Another estimating/pricing question

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by Randyj, Mar 3, 2007.

  1. Randyj

    Randyj Master Plumber

    I had another contractor ask me to give him a quote (price per fixture) on a luxury home nearby... all he said was 21 fixtures including the icemaker and other small stuff...plumb from meter and to septic tank... all copper water, pvc waste. As a 1 man plumbing company how much time should I allow to get a "normal" project as this done? It is a house on a slab with a second story....conventional stick built lake home....high dollar gated community ....pricing is to include stops & shower valves....???????? Any guesses out there? All I have to compare to is that it takes me about 3 days to do the same for a remodel on a single bath house I can flip when I install all new plumbing. I need to pick up this job really bad.......
  2. Only advice I can give is to bid the job like you have tons of work and you are following standard procedure.

    In my first year of business I can look back at the invoices in relation of time where I was struggling to make ends meet and stop the borrowing....and every job I took out of desperation, I lost my ass completely and to this day I don't do work for the clients I got the bums rap on.

    It was tough no doubt and hope I never end back up in that situation again.

    What I'm getting at is if you low-ball that bid, you'll spend a good deal of your time exchanging money in your accounts with no real profit to speak of. Everyone needs to make profit and small margins drive you out of the biz.
  3. 2 RULES you shoud always remember.....

    If you can remember this rule you will

    always do good with builders.....

    the #1 rule is 95% of all builders are SKUM

    and usually they are looking for their next "boy"

    to use and abuse.....

    so if you come begging the guy for work with your

    hat in your hand ..... like going 40 miles out of your way to pick up
    some plans ect ect.....and then bid the plans 10 different ways ect ect

    you will get the screwing that you certainly deserve



    think of yourself like you are a bank and
    this UNKNOWN Builder has walked in your door
    and wants to borrow money from you....

    Remember you are like a bank and he is asking you for a 5-9k loan,
    for your materials and time....

    Basically HE is a total stranger and wants you to give him
    a LOAN with a "kiss and a promise" of paying you back
    once the job is done....someday..........

    ask him a few polite questions like.....

    is willing to tell you who is last plumber was
    and the reasons why they parted ways...????
    (he will probably lie through his teeth)

    call around and find out who his last plumber was....

    find out who his electrician , ,hvac man....

    carpenter is, and ask them if he pays his bills

    call the local plumbing supply houses and ask the billing department

    if any of them have been screwed , ------they will certainly let you know..

    If this fellow is not willing to give you any of this info,
    it should tell you he is probably SKUM...

    then you will know how to bid the job......
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2007
  4. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona

    I NEVER price by the fixture. Calculate the materials you will use, add at least 15%, calculate the labor, add 20%, then add your profit margin. That is your price. If he wants a per fixture price divide it by the number of fixtures. If he eliminates any fixtures, deduct the base cost and labor that you originally used and then give him a new price, do not deduct the "price per fixture" or you will probably lose money on his deletion.
  5. coz

    coz New Member

    I base my jobs at 1000.00 per fixture with allowances for fixtures :
    dish washer + 200
    faucets 125
    toilet 150
    sink 100
    water heaters are extra


    2 full baths 6 fixtures 6000
    kitchen sink 1 fixture 1000
    dishwasher 200
    laundry 1000
    so for plumbing soup to nuts 8200 Base price with extras if customer chooses fixtures over allowance
    I get paid 1/3 up front
    1/3 after rough but before inspection .That way if you dont get paid you can stall the project.
    1/3 day of finish
    this system works for me and my builders have no problem either
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2007
  6. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona

    I would lose money at that rate. I just did a job with a shower, tub, toilet and lavatory, plus moving the water heater for $5,500.00 and they supplied the fixtures.
  7. toolaholic

    toolaholic General Contractor Carpenter

    Marin Co. Ca.
    RANDY I'm worried about You !

    I'm guessing your a great tradesman ,and not so good A businessman.

