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6 Reasons Why Your Contractor is Less Expensive than RTA

By James King

June 24, 2022

So you’re thinking about buying an outdoor kitchen (a good choice).

If you’ve started your research… You may even have a few quotes from contractors by now.

There are a lot of different options to consider. You could use a contractor, buy from a company like Home Depot… Or perhaps you’re interested in RTA!

We’re proud of our competitive rates, especially in places like California where on-site construction costs are typically much higher than ours… but sometimes it does happen: A contractor might be less expensive than we are.

If a contractor is offering you a lower quote for your outdoor kitchen island… Let’s talk about why that might be.

an l shape rta outdoor kitchen on paver patio with multiple coyote appliances

1. Question the Quality

When you’re comparing quotes, the first thing to think about is quality!

This isn’t to say that the most expensive kitchen will always be better… But at the end of the day, one thing that can help keep a quote low is decreasing the quality.

When you’re building an outdoor kitchen, you’re making an investment that will need to weather the elements all year round… So quality is essential.

That’s why we talked to an expert to get his take on the matter.

We spoke to Frank Duffina, the CEO of DFC Builders Inc. He’s been working in the contracting business since 2011. He has constructed over 30 outdoor kitchens in the last three years… That averages out to about one a month, which is quite a pace!

Some of these kitchens were ones he built himself… And others were RTA kitchens that he put together for our customers. This means that he has experience in both types and deeply understands the difference.

Duffina was able to provide all kinds of tips on contract work and what you should expect from your builder… Including the quality of materials they’re using.

outdoor kitchens built for a lifetime

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Quality of Materials

If your contractor claims that they can save you hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars over RTA… it’s quite possible that the savings are at the expense of quality.

“When you buy something, although you do consider the price… You should also look at quality,” Duffina says.

Ask your contractor about what materials they plan on using… And be careful that they aren’t using a lower-quality outdoor kitchen material to offset expenditures.

If your island isn’t built well, it is vulnerable to the weather.

Depending on what it’s made of… It could chip, crack, or corrode.

Not to mention if the frame inside breaks, rusts, warps, or rots.

Let’s talk about what materials to keep an eye out for when you’re comparing quotes so you know that you’re getting the right quality.

Know What Materials To Avoid

There are a few materials that you should run from.

If your contractor plans on using these… It may be an indication of why his services are less expensive… And not in a good way.

Let’s get into them.

Wood Frames

The first material you should avoid is wood.

This is the cheapest and easiest material to use to build outdoor kitchens frames, so it’s a common choice.

There are two reasons why this is a no-go.

First, it’s susceptible to degradation! It could rot or even attract termites! If your island falls apart from the inside, the whole thing will be ruined.

Secondly, this is an outdoor kitchen, so things will get hot. You want to make sure that you’re not building your kitchen out of flammable materials.

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Stucco Finishes
a worn and cracking stucco finish on an outdoor kitchen with tile accent

Stucco has become very popular, especially in the Southwest. And while it works fine in that climate… That isn’t the case everywhere.

If you’re living in a freeze-thaw or high moisture climate… It’s susceptible to cracking and flaking off.

This is a shame, as stucco is inexpensive… But beware!

Tile Countertops and Finishes
outdoor kitchen tile countertop falling apart

Tile is one of the most cost-effective countertop and finish options, and it looks nice… But for how long?

It has good compressive strength, but it doesn’t have much flexural strength. It’s brittle, and so it’s easy for tile to crack and fall apart… or even pop right off of your island!

Outdoor kitchen tile is especially vulnerable in inclement weather… So if your area gets frequent bad weather, look out!

Now, what about your appliances?

Quality of Appliances

Another easy way to save is by buying inexpensive outdoor kitchen appliances (or by not buying appliances at all… But we’ll get to that later!)

The best way to categorize grills is by their “class”… This can help you make sure you’re getting the right quality.

Let’s review the categories before we hear from Frank about what you should be looking for in your new appliances… And what to avoid.

Grill Class

When it comes to appliance classes… There are three categories:

Economy, Premium, and Luxury.

Economy grills are your entry-level option. They’re inexpensive, usually between $500 and $1,500… But they don’t last very long. Their warranties are also lacking.

Economy appliances generally use 430 stainless steel, which is highly susceptible to rust and corrosion. We don’t recommend using economy grills, especially not as a built-in grill, since they break down quickly.

