View Full Version : Tell me if I am nuts!

03-04-2004, 12:48 PM
Heres the scoop. Got a commercial job on a high traffic road. Really want the job strictly because of location. There is 1200 face foot of keystone standard brick going in. Its got the angled fronts so I dont have to worry about cuts on the caps. They are the ones that weigh 78 pounds and are eight inches thick. About 400 face foot of the 1200 is the base coarse, meaning I ll be leveling about 400 face foot worth of brick. Then as I figured there is about 5000 worth of plant material going in. There is also around 35 yards of crushed brick going in. So here is the deal. The five grand is figured in with my planinting price and everything. He is willing to pay for all the materials. The keystone block, the crused stone, the crushed brick, and any extra soil we may need. Also he will pay for the rental of any equipment that we need to rent. The only thing he will not be buying is the plants and edging. He wants me to do the job for fifteen grand. So figuring that five grand for plants, he wants me to lay all the brick and crushed brick for about 10 grand. Am I nuts to take this. So far looking at the figures I think I am. The only problem is that the whole community knows about this building going up and if we get the job, it will have some serious pay off. So I am trying to figure out if I can even break even on this thing. He seems to think this is a great deal, but that is a hell of alot of brick.

03-04-2004, 01:08 PM
5 grand of plants at retail or wholesale? What are we talking about, small shrubs / trees /B&B stock, or all 1-5 gallon stock and container trees? I'm thinking somewhere along the line of $ 22K -w/o knowing what the specs are for the plants and bed layouts.Give me a little more info, please..

D Felix
03-05-2004, 10:12 AM
The wall job (same type of Keystone) we did last fall had two walls totaling around 80-90 linear feet. The taller wall was around 50-55 feet, and 7 or 8 courses high, 2 layers of geogrid, with step ups on the base, and step downs on the caps. The other wall was about 30' or so, and was about 3-4 courses high. We did those two walls in basically a week (2 guys), for $8-9k, and the homeowner supplied the skidsteer. Had he not done that, it would have cost another $750-$1k on top of everything else...

Sounds like you would be nuts for doing it for that price... It's hard to have a pay off in future work if you are no longer in business.

If the wall really needs to be built, as in its a structural wall and not purely for decoration, then don't let the guy dictate your prices. If need be, tell him what your costs are for the job, and try to point out that you don't work for free...

As far as setting the base course, have you thought about using a flowable fill concrete base/footer? With as much as you have to set, it may be a huge time saver....


03-05-2004, 09:04 PM
Run away don't walk!!!:dizzy:

First, your client should NEVER know the cost of your materials.

Second, a wall of 1200 face foot is a big wall. How many square feet of wall stone are on a pallet? How much does a pallet weigh? How many pallets are you going to have to install? I bet the wall is looking a little bigger now!!!

Never price by the square foot. However, if you say $25 a square foot that wall comes to $30,000, and $25 is BELOW what guys charge for walls around here.

Not trying to be a pain, hope the info helps. :)

03-05-2004, 09:34 PM
Thats the problem. He is a commercial contractor, thats why he knows the price of materials. As far as plants I figured five grand would be what I would charge to plant the plants with the cost of the plant material. Ya its been a real crapper. He knows his crap is what sucks, and he has a budget that his client gave him for the landscaping, but the walls are unavoidable. I want to walk away but something keeps me thinkin I might still take it if he offers me a little more money.

D Felix what do you mean by that concrete base.

03-05-2004, 09:36 PM
I disagree by not charging by the face foot. The way I do it though is I have a set price for the base course per face foot, the blocks stacked per face foot, and caps per face foot.

03-05-2004, 11:23 PM
The way I do it though is I have a set price for the base course per face foot, the blocks stacked per face foot, and caps per face foot

New Leaf,

That sounds like a great system!!!

Randy Scott
03-05-2004, 11:53 PM
Are you really in business to do things for "break even" with the hopes of getting more work in the future. Nothing is ever a guarantee. The assumption of "serious payoff" is probably what he's hoping you will think.

