View Full Version : Hardscape Estimate Range

03-13-2005, 07:30 PM
I met with a homeowner today to sumbmit a proposal for a hardscape project. I submitted the estimate and explained everything in detail. The homeowner looked at me and smiled. He went on to explain that he couldn't believe the range of prices on the estimates. My estimate came in at $25,000.00. The other four: $14,400, $18,000, $48,000, and $60,000.

At our initial meeting, the homeowner provided me with a detailed drawing of exactly what he wanted. All I had to do was shoot the elevations in order to determine steps, finished patio elevation and wall elevations (it's a raised patio with perimiter gravity walls). So, we were all bidding on the same thing.

It took me a week to finish the estimate. The homeowner told me the guy that came in at $60,000 gave him the price the next day. I told him I could have given him that price over the phone.

BTW, my close rate is only about 25% - 30%.

Do you guys see ranges like this?

03-13-2005, 08:26 PM
$14,400 and $60,000...There's little bit of difference there. Mbella do you usually call back if you don't hear yes on an estimate and ask what they got for it? Also remember when you asked me about shoddy work. I went to a job the other day and this guy flew the coup 3/4 of the way done, never put a base down just sand. Told the lady I couldn't do anything, but I'd at least put the rest of the pavers down and concrete the sides for her for $700.00. She was hesitant to spend anymore $ but I don't really want to work on it anyway.

03-13-2005, 09:27 PM
No, I don't usually call back. This guy offered the information. I was blown away.

03-13-2005, 09:28 PM
$14,400 and $60,000...There's little bit of difference there. Mbella do you usually call back if you don't hear yes on an estimate and ask what they got for it? Also remember when you asked me about shoddy work. I went to a job the other day and this guy flew the coup 3/4 of the way done, never put a base down just sand. Told the lady I couldn't do anything, but I'd at least put the rest of the pavers down and concrete the sides for her for $700.00. She was hesitant to spend anymore $ but I don't really want to work on it anyway.

Does she expect somebody else to do it for free?

03-13-2005, 09:56 PM
I was giving her a good price just to keep a couple guys busy and it looked like she needed more work done in the future. She was hemming and hawing and I just started walking away, "I have another appointment call me if you're interested." The guy that did this job had NO IDEA what he was doing, I feel bad but....On a different subject, do you use cutoff saws or table saws or both? I have 14" cutoffs and there's an ad for a 10" target table saw one year old for $600.00. Alot of new equipment, must be going out of business.

03-13-2005, 10:06 PM
I use both. When we can cut in place we do. If we are cutting a tight radius, we score the pavers with the cut off and cut full depth with the table saw.

03-14-2005, 09:10 AM
Where do you begin with finding out what's going on there? I wish I knew the specifics of each company involved as that's quite a difference in pricing. We do see some differences within our competitors pricing, sometimes up to 50% less than us. Depending on the job sometimes lowest price always gets the work. W/ some of our more intelligent, high end clients and contractors who know our repuation they will typically throw a bid that low out. It can be hard, as we all know each LCO is different as far as their overhead, their suppliers, their subs, etc, etc.
We bid a job once that included retaining/freestanding fieldstone walls, patios, walkways, all the site work, complete plantings, multiple hot tubs w/ waterfalls coming into them, the whole works. It was a smaller site and designed by an L.A. everything was spec'd out for you. There were atleast 3 of us who bid it and the L.A. kept saying "you've got the job don't worry, you're the only guys who can get this done in time for us." One LCO looked at the job and told them there was no way he had the skill or the power to pull the job off. We had submitted a price of a little under $400,000, if my memory serves me correctly. The final guy came in with a couple years experience (who thought an Acer platanoides 'Crimson King' was actually Acer rubrum----sorry had to throw that in, he's just such an idiot) and a price of like $140,000. Well, he got the job. :angry:
The job had to be done before winter which was like 2 maybe 3 months away. So a few weeks later another masonry contractor shows up and starts on the walls. We thought the other guy didn't even make it to the beginning, but he had actually subbed all the work out because he couldn't handle it. To try to make this story short, a year and a half later he finished the job. He did nothing according to the original plan (of course to make it cheaper for him), he himself hit the gas main, went through 2 stone masons, and 3 excavation contractors. Now 3 years later the job is still not 100% and they got what they paid for. I've since had conversations with both stone masons (one who just got paid) and one of the excavation guys and none of them will ever do work with this guy again.
OOOOPS, where did that come from. Sorry mbella, been home sick for 3 days and haven't complained for a while I guess??? Bidding jobs can be frustrating to say the least and sometimes it gets you angry when the job is done and the homeowner did not even get what was designed. It seems when you lose a job to $$$ the client never compares apples to apples.
Have a nice day!
Oh and good luck with that bid? It's hard to even tell if the homeowner is B.S.ing you

03-14-2005, 09:38 AM
The homeowner actually showed me a copy of the low bid. It was so low that he knew it was bogus. Honestly, I think we are going to get the job. I was just stunned at the range.