    Here,you're depending on strangers to estimate Your cost of operating. I do not mean to dis. You, Randy! Please invest in some Buss. help before you're in trouble. I'm a remodeling contr. that uses hometech estimator out of maryland.
    Prices include your overhead and profit for the AREA You are working in.
    Much safer route to work for homeowners. DON'T FINANCE a builders project!
    Structure money up front when materials arrive on site,then keep payments
    coming. the goal is to leave as little money on the end as possible. ALWAYS GO WITH YOUR GUT. When they say "We'll take care of You later, on that xtra work " Means You'll never see a cent! good luck watch your 6
  8. coz

    coz New Member

    explain how you would lose money.
  9. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    It sounds like you do a lot of new construction, I think hj is more of a repair plumber.
  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona

    According to your scale the job should only have been estimated at about $4,000.00 and I would have had to buy the fixtures. I do all phases new, remodel, TI, repair, but I never do projects, (I always tell other plumbers that that is a fast road to bankruptcy), and I only do the jobs where they will pay my price. I do not "negotiate" when someone wants a lower price, I tell them I will give them the name of a cheaper plumber.
  11. priceing for SKUM BAG builders in the midwest

    HJ ----you have the right atitude when it comes to
    builders.... and it comes from the school of hard knocks....

    just say no and tell them all to go to hell,
    and you are probably going to be right 95% of the time
    Thats better odds than in Las Vegas..

    What we used to price things at long ago - late 80s + early90s..

    per bathroom including fixtures...

    average single bowl bathroom first floor 1300
    second flor 1500
    extra lav bowl 300

    whirplool ?? wildcard 1500

    1/2 bath about 975.00..

    average kitchen 700

    laundry room 400
    x-tra tub 400

    water heater 50 gal gas 800

    run mecahnical gas pipe 400

    hose bibs each 150

    bypass 200

    softener 900

    sump pump 400

    Paying a bunch of DUMB ASS PLUMBERS benefits,
    and a decent wage just to get them to show up
    sober every morning to keep up with the work


    add it all up and an average 2 1/2 bath ranch home with a
    whirlpool would work out at around 7900.0

    believe it or not , as I don not know what people
    around the USA are presently getting but
    that was considered high priced for around here

    their is actually a large plumbing contractor in town
    that has pulled up roots and moved to South Carolina
    where the money is better.....

    and their are some tract home plumbing contractors actually
    subbing out 2 story homes
    ---to piece work plumbers that are willing to do the install
    from the finished slab up for about 850 per unit for their labor
    ... materials provided.... they pay their own sso sec and workmans comp and insurance....

    their are cutting each others throats left and right
    so I am staying out of the slaughter house...
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2007
  12. I am so glad I'm out of the new construction phase of plumbing. Just reading about the pricing and what I've experienced back in the day was torment.

    Even if I got the work, it seemed that the "actual" number and the "final" number didn't equate to the surprises that would come along the way like:

    Can't get the truck close enough to the house, walk everything through mud


    Better yet, not allowed to pull the truck to the house because the concrete truck dragged dirt out of the jobsite for 1.3 miles and now everyone has to park on the street in front.

    Tub(s) arrived crack, can't install and no one is getting paid till it does


    Find the crack after the windows are set and now it's a group effort between the framers/plumbers, and possibly the bricklayers dropping their scaffolds down to get this new one one is getting paid extra.

    Fighting for space in walls and the heating/air company comes in and whacks your pipes out because they have to through your once owned space.

    Can't get the second rough air test to hold because it's been cold weather, you need the whole subdivision to be quiet so you can hear the leak and of course, that doesn't happen.

    You bring 400 PVC fittings and twice through the job either you or your accomplice has to run and get a specific fitting because the framer doubled up a joist or some nonsense.

    You have a 9 or 10/12 pitch roof and is slick as snot when there isn't rain or sleet and the homeowner or builder is pissed you won't boot the stack and water is roaring into the building warping the oriental strandboard. Roofer not being there for 3 weeks is not a problem???

    No staircase between floors, everything is done with a aluminum ladder and in most cases, dirty slick feet.

    Between the torpedo heater and the air compressor keeping you assured of deafness in the future, the carpenter is tied to the same temporary electric pole (if were lucky not to run 400 feet to another house built by the same builder) and now every time we run the hole-hawg one of us has to go hit the reset on the GFCI.

    Water lines to a second floor bathroom that HAS to be ran through the joists, in the center for code reasons, and now you're cutting 18" pieces and sectioning a 20' run thimbling through the joists. I come from the day where you could drill the bottom of the joist and use nail drive guards. Not no more.

    Finding out your accomplice/helper installed the shower valve(s)upside down because they didn't set the arrow up, effin priceless. Finding out at the finish, back to back tubs nonetheless.

    Homeowner involved in the decision making of the construction of the home, wife keeps changing her mind where the vanity mirror is going to go and now the vents are in the way, you submit the cost to make the changes and they look at you like you just took their kid for ransom. No charge of course, it's only a few fittings and some pipe, sheesh.

