View Full Version : Estimating labor, 40%?

02-16-2004, 07:08 PM
Here's a question for residential and commercial landscapers, do you figure each task and bid hours or do you do a total percentage of all materials and labor would be 40% of that?

I've run into contractors that do both, and the 40% for all materials seems to work out pretty good, I've done it that way and have been very pleased how it works out. Granted you may come up short on some jobs, but you come out real good on others.

If anyone's got experience with this, I'd like to hear what you think. (I did a search and didn't see this really discussed)

02-16-2004, 07:34 PM
That is the most rediculous thing I have ever heard of. ;)

02-16-2004, 07:54 PM
Sorry...I phrased my question wrong. The 40% would pertain to planting, mulch, compost. Not hardscaping, grading, seeding, etc....

sorry for the generalization.

02-16-2004, 10:40 PM
So let me get this straight. If you pay $20/yd of mulch.....you're going to charge $8 dollars to install it???????

Not to trying to sound harsh but where do guys come up with these #'s? You need to add up your labor burden, overhead, and profit to come up with a per hour amount that it takes to recover your overhead, etc. and to acheive your desired profit. This could range from on the VERY low end $25/mhr to the skies the limit.

Oh + materials:)

02-17-2004, 10:59 AM
you're right, its a crock of ****.
As far as the mulch example goes, i don't just charge what I buy the material for, what i did was pretty much double it, so at $20/yd x 2 = 40 x .4= $58 installed. The same went with the other materials, like a $10 shrub would be $28 installed.

I like knowing more details about my estimating and expenses, so i went back and am figuring it the 'correct' way.

02-17-2004, 01:16 PM
If the formula works for you, use it. I wouldn't work for me. I just consider how much it costs to obtain a certain product or material, and how long it takes me to install it. For example, scalloped concrete edging is pretty cheap to buy, but time consuming to install straight and level. I charge 4-5 times the cost of materials, depending on access, how many cuts, etc. But if a customer just wants, say a bird bath placed in a flower bed, I would just consider the cost of the bird bath (with markup), the time it took me to buy it and transport it, and the time it took me to place it, and charge accordingly. In this case the 2.4x material may be close. Or maybe not, depending on all the variables involved.

Green Gopher
02-17-2004, 02:52 PM
Time is money and I don't work for free. It sounds like you would be shorting yourself most of the time on most jobs. Talk to the guys you know who use this system, and see if there is something they left out when they explained it to you.

02-17-2004, 04:50 PM
I'm sure it isn't as simple as they made it seem. It did work the couple of times i did it, but the possiblility to screw yourself is there. One thing i'm learning on here is that everyone has their own techniques to estimating, some are very easy and simple, others analyze their data, come up with formulas, etc... I'm developing my own system that incorporates both, since i don't really care for estimating, especially when it's the busy season. Anyways, hope everyone is having fun getting ready for the season to start, i am :)

D Felix
02-18-2004, 10:29 AM
Right now we use Excel to estimate with. We've got a full working demo on an estimating software package, but haven't played with it too much.

That being said, I think we will probably stick with Excel for the time being. Why? Because it works for us. We figure out what materials we will need. Apply costs to those materials, plus markup. If it's plants, they are marked up 100%. If hard goods, usually 50%, depending on the client.

We also know about how long it will take to complete each phase of the job, based on the type of material that goes into it. We know how long it will take to plant (we break that out by size of plants, for example, 1G = .2 hours, 2G= .3 hours, 6' B&B conifer= 2.3 hours, etc.), how long to mulch, how long to do this or that. We then apply our labor rate to those figures.

Right now we are in the process of bidding on a VERY large job. We've got each area of the job broken out with how long it will take to complete each activity in each area on the jobsite. How large is it? Well, in Excel, we have numbers clear down into the 330th row! And more numbers on a different sheet!

On this particular job, it's 90% labor and equipment, so that 40% thing absolutely [b]would not[/i] work. As a matter of fact, I've never even heard of that 40%.

Just remember, if it works for you that doesn't necessarily mean it will work for me. You need to know your own costs and develop your estimates based on those, not ours...


02-18-2004, 11:11 PM
In a perfect world - MAYBE!


02-19-2004, 06:41 PM
You should check with large landscaping contractors in your area to see what their labor rate is for planting. In my area the labor rate for planting averages 65% of the cost of the plants.
For the mulch, topsoil, sodcutting, etc., they are all bid on a per yard/ton basis and the sodcutting is $150.00 minimum.

02-19-2004, 06:54 PM
For the sod cutting, do you go on a sq. ft basis with other factors in there? I assume sod cutting is done with a machine cutter?

02-20-2004, 12:30 PM
No. Not by sq.ft. Most of the cutting is done around the front and sides of the house and takes maybe 1/2 hr. average to cut. Then another 1/2 hr. rolling it up and hauling it to the trailer. The rental fee for the cutter is included in this price.

02-20-2004, 08:14 PM
when you markup materials 100 and 50% do you give an invoice or proposal with each individual material price written out with your price (markedup)

D Felix
02-21-2004, 09:50 AM
No, when we do an estimate in Excel, the estimate we prepare is on one sheet, the estimate that the customer sees is on another.

Our sheet has everything broken out with plant names and prices per, markup and total. We have hours figured for labor, that is figured with our labor rate. We also figure in equipment, invariably there is some factored in there, if for nothing other than the tractor to load the mulch.

What the client sees is a plant list with size of material, a total material price, a labor and equipment price, a subtotal, overall tax (we are now required to charge tax on material and labor), and a grand total. They DO NOT see what each plant is costing them. Very rarely does anyone want to know.


02-23-2004, 12:01 PM
In my area most companies list out the price for each item in the proposal. Most of my customers have done their homework and know what price they will be paying for material so they know if they are getting a fair deal.