Prices: Labor vs. Materials


#1

Why are roofers not so excited about breaking out bids this way? When a roofer is reluctant to do this it makes me think they have something to hide. When I solicit a bid I specify the brand, and want everything spelled out in the contract: number of sqaures, labor costs, specific materials, etc.

Not price shopping, just want full transparency in bids.

What are the issues from the contractors perspective?


#2

If you had someone build custom cabinets for your house, would you ask how much the wood cost?

I’m not trying to be smart, just pointing out that there is a lot more to a professional installation job than raw materials. There are lots of factors that affect the cost of a roof.

I can’t speak for everybody, but I have a formula based on materials, total squares, pitch, shape of roof, ventilation, walls and chimneys that need to be flashed, etc. I don’t even like giving a total “per square” price. Every roof is different, and material cost is only one factor. From time to time, I provide a breakdown (inc. material costs) for some insurance work.

If somebody really wants to know, I will provide material costs to them(you can also call the local roofing distributor or lumber yard and get costs yourself).
One reason I don’t just offer the material cost unsolicited is that many homeowners look at the total quote, subtract the material cost and say, “I can’t believe you’re charging me X dollars for labor. Surely you are only paying your guys Y dollars per hour. You’re making a fortune off of me.” What the typical homeowner doesn’t understand is that legitimate roofers have tremendous overhead that needs to be figured into every job. We pay liability insurance (which can be a few thousand per month), worker’s comp insurance (for me around $.50 for every dollar paid to laborers), trucks, equipment, advertising, salespeople, office staff and equipment, etc. On top of that, we all attempt to make some profit.
If you want responsive service, a reliable company, and a labor warranty that actually means something, you will be dealing with contractors that have to cover most, if not all of these expenses.

I hope the explanation makes sense. Again, if you really want to know, call your local distributor or lumberyard, give them a list of materials, and ask for a quote. They will be happy to provide one for you over the phone.


#3

Brand name products to be installed are always listed on the estimate.
Not necessarily the quantities.
If you want a material list, ask for it, you may have to pay for it…

The bid you received includes material, labor, overhead, and profit.
Material is one part of the equation.


#4

It is not the only trade that does not break down prices. If we did break them down you would think we were making to much money but you would not see the hidden cost in the overhead. Insurance, workers comp, vehicles, advertising, safety and so much more. When

I have broken quotes down, I showed materials,labour and overhead/profit. It takes way to much time to break down any other way and people always question the overhead and profit % but dont see everything else it takes to run the business.

If you get three prices and they are close what difference does it make?

If you want to know who is making the money these days ask for a breakdown the next time you fill up your car at the gas station.


#5

**Why are roofers not so excited about breaking out bids this way? When a roofer is reluctant to do this it makes me think they have something to hide. When I solicit a bid I specify the brand, and want everything spelled out in the contract: number of sqaures, labor costs, specific materials, etc.

Not price shopping, just want full transparency in bids.

What are the issues from the contractors perspective?**

Brand name and types of materials are listed. Keep in mind there is a much larger time frame involved in writing a “Chinese menu” contract like you are asking and as a contractor I don’t get a close on every proposal. Time is money, and as long as my proposal states in laymen’s terms what is to be accomplished and with what materials, it’s enough for 99% of our clients. So there is a time factor involved. If I break every proposal down to the exact number of nails needed, you’re adding let’s say 1 hour on to the figuring/writing of each proposal. Now let’s say I’m cranking out 20 proposals a week… Not exact math here but you get the picture. Now out of the 20 proposals lets say I close on half (10). Now, not only did I waste time writing those 10 other proposals but I added an extra wasted 10 man hours to that. Now let’s add an extra 20-30mins per proposal to debate every little detail now listed with each client… From the type/length of nails to why I need to pay a safety inspector…blah blah blah…shoot me please.

Also I’m not in the business of providing DIYers with a shopping list.

You should be concerned more with the company’s reputation and final price imo.

The less detail in the contract the less people can try and GC their own jobs. Nothing worse than having the home owner standing in the front yard trying to direct my crew and ask me stupid questions all day. It chews up resources like mad and time is money.