03-14-2005, 11:00 PM
Testing also................

03-15-2005, 12:22 AM
I often see ranges very much like that one. We typically are in the middle to middle-high of the range, which is where I want to be. We try to sell value not price. I often find myself wondering how people come up with some of their numbers. ;) We have come across some bids that are triple ours and I think, what are these guys using as base material? Gold nuggets! Anyway, I guess its the nature of the beast.


03-15-2005, 12:30 AM
Welcome to the hardscape forum Chris.

03-15-2005, 08:36 AM
Nice job ..we have a hardscape forum. :)

03-15-2005, 09:19 AM
I thought this was the pricing forum!?


Stone Crafter
03-15-2005, 10:34 AM
He went on to explain that he couldn't believe the range of prices on the estimates. My estimate came in at $25,000.00. The other four: $14,400, $18,000, $48,000, and $60,000.

Some people might not be really aware of this, but sometimes contractors who throw out really high bids are just looking to 'get rid of' the customers because they are not particularly interested in the job for various reasons.

My father, who also is iin the contracting busineess more on the construction side of things, has been known to do this. He does extremely exclusive work (very rich customers, and gets his work shown in dozens of magazines, etc..) and from time to time he gets calls for jobs which are less than desirable. In such cases, he often gives high estimates.... but it isnt so much that he's highballing the estimate per se', its that that thats his normal price, and it seems that its scaled rather high for the average customer.

His philosophy is that, he will, and sometimes does, take a job which isnt real high class, if he has the spare time..... but he always tells me.... that he can't take a step backwards in life.... and he's not going to start charging cheaper prices.... just because he has a 'lower grade' of customer. He tells me, if they want high quality work, then they have to pay the 'premium' price.... otherwise its just not worth his time and effort... and if they dont want to pay that price, then the customer should not have contacted him in the first place.

So.... that could explain why contractors sometimes throw out highball prices. If a contractor is used to a higher price scale.... and if it is their business philosophy that they are not willing to scale the price down based on the customers financial status.... then a highball price is a sort of tactful way of "getting rid of them"..... and if the customer manages to actually want to pay the overinflated price.... then all the better anyway... because thats just more profit for the contractor.

03-15-2005, 12:43 PM

I have a similar experience with a town bid. I've bitched about this particular example here before. This was for a wall rebuild and a wall constrution. Here were the bids (rebuild job and then build job)

1. $8,600 $5,275
2. $11,620 $9,855
3. $12,750 $9,000
4. $23,800 $13,200
5. $31,500 $18,800
6. No bid No bid

Obviously, #6 was the smart guy :p But jeez, there is a $36k difference between 1 & 5. Maybe 5 is like stone crafter explained.

I was number 3. Look at 1 vs. 2, though. This is getting a little off topic, but the way I see it is the winning bidder left $7,600 on the table!

I have two more maintenance bids out this week for maintenance of school props. If they end up like this, I will officially be done bidding on town sh!t!

03-15-2005, 05:10 PM
Stonecrafter, I know what your saying. Believe me, I've priced myself out of pleanty of work using a b**ch factor or a pita factor. However, if I take the time to give a price, I make it realistic enough that I might get the job. Sometimes, I'm higher because I have to bid a job for overtime, but I'm not exponentially higher. If I truely didn't want the work, I wouldn't even offer a price.

In my opinion, the guys that offered the two higher prices in this particular case, make themselves look like thieves. If they were $5000.00 more than me, I could understand. However, they were $23,000.00 and $35,000.00 higher. That goes beyond just being labeled as "expensive." I don't want to put that image out there.

