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We're kicking our old tub/shower combo to the curb (no major renovations, just a simple switcheroo).I've gone ahead and scheduled a few free consultations – first time dipping my toes into this whole ordeal, so wish me luck!

Our tub/shower is pretty standard alcove setup, measuring in at a tidy 60"x30"x15". Is it fiberglass or acrylic?That's the mystery of the ages, folks. We are not aiming for anything fancy, just just the essentials. A reliable, high-quality bathtub and some sturdy wall panels.

So, in strolls each estimator, takes a quick peek, whips out the tape measure, and bam, we're done! But hold onto your hats, we're just getting started! Cue the company spiel, the lifetime warranty pitches, the bragging rights – they've got it all.

Now, don't get me wrong, I get it – these formalities are all part of the game. But here's the kicker: all I really want is a ballpark estimate. If it's going to break the bank, why prolong the conversation? I hate the thought of someone trekking all the way to our place, chatting for an hour, and then cue dramatic movie ending music... The End.

So, here's the big question: could we just shoot over a quick video or some pics of the tub/shower and its surroundings, along with its specs, for estimation purposes?

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  • There's no such thing as "simple" with a tub...for one thing, even if the old one comes out in pieces, the new one somehow has to get to the bathroom intact, which is often difficult due to small doorways and hallways. As for the sales tactics, you hating it is, of course, supposed to guilt you into accepting their low, low price of 17 times what you want to spend.
    – Ecnerwal
    Apr 4 at 18:02
  • In theory installing a tub is simple. In reality it is all the little things and quirks that make it sometimes a nightmare. If you had an alcove with no drywall and only framing, the drain and plumbing supply in the exact proper location and easy axcess with no obstacles, then it would be reasonable to expect an estimate from pictures.
    – RMDman
    Apr 4 at 18:26
  • @isherwood Got it, thanks for the heads up! I'll review How to Ask and take the tour to ensure I'm following the guidelines. I'll make sure to revise my title and remove the service recommendation related content
    – mesaCo
    Apr 4 at 18:41
  • @RMDman Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting tub replacement is a walk in the park. What I'm wondering is if there's a way to streamline the process. For instance, could we utilize video calls or Zoom meetings to showcase the access, bathroom setup, walls, and more, allowing for a preliminary estimation? This could help determine if it's worth proceeding to the next step, saving both parties time and avoiding lengthy in-person visits
    – mesaCo
    Apr 4 at 18:53
  • The answer to your updated question is 100% a matter of the contractor's expectations. We can't answer it.
    – isherwood
    Apr 4 at 20:48

2 Answers 2

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Yes you should easily be able to get an estimate by shooting a video or using zoom and having all of the dimensions. I do this for several trades. There may be some very very small things you need on site but that shouldn't bother a general estimate.

I do this for almost everything except for big plumbing (redoing a shower/tub) is not big plumbing. And if you are put off by the overly salesy pitches from certain companies, I have worse news. If they are paying a salesperson to sit and win you over for 1-2 hours then there is a very good chance their commission is upwards of 30%+ and their commission does not improve your house.

If there is a new topic in homes (I did this for some solar energy things years back) I let the big companies come out and pitch me. That cuts down on some of my research time and I can see where industry trends are. If you can't say no to anyone the easiest thing to do is require yourself three quotes and just tell the person if they are the best value they will be chosen.

If you are dealing with honest companies and they are good/efficient they will prefer this and when you have basically chosen them they may want to come out and take a peak to give you a more exact quote or to double check things you have told them.

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In my 20's I worked as an estimator for a large company. Most of the work was government/institutional, but we did residential and commercial too. Estimating is expensive for the company. A bad estimator can take your company down, no matter how good your workers or materials are. And good estimators don't come cheap. So, from the contractor's side, there are two main approaches to keep estimating costs under control:

  1. You only do house visits and give full estimates to customers you already know and who are not the type to waste your time -- and by wasting time I don't mean not awarding you the job (that's OK), I mean people who just want to have a list of materials. And if it's someone you don't know, you may give a pre-estimate broad range over the phone, a la "this normally runs $5,000 to $12,000 depending on options, do you want to keep talking?" and if they say yes, then you spend the time necessary to make a proper estimate.
  2. You give estimates to anybody who asks one, adding 30 to 50% to the price to cover the estimator/salesman's salary and/or commission. The estimator keeps their job and/or earns a commission by bringing in sales, ergo the pitches you are getting. These guys don't like giving quick estimates over the phone for the same reason car salesmen always want you to walk into the dealership.

I often get calls from friends asking if the estimates they are getting are reasonable. Recently heard about a $14,000 estimate to install a water heater from a company using the salespersons model. The plumber I recommended charged $1,400, but he only went to do the estimate after I assured him the client was good.

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