Screen Porch: Contractor Bids

After our big announcement that we are redoing our screen porch (yeah!), I kind of went radio silent on that so here's the latest. We worked for a few more weeks with our architect to finalize the plans, or at least finalize them enough to get some prices. Here's a version of the front elevation from a few weeks ago.

I have always loved railing details like this. I want the porch to be a feature in both our front curb appeal and our back yard. Lots more on that to come.

The next step was to bid the project out. Although our initial instinct was to use our builder who did our addition, we decided to bid it out to a couple of builders we know since there seems to be a little bit of a lull in the building action now until spring really comes (but it feels like spring which makes me HAPPY!). We really want to be sure we are getting absolutely the best possible price for high quality work.  We are only getting quotes from contractors we would like to work with either for the first time or again.  This is also a bit of a tough project for us because we have absolutely no idea how much this is going to cost us, so it's really important that we have comparable prices.  I feel like I have a good idea for what kitchens, bathrooms, and garages cost but I have no idea about a screen porch!

So, here's how the bid process works. Our architect had the bid set of plans printed at her printer's office (they are oversized). This set includes photos of the property, a copy of the plat, and detailed construction plans from the foundation to the roof type. This is essentially the same set of plans which we would use to submit to the county for our permits so any extra expense for us is pretty minimal.

We met with 2 of the builders who we haven't worked with in the past and gave them their set of the plans. The builder who built our addition picked up his set and has asked questions via email either to us or to our architect (who he knows through our renovation project).  All of the contractors know they are bidding on the project which is important to tell them. You will get their best possible price in most cases if they know they are in a potentially competitive process and they want or need the work.  We should have quotes from all of the builders by Friday or Monday at the latest.

Next we'll have to make a decision. We hope to have that done by mid-March and hopefully have our project underway before spring really gets going, although spring is really threatening to come early this year. If you're planning to come to DC for the cherry blossoms - I would make reservations for the first or second week of March!

Any good tips for picking contractors?  Bid processes?