Here's How You Can Read And Compare Residential Cost Estimates Provided By Different Contractors!

You are trying to find a contractor who can help you execute your residential design project. You try to find contractors through your references or go online and start looking for options. Very soon, after providing all the requirements/layouts you may have, you start getting cost estimates or BOQs (bill of quantities) from the contractors you reached out to.

As you start looking through them, you often find out that the rates provided by different contractors swing over a huge range. So, how does one decipher what is going on and what is the actual cost of the project?

BOQs Feature.jpg

It is important to know this information, since if you go with the lowest rate available, that may not be the most accurate rate. This will lead to cost overruns later in the project and therefore unplanned expenses & also time delays.

Steps To Compare BOQs Provided By Different Contractors

Let’s get down to how you can go through the information in the BOQ and ask intelligent questions and understand the assumptions made. Some points which could help you:

  1. A detailed BOQ will always have the entire scope of work listed out: for example, there will be items under carpentry, civil, electrical, painting & polishing, false ceiling & loose furniture

  2. It will have a detailed description of the type of materials being used, including whether the ply is commercial ply or marine ply.

  3. The finish could be laminate, veneer or PU typically based on the look & feel you have selected.

  4. A good BOQ will assume a range of rates for good quality laminates & veneers.

  5. Typically veneer rates are calculated in per square feet & laminate rates are calculated per sheet.

  6. A good range of rates for veneer is INR 100 / sqft & for laminates is INR 1500 – 1900 per sheet.

  7. The BOQ will assume rates for marble, quartz, granite, tiles, etc. and other such items that may be needed.

  8. When you compare 2 BOQs, you should make sure that the material costs have been added in.

  9. You should also make sure that the assumptions made for the material costs are in the same range

  10. Many contractors may not add in rates for marble/tiles but may only add in rates for laying tiles & polishing the marble. This could create a large rate difference in BOQs being compared

  11. The basic costs of laminates & veneer can also cause rates to vary.

  12. Also, in most BOQs, since these are early estimates, the right sizes for items such as wardrobes, beds, TV units, wall paneling, etc. may not be considered.

  13. You need to make sure you compare the sizes in both the BOQs. Often contractors will consider typical sizes, which are standard according to them and these standard vary a lot.

  14. Another item that could cause cost variance would be electrical rates. Unless, an actual electrical plan is provided, it is not possible to get the exact number of electrical points needed.

  15. One should therefore compare the cost of moving each electrical point and then look at both BOQs to understand how many points have been considered.

  16. Some BOQs will have the cost of light fittings added in, the others may not, this could also create cost fluctuations.

  17. For items such as false ceiling, plastering walls and painting, make sure that the number of square feet considered in both the BOQs is the same. You should try to find out the per square foot and then compare those rates to get an actual understating of the cost.

  18. For items which require polishing, the cost calculated is in per square feet. The number of square feet is generally determined by calculating the surface area of the item being polished and adding some extra square feet to account for the number of quotes/wastage.

  19. The surface area to be polished is calculated differently by different contractors. You will need to judge this by looking at the work of each contractor to understand the rates provided.

  20. A good contractor will not cut corners in polishing and their finish will speak for itself and justify the higher rates, as opposed to lower ones provided by another contractor.

The main point that needs to kept in mind is that the sizes & quantity for furniture items, painting, false ceiling, polishing considered in the 2 BOQs are the same and that the materials (laminates, tiles, marble, quartz, corian, ply, glass, etc.)  considered are of a similar price range as well. These 2 things will account for most of the differences in the BOQs being compared.

Comparison of BOQ A & BOQ B

Attached are some examples, which explain the above points. The images are from an actual 2 BHK residential project, where the client received quotes from 2 agencies.

They are named as BOQ A & BOQ B. The one labeled BOQ A is accurate & complete, whereas BOQ B has missing/misleading information & therefore hidden costs. The differences are explained through the images.

Example 1 – Painting Costs explained


Painting cost calculation in BOQ A

The painting area assumed here in BOQ A is 980 sq ft and 3920 sqft. The calculation of applying paint on walls requires calculating the surface area of the walls and then using a certain formula to get the right amount of square feet.

Typically, you need to account for painting on the surfaces which intersect the wall and the ceiling as well. So as a thumb rule if the area of the walls is calculated to be 1000 sqft, then you need to multiply that number by 3 to 3.5 to get the right area to be painted.


Painting cost calculation in BOQ B

As can be seen in BOQ B, you can see that the painting area assumed on the walls is 2000 sqft. & on the ceiling is 1000 sqft. This area is lesser than what was assumed in BOQ A. Thus, the total cost in BOQ B is lesser than the total cost in BOQ A.

However, if you look at the rates, the per square feet rate for painting on both walls and ceiling is lower in BOQ A, than in BOQ B. Thus, to avoid cost overruns later on, you must make sure the area is calculated correctly and always compare the per square feet rates!

Example 2 – Civil (specifically marble flooring) costs explained

Attached are images of BOQ A and BOQ B again. This time to compare marble flooring + laying costs.


Marble flooring costs in BOQ B (no costs for actual supply of marble included)

As can be seen the marble flooring section in BOQ B says that the total cost of marble flooring is 1.77 lakhs. This is misleading! On closer inspection you will see the following:

  • The cost for the actual supply of marble is not provided. This means that only the cost of laying the flooring / installing it and polishing it is provided.

  • It assumes that the customer already has the marble or will provide the marble and therefore the cost of the marble itself has been omitted.

  • It also does not include any costs for demolishing the current flooring! How can you lay marble without actually removing the current flooring (tile or other marble) which is already installed on the floor! Thus, the floor breaking costs & the debris costs need to be included.

Now let’s look at the same costs in BOQ A.


Marble flooring costs in BOQ A (contains laying + installation & the actual cost of supplying marble)

Apart from the costs of laying & installing the marble flooring, BOQ A also includes the cost of the actual marble, demolition of the existing flooring and removing the debris. BOQ B omits these costs and therefore may seem lower at first inspection. However, these are hidden costs that as a customer you will incur later. These are very common contractor tricks to hide costs and you need to be aware!

Example 3 – Electrical Costs explained


Electrical costs provided in BOQ B

As can be seen in the image above for BOQ B, the 3 line items account for some light fittings across the house, some accent lighting and changing of switchboards. The issues here are:

  • There are no costs included for switching of electric points!

  • In any new apartment, most of the times as per the layout the homeowner wants, there will be moving of electric points.

  • The BOQ needs to account for moving of those electrical points & the costs that will be incurred while doing this.

  • The BOQ also needs to account for installation costs associated with moving electric points

  • It also needs to account for the cost of new switchboards & sockets, which will be needed after adding electric points

The image from BOQ A, addresses all of the above points.


Electrical costs provided in BOQ A

Thus, as explained above, there are many such points in a BOQ that a customer needs to look at before coming to a conclusion. Always compare the rates of the items & then question whether the right quantity, area, materials have been used, so you will not run into cases where your budget is completely overrun.

If you are looking for an expert’s help in getting your home done up, get in touch with Hipcouch today!

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