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Easiest/accurate for estimating hardscaping

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by IHI, Feb 13, 2007.

  1. IHI

    IHI LawnSite Member
    Messages: 68

    Last season, I won bids on a few hardscaping jobs. This year I'm really going all out for many more. My biggest challenge is estimating in a quick/accurate/profitable manner. What are you guys/gals doing/using? Are you pricing by the hour, square ft, or what??? How do you take into consideration the skidsteer hours and other unordinary items like: hard location to get too, access, etc...? Are you letting the software do all the work and if so, which software?

    P.S. - Most of my work will be flagstone installs, patios, pavers and maybe a few smaller walls.
  2. greenbottle27

    greenbottle27 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 31

    Try contacting/googling J.R. Houston Enterprises - I think they're in CO. It's an estimating/financial consulting. Supposed to be better than Vander Coy.
  3. IHI

    IHI LawnSite Member
    Messages: 68

    What are these companies, consulting?? or software??
  4. tthomass

    tthomass LawnSite Gold Member
    from N. VA
    Messages: 3,498

    The larger the job the larger the perspective. Say you're taking home $10k when completed yet someone else gets the job taking home $9k. Considering the job, would you have been happy with $9k?

    Yeah there's overhead and different expences but what you'll hear most........it comes with experience. Feeling out the customer, your expense and knowledge of what you'll run into + time to complete.

    I know a company here that has in their contract that if they run into stone the labor rate DOUBLES for wear and tear on equip/machinery. Have such clauses in your contracts. Explain what happens with debris and soil.......kept on site or hauled away and so on. Hiding or ignoring things will only cost you because customers love to pick over what they're paying for and give their opinions or ask for this and that.
  5. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,601

    One of the worst thing you CAN do is unit pricing, aka "square foot pricing".

    All our jobs are priced based on materials and estimated time.

    You'll have to do MANY jobs to get through the learning curve.

    Especially being that u have to wheel-barr the materials, you need to estimate how long it will take you tp perform each task.

    With paverwork, even a simple patio, there are a ton of variables. Look, here we are talking about a small patio and it requires all wheel barrowing! There is always something. Whether its access, staging, burial of roof down spouts / sump pump lines, and so on.

    Each individual jobs needs the following accounted for:

    -Equipment load time at yard/shop
    -Equipment unload time at job site
    -Travel time to and from, per employee, per day
    -Each and Every particle of material
    -Time for removing and re-installing the owners section of fence
    -Time for laying out the patio with marking paint
    -Time for excavating. if the job has a walk out basement...that means they have a hill going to the front. If its fall or spring...that will will be a greasy muddy, mess. that hill will eat time.
    -Time for installing aggragate base. Can the aggregate be brought in on a tandem, or is access and staging so tight that you must bring it in on your truck and hovel it off?
    -Time for laying pavers and cutting
    -Time for regrading/seeding
    -Time for daily clean up. Usually takes one man about an hr to clean the trash and shovel soil/mud off the street.
    -Time loading and unloading equipment when job is complete.

    The landscape and hardscape industry IS ALL ABOUT TIME TIME TIME. We are SELLING TIME! If there are any Vanderkoi seminars in your area, I highly urge everyone to attend.

    Sure many of these tasks are routine and do not vary much from job to job. But as a thorough and conscienous business person, you really need to itemize the estimated production hrs of each task when calculating job cost.
    And this way, if you encounter a problem, you can see exactly where you fell short on your estimating and then you'll know where to improve on, whether its in the job costing sector or field production.

    Many veretan guys may know their averages. But it took them many years and many jobs to gather this intelligence. So for people that are new...its best to price a job based on estimated materials and production hrs. heck, I been doing hardscapes for 11 years and thats the only way we do it!
  6. tthomass

    tthomass LawnSite Gold Member
    from N. VA
    Messages: 3,498

    I think its a split between knowing an idea of square footage pricing + your variables.........meaning looking at a job and ESTIMATING this looks about $12ft or $20ft or $30 foot etc.

    At some point you have to just let experience take over as if you base only on hourly wage........well you get more productive. The job that took 100hrs now only takes 75hrs. Surely you're not going to charge only 75hrs and lose money because you are more productive.

    Starting out use a square footage price for comparison to get an idea of where you're falling with your price. You don't want to price a job to only look back and see you charged $8ft.

    Really its a combination of multiple ways of putting together an estimate until you gain the experience to where you just "know".
  7. NewHorizon's Land

    NewHorizon's Land LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 687

    At MAHTS I attended the "estimating: it is what it is" seminar and found out that most companies find that their materials are between 28% and 32% of the total job. So this helped us out alot. Also in the 07 EP Henry Idea Catalog they say that a contractors materials are approx 15% to 25% of the total cost.
  8. ChampionLS

    ChampionLS LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,066

    DVS, you hit the nail on the head with your reply. Experience comes with time. Everyone should take notes after each estimate and jot down any new "what if's" as they run into them. When you write up that estimate, include all of them in your pricing. THE WORST job I EVER ran into was a underground spring in someones backyard, in 100% clay, and it was in November. The dam clay stuck to everything, the site was never dry, and we spent twice as much time just trying to get started/cleaned up each day. I think we just broke even on that one.

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