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Old 08-27-2008, 06:57 PM
Ramairfreak98ss Ramairfreak98ss is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Burlington County, NJ
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Whats a multi level 4500sq ft patio cost you?

What do you charge for one? Sorry for the rant, this all comes back of our first patio of this season that started the end of March 08, its the same one some of you may know we had to go back and rip the steps out because the landing was an inch and a half too low coming out the back door?

Well all of that has been done, actually over a month ago now. Customers now complaining because of the "time we took for completion" and that the job is still not complete.

The last remaining issue is his "core drilled railing". At the end of the quote for his patio, we added in about 1k for railing expense because they're a long time customer and i poorly judged the amount of manhours it was going to take us to core drill, and install his railing around the perimeter of this 22x20' patio.

Since we've installed fence before, i "assumed" railing would be similar, and it was, but takes a ton longer to complete when all said and done. We ran into the first problem when my quotation outlined the estimated 1k in material expense, and then my company finally receives a call a week later from the fence company with the actual quotation for us of roughly 2k+ sales tax in NJ, ouch. So i discuss this change with the client, he wants to take a day or two to decide what he wants to do. He finds online a company in PA that sells fence. We go over my estimated supplies list, in detail and figure out we can cut off a post and a section of railing, to lower the price a little. I usually always figure one extra piece just in case something is mis-cut or damaged.

So he calls them up, gets a cash price quotation for the supplies list and its darn near half of what my quotation was. Assuming this other place in PA just had exceptionally small markup since they even stated it was directly shipped and i could pick it up with cash, i honored to drive from NJ to their location, pick up all the supplies and bring it back to the jobsite, in compensation for my error on the 1k estimation of supplies.

Low and behold, at the end of the job, we need an extra post, takes 2 weeks for this same company to have one shipped to us. We then find out the 2" square diameter posts cant be used for the landing and 3' worth of steps and the railing 6' section we have only racks 7" over a 6' span. We need it to rack 27" over a 3' span. Now we have extra supplies we cannot use or take back because theyre not local.

I go back to the original company we deal with that had the 2k+ tax quote, the guy laughing, says well your quotation already had figured in the 2.5" posts and rackable railing you need for steps which costs more, $585 worth for two fence sections and 3 posts . I never saw the quotation after hearing the price and knowing the customer probably did not want to spend that much etc.

Now the customer wants/expects us to fork out the extra $600 for the railing to finish the job, yet we charged him NO additional labor to install the railing in the patio quotation, because we were already near his theoretical limit of cost for the job, and only estimated 1k in supplies. None the less, we spent $200 MORE for the railing still that they have not paid for.

The patio right off the bat, was extended off our original design by 2', or about 40sq ft worth which included the whole side 25" tall block wall made of Rinox Rio 90 block. We added two lights onto his pillars that tower above the patio, and because of his modification of moving the pillars half inside the 20x22' patio area and half exposed on the outer side, we used darn near two skids of block at $440~ each to prep and build up the wall for the support to then add the pillar kits on top, each kit comes on a skid for one 27x27x36" tall pillar.

We also installed a Vinyl fence around his backyard perimeter with two gates, which he now claims bang into each other and arnt level/flush etc. 4 months later. The fence quotation was $7,900 ish, and cost $200 more for one more section of fence needed, only due to the fact that we extended his fence line in the rear yard one 8' section, we used up the "extra" panel on the other side of the yard. The customer paid half of the $7,900 deposit, and owes about $4,100 now. The fence cost for us was over $5,600 and has been done and completed for over 3 months, still not paid for.

The customer owes us $3300 MORE than the original patio quotation and $200 more than the fence quotation. plus the 2nd half of the fence installation amount. The $3,300 more is a DIRECT price increase in supplies only, we charged him a straight labor fee from the beginning and have not changed it even to this date. If we don't get $1 of the $3,300 amount, we will have lost money on the supplies. They feel the $3,300 is not justified because they didnt want to spend any more than the original quote yet made changes afterwards. Again, this number could DOUBLE if i added in appropriate labor for these changes or additions.

To make matters worse,

One of his colleagues husbands is a landscaper and stated "He just installed a 4500 3 level patio in the back of a house for $10,000" So he feels our price of darn near double that is ripping him off, 3 months after the patio is installed. Thats what $2.22 per sq ft INSTALLED? Maybe they meant $100,000. We did a patio that was 1000sq ft, ONE level and was more than that.

