Here in Victoria, I’ve often been asked, how are estimates done?
Both homeowners and trades people alike often ask this question. What is precisely involved in doing an estimate? Is it an art? Is it a science? How does one arrive at a magical number? All we know is some person shows up often with their measuring tape, and voila out comes a price. This article will seek to answer this question for the Homeowner. For new landscapers asking this question, click here.
People often underestimate how much materials cost these days. With the changing political climate and trade relationships in North America as well as globally, many materials such as lumber have skyrocketed in price due to disrupted supply lines. Obviously it is in both the landscaper and the homeowner’s interests to find the best priced materials without sacrificing quality, however, prices for materials generally account for about a third to one half of the final price. So for a $3000 job you are looking at anywhere between $1000 and $1500 of materials.
Everyone knows living in Victoria and in BC is expensive. Our wages have adjusted accordingly to reflect that. Just like it’s important not to cheap out on materials, it’s important not to rush jobs. At Triton we don’t wish to place unnecessary emphasis on speed but rather on quality. With that said anyone with some experience should have an idea of how long a job should take. Some simple arithmetic will give a ball park figure for how much labor cost will be involved. For example, I know that your average laborer can build a 100 sq ft paver in 25-35 man hours. At $25 an hour the labor cost would be between $625 and $875.
Size of Job
Generally speaking, larger jobs can utilize economies of scale far better than smaller jobs. As a result, the price per unit whether it’s per hour or per square foot should reflect this. For a multi thousand square foot paver job, you could be looking at $20-25 per square foot while for a 100 square foot paver job of the same difficulty, you could be looking at $25-30 per square foot.
Difficulty of Job and Ease of Access
What does difficulty mean? This can refer to the complexity of the job itself. If someone wants intricate patterns then far more stones have to be cut and far more skill utilized than a standard simpler pattern. If someone wants curves instead of straight lines, again, more materials have to be expended and far more skill and time utilized to complete this task.
Ease of access means how easy it is to get to and from the job site. This includes things like distance between the project location and local supply and dump yards but mainly it’s questions like if it’s in the front yard, side yard, or back yard. If a job requires going up and down stairs, one can imagine that makes using any kind of machinery impossible and therefore the job will be not only more difficult but far more time consuming. If the work site is on a steep hill, a ramp would have to be built to it first to prevent machinery and wheelbarrows from tipping. This then again takes time and increases the cost.
As you can see there are a lot of variables in the pricing of a job. It’s not an exact science but a knowledgeable landscaper should know well the parameters of these variables. They should have an idea how long it takes to accomplish various tasks. They should know how much different materials cost. They should know how difficult various designs can be. This is where a landscaper’s experience and expertise combine to come up with a reasonable figure for all parties.