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Thread: Residential (new construction) Estimating

  1. #1
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    Residential (new construction) Estimating

    Hey Guys,

    I wanted to see if anyone could give some advice on how to properly estimate a job relating to residential wiring (new construction). It seems in my area that most electricians charge by the square footage of the home. If that is the standard technique, what is the going rate? If not, what would the proper way to estimate such a job? I want to get into new construction, but do not want to loose my a$# either. Thanks in advance for each of your posts on this topic!:smile:

    Dogg

  2. #2
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    Once wire, breakers, panels, devices, boxes and cover plates are sold by the square foot, I'll start pricing my work that way.

    I'l stick with line-item pricing.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
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    Germantown MD
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    I have resi estimating experience but no comercial. I will say that depending on your jobs and many other variables, ther is no one size fits all. The above post is against sqft pricing and for good reason but on the contrary it can work very well if you work for a developer and do the same 12 houses day in day out for a year. All of your costs are predetermined and sqft pricing makes sense since all the details are worked out. teh only variables are material variables and market pricing.

    Bottom line is you really need to know what fist you and you client best. Many peopl will post here to what is best but its really what works best for them in their situation.
    Make something idiot proof and someone will make a better idiot.

  4. #4
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    figure out the cost of the material and over head give the customer quantities of items 100 receptacles 30 cans etc. this gives you leverage when extras come into play. give some serious thought about how many days and how much you need to make each day. i figure for a normal person. im not normal cause im a wiring animal. but you gotta look at your help carefully ive seen some real slow goers out there. my old boss used to do 5$ a sqaure foot. i check my self against that sometimes but its not what i go by. if its cut and dry it should be simple but becareful with custom homes with built ins/customer walkthroughs will kill you if you dont figure for that kind of stuff. good luck

  5. #5
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    GCs love guys who bid by the SQ/Ft becuase they cane shaft you alot easier.The problem you run into is a 200Amp panel costs the same for a 2000sq/ft house as a 1500 sq/ft house.
    Those who can do, those who can't teach

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    prepare to spend some time doing this, but what I did for resi is to create several standard assemblies (box, recep, plate, length of wire, stapes, wirenuts, labor . ..) and put them in an excel spreadsheet. I have several pages of the materials that make up the assemblies, all linked, so that making one price change in the material sheet keeps the assembly pricing up to date.

    I used average lengths for the cable between devices. The only thing I measure off on every job is the cable for the appliances (anything larger than #12) and for the service.

    I spent at least 6 weeks working on this, on and off, while transitioning from sq.ft. pricing to assembly pricing.

    You can buy residential estimators that work basically the same way; they use your copy of excel. I did the free trial and wasn't impressed with the layout, so I used it as an example and made my own. Several guys on the forum also shared copies of their version with me to look at. PM me your e-mail addy and I'll pass mine along to you.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogg View Post
    Hey Guys,

    I wanted to see if anyone could give some advice on how to properly estimate a job relating to residential wiring (new construction). It seems in my area that most electricians charge by the square footage of the home. If that is the standard technique, what is the going rate? If not, what would the proper way to estimate such a job? I want to get into new construction, but do not want to loose my a$# either. Thanks in advance for each of your posts on this topic!:smile:

    Dogg
    Dogg,

    I feel that you should always do a detailed bid. There are just too many variables that can make a difference. You work too hard to take a chance on losing money on any single job. Take the time and do a detailed estimate.

    I highly recommend that you purchase Mike Holt's Illustrated Guide to Electrical Estimating book. It will give you a really good understanding of the whole estimating process. Before you worry about how to complete an estimate using a certain estimating system, I believe that you should learn the philosophy and principles behind completing an accurate estimate.

    Regardless of what others might say, there is a lot to consider when completing a detailed estimate.

    I don’t believe in square foot estimates. Construction factors, the quantity of different types of assemblies, labor rates, material price fluctuations, etc. can have a dramatic impact on your cost.

    Since I am the creator of an estimating software program, it's probably not going to be a big surprise that I’m a big believer in using computer estimating software (As is Mike Holt). I would suggest that you check out all of the programs that Mike lists as the major estimating programs. I’m pretty sure that you can download free trials of them all. Check them out. If nothing else, it will at least give you a good idea of what is involved.

    Following is a list of some of the areas that you should be aware of:

    Construction Factors – The construction of the house makes a difference on installation times.

    -- For example: A ceiling light rough-in will take longer in a 1st floor ceiling that is constructed of dimensional lumber (2x12s) than it will in a 2nd floor ceiling that is constructed of open web joists.

    Material Type – Are you using conduit or romex? #12 or #14? Standard devices or Decora devices? Etc.

    Material Cost– What are your materials going to cost you?

    Direct Labor – What is your direct labor cost for the project.

    -- You need to have a basis to determine how long the installation will take. I personally believe the most accurate method is to use labor units. A labor unit is the amount of time that each piece of material, assembly or labor only installation takes to install.

    -- Some people prefer to use each employees billable rate per hour rather than their actual pay rate per hour. Whatever you do, make sure to include each employees burden costs.

    -- If you have an apprentice, or anyone that produces less than an average Journeyman, don’t forget to calculate how much additional time the project will take to make up for their lack of production. This is an area where a lot of people leave money on the table.

    Additional Labor- What additional labor, over and above the direct installation labor, are you going to incur? Ex: Deliveries, job set-up, material ordering, paper work, travel time, etc.