Being he is a contractor and knows the cost of materials, he obviously has an idea of what it takes to do the wall. All he is doing is trying to bend you over. It's not your fault he didn't allow enough in the project to do it right. Now he's trying to chisel you into working for free basically.

Yes, I'm telling you your nuts to do it. You already said you would only break even. Not to be a jerk, but when you finish the wall. All said and done, your back sore, your hands sore, and who knows what else, I'll have made just as much money as you and I didn't even break a sweat. What is going to happen with the all to common "unforeseen" problems that arise during landscape construction? Who is going to absorb any of those costs?

I understand the hopes of exposure with the job, but that just isn't good enough reason to only break even. You need to make something. That size of wall and what he's willing to pay, you are a long ways from profit if I understand the scenario your describing. Just let it go if you can't get what you need. Too many people are basically "scared" into doing projects. That's what I think is happening here. :( Pass on it.

03-06-2004, 10:07 AM
I won't get into the pricing... you already said you will break even. I would question that statement unless of course you don't have any more work to do. What I mean is ..could your time be spent on another site making money. When your guys go over the bid hours on jobs it isn't just what your paying them thats being lost.
Is it possible to leave an advertizing sign on the site for the season? I MIGHT consider doing a break even job if it was for advertizing.
GC are famous for this type of crap.... always price it as it will be your one and only job.

03-06-2004, 10:56 AM
tell the big contractor man to do it himself.

03-06-2004, 11:47 AM
run fast he already smells fear and knows he has u
he is only going to stick it to u in the end
u need to make money

03-06-2004, 11:54 AM
When I say break even, I mean I will be covering all my overhead cost, all my labor cost, including my own labor, whatever other cost i have in the job. But its just when its all said and done on a wall that size, I think I should be able to eat a bunch of prime rib dinners afterwards for all that backbreaking work. He is telling me he has four estimates and whoever does it for that price is goin to get it. So I called around, there are only three estimates including mine. One guy is higher in price then me and one guy is lower. So I am the middle man. So I told him that anyone who will do it for that price without any hesitation probly does crap work, the walls wont be level, and will be just throwing the blocks down to get paid. So he told me whatever I decide just let him know. So I think I am gnna call his bluff and tell him I cant do it any lower the a certain price. Havent figured that price out yet though. Ill keep yall posted, thanks for the advice.

03-06-2004, 03:36 PM
I have to get in on this one. I dont know about you but here in illinois most of the reptabual contractors have a common price per sqt foot on a retaining wall 21.00 - 25.00 per sqft. im not sure what u get if u bid it by the face. yes it takes longer to set the base course but u still have the labor hours and material for the next courses the material price does not change as u go up in layers. So if i understand u right you have 1200 sqft u should at least figure out what the contractor is going to pay in keystone block and materials subtract those figures from lets say u charge 24.00 oer sqft thats 28,800 in just the wall alone . now subtract the cost of the brick and materails. what you have left is your labor. correct or not correct? As for your landscaping price i cant see u making any money of this job. I would think real serious about this job sounds like the genral contractor is making the money not you .... good luck .

03-06-2004, 04:21 PM
Sounds like this guy is a GC?These are the worst guys to work for. I price $10 a face ft plus material for any wall under 3 ft. $15 for any wall over 3 ft. plus material.....so do the math 1200 face ft x whatever you Rate is...if its under 3 ft its $12 grand just for the wall....and over 3 ft its $18000 plus the material.....If hes sucha big contractor why isnt he doin it himself?


03-06-2004, 10:21 PM
He used to always subcontract his work to another company. But I found out he got pissed at that company because they never got the work done on time and would show up a month later then they told him. I know they always enjoyed working for him. I used to work for the company. So I am guessing one of two things. 1. He wants to use me now instead of them as a landscaper or 2. He wants me to do this one job to put a nail is their a**, so they get there crap together, and he wants me to do it for their price so it doesnt cost him anything to prove a point.

03-07-2004, 02:55 AM
looks like he might have to be over budget on his landscaping budget if not walk. You've got to eat too!!!!!

