Former DIYer turned handyman - need some help with an estimate

vettingJuly 11, 2012

Im new to the business and just taking on some side jobs at the moment. Right now I've been just charging by the hour, but I dont know if Im getting paid what I should or charging to much for the overall project. For example, just finishing up on a 7x11 bathroom remodel and need to know what you would have charged. Just a ballpark figure is fine - just need to know if I'm inline with pricing.

Here is what as all done:

Demo - remove old shower pan and corner liner.

Remove old vanity and plumbing

Remove entire subfloor

Scrape texture off ceiling

Remove drywall from 2 walls

Shim joists and install new subfloor

Mud install new neo angle shower pan

Mud and lay hardi board

Install 12x12 tile in brick pattern on floor

Grout with epoxy grout

Move 3 plumbing vents

Replace vanity plumbing in the wall.

Restud wall for 46" medicine cabinet in load bearing wall

Frame wall area for shower door

Cut out old shower valve and sweat in new shower valve and copper

Install cement board in corner shower

2 coats of redgard water proofer

install double niche

Install 9x12 tile in shower with glass accent strip and tiled the niche.

Grout with epoxy grout

Skim coat ceiling, sand, prime, and paint. Smooth finish

Do drywall patches, sand, prime, and paint. Smooth finish

Install new electrical box and light above medicine cabinet

Install recessed medicine cabinet

Redo the drain plumbing for the shower.

Install double vanity

Install 2 faucets

Install toilet

Install vanity drain plumbing

Install 2 prehung doors

Cut and install cherry trim

I also did all of the material pickups except for the actual fixtures which were delivered.

Once I get a few responses, I'll post what I charged. I dont want to influence anyones replies

Thanks for helping out a new guy

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I'm not sure anyone could provide you a ballpark without more information. What kind of fixtures were you putting in? Bargain basement big box fixtures or top-of-the-line? And where are you, small country town in the mid-west or mid-town Manhattan? Those are major items that greatly affect price.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 4:44PM
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I'll play but I don't do the work, I hire someone else to do it. As a homeowner I would expect to pay about $5K for what you did.

I've hired by the bid and by the hour. I think I prefer by the hour since I'd rather the work get done right than someone rush through and do a sloppy job.

I do get bids but often mentally adjust them for going over due to having to redo some items if I think something is complex or tricky. I've done my own home improvement projects in the past and know how it is. Sometimes something doesn't work and you have to redo.

I've had contractors charge me more than the initial bid. Most will tell me about it before going over and get my approval for the increase. I like and respect these people alot more than the ones that just submit a much higher bill at the end. Those never get hired back. Surprisingly I've had contractors charge me less than their initial quote. I think because we get the area prepped, have the materials on hand and sometimes will further things along in the evening after they've left they don't always have to spend as much time as they thought. Sometimes I'll split the difference with them and given them more than they asked for but not as much as originally quoted. I've also paid more than the final bill when I think someone went above and beyond to make it right. I think this 'tip' always surprises them but I believe good conscientious work should be rewarded. I've also tipped for good artistic design input or someone who made suggestions that really improved the project in a way I hadn't thought of. However when someone makes a boneheaded mistake like not measuring before cutting I let them eat the overage and extra cost. But a slipped tool that accidentally cuts or damages something. I'll eat the cost on that as I don't want them cutting corners on my project to make up the difference. The non-measures, non-levelers of this world I just try to get them off the job as soon as possible as nothing about it will turn out right.

How about posting some pictures of your work? Most of us come on here for ideas so we'd love to see the remodel.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 5:18PM
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If you're getting sufficient work, and you're satisfied with your hourly wage, and making a profit, what more do you want? That's the very definition of charging a fair rate--both for the consumer and the business.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 7:47PM
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Just declaring yourself a handyman is not enough, In most states if you are charging ppl to do electrical or plumbing work you better damn well have a license for those trades.

Here in Massachusetts and in Florida if you get caught doing plumbing without a licence you can be face $25,000 in fines and up to one year in the county jail.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 9:34PM
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That sounds somewhat similar to what I just had done, though a little more complicated and I used a surround instead of tile. For materials and labor I would expect to pay probably $7,000 -$7,500 or so, more if the tiles or other items were costly or custom. That figure would be a project like mine, mostly stock items from Lowes, but quality items (good constructtion, materials, etc). If you only provided labor and the customer provided the vast majority of materials, I would expect to pay you about $5,500, or more if the tiling was complicated, or some other aspects were complicated.

