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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Do you have a set routine as far as how to come up with the numbers and lay out your bid? More specifically for remodels? I have been spending way too much time writing up my bids. I'll spend a whole day on one bid, sometimes longer just trying to come up with the right numbers and figuring out how to lay it all out for the homeowner.

Basically I show up to do a bid, and I have no plan whatsoever. If it's something easy, I'll figure out a price right there, write it up and hand it to them. But on some of the bigger more complex jobs; I take pictures, write down everything I need to know, then I go home and figure it out, and submit their bid to them later. I end up having to pick apart every detail, like texture, demolition over here, demolition over there, I'll try and estimate the time or unit cost for whatever the task is and calculate it out. Which I find ends up taking me way too long.

I was thinking of writing up some different manuals just for myself to use, something that simply lays out all the unit costs for everything I'm doing. For example, one for water damage jobs, one for decks, one for siding. So in my water damage manual, I would come up with a unit cost for remove and replace drywall. Which would include demolition, hang, mud and tape, texture, prime and paint. And then put the labor and materials all in one square foot price, the price I came up with for all those things was $2.36/SF. But I was thinking of coming up with square foot prices similar to that which applies to every type of job that I do. For decks I would come up with a square footage cost to build the rough frame, which would include, ledger, joists, beams, posts, for a first floor, then I would add to it for a second story.

So I would come up with prices like that for everything, that way I could show up on a job, pull out my tape, take some quick measurements, fill out my measurements on a sheet with my unit prices, and come up with a total amount fast. But my question is, does anyone have a system like that? Anything to avoid having to waste all your time on bids.
 

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The way you are doing it it exactly the way I do it too. I'm afraid it's just part of the business. I have spreadsheets galore, but since every single job is different, I think it would be nearly impossible to confidently bid ANYTHING on just a square foot basis.

Just my 2 cents.
 

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Structural Engineer
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I do estimating for a living, and I do it down to the nails needed for the job. (Although, I do have a pretty sophisticated set of unit assembly sheets, with breakouts for different wood species and what not, which makes it go quick.) You need a thorough material take off these days to have any hope of being competitive.

And then when you get the job, it's all got to shoot out like #### through a goose. Open the folder, take out the material list, and buy it out. I've seen guys try to use canned programs that spit out a number per square foot of wall or whatever, and that's all fine and dandy. But then they spend a day buying out the job and trying to see if their buy total is the same as the program's total. Or worse, the go through the whole job wondering, was the program right? That's a little dysfunctional, imho.

It just takes time.
 

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Thom
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When I did additions and remodels, I started with a ballpark (my use only) using $/sq ft, adjusted for conditions.

Then I did the real bid. If there was no plan, I'd sketch up a rough plan then build it on paper pricing out each part of the job as I went. When completed, I'd compare my detail price to my ballpark, just to make sure things looked correct.

The more you do this, the closer you will get with your $/square foot ballpark. You will learn how much to adjust that price up or down to adjust for specific situations.

If your bidding so tight that a box of nails makes a difference, your bidding to tight.
 

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Unless your bidding multiple jobs in the same area (sounds like tract work don't it) all jobs & site conditions will be different. On small simple bids, cut in a door or window or a small deck through experience you can probably come up with an instant quote that willl work. On larger jobs it's pretty much as all have said above. It just takes time & their is no easy way. But when you're done you know what it will take to do the job.
 

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The Deck Guy
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Spreadsheets can be used sort of like of database if you know how to use the VLOOKUP function. (Google it).

Once you build a worksheet with item and/or assembly costs, you can very easily integrate them into an estimate spreadsheet using the VLOOKUP function which essentially gives you pull down menu items within the spreadsheet. Anyone I've ever shown this in action to is usually pretty blown away by it. Best part of it is that if material prices change, all you have to do is update it in one spot and all your sheets are automatically updated.

Since I build A LOT of decks, I have my spreadsheet setup so that I can produce a very complex deck price in under 10 minutes (don't ask me how many hours I have invested in that spreadsheet though!)

Please don't ask me to post my sheet, because I won't. There is a ton of info on VLOOKUP on the web. It's not hard to figure out. It will change your life!
 

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Do you have a set routine as far as how to come up with the numbers and lay out your bid? More specifically for remodels? I have been spending way too much time writing up my bids.
How much time is "too much time". We have spent as much as 6 months developing a proposal (concurrent with design). Planning and prep. is what separates you from the hacks. Planning & prep is what makes you profitable - don't try to find a quick way out! :thumbsup:

Our system is to get it right!
 

