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Practical Estimating (Part 2)

The purpose of this article is to talk about a few different or alternative methods to apply labor pricing to a bid. There are many different methods and I will present a few of my favorites

Estimating Labor for Hanging Board

The labor for hanging wallboard should typically have a base labor rate for hanging up to 8 or 10 feet and then a higher rate for board higher than that. Assuming a unit cost of 25 cents per square foot for hanging up to 10 feet, and the walls you are estimating hang to a height of 15 feet, the additional 5 feet in height will cost more labor to hang. It is my experience that the additional 5 foot height would probably increase the base rate by around 40 percent, or 35 cents per square foot for the hanging above 10 feet.

But this additional 40 percent labor factor will only compensate for the increased height. There are other factors that the estimator must consider. If you are pricing a job where the walls that hang to the structure are impacted by a lot of duct, piping and conduit (like you would see in a hospital or some types of industrial buildings), your unit cost will skyrocket.

There are other factors that will affect labor for hanging drywall that the estimator must also consider. In some buildings, there are a lot of walls and the rooms are small. Small rooms translate to a lot of inside and outside corners. Since corners take a lot more time than the open wall, if there are too many of them, they will significantly slow down productivity. The quantity of corners that the hangers have to deal with in relation to the total square footage of walls to hang is one way to look at this impact. Another method is to just add money for every corner.

Estimating Cleanup Labor

On every project, you are responsible for a certain amount of cleanup. On most projects you will be responsible for getting your debris into a Dumpster that is provided by the general contractor. I have looked at a number of different ways to figure labor for cleanup and have determined that the money allocated to cleanup should be related to the quantity of board you have on the job. Assuming an hourly rate of $9 for a laborer, I have found that .025 cents per square foot of board should take care of the general cleanup for our trade. For example, if the project has 500,000 square feet of board, at .025 per square foot you would have $12,500 for cleanup labor. As an estimator, you would need to do some analysis to determine if this amount would actually provide enough labor for the project duration. If the general contractor allocated four months for your scheduled activities, the $12,500 in your cleanup budget would provide for two laborers at 40 hours each, per week, for 17 weeks. This will not take care of the cleanup for every situation, but it is a good place to start.

Just because I like this method doesn’t mean that this is the only method. Another very popular method is to equate cleanup labor with a crew. For example, you might typically assign one cleanup laborer to every eight hangers. Using the information described above, at 500,000 square feet of drywall, you would have a total labor budget for hanging of $125,000. If you divide this by the average wage rate of $15 an hour, and then by eight hours per day, you would end up with 1,041 man-days for hangers. If you divide this amount by eight for the ratio of one cleanup laborer for every eight hangers, you would end up with 130 man days for cleanup labor. One benefit of using a ratio is that the quantity of cleanup labor will always increase in direct proportion to the labor to hang.

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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