Of course even picking out 2 more expensive faucet sets or shower trim could add sever hundred dollars or more, and tile can get expensive fast. I also live in a suburban area near a moderate size city, so prices here are decent. My guess is this estimate would be on the lower end of possibilities, as materials and labor add up quickly when you start upgrading things to more expensive and time intensive items.

I hope you eventually post a ballpark for what you charged. I may be woefully out of touch, but our GC has done pretty good work for us and his prices seem reasonable. Though he is bonded and insured too.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 10:22PM
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Sophie Wheeler

The correct answer here is zero. You aren't licensed and insured and thus have no business charging anyone for work that only a licensed contractor is allowed to do.

What you have described is well beyond the handyman scope of jobs. Handymen change out light fixtures, or faucets, or paint a room. Anything more, and they need a contractor's license. You are risking quite a lot by doing such extensive work and not having any license. Do you think that just because you are only doing work for "friends" that that would stop them from suing you for everything you own if you damaged their house? Incorrectly replace a shut off valve and find out. Just because you "tell" them that you assume no liability doesn't mean that you wouldn't be found at fault and fined. You are acting in a professional capacity and the burden of licensure and liability is on the pro, even if he's a pseudo-pro.

Accidents happen, and that's what workers comp insurance is for---for you. If you fell off a ladder when installing the new vent grate onto a duct and fell into that brand new glass shower enclosure, who do you think would pay your medical bills? The homeowner? Get real. Their insurance company requires them to use licensed and insured trades, not fly by nights. They have the whole might of the insurance company's lawyers behind them to get out of that claim.

If you're doing a job for a friend and the nosy neighbor next door files a complaint with the local building office, who do you think is fined and sent to court for not having a license? The homeowner might get a slap on the wrist, but you are assumed to have the greater liability here because you are acting in a professional capacity.

What happens to the homeowner who uses your services and you do something incorrect and damage their home? Do they have the recourse of going to the contractor's licensing board and filing a complaint? How about recouping their money from the bond you should have posted? It's VERY telling that so many posts on this board are about "contractors" who are incompetent and do the job incorrectly.

If you want to work in the world of contractors, you MUST have a contractor's license and insurance. Either obtain one, or stop your side jobs. Just because it hasn't bit you yet doesn't mean it's not going to. And, the risks to you are pretty large, no matter what you are charging your customers. Is a bit of extra money worth having a lien put on your vehicle and house and losing it after having been dragged through a court trial?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 11:08AM
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I must have missed something. I don't see where he says that he's not licensed. In my state, it is not required for sole proprietors to be insured.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 1:53PM
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Your question was:"I don't see where he says that he's not licensed."

To those of us who actually hold a trade license the answer to your question is as obvious as the nose on your face....In order to obtain a trade license you have to complete a state approved and state supervised four or five year apprenticeship, and in the course of that apprenticeship all the questions he posted would have been thoroughly covered.

What most homeowners do not understand is that as a homeowner or handyman you may perform "Maintenance" but you may not do Plumbing or electrical installations.

Under the heading of "Maintenance"you may work on the plumbing or electrical providing that in the course of your repair you do not alter the original configuration of the piping system or alter the type and size of the materials the system is constructed with.

The post says that he moved 3 plumbing vents. That was a dead give away because any real plumber can tell you that there is no reason to have 3 vents in a 7" x 11" bathroom. Under the UPC it might require two but under the IRC it can all be done with one vent.

On the other hand, both the minimum & maximum allowable distance from a trap weir to a vent opening is critical to the inch and figuring out the proper placement of vents is the most difficult part of plumbing and the part that your inspector takes the most notice of, but then he is not worried about the inspector because he cannot pull s permit or get an inspection.

Now when you try to sell the house and they find that scab work during the house inspection, it will be the homeowner who will get the fines for non code compliance, and they could pull your certificate of occupancy, force you to immediately leave the house and you can neither reside in the house or sell it until the code issues are corrected.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 4:08PM
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Wow, that's quite a pile on for the OP. I'd like to point out that not all jurisdictions require licensure (or permits) to do this kind of work. It's a very local question. The county I live in, for example (suburb of a smallish city), licenses no one. And permits are an administrative exercise. There are inspections on certain kinds of work, but they just make sure the work meets code, they don't check it against the plans or anything.

