A polished concrete floor project can be a tough job to bid because of the many variables a contractor needs to consider — labor, abrasives, the floor itself, just to name a few. Derek Mackenzie, president of Floorlab in Toronto, Ontario, says a lot of this difficulty stems from the nature of concrete polishing. "The reality of polished concrete is we are the only flooring tradespeople who manufacture a floor on site working with the conditions of the job and existing materials, meaning the concrete floor," Mackenzie says. "Everyone else has quality control materials produced in a factory, like wood and tile." This reality, he says, means polishing contractors need to be prepared for anything and be ready to adjust for variables on the jobsite. It also makes defining a job's cost upfront an even greater challenge.
Harry Gressette with Polished Solution, Inc., Sarasota, Fla., emphasizes the importance of qualifying a bid, in other words, describing how you will handle all the unknowns and what ifs you might uncover on the job. Qualifying a bid helps you offer a reasonably accurate bid price upfront, but also provides protection against the unexpected and the out of the ordinary.
A strong history of job costing gives Gressette a good idea of his costs based on a number of variables, including size of the job, new or old construction, type of building (school, retail, hospital, etc.), requirement for 6- or 7-step refinement process, and so on. These variables tell him how many crew members he will need, how many pieces of equipment he will need on site and how much travel will cost. Other variables like lineal feet of edges and diamond requirements based on the mix design might take a little more digging but can usually be accurately determined at bid time. Other variables, however, like guessing a price for spall repairs on concrete you haven't seen, is the kind of variable that would require a bid qualifier.
This list of tips will help you better determine costs before you turn in your bid to a general contractor or home owner.
Repairs. Planning for repairs can be one of the most challenging issues a contractor will face when bidding an existing floor project. "With repairs, there are a lot of unforeseen issues that can arise. A lot of times you go to a project and you can't see the floor because of an epoxy coating or glues and mastics that remain after carpet or tile comes up. So you have to give a price without seeing the floor," Mackenzie says. "One thing to remember is sometimes toppings like carpeting and tile were put on a floor because the concrete was bad in the first place."
Gressette says this is where qualifying a bid is important. "Spall repair can eat your lunch," he says. "I usually allow so many spalls per square foot and cover them in the bid." Spall repairs required beyond the allowance in the bid are priced out in an addendum to the bid, as are necessary crack repairs and spalling along joints.
Utilities. You need to make sure power in the correct voltage will be available to you on site. If it is not, the power for your equipment will need to come from portable generators. "I have it in my contract that all power will be paid by the customer," Mackenzie says. The same goes for water.
Construction schedule. Find out how much time you have to perform your work and during what times of the day you can do it. If you are working under a tight schedule, or working a job on an existing building still being used for business, you may find yourself confined to do your work nights and weekends. If that is the case, you will need to pay your employees a premium and consider those extra labor costs in your bid.
Job schedule. A job schedule, i.e., a plan that lays out when certain trades will be in a building and who they will be working around, is typically not accurate at bid time, so be prepared to be flexible when it comes time for your crew to get on site.