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Hardscape Design Bidding Issues

Discussion in 'Bidding, Estimating and Pricing' started by Hayduke, Jan 9, 2020.

  1. Hayduke

    Hayduke LawnSite Senior Member
    from Oregon
    Messages: 299

    There is a designer in my area who has a great reputation and receives a decent amount of work for a solo operation-probably puts together close to $250-400,000 worth in designs per year. She is a designer, not an architect, and when the design is done she hands her clients usually 3 business cards of local contractors. My company has been one of the three for a few years now.
    I often prefer her work over some of the other designer/architects around as I think her style is pretty close to the type of stuff I like to do. Last year about 35% of our gross revenue came from this one designer, so I do my best to please her.
    The problem is that when it comes to the hardscape portions of her designs, whether its retaining walls, patios, walkways, steps etc, all there is is an overhead 2 dimensional CAD drawing of the hardscape feature. Unfortunately, a 2-d drawing tells very little information about a potential hardscape feature and I often wonder what the other contractors are even bidding on. Short of spending a half a day shooting grades and coming up with a separate design to create a concise firm price, I just do my best given what information is on the design, but it is woefully inadequate. I'm pretty sure the other contractors approach it the same way.
    If I end up getting the job, I inevitably end up spending an extra day getting the grade details gathered and processed so I can give the client a firm number. Often due to existing grade issues, I have to revise the hardscape design quite a bit. This is often after a contract is already signed and I have to carefully, respectfully work it in as a change order. It is a messy process to say the least and I'd really like to come up with a way to approach it differently. A few years ago I just dealt with it because of the influx of work, but it's starting to wear on me.....
    LonestarLandscaping1 likes this.
  2. Mac-s Lawn & Snow

    Mac-s Lawn & Snow LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 463

    It sound like the work she brings in is vital and maybe you need to work in an estimate charge for the hardscape portion of her design to cover some of your time to work up a bid. I was at $275 for any job that required a detailed bid and I sometimes had people pay fee's like this to 3 different companies when shopping a project. I would usually apply the design fee towards the job if they signed up for everything on the proposal. I did landscape construction and design for 30 years, most of as a solo op and have switched to doing lawncare as my body has wore out.
    There wasn't really a question with your post so thats my take on it.
  3. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 17,253

    So you’ve been doing this for three years now

    you Must have an average of square feet by now (ie $80 per square) for the retaining walls

    then you just include what I call the “rock clause”
    (Back in 2005 I found a rock the size of the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs in the middle of a pool I was digging/ now I have an unforeseen expenses -also referred to as force majere- which I call “the rock clause”)

    anything un foreseen is a change order
    Include an extra day of “thinking” into your future estimates that gets added to your per square foot wall prices and you should be good to go.

    a proposal is a budget, not the exact specifications to THIS Specfic project
  4. LonestarLandscaping1

    LonestarLandscaping1 LawnSite Member
    from Texas
    Messages: 37

    You could have a couple of different options.

    Upping your price by adding time of your own legwork would price you out of the competition I am assuming.

    Option One: A Master Bid sheet with /sqft numbers for all types of material and labor. Flatwork, treads, risers, cmu/ block, firebrick, sone cap, demo, countertop, any extra work. If you do not have this information, then I can possibly privately send you mine to start from. You can then get rough take offs for your estimate. On your estimate state that "final invoice will reflect actual work done".

    Option Two: This puts you in a difficult position as a sub. The designer has sold the client on a idea and price and you are left holding the bag to make it work. This is not a sustainable pattern. You can quickly recognize the patterns where the deficiencies in the design are and on new jobs talk to the designer(your doorway to more work, don't upset her) about them. I.E. are the bids really apples to apples? Will other sub CO your client extensively due to missed scope? Maybe even help the designer by drawing more details for her.
    A key objective for 2020 could be to get her to pick you for each of her projects and negotiate your price rather then bid against someone else eevry time. On bids like that, when you won, I would just ask yourself what you missed and the next guy saw to price it higher. Does she ask for a kickback? Maybe you could sweeten the deal for her.

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