Besides, if I suspect from the onset you’re going to be a hump of a customer, slowing my crews down and calling me 10 times a day, I am going to charge accordingly. You need to have some level of trust in the company you’re dealing with. If you’re that paranoid about the roofing company “hiding something” as you put it then you should seek out another. I always advise people to get 3 estimates so they can compare price.


#6

I give very detailed estimates for out of pocket paying home owners. The materials are detailed but not the amount of materials to be installed. On insurance jobs the home owners know were every penny is going. Those estimates are not about the details of the work being performed but rather then unit and cost only.

If I want to go all out and impress a home owner this is what I send them.

  1. A detailed estimate with full details of how and when and why.
  2. A detailed estimate from Xactimate.
  3. A detailed roof diagram. If the roof needs more ridge vent or air vents I show them on paper were they need to be put. It only takes about 20 minutes to draw up the roof on paper and add in all details. This diagram is the exact same as what would be sent to an in house adjuster.

On 95% of jobs the home owners cut the check for materials so in reality they know exactly what materials and labor is, I am not ashamed!!!


#7

I guess I’m the exact opposite of most of y’all.

Not saying you guys aren’t right - what works is what works.

I’m a smaller organization so I can’t afford the overrhead of buying the parts out of pocket unless it’s a smaller repair job under around $ 750.00 or so.

My supply house sends me a quote for parts on a .pdf & I print it, then give this to the customer - that way they know they’re paying exactly what the parts cost is.

If a customer says “I want to change from brand X to Y due to a color”, how are they to know if it’s a lower, higher or similar price? I know lots of people who charge extra no matter what the actual price point(s) are.

I do, however, spell out that if there are any leftover parts, they are MINE & not the customer’s. If the customer asks for a bundle or two because they want to shingle a shed or a doghouse, I have no problem leaving some extra stuff. If they want 2 squares when I can return it (& take a 20% hit on restock) then we will have a discussion about why we would rather have additional parts ordered vs. making 10 runs to get stuff & lose time on the roof.

I have the customer pay for parts less around $ 100.00 for the purpose of returns.

In the end, I do quote a total price for the job however they ARE getting a breakout on what the parts cost is. I explain that there are 4 basic components to a quote: parts, labor, overhead & a living wage.

That sounds better than “parts, labor, overhead & profit”; when you say “profit” the customer’s eyes glaze over & they have visions of you sitting on a beach in Hawai’i sipping on a Mai Tai while the customer is writing a check to the bellhop.


#8

pretty much like Tar Monkey, I am tired of my estimates BEING USED AGAINST ME.
Buyers are liars and simply put, the only people worth spending the extra effort on, are CUSTOMERS or CLIENTS if you will. The sooner the users are weeded out, the better for me.
If I buy a truck do I ask GM what Delco charged them for a master cylinder? What the cost is per square for the floor mats?
NO!! I buy a T-R-U-C-K. Just like my customer buys a R-O-O-F System


#9

This is all very helpful–I understand the issue of overhead and insurance.

I didn’t think asking for bids to be broken out by materials vs. labor would make me out to be a “hump” of a customer. It’s just that when comparing bid to bid it makes it easier to see what is driving total cost.

Thanks


#10

In this area, I will disagree a bit.

As a consumer, it is in your best interest* to ask questions, educate yourself & to understand the differences between what is being offered to you both verbally as well as on paper (& not just the estimate, but on the contract as well).

If there is a $ 4,000.00 price difference, you shouldn’t assume one is charging more for profit or overhead, nor should you assume it’s in parts being used. You should ASK what parts & what processes are being used. The reason I provide a parts price up front is two fold; one is because I have the customer cut a check for the deposit (parts) directly to ***R***oofers ***S***upply ***G***roup & the other is so they can see just what components I’ve described to them via a verbal discussion as well as the estimate & how this compares to the estimate.

If I say or write that there will be brand new valley metal but the parts quote doesn’t have valley metal on it, I should expect the customer wants to know if I have some overstock or should ask me what is different.

*Please notice that I did not say “your responsibility”.


#11

I didn’t think asking for bids to be broken out by materials vs. labor would make me out to be a “hump” of a customer. It’s just that when comparing bid to bid it makes it easier to see what is driving total cost.

