I've recently been asked to quote the installation on a multi-family project (apartment complex of 260 units). There are 6 types of units, simple layouts, either straight run or L shape, 12 to 18 cabinets per unit, no crown or light rail. There may be laminate countertop installation involved too. They asked me to give them a total for the entire project.
I've never quoted jobs with huge volumes like this one before. I don't want to price it too low but I would hate to lose this project too. I wouldn't like to be stuck with service trips either (and on projects like this, there are always more than enough service comebacks). I want to base my estimate on a box count for every unit type. Is $15-20 per box an appropriate number? The job is in Atlanta, GA
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor S:
What kind of boxes are we talking about? Melamine, plywood, face frame, Euro, raised panel, etc? As everyone else says, don't sell yourself short, price what it's worth to you. Are you outsourcing anything or all in house?
I will have to sign a contract with them and provide worker's comp and general liability. My job is to install cabinets to a complete kitchen look (fillers, toekick, scribe, hardware, laminate tops). Tops are supposed to be pre-manufactured to certain sizes according to kitchen layouts, so no cutting of any tops from my side.
No time schedule at the moment. I know it will be in the contract. What kind of time penalties should I be aware of before signing it?
Now I'm more concerned about the total estimate. I need to figure out what the realistic figure per cabinet or unit is on jobs like this in the Atlanta area. They know my quality and would like to deal with me, but I know they will shop my quote and I wouldn't like to be outbid because my numbers are too high.
There is no point in working that hard for no money. Figure in the efficiencies of doing repetitive work, but also pad somewhat for unexpected delays, bad rough-ins, scribing and all that sort of thing. It will happen, and more than once or twice.
Work the numbers hard but realistically. Losing a couple dollars per cabinet on a single family home is no big deal. Here, it will kill your business.
He did not say no molding. He said no crown or light rail, but there are fillers, scribes, etc. And who knows, maybe even some shoe molding. And if there isn't, well shame on me for giving that some thought.
Watch out for:
Fixed date. If some other trade is slow, you don't want that to eat up your time window. Any clause that doesn't allow additional time for delays not your fault - fire, flood, electrical outage, governmental stop work order, etc.
I presume you get paid as you go along. If so, you do not want a clause that carries a requirement to go on working if they fail to pay you.
This one is a bit harder to describe. You assume, I presume, that the other trades will be finishing some number of units per day/week and that you can then move in and do your work. You need to avoid the possibility that instead of an even flow of units, a whole bunch get released to you all at once and there is not enough time left before penalties start to run. (Suppose you are not allowed in until the electrical folk are done. They run out of light switch plates. The next to the last day, before their penalty clause kicks in, they finally get their delivery and install them in all the units. They have not run over their time, but you are suddenly given all/most of the units at one time, not over a period of weeks, and your clause says that you are to finish a week after the electricians.)
You will most likely have limited ability to negotiate these things, but keep them in mind.
Sounds like you're an installer who is out of work. I pay my guys $15 a box, which equates to a $22 a box cost for me because they are on payroll, drive company trucks, insured, health insurance, bonded etc.
Throw in a 20% margin above COGS and you're looking at upwards of $28 a box plus countertops. I hope you and your buddy can do it...
I would guess a 260 unit project is going to have a schedule that a small install crew (3-5 people) will have no chance of meeting. Carrying costs on a project of that size are far too expensive for the schedule not to be aggressive. Multiple units being scheduled to install at the same time, schedule compression based on sales, schedules based around inspections, etc. Doing a little homework will help a great deal.
From my experience, the small kitchen will probably take 2.5 - 3 hours to install and the large one is 4 hours +/- half an hour depending on the readiness of every single unit. My guess is two knowledgeable installers can do 5-6 units a day considering that units are fully ready for installation and there isn't any material missing (like fillers, scribe, hardware).
How are you calculating your time for setup and moving tools, etc.? Who's going to pay you when you have to move the cabinets that are in 7c but actually belong in 7a? Who's responsible for damage to cabinets after they are installed? How are you going to protect yourself in the "those doors were damaged by your box builders/no, they we perfect when we left" argument? How are you going to charge for the time CYA?
Is there a holdback; how much and long? Can you live with it? Do you have a good attorney familiar with multifamily construction law? If not, walk right now.
Are you responsible for putting on knobs, placing shelves, adjusting doors? Are there appliance panels? If yes, no way one crew will do more than 2 kitchens a day. How are you allotting for time waiting on the Buckhoist to go to units to be done because the floors won't install sequentially?
How are you going to hang the wall cabinets? Is there sheet metal on the metal studs in the correct locations? Are you just going to hope it's there? What about those units that have a 3' wide AC chase right behind that wall cabinet in the "E" units and have no studs, metal blocking to attach to?
This is so much more than 200 installs; it's a project management exercise.
Liquidated damages is in every multifamily project. If you are not supplying the boxes, then your concern is production. We have done thousands of units and it just comes down to your quality and ability to organize. Never let an installer leave a unit incomplete. Go-backs will kill you. Once the building is 100%, get the builder to walk with you and sign the building off. That is not saying that you won't come back and do a builder's and then an owner's punch. Make that clear to the builder. It is just saying that on that date you had installed all material to the industry standards and any replacements will be additional.
Submit your bid based on the cabinet take off, and everything that comes up down the road is a change order. 25 to 30 a box is not unreasonable - paying the installer 15 a box including tops is fair. That allows for punch. Hold at least 10% retention on installer to cover them returning to complete the other 2 punch list. Specify in your contract that you will compile a punch list for your installers and then you will complete any for builder and then owner of building. That does not include individual punch list for a condo environment. Remember! One unit at a time, one building at a time.
Oh yeah! Do an inventory of all products in the units in the building before beginning. Get that parts list to the supplier that day. Parts list will hurt you on time. Get addition skin for inside and out. Stain pens that match product. Color caulk that matches laminate. Seam fill that matches laminate. Supplier should supply all of this in first delivery.
Me on the other hand, I absolutely would not do it for less than $30 box. That would be rock bottom. My average is $35 a box depending on the type of contract I am entering. You have to make money. Even though you can make good money you need to know that you can keep up productively to avoid huge liquidated damages, then the money or your labor that was making you good money now doesn't look so good. Don't be afraid to charge the big bucks. Do us all a favor and keep it real. People like you drive the PPB down too much to make a fair living.