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Unread 07-30-2018, 01:36 PM   #1
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I am new to the tile installation business and am having a tough time determining pricing. For example, what would you charge to tile 20 sq ft of 3x9 glass subway, not including tile and grout? And then would you increase the cost for installing a smaller subway herringbone pattern? I'm referring to individual tiles without mesh backing.

I live in Northern Virginia, very close to DC.

Thank you in advance for your help!

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Unread 07-30-2018, 01:48 PM   #2
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Hi Rachel, welcome. It depends on a lot of different things. Where are you installing this 20 sq ft of tile? On a shower floor? On a kitchen back splash? On a small patio? What surface are you tiling over and what kind of prep work will you have to do to it?

If you have set very much tile at all, you should know approximately how much time it will take. You also should already know about the materials involved in doing the job correctly. Multiply the hours you think it will take by how much per hour you want to charge and then add on how much you think materials will cost. That should give you an idea.

If you can't figure up what I explained then it might be best to start out as someone's helper for a while so you can learn more about it.

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Unread 07-30-2018, 06:46 PM   #3
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Thanks Davy. I have an equation I've been using which factors in my per hour labor, materials, overhead, and markup, but I'm still new enough that I'm concerned about pricing accurately. For the example I shared, it was 20.25 sq ft of glass 3x9 subways for a kitchen backspash with no prep work required. It came out to $12/sq ft. Keep in mind where I live though, cost of living is one of the highest in the country.

To contrast, I'm doing a kitchen floor and backsplash in a few weeks in the same area for a contractor and will be paid $5/sq ft. The disparity has me questioning if I overcharged the backspash job.
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Unread 07-30-2018, 07:07 PM   #4
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In this type of work, if you make fairly good money on a job, that's good but you're most likely just making up for the last job that took longer than planned. You aren't going to make top dollar on every job.

As we gain more experience, we get better at bidding jobs but there are a lot of unforeseen things that can happen. For example, I go over with the homeowner what my estimate covers but if I remove the tile from his shower walls and there are rotten studs, then we will be having another talk about how he wants to deal with it. Or, a wall full of termites, etc.

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Unread 07-30-2018, 07:26 PM   #5
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So you charged around $250 for that glass backsplash? Seems way too low.

How many hours did it take? How many trips?

From that $250, how much was for materials (thinset, grout, caulking, plus misc like sponges, blue tape, etc, etc)? The resulting amount has to pay yourself a fair wage (AFTER taxes), plus cover both direct and indirect business expenses.
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Unread 07-30-2018, 07:44 PM   #6
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Rachel I have found it best not to quote a sf price but rather give the customer an estimate and explain exactly what your work will include and what materials you plan to use.. If the customer is asking for a sf price then they are price shopping for a bargain and I tend to avoid those people as they take away valuable time from bigger and better projects I may be doing or the next phone call..

Figure what you need per day for your project,
Materials needed,
Surprises that may be uncovered that usually only time and materials can fix properly. Driving time? Work area you can use for tools and materials.. etc....

Only experience can get you close to the correct numbers but that comes from every tile you set and every bag of thinset you mix..

Hope this helps a little....

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Unread 07-30-2018, 07:54 PM   #7
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I start my splashes at $35/lf, seems to be the ticket as far as time and material goes, if they have a design or detail work I’ll charge more for the time it takes.
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Unread 08-02-2018, 11:33 AM   #8
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For backsplashes it seems like a good practice to put a minimum. Most of us don't have the ability to work half a day somewhere then make up the other half at another job. So if you it took a day to install and you had to go back the next day to grout and or silicone I find it's better to figure a day rate for labor and multiply by 2 for a backsplash minimum rate. For me its $600 minimum. Glass, stone, intricate patterns, any wall prep, and excessive number of outlets all cost more. My most recent backsplash estimate was for 24 sqft of sheet mounted ceramic subway and for everything but tile I was at $675.
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Unread 08-02-2018, 01:42 PM   #9
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i have had some jobs where it would have been better to give the homeowner $1000 and walked away instead of doing the job
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Unread 08-03-2018, 09:57 PM   #10
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Welcome to the forum, Rachel!

I agree that estimating your overall time and multiplying that times what you want to make per hour is the way to go. Per square foot pricing (or line-iteming) rarely works out well for installers who are above average. Lump sum pricing with a detailed list of what’s included has worked out well for me. It allows me to state my price clearly and concisely...and spend more time selling myself and what I’ll bring to the table for the client.

