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Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 45

A large and old philadelphia row home. Old knob and tube wiring, mixed with 70 years of previous remodels.

5500 Sq. feet.

3 stories, with several sub panels (fuse type) that will be removed/replaced/relocated.

25% of existing interior wall layout is going to be torn out and remodeled, the balance to be 'restored'.

My task is as follows:

-Replace the existing 200 Amp service, with a 400 A feeding 3 meters and 3 125A subpanels. (the house will be divided into 3 apartments).
- Rewire the entire interior, saving and reusing whatever existing wiring I can.

Now, I have been a commercial construction Foreman/Superintendant for 25 years. I have built Hospitals, nursing homes, 18 screen movie theatres, and the like, from the ground up.

But I was never an estimator, and certainly not for this style of work. So my question is this;

Since it is extremely difficult to accurately predict labor hours and material with something with so many variables and unknowns, my plan was to throw a 'per sq. foot' number on it, with an additional % added for the 'remodeling factor'.

My initial thought was $3/sq. foot, and an additional $3000 for the service itself. (I ususally get between $3000 to $4000 for 400A services.)

This puts me at around $19,500.

An intial consultation with the property owner revealed he was expecting at least @$15,000. He was not too surprised at my "without really fine tuning it, I'd say around $18 or $19K" remark.

The pace/schedule of the project is a leisurely 5 months, as the homeowner is a small contractor doing the work himself.

Can anyone who has experience with this type of work, offer any advice as to if I am approaching this correctly? Is my Sq. foot idea the way to go, and should I add an additional 'remodeling aggravation' factor?

Any advice from the more experienced would be greatly appreciated.

[This message has been edited by MONOLITH (edited 09-16-2004).]

Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 259
I am not up on the sq ft pricing, but what i would do is break it down to the time spent in each apartment, the service, smoke detectors, doorbells and common lighting. Then add it up tack on you % of profit and hope it works out.
The bad part about the homeowners slow pace is that it will often have you going there to find out nothing is done or only parts of it are ready for you. Make him aware of that and set a scedule of some sort.

Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 687
I do remodeling by the opening. Don't count on anything going your way. First I figure every thing that has to be removed. Than every thing that has to be reworked. I count openings. Even if it is existing I count it if it is in a remodeled area. All the devices are new and it might have to be reworked. Then I figure home runs, circuits used, service, and other big things. If in doubt add more $. To check myself I might figure a material amount and a guess on how long I'll be there. Do the math and adjust you bottom number.


Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 914
We do a lot of remodel work and the job you descibed here sounds like a nightmare. The only way we would touch this job would be a set fee for the service and T&M for everything else.

We did a similar style project recently and our initial projection was for the total job to pay $ 7000. It ended up almost $14000. I was very glad I didn't have a set bid. The carpenters found much more knob & tube than we ever expected.

[This message has been edited by Electric Eagle (edited 09-16-2004).]

Joined: May 2004
Posts: 697
The previous replies are all on the mark. I've never done it by the square foot, but by the outlet. Categorize the outlets and price them. A bedroom outlet within 10 feet of another bedroom outlet will be less than the switch outlet in a four-way switched light from the entry to the second floor hallway. I prefer time and material, but the price-for-the-worst (and let the easy ones create profit) method is fine also.

Sometimes the slow jobs are good if the customer will let you schedule your own time. That way you can use it as a fill-in job. There's nothing wrong with an $18-19,000 fill-in job! I'd ask for a few extra payments along the way so I wouldn't be paying for materials out-of-pocket for three or four months.


Joined: Sep 2004
Posts: 35
CJS Offline
I pretty much agree with the others.
I would price the service and the sub-panels and then do the rest at T&M. You have no way of knowing how long something like this will actually take. Make sure you put in writing that you're not responsible for any holes you have to make in plaster (unless you want to be).
Also, I would push the owner to completely re-wire every last inch of the place.
If she burns due to some old wiring they can come after you. It's better to just do EVERYTHING and then you're confident that everything is ok.
Square footage pricing really only comes into play with new construction. These remodels are often difficult because you never know how things are framed and you may not be able to fish the simplest looking wall without alot of effort.
It's got to be T&M or you're taking a gamble.
I usually get 50% deposit/expenses up front at time of contract signing, then 25% when substantially complete (especially if this thing will go on for months) and then 25% upon completion.

The way you're doing it sounds ok and if you run into no big delays you may make more $$$ than if you T & M it, but it is a gamble; you might win you might lose. I don't mean you'll lose $$$, but you may not make as much (which to me equals losing money).

Joined: Jan 2004
Posts: 79
I just finished an old remodel with knob 'n tube last week. Did the service upgrade for a set price and T&M with only a ballpark figure for the additional work including the knob 'n tube replacement. My ballpark of $12K-$14K ended up at $19K plus the service upgrade. Turned out the previous homeowner left all the knob 'n tube feeding all the ceiling fixures and only installed new wall switches with newer cable. The killer was that the prev. HO installed new sheetrock over the old plaster ceilings in almost all rooms but left the knob 'n tube.

[This message has been edited by cavo148 (edited 09-17-2004).]

Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 45
Thanks for all the replies.

Good advice all around.

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