What to Expect in a Contractor Estimate

Don’t be intimidated by contractor estimates. Get the facts on how general contractors create estimates, and tips on how to evaluate them.

What to Expect in a Contractor Estimate

When you’re working with a general contractor to price home restoration or remodeling work, it’s critical to understand how to accurately read their estimate. This is the expected cost of all labor and materials necessary to complete the project, likely in the thousands of dollars.

While it may be intimidating to evaluate, there’s no need to worry - below is a breakdown of everything you need to know before jumping in and selecting the contractor estimate that’s right for you.

Why Contractor Estimates Look Different

Every contractor estimate, also known as a bid, is intended to display the sum of expected costs for the project, but they often display the information differently. This is because there are many types of software available for creating estimates, and some general contractors create their own estimate forms to suit their individual needs. For homeowners trying to compare the costs of working with one general contractor versus another, this can be confusing.

At Resolve, all general contractors in our nationwide network use the same estimate form, with a detailed and itemized outline of all costs associated with every project.

No matter who you choose to work with, it’s important that your estimate includes as much detail as possible to ensure there are no hidden costs. Homeowners who don’t review their contractor estimate and only evaluate total costs may be surprised to find out later that some of the items in their estimate went up in cost due to unforeseen circumstances. Such a scenario can be better prepared for by properly reviewing the estimate and asking questions before signing a work authorization form.

What’s in a Resolve Contractor Estimate

Contractors and general contractors in the Resolve network all use the same estimate form to price out projects. This makes it easy for homeowners to compare costs between contractors, and to more quickly evaluate the form since everything is in the same place.

Think of the Resolve contractor estimate like a triangle. It starts with a pointed focus on the total cost at the top and becomes more detailed with the costs of specific elements of the project as you move down through the estimate.


Each Resolve contractor estimate begins with basic information about the project, such as the estimate date, the name of the service provider, a project description and the estimate totals.

Estimate Totals

Within the Estimate Totals section, the general contractor lists the Approved Work Order, the cost you can either approve or decline at the start of the project, and the Change Order, the cost of any amendments to the project after it has started. You won’t see any cost associated with the Change Order until after work begins and if the scope of the project doesn’t change, you won’t at all. The Estimate Totals section also includes any Credits you might have from your insurance provider or the contractor to offset the total cost of the home repair.

Estimate Line Detail Subtotals

The next section in the contractor estimate is the Estimate Line Detail Subtotals. This is basically a more detailed version of the Approved Work Order, in which you’ll see specific costs associated with various elements of the work. Keep in mind that labor costs are included with material costs in each line item in this section.

Here are all the categories included in the subtotals:

  • Interior Paint, Drywall & Wallpaper
  • Flooring
  • Carpentry
  • Appliances
  • Plumbing
  • HVAC
  • Electrical
  • Structural
  • Mold
  • Change Orders
  • Totals 

Itemized Bid Repair Form

This is the most specific section of the contractor estimate. Here, the general contractor provides a breakdown of specific costs used to create the sums found in the Estimate Line Detail Subtotals section. For example, in Flooring, you’ll see the costs associated with removing and hauling away damaged or old flooring, costs of new carpet and installation, as well as the cost of subfloor repair should you need it.

 It’s important to note that not all the sections in the Itemized Bid Repair Form will be filled out, since some repairs may not require each line item included in the category. There’s also an “other” line item within each category, which may include costs not typically associated with the project, but required for proper repair.

Where General Contractors Get Product Prices

Since Resolve is associated with Lowe’s, general contractors in our network receive special benefits from Lowe’s that could save you money when compared with other retailers, although it’s up to you and your contractor to decide where products are purchased.

How Much Does it Cost to Get an Estimate?

Some general contractors may charge to provide an estimate. At Resolve, you can get up to three contractor estimates for free.

Does Resolve Review the Estimate?  

Another benefit of working with Resolve is that our team screens every contractor estimate before it gets to the homeowner. This is so our team can ensure there are no unusual or extraneous costs and that everything is in proper order with your best interests in mind.

Asking Questions about the Estimate

Since many general contractors have different methods of creating estimates, be sure to ask questions. If you’re confused about any part of the estimate, simply contact the contractor. If you’re working with Resolve, we can help answer questions as well.

Here are a few good items to consider when reviewing a contractor estimate:

  • The basic scope of the project, including who’s responsible for each aspect of the work
  • Start and completion dates
  • Payment terms
  • Cost for permits to be pulled
  • Proof of licensure, if necessary, as well as workers’ compensation, liability insurance and bonding


The information and advice contained in this article is intended as a general guide for informational purposes only. It does not take into account your personal situation. While we at Resolve have significant experience and history operating in the home restoration industry and working closely with construction contractors, we are not licensed as a general or specialty contractor. We encourage you to consider the information we’ve provided but urge you not to rely upon it in place of appropriate professional advice from a licensed, experienced construction contractor.






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