General Estimating Info

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Every job is complex and unique, and as such will have its own, very different set of challenges and advantages compared to other jobs. These are the things that expert project estimating & management staff spend years training to spot ahead of time. With this brief guide, we can help you get a better understanding of these very same considerations.

Hopefully this will give you the time and knowledge needed to address any issues before they become problems and, if not, to account for them ahead of time. Just be aware that no matter how much training or help a person has, nobody is perfect; there will always be unforeseen issues that come out of nowhere. It’s just as important to account for the problems you can’t see as it is to account for the problems you can.

This one probably seems like the most common sense of all, and for the most part it is: a bigger job = a bigger price. While that is absolutely true, there’s a lot more complexity to it than that. Larger jobs will (usually) have a higher overall price, but that higher overall price will also mean a higher profit margin, and more room to adjust for any mistakes or problems that crop up.

For example:
-a job that costs $1000 with a 20% profit, brings in $200 to the company, typically before overhead is accounted for. This doesn’t bring the company much back for the time and effort it has invested in coordinating & executing the job.
-A job that costs $100,000 with a 20% profit, however, brings in $20,000. This gives the company much more after paying its overhead to adjust for any mistakes or problems, and still bring more back for its time. Not to mention that suppliers will typically give significant discounts when you buy in bulk. These allow for more flexibility in a project.

This doesn’t just affect the books, however. One of the biggest setbacks in any project is having to change tasks. It doesn’t seem like much, but over time it will add up fast. Going back to our example, when working on the $1000 job, you will have the natural setup and cleanup times, as well as the natural switching that any project requires, but the small size of the job means that you won’t have as much time doing the actual work to make up for the dead time. When working on the $100,000 job, however, there will be a much better ratio of work/dead time, allowing for more efficiency.

This is another common sense issue to watch for, but it has a much larger effect than you may realize. Simply put, anything that is in the way of work either has to be moved before you can work there, or it has to be worked around.

Moving anything in the way is generally the way to go, but this has three major problems:
-First, you have the obvious: it takes time to move things, especially if whatever you have to move is large or if there is a lot of it. This is time that workers are spending not doing the job they were hired to do, which means more dead time.
-Secondly, if something is in the way at a construction site, it usually means that there is nowhere to put it that would be completely out of the way, so you will have to move it multiple times as a project progresses, compounding the problem.
-Finally, going back to our discussion on job size, this adds a potentially significant amount of time switching tasks, which can have a much larger effect on job efficiency than you may realize.

You can, depending on the situation, work around obstacles (and sometimes it is inevitable). This solution also has problems, however:
-Attempting to work around clutter or obstacles can, depending on the situation, cause safety issues which may range from mild to severe. On a job site, people are often working with power tools/saws/knives, walking on stilts, working off of scaffolding, etc. These are inherently dangerous and complicated, and anything that compounds the issues should be avoided wherever possible.
-It forces workers to move slower than they normally would. For example, imagine you are on stilts finishing a 10′ ceiling remodel. If all of the furniture is still in the room, you would have to work your way around each piece of furniture, taking extra care to not trip over anything. The same could be said of any similar situation.
-Finally, people simply don’t work as efficiently or effectively when there is a mess, even if it doesn’t physically interfere with their work, as they do when their workspace is clean. This applies to anything in life, whether it is an office, a yard, or any other example you can think of.

This is one of the biggest factors to consider when estimating. Custom work takes more time and materials, every time. Consider this:
Say you have a house with 10 square 24×24 rooms to drywall, all with 8′ ceilings. As a DIY, obviously this would be a huge task, but for a professional crew it would be a walk in the park. Now add a 2′ deep tray ceiling and 3 columns that get wrapped to each room, and make one of those square 24×24 rooms with 8′ ceilings into a circular room with 12′ ceilings. This turns a very simple and quick job into a much more complicated and time consuming process.

High and Cathedral Ceilings can add a lot of extra time to a potential job. Focusing on the basics for a moment, they typically require scaffolding. This means taking the scaffolding to a job, setting up the scaffolding, breaking down the scaffolding, and taking the scaffolding back after a job. Sometimes you will need to break down and reassemble a set of scaffolding (partially or even on occasion fully) multiple times throughout your project. Additionally, it takes time to climb up and down scaffolding, often with multiple trips to carry the tools and materials you need, and as with most of the items on our list, these small factors add up big time over the course of work. Cathedral ceilings offer their own unique challenges as well. It is not uncommon for the work on a cathedral ceiling to require two different levels of scaffolding (and, rarely, it can require more). This means that you will have to automatically double the amount of time that will be spent both breaking down/reassembling levels of scaffolding, as well as time spent climbing up and down scaffolding.