Advise on first lighting install please

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by Gilla Gorilla, Oct 30, 2005.

  1. Gilla Gorilla

    Gilla Gorilla LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 923

    I have a customer that wants me to design a lighting system and install it since we are redoing her front landscape now. I have only worked with the Home Depot cheap lights that I built into the risers for my deck steps. I am going to install a Unique system with a total of 9 lights and the cost of lights, transformer, 250' of 12 gauge and 2 equilizer kits is $1129. One of my questions is how much do you guys mark up your materials on a lighting job of this size and how long would you estimate the install to take. I am estimating it to take about 5-6 hours total for two of us. The breaker box is in the garage and there is already a 3/4" hole coming through the brick to the outside. I am planning on having a electritian come out and wire up a dedicated GFI outlet inside the garage for the lighting system.

    The manager where I will buy the materials from told me yesterday that up in New Jersey guys that install lighting are taking a $1500 system and selling it for around $5,000 but he said that in our area that would be very hard to sell it for that cost.

    Any suggestions on markup and time it might take since this is my first install and I would be using the Hub method if this helps.

    Thanks alot guys
  2. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    I don' do too many new light jobs any more used to bid by the fixture 100.00, the transformer 1$ per watt (so 300 watt transformer =300.00) and 1$ per ft of wire installed. I would caution you on a couple of things I do remember. Unique transformers seem to burn out lights faster after one light on a line goes out, you better get it changed pronto or the others will be burnt out very soon. Also they did'nt have some safety rating because of the higher taps 15-16-17 etc. Customers get angry when the garage burns down. In general be sure your voltage is correct not more than 12 at the first light on a run and not less than 9.9 on the last one, and please use halogen bulbed fixtures 6,000 hrs vs 600 hrs. If you have access to F/X products I would highly recommend them. Unique has been good about replacing bad transformers but I have to mail them in and F/X will go to my job site and swap out a bad transformer, I just have to make a call. Nightscaping and Vista are also crap IMO, every time I do an evaluation the tap says 12 and its putting out 11.7 Vista has copied most of F/X's innovations and Nightscaping has'nt ever had an innovation, I really don't like those tin box's that never go back together quite right(and fuses? who still uses fuses?) F/X fixtures are the best 10 yr warranty and don't really need it, the finishes hold up great. I rarely come across a good light job when I am bidding new maintenance accounts. Hope you do better than most. Go to I bet they will have some good info on site even if you cant get their product, Try to ignore the goofy fixture names, they are trying to get the architects on board to spec. in their lights. The guy that owns the company started out as a lighting installer in the early 80S so he knows the field end of business. And they are made in USA
  3. Dreams To Designs

    Dreams To Designs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,406

    Justin, I have nothing against Unique, but do you have a Cast Lighting distributor in your area? I am one of those Jersey guys, but not quite getting the numbers you were told. We use the Cast system and fixtures from other companies, adapted to work with the Cast system. So far the only callbacks have been to add fixtures or expand into other parts of the property. Check out Cast, they have excellent product and even better support.

    On your pricing, I am comfortable with selling the products at suggested list price and including all the unforeseen parts. Extra wire nuts, landscape staples, soldering your splices, and any new tools or equipment needed to do the install properly. Your time for labor is about right. The install is not difficult, but you do need to wait till dark to make sure the lamps you have selected throw the correct beam and are the right brightness. Also fixture position may change as the sun fades. Usually you will buy some extra lamps to tweak your design. Different wattages for intensity and different beam spreads for impact or a subtle glow. You also have to account for your design time. If it's free, that's all it may be worth. If you have access to a 3D imaging program, you can get a great idea of what you want to accomplish with the lighting. The hub system is similar to Cast's spider splices so you are on the right track.

    Figure out your material costs, labor, overhead and profit and you should be able to come up with a fair number for you and the client. If you use a "system" and follow it, your installation should be relatively simple and long lasting. Don't skip steps because it's easier or you don't have the right equipment. Do it right, get the right tools and charge accordingly and you will find lighting to be an excellent addition to your services. Especially at this time of year when most homeowners are coming home in the dark, let them enjoy the landscape and provide security as the days get shorter.

  4. Gilla Gorilla

    Gilla Gorilla LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 923

    I will attach a couple pictures of the front with the night lighting. She wants the lighting more for security at night versus being able to see the new landscaping that has and is being done. The light on the middle of the front of the house I added because it looked pretty dark with just the arbs on each side being lit up, also figured to put that middle fixture up against the brick to keep it from shinning in the window all night. I was just trying to up light the front more with it.

    Thanks for the suggestions.