    On the finish there is a sound in house that is associated to the plumbing system which is a hum or ticking (< we know what that is) and now we're part of the punch list for months after they are living in the structure and can only come when it's convenient for the homeowner between moo-choo's teeth cleaning and daughter Clara's dance class. Bullshnit!

    Reduced water pressure in a few of the faucets EVEN THOUGH you knew to remove the aerators before opening the system, but you didn't have water to the house when you set the finish because the water company is two months behind from making a one hour connect in the front yard that someone has already bent off the copper flush with the ground for scrap and now, NOW it's a two fitting connect at the meter.

    Floor drain backed up in the house (why it's our fault, no one knows) because it's been used as a garbage receptacle and makeshift urinal for the past 8 months even though you left that pipe extended above ground in the basement so this wouldn't happen. Thing is that the carpenters know that you can take a hammer to the base of that pipe and swing at it and knock the pipe completely off at the floor. Pipe cracks longways and instead of using a 3" test ball to test, you're now using one of those long Donkey dongs to get at least into the start of the trap to get the test to hold because no one is going to pay you to jack it up and replace that upright just to get a 5 minute test to hold.

    Been there, done that, any plumber worth their weight hasn't experienced the above at least one time or another in that side of construction, you haven't done enough new construction. You can have those jobs as I've walked the walk in my humble beginnings. In these new homes, these guys only get around $800 after taxes if they are lucky, throw it in lightning fast and MUST COUNT their time for the finishes, the testing off of the system and all associated callbacks on an average 2.5 bath home. That's not making money folks, that's production housing and you are after that income for baseline income only.

    Rehashing all of this in my mind was not therapeudical in the least.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2007
  13. Racer814

    Racer814 New Member

    yikes....$8oo after all that?....I'd cut my wrists

    seriously, you made me relive a lot with that post rugged...I did new construction for 18 years until some eye problems caused me to move to tell the truth though, new construction can be a very profitable business....I averaged around $2000.00 on my mark up on fixtures's like service, you set a high price and you back it up with great work...

    on a side's funny how service plumbers seem to look down on "new construction" guys while the "new construction" guys have always looked down on service guys........go figure
  14. Wadeing throught the mud

    Rugged.......your post brought fond memories.......

    wadeing through a field of mud just to drag in fittings, tools ladders,,ect.....

    I always enjoyed wadeing out in 100 yards of mud through the rain to the
    power pole every 20 minutes to re-set the breaker box..

    I really liked it when you got a charge back on your bill
    of about $50 bucks or more for
    "not cleaning up behind you"
    --- thats a big scam that tract builders do to these --young -dumb-kids
    they actually charge everyone on the job site 50 bucks for picking up the same cigarette butt...
    (they dont let all the subs know what they are doing)

    the difference between service plumbers and new work plumbers is the new work guys have not been cheated good enough yet out of 25k or more...

    or have not realized that they are hostages
    to the builders, to the homeowners, and especially
    to their employees....who wont show up when you really need them.

    or are simply not old enough to know any better....
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2007
  15. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona

    I averaged around $2000.00 on my mark up on fixtures alone...

    How long ago has that been. Now all the builders and homeowners buy their own fixtures and the plumber installs them. Most of us prefer it that way so we are not involved in any warranty or service problems with them.
  16. Yes it was horrible. I think a good service plumber has to have roots in new construction to understand how there are advantages to being a problem solver over a system designer.

    If you start out building them you should know the aspect of how to fix them when they malfunction and need repair. Being able to see what's behind those walls before you even start makes the service plumber's job a great deal easier. I know of numerous new construction plumbers that won't even think of seeing fecal matter in a drain.....they literally start hurling at the mention of it.

    New construction plumbers usually like "clean only" work and not have to deal with the public on a regular basis. They flat rate/bid work before they do anything hourly. That's what the demand offers, they are price shopping galore unless you're top dog in your community and swing it any way you want. I will say that I've seen/done work behind service plumbers that have had no experience whatsoever on the new construction side and you can tell that by the products they use and how they repair it. They'll reconnect to an existing 90 that's falling backwards instead of going to the vertical and straightening it up. They rely solely on the "replace an apple with an apple" logic and a true service plumber if given the opportunity will correct as much as possible given the money constraints decided by the homeowner.

    Customers love that in a service provider >>>> Options and the explanation why it would be a good idea to resolve the entire issue, not just the failing part.