Next is premium. This class will be the best for homeowners. Premium grills are made with better materials (such as 304 stainless steel) and typically have a lifetime warranty.

While more expensive than economy, ranging from about $1,500 to $4,000… your appliances will work better for longer and will be covered with a longer warranty.

The final category is luxury. They are similar to premium in that they are made of materials like 304 stainless steel and have a lifetime warranty.

They typically have a more exotic design… and they utilize additional features such as spring-loaded hoods, laser etched grill grates, and more. They are also much more expensive than premium grills… They range from about $5,000 to $10,000.

So, what does this mean for cost?

Ask Your Contractor What Appliances They're Planning On Using

RTA uses premium Coyote grills… So if an estimate is significantly lower than ours… It could be because they’re using an economy grill (or aren’t including a grill at all).

“You want to make sure the price matches the quality,” Duffina says.

Ask your contractor which appliances he’s installing… and make sure they adhere to your standards.

For instance, we always recommend that your grill be made of 304 stainless steel.

Economy appliances will likely add costs just a few years down the road from replacement and repair fees.

Finally, let’s look into the quality of your contractor’s work. Although it’s less tangible on your contract than materials and appliances may be… It’s still a reason why your quote might be less expensive.

Quality of Work

It’s expensive to hire someone with experience.

Your BBQ grill island isnt an easy project. It requires a lot of skill, and there are a lot of bad ways to do it.

“It’s also common to run into situations where inexperienced contractors lowball the quote, then have to cut corners to still make money,” Duffina said.

If you want to make sure the work is going to be high quality… You need to make sure that your contractor has the experience to do the job well and to correctly estimate the costs.

How do you do this?

Review his portfolio. Ask for references.

“If the contractor has a background in outdoor kitchens, then you’ll be able to see the quality of this work in other jobs and references,” Duffina shares.

Now, can your contractor promise you quality through a warranty?

2. Know that the Warranty is Sometimes Neglected!

Let’s circle back to economy appliances and poor quality materials…

Will you have to spend twice as much if your new grill breaks? What about if your island gets damaged?

A warranty is an important part of many decisions you make as a homeowner… and your outdoor kitchen is no exception.

If your contractor has given you a quote that’s less expensive than ours… Be sure to ask about their warranty!

Appliance Warranty

If your contractor is saving by being frugal with your appliances… there’s a chance those appliances also won’t have a proper warranty!

When you’re building an outdoor kitchen with a grill island… We highly recommend looking for appliances that come with a lifetime warranty.

Most of the time, a longer warranty tells you that the product is better and will last longer… But if you do need to replace an appliance, it saves you the replacement cost.

Outdoor Kitchen Warranty

So perhaps your appliances are insured… But what about your new kitchen?

Some contractors don’t provide a warranty for your kitchen island.

That’s risky!

Choosing a contractor who will use high quality materials and appliances and provide a good warranty will help make sure that the entire island lasts.

We recommend (and offer) a lifetime warranty on your island. This will protect your investment, even if it might cost more.

Some contractors don’t offer a warranty at all, which may make their quote cheaper. Make sure to ask them what is provided.

lifetime warranty for a lifetime of memories

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3. Understand that Your Safety May Not Be Prioritized

Obviously, thinking about your safety is extremely important… especially with outdoor kitchen planning, where so many things can go wrong.

Not every contractor has been trained in outdoor kitchen construction. There are many details that someone without specific training may be unaware of… It’s a hard job that takes a lot of skill and knowledge!

Your contractor may be foregoing safety in order to provide you with a lower quote! This is something you absolutely want to discuss before you settle.

Let’s discuss some of the consequences of foregoing safety.

For Example...

Ventilation is a big thing that inexperienced builders often forget about. This is more common than you’d think.

Grills and other cooking appliances require proper ventilation. Many outdoor appliances even need specialized ventilation. If they don’t have this, the island they are on could catch on fire or even blow up, right on your property.

Duffina poses the question: Would you feel safe allowing your family to use a possibly harmful structure built at a fraction of the usual quote?

So make sure you choose someone who has enough experience to do things the right way.

Let’s look at one more example of how easy it can be to save money by ignoring safety concerns.

Another Way To Save on Safety...

wood outdoor kitchen structure in the midst of construciton

For example, if your builder makes the outdoor kitchen frame out of wood… there could be serious fire safety problems. Wood is a flammable material.

