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Unread 09-04-2013, 08:07 PM   #1
rtstile
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New Tile Contractor. Help!

Hello everyone! I'm new to this forum and I'm looking for some advice. I've been installing tile for over 10 years mostly in NJ and recently started my own installation business in Albuquerque, NM. I've been getting work from a "flooring company" and I don't feel like they are paying me fairly. My old boss never talked money so I'm not sure what is common when dealing with a place like this. Basically I do everything. Pick up the tile, grout, fiberock etc.. from their warehouse, rip out the old floors, prep the floors, remove and replace trim, tile, grout, and caulk. If they didn't order enough tile I have to go back to the warehouse to pick it up. I also have to bring all the scrap tile and carpet and whatever back to their dumpster. Lucky me I get to see the work orders and see how much they charge the customer for each thing and how much they actually pay me to do it. If they charge the customer $5 a sq ft they pay me $2.50. This does not include tile. Better yet to fiberock a floor they charge $3 a sq ft and pay me $1. Granted they provide the crappy fiberock and the even worse Custom Multiset mortar. They don't provide cement board screws or mesh tape which isn't cheap. They had me custom bullnose a few tile recently and paid me $4 each and charged the customer $12 each. Should I run for the door or does this sound about right. Please help!
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Unread 09-04-2013, 08:14 PM   #2
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Craig,

Welcome to the forum.

Sounds like you're a few clicks away from printing your own business cards. Perhaps the Pro's close to you can give some guidance on pricing.
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Unread 09-04-2013, 08:33 PM   #3
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I also do most of my work for a flooring store. I find it a nice low stress, low risk, gig. I have been an independent contractor in the past ( and may be again), but with three little kids it's nice to work just 9 hours a day and get a pay cheque every two weeks.

IMO, what they charge the customer is absolutely none of your concern. The part that is your concern is your bottom line. IMO, If you are making roughly $30 per hour on your work, then you are being compensated fairly by the store. After all, they are the ones getting the business, providing quotes, collecting bills, paying for a store front and a warehouse, etc,etc. All you have to provide is a truck and a couple of thousand dollars in tools.

I hope that does not offend you, but that's the reality of subing for a store. It's not the same ballpark as being a full on independent contractor. I'm pretty sure you don't spend your evenings doing paper work and your weekends chasing leads.

Subing for a store can be a good intermediate step between being an employee installer and an independent contractor. Bottom line, if you don't like it, vote with your feet.
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Unread 09-04-2013, 09:04 PM   #4
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Sounds about right. I look at it like this. I don't care what 'they' charge when I'm subbing. Doesn't matter. I don't know what their overhead is and what they make doesn't have a direct impact on my bills. Quit frankly I'm glad when I see 'them' charging enough. It makes me feel a bit more warm and fuzzy they are hopefully profitable so 'they' can write me a check upon invoice so to speak.

I was recently in a similar spot. Sorta still am since I have no time to run around and estimate jobs and line up my own work. Sure I get paid more when I do but by the time I count the effort it takes, most of the time it doesn't work out so good considering all the troubles and extra time involved. On rare occasion I hit a home run but not as often as I would like. I'd have to really hone in on my service area and do a lot of networking to make it worth it.

With that said my situation was worse. I was getting for example $300 for a backsplash the customer was getting charged $750 plus for (not including tile). Showers, floors, same story. I knew though that if I stuck it out I'd have them in a position where they would have a hard time without me by doing quality work. There just isn't any guys available here that can do high quality work and the ones that can are busy, connected and established.

Anyway those one day backsplash jobs now pay $400 to $500. The floors and the showers all went up in price. When they are dumb enough to hire someone else and they screw it up I charge $50 an hour with a $150 minimum to go fix and they pay. Just got a check two days ago for $425 to fix 5 tiles around a shower drain and replace one door jam cut. They thought the bill was a little high and I told them the same thing they told me, "you don't have to give me the work if you don't want to" which was inline with what they used to say, "you don't have to take the job if you don't want to" AKA if its not enough money for you this other guy will do it which is now why when they ask why I'm 50% more than the "other guy" I just ask, "you want me to do it or you calling this other guy? Tell me now because if we hang up this phone now and you call me back I will have another job booked. What's it gonna be?"

In your case you just have to look at what you are getting paid and see if its worth it to you. It doesn't matter what they charge.

I know it sucks but I've been there done that got the T-shirt. Unless you figure out how to secure your own work or find a shop that appreciates you, you will be running on your dime for tile that was short on the job more than you know. When I run short I get trip charge and hourly rate (I bill for it). It comes out of the pocket for whoever estimated the job which is usually an in-house inferior desecrator.

Craig everything sounds inline with the exception of the free come and get more tile BS. That's the way most shops roll though. I just happen to be fortunate enough that the shop I sub for appreciates me and my work and they bend over backwards most of the time to keep me happy. In return I keep the clients happy. They screw up enough other stuff (complete remodel company).
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Unread 09-04-2013, 09:04 PM   #5
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PetrH, no offense at all. Thanks for the feedback.
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Unread 09-04-2013, 09:06 PM   #6
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Craig, if you can generate your own leads and sell your own jobs you don't need the flooring store. But it's not easy. That's why guys work for floor stores.

I've subbed for stores, been an employee at a tile specific store, and now I work for myself, work all the time, have no life, and would never go back.
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Unread 09-04-2013, 09:14 PM   #7
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ob1kanobee, that's a damn good point. Thanks!
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Unread 09-04-2013, 09:43 PM   #8
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Yep. I have a buddy right now who is owed about $6,000 from two different stores/outfits. I know what these stores charge and I told him it wasn't enough for them to be profitable. They can't even make payroll. Then they want him to do more jobs.

Another buddy of mine puts an add in a local little paper and reels in enough work for himself and a helper. You could try something like that. I've thought about it and next year if it works I might just do that if I can stay local. Right now I'm traveling sometimes 40 miles one way to a job and with our traffic situation here, that can seem like an eternity. But if I can stay local, do 1/3 the work (make same money), I wouldn't mind doing a little paperwork, estimating along with selling. You have to be able to sell to do your own work unless it's a referral. Referrals are usually lay downs with little selling skill involved.
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Unread 09-05-2013, 09:09 PM   #9
thuffner3
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Hey Craig,
I also work as a floor whore for a commericial flooring company.
For the most part I mainly do commericial flooring.
The business end of selling myself, and tracking down leads is completely stress free.
We do find ourselves doing more jobsite cleaning in order to preform our job.
Commericial work seems to be devoid of individuals who would otherwise consider the next sub including the the G.C.
Further, I truely believe after 30 years in this field section 9300 in the specifications booklet has been removed.
In Cincinnati Ohio, the general commericial square foot price is $2.50. It has'nt changed by much in 20 yr's. I wont even consider doing residential work for these stores.
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