    Austring Front 4.jpg
  5. Gilla Gorilla

    Gilla Gorilla LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 923

    Here is the middle of the house

    Austring Front 2.jpg
  6. Gilla Gorilla

    Gilla Gorilla LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 923

    And the last one of the left side. Also there is four lamps on this side. One in front of the maple and one behind it lighting up the area between both windows.

    Let me know if you would switch around the positions any way or any other suggestions. I dropped off these three pictures and also one pulsar unique light fixture to show her how well built these are versus her old home chepo lights. I think once she sees the pictures she will give me the go ahead even. Hopefully because I would like to get at least one install under my belt before Christmass.

    Thanks again

    Austring Front 3.jpg
  7. Dreams To Designs

    Dreams To Designs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,406

    Cool to see you using Pro landscape, it's a great program. If you want security, some area or path lighting would be in order. What is the security issue? It looks like the house is set in the woods and I wouldn't think security at the front of the house would be the real issue. Perhaps you could approach it as a safety issue and light accordingly. Do you plan on using well lights or bullet/directional lighting for your uplights? Most clients prefer a softer lighting effect, rather than too brightly lit, like a store front. That center light may be better if pulled back and a tighter beam on the vent above the window. Even a fixture up close will have light wash into the window and cast strange shadows if pointed straight up. That's why you need to have extra lamps in different beam spreads and wattages to tweak things for the right affect.

    You say you are doing the planting also? If you would like to offer the types of plants you are using, we may be able to tweak it a little to work better with the lighting, if you don't mind. I'm sure you are working within a budget, so your selections may also reflect that. I see an existing post light by the front door. Will that remain and be used as part of the lighting scheme? And I hope the trash cans are staying by the front door, if they are you need to create some sort of enclosure. They are ugly!

  8. Frog Lights  LLC

    Frog Lights LLC LawnSite Member
    Messages: 191

    I just returned from the Orient where I was visiting my factories. We have some great new lights coming and many have already arrived. I hope to have some pictures posted and the web site updated soon. The designs are beautiful. Please consider Frog Lights for future projects. We have a wide selection of spot lights for any use. Many are water proof and are ideal for ponds and waterfalls. The above project would look great with some spreader lights infront of the beds. We have two sizes all aluminum in various colors. Our transformers are not expensive and this will put profits in your pocket ! If you like cast we have two cast spot lights at much better prices that you are paying now for the same thing. Come swim with the big frogs ..don't be a tadpole!
  9. Gilla Gorilla

    Gilla Gorilla LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 923

    Kirk thanks for the advise. As for the path lights she does not want to go that route because of her dogs being walked on a leash and fears that they will get tangled in the lights and rip them out.

    She saw the pictures and liked what she saw, now I just need to price the materials and labor. She only wants to price out the middle and right side of the house for now which is where the new landscaping will be done by Monday hopefully.

    My materials price comes up to $964 for the 500watt transformer, 7 lights that come with the wire caps with the dielectric grease in them already, four different types of lenses, one hub and 250' or 12 gauge wire. I will have a electrician come out and pull a new GFI circuit from the breaker box which cost me $125 and I mark up to $175 or $200.

    I figure it should only take us 4 hours tops for two of us to install tops. How much do you guys mark up your materials on a small job like this? I do know that I will need to be there at dusk to re aim and adjust or move some lamps around and or try different types of lenses. I think that I will try to get the dealer to let me take a different type of lamp just in case I want to swap out and see how it looks versus what was speced for me.

    Does $2282.40 sound like to much or to low for this job. 7 lamps, one 500 watt transformer, 250' 12 gauge wire, one hub, new GFI breaker and labor.

    I know that we are in different markets and it is hard to say if a price sounds good when it is 200 miles away but I appriciate any info you have and can still give me.

    Thanks all

    Oh yeah those Frog fixtures do look nice. Do you have any dealers or is it mail order only?
  10. Dreams To Designs

    Dreams To Designs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,406

    Justin, figure out your materials, and I mean all of them, the labor, your overhead a add on the percentage of profit you wish to make. That is the best way for you to get and give a fair price. Your price sounds reasonable, but I do not know your costs and profit. Once you get the lighting in they will want more, if they can afford it. I see your point with the dogs, but isn't that why they are on a leash, to be trained? What tools do you already have and which ones do you need that will make the job easier. Make sure you have spare wire, wire nuts, ground staples and anything thing else you may need. If you run your hub wires along the foundation, they will be easier to bury and in a safer place. Shouldn't you be running more than 1 hub? I hub for each area and homeruns back to the transformer. Is 500w big enough for expansion, because they will be impressed and want more.


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