If you’re building your outdoor kitchen with a wood frame… In order to keep you safe, your appliances must have insulated jackets.

However, a contractor could easily save $500 to $600 per appliance… just by not purchasing the necessary insulated jackets.

That’s a lot to save at first, but you won’t be saving later if your outdoor kitchen is a pile of smoldering ash!

You can see how the numbers might add up quickly when you’re taking safety shortcuts… So be sure to look into that before you accept a lower quote.

If you use a contractor, one way to make sure they’re legitimate and prevent this from happening is to make sure they’re licensed.

4. Look for Insurance And Licensing

One more reason your builder might be offering a lower quote is that they aren’t licensed and insured! Although a license is technically a state requirement for contract work, some may disregard this… with some even just working for cash to get around this.

“Tell them you’re going to check their license, and if they have a problem with that, then walk away,” Duffina suggests. “It’s very important to know who you’re working with.”

Another important thing to check: Is your contractor protected by insurance?

Will you be held liable if they are injured on the job? Who will be held accountable if they accidentally cause damage to your neighbor’s house?

If something goes wrong… this could cost you a lot.

Hiring a contractor who is licensed and insured gives you a little more financial security… even if you have to accept a slightly higher quote.

Here’s another reason why a contractor might initially appear to be less expensive: change orders.

5. Realize that Your Quote May Change Along the Way

You got your bid… and it’s much lower than RTA’s is.

But is it the final number? Or will it go up somewhere in the process?

When a contract is changed, it’s called a “change order.” It’s an amendment to a construction contract that changes the scope of work for the contractor.

This can make the price go up past what you were expecting when you signed the contract… So make sure you confirm with your contractor that the price won’t change later.

There are two main reasons why it could happen… First, unexpected problems might arise!

Unforeseen (But Preventable) Changes

Many builders underbid and give change orders simply because they didn’t anticipate the full scope of the project from the get-go.

When unexpected problems arise (that a more experienced contractor might have been able to anticipate)… They must compensate by charging you more than they planned.

“An experienced contractor is going to know all of the things that need to be done to be successful at the end of the job,” Duffina says.

“If your contractor has been doing his business long enough, he knows what to expect. If he doesn’t know, walk away, because you’re going to end up with extras every time you turn around,” he continues.

Change orders are more common than you’d think, unfortunately. These are one of the most disappointing hidden costs of your outdoor kitchen

And there’s still another reason why your final price may not be what’s on your quote.

Surprise! Essential Features Aren't Always Included

The final cost can suddenly change because your contractor may not include appliances or countertops in their final quote… Some builders expect you to buy these (expensive) finishing touches.

This is extremely frustrating! You’re paying for an outdoor kitchen… But it isn’t complete without appliances or countertops.

So at the end of the day… A lower quote may not stay that way if your contractor is inexperienced… or if they aren’t actually offering a full service.

If you’re comparing the price of an incomplete kitchen to RTA’s… That could explain some discrepancies in price since you can be assured that you’ll get everything you need when you buy through us… And that our prices will be consistent.

Your kitchen is going to stay on your property for years… So know exactly what you’re getting by asking your contractor if the price could change… And what is actually included.

6. Will Your Contractor Be Responsive Even After the Kitchen Is Built?

Have you ever bought something… But then had trouble getting in touch with the seller when you had questions or needed help?

This can happen with contractors.

One reason contractors may be able to offer lower prices than other companies is that they aren’t paying for a dedicated customer support team.

While that may seem like something you can skip to save money… You want clear communication, speed, and support for any issues that arise during and even after the project.

A contractor usually works alone or with only a few other people on his team. They’re very busy. Chances are, they won’t be able to help you right away… Especially after the project is over.

A customer support team helps to make sure there aren’t any issues… and immediately reconcile problems if something does happen, even if it happens after the project is finished.

Not every contractor offers this level of support… So expect more from your own contractor when you’re looking at who to hire.

Will they still answer your calls after the service? If you have a problem, will they help you?

Make sure you read reviews and listen to what other homeowners have to say about how responsive your contractor is.

Referrals from people you know are also a great way to make sure you hire a reliable contractor.

If you want assurance that some of these issues will be taken care of for a competitive rate… We have another option for you.

Is RTA Worth Paying More For?

