Do you provide free estimates?

I get this question a lot; do you do free estimates? The answer is, No, but we do provide FREE phone consultations and budget ranges after having a very detailed discussion with you about your bathroom or kitchen. (check out the difference between a consultation and an estimate below)

Then, if your investment range doesn’t seem like it will work with the costs that we experience we don’t want to waste your time. We understand that not everyone needs as much assistance as we can and do provide.

At Murphy’s Design we focus on solving your problems through the design and planning. That often means re-arranging the layout of the room or correcting an awkward area. As experts our first concern is to provide you with the best information available, give you the options and let you make all the decisions. John and I are experts and we provide our clients with different options at varying cost and we can’t do this by coming in and offering a generic estimate.

That’s why we structure our process around first getting you the right budget for the work and materials you want and then after all the planning and specification is done providing you with a fixed price for the work. We never enter into a contract for work without the entire scope of the project being decided, this prevents you from feeling as though you have lost the control over the decisions with costly change-orders.

Yep, so rather than running around providing stripped down estimates for projects that wont meet your needs and will have to be upgraded to make you happy we make sure that we are having open and honest discussions from the very first conversation.

It works like this:

Our first step is the phone consultation, once I understand your project then we can set up the easiest and most accurate way to get you the budget information you need.

Anatomy of an Estimate

1. The Details or “Scope” of work has been determined in order for estimate to have accuracy.

2. Product to be used has been selected or has not been included

3. Typically has an expiration date

4. May or may not take place in your home depending on work to be done

5. There is zero value to the estimate if 1 and 2 has not been determined. Without those two its a "WAG" wild arse guess.

6. Next step is usually sending you off to see their approved vendors to select materials

6. Typically lasts 30-45 minute

An example of an estimate as it relates to kitchen and bath remodeling would be; costs to install a specific cabinet layout, install a defined amount of tile or flooring, or painting a particular area. You want to avoid making your buying decision from the “free estimate” if your project has a lot of variances built into it. An estimate is more of a commodity, you should be able to have 3 professionals create 3 duplicate estimates so you can determine the best value.

Use this for task based pricing.

Anatomy of a Consultation

1. You meet with a licensed and/or certified professional referred to as consultant.

2. Wants and Needs analysis is performed with you in your home

3. Professional is more interested in the designing of a custom solution so that accurate costs can be determined

4. Ideas, options and advice is offered based on their experience and your wants, needs, and budget

5. Budget ranges are discussed but are dependent on final design development

6. Next step is usually a Design Planning or Project Development Service retainer

7. Can take place at their place of business or in your home

8. Typically lasts 1 ½-2 hours

9. Usually involves a fee for their time.


A consultation is a deeper discussion into the features and functions you want from your room's remodel. By discussing your specific wants and needs specific elements and ideas can be shared. The more details discussed the better information can be provided. A consultation is an excellent tool to find a professional, you get to develop the know, like and trust factor which helps guide you through the process of designing your remodel and developing your scope. It is also a great tool to use to begin to educate and build your project’s budget range.  An experienced pro will offer advice on the appropriate budget and the ways in which to save costs.  Consultations with the contractor and/or the designer versus a sales rep saves valuable time and produces more accurate costing models because they are going to be the one guiding you through the planning phases.

Understanding What You Need 

Understanding the differences between an estimate appointment and a consultation appointment will help you make the first important decision in the remodel process; who should I talk to about our remodeling questions. If you want help budgeting your remodel then the consultation format is going to give you a lot more information. If you know exactly what you want but need someone to do the work then the estimate will be advantageous. Either way by simply asking during the initial phone conversation, what is included in their “Free Estimate" you will be able to quickly separate the contractors who are focused on providing a generic or task related price to those that are there to educate and guide the process. Both are valuable but for different needs in your process.

My thoughts on Free vs. Paid

The truth is there is no such thing as “Free” . It might be “Free” to you at the time but it is costing the professionals actual money to offer any “Free” services. When you become a customer the service is no longer free. The expenses of the time already provided is taken into consideration once you become a paying customer. 

Of course, the cost burden of the estimator in your home gets added into the overhead for the company, not just for your estimate but all the estimates that are done annually then they become part of the cost of overhead for your project.  He gets paid whether you move forward or not.

Industry experts will charge for their time and they work hard to provide you with maximum value.  John and I are both highly trained in design and construction, our business is set up so that you have access to both of us all the time. Remodeling is a significant investment, a small fee is money well spent when you get a smart industry experts into your home to help guide you at the earliest stages. By structuring our business this way we don’t have to charge you for any “home visits” that didn’t pay for our valuable time.

What To Watch

Be watchful for those who waste your time providing no real value in advice, guidance or information, whether it be free or paid.   At any meeting an estimate or budget range should be discussed, additional resources provided, and generally information to help you better understand the process and next steps should be acquired. Before moving forward with any company everyone should be on the same page as to what the goal of the project is, cost or otherwise.

be weary of too much focus on who they are, their accolades or obtaining an immediate commitment to move forward, that is a sales call.

Time is one of the most valuable resources we have these days; protecting it for each other is the ultimate sign of respect.