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Help With an Estimate

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Midwest Landscape Designs, Jun 5, 2017.

  1. Midwest Landscape Designs

    Midwest Landscape Designs LawnSite Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 8

    I have already designed the everything for the client and am putting together a quote for them. I am just a one man operation right now and want to be more than that in the future. I also don't want to be what I've heard mentioned in posts here as a scab that underbids everything. Maybe there is more to that than I know right now, but that is besides the point. The work that I am doing is as follows:

    1.Remove all existing plants, gravel, and concrete walkway (80 sq. ft.)
    2.Install new walkway and stain and seal the walkway (stained to look like the Meramec stones)
    3.Install 3/16" steel edging around walkway (define walkway from beds with contrasting decorative stone)
    4.Build and install a cedar trellis and bench and stain both
    5.Build custom water feature from plow discs
    6.Install these plants
    (1) Amelanchier alnifolia 'Obelisk'
    (4) Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'
    (1) Cephalanthus occidentalis 'SMCOSS'
    (2) Clematis virginiana
    (3) Luxuriant Bleeding Heart
    (4) Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance'
    (1) Lavandula angustifolia 'Munstead' - 10 PT
    (1) Thymus pseudolanuginosus - 24 Flat
    7.Install decorative stone: Mexican Pebbles between steps and Meramec stone around plants

    I have read many threads about how some people come up with their quotes and what I have determined is that the only good way is to know what what your cost is. So, my cost for this job, including materials, labor, fuel, delivery, and tool rental, comes out to $3195.96. I know that if the labor was being done by anyone else other than me, the company would not make money at the rate that I estimated. In the future, when I at a point that I can start hiring workers, I will have to adjust my labor rate. In the Chicago suburbs, I have seen labor rates range from $45 to $59 per man hour. Since I do not have the overhead that these companies have, would it make sense to charge this much? So where to go from here? 5%, 10%, 15%, double, triple...all of these are markups that I have seen while searching for an answer on how to come up with an estimate. One thing I have read and fear I may have done is underestimate the number man hours to compete this job at 62 hours. Aside front that, the variables that I mentioned above are known and fixed.

    Any comments about the estimating process and other knowledge would be greatly appreciated.

    On a separate note, it seems like the trade/contractor prices for plants, if not purchased in flats or at huge volumes, is nearly the same as the prices at the big box stores. Any thoughts on this? Have I just not found the actual grower?

    Thanks Everyone!


  2. Midwest Landscape Designs

    Midwest Landscape Designs LawnSite Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 8

    Let me ask a different question.

    How many hours would this job take you and what would you guys charge?
  3. hort101

    hort101 LawnSite Fanatic
    Male, from S.E. New England
    Messages: 8,097

    You should estimate at a higher hr rate and add to the hours you think for unforseen circumstances and fudge factorThumbs Up
  4. brichter14

    brichter14 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 663

    I think you are putting too much work into a 3000 quote. Everything looks great but damn if they say no....

    And as far as price. Do a few and get the hang of it. It comes with the territory
    THIESSENS TLC likes this.

    THIESSENS TLC LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 892

    If you make money and your happy with what your making then nothing else matters...
  6. Midwest Landscape Designs

    Midwest Landscape Designs LawnSite Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 8

    What I guess I didn't explain is that I have only been doing the design work up until now. I am trying to move from design to design/build. I have already been paid for the site walk, preliminary drawing, one revision, and final drawing. The inspiration page is just something I came up with in an attempt to better sell them on the build.

    The build side of things is not completely foreign to me, but the pricing is. How much is too much fudge. The number I gave above is my cost without any "fudge" and I agree that the hourly rate is low compared to a larger company that has full time employees with benefits; its just me right now. Maybe I am thinking about this too hard, but is it ethical in my situation to charge anything more than a standard landscaper salary plus some "fudge." On the other side, it could be said that I am underselling my own abilities.

    Thiessen TLC, I do enjoy what I am doing, but I want to make sure that I am the guy that undercuts my competition with low estimates. From when I have gone on interviews to be a designer, they have mentioned that it is frowned upon to charge less than the average. Of course, this was only brought up in relation to doing side work.

    One other thing, do you supply an itemized estimate or just a lump sum?
  7. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,708

    As a designer moving into installation , pay heed to maintenance, it's common for designers with little to no field time to design non sustainable, no maintainable landscapes.
    Gates should be 50" openings
    Distance between burms and planters the same when at all possible to allow passage of standard sized mowers.
    Design in comparing/debris/dump areas and snow storage for plowing if you operate in snow country.

    In my mind. If you design/build/maintain and maintain only what you build, and offer lifetime warranties as long as they have you maintain what you install, it's a recipe for a money printer.
    Especially when you set yourself up for a win from day one with a sustainable design.
    hort101 likes this.
  8. brichter14

    brichter14 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 663

    Look. Price it so you make money. After you do a few jobs you will have a better understanding of everything that goes into it so you can price it accordingly.

    Couple things from my estimates.

    Mark up all materials 20% and add sales tax to the retail prices.

    Charge for equipment use.

    Have a fuel charge.

    Don't forget delivery charges and cleanup too.
  9. coultman859

    coultman859 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 188

    From someone who does design AND maintenance, my thoughts are:
    1) Charge more.
    2) Plant list looks good, except you have drought tolerant plants mixed with Dryopteris and Bleeding Heart. Both will TOLERATE drought, but aren't going to thrive in it. The bleeding heart will go into dormancy mid summer, and the Autumn Ferns will look shabby by mid summer, which is a shame considering they are close to evergreen in your climate.
    3) Try 'x Phenomenal' over 'Munstead'. it is much more forgiving of your winters, although I still wouldn't plant it in your area.
  10. coultman859

    coultman859 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 188

    Also, please allow me to go on a rant about overhead.

    I have seen so many potentially great small garden design or even maintenance firms stay afloat, but never flourish because they felt they should charge less because of "lower overhead". The customer gives two sh**s about your overhead. If you can show up on time, and complete the project to their satisfaction, they don't care if you have 1,2, or 165 people working for you. You are allowed to have higher margins at lower volume. So many people think that to charge "X" for a project, you have to have a reason to. You don't.
    Mark Stark likes this.

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