There’s a reason why RTA isn’t always the cheapest option!

As you can see… there are so many ways to cut corners. Some of these shortcuts impact the longevity of the kitchens, while others risk your family’s safety.

There are several disadvantages to using a contractor... But there’s another way!

Although we offer highly competitive rates, we’re not always the cheapest option… but there’s a reason for that.

Our guarantee is “Right for you, right to you, ready to assemble.”

Let’s get more into what that guarantee means.

1. Excellent Quality

When it comes to grills, we know what to look for… which is why we’ve partnered with Coyote… a premium-quality outdoor appliance company.

From your grill to your island… we know which materials to use, and which to avoid, to keep your outdoor space looking great for years to come.

We’ve created high-performance concrete outdoor kitchen panels for our islands that are rated for 100 years… As a result, we can guarantee a great kitchen that will last!

This can make an island way more expensive! But it’s worth the extra cost because it’s a lifetime investment… Not something that should be replaced every few years due to poor-quality materials!

In short, we are specialists. We’ve built thousands of outdoor kitchens… Most of which have been custom!

Our islands are made to order, and we personally inspect them every step of the way, so you know that you’ll be getting exactly what you want.

We can tell you that we’re experts… But that doesn’t make it true. That’s why you can see for yourself by looking at pictures of real kitchens and reading our reviews!

2. Island and Appliance Warranties

A custom rta outdoor kitchen with coyote appliances showing the lifetime warranties offered

With Coyote grills, you don’t have to worry about warranties… Their grills all come with a limited lifetime warranty.

Our islands also come with a lifetime limited structural warrantySo even if there is a problem… You know that you will be taken care of.

This is both a money-saver and an indication that you’re getting the right product.

3. Safety Guaranteed

The most important thing is your safety.

There are a lot of things that could go wrong with outdoor kitchens.

Fortunately, at RTA, we’re experts on this. We don’t take shortcuts when it comes to your well-being.

We use only non-combustible materials and are proud to exceed venting requirements for Coyote products. Our outdoor kitchens will provide you with many (safe) years of entertainment.

So you can feel at peace when you have friends and family over.

4. License and Insurance

Since you’re the one assembling the islands… there’s no need for a license or insurance!

You get to control the outcome.

We also have extensive quality control during manufacturing from start to finish to ensure that everything goes smoothly… So your assembly process will be a piece of cake when it arrives!

And if don’t want to build it yourself… We have an installation network of certified, licensed contractors who can do it for you!

5. No Hidden Fees or Change Orders

With RTA, you’ll have the opportunity to work one-on-one with our Design Experts. Together, you’ll be able to create the perfect kitchen for you with a finalized price. And that’s it—no changes after that.

Change orders are extremely frustrating. Why not simplify the process?

We’ve been doing this for a while, so after we determine what your island will look like… We will know exactly how much your outdoor kitchen will cost.

It’s just that simple. We offer a complete package… Countertop and appliances included. No change orders.

The price you get initially will be the final price you pay.

6. Our Customer Success Team Will Take Care of You

We have a whole team whose job is to make sure you are happy.

We’ll admit that we aren’t perfect… But if there is a mistake, we will fix it for you.

We support you proactively. Our hands-on approach means problems are solved… Before they ever occur! We notify you step by step through the process while we design and make your kitchen.

You’ll be kept in the loop the whole time, and if you need help, we’ll be able to do that for you! …Even after your island is built.

Our track record is self-evident. With a Google rating of 5 stars with over 130 reviews… We take pride in putting you first.

You’ll never have a difficult time getting ahold of us… Even after your project is complete.

What's Next?

So choosing a less expensive contractor may end up costing you more in the long run… Or, maybe they arent offering you what we are.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t choose a quality contractor. There are many out there that offer great services and fantastic products.

In the end, it’s what is best for you… but we recommend properly vetting your outdoor kitchen contractor before you decide on one. That way, you can make the decision with confidence.

In the meantime, we hope that we’ve provided you with a better understanding as to why RTA may be more expensive than your contractor.

We’re sure you have more questions… so feel free to explore our Learning Hub to find out more about outdoor kitchens.

There you’ll find all kinds of resources including videos, articles, and guides.

You can also schedule a call with one of our Design Experts. They’ll be happy to talk to you one-on-one so that you get the perfect kitchen for your backyard!

We can’t wait to hear from you!

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