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The Fallacy of the Free Quote

Rosario Ungaro - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

It is not that we are against giving a "free price quote" for our services per se, it's just that they don't work. Giving a quote without a complete project evaluation is like a doctor giving a diagnosis without doing a physical examination and getting lab tests. In the same way there are so many ways the doctor's guess work might be wrong, so too could such a quote.

Fee quotes are often like guessing gumdrops in a jarThe status quo for a deck-building contractor is to tender pricing to the homeowner before being awarded the contract. Certainly nobody in their right mind would hire a contractor with a blank check—that goes without saying. It sounds like common sense, but does it really get you the best results?

Quoting on a job before we do a complete evaluation, before we completely understand your needs, and before your needs are translated into a deck design that matches your outdoor lifestyle is a lot like guessing how many gumdrops there are in a jar. There is just not enough information and there is lots of room for error. Furthermore, it is virtually impossible to optimize the return on your deck investment with this approach, and by this we mean, help you to get the very best deck solution within your budget. 

It is in this way that the status quo "free price quote" breaks down. If you are making a serious investment and are looking to have a deck built that truly fits your needs then the process isn't quite as simple as just collecting free quotes, 

…not to mention, you will invariably NOT be comparing apples with apples.

Only by working with a contractor and having them do a complete analysis of your needs, the features and anomalies of your site, and doing preliminary design drawings, will a professional contractor be able to prepare anything close to an accurate price quotation. This is because it is at this point that all of the factors like size, materials, extras (e.g., deck lighting), special design considerations (curved edges, multi-tiered), etc., can be accounted for and effectively included in the price.

This approach means that you should essentially hire a contractor, not based on price, but based on other factors, like testimonials, experience, and your gut feeling. You need to abandon the “status quo", and think more like the way you would if you were finding a new doctor. Find someone you trust, want to have a relationship with, and with whom you feel comfortable communicating.

Choosing a contractor with whom you are comfortable to work with and who you believe can accommodate your needs within your budget, will give you significant other benefits as well.
  1. Once the contractor understands what your "dream" deck should include they can make construction, design and materials suggestions that can help you get the best value for your investment.
  2. The focus of the contractor becomes delivering the very best possible deck solution within your budget as opposed to delivering the lowest-priced deck possible. The latter could compromise quality in order help the contractor to make a profit from his lowball bid. Which focus do you want?
  3. You can believe in the pricing quote and it can be given to you on a guaranteed basis. When all of the factors—the design, the site anomalies, the materials desired, etc.,— are carefully considered ahead of time, before the price is tendered, the price will be accurate and you will not be faced with any surprises. If a contractor lowballs you then discovers an issue that will vastly affect their ability to make money on the project (or even cause them to lose money on the project) they are either going to be asking you to cough up additional money due to "special circumstances" or will be looking to cut in other ways, neither of which you want.

A deck, is a deck, is a deck, is just NOT true. There can be vast differences in the deck's design, the quality of materials, and the quality of workmanship and construction. By choosing the right contractor and working with them to iron out all of the details ahead of time you can be assured that you will get the best deck possible for your budget.

As a homeowner looking to obtain a new deck, only you can decide what kind of relationship you want with your contractor.

As a contractor, we want to partner with our clients to deliver to them the very best value we can within their budget. 

To do this though, it means we need you to contract with us so we can do a comprehensive analysis followed by design drawings and recommendations. Without such a contract, we are not able to bring to the table—at least to the fullest extent possible—some of our most important assets: 

  • our years of deck-building experience
  • our in-depth products and materials knowledge
  • our deck-building and construction knowledge, and
  • our problem-solving and deck design creativity.

When you engage us in this process, it allows us to focus on delivering the best quality-value combination we can without any down-the-line surprises. In this way we can fix-price the contract and you will know exactly what you're getting and for how much.

To us, this is a WIN-WIN relationship, and that's exactly the kind of relationship we like to have with all of our clients.

That's all for now until next time we'll keep Building It Right!

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A word from Rosario…

Our Blog is about sharing some of what we have learned along the way. (Many contractors even call us for ideas or advice.) We hope it is informative and shows our commitment to continuous learning—something we do so we can bring the very latest and best to our customers. 

You've probably heard the phrase: 

"Some people have twenty-five years of experience. Others have one year of experience, twenty-five times over." 

If a contractor doesn't stay up-to-date on the latest building codes, trends, styles, tools, materials, and products, they'll soon find themselves in the latter category. We work hard to make sure that we are not. We regularly talk with our suppliers, go to industry trade shows, and share information and ideas with our peers to make sure that we stay on top of our game and can continue to bring you the very best in building craftsmanship and knowledge.

I welcome the opportunity to chat with you about your next building project.


Rosario Ungaro
Benchmark Building Services Inc.


Relax… we'll build it right!