Quoting For A Job
OK, so you have bought machines, designed your website and started your marketing. Now comes the scary bit. Someone has contacted you and actually wants you to look at their wood floor!
Carpet and upholstery you can quote in your sleep…. stone, tile and vinyl you’ve maybe just got to grips with, but wood? Starting with the basics, you cannot do floor sanding quotations without visiting the premises and seeing the floor. Even if the potential client says ‘I just want a rough idea’, don’t do it. The variables involved in our business make it easy to get it VERY wrong and that person will forget the ‘rough’ part of their request, and just will just remember the figures.
So, when you turn up, what are you looking for? When you start, try dividing the floors into two categories, floors in reasonable condition that show wear and some scratches and floors that are in poor condition that need repairs and/or very heavy sanding.
In the case of the former… happy days! Whether hardwood or softwood they will respond well to sanding and the client will be delighted. In the event of the latter you need to consider the value of the floor versus the cost of sanding it.
If it is a Victorian softwood (Scots pine or similar) it may not represent the best of floors when it is finished, but it can look good and the value to the client of retaining the original floor boards is worth considering. Don’t forget you have to hammer all those nails in to avoid damage to your sander!
If it is a poor condition engineered (semi solid) board, you might want to advise the client that it really isn’t worth sanding, especially if it is the older three strip type board. On any engineered floor, check out the thickness of the wearlayer or veneer, most are 4mm or above, but not all.
Hardwood floors (oak, maple, beech etc.) are nearly always worth repairing and sanding, whatever their condition, and if they are old it will add value to the property by being restored.
Many old hardwood floors (and some softwood) are wood block or parquet. They should always be retained wherever possible, but there are considerations for you when quoting these. It is very important, particularly with finger parquet (five thin blocks in one direction surrounded by sets of five blocks in the opposite direction), that you go around the WHOLE floor tapping it to listen for hollow sounding, loose, blocks.
On five finger parquet any loose blocks need to be secured as they can get inside your machine and do serious damage. Don’t forget the weight and power of your machine may loosen others as well, so be thorough in your survey. If a lot of blocks are loose, repairing a five finger parquet floor may be uneconomical as they do not have the value of the larger wood blocks.
Remember, if you take on the repair of five finger parquet, each block must go back where it came from, they are NOT all the same size!
In the case of the larger wood blocks, if one is loose it can be ignored if it is connected to its neighbours by a tongue and groove arrangement. However, any blocks that are straight-sided and can be lifted out must be bonded back into place.
There are two basic ways to work out your price, either a straight area calculation multiplied by whatever figure you charge, or you can do a materials used plus labour plus profit calculation, or you can do a combination of the two.
In many cases the latter is the ONLY way to calculate because situations like repairs and staircases cannot be done on anything other than a costs plus profit basis. Stairs are particularly tricky and I would advise charging well over whatever is involved and also let the client know that there will be dust, as extraction is lost at the edges of the tread.
It is usual that floor sanding companies sand the stair and riser, but stringers, spindles and handrails are left to painters and decorators. Check that the spindle doesn’t sit on the tread and if it does, remember that you will have to hand scrape around each spindle.
OK, the final consideration that comes within the limited scope of this article is concerning the products used. Staining a floor adds substantially to the time a job will take and also the cost. It is also the biggest area of dispute between client and contractor, as often their expectations of the colour that will be achieved are unrealistic no matter how many caveats you add at the quotation stage. Charge well!
If you are using a lacquer you can only apply one seal coat and two top coats in one day and in any case after sanding you may not have time to even do this, many jobs go into more than one day. In the case of catalysed oils, they make it much easier to finish in one day, the good ones are expensive but do have a great deal of coverage. As with everything, there is no substitute for experience, but I hope this very brief guide will be of some help.
Terry Guilford is technical director of The Ultimate Floor Sanding Co, a corporate member of the National Carpet Cleaners Association (NCCA).
This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.