Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?

 
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Old 03-28-2008, 06:21 AM   #1
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Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


I'm getting absolutely swamped right now & finding it hard to keep up. My big problem is that getting my estimates done is slipping. I have (4) decks right now that I need to estimate, one from a meeting I had two weeks ago that I haven't even touched, but I haven't been getting home until 9:00-9:30 every night from working on the projects I already have. This is still a part time gig, so that's most of my problem, but my estimates & 3D drawings are taking me about 16-20 hours a piece. That's about 64 hours I need to find to do these I currently have. I don't want to drop the 3D drawing because my customers are very impressed with them & they help sell.

Wondering how long it takes you guys to estimate custom decks & if you could share your procedure. I need to find a faster & still accurate way.

Thanks!
Dan
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Old 03-28-2008, 06:32 AM   #2
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


i have done my own estimates for 20 years, i recently started to pay an estimator, best money i ever spent

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Old 03-28-2008, 07:28 AM   #3
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


I can get a 3-d done in sketchup in 2 hours in most cases. I can usually get an estimate done in 10-15 minutes. I use a excel spreadsheet that has unit based pricing built into it. I just count up the number of piers (and sizes) and enter them in. Enter number of joists, sq ft decking, qty steps, lf rails (and style) LF of fascia, qty of lights (and style) and I have a number.
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Old 03-28-2008, 07:45 AM   #4
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


just to clarify, decks and smaller jobs , i will est myself still. 100,000 dollar and up i pay an estimator, they give me a beautifull printed breakdown, mat etc...
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Old 03-28-2008, 07:47 AM   #5
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


I use my local lumber yards for some of my drawings and although I don't like to buy from Lowes they have a great program for decks. They do a complete design and material list for me.
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Old 03-28-2008, 07:50 AM   #6
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


say no to loews and home dopey
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Old 03-28-2008, 07:52 AM   #7
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


Quote:
Originally Posted by RobertCDF View Post
I can get a 3-d done in sketchup in 2 hours in most cases. I can usually get an estimate done in 10-15 minutes. I use a excel spreadsheet that has unit based pricing built into it. I just count up the number of piers (and sizes) and enter them in. Enter number of joists, sq ft decking, qty steps, lf rails (and style) LF of fascia, qty of lights (and style) and I have a number.
Robert,

Do you have standard sizes you use for joists & beams or do you size everything depending on the deck design?

I started setting up a unit based spreadsheet, but have not finished it yet. Looks like I might need to get on that...
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Old 03-28-2008, 11:12 AM   #8
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


16 to 20 HOURS for ONE estimate? You're NUTS.

I can hand draw a design from scratch, in 1/4" scale, copy it, sketch out the structure, write out the material list, price that by hand, work out my labour, figure out my sale price and either type out or write out the quote in 45 minutes to an hour. Even a really complicated multi-level plan is another 1/2 an hour. Maybe.

Robert kindly gave me his spreadsheet, but I prefer to do it my own way.
Now that I'm starting to use Deck Tools software, that's about doubled the time. Once I'm used to it, I'm sure that time will come down.
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Old 03-28-2008, 11:25 AM   #9
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


My methods are probably closest to Roberts, except that I don't very often do decks in 3D. I'm still in the learning stages of Sketchup, but I can whip out a 2D plan in less then a hour, if I know how it is going to shape up.

I use a spreadsheet like Robert. If it doesn't have anything out of the ordinary, I can do that in 10 minutes or less and then put the proposal together.

I use a generic framing plan to get my costs. At this early stage, I have not yet formulated a framing plan, so I just enter square footage, perimeter, height, railing, steps, benches, etc. All by either square foot or lineal foot. I then add or subtract for project differences as needed.
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Old 03-28-2008, 11:40 AM   #10
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


Some nice decks in your website, Mark. Looks like we're not too far off the same age.
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Old 03-28-2008, 12:39 PM   #11
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Stone Mountain View Post
16 to 20 HOURS for ONE estimate? You're NUTS.
Hence the need to find a quicker way. I think I'm just too anal about accuracy. I want it to be dead nuts accurate so I draw the 3D plan & estimate it at the same time. I think most of that time is spent drawing the 3D which is included when I present the estimate. If I throw together a typical details file that I can pull from rather than drawing things over, it would speed it up too.
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Old 03-28-2008, 01:46 PM   #12
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


You need a detailed plan when you're building it, not when you're selling it. The customer isn't gonna notice, or care, if the drawing you show (not give!) him is out by a few inches here and there.

If the ground is not level, don't bother with it, draw a level grade with your deck over it, they'll get the picture; don't worry about the landscaping, or the window/door design in the existing house; draw a representation of your deck and railings so they can see what they're buying, and then start offering them options. You're selling them YOU, not the drawings. (I hope)
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Old 03-28-2008, 02:22 PM   #13
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


Quote:
Originally Posted by reveivl View Post
You need a detailed plan when you're building it, not when you're selling it. The customer isn't gonna notice, or care, if the drawing you show (not give!) him is out by a few inches here and there.

If the ground is not level, don't bother with it, draw a level grade with your deck over it, they'll get the picture; don't worry about the landscaping, or the window/door design in the existing house; draw a representation of your deck and railings so they can see what they're buying, and then start offering them options. You're selling them YOU, not the drawings. (I hope)
I agree. Just a nice concept should do to get the sale. full detail drawings should be done after you get a deposit for the design and or for the job.

