The Truth About Lighting Allowances in Contractor’s Proposals.

I went to an open forum Q & A at a contractors office yesterday. This is one of the best contractors in the State. They build great houses, expensive houses in beautiful coastal locations, and they have an outstanding reputation. There were lots of sub-contractors and a few vendors, like myself, there. Nobody in attendance has ever experienced such a meeting, a meeting called to solicit feedback from subs and suppliers about how to make the building process better for the client. It was a “team” building experience and I was happy to be part of the “team”.

Typical Contract

 I raised my hand and expressed my primary concern which has to do with the lighting allowance in most contracts. Whereas the framer, the roofer, the concrete company and the carpenter are all given blueprints and asked to quote their prices, I come to the party much later and have never had a chance to estimate what the lighting will cost. In fact, I could never provide that estimate without meeting with the client to choose specific fixtures. Prices of lighting fixtures vary greatly for lots of good reasons. The lighting allowance is therefore necessarily a “plug-in” amount.

When I said that there was no way someone building a $2,000,000 house with a lighting allowance of $5,000 (exaggeration) could possibly light that house for $5,000 they told me the truth about lighting allowances (and other allowances too).

The Truth About Lighting Allowances is contractors bid against several other contractors for every job, and if they included the REAL cost of lighting they would never get the job because the other contractors always “low ball” the allowance. The allowance is a “garbage figure”, to quote the contractor. I totally understand this thinking and I respect them for being truthful with me, but when I meet the client and tell them the real cost of lighting, there is sticker shock and disappointment. Most of the time the client tells me: “I went way over budget on my tile and I do not have any money left”. I feel their pain, I really do, but without decent lighting they will not be able to see the tile that cost so much.

Anyway, I feel exonerated. I have been telling you that the lighting allowance is NEVER adequate. Now you know why. Be aware and be prepared. Please visit us at and like us on Facebook. Remember I am always available to design the lighting for you.