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Mark Harvey 02-21-2012 07:55 PM

Looking for "what to charge" Information
I'm not looking for specifics, but ... as a handyman, I want to be competitive. Is there a source that provided basic information for what the trades (independent cintractors) charge? I'm looking for all types such as: plumbing, insulation installers, drywall, electircal, decks, roofing, fencing, etc.. When I research individual traders, I get all the feedback I don't need. Prices range all over the place based on whether the trade person is a master, journeyman, or fly by night. There must be a place that provides basic guidelines for someone such as myself. I just want to charge a fair reasonable rate for whatever project I am bidding on. Any information would be appreciated.
I am in Canada but rates should be within a similar range wherever you are replying from.

Missouri Bound 02-21-2012 08:00 PM

Your pricing should reflect a few things. Your experience, your resources, your overhead, the local competition, the warranty you plan to offer, what your time is worth to you.....and on and on. NOT to mention the cost of material, cost on any help you may need to hire, insurance for yourself, workers and liability. There is no clean cut answer. Start by charging what you have to get to stay in your business.....and as your clientel grows and your reputation, you may be able to increase pricing....MAYBE. It's no easy road.

Mark Harvey 02-21-2012 08:18 PM

Thanks Missouri, I have done most of what you say, ... cost plus (insurance, taxes, basic overhead, etc.) and I generall charge $45/hour which is theballpark figure around here. However, when I do an estimate, prices can change depending on the nature of the job. I am trying to establish a base (that may change depending on the type of job) from which to draw from. Examples are that I have done siding and roofing and can use a basic formula based on square footage. Other areas are a little more vague. Decks, window/door installation, flooring (laminate vs tile vs hardwood vs sheet). I have set uo an excell file as a "cost estimator" and used it for basic estimating buty I would like more up-to-date information.
It is also good to know what an average rate may be should I have to contract out a portion of the work (electrical, plumbing, etc.).
The more information I can gather the better. I want to be fair to my clients but I don't want to be the lowest person on the block either.
Thanks again.

Missouri Bound 02-21-2012 08:24 PM

Looks like you have done all your homework. The rest is pretty much trial and error. If you charge too little, you will get noticed by other contractors. If you charge too much, you may not get enough to keep the business going. When you bid a job, tell the person to get a minimum of 3 bids. If you get the job, just ask what the other bids were and why you were chosen....if not, still ask and as to why you weren't chosen. It won't take too long to get a feel for the area and what prices are the norm. Don't be afraid to bid low if you can survive it, and don't be afraid to raise the rates when the competition does the same. And keep a list of current references to hand out to anyone instrested.

titanoman 02-21-2012 08:29 PM

Occupational manual, like the one Voc Rehab uses.

Mark Harvey 02-21-2012 08:43 PM

Hey Mr. Titanoman, I see you are a busy man, ... answering many a question. Great! I'm not familliar with the VOC Rehab (occupational manual) there must be something simlar here in the north. Would you have a link or further information? I also agree with Missouri about the trial & error thing, I get a little flustered when I do a job and hear a liscenses person (ie plumber) is getting anywhere from $65 tp $125 per hour for the same job. Not being a certified trades person I understand, but there has to be some sort of balance.
Regards. Keep up the good work.

titanoman 02-21-2012 08:55 PM
It's a fat book.

Daniel Holzman 02-22-2012 07:30 AM

R.S. Means Corporation publishes a whole series of cost estimating books for everything from residential framing to industrial chemical plants. These books are not free, and they are not necessarily that easy to use (estimating is a skill acquired over several years of practice), but they do cover the bases in terms of getting a rough idea what a project should cost.

oh'mike 02-22-2012 07:55 AM

Another series is by Craftsman--Repair and remodeling estimator--and others

mae-ling 02-22-2012 10:08 AM

For me and many others I talked to we actually made after deducting expenses less then half of what we charged for 'Labor'. So when guys are charging $50 or $60 they are really making $20-30 the rest goes to running the business.

Also all your time is not on the job, there is estimateing, travelling, book work, getting/sourcing materials, going to the dump and a myriad of small time grabbers. For me only about 3/4 of the time was I actually at the customers home.

YerDugliness 02-22-2012 04:31 PM

The only information I can provide relates to electricians.

I undertook a huge electrical upgrade for my "vacation/project home" and some of it required an electrician. Keep in mind this is in a very sparsely populated area of the SW U.S., but even at that the base hourly rate was $80/hr for the electrician and his helper.

What really ran the bill up was their dishonesty...I got charged for 2 hours for both the electrician and his helper to spend 10 minutes getting a ladder, got charged for the time it took him to change a flat tire on his pickup BEFORE he even arrived at the work site, and got charged the full $80/hour even while the electrician was sitting in his pickup talking to other customers on his cell phone...letting his helper do all the work.

