Comparing bids from several contractors will give you some leverage with the one you’d like to hire. Get three to five bids, and be clear about the products you want to use. If your preferred contractor is at the high end, say so and offer to show him the other bids. He may adjust his price.
When hiring a plumber or a tradesman for a small job, ask him to break down his price into labor and materials. About 35 percent should be materials and 65 percent labor, says Al Paxton, a construction estimator in Malibu, California. If the ratio seems wrong, say so. But be diplomatic. “If you squeeze him too hard, he might give you less than first-class workmanship and use less expensive materials,” Paxton says.