    Tools – Do you need to purchase any tools or equipment for the project or do you want to apply a small percentage to account for tool replenishment.

    Subcontracts – Do you need to subcontract out any portion of the job? Ex: Security, fire alarm, concrete cut and patch, etc.

    Bond – Do you need to bond the job?

    State Sales Tax: Does your state require you to collect sales tax on the bid amount? This is not the same as the tax you pay on material.

    Code Requirements – Do you know the code requirement for the jurisdiction?

    -- Are you going to submit a bid price that reflects exactly what is on the print or are you going to value engineer the print so that you can give your customer a price for per plan as well as a what it will cost them for a code compliant installation?

    -- If you’re unsure of the inspector’s requirements, call him up ask him. Remember that the NEC is the minimum. Every inspector has their own unique requirements. Don’t assume. It can cost you money and grief.

    Take-Off – Take-Off the electrical items from the print. I find that a spreadsheet works well for this.

    -- Each column can be an assembly, I.e., Single Pole Switch, 3-Way Switch, etc.

    -- Each row can be a room. I.e., Front Exterior, Foyer, etc.
    I feel that you get the following benefits when doing a room by room take-off.

    -- it is easier to double check your estimate.

    -- You can present a Quantity Take-Off by Room report as part of your bid package.

    -- You can assign the proper labor units based on the construction factors of each floor.

    Include the cost of any light fixtures.

    Add any misc. material that will be required.

    Add for material waste and/or theft if it’s an issue.

    Make any labor hour adjustments – This can be additional labor for things like weather and humidity, ladder and scaffold, overtime, job factors, etc.

    Add up your estimated prime cost – This is the sum of material, labor and misc. expenses.

    Add your overhead to the estimated prime cost. This will give you your Estimated Break Even Cost – There are numerous ways to calculate your direct costs.

    -- You can choose to assign different percentages for material ,labor, etc.

    -- You can choose to use a percentage of your estimated prime cost.

    -- You can choose to use a rate per hour.

    -- You can choose to use a lump sum.

    Add your profit to the estimated break even cost – This will give you your Bid Price.

    -- You can choose to assign different percentages for material ,labor, etc.

    -- You can choose to use a percentage of your estimated prime cost.

    -- You can choose to use a lump sum.

    Generate a detailed, professional looking, formal proposal – Be specific on what is and what is not included.

    -- Include the scope of work

    -- Reference the print date and the last revision date if applicable.

    -- Include a date that your price is valid till.

    -- Make sure to specify if your bid price is based on exactly what the print shows or if you value engineered the print to meet code.

    Break up your bid price into the draws that you want to receive, I.e., Service, Rough, Trim. etc.

    Good luck and happy estimating!
    Bill Ruffner

    Founder & CEO of TurboBid Estimating Software

  8. #8
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    Mike Holts Advertising Forum.
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    Open shop since 1988

  9. #9
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    Texas
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogg View Post
    Hey Guys,

    I wanted to see if anyone could give some advice on how to properly estimate a job relating to residential wiring (new construction). It seems in my area that most electricians charge by the square footage of the home. If that is the standard technique, what is the going rate? If not, what would the proper way to estimate such a job? I want to get into new construction, but do not want to loose my a$# either. Thanks in advance for each of your posts on this topic!:smile:

    Dogg
    Dogg, it would be tough to generalize a sq ft price for all the United States. The costs to wire a house in say rural Arkansas and the city of Chicago would differ by alot. If I understand correctly in Chicago you have to pipe the houses. Someone correct me if this is wrong please.

    We hardly do houses anyways. We are on one right now that has 26ft ceilings in the main area and 12 ft to 16 ft ceilings the rest of the house except for the garage. The labor a a lot more than your average 8 ft ceiling.

    I don't know how much the price is on this house as I have not worked up a bill on him yet. He is a friend of mine so he told us to wire it and send him a bill.

    I have gotten a general number for here in West Texas for a basic 1700 sq ft home. Seems like it was $3.45 a foot or something like that. Around here some contractors were doing the houses for $2.50 a sq ft, after about 800 or so houses I hear that contractor was in debt to the supply house for 400k and cannot pay, so looks like he should have been a little higher. Funny thing is I heard the guy walked up to a builder told him he heard that the builders current contractor was wiring spec homes for $3500. The the builder told him yes that was what he was paying, the contractor then told the builder he could beat that price by $1000. That contractor now is the one who is way in debt after several hundred houses and probably will not be able to pull out. Man how stupid can you get, he now probably wishes he would have been half as stupid and told the builder $500 cheaper, that way he would only owe 200k.

    I am with the rest of the guys though, we have a small spreadsheet for houses, I cannot bid it with Conest or Accubid really. But you can bet my light fixture price is not going to be the same for the 29ft ceilings.

    Also keep in mind that your service would be additional since it could vary greatly from underground, overhead, 100 amp, 200 amp or 400 amp.

    Best of luck Dogg
    If you want to be a big business, then run your small business like a big business.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
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    NC
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    Quote Originally Posted by dduffee260 View Post
    I am with the rest of the guys though, we have a small spreadsheet for houses, I cannot bid it with Conest or Accubid really.
    That is also the way I used to do residential. Unit price for the standard items, separate price for the service, and account for variations based on the appliances and distances. Sq. foot methods are good for a generalisation but really are not a true estimate without some very good historical data accounting for current conditions.

    I did use ConEst actually to compare to the unit prices I was using. It was actually pretty accurate. It was slower than using my spreadsheet though. For commercial, software is the best way to go.

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