Adelaide's Award Winning Custom Home and Renovation Specialists


The Difference Between an Estimate, a Quote, and a Proposal

As a trade business, we spend a great deal of valuable time in communication with our clients, assessing their requirements and discussing options. One thing we have noticed is that in the building industry, there tends to be a lot of confusion between what an estimate, quote and proposal is. Contrary to what you might think, there is a world of difference between the three.

The first thing to understand is that they are NOT different terms for the same thing. They all have very distinct uses so knowing the differences can save you a lot of time & money in the long run.


An estimate is an educated guess at what your project may cost, or as we like to say, a ‘guesstimate’. It’s a non-binding idea of price based on the information you provide during your initial consultation with a building contractor. The problem with estimates is that they can change drastically when you give further information and especially when unexpected complications come up during construction.

An estimate can be valuable if you’re just after a price range to figure out if you can afford it or not and some builders will go by a square-metre rate which can then provide an indication of what the final cost will be. However, price ranges can vary dramatically for particular projects, for example, a bathroom renovation can cost $15,000 or it can cost $90,000 and above. So there really is no telling what your final cost will be.

– Fast idea of what it may cost
– Gives you the opportunity to meet various contractors and gather prices quickly
– False assessment of end cost
– Creates bill shock when variations start coming through
– Creates turmoil between you and your contractor due to lack of transparency of actual costs


A quote is an exact price of what your project will cost subject to a specific time frame. As it is fixed, once it’s been accepted by you, your contractor cannot charge you more unless you change the scope of work or there are any unforeseen circumstances outside of what was agreed upon. A quote represents a binding contract between you and your building contractor and is only valid for a specific amount of time. Quotes can expire because materials and/or overheads may change over time.

A quote is valuable when you’re after a more specific idea of what your project will cost and gives you a much clearer vision of the final result. Most builder’s will offer quotes for free but some may charge for them, regardless, you should expect to see a detailed scope of works with inclusions and exclusions as part of your quote.

– Based on actual material and labour cost
– Clearer understanding of what you’ll get for your money
– Price cannot be changed by building contractor, therefore, you will receive no variations
– Your relationship with your building contractor will be more trusting and accepting
– Can take up to 20 hours to complete
– May cost you money


A proposal is much like a quote but with a little bit of sugar on top. Proposals include all of the information contained in estimates and quotes but they take things a little further by showcasing the value in what you’ll receive. They offer a more detailed scope of work, timelines, deliverables and costs and are more specific than a quote. They’ll also showcase testimonials, company guarantees and have clear explanations of inclusions and exclusions.

A proposal is valuable when you’ve already decided to go ahead with your project and you need to find the right building contractor. Like quotes, some builder’s will offer a proposal for free whilst others will charge depending on the size of the project. Regardless, you should expect to receive a 20-30 page document when receiving a proposal.

– Highly detailed scope of works with examples of selections chosen
– Proposed timeline of project with expected arrival & work times of tradesmen
– Exact & clear vision of final result
– No bill shock during construction
– No variations unless they come from you or any unforeseen circumstances not part of the contract
– Full terms & conditions of contract
– A more trustworthy relationship with your building contractor
– Can take 20-40 hours to complete
– May cost you money


We prefer our clients to know exactly what they’re going to receive for their money so we offer fixed-priced proposals for a fee which will be removed from the total job cost if accepted (read here to see why we charge for our quotes). We offer complete transparency and in depth communication in regards to your desires and we will personalise our processes to suit what stage you’re at. This way, there is no bill shock during the whole process and you will not be hit with variations unless you decide to change the scope of works or we come across unforeseen circumstances not part of the contract such as asbestos.

Included in our proposals will be a highly detailed scope of works covering your entire project from design to completion (this includes a builder’s clean!), our company guarantees, examples of selections chosen (can be changed), project timeline with approximate arrival & work times of our subcontractors, progress payment schedule, testimonials from our customers and much more. We understand that you’re making the biggest, if not, one of the biggest investments in your lifetime so we care about your experience just as much as we care about delivering the best result. At ZJ Building, we listen, we work, we deliver.

For all of your renovation needs, chat to one of our team members today here.

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