How to Prepare an Estimate for Home Repair or New Building Projects
Preparing an estimate for a building or repair job is one of the most critical tasks with any project. Getting to a ballpark price before work begins is important for the client and the builder and will prevent potential headaches and legal disputes down the road.
Today, I turned to the Breaktime forum to compile this list of estimating tips and tools that are being used by real builders in the field. Visit the Breaktime forum to join the discussion.
“I know that pictures are invaluable for later reference.” writes John Cujie, who says this he refers to photos while preparing an estimate and during the project. This idea was shared by a number of builders.
“It’s great to take a photo of a faucet and run down to the supply house and find the right parts,” reads another reply. “The guys behind the counter can attest that a picture is worth a thousand trips back and forth.”
Another estimating tip is to communicate with a client via email. “There is a record of everything discussed and either agreed upon or refused,” writes another. “Save each email in the respective folder in Outlook with digital pictures and other files you can drop into it Word, pdf, dwg, etc (yes, you can drop ANY file in the Outlook folder) and its always there.”
One great resource posted to the forum is a simple Excel estimating worksheet, made available by a builder named Rich. Here’s how he describes it:
The cover sheet has name and address and job description (that will be used for the estimate letter and the invoice). The cover sheet also has the settings for markup, contingency and sales tax, that will be used throughtout the worksheet. Then I have the basic estimating worksheet. That generates the totals for the estimate letter.
All I do to it is fill out some job details and print. It fit in an window envelope. The bill worksheet is what I use after the job is done to figure either the T&M bill or how I did on the Bid. There I can keep track of what we did each day and materials used on the actual job. That worksheet generates the totals for the Invoice. Again just print and put in an window envelope. Visit Breaktime to download the file. (free registration required)
For more advice on contracts and estimating, take a look at Robert Knight’s article A Contract That Makes Everyone Happy, published in the July 2006 issue of Fine Homebuilding magazine. Knight discusses three methods for estimating a project: time-and-materials, fixed price, and his prefered method known as cost-plus-a-fee.