    I didn't even mention how difficult it is to deal with other contractors when you are on a job site. Everyone sharing the same extension cord, another rookie electrician bumming smokes every 9 minutes, bricklayers listening to gospel music out front and you not dare not turn on your radio, blasphemy! :mad:

    Can't run your stacks because the heat and air man got to the job late in schedule and now you're sharing the joy joy. Roofers air nailing the shingles down hurting your ears until a staple blows through the thin roofing and mars the tub you just roughed the valve and the builder doesn't know if you are lying or using the roofer as a scapegoat.

    Oh and you can't come today, concrete guys are pouring the driveway and no access. Park halfway down the street and damned if you need a pencil if one breaks while making cuts. Off you go~!

    I never wait for my money when I work. If I do it's because I'm being nice and giving the customer breathing room if larger numbers (above a grand) come into play.

    I get offers monthly to plumb new homes and additions; none of it interests me because if there is a higher profit ratio, it's discredited by the constant above situations and the lack of customer relations after the initial. That's a fact because if it was true they held onto them, I'd be out of a job.

    All the new homes I work for? Usually a bad experience with the plumber. It got inspected? Passed? Plumber got recognized for going on the cheap for materials because that's the only way to grow the profit margins.

    You install it, I fix it......I love it that way!
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2007
  17. Racer814

    Racer814 New Member

    3 years ago but it's still common practice....sure, there are some plumbing contractors who let the contractor/homeowner buy the fixture and they install it.......I'm not gonna leave that money on the table....and I don't think "most of us prefer it that way" is a correct statement...
  18. Racer814

    Racer814 New Member

    sounds like a lot of bad experiences on doing new construction on here....there are definitely a lot of bad contractors/homeowners/employees etc...but there are good ones too...I did new construction exclusively for 18 years and had a pretty good run of it...I learned long ago that people will treat you the way that you allow them to...and some of the best jobs are the ones you walk away from...we did almost 100% custom houses and commercial work......there's no profit margin in tract housing...only jobsites with every sub on the job at once and contractors trying to drive your profit down even further.....

    .looking back it was mostly an enjoyable experience....and I definitely made more money.....but that said, I don't want to go back....I don't miss the pressure.
  19. Randyj

    Randyj Master Plumber

    Thanks guys for all the info. I only WISH that I could get those kinds of prices around here. I ran all the drains for stub outs today with PVC... 9 fixtures including kitchen sink, laundry sink, washing machine, 2 tubs, 2 bath sinks, 2 toilets. Start to finish, covered all with dirt before the concrete guys could throw down the gravel, I didn't have to dig the ditches, but did have to have a couple of branches re-dug then I had to level out everything at a good 1/4" slope.... 6 hours including time at the local supply store... on the job at 7 and was home before 2. The guy contacted me by e-mail so I went over and looked at the job last week... so actually it cost me another 2 hours and was 45 miles round trip. I definitely did the job embarassingly (compared to you guys) cheap but if I can get a little demand for my services going around here I won't be sitting on my ass for weeks at a time. What's even worse is that I brought home more from this one cash job than my wife brings home in a week....and the only plumbing company that had a job opening around here offered me $14/hour to go to work for them... I politely declined. Tomorrow I'll go to the big city 1 1/2 hours away to run 220 ft of 1/2" pvc in a ditch that is already dug and walk away with $500 profit. I'll try to make it an all day job so the guy thinks he's getting a super deal. ... but this brings me back to the question I started this thread with... how long should it take me to rough in a two story house with 21 fixtures...water is copper, DWV is all PVC...??????

    $800 per fixture around here I would have to have a gun to their heads....maybe $500 and I supply all the pipe and valves... so I don't get many bids on new construction... no inspectors and everybody thinks they're a damn plumber excellently educated at the big box store or the local mom & pop hardware. Still, I'd rather be out in the boonies and not some big city making big bucks... absolutely love it here and the people are great...but the money is just strange...have to go with what the market will bear or take a regular job that hardly pays gas and grocery money. Most of these houses have no vents and no clean outs... wonder why?????
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2007
  20. the big city is trying to tell you someting

    Randi.....this is just some off the cuff advice...

    if you can make a fortune in the big city near by ,


    why dont you move away from "hooterville"

    or " coon- holler "

    and get closer to where the real action is???

    If you were to put an ad in the "big city"

    yellow pages under the heading "water heaters"...

    you would probably never look back and some day

    be wondering what possessed you to kiss the

    butt-ho/es of those builders that claim they are doing you

    such a big favor.....

    I would rather sit home and wait for a service call

    than sell my soul to the devil......
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2007
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