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I have been spending way too much time writing up my bids. I'll spend a whole day on one bid, sometimes longer just trying to come up with the right numbers and figuring out how to lay it all out for the homeowner.
Like DeVinci said take your time do it right, I ask for at least a week on simple kitchen remodels.

I try to go back through the home 2 or 3 times with subs and check everything out.

The hardest part is defining the scope of work with the customer (selections)
this is assuming that the cabinet design has been done.

All day isn't way to long, you have to get it right or you will be paying the customer to do the work.

Try some estimating software, it helps in breaking down all the parts of the job so you don't miss something.

There are too many variables to give a Sf. price in remodels, unless you just divide after doing all the work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Spreadsheets can be used sort of like of database if you know how to use the VLOOKUP function. (Google it).
That I did, though I'm not really sure how you are implementing that to write up a bid. If I understand it right, you are using a spreadsheet and filling in all the costs for practically every possible scenario? So you'd have something like 'roll floor joists' with different width dimensions going across for the spreadsheet columns, and length dimensions going up and down for the rows? Then you plug in your dimensions in VLOOKUP, and you get your price?

That would be a crap load of numbers to enter in, but I could see how it would be worthwhile. But if you're going to do it like that, wouldn't it be more efficient to set that up in a database? like Microsoft Access? Though 10 minutes is pretty good for writing up numbers on a deck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
How much time is "too much time". We have spent as much as 6 months developing a proposal (concurrent with design). Planning and prep. is what separates you from the hacks. Planning & prep is what makes you profitable - don't try to find a quick way out! :thumbsup:

Our system is to get it right!
Well I spent my whole weekend writing up a bid for a fairly simple remodel job. They were long days too, I pretty much got out of bed, put my head down, crunched numbers until I passed out. But I did get an e-mail back from the guy saying out of all the bids that were submitted to him, mine looked the best, so he said he thinks he's going to use me. Maybe all the work I put into it showed, or maybe I just bid it low and he liked my price, I don't know.

But as for my original post, I was thinking in terms of efficiency on putting the numbers together. Nearly every remodel has drywall work, so I find myself repeating the same process over and over when I do my bid. I break down demolition, mud/tape, paint, etc. It would be faster if I put them into one price, so I could pull out my tape, measure and multiply, and I would come up with the same answer either way. And I would go about it the same way for re-doing a floor, replacing insulation, the framing and whatever. And if I found I had to do some sort of odd task for the job, I would just guess at how much time it would take, and multiply that by an hourly rate.
 

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The Deck Guy
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Kenn,

My sheet produces the "number". After I have the number, I write a proposal. Again, since many decks are similar in scope, I have a template that I always start with. The template contains pretty much every task we'd ever have to do on a deck job, so generally, I have it set up so all I have to do is actual delete non-relevant items. It might take 10 minutes to tweak the proposal.

I also do general remodeling work, so I feel your pain. That's why I like building decks! :)

You can use VLOOKUP for remodeling related items. For instance, I would have prices setup for anything common like studs, lumber, plywood, drywall, fasteners, adhesives, etc... The beauty of it is that once you have your list established, you never really have to "think" again. As you do more estimates, you just keep adding things to the list. After a while, that list is stocked.

Reading your posts has me a little worried though. There are two camps to estimating. The first is "I am going to account for every nail and screw on this job and every time one of my guys sneezes" and the second is "I have a day of three days of framing, one day of roofing, and this is my material list give or take."

I've never done one job where my estimate was accurate enough to be law. Something always happens along the way once the job starts. Knowing that, I have decided to use generalized estimating rather than nut and bolt estimating. So I don't say "each deckboard takes .008 hours to install and there are 40 boards, so the labor time is X". That's silly. Production isn't that consistent--especially in remodeling. I know that one day is going to the day the guys lay the boards and whether it takes them 4 hours or eight hours, a whole day is going to get burnt laying boards.

To make your life easier with this estimating, you may want to consider a more general approach. You'll find it actually makes you more money because you will tend to over-allot time for tasks which, in actuality, tends to be more accurate.
 

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The Deck Guy
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Here is how the list works into the estimate.

The first image is my inventory list.

The second image is what I see in my estimate. I get a pull down of the items I need for that section of building. When I select the item, it's price AUTOMATICALLY goes into my estimate.

See how this makes things quick.

I also have many assemblies built with those lists on the items page and everything is dynamic pricewise.
 

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Good post Greg. I start every estimate with the schedule:

2 days demo

2 days frame

Plumber rough 1 day

Electric rough 1 day

Note these start-out as "perfect world " days. Example demo is in a perfect world = 14 crew hours which translates into 2 crew days in the "real world".
 