And workers comp carriers typically won't insure the owner of the company.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 9:30PM
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Remodeling prices vary widely with geography. Full bath re-do like that is a good $35k here in Cali.

Wow, scary stuff. Check your local laws before cowering to bullying contractors protecting their market. But chances are they're correct. It's often true that unlicensed handyman work is limited to small jobs, say under $500 and for good reason, (but I believe in many places a homeowner can do any work they want on their own house, including plumbing and electrical - ya can here). This stuff isn't rocket science if you have some skills and know how to read. Too bad a perfectly competent unlicensed handyman is prevented from making a living. Licensing is a good thing but man, it's an overly onerous path to get there, IMHO. Can't cross that picket line. To me it seems these some of these requirements were designed to keep the trades in the family. Like firemen, you're in if your uncle is one.

In the day, if you were licensed but not part of the union, you'd never pass an inspection because the inspectors were "in with" the unions. At least things have improved from those days.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 12:48PM
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I just looked at the NM Journeyman and Contractor exams ... they are OPEN BOOK and they tell you what references to bring.

How hard can it get? My fully licensed contractor/handyman had his license at the age of 22, which included the experience qualification.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 2:23PM
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How hard can it get?

Here is an example: In the state of Florida to become a Plumber you have to complete a four year apprenticeship before you are permitted to sit for the license exam.

During the apprenticeship you have to work a minimum of 40hrs per week for 200weeks, which is four years less vacation time(any week inwhich you work less than 40 hrs does not count). At the end of each week you have to submit a timecard to the state apprenticeship board and the timecard details how many hours you worked in each catergory for that week.

During that four years you have to also attend a four year state approved technical school or college course where you study the Plumbing Code, plumbing theory, and a little bit on OSHA, workmans comp and necessary licensing requirements.

At the end of the four years you get a Diploma from the Tech school, a certificate of completion from the state apprenticeship board and a letter of recommendation from the Master Plumber that you worked under.

You then pay a $250 non-refundable testing fee and you are given a list of 12 books that you must bring with you for the exam. (The books are another $500, and given that they are rewritten about every 18 to 24 months to remain current, you have to buy new books).

You then have to wait until the exams are being given (Only twice a year) and you have to travel to Tallahassee or Miami to take the exam.

They allow you two full 8 hour days to complete the exam and statistically, 70% will fail the first time they take the exam. If you fail, you have to wait until the next testing cycle and pay the testing fee again before you can sit for the exam.

I shall never forget my first night in the apprenticeship class. I too had been a DIY'er, who became a handyman, then went on to work maintenance in 3 large motel/conference centers, two hospitals and a municipal school district where we did all the maintenance in 9 public school buildings. I walked into the apprenticeship class room feeling really cock sure of myself. I had been doing plumbing work for nearly 15 years, how hard could this be?

The instructor walked in and went to his desk. He says "I see we have a couple new faces, lets all introduce ourselves" and we made with the usual introductory small talk for about 10 minutes then the instructor says, "in honor of our new students, lets have a simple quiz tonight, and as soon as your done, you can go home early"

He then opened a 4"dia PVC tube, took out a stack of building prints and began passing them out, one to each student. As he was passing them out he says "You guys will note that these are all simple one story 3br 3-1/2 bath on slab and I have marked a spot in the back yard where the septic tank will be. Your project is to do a complete DWV layout and annotate all pipe sizes and cleanout locations, then do an Isometric on a sheet of typing paper. As soon as your done you can lay your work on my desk and go home".

One of the guys was done in 45minutes and perhaps half the class was done within the first hour while I sat there with a total of one line on my paper and the next week when we reviewed the work, I found out that was wrong.

Finally two hours had passed and the class was over, so I turned my paper in, still with my one line... and I was feeling as dumb as a box of rocks.

The instructor glanced at my print and says "not as easy as one might think is it? But don't worry, if you take the classes serious in 6 months you will be going home in 45minutes too."

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 4:09PM
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Man, I'm glad I live in Texas....I don;t have to deal with that crap....

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 8:56PM
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