I think the price range has a lot do with contractor's not knowing how to bid the work. The low bidder in this case, bid the job for 90 man hours. I bid it at 360 man hours. I've been doing this for a long time and I might be off by 20 or 30 hours, but not by 270. That guy set himself up for disaster. Lucky for him the homeowner knows better.

03-15-2005, 05:13 PM
Mark, I don't bid much public work, but I follow certain jobs on a job board. That's where you can find some real whores.

John Zaprala
12-31-2006, 03:50 PM
I usually am not the highest, but close to it and i've seen ranges like this before. A rule of thumb I stand by is to never down talk your competitors. Instead i inform people of a few details without being specific. For example, I'll tell them the materials in this job account for 30% of the total cost. Immediately after that I lead into our warranty, our certifications, and show job photos. I even offer to take them to a job site close to their house. I find people will pay the higher price if you make them confident in you and your work. Reassure them they will dealing with a professional!

Rex Mann
12-31-2006, 08:58 PM

turn-on your PM or email your email address.

Rex Mann
RM Stonescaping

NewHorizon's Land
01-19-2007, 11:19 PM
I am looking to get into the hardscaping industry but am going to stay on flat ground for now, no walls, no steps. About how long does it take to tamp in 4" of base material per 100 sq ft? How does everyone estimate this?

RockSet N' Grade
01-20-2007, 08:13 AM
JohnZaprala made an important point.....one that will get you jobs inspite of price and one that inspires confidence. Do NOT downgrade your competition, but shift the focus back to the job at hand and the quality you can/will produce. This is a Professional approach and very powerful in face to face negotiations. As far as bid prices go, I run an excavator and set rock walls,slabs and dig, etc. With our local economy so hot right now, prices are all over the board and sometimes I get shook up by the high and low end on the scale. What I have found is that I have to just focus on my self, know my costs, evaluate risk vs. reward, continue to provide the highest quality service I can......and let the chips fall where they may. The only time now I get really nervous is when I am low bidder.....because I must have missed something. I prefer to not get a job as low bid, but concentrate on selling quality and performance and believe with that foundation, price is not the primary driving factor.

01-20-2007, 08:41 AM
i heard once ( it may have been here, i can't remember where)...

the lowest bidder is the one who forgot to price in the most work.

or something like that.....

01-20-2007, 11:29 AM
Can you tell me where you saw this equipment for sale? I am interested in purchasing somw equipment for this year.


01-20-2007, 11:32 AM

Please let me know where that equipment is for sale. I am looking to purchase some for the spring.


01-20-2007, 03:01 PM
Pavespec - I am selling a fully equipt hardscape trailer if you are interested. PM me and let me know.


NewHorizon's Land
01-20-2007, 03:07 PM
cgland, i cant pm yet can you email me your specs on the equipment jlc99@comcast.net

01-20-2007, 03:38 PM
Pavespec - I am selling a fully equipt hardscape trailer if you are interested. PM me and let me know.


Chris, you still trying to sell that bad boy?

I might be interested.

edit... that is, if you're not interested New Horizon

01-20-2007, 05:47 PM
did you get rid of your cat?

01-20-2007, 08:13 PM
Cat is gone!:cry: :hammerhead: I wish I would have kept it! Damn!


DVS Hardscaper
01-22-2007, 09:17 AM
Any industry will have fluctations in pricing.

However, this industry is getting worse, and you aint seen nothin yet.

This message board is a prime example.

So many guys out cutting yards last year, and now they wanna be super duper luper hardscapers!

A good, veteran, hardscaper will know that an excavating company can excavate and have the aggregate base installed for a 4000 sf driveway in 2 days. Where as a fresh out of the yard lawn jockey will do this himself with his New Holland skid steer and vibratory plate compactor - taking 4-5 days to do so! Thus, the veteran contractor being thousands of dollars less, and taking home a net profit of not less than 25% on that sole job!

thats just one example. And sure the new wanna he hardscapers / former lawn jockeys screw things up due to ignorance, but there are so many ways to skin a cat, and part of business is to be quick and spot the different methods!

01-22-2007, 03:31 PM
As bad as it sounds, I usually just estimate mainly based on instinct. After a few years of doing this, you get a pretty good idea of how long something's gonna take to do. There's always certain areas of town where you know you'll be into clay or sand, or whatever. That little base material won't take anytime at all, maybe 10-15 minutes to tamp (per 4" lift). You eventually get an idea of how fast your crews can throw down 1 by 1's versus random pattern, etc.