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Unread 08-08-2018, 02:03 PM   #11
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You'll figure it out


As others have said, you'll figure it out soon enough.

When my business partner was starting out he was doing backsplashes for $200 flat. He was just happy getting steady work for the week. When I came aboard I put a stop to that and he was shocked that we would turn down work.

I gave him a little prep talk. Once you are known as a $200 backsplash guy you can never raise your prices. You will always be known as the $200 backsplash guy.

We've had builders calling wanting to get a per sq foot fixed rate on their new construction. I've basically told them I don't do per sq rate because everything is so dependent plus it could be like your scenario and only have 100 sq ft but @ $5 it's $500 for a for a standard bathroom and tub surround. Yet, I would have a guy and a helper jagging around for 3 days over there and it wouldn't be full days either.

My advice is to shoot for the moon and if if you miss you'll land among the stars.
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Unread 08-08-2018, 04:50 PM   #12
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I work backwards from the big picture. When you factor time off, insurance, tool costs, etc... how much does it cost to run your business in a week? A day? Then estimate the job based on how many days (or half days).
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Unread 08-11-2018, 05:12 PM   #13
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You'll take a beating before you figure out what to charge and if you don't charge enough you'll be out of business.

My thoughts are a mechanics wage and only his wage should be in the 30-50 dollar per hour mark. This doesn't include: workmans comp, tools, insurance, fuel, trucks, sponges,ira contributions and every other part of overhead. I bet once all thats factored your around 100 dollars per hour. Wait I forgot what about your helper and his package as well.

Charge according. Do not give your work away and lower the cost of the trade.

Hope this helps

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Unread 08-13-2018, 10:37 AM   #14
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I live in Northern Va and can tell you I would pay the equivalent of 40-50/hr, all day, for any competent contractor to do work.

I would assess competency on the details of their estimate - including materials and methods to be used - and why, challenges (explain why glass tile, in a herringbone pattern, is more complex), potential challenges that might influence final cost (hidden issues), and how they present themselves and communicate. As was said you're selling yourself. Explain to them that whatever other estimates they receive should contain the same details as yours. Be professional and articulate - because in NoVa the clients you want to court are too.

Give them the warm and fuzzys.
If I recall correctly my memory is excellent, but my ability to access it is intermittent.

Last edited by ss3964spd; 08-13-2018 at 10:52 AM.
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Unread 08-13-2018, 09:02 PM   #15
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In my experience I’ve found, by asking my clients afterwards, what was it that encouraged them to hire me. They said it was my knowledge of the products, systems, procedures to be used, and most importantly my enthusiasm/Unshakable belief in the use of my premier products.

I tell them that I won’t compromise the systems approach when using products like Schluter, or Laticrete Hydro ban, etc. And because of that I attract people who respond well to that approach. Typically all my clients are software engineers, Boeing engineers, and basically persnickety people.

People who (really) only just care about price can be spotted a mile away and typically I weed them out prior to setting a meeting. I know they won’t care about a systems approach and so they are going to select someone else based on money. But most good potential clients can “appear” to be low ballers, but really aren’t.

I don’t know whether it’s the years of listening to Zig Zigler tapes, or other sales systems but it’s been proven that when (let’s call you the salesperson) . . .

The first salesperson (Average salesperson) walks out of the client interview dejected – commenting to the incoming second salesperson that “this customer is just looking for the lowest bottom dollar and won’t go above $5,000 for the project.”

But the second salesperson (above average) leaves the interview with a signed contract for $8,000 based on his comprehensive presentation, belief in his product and services and unshakable belief that the customer is getting an exceptional product for a reasonable price.

Again, in my experience I have seen “bidders” who go into an interview with numbers and a nonchalant attitude and win one out of every eight quotes they provide.

On the other hand, what I try to do is gather every bit of knowledge I can about my potential client, as if you will only do 1 quote a month. Listen intently to their primary needs, and if you believe in yourself and your product, it will show and they’ll tell you how to win their business. It’s almost like stepping up to bat in the big game, a high level of excitement, a bit nervous and feeling as sharp as possible, with anticipation for great success. Total belief system – that’s the ticket to charging what you are worth, and getting it.

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