Also Danno if you have that much work, it is time to raise prices slightly cut back on the hours and make the same money doing a little less work. It maybe time to hire some help also even if its part time.
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Old 03-28-2008, 09:12 PM   #14
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Danno6102 View Post
I'm getting absolutely swamped right now & finding it hard to keep up. My big problem is that getting my estimates done is slipping. I have (4) decks right now that I need to estimate, one from a meeting I had two weeks ago that I haven't even touched,
!
Dan
If it takes you 60 hours to do 4 estimates, you'll never get anywhere, unless you sell all 4 of them. You don't need to be so anal. If the house is 11' 9", I'll draw it at 12' I also try to keep all measurements to even lengths. For example, if the HO wants the deck 9'deep, I'll explain that I need 10' boards, so the extra foot is free. I measured an existing deck today, that was 33" 4 1/2" wide, 17' 7" deep. with 3'7" angle cuts on the corner. You could make that 34'x18' with 4' cuts and the ho would never have known the difference.
I can knock off 4 well detailed quotes before lunch, without shortchanging the client, and I'll often close 2-3 of them.
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Old 03-28-2008, 11:58 PM   #15
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


I didn't read through all of the replies but you are taking way to long to estimate jobs. I can usually hand draw a deck to 1/4" scale in 30-45 minutes tops even for a pretty extensive deck. As far as material pricing and my overhead and profit, I can figure in roughly 20 minutes.

If you don't already, get yourself regular updates on the standard lumber you use from your lumber salesman. I have my salesman fax over updated prices a couple of times a month or when he notes any of my common material prices change.

The only time it takes me more than a few days to estimate is when I work with non-stock special order materials.

I have notice you are new to the business so maybe you are way over thinking the job. Start to figure your materials as you build the deck in your head. Start with posts then beams, joists etc. until the deck is complete. Add for misc. mat. you may have missed. After several decks the design and material take-offs will come more natural.
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Old 03-29-2008, 07:13 AM   #16
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


Lorne does the estimates. He doesn't provide a drawing until contract time. Granted this is fencing and not decks, but 16-20 hours on a proposal is going overboard. Sell the dream, not the plan.
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Old 03-29-2008, 07:49 AM   #17
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


I give a ballpark during the initial meeting, also discuss the design fee at that time. I give no estimates unless we have a design fee. Then I have an architect or a designer do the drawings. For smaller jobs I just estimate and give a verbal. fee is about 4% for jobs. This has been working well for me.
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Old 03-29-2008, 09:26 AM   #18
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


I do want to note something. Maybe it is good that it is taking you a while since you are young in the business. If I had taken more time thinking EVERYTHING through on some of my first jobs I would have been a lot better off. When you try to speed through is when you miss things. Its much better to spend an extra couple hours on the estimate then an extra $1,000 in materials that you missed because you tried to crank it out. And an extra 3 days on the job because you did not take into account that the material drop is 100 yds away and all downhill on pea gravel.
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Old 03-29-2008, 11:24 AM   #19
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


Quote:
Originally Posted by RobertCDF View Post
I do want to note something. Maybe it is good that it is taking you a while since you are young in the business. If I had taken more time thinking EVERYTHING through on some of my first jobs I would have been a lot better off. When you try to speed through is when you miss things. Its much better to spend an extra couple hours on the estimate then an extra $1,000 in materials that you missed because you tried to crank it out. And an extra 3 days on the job because you did not take into account that the material drop is 100 yds away and all downhill on pea gravel.
True. If you were to get 10 jobs from estimates that they pushed out quickly, but end up taking a profit hit for them....that demoralizes you, and costs you money = not worth it.

I am in the same boat as Dan, regarding estimates. I am knee-deep in them. For the past 6 weeks, all I have been doing is supervising jobs, looking at jobs, and trying to get to the estimates I have. For every 5, I get out, ten more seem to come in.

I am trying to create some kind of system. One of the things I am trying to do is to sort them.

1.) Prioritizing: Some estimates must get out ASAP. Others can wait. Take a few minutes to make up a list of what you have on the table, and which ones need to be drafted up first.

2.) Some Clients are just price shopping: They can get a verbal or simplified "Ballpark" estimate for now. If they are still interested, after that, then they can get a more solid/detailed proposal or an actual contract offer.

3.) Some clients are dreamers. They have no clue what a bathroom remodel or an addition costs. Sometimes, it's not worth wasting too much valuable time on a detailed contract, since they may not even do anything with it. See my point below, about asking specific questions, to sort prospective clients out.

4.) Simplify some estimates: Some people are looking for a price, simple as that. They want to see if they can even afford it. This falls under the ballpark-pricing concept. You can waste alot of time with overly detailed estimates, send them out, and then.......not even hear back from people. Or you can, get those simplified estimates out to the people that want a number first.

5.) Screen Clients. Ask questions tactfully, to find out where people "are", in terms of the things I listed above.

I guess the key is "feeling" them out. There is No need to waste valuable time on some estimates that, if you had asked a few more questions about, you would have known you were the 10th contractor they talked to, because they were trying to find a smuck to do a $100K Remodel for $30K.

I don't have all the answers. These are a few things I am trying to impliment currently.

Any other thoughts?
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Old 03-29-2008, 04:02 PM   #20
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Re: Estimating How Long Does One Usually Take You?


16 hours for a deck estimate and 3-d drawings, WoW!!!

I would require a deposit, if I were to work that hard on an estimate for a job you may never get.

It's good to take your time with estimates because you don't want to forget to include everything in them or price them wrong but 16 hours?

When I do deck estimates I use graph paper and do a rough sketch, from that I figure out my material (usually takes 30mins).

Then I figure out my labour and create a price.

So I would say it takes me anywhere from a low 45 minutes to a few hours depending on how complicated and detailed the job is.

Most times I can take things from my old estimates to save on time.

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