He had another landscape company come out and quote him for a patio, of the same size, for $12k. Three experienced hardscape guys have looked at the patio, 1 in person, and agree there is no way ANY company could do it for anywhere near 12k. Its honestly one of our less profitable hardscape jobs when all said and done and especially after costing about 17k, our markup % is squat at best, thank god for the fence installation, oh wait they havnt paid for that either !

This client also has talked to a guy that "offered", not sure what line of work his is in cement or mason or hardscape, to fix/and or rebuild the patio for a substantial price, quoting that they "use cement for doing the pavers". Now how many of you have every laid pavers in cement? This company/guy specifically told him that every paver/patio surface they install is cemented in place? WTF?

They feel that paying $4k is more than generous to call it even and thats not acceptable. I know this is going to have to go to court, to make matters all the better, he is an attorney for a big company up in north jersey. I know most of our conversations border speaking with an attorney because he stresses many issues he thinks he can win with if this does go into court, such as time of completion. Because he claims that the job is STILL not complete as of today, and started in the end of March 08, he should be compensated for something?

I will have to hire an attorney to battle an attorney which sucks. On our contracts, there is always a 10% variable amount on the quotation. Given he has paid about 20k of the 24k for the original quote, BEFORE His changes even, that still leaves him liable to pay 4k for the remainder and about $2,400 extra based on that alone. Since i have all documentation to prove that we purchased supplies on these dates for his patio for the total difference amount, we are not bickering over labor charges here, why do people assume they can pay $4000 of a $7k+ final invoice?
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Old 08-27-2008, 08:05 PM
mrusk mrusk is offline
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Location: northern jersey
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Collect the 4k and call it even, then go cut your lawns. I remember this thread. You should be happy the customer is offering to give you that 4k. You need to gain more experience before you practice hardscapes at customers homes.

Consider it a learning lesson.
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Old 08-27-2008, 09:07 PM
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kootoomootoo kootoomootoo is offline
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Great minds think alike. Ty Matt.

go to court....luv to watch the trainwreck.
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Old 08-28-2008, 11:35 AM
Ramairfreak98ss Ramairfreak98ss is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Burlington County, NJ
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Originally Posted by mrusk View Post
Collect the 4k and call it even, then go cut your lawns. I remember this thread. You should be happy the customer is offering to give you that 4k. You need to gain more experience before you practice hardscapes at customers homes.

Consider it a learning lesson.
What lawns are you talking about? We hardly cut any lawns this year, see our other threads about residential lawn accounts lol. Kootomoto, how many times have you been in a court in your life? I'm sure im not 100% dead on that i'll flat out win a case here but I would surely get more than 4k.
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Old 08-28-2008, 11:49 AM
markam70 markam70 is offline
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Location: USA
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Originally Posted by Ramairfreak98ss View Post
What lawns are you talking about? We hardly cut any lawns this year, see our other threads about residential lawn accounts lol. Kootomoto, how many times have you been in a court in your life? I'm sure im not 100% dead on that i'll flat out win a case here but I would surely get more than 4k.
maybe 4k before you pay your attorney
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Old 08-28-2008, 12:15 PM
forestfireguy forestfireguy is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: nj
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Ram Air,

Having been down a similar road early in my business life I have a question for you, do/did you have a contract ? and written/signed change/add work orders very specifically listing prices ? if so thats great, and good business. If not at least in NJ you will fight a major uphill battle. We have a law on the books here called the consumer fraud protection act, and basically you/we as contractors can't do anything without all of it being in writing. And according to the way I read it when it was an issue for me you could face fines up to 1.5 times the total amount of the work performed "illegally" meaning if you had a contract for the original work and didn't cover all the changes you could still be in a pickle. The law does leave the option for you to bring in an independent expert to testify that your pricing and quality of work are in line with local industry standards, obviously having not seen it I couldn't tell you my opinion. Little background, I got burned by an attorney for the tune of bout 5 grand, managed to recover other portions in the form of a lein. It is a road I'll never travel again. I was young and not aware of the law, thought he was a "good guy"....we've all been there, some hurt worse than others.

