Making a cost estimate- first job

marthacr(z5 Me)September 3, 2008

This subject has been discussed before and I have read most of these posts. However, I still am missing the key link, which is not how much to charge but how to estimate how long it will take me to put in the plant material. I agreed to do the job on an hourly basis plus materials. I need to give them an estimate on what that will be.

The planting area is easy to dig, all brought in sandy soil which I will amend appropriately. Are there formulas that can be used to estimate? Is there a ball park average time to plant, say for instance a 4' shrub or a gallon perennial? Or should you do it on a sq ft basis, like X sq ft of perennials, X square ft of shrubs? Or do you cost out each plant by adding X percent for labor cost?

This estimating, I'm sure was covered in your degree courses, but I am just a Master Gardener who was asked to do this for an acquaintance.



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You will not be able to hit it very accurately on your first attempt - it takes considerable experience at this sort of activity to be very accurate in estimating. There are industry "standards" for this - the Landscape Data Manual published by the California Landscape Contractors Association breaks it down like this: for a crew of one (you), they estimate 12 minutes for planting one 1 gallon container, 30 minutes for one 5 gallon container and 40 minutes for a 10 gallon container. Anthing much larger than that generally requires more than a single individual. And it does not factor in B&B material, which is typically large and needs big planting holes and is heavy. This is assuming the soil has been properly prepared/amended and plants placed but planting holes not yet dug. And you will need to factor in time for clean up, spreading mulch, watering, etc. Depending on the number of plants to be planted and your stamina, the later in the day, the slower you will get :-) And remember that the more carefully handled and planted the material, the better the long term results will be, which I'm sure your friend will appreciate.

My best advice is estimate on the generous side, time-wise, with the option of reducing the estimate at completion. Typically when doing work for friends, family or acquaintances, we have a tendency to want to cut them a "deal" and that will often come back to bite you when getting paid for all that hard work :-) Either make it a very professional arrangement or be a friend - it's difficult to do both.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 9:05AM
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