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Practical Estimating (Part 1)

Hopefully, the chief estimator or business owner of your company has established labor cost standards that are derived from historical cost data. Almost every company takes a little different approach to estimating labor cost; however, even though each company may take a different approach, our resulting cost can be very close to the same.

Estimating Framing Labor Cost

Typically, you will see labor for metal framing estimated by square foot, linear feet of metal or by linear feet of condition. There is nothing wrong with either method. But if you are typically using a square foot labor cost for estimating framing, you need to be careful and realize that the square foot unit cost has to increase from the “norm” when your height decreases. If you are using a square foot labor cost of 30 cents per square foot to frame an interior wall with a height of 12 feet, you can’t apply that same 30 cents per square foot to a wall that is 2 feet in height. Based on a unit cost of 30 cents per square foot, the two-man crew would be expected to frame the 12-foot high wall and achieve 67 linear feet of framed wall per day. Using the framing labor cost of 30 cents per square foot, could the same two-man crew be expected to frame the 2-foot high wall and achieve 400 linear feet of framed wall per day? I don’t think so.

As an estimator, you should evaluate the labor cost of conditions that vary from your standard unit cost by trying to determine the production that could be achieved by your crew on a per-hour and per-day basis. An exterior wall that has a stud height of 40 feet will probably require a stud that is quite heavy. Considering the long length of the stud (40 feet), and the weight of the stud, your crew size for the stud installation would probably change from a two-man to a three-man crew.

Again, as the estimator, you need to analyze the condition and see what sounds reasonable. For this exterior wall, instead of just looking at the amount of completed framing on a per-day basis, you might want to consider the number of individual studs that can be put into place per hour, per day. What seems to make sense in your analysis of one condition may not work for another.

Estimating the Cost of Scissor Lifts

The cost of this equipment is more easily defined if you plan your takeoff to identify this specific need. Because there is a direct relationship of equipment to labor cost, you need set up your takeoff so you can easily come back and sort out the labor for these conditions.

Sorting the labor for the “high work” should be an easy task if you are using a good estimating program. This is not rocket science.

Let’s say you have determined you have a $50,000 labor budget for “high work,” and that equates to 3,333 man-hours at an average wage scale of $15.00 per hour. Working an average of 40 hours per week multiplied by 4.3 weeks in a month would equal 172 hours per man, or, you could say 172 scissor lift hours. If the scissor lift rental is $500 per month, divide the 172 hours into the $500 rental price and you get $2.90 for every hour of “high work.” In this case, it would be 3,333 man-hours multiplied by $2.90 for a total of $9,665 for lift rental. If a two-man crew (on the lift) would do most of the high work, the amount you would need for lift rental would be reduced by one-half ($1.45 per man-hour).

This article will be continued next month.

About the Author

Charles Mahaffey is president of Accuest, LLC, Marietta, Ga. Accuest provides estimating and consulting services for commercial drywall subcontractors.

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