Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by Oscapes, May 16, 2005.

  1. Oscapes

    Oscapes LawnSite Member
    from OHIO
    Posts: 60


    I know how to install retaining walls, but I am so clueless about how to estimate jobs.

    Do you charge per man hour + material cost? Do you charge per square ft? Some say face ft. What is face ft? Do you mark up the material cost?

    I need an experienced person's advice.
  2. The C Man

    The C Man LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ohio
    Posts: 527

    Great thread title, congrats.
  3. nocutting

    nocutting LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 530

    Hi, since you know how to do it, give a flat rate , charge 40=100% mark-up on materials, a minimum of $75-100 per man hour [ as an artasan - this aint mowin grass buddy].....and add a delivery charge,[ is extra fill dirt needed as well? .................
  4. Electra_Glide

    Electra_Glide LawnSite Member
    Posts: 75

    All of my bids have three major components:

    1) Material cost - This is the cost of ALL material (down to the last block or tube of adhesive). Also included in this cost are things like sales tax ( that you paid on your materials), delivery charges, and rental fees. Once I have a total cost, I mark it up by usually 10-15%. I know some guys mark it up more, but I do low volumes right now, and am not getting the price breaks that some other guys are getting. If I were getting better pricing, I'd probably mark up my materials more.

    2) Labor cost - This is the cost of all your labor, including yourself. Calculate the total number of man-hours and multiply by your hourly rate. Personally, I try and get $30-$45/man-hour based on the job.

    3) Profit margin - Once I have materials and labor, I have a total job cost. The total job cost then gets marked up based on how much I want to make on the job. This number is variable, and is based on what the market will bear. I'd like to get 50% profit margin on all my jobs, but in most cases that would price me out of the market. Typically I try and get 15-20%, but sometimes you have to settle for less.

    Once you've computed those three components, you have your estimate that you're going to present to the customer. Now it's gut-check time. How do you feel about the amount? Is it to high or too low? Is it in line with your current market and competition? If not, then you have more work to do. If it's too low, then you can take more profit or use a higher-grade material. If it's too high, then you have to either use cheaper materials, find a more efficient way to do it (to lower your labor costs), or accept a lower profit margin. Once you're happy with it, write it up and present the final number to the customer. I don't give them any breakdown of material vs. labor vs. profit unless I'm doing a time-and-materials job, which I try and avoid at all costs (personally I don't like T&M jobs, but they can be lucrative if you have the right customer).

    Since you say you know how to install retaining walls, it shouldn't be too hard to come up with the numbers, but in the end, estimating is part science, and part art. Expect that the first few jobs you do, you'll make some mistakes in your estimate. As long as you learn from them, and don't repeat them, you'll be better for it. I know on my first estimate, my actual labor was 2x what I estimated.

    There is lots of good information in the business forums on this site. It's well worth the time to read through them. In the end, there are lots of guys who know how to build walls, or push a mower, but there are a lot fewer of them who know how to do it and make money...:)

  5. Electra_Glide

    Electra_Glide LawnSite Member
    Posts: 75


    If you can get those kinds of rates, maybe I should consider moving to Long Island...


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