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Thread: Frustrated about bidding vs T&M...

  1. #1
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    Frustrated about bidding vs T&M...

    I have a job, in a commercial laundry facility that serves a couple of hotels. It started out with just a bid to run a new circuit for a new commercial dryer. All their appliances are 3phase, 240v. Not huge loads, most of the appliances operate on propane. The washers are about 10 amps, and the dryers are about 8 amps.

    Problem is the panel is a small mlo with a back fed 70 amp breaker as the main. That leaves space for 5 more 3-pole breakers. They currently have 9 appliances (and want to add 1 more!). So I’m trying to figure out what they have going on there so I take the cover off the 3-phase panel (they also have a small single phase panel for smaller loads). It turns out most of the breakers are double tapped, one is even triple tapped!

    Not only that but most of the breakers are 40, 50, or 60 amp breakers (with #12’s!) So instantly my bid turns into a service upgrade for their 3-phase panel! And the manager knows it. He understands what I’m telling him about how bad the setup is. So he says to give him a number.

    I spend nearly 3 hours mapping out the place to get a better understanding of what the issues are and my list of things that are acceptable is short compared to my list of code issues!

    How the heck does a person even start working on a bid for a job like this?! I’m a little overwhelmed with where to start. What steps would you take to start bidding a job like this?
    I know that T&M won’t be acceptable for them. I could maybe bid a portion of the job (like the service upgrade and wiring up the new dryer) and then leave the rest of code violations for T&M...? But not sure if they’d go for that.

    They’re a good customer that I want to keep, they keep me pretty busy throughout the year. I don’t want to just throw out a number that either screws them, or me, over depending on how the job goes.

    Thanks for any advice!

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    In short, figure out the entire scope of work. What the customer wants, what the customer needs, what upgrades or changes are needed to accomplish this, and what existing code violations must be corrected.

    Next would be a load calculation.

    After you have clearly defined your scope of work, then you can figure out a materials list, and the time it will take to install everything. Whether you do that manually or with estimating software is up to you.

    After that, I would figure in when this work can be done... If it would have to be done at night or on weekends, it will cost more. If you have to hire temporary help, that's going to cost more. Figuring all your expenses, overhead, profit, permit fees, etcetera.

    From your description, they need at least a 30 Space 3 phase panel just for the washers and dryers, 33 if you retain a main lug only panel with the back fed breaker. Because other loads come from this panel, and there are double and triple lugged Breakers, you will probably want at least a standard 42 space panel. Although one can apply demand factors for multiple washers and dryers, is likely a commercial facility like this can have all machines in operation at one time. The existing feeder may be inadequate.

    The existing sub panel is probably smaller than what you will be replacing it with... Need to figure in time in moving and cutting back the existing MC or EMT... The latter will take longer, especially if the conduits are coming in more than just the top or bottom.

    If you are under the 2017 NEC, I believe that 210.8 will require all of those circuits to be GFCI protected if cord and plug connected. That is a considerable material expense over standard 3 phase breakers... I think the SQ-D part number is QO320GFI. And if I recall correctly they were about $600 a piece. If the machines are cord and plug connected, it would be cheaper to hardwire them all than to spend 6 grand just on breakers.

    I mention the above because it would probably put you deep in the red to have to spend money on the breakers after the fact, or spend probably the better part of two days unbid and unpaid for labor hardwiring all the equipment.

    Eta: looking at a code map of the United States, it appears that North Dakota is in fact on the 2017 NEC.
    Last edited by JFletcher; 12-06-18 at 03:21 AM.

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    Yes, 2017

    JFletcher, you pointed out excellent points. Thanks!

    We are on 2017, and yes I am aware of the GFCI code change (dealt with it on another job). These are all hard wired with disconnects by the machines, although some work will need to be done cleaning thing up at each existing machine.

    I agree with what you said about defining the scope of work, making material lists, and estimating time to accomplish said tasks.

    I did a general load Calc for the existing 3-phase loads plus the new dryer that came out to 105 amps at continuous duty. So I'm thinking a 200 amp service for additional future possible loads. Like you said, space wise, with existing appliances (9) plus the additional dryer I'll need 30 space just to get going. I did call the supply house yesterday to get a price on the Siemens 200 amp 42 space panel ($600) and 15 & 20 amp breakers (~$70)

    I think I'm to the point where I need to sharpen the pencil, and warm up the eraser, and start the material list,anticipated time for each task, etc.

