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Custom Home Electrical Estimate...?? #190683 11/30/09 01:57 PM
Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 19
site351 Offline OP
I would just like to get some feedback on what others are
generally charging for Custom Homes. I have been asked to
bid on a million $ plus Custom Home with no electrical plans.
Now ...I have wired many homes in this area and have done some high end homes. However, I am competing with 2 other
companies for this job and need the work. Most everyone in this area charges a Sq. Ft. price...i.e. $2.25 and up.
In other words, a 3000 sq.ft. spec home with a 200 amp Loadcenter basically wired to code would cost between 7000 to 9000 dollars. This does not include the underground service. But these high end custom homes you really don't know what the customer and contractor will ask you to do so you really can't sq.ft. the thing.
How do most of you guys price these homes ?? thanks

Business, Office, Estimating, Legal:
Re: Custom Home Electrical Estimate...?? [Re: site351] #190684 11/30/09 03:03 PM
Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,316
renosteinke Offline
Cat Servant
Let this thought burn itself into your brain: THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS IN ESTIMATING.

Looking back on the last home I wired ... a custom like the one you describe ... here are a few 'lesser' points to keep in mind:
1) Without at least a floor plan, the guy doesn't get the time of day;
2) As mentioned in another thread, no quote, plan, or estimate without either a contract, or payment for your efforts;
3) You're going to have to design it, add up your costs, and give a total price. Based on those figures, you can also develop figures for making changes (for example, $120 for each additional device, or a saving of $60 for each device deleted).

Get some prints, and look carefully at the structural details- especially above the ceiling. Can you access those spaces? Is there a hatch to each section? Do the trusses prevent you from moving about? Be crystal clear, even vlunt, regarding the impossibility of making certain changes once the rock is hung.

Local CC&R's can have a major effect. For example, in the house I did the service had to be installed flush to the outside face - which made certain tasks a lot harder.

As a 'custom' house, you can forget about just placing a receptacle every 12 ft., a light in the ceiling, and a phone in the kitchen. You really have to look at the intended uses of the rooms, specific to the customer.

You'll want a large Jobox, or even make a small shed, on site for the storage of your materials. You really don't want those 1000 ft. rolls of Romex to shrink in the night.

Figure into your bid costs for heating the site, and supplying temporary power. (In my case, I was able to temp in some receptacles in the garage, and power them from the main panel).

In the house I did, I ended up using four sub-panels, in addition to the 'main.' With hindsight, that probably should have been five or six! Think it over carefully.

You'll almost certainly be installing a 'structured wiring' cabinet. Required circuits are likely to include many that you would not normally think of: central alarm system, central vacuum, etc. Look at that appliance schedule real carefully.

I also strongly reccomend that you run a 1" pipe under every concrete slab, drive, or patio. I guarantee that you will later be asked to install a pond, or some such.

The main thing is that you have a real good chat with the occupants of the home: what are their expectations? What is their desired lifestyle? Then break out the crystal ball, and design to their expectations as best you can.

Re: Custom Home Electrical Estimate...?? [Re: renosteinke] #190686 11/30/09 04:52 PM
Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 19
site351 Offline OP
This home has a floor plan...Basement (down stairs really, cause its finished)Main Level, and upstairs, which are considered "heated area" and falls under the sq.ft. price. The home isn't real big ...about 5000 sq. ft. and will have two 200 amp loadcenters with possibly one downstream 100 amp loadcenter.
I cannot charge for the estimate...else I will loose the job.

I can't design the electrical cause from my experience even the owners don't know what they want until it's framed up and we walk through with a Lighting Rep or Salesman.
I suppose I'll just give a sq.ft price and outline the
extra charges in my format.
I would expect a million dollar home wired in non-metallic sheath cable (romex) to be in the neigborhood of 30,000 dollars. 20,000 for labor and material, around 10,000 for the Lighting package. At in Knoxville, Tn.
3% is generally what you could expect to pay for the electrical portion.

Re: Custom Home Electrical Estimate...?? [Re: site351] #190687 11/30/09 06:04 PM
Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,316
renosteinke Offline
Cat Servant
I can't tell you how to run your business; if you want to play the odds, be my guest.

I also understand the uncertainties involved with lighting, and it's perfectly acceptable to exclude the fixtures from the quote - though I would plan on putting in simple 'keyless' fixtures just to light the place during construction, and to prove your circuits. Ditto for lighting controls; be clear whether you are basing your price on simple snap switches, dimmers, whatever.

The point I'm trying to make is that square foot estimates, based upon some sort of simple multiplier, are fiscal insanity. GC's love to toss around bogus numbers ... and while the approach may make sense when you're building a 1000 unit tract of five different models, it doesn't apply to a custom home.