What is the total he owes you(on paper), gotta think about how much a fight over this will cost you in the long run. Attorneys, time away from work, possibly your reputation, fees for a witness, and still the chance to lose more than you will if you take his 4 gs. Ill say this much if you are well established and have an image to maintain get out now, and since you feel he owes you considerably more you should try to get him sign a non disclosure, so he can't legally discuss terms of this settlement or any details of the job. Its not a gauantee but if you find he badmouthed you at least you'll have some recourse.

Lastly I'm not judging, but seems either you took on a job that was a little bit beyond you or you had a run of really crappy luck. Any expert you or your client get will note that and every nitpicky little issue with the job, in the end I think you'll end up worse off than 4 gs in your wallet. Now that said, even if you did have every step in writing, you still have to worry about if the work was performed to industry standards, fence, pavers, walls, drainage everything.... If your client wants to push it and prove your wotk wasnt adequate and goes out and finds an expert(PROBABLY YOUR COMPETITION) they will hear and see all the issues your client has had, then they'll start looking for structural issues, like the Pillar, and anything else thats not quite right.

Not bashing you here, not at all, just hope you look at the big picture and try to be forward thinking........everybody learns the hard way sometimes, maybe this is your time. Whatever you do.....GOOD LUCK !!!!!!
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Old 08-28-2008, 03:55 PM
Ramairfreak98ss Ramairfreak98ss is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Burlington County, NJ
Posts: 2,211
Forestfire, thanks for the information. I have weighed some of the good and bad points of pursing the other amount of money.

One thing that bothers me the most is how we've been strung along by the "non payment" of this job to fix/repair/complete and do other misc. work for this client and here in the end, he now changes his mind from working out an amount to not paying one dime. He also most likely will drop us for his lawn service next season, which we've had him for the last 3 seasons now. We will already loose his landscape management/cleanups/repairs and any other future work.

We are going to be doing the fence install right behind his house, a friendly neighbor in which she has been given the bad shoulder from this client already. She had mailed him a letter requesting his opinion on fence options, showing the most utter respect for her surrounding neighbors.. and never got back to her. He also has told me about how his rear fenceline is 6" on his side of the property border, which when we started this whole job, he could not say WHERE the line was without a survey, because his original house blue prints from 2003 gave no indication in the exact location of where the property divides, i knew it was close enough because of the electrical box on his side of the property, on his plan and about 2-3' behind it was his.

We now will have to install the neighbors fence along his existing fence, having two 80' long fences side by side with 6" in the middle The neighbor will now have to pay a lot more for her fence, and it will look "like crap" for both in the end.

We did take on more than we could handle in April, I assumed gaining this job that being done in March 2008, i could be on site every moment, which in April was impossible. None of my guys are as skilled of a hardscape person as i am myself, and even with that said, there are surely guys on here that have been doing this for many years and do it all month long and can do a much better job, yet they probably wouldnt charge as little as i have for this project. Granted its not perfect in appearance, but the list of problems we have addressed are just absurd and still there are more complaints now.

One problem is that some of the changes are not in a change order format, and he did not sign anything stating that he wants to expand the patio 2'. If this was any other customer, i would assume that we messed up somewhere and didnt properly document something along the way. Because he is an attorney, he has used us the entire time from the time we first came out to the site and started making the patio larger. Actually the patio is only allowed to be a maximum of 20' wide by their HOA rules, he decided he could press that rule and since we were putting up the fence, build the patio 2' wider than the back of the house, which is in another violation. It sure is a learning experience dealing with a legal critique client of this nature. A lot of these problems originated because of the last minute changes and requests that were not originally specified for the blue print plan for this patio.
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Old 08-28-2008, 01:17 AM
Hardscaping Hardscaping is offline
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why does it go from a skinny pillar to a big pillar at the top, it doesn't look right?
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Old 10-03-2010, 12:36 PM
GrassmanLLCWyandotte GrassmanLLCWyandotte is offline
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I agree, the first thing I thought when I looked at it was that the pillars look funny going from small to larger on top.
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Old 08-28-2008, 08:04 AM
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JohnnyRoyale JohnnyRoyale is offline
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Location: Innisfil, Ontario
Posts: 620
Just start taking it apart, without prior notice. That will definitely get their attention.
I too agree, pillars look wrong.
If you got the money...I got the time.
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