ipad with image of kitchen

Contractors Should Never Help Their Clients Pick Finishing Materials. Here’s Why

Your client wants their "Dream Bathroom" and you want to get the job done.  While it may seem like a simple task, helping select materials can have serious implications for your business

Your client has been dreaming about how their bathroom, kitchen, or home will look long before they called you. And they weren't dreaming about the plumbing vent stack. They've been cruising the internet for inspiration photos and slowly raising their expectations of what their space can look like. 

Contractors should never help their clients pick finishing materials for any renovation project. While it may seem like a simple task, it can have serious implications on your business. In this article, we will discuss why contractors should never help their clients pick finishing materials and what measures they can take to ensure that they are protecting themselves from potential liabilities.

It's A Waste Of Your Time

As a contractor, you may be tempted to take on the renovation of a bathroom or kitchen and combine certain finished material costs in your bid. Then you give your clients some options or send them to your suppliers to select materials, but this is not recommended. You may spend hours of unpaid time helping your clients make decisions they should have made from the beginning. 

Image of ipad with kitchen photo and caption that says this is not a design plan

That being said, many contractors make additional revenue by reselling materials to their clients. We love that and think you should do more of it! But this does not mean you should be involved in the material selection process. You should expect your clients to have a design plan and a list of materials they want, which you can send off to your suppliers for a quote. Then it’s up to you to decide whether to resell those materials at a markup or to pass on the direct cost to your client. 

You Will Absolutely Lose Money

Selecting materials for a renovation project can be a time-consuming process, and you are not a volunteer interior designer. Not only that, but sourcing materials can take hours of work and requires specialized knowledge. With limited resources at your disposal, it is best to leave the selection of tiles and other materials to others. 

If you included certain materials- like kitchen cabinets - in your bid, you've pre-set a price limit for those materials without really discussing it with your client. If they select a cabinet that's more expensive, you have to bill them for the difference, and we know how much you love doing paperwork. 

clip board with paper and caption that says material selections

If you include all finishing materials in your bids, it is important to consider the true cost of those materials when bidding a job. It is important to factor in the price difference between buying materials from suppliers and shopping for them yourself before deciding how much to include in your bid.

Liability, Liability, Liability

As a contractor, you can be held liable for problems that arise from the materials you install, especially if you recommended those materials in the first place. Interior designers carry a type of insurance called Errors & Omissions Liability that protects them in case something goes wrong. You likely do not have such a thing and it's not usually covered by your contractors' policy. If you recommend and install something your client doesn't like, you could be on the hook for the cost of replacement. Protect yourself and your business by not being involved in the material selection process. 

dining nook in eat in kitchen

As a contractor, it is important to insist that your clients come prepared with design plans and know what finishing materials they intend to use for their renovation project. Helping your clients make these selections can put your business at risk by no fault of your own. Homeowners should make sure that they are taking responsibility for the materials they choose and not relying on the advice of their contractors. 

How To Get This Done

Yea, yea, yea, this all sounds great but how exactly are you supposed to put this into practice when some homeowners expect you help with the material selection process? Here's how:

Ask Your Clients To Have Their Material Selections in Advance

And we don't mean some reference photo they found online. We're talking about a real, usable plan that tells you what they want to use and where it should go. It's scary to insist on anything when you're running a business, but this one will actually make you money in the long run. 

Include Design Plans in Your Bid 

Spec Binder design plans were made to be included in your bid. Your clients will be able to select a design before you start work, plus you get 20% cash back on all purchases made using your unique discount code. Our design plans come with a complete list of pre-sourced materials that you or your clients can use to purchase materials. For the price of one toilet, you will save hours of time and headaches. 

Bid Labor & Finishing Materials Separately

This is something your client can easily understand and, in our experience, actually prefer. Your labor quote should include all labor for the whole job but only the materials needed to get to raw unfinished sheetrock, such as pipe, framing etc. Your materials bid can come later once your client has given you a design plan. It should include every single item needed to finish the project. If you are going to invoice for materials, aim to make a profit and not simply recoup costs. You can also have your client purchase their own materials while still knowing you will get what you need to do the job. 

About Our Professional Grade Design Documents

The last time we checked, contractors weren't volunteer designers but, sometimes you may feel like you don't have a choice with these decisions in order to move your job along. 

Not having the right information  from the start can cost you a lot of time and money. As a contractor, you should know exactly what your client wants, and where it should go before starting a job. That way you can do what you do best, quickly execute the job. Using professional grade design documents will not only make it look great but also add profit to your bottom line.

Spec Binder's ready made design documents come complete with all the documents you need for you and your client to work together in creating a space they want, with the information you need. Check out how it works here.

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