Remodeling Prices: Why Do They Differ For The Same Job?

Talk to 3 contractors and you will get 3 different prices for the “same” job! Although looking at the same plans and specifications, you are actually getting 3 different remodeling prices for 3 very different jobs.

Every Builder will estimate a job based on their particular methods, materials and breadth of service. There are multiple grades of work for every trade, thus multiple potential prices.

Take a very simple example… painting. There are typically several grades (therefore costs) to paint the same house (the following example is very general and not meant to be exhaustive):

Basic/Entry Level

Sometimes referred to as “apartment grade”, this level typically involves little to no prep work or protection. Most imperfections remain with spot priming only (as opposed to priming of all surfaces). A quick spray job or 1 coat roll out of finish paint (using economy grade paint which may lead to bleed through of prior paint jobs). The price may not include painting woodwork or ceilings (typically one color for all surfaces).


Protection of adjacent surfaces with a reasonable cleaning of surfaces prior to prep including a basic putty, sand, caulk, minor patch of existing imperfections (might include sanding between coats). Prime all surfaces, applying 1 or 2 finish coats of final color. Mid-range grade paints. Reasonable cutting in of colors, but not particularly crisp and precise. Wall color is white or pastel with white woodwork and ceiling.


Upscale includes a thorough cleaning of surfaces prior to prep with significant preparation of new and existing finishes to accept new paint. Sanding between coats (when painting, preparation makes all the difference, but adds to the cost).

Skilled painters will use high quality primers, finish paint and add mixtures resulting in a smooth finish, rich colors and clean cut edges.

Multiple colors and possibly specialty finishes such as faux and wallpaper are included. All surfaces (both new and existing) should look fresh and new (substantially new in regards to existing finishes).

Paint Grades:

Even the paint that is used comes in multiple quality levels (therefore multiple price ranges). Benjamin Moore offers 5 different grades of interior paint, all priced differently (and your paint estimate will reflect this).

Aura (top of line)
Super Spec
Super Hide

If one Contractor is bidding based on an upscale paint job and the other based on entry level, the paint estimates will be quite different.

This simple formula applies to all components of your project. When an experienced Contractor is relatively higher than another, in almost every case it indicates a different level of installation, materials and finishes, attention to detail, customer service, supervision and warranties.

If your GC has been in business for many years, they know what it costs to perform entry level, mid and upscale work, and that will be reflected in the estimate.

When 3 different Contractors submit 3 different remodeling prices, it is because they are bidding on 3 different jobs. The question you need to ask yourself is which version of your project do you want?

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