03-07-2004, 10:06 AM
you can't price any job just to break even - in the hopes of future work. You are in it to make a profit. Ever hear the expression "s*it in one hand and hope in the other and see which weighs the most"?

03-07-2004, 10:11 AM
Originally posted by newleaflandscape
He used to always subcontract his work to another company. But I found out he got pissed at that company because they never got the work done on time and would show up a month later then they told him. I know they always enjoyed working for him. I used to work for the company. So I am guessing one of two things. 1. He wants to use me now instead of them as a landscaper or 2. He wants me to do this one job to put a nail is their a**, so they get there crap together, and he wants me to do it for their price so it doesnt cost him anything to prove a point.

orrrrrrrr perhaps he 1) paid slow as hell and they responded accordingly..........orrrrrrrrrr 2) he pinched them down to making zero profit also - and they gave their more profitable accounts priority - just to keep their heads above water - my guess is - it may well be a combination of the two........ remember there's 2 sides to every coin.

03-08-2004, 10:09 AM
I always love when the " customer" wants to supply materials. That means they want to save money , but that is money out of my pocket. If the customer wants to supply materials thats fine , I simply add what I would have made off the materials to the bid. Why do a job that you will break even on , when you could be somewhere else making money. I also love the word " budget" .The contractor is trying to suck you in , he knows what it will cost , if he bid it low , let him eat it . He wants to transfer the loss to you. I would give him the normal price , take it or leave it .

D Felix
03-09-2004, 04:37 PM
SodKing had PM'd me and asked about the flowable fill concrete. Here's my response, edited with more information than I had this morning when I PM'd him back.

Flowable fill concrete as I understand it, is basically ready-mix, but without the aggregate. So it is Portland cement, water and sand.

I have never used it, but have considered it for a couple of jobs we ended up not doing. We have a job in design stage right now where we may end up putting in 3 walls of 95-100' in length each along a driveway that we are considering using flowable fill for. I think it may take a little extra time to get a trench prepared for it, but you should make up a lot more in setting the base course.

I think what you need to do is set grade stakes to establish your concrete hieght. It may be easier just to set level forms and screed it off that way. I checked with a company that has used it to set large retaining wall block on (Redi-Rock), and the guy said he doesn't pour it below frost line, and it is usually 10-12" deep. The whole point to flowable fill is that it is supposed to be self-leveling, so forms may not be necessary.

Like I said, I haven't used it, but have looked into it a little. It's priced at $43/yard here in our county, I think ready mix is somewhere around $60 or more depending on strength.

The job that I mentioned before that is in design process will take ~12-13 yards for a "footer", figuring them at 16" wide and 12" deep. So total cost for concrete is around $600, plus forming/finishing labor. Figuring that it took 2 days to set ~80-90' of base last fall, it's going to take 6 days on the walls we are now looking at. 6 days x 8 hours/day x $40/hour= $1920. I think we can form and finish the concrete for less than $1300 in labor.:) And we will probably have just as much hair left over and a few less cuss words being thrown around when all is said and done....:D


Green Gopher
03-10-2004, 03:31 PM
There is someone here on lawn site that has a quote at the bottom of the page that says something like " I don't let the company that's going to be out of business tomorrow dictate my prices today" or something close to that.

The point is you have costs to meet just like this contractor. Why should you break even and add to his profit margin just so you "might" get some good exposure.

As for your position as middle bidder, Good for you! Don't reduce your bid ever! I love when a client asks if I will beat a competitors bid price, Never is always my answer! I am 100% honest and tell the client if they can get the same quality at a lesser price go for it. My bid is as low as I can make it and still stay in business. If I was say O.K. I'll reduce and meet the other guy's bid then I'm telling the client "Your right, my bid was to high and I made a mistake." After that you have opened the door to the client dictating your prices. Next step is unemployment.

Good luck I hope you find a way to make it all work.

03-15-2004, 01:37 PM
We ended up getting the job for 21 thousand. Glad I stuck to my guns. Still not making quite as much as I would like. But I will be sleeping alright tonight. Thanks for the advice and support.