Total cost is total cost, period. Luckily most of the people we deal with do not decide who does their roof due to price. There are just too many ways to fool people and those of us that practice dishonesty in this trade usually don’t last very long. Everyone has a budget but from my viewpoint you don’t want to go around low balling everyone, using inferior materials and using the “lowest price” tactic to solicit jobs. I sell trust and piece of mind in our company. If asked why we cost more I explain that we hand nail every roof. That I will personally be by the job on a daily basis (sometimes more) and if needed I will give them my cell phone number.

Get your estimates first then inquire about particulars if you like. Asking a contractor to itemize every damn thing that goes into a proposal is a bit unreasonable in my book. How can I hide the fact that I added in money because I lost at the dog track last friday night, eh?? Sheesh.

Seriously, we are just crazy busy all the time and it’s not cost effective is the main reason.


#12

it’s not wise to show the break down of the bid bcuz the customer can see your profit.


#13

I did not mean to come off angry. Well not too angry.
But it is like this: If you want see the numbers, then I request that you seek to know what the numbers mean.
For example: If I add in 6 hrs labor to put up and take down some staging that Side Job Bob does not do, I don’t expect to hear that I am “too expensive” for simply working safely, and protecting my workers.
If I have proper roofing insurance to protect the customer, I don’t expect to hear about how I am making a “ton of money” because the fireman aka contractor I am bidding against does not carry that burden to protect the customer.
etc etc.
If I am in business year-round to provide a service and warranty protection for you dear customer, then yes indeed, it might cost more than the dually truck with the Texas tags that just left your driveway w/ a tailight guarantee.
So yes I am sensitive to simply “opening up my books” if there is not a mutual respect or meeting of the minds.


#14

Just so you know, it may be a 3500 but I don’t drive a dually.


#15

None of this is meant to deprive roofers of making a reasonable profit, and certainly in comparing bids I’m only going to be looking at fully insured/licensed roofers. i also understand the need to cover overhead. also will not be shopping on price alone. Only purpose is transparency and so i understand components of cost.

what degree of specificity should i really be looking for at the proposal/estimate stage?


#16

Dont Lie to us. What if you do get quotes which are broke down the way you want them and the highest quote has the least profit and the lowest quote shows the most profit. What then?


#17

Then I compare the materials from bid to bid and ask questions about the higher cost of materials and talk to the roofer about whether or not those higher priced materials are worth it.

Again, my question: what should I be asking for in a proposal? What questions would a smart consumer ask when comparing proposals? And don’t I want a list of specific materials being used and work being performed?

I mean what if one proposal is 4 nails per shingle and the other is 6? I want to know that when comparing propsals, right?


#18

Yes. You certainly should know for several reasons.
I wish potentials I give estimates to would ask more questions. 'Cause they would soon find out that Side Job Bob does not know much except for maybe what shingle the local lumberyard carries. Too many people accept that as a sign of competence. Too often their eyes go straight to the bottom of the proposal where the price is and they think that their job is done when they compare numbers.


#19

Only purpose is transparency and so i understand components of cost.

I don’t know of any business that is “transparent”, as you put it. As far as understanding “components of cost”? You don’t need a completely itemized materials list and a breakdown of insurance costs, gas costs, building mortgage or how much I pay each individual on the job to have a rough idea of where your money is going. I don’t understand the entire process of building an ‘A-10 Warthog’, nor do I know how to fly one. I do however have a pretty good idea of the costs and materials needed to construct one and train a pilot though. I understand wanting to be informed both about the roofing process and where your hard earned dollars are going but you start saying “transparency” and although I have nothing at all to hide I’m ready to walk away because I know from past experience that people like you will nickle and dime all the profit out of a job. Just not worth it, life’s too short.

You don’t need to be a professional roofer to understand the basic costs and process of installing a basic asphalt shingle roof; just some common sense will do. The job hasn’t even started and you’re arguing semantics already… I’d walk.


#20

I know from past experience that people like you will nickle and dime all the profit out of a job. Just not worth it, life’s too short.

I absolutely would not nickle and dime nor would i buy on price alone. I only want to be a smart consumer, unlike 99% of the h/o’s who buy roofs.

Nor do I want to know about gas, etc. I just want to know specs for work that is going to performed and specifically what materials are going to be used.

Should I not ask for specificity on # of nails per shingle, # 15 or #30 felt, will all felt be replaced, etc?