1. Basic information: Your name, address, the type of property, the desired start date, your budget range. Some people prefer not to include budgets, but if you don’t reveal it, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. If the contractor asks for your budget and you’re coy or uneasy about answering, he’ll know you’re being unrealistic about how much the project will cost.
2. A project brief and material sheet: This document shows what space you’re working in, what specific work should be done. To write it, walk through your property and describe every single task you want done, starting with a verb (e.g., remove existing light fixture, install doors). This will let you compare bids by seeing the individual cost of tasks as opposed to trying (painfully) to compare long paragraphs of unstructured tasks all lumped together with a single price.
Walk through your home and draft up the work you want done according to floor and space, then ask each contractor to submit his/her bid the same way.
3. A structured write-up of your requirements done after the walk-through: Some contractors structure their bids by listing the tasks they’ll carry out in each room or space of your house (Note: this method is almost always more intuitive for you). Other contractors structure their bids by telling you what trades they’ll use to carry out each task (since they may be sub-contracting the work out, and so they’ll be repurposing your bid as a proposal request to a sub-contractor).Trying to compare these two types of bids is, to put it mildly, frustrating.
The best thing you can do (if you aren’t hiring an architect) is to walk through your home and draft up the work you want done according to floor and space, and then ask each contractor to submit his bid the same way (Bonus: tell them what each of the rooms is to be called, e.g. “Tom’s Bedroom,” “Kitchen,” etc.).
4. Any drawings: These could be sketches, plans from your architect, existing floorplans – all of which are good tools for communicating with your contractor.