How and Why You Should Compare Quotes

weld failures

Have you ever been puzzled by contractor bids with significant price discrepancies?  Sometimes a low bid means your contractor is cutting corners to hit a price point or business is slow.  A higher bid may signal a contractor that is buried in jobs or testing the waters to see how his pricing compares with the competition.  In other cases, a higher bid may mean better design, workmanship, and materials.  It is always important to make apples to apples comparisons and to fight the temptation to dismiss quotes exclusively based on price.  If your request for bid returns two quotes that differ only on price and the materials and workmanship from both firms is similar, by all means, consider the low bid.  On the other hand, if there are significant differences in the quotes, you need to better understand what you are being asked to buy.  Ask yourself some simple questions:

  • What are the pros and cons of each contractor’s materials choices?
  • How do the design concepts differ?  Does one design lend itself to a more efficient installation?
  • How long will the installation be in service?
  • Is the ability to modify the installation mid-project or down-stream important?
  • Is support for field issues important?

fabricated red iron supports and strut

We recently received a call from The Cleveland Clinic to re-visit a project our team quoted 10+ years ago.  We were not the “low bidder” and the contract to install a ceiling mounted support structure for operating room lights was awarded to another contractor.  This year’s renovation of the OR includes plans to change out the lights in the same location.  Suring selective demolition, one of the welds broke.  According to an outside structural engineer, poor design and installation methods, which included a hodge-podge mix of welded, fabricated steel and channel of unknown origin, caused the system to fail and future remodeling incorporating this structure would have posed significant challenges.The picture below is from a different contractor’s installation, but it illustrates the same basic points.  The channel in the picture looks like modular strut, but it is not genuine Unistrut material.  Close examination also reveals mismatched channel in different profile configurations (and fittings) from multiple manufacturers. Unfortunately, the low bidder used fittings and channel from multiple sources for this installation, so it was not possible to reuse the existing structure. The Unistrut Service Company team remedied this situation by designing a proper solution to allow for a quick installation and modularity.

mixed strut and fittings

Nowhere is the importance of these questions better illustrated than in the medical field.  At Unistrut Service Company, we do a large number of installations for hospitals, clinics, and medical centers that benefit from modular designs that can be modified, both mid-stream and years later.  If you think about it, medical settings are in a constant state of flux:  new equipment is installed to provide better patient care; space is re-configured to maximize efficiencies and ROI; new wings are added to accommodate more patients.  Larger hospitals are often in what we deem a state of permanent construction.

These jobs lend themselves to the modular nature of reusable Unistrut channel, which allows for an infinite level of adjustability while maintaining precise tolerances. Getting back to our discussion of the Cleveland Clinic job, making repairs to the existing structure would have required tenting and welding in an active operatory, which is never a good idea.  Short story long, the estimated costs of the repairs would nearly exceed starting over from scratch.  Both the decision to accept the lowest bid and a failure to appreciate the significant differences between the two approaches to the support structure design came back to haunt our client.

With this information in hand, our client opted for a new medical equipment support structure designed and installed by Unistrut Service Company, not only so that it may potentially be reworked in the future, but because it’s a wise decision to utilize a company that specializes in this type of work.  If your hospital or medical center construction plans require overhead support structures, consider using the Unistrut framing system over shop fabricated red iron supports and make sure to discuss your project with a company that specializes in Unistrut installations. 

To learn more about the advantages of Unistrut ceiling structures for medical applications, or to request a quote, contact Unistrut Service Company for more information.