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Commercial Estimating: What to Ask and What to Look For – Part 2

by Wayne TracywayneLast month I talked about and listed information that needs to be gathered to prepare a commercial estimate.  Here’s how this information needs to be interpreted for your quote:Ceiling types and heights – Higher ceilings means you will need to have higher stepladders, possibly even scissor lifts to access the vents which will create more labor costs and equipment rental fees.  If the building has hard deck (sheetrock ceilings) you may have limited access to larger ducts in the ladderceiling areas.  If the owner wants a thorough system cleaning (which should always be offered) you may have to cut access panels in the ceiling and repair them to get at some ducting.

  1. If you do have to cut access into ceilings are you skilled enough to do this or do you need to subcontract this project.
  2. Always get the owner’s/manager’s written permission before cutting into a ceiling.

Grills & Diffusers – as mentioned last month, inspect them closely to confirm if they are removable or not.  If they are not removable you must come up with a plan to get these lines cleaned – some options may be:

  1. Disconnect flex duct above the ceiling and clean directly through the duct-line.
  2. Send an air tool through the space between the diffuser louvers if possible.
  3. It will take longer to clean the registers in place than hose them down outside.
  4. If you cannot remove the register, you probably will not be able to use sponges to seal them off for negative air cleaning.  You’ll have to cut pieces of poly sheathing and use tape to hold them to the ceilings, this can be very time consuming.
  5. If there are any linear (strip) diffusers, these will also require extra steps and take more time to clean.

Work cubicles, equipment, retail shelving, etc. – How are you going to work around them if they cannot be easily moved out of the way?  The amount of time it takes to move or work around these obstacles will have a direct impact on your quote.

plansBlueprints – having “as built” blueprints of the building or area of the building you will be working in will save a lot of time in performing the job.  These prints will show accurate locations of all ducting, units, and components of a system.  It will also show which areas are serviced by each air handler/furnace.  Without these prints, it can be time consuming just trying to identify which supply and return is on each system.

Insurance/bonding requirements – Some jobs may have very simple proof of insurance requirements which can be easily satisfied at no cost; such as a copy of your policies or an ACCORD Certificate of Insurance.  Other jobs may require very special wording or conditions that can cost hundreds even thousands of dollars.  Make sure you confirm with your customer what requirements are prior to quoting.  If the insurance requirements sound very specific have them put in writing and get a quote from your agent prior to quoting the job.  If there are any bonding requirements; get them in writing and get a quote from your agent prior to quoting the job.

  1. We did a job a few years ago where the quote for the work was only $2,400.00; but the insurance wording and conditions cost almost $3,500.00.  There would not have been any profit if I had failed to add these costs to my quote.

How will you be paid – Will you be able to request an up front/deposit payment for the work?  If you’re working for a small local company you may be able to.  If it’s a large corporation they usually will not “front” you any money and it’s up to you to fund your payroll and any other costs for a month or even two.  For that reason it’s a good idea to have a line of credit established with your bank if you qualify.

credit  cards

  1. However, if it’s a long term job that’s going to take many weeks/months you are perfectly justified in asking for progress payments.  This means you will submit bills at pre-determined intervals for the value of work completed to date.  Both small and large companies are usually agreeable to this arrangement.
  2. If you are going to finance or carry any part of a job be sure you request references from the owner and check his credit worthiness/payment history with others.
  3. You should be prepared to accept all the major credit cards (VISA, Discover, Mastercard & American Express).  Many companies and governmental organizations are now paying with cards and you can usually be paid as soon as your work is completed and accepted.

When will you have access to the building for cleaning –  Will the work have to be done nights or weekends instead of normal business hours?

  1. Most commercial buildings are occupied by workers and/or customers all day and you’ll probably have to do a lot of this work after hours.
  2. Are you going to charge a premium for this work? You may have no choice if you have to pay your employees overtime.  It also forces you as an owner to put in extra time and you should be compensated for that time.
  3. You also should ask if other contractors will be working at the same time you are and what hindrance this may place on your employees in terms of full access to the building.
  4. If the building is going to be occupied with workers and/or customers while you work you need to add a little extra time to the job for working around them.

What are the logistics of getting your equipment to the work site – In a small free standing commercial building this is usually not a big deal; you simply drive up to the door and unload.technician

  1. If the building was a large hospital and you were just doing the air duct cleaning in a small area of the building it could take a lot of time just to get your equipment to the part of the building you will be working in.  You have to allow extra time in your quoted price to cover this cost.
  2. If you’re quoting work in high rise buildings you will also need to allow extra time.
  3. When you quote a job you should always calculate travel time from your office to the job site; just add the cost of traveling within the building to this factor and allow for it in your quote.

Miscellaneous things to consider:

  1. Where is the closest water source for cleaning grills and registers – the further away the more time you need.
  2. Where are the air handlers/furnaces in relation to where you will be working and what are the obstacles in getting access to them?  We’ve done jobs where the air handler may be on the floor above the area we’re working in but because of the design of the building and location of service elevators they could easily be ten or twenty minutes away.
  3. Do you need any special materials to protect floors, furniture, equipment etc?  We once had a job spec that required a fire resistant covering on all pieces of equipment, it was quite expensive versus rolls of poly or drop cloths.

All of the above items are very important in calculating your quote and it is important to get these details resolved before finalizing your quote.  It may sound like a lot of work, but it will take a lot more effort to make up the dollars you may loose if you don’t accurately quote a job.

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