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I sat down with a friend this week and we went over his painting business from the inside out. I was surprised to see that he estimated jobs by the surface area square foot. Then added for 2 coats... difficulty.. etc..

I've always estimated by the hour, but his system seemed to work fine.

How do you estimate a job and what are the advantages and disadvantages to each system?
 

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Nathan I estimate by the hour for small jobs. I ask myself how many hours will this take to do and how many guys? I know I've never estimated painting but I think it only seems logical to estimate by the square footage. After a job or two you know how many square feet you can paint in an hour.
 

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I do it both ways. Grumpy said it all, you know how much you can spread in an hour. Small jobs, I figure actual job costs, as in labor, materials, and tack on OH/MU. Large jobs, I look at the sq. ft., figure how long for one man to spread one gallon etc. After I figure it that way, I look back at other large jobs we've done and compare. And it depends on what mood I'm in :cheesygri
 

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i do it both ways also. small jobs tend to be hourly estimate, bigger sq ft, i use the same thing for doing acoustical ceilings, per sq foot and small jobs hourly. I agree also mood, and sometimes i will throw in a travel charge as a seperate line item.
 

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Yes travel is important if we are working miles and miles away. Typically all of our jobs are within a certain area that is minimal travel time. If I have to pay a whole crew to drive an hour there and an hour back, damned sure that's going to be part of my estimate.
 

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ProWallGuy said:
I do it both ways. Grumpy said it all, you know how much you can spread in an hour. Small jobs, I figure actual job costs, as in labor, materials, and tack on OH/MU. Large jobs, I look at the sq. ft., figure how long for one man to spread one gallon etc. After I figure it that way, I look back at other large jobs we've done and compare. And it depends on what mood I'm in :cheesygri
So you charge differently for base board and doors/windows right?

Do you have a set rate per door/window and charge by the foot for baseboard?
 

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Gah painting baseboard is a pain in the anus. I hate being on my ands and knees. LOL I still havent touched up my base board after about 10 months since I painted them originally because I don't want to get on my hands and knees. :) Pshhh Baseboards!
 

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So you charge differently for base board and doors/windows right?
Yes, I have a loose formula for 'items', but those all depend on many things, such as, 1 coat same color, stain to paint 3 coats, are we painting the walls, or hanging paper against them, are they french windows, 6 panel doors or louvered bi folds, need no prep or X hours of prep? I'm pretty sure most professional estimators would outright laugh at how I arrive at a price, but I was self-taught in the bidding part, and more often than not, my prices come in right around everyone else, so I reckon I'm doing something right.

I've looked at the PDCA Estimating Manuals, and the 2004 Paint Cost Estimator books, and a bunch more, and I'm am always trying to 'upgrade' my estimating skills to be more structured, so I could use an excel program to punch in figures and spit out a price, but it seems to be so many variables that I just give up and do my thing like I always have.

I have been recently reading a book by Michael Stone called Markup and Profit for Contractors which has some pretty good info in it. But I still say, my pricing is pretty bizarre compared to most 'professional estimators'.

And God help the customer that stands me up for our first appointment :evil:
 

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Estimating is the toughest part of this business. My contracts have so many caveats that I am suprised that anyone would sign them. Kind of like the transmission guys, we won't know until we open it up.
Once behind the walls you can have damage from termites, water, rot and everthing has to be brought up to new code. Plumbing, electrics, everything.
I work on a reputation of fine workmanship, I am not cheap and I make no bones about it.
In the end, I lose my @ss once or twice a year but what I make on other jobs covers the loss plus you can write the losses off, in time. It's tough the first few years but you get better and the 'rollover' goes into effect which evens things out.
 

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I agree Teetorbilt - estimating is something that can make you huge profits or put you into bankruptcy. It's definately not something that people take lightly. Unless you're the only one in 1000 miles that performs a certain task then the mentality has to be - "count everything once and only once". Miss something and you lose money - count too many and you lose the job (in a competitive market anyway).
If the company is well established and is working, like Teetorbilt stated, off reputation then profits can increase without losing jobs. It's definately the best situation to be in. And you have to be honest with yourself - don't say "I do the best quality work in the country" without knowing it and believing it. Look around and see what quality standards are - and compare to your quality vs cost.
 

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Back when we were contracting I always did my estimates by wall square footage and put in the trim, doors and weird stuff by the hour. It only takes a couple jobs to tell you if you need to adjust pricing or not. The benifit of sq ft pricing is you don't have the customer standing there looking at his watch if you wanna go get a coffee or scratch you ass.
 

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Pretty sure its mainly painting. But I know his father was known throughout all the trades as the 'Godfather' of modern estimating. They used to run a school called Carter's School of Estimating. I'll check on his website, his online course might be for all trades. I know of drywall contractors that have taken it in the past. Actually, ask Nathan if its cool, I'll post his website here.
 
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