Many components go into creating a good job estimate for a client. Construction estimates should be clean, precise, and easy for a client to understand, and for plumbers, it’s especially important to consider creating an organized materials list for a streamlined plumbing quote. Depending on the project, plumbing can require a varied list of tools and items to ensure the job is completed. Pipes, pipe insulation, pipe fittings, pumps, valves, and a variety of other plumbing accessories might be necessary for a particular job. First you have to understand what materials you will use for the job and then how much labor it’s going to take to install. Next, you decide what type of mark-up you need to make a profit on your materials and labor which might vary from 20% to 50% depending on the item. However, when it comes to our customers they don’t always understand or care how many fittings are needed or the exact length of pipe that needs to be replaced so why would you give them how many $1.58 fittings are needed? What they do care about is if you are going to install Kohler, TOTO or American Standard products and does your quote look professional and can they trust you.
You have done hundreds of jobs and you understand how much it takes to fix a broken pipe, redo a bathroom or just replace a sink and toilet and you mark up your materials and labor based on the type of job or degree of difficulty. The real issue is how do you present it to the client so they are comfortable with your quote and understand the installation and renovation you are making. Let’s face it, quoting time and materials to our customers doesn’t always make sense and you are opening yourself up to being nickeled and dimed to death about every single detail.
An organized materials list is necessary for a couple reasons:
- It provides not just detail that a client doesn’t understand, it provides the detail the client does understand. A quote to a customer is not our internal material and labor list it’s a description for the client so they can understand what you are doing in the installation and it should also help you sell the job. Unless you want to quote based on price alone our advice is not to provide a quote to your customer based on time and materials unless the client requires it. If I use (5) less fittings for $1.58 each but it takes me 15 minutes longer than I thought to install the job, does it really matter? Most contractors are not in the business of ripping off their customers—it’s bad for repeat work and referrals.
- An organized list for your customer might include the cost of each major installation item (including all fittings, basic pipe or other items in a single line item), brand name if appropriate, size if applicable, color and even a picture of the product. Yes, a picture perhaps of the old nasty item you are replacing or the condition of the space after the pipe broke and if you really want to wow that customer the new gorgeous item you are going to install or even a simple option for colors. What do you think sells to the customer better a list of fifteen miscellaneous items (which they may not even have a clue what they are) or a basic list and description with prices by major installation or removal and pictures?
- It helps the plumber put the project in customer terms. We were taught to build our pricing and materials list based on time, material, equipment, and mark-up. On big complex commercial projects that require you to show your mark-up that is still what has to be done. However; for a small to medium size residential contractor are we really showing the customer what they understand and what they want to understand about the job? Of course if you get the job you still need to order the correct amount of materials, your crew needs to understand how much material and/or labor, or your subcontractor has to be given some type of release. You can still use some type of JobSheet, Work Order or other job processing sheet for that communication AFTER YOU HAVE CLOSED THE SALE.
One of the most important elements to take into consideration in order to create a good materials list is accurate information. To make sure your business orders the right parts, a materials list must be accurate. Inaccurate lists not only lead to confusion but they also make you and your team look unprofessional. It’s important that plumbers create a system that works for everyone on their team so that there is good communication and understanding of the job at hand.
Plumbers sometimes work in emergency situations and require the capability to create and update organized quotes quickly while in the field. Using software like JobFLEX where you can readily maintain and categorize your materials list can make generating a professional quote for an emergency or a standard job a lot easier. Take a look at this JobFLEX plumbing estimate compared to these basic, manual estimate templates many plumbers utilize.
Without question, an organized materials list will make your day to day efforts run much more smoothly. JobFLEX plumbing estimating software allows you to build or load a master materials list with part numbers, pricing, categories and images so everything is at your fingertips when it’s time to create a quote. To see just how easy this is, check out this video on how to add or edit material list items in JobFLEX.