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How do you price Commercial Decorating Projects?

How do you price commercial decorating projects?

How do you price commercial decorating projects? The lifeblood of all business is sales, without new enquiries, new projects, new sales then you will have no new projects for your teams to work on. Most painting contractors in the UK are small to medium businesses with the owner/ managing director wearing many hats.

Every business owner will come from a different background: some decorators, some surveyors, project managers, some salespeople or none of the above.

What we all have in common is the ability to pick up and learn many different skill sets that are necessary to run a business. These series of posts are aimed to help people currently having to learn this new skill set to grow their business.

For many decorating contractors company owners they are not officially trained in estimating building projects, having learnt on the job by experience over time. Many people will price painting and decorating projects from a site visit guestimating the amount of time and labour needed and adding some materials. This is fine when pricing a small project, but can be extremely risky when pricing large projects.

But what happens when you need to start pricing projects from drawings? or bills of quantities. Projects may not have even been built yet meaning you can’t go to the site to view the work.

So how do you price commercial decorating projects? This is where you will need to learn a new set of skills.

Required Skills for Pricing Decorating Projects

  1. Analysing tender enquiries
  2. Reading drawings
  3. Doing drawing take-offs
  4. Reading construction specifications (m60’s – decorating)
  5. Pricing projects using unit rates
  6. Understanding project programs

But first things first, how do we analyse what we should spend our time pricing. In the construction industry, the general sales process will be as follows.

  • The client will employ the team to visualise the project. Architects, Clients side surveyors, interior designers. These people will create the brief and design of the project.
  • This brief is then sent out to 3-4 main contractors who will all look to price the project.
  • Main contractors will break down the project into smaller packages (decorating, M&E, carpentry) and send out to at least 3 subcontractors from each trade.

So when pricing a tender, you could be one of up to one of sixteen different decorators pricing that project. You have to individually decide whether it is worth you time pricing these types of enquiries or not.

It is expected within our industry that you have to do tender work, but I am also cautious about whether or not I am wasting my time or not.

Here at GSD Painting, we get at least 5-10 new tenders emailed to us every week. With companies chasing hard for you to price these for them, promising you they have almost secured the project and after you spend two days doing take-offs and pricing, you never hear back from them.

I have one major rule when pricing tenders for companies I don’t normally deal with.

They must have done their own takeoffs and produced their own bills of quantities for you to price against. If they have not, then they are not serious and so why should you be?

This is a rapid test to see if the company asking you to tender is serious. If they send over the full tender enquiry and expect you to go through all the documents, then bin it. It is not worth wasting your time unless you know the company already. Request a bill of quantities, and if they send one, great it only takes someone who knows’s the unit rate costs a short time to fill these in. It measures all the drawings that take up your time.

If it is a live project or a client you have previously worked with, it is worth your time doing your own take-off to ensure everything has been measured properly and your price will be correct. It can also be a good bit of customer service. 

For example, there is one client, where I spent almost 4 days conducting site measures for them for a particular project, which they did not win. Four days wasted maybe, but over the next year that client put over £250, 000 worth of projects my way due to my assistance on the tender they did not win. This does not always work, and there have been many times I have priced projects that I have not one. If you win 1 in 3 tenders then you’re doing great, I think the acceptable average win ratio is 1 in 7 tendered.

How do you price commercial decorating projects?

Once you have identified the projects, you want to price, collated all the tender documents and specifications you are ready to price.

In our next blog post, we will start to talk more in-depth about the bills of quantities and unit rates.

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2 Responses

  1. Thank you for this information Greg,

    As a South East Decorating company looking to expand this is a gold nugget for us.

    Very much appreciate your time and experience to share this.

    1. Hi Edward thanks for you comment and glad it’s of help to you. The main gist of this post is to give a board understanding to how the commercial pricing market works, where we sit in the chain and how we can analyse where we spend our time and efforts

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