Needless to say, the next time I needed the services of an electrician I went elsewhere.

I do some handyman work and I think what the general population wants is someone who knows what they are doing and is honest enough to charge a reasonable fee for that work. If you have an actual business, with overhead for shop/storage/employees, your $45/hr might be righteous, but if you are storing your tools in your garage at home and have no employees I'd find it hard to pay you $45/hour.

I've lowbid jobs before just to get the job, explaining to the customer that I underbid just to get the job b/c I wanted a source for a good recommendation. It is my experience that they generally react positively to that approach and are happy to provide positive recommendations as long as the work is done adequately.


Dugly :cool:

Mark Harvey 02-22-2012 06:13 PM

Thanks for all the input. Regarding the electrician & helper, $80/hr sounds to be on the low end. I agree that being charged for someones misfortune and social calls (flat tire & phone calls, etc.) isn't correct but it happens all the time. I would have offered a discount if it were me. But, it happens. I don't low-ball to get work. Simply put, I attempt to do the job correctly and don't ever cut corners. It's my reputation and it is worth a level of stability. I sometimes ask if I can use a client for a reference and, more often that not, I have clients offer. It should be a foregone conclusion because if you do a poor job, you won't be recommended. I, too, understand about travel time, estimation and the other aspects of running a business, ... that why I have posted the initial request about "ball-park" costs.
Again, thanks to all who have posted opinions and knowledge on the topic.
Regards, Mark

mae-ling 02-22-2012 06:27 PM


Originally Posted by YerDugliness (Post 860428)

If you have an actual business, with overhead for shop/storage/employees, your $45/hr might be righteous, but if you are storing your tools in your garage at home and have no employees I'd find it hard to pay you $45/hour.

Dugly :cool:

What difference does it make if the same job gets done? In the same time.

I actually kept track and did the math. With charging $40/hr for myself, helper was extra. After expenses I was making $18.00/hr. And that did not even include bookwork and estimating and all the other stuff!

YerDugliness 02-22-2012 06:51 PM


Originally Posted by mae-ling (Post 860528)
What difference does it make if the same job gets done? In the same time.

Well, for me it's all about what's right.

Most of us handyman types operate as a part-time business, but few of us have real B&M shops unless we have an investment in tools that we cannot keep at home. Operating a B&M business location costs more than utilizing home storage, so in my mind it's right to charge more b/c they have to cover increased costs over the home-based handyman.

Now, on the other hand, back in the 1970's I had a construction business, complete with an expensive license and bonding expenses. If I had been doing mainly handyman work (which actually would not have required a contractor's license) I would have felt that my time was worth more than I do now operating out of my's just right.

...but, then, I'm a bit of a relic. I'm 63, raised in a small town that is 4 blocks long and 3 blocks wide (118 residents). The most successful and "popular" home-builder in the county (he's a couple of years older than I am) has created MANY construction projects and has never needed a contract, all his work is done on the basis of a handshake. We are a generation when a man's word meant something, when you didn't attempt to charge more for a repair to a single mother's home than you would have for a man with a family...we're all fairly committed to doing what's "right".

If a man has greater cost to do business b/c he has a B&M shop I would expect him to charge more for his services to cover those costs.

BTW....when I ran that construction company, my help ALWAYS made more money than I did. I realized that it was a great way to starve. It all ended when I fell 32' from a roof onto hard packed clay, ended up in the hospital for 9 weeks with a broken pelvis and in a cast for 9 months....I went back to school and got a M.S. degree that allowed me to work inside in a chair for the rest of my life, but I have always done "handyman" work b/c I find it rewarding in ways that may not be financial. I like the feeling of accomplishment that goes with doing things with my hand, even though my 32 year career in education didn't require it much...mentally it was a high-stress position, but not physically, and I guess I have some sort of need to feel successful in manual labor endeavors, too.


Dugly :cool:

chrisBC 02-29-2012 02:22 AM

I'd say 45 per hour (or quote your jobs using 45 an hour for your estimates) is pretty competitive. This is for a one man show, if you were to have employees and an office space you'd probably want to charge more per man.

Some may see that has high, however people who want a proper job done are willing to pay for quality, you just have to find the right market.

Prices do vary though. I priced an interior door installation at around your hourly rate, gave myself a safe time to complete it in. Out of curiosity I checked what the local big box stores charged for the same task. They were each around the same price as the other, which was double what mine was. Made me think a bit.

I think a big mistake a lot of small business/contractors make is when not knowing what to charge, they are not charging enough to build a profitable business.

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