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Thread: Job Pricing sprinkler system

  1. #1

    Default Job Pricing sprinkler system

    I live in an area where lots of very nice homes are being built and I need to get in on some of the lawn sprinkler jobs. Problems is that I don't have a clue how to price them. I have been to a couple of lawn irrigation clinics and have the basic knowledge as well as extensive plumbing experience. I don't see any significant challenge or problems out of the ordinary for me to do this type of work. Any tips and any guidelines on pricing would be helpful. Prices for plumbers here are all over the place. I live in an area where there are no inspectors and no building codes. Plumbers go from $25/hour to $120 per hour. The few people I've talked to about lawn irrigation price by one of three methods... (1) sq. ft. (2) double cost of materials (3) WAGS...wild A$$ guess system.

  2. #2
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    I know people who price it at $300 to $400 per zone. This requires you to do a plan of some sort in advance of the bid. Until you become familiar with local soil conditions, and become very familiar with the different types of heads and what you can't mix with what, you will probably make some mistakes. You also have to know if the homeowner will acccept a $30 Orbit timer, or if they want a $200 Toro professional.

  3. #3

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    Jimbo.. thanks! That's about what one guy told me ($300-500). I think he more or less guessed at 3 to 5 heads per zone and roughly 1500 sq ft total. For some reason I had it in my head that it came to like $100 per head but couldn't remember how many sq ft I should estimate per head/zone.... I'm still a little lost.. I've got a guy wanting me to install a sprinkler system for him this spring... so, I know I'm going to get some experience. I just don't want to screw up too bad...and would like to give a fair (but profitable) price. I gave up my "WILL WORK FOR FOOD" franchise a long time ago.

  4. #4
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default system

    Draw the property, then use the head parameters to insert the heads. Finally work out the piping. Then figure out the materials, how long it will take you to dig, install, test, and backfill the trenches. Once you know all this, and how much you acutally want to make for doing the work, then you will have the price for the job. All the other methods only work for the average job, or they are overpriced to compensate for not wanting to do an accurate estimate. In any case, unless you know exactly, or as close as possible, what it will cost, you are using other people's figures to price your work, and that can be a quick way to file for chapter 11.

  5. #5

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    hj... I hear that Bubba... one thing I always do FOR SURE.. is to check cost against estimate. Lots of people use formula pricing (sq.ft., etc)... It's a quickie method and will either lose jobs or lose money... accuracy is what counts...but, for folks like me, who have no significant experience but plenty of confidence in doing the job... knowing what the ball park is like tells me where I want to play if I'm going to be in the game. For the most part, I'd bet that alot of jobs are basically the same price and for some bigger jobs you could pretty much break them down by the number of heads needed plus controller to get a formula or averaging price method... still, I'd check my materials list and cost before giving a quote. I think it's time for me to try to find some quotes from experienced installers and look at some supply houses for materials pricing.

  6. #6
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    You know it's one thing to figure out time and material costs to trench and fit pipes together. It's so simple a caveman could do it. The real tricky part of underground water systems is the design. Perhaps you have the knowledge to do that, I don't know, but if not, you can be getting into a real mess.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Randyj
    I live in an area where there are no inspectors and no building codes.
    We must be neighbors.

  8. #8

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    If you're in the wonderful state of Alabama... it's possible! We don't even have building codes here except in the "big city", no set backs, nothing except satisfying the state health department and they're pretty picky and I'm glad they are.
    Some years ago I worked in the sign business (BIG SIGNS) and learned that one thing you put in a contract if you want to stay in business very long is a "Rock Clause"... I knew a few installers who spent more just busting out rock than they priced a very expensive sign for.

  9. #9

    Default Licensed Irrigator

    I've read some valid comments on estimating the price per job and they are all good. The other side(s) of the coin are this: 1)Consumer mythology and 2)Outlaws.

    1. Consumer mythology. Consumers still quote to me $250-300 per zone as the price they heard their neighbor got. Usually their neighbor had an install done by an outlaw, you have to educate them on the cost and why things cost what they do to sell them.
    2. Outlaws, aka Unlicensed. Some of them have actually worked for a licensed irrigator. Others are lawn care operators (mostly illegal aliens in this area) who offer to do it for their cheapskate homeowner. You have to be licensed to set a tap and backflow in this state and about 50% of the systems I get called to work on are done improperly (some have no backflow at all).

    Customers quote the $250-300 per zone figure and then tell me they want 3 zones. I use the analogy of a car. I explain that a car might cost $30,000 and therefore we could say it costs $7,500 per tire. We cannot go in and say "I want a car with only one tire". I then show pictures and examples of the type of systems they can get for $250-300 per zone, pictures of disastrous plumbing, not enough water and of course mention that the state of Texas will fine them if it is installed by an unlicensed individual.

    Some homes have good water pressure and a 1" meter, this means I can put up to 30 gallons per zone if I need to. This is helpful on a large property but does not allow for hydro-zones, i.e. the back yard may be full sun and the side has no sun and poor drainage. I don't need the same application of water on both zones, need to hydro-zone. A small residential yard has 5 hydro-zones usually and 1 of them is drip irrigation for the flower beds and landscape along the house.

    The ones who understand and want to pay me my price (I usually price by the head, $75 per rotor and $50 per spray minimum cost on a normal install with normal soil, $100 per rotor and $70 per spray on hard clay or steep terrain or difficult install).

    Make sure you call your local utility before putting a shovel in the ground and then invest in your own test equipment. On my first job I hand dug over the gas and underground utilities as I am supposed to and then started my trenching machine 3' away from the mark put down by the gas company. 3 feet after this I hit the gas line!!!

    I took digital pictures to show that I was clearly well away from their mark, the gas company re-marked and found that the line was marked up to 20' off in places!!! Now I check my own as well as require them to mark all their utilities.

    Hope this helps.

  10. #10
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default trenches

    How deep are you putting your irrigation systems? In this area they are only 12" deep, and ALL the utilities are much deeper than that, except for the occassional cable or telephone line that is just laid on the ground and dirt kicked over it.

  11. #11

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    The only local guy I've talked to is putting his lines 12" down. And, like Danboone prices, he is also roughly pricing $75-100 per rotor plus the cost of the controller... roughly $500 per zone when completed. I was kinda of the impression that I could figure total length of lines and price per foot then add so much per rotor, then the price of the controller and any other work/add-ons. It has been a few years since I went to school on these so I'm studying the tutorial very seriously before I get into anything like this.
    Last edited by Randyj; 12-11-2006 at 03:29 PM.

  12. #12
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    Just bid on a few with your formula and then after doing a few I'm sure you will adjust up or down. It sounds like you are close.

  13. #13
    In the Trades kordts's Avatar
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    I install the RPZ's for 2 irrigation contractors, one is union, and only goes after commercial work. The other is residential, and all his guys are illegals. The commercial guy just pays the invoice, it's all T & M, doesn't blink. The residential guy tells he me he can pay one of his guys for 12 hours for what I charge for an hour. I told Martin, get him citizenship, a 5 year apprenticeship, a plumber's license and a backflow license and see if he'll still do it for 90 bucks a day.

  14. #14

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    90 bucks will get me to most job sites... period. If they want professional work they gotta get kinda close to professional prices.

  15. #15
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    One very important thing that a lot of irrigation contractors seem to forget is to check to see how much water they have to work with. Be it City water or Well water, you need to do a flow test at required pressure before you can even begin to design a system. You can design the system to the water or design the water to the system in the case of a well. With City water you have just so much and that's it.

    bob...

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