    I have a bidding software, but it seems geared towards more new construction projects. I started using it last night but soon got frustrated. As I've thought about it overnight I think manually breaking down the job into individual components and basically compiling an estimate for each component is going to be easier.

    One of my major concerns is a variety of existing visual code violations that I know the inspector will see when he steps into the building. As far as I've seen these mostly involve EMT that isn't properly supported, and j-boxes that aren't supported (except by the EMT). A lot of this stuff is on the single phase side of the service. I am going to have to have a conversation with the inspector to make sure that we're on the same page about if I'm responsible for that stuff. I really don't want this to turn into a total re-wire of the building, although a clean slate to work with sounds appealing.

    My other concern is the hidden, not visible, code violations that I'm sure I will encounter while working there, and how to account for the unknowns in your bid. Do you add a number into your bid ($1k, $2k, ...?) to account for this? Or do you do it T&M piecemeal as you encounter issues?

    My initial thought is to state out a scope of work, bid everything that's known and visible, then do T&M for the unknowns...

    Sorry about the long post! This is coming from someone who's been in business for 1 1/2 years and find this type of bidding process as overwhelming! I do a lot of T&M work for this type of stuff, but they need to know a number for budgeting purposes, which I totally understand. Like I said they're a good customer that I want to treat fairly and not lose because I throw out a stupid number that is crazy high!

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    Pic of panel

    Not sure why my pics always turn out sideways!
    But anyways, here's a pic of the existing panel.

    You can see the 3 breakers that are double-tapped. The older wire on the breaker is larger (#8 and#6), the newer wire is #12. The breakers are 40, 50, and 60 amp breakers. The 60-amp breaker feeds 2 discos, one of those discos is tapped again on it's line to feed and additional disco. So that 60-amp breaker is feeding 3 appliances, that are rated around 7-10 amps each.

    Most of the discos are fused, but I saw only one that had a proper sized fuse.

    My guess is originally, when they first started using 3-phase in this building they started out with a few pieces equipment that was electric (hence the larger wire and breakers), but then transitioned over to propane which dropped the individual appliance load down quite a bit so they could add more appliances without changing out the service, but sent them down a road of lack of panel space for new loads and double-tapped breakers.

    Name:  Laundry panel.jpg
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    Do not give a detailed list! If you do they will shop your idea out to others.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sw_ross View Post

    I agree with what you said about defining the scope of work, making material lists, and estimating time to accomplish said tasks.
    My initial thought is to state out a scope of work, bid everything that's known and visible, then do T&M for the unknowns...
    Quote Originally Posted by sameguy View Post
    Do not give a detailed list! If you do they will shop your idea out to others.
    You do need to put some kind of parameters on the work that you will do for a certain amount of money.

    If you do give details and they shop the job then you know the other company is probably bidding the same job.
    The 95% of people that you can't trust give the other 5% a bad name.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sameguy View Post
    Do not give a detailed list! If you do they will shop your idea out to others.
    ^^^^^Absolutely this!! You've already sunk considerable time into the project which you may or may not be able to recover in your quote (for God's sake don't make it a line item, just bury it). Keep it to the bare bones of what needs doing. Keep the means and methods entirely to yourself. You can just refer to code sections to document the violations and justify the work. Don't answer any "How are you going to do that" questions, except to politely indicate that "that" will be done in a code compliant manner.

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    Do not give a detailed list! If you do they will shop your idea out to others.
    Yes....but give a detailed scope of work on what is included and excluded

    I think manually breaking down the job into individual components and basically compiling an estimate for each component is going to be easier.
    You will be way high if you do this...

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    Good advice! Thanks. I’ll keep my paperwork to myself and just outline the project and numbers to them in our next meeting.

    I’m still contemplating how to handle some of the unknowns. Whether I just add a number to my bid and hope it covers the unknowns or whether I specify a T&M for unanticipated items.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gadfly56 View Post
    ^^^^^Absolutely this!! You've already sunk considerable time into the project which you may or may not be able to recover in your quote (for God's sake don't make it a line item, just bury it). Keep it to the bare bones of what needs doing. Keep the means and methods entirely to yourself. You can just refer to code sections to document the violations and justify the work. Don't answer any "How are you going to do that" questions, except to politely indicate that "that" will be done in a code compliant manner.
    Good advice about code sections! I’ll include some related to conduit support code articles to help justify just how bad some of the issues are.

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