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The Deck Guy
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Greg, How do you keep your prices up-to-date? Is there a date column that tells you this price is 1 year old?
Every March, I sit down with my salesman for an hour and we work out the year's prices together. We are able to lock-in the pricing this way and it's easy for both us.

I might pay .25 more for a 2x10 or he might lose .25 on a 2x10, but we don't care. They convenience of not having to bother him for updated pricing 10x a week is worth it for both of us!

Even for items I don't have "locked in" on my remodeling list, the prices don't change that much over the course of a year for it to matter.

You can't run an efficient business splitting hairs over whether you are paying $8.05 for a sheet of drywall or $8.15. The time it takes dick around with querying the price negates any savings unless you are doing THOUSANDS of sheets of drywall (for example). The smart thing to do in your list would be to list that drywall at $9.00 a sheet.

I think someone said it above, if you are worried about the cost of a box of nails (or whatever) preventing your estimate from being accepted, then you are doing something wrong and I can definitively tell you that you are losing money on every job.
 

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My spreadsheet is a lot like Greg's... I think it is better in some regards but his has some better features that mine does not. Mine is also based upon a price database that when I update the prices it updates all estimates. So if I did a bid for someone and a year later they call back and want it updated all I have to do is click update. This gives me a bottom line price that I add into my estimate sheet and change the particulars of the job and I am done.

If I have prints and spec sheet I can have a price in 1-3 mins.
 

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Greg,
Very slick & well thought out system. At the end of a larger job how accurate has it been?

Greg & DaVinci Remodel, I like your attitudes about bidding. I don't know how long you guys have been at this but you guys certainly seem to have grasped the big picture. I've seen too many guys worry about the pennies while the dollars floated on by. Best of luck to both of you!!
 

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As mostly a subcontractor, I like the idea of walking through a job with the GC during the bidding process. A couple of GC's I work for do this on the bigger remodels. Usually they take each mechanical contractor, as well as myself (demo/framing). I like to take a few pics while I am there to look. Afterwards, I will talk to the GC and get info about whether this is a done deal or a tire kicker. I don't usually take the time to do this with all GC's. This takes more time of course and if the jobs don't materialize, I wasted my time.
 

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Spreadsheets can be used sort of like of database if you know how to use the VLOOKUP function. (Google it).

Once you build a worksheet with item and/or assembly costs, you can very easily integrate them into an estimate spreadsheet using the VLOOKUP function which essentially gives you pull down menu items within the spreadsheet. Anyone I've ever shown this in action to is usually pretty blown away by it. Best part of it is that if material prices change, all you have to do is update it in one spot and all your sheets are automatically updated.

Since I build A LOT of decks, I have my spreadsheet setup so that I can produce a very complex deck price in under 10 minutes (don't ask me how many hours I have invested in that spreadsheet though!)

Please don't ask me to post my sheet, because I won't. There is a ton of info on VLOOKUP on the web. It's not hard to figure out. It will change your life!
This is exactly what I do! :thumbsup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Well I just downloaded Excel 2010 beta for free, which seems to work pretty good. Prior to that I just had Excel 97 and Microsoft Works 9.0 which both seemed pretty worthless, had too many limitations.

I put together a small deck worksheet just to experiment, so far I've just listed out prices for some manufactured decking, Azek and TimberTech XM. I decided to take it a step further and arrange it to convert square footage into number of deck boards, along with listing out price per board and total cost.

I figure if I just keep adding tables and more components then eventually I'll get it down to where I can start cutting my times way back doing estimates, while still keeping the quality of my write ups the same. I used the VLOOKUP and the pull down list from the data valuation tool, am I on the right track so far?

The formulas are in three columns, D, E, and F:

First, the formula to convert square feet of deck into number of deck boards (column D on the worksheet). It's basically all the math to do the conversion, then factored out, then put into variables Excel can use.

=ROUNDUP((C3*158.4)/(((VLOOKUP(B3,DunnLumber!$A$4:$D$9,2,FALSE))-0.25)*(VLOOKUP(B3,DunnLumber!$A$4:$D$9,3,FALSE))*12),0)


Then the simple VLOOKUP to get the price per unit, column E.

=VLOOKUP(B3,DunnLumber!$A$4:$D$9,4,FALSE)


Then the total price, column F.

=(E3*D3)


So basically all I have to do is enter the square footage of the deck, and what kind of decking, the program figures out the rest. Here is my worksheet:



And the materials list:

 
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