay a bill for a bunch of extras.
Greg, I'm biased because of my commercial back round.
Our circuits are typically very long compared to residential dimensions.
I've even had the weird experience of having to twin up #10 home-runs / splitting a 12A 208 V load in half -- because it was THAT far away from the panel. The CWA wouldn't tolerate anything less. (!)
As for e-economics, in my area, the PUC is determined to ramp kW-Hr rates into orbit. My McMansion neighbors are already paying $ 0.45 per marginal kW-Hr, in the summer. At such rates, ANY lost energy due to code minimum wire sizing looks bad.
We pay the same for wire as you... But our e-rates are in orbit.
Right now, spas and hot tubs are being listed 'free' all over my local CraigsList. It's the power bill. They were bought at a time when power rates were one fourth the current marginal cost. (!)
I expect that Someone will wake up and start retrofitting such loads with heat pumps. No one in Greater Sacramento uses a hot tub in the snow. So heat pumps are wildly favored for the lowest cost Btus for heating water.
Beyond that, maybe there's a way that HOs can set up solar-heated spa-water on the cheap. Such a system would no longer need high pressures -- not even perfect integrity.
But, it looks like electrically heated hot tubs are being driven out of the market by politics.
As I said, Reno, you just can't win when you provide blow-by-blow specs for a small residential project.
Instead, everyone must use boiler plate. I rather suspect that Holmes has boiler-plated his construction standards, too.
It's something that the big fellas have done for a long, long time. It's time every EC does the same.
It's one way of stepping clear of the trunk-slammers.
And say it plain: good work is ALWAYS underbiddable. There are SO MANY corners that can be cut. Slipshod is simply not our game.
The ultimate make or break for most ECs is screw-ups. Stuff like bidding errors, re-work, inspection failures, omitted critical materials...
If you NEVER suffer such dings, chances are that you'll survive.
To pull that off means to walk away from teaser bidding -- on work that is too far outside your scope of confidence. In today's economy, being aggressive is suicide.
I particularly chuckle at ECs who seriously think that GCs have a legitimate need to swell the ranks of their EC subs. The reality is they've burned their prior subs, one way or another. No EC is so overbooked that their client-GCs must be turned away. No, the number of GCs bankrupting their subs is simply exploding. That's the way of the world. The tip-off: they always chase fresh blood before they implode.
Mike made the transition to TV when his local market was absolutely booming.
As I have never seen this show, it's hard to make any comments, other than on what is posted here.
One of the projects that I was working on, as EC, was a design/build for a tenant expansion. (TV studio). Over a four month period, with about 80 hours into it, a final design was achieved and budget costs finalized. "Hold" was requested for approx 60 days to secure the financing. An addendum was drafted regarding market pricing increases on items, and accepted.
During the hold period, I sold my EC operation, and passed on the above, along with the client base. Two weeks after the 'hold' was over, we found out that the job was awarded to someone else, at about $500 less. (Job was $235K+/-)
Yes, D/B was done for a fee, and it was paid. My point...full details....???
My second point, not even a phone call to ask..'can a better $$$ be made'!!!
Well, let's look at an example; the job is running power for a new air conditioner.
Contractor #1 provides a quote that reads: "Power for new air conditioner $300."
Contractor #2 provides a quote that reads: "Power for the new air conditioner will be taken from the interior panel. Wiring method will be cable for the 27-ft. inside portion of the run, where I will transition to EMT for the outside run to the disconnect. The disconnect will be a Square D QO200TR, with an HACR-rated breaker in place of the simple switch provided with the unit. The whip to the unit will be supported, and have a metal liner. "All holes will be patched in a manner appropriate for the wall material, and fire sealing will be done where needed. If you have some matching paint, we will even paint the patches; otherwise we will use an appropriate primer. "Before work begins we will obtain the permit. We will close off the work area and use tarps to contain any construction mess. At the end of the job we will clean up, and remove all trash, with larger items hauled away. Shrubbery will be protected, or pulled away from the work area. "Work will be performed weekdays, with our crew on site no earlier than 8:30AM and no later than 9AM. Work will be completed, and the area cleaned up, no later than 4PM of each work day. Our trucks will not block your driveway. "We ask that you allow our workers access to a bathroom. "You will not be disturbed by loud radios or music. "For this project, our price is $300." "(Attached is a sketch of our proposed wire routing and schedule)."