Another approach -price per opening- is only slightly better. The weakness there is that you quote based upon 200 openings, the guy scales back to 100 openings ... and expects the price to be cut in half. Not sane when your set-up costs are a constant.

That leaves us with a price specific to the job. To do so conscientiously, you're going to invest a minimum of three days time - and that costs you money. I'd want some sort of guarantee of getting my money back ... a deposit to be applied to either the job, or for the design time, is one way to do it. Remember: while the other contractors can't use your drawings to submit to the city, having them available will sure make their quotes cheaper for them to prepare .... do you really want to subsidize the competition?

Can't design until it's framed? Yea, right ... try getting the plans through City Hall without an electrical print and load calculations. Their expectations are unreasonable; if you do the plans, you deserve to be paid for it.

You can be certain the architect didn't draw his part on faith!

I can't say this strongly enough: CYA! Never assume a quote will be accepted in good faith; it's almost always the opening round in negotiations. Odds are, they ask you for the "Cadillac," don't like the price, then go across the street and get a Chevy.

Re: Custom Home Electrical Estimate...?? [Re: renosteinke] #190694 11/30/09 10:13 PM
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 7,233
HotLine1 Offline

FWIW, why don't you provide a 'base' price? Spell out (in a proposal) what you will provide (NEC minimum) & a $$$$. Along with that throw in some $$ for 'additional' items; ie: recessed @ $$, receptacles @, branch circuits @; etc.

A recent 8200 SF McMansion was 23.5 bare bones, and over 55k with all the toys.

Remember, you are the guy investing your time. You have any history with the builder? When I ran my business, I had a steady client base, with great relationships, and trust by all parties. We (the world) are going thru some tough economic times, and each of us has to do what we have to in order to make a living.

Re: Custom Home Electrical Estimate...?? [Re: HotLine1] #190709 12/01/09 10:34 AM
Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 19
site351 Offline OP
The plans or design is all that needs to be submitted for review...the home is in the County. Building inspections are done by the County as well as Plumbing and Heat and Air. The
Electrical portion is inspected by the State. My estimate will reflect only what is required by the National Electrical code, a Minimum. All other dedicated circuits, specialty lighting or light fixtures with extended assembly time or
extensive switching light control...i.e. 3 and 4 way switches will be additional charge. requested items that exceed the code.
And yes...I have worked with this builder before...he's a good guy...but a tightwad and I have to spell out every detail to him in advance. My price will exclude Telephone and Cable T.V. wiring as I expect structured wiring to be done by someone else.

Re: Custom Home Electrical Estimate...?? [Re: site351] #190715 12/01/09 01:57 PM
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 7,233
HotLine1 Offline
BTW, all that low voltage work (cable/data/sound/structured) is real $$$$ for a lot of EC's that do it. Wire is wire, drilled holes are drilled holes for NMC, MC, or all that LV stuff. You are there, why let someone else in?

Re: Custom Home Electrical Estimate...?? [Re: HotLine1] #190725 12/01/09 10:27 PM
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 457
Jim M Offline
All very valid points John. I will admit to using the per opening unit pricing, but each unit has a different price.

I guess I should feel lucky. No prints are required for houses. Most of my work is small additions and I can either scale the prints or see the actual job.

Re: Custom Home Electrical Estimate...?? [Re: site351] #192070 01/25/10 02:59 PM
Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 71
sid123456 Offline
You need unit prices. With a little historical data you'll be within a few +/- $ of the other guys. I bid a job the other day for a whole house and was $80 less than the other guy. But of course price is not the only thing to consider when hiring a contractor.

Re: Custom Home Electrical Estimate...?? [Re: sid123456] #192153 01/29/10 10:58 PM
Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 1,273
Tesla Offline
I'd be VERY wary of ANY GC that needs to get an additional competitive quote for anything in this market.

What happened to his other subs?

Are they going unpaid?

The massive contraction in construction means that EVERY player is trying to find a place to sit now that the music has stopped.

If you are at all under-capitalized -- and most contractors are -- then the best tactic is to stay with what you know and who you know. It is far better to either sit at home or enter non-construction activities than it is to ACTIVELY LOSE BIG MONEY chasing bids into a hole.

Low-balling is a sure route to financial doom. We can have an impact on quality and tempo, which is the value a good EC brings to the table. But without enough revenue, paid in a timely manner, you'll collapse no matter how fast you dance.

The larger problem is there are so many GC's who think that they can fight the business cycle by low-balling and then, in turn, shaving all of his subs. BTW, most GC's figure that the subs are making a killing. This is so because too often EC's give way on pricing leading the GC to assume that a ton of fat is larded into every bid.


BTW, I see from EC Magazine that some EC's are expecting 2010 to be worse than last year because their own bidding tempo is already way below 2009.

Locally, CraigsList relentlessly details one contractor after another folding up shop. Commercial TI work has collapsed.

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