Fixed price chandelier quote go off the rails

Coppersmith

Senior Member
Location
Tampa, FL, USA
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
As part of a larger job, I recently quoted installing two chandeliers. I asked the standard questions about ceiling height and chandelier weight. Both were going into existing lighting outlets. No fixtures had to be removed. Armed with this info I quoted one for 90 minutes labor and the other for two hours. I know that some chandeliers have crystals or whatnot (drops) that have to be hung. But, I’ve never had to spend too much time doing it. Well, this time I did and it turned the job into a disaster.

First I did the 10 foot ceiling fixture. The base fixture went up fast enough, even with the homeowner spending 10 minutes debating the correct fixture height. Then I had to hang the drops, 96 sets of three glass balls. There was a ping-pong sized ball, an apricot sized, and a orange sized. All 288 balls rested on each other making the fixture look like a floating pile of foam. Some “fluffing” was necessary to get it to look balanced. That fixture took 2.5 hours, an hour more than planned.

I had about 2.5 hours left in the day and was debating starting the other chandelier (which I quoted at two hours). I asked the homeowner if it had a lot of drops like this first one because I didn’t want to stay late to finish it. “No” was the answer, but I decided to call it day anyway. That turned out to be a good decision.

shells.png
The next day I start the other chandelier which is over a stairway landing and 15 feet up. As I’m unpacking the box I come across bags and bags of mollusk shells. Uh oh. I find the assembly instructions. There are 19 strings of 43 shells tied together with fishing line. There are also 288 drops consisting of two shells. The shells have a good side and a bad side so as I’m hanging these, I have to flip shells over to the good side. Of course, many of them don’t want to stay and flip back. This “two hour task” took four hours.

A fixed price job is just that, so I worked for cheap. Needless to say, I will now ask more questions about drops when quoting and I suspect I will be doing a lot fewer complicated chandeliers since the added labor will make my price very high.
 

hbiss

EC, Westchester, New York NEC: 2014
Location
Hawthorne, New York NEC: 2014
Occupation
EC
My thought is where does the electrical cross the line to artist or assembler. I've never done anything more than installing fans and I would never consider doing anything that is mainly assembling intricate works of art. Not in my job description nor do I want the responsibility for damage or breakage.

-Hal
 

LarryFine

Master Electrician Electric Contractor Richmond VA
Location
Henrico County, VA
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
I suggest quoting a set price for the electrical part, and by-the-hour for fixture assembly.

Or, allow the customer the option to do the assembly him/herself, like I do with trenching.

At least, give a minimum and don't quote the final price until you've read the instructions.
 

hbiss

EC, Westchester, New York NEC: 2014
Location
Hawthorne, New York NEC: 2014
Occupation
EC
No lift for that thing 15 feet up? They going to call you to clean the cobwebs off or if a bulb burns out? Insist on installing a lift, install the fixture to it and let the customer handle the do-dads.

For the 10 footer, include an 8 foot ladder if the customer doesn't have one, hang the fixture and leave the ladder next to it. :p

See ya!

-Hal
 

Dennis Alwon

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Chapel Hill, NC
Occupation
Retired Electrical Contractor
I would have stopped at the first fixture and said I will hang these but I will only work by the hour as these will take much more time then I allotted.
 

mspicka

Member
Location
Colorado
Occupation
Owner
I would have had the customers first email photos of the fixtures to be hung. There is too much variation in fixtures anymore.

I sold lighting fixtures for the last 20 years, mostly on the rep side but also on the wholesale/retail side.
 

Tulsa Electrician

Senior Member
Location
Tulsa
Occupation
Electrician
I use a crystal charge.
Quote the fixture installation and accessories at an hourly rate. Gives the owner the option to do it them selves or pay to have done.
 

Coppersmith

Senior Member
Location
Tampa, FL, USA
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
To all of you you who are saying to quote T&M, this is the wrong answer. I make way more money doing fixed price work. T&M only works well if the client thinks your labor rate is reasonable and they rarely do if you are charging correctly. The correct answer is to quote an accurate fixed price based on having correct labor and material data. In the case of this job, I did not, but I will in the future.
 

AC\DC

Senior Member
Location
Florence,Oregon,Lane
Occupation
EC
Its the sorrows of Bid work, though like you said you make more generaly on these. Some time you work cheaper than T&M put you strive to be more then T&M. General if I make double my T&M I know I bid it correctly and am very happy. Sorry about the Lost Copper Though it sounds like you have more work on this project and will make it up somewhere else.
 

Fred B

Senior Member
Location
Upstate, NY
Occupation
Electrician
To all of you you who are saying to quote T&M, this is the wrong answer. I make way more money doing fixed price work. T&M only works well if the client thinks your labor rate is reasonable and they rarely do if you are charging correctly. The correct answer is to quote an accurate fixed price based on having correct labor and material data. In the case of this job, I did not, but I will in the future.
So how would you do this differently in future? HOs will almost always minimize the product complexity when they are the ones supplying the materials.
 

Strathead

Senior Member
Location
Ocala, Florida, USA
Occupation
Electrician/Estimator/Project Manager/Superintendent
You wrote, "as part of a larger job." This is sticky. Most of us, who estimate, have made similar judgements. I have put 6-8 hours in for a "chandelier" and found it to be a 2 foot diameter pendant light, and have gone the other way and been bit. When bit, you can talk to the person paying the bills and try to work something out, but integrity kind of says you need to bite the bullet and do the work, if they balk. Find some wording as suggested above for the next time you can't ID the fixture.
 

James L

Senior Member
Location
Kansas Cty, Mo, USA
Occupation
Electrician
I quote a price for a hanging fixture. And I make it very clear that crystals are not part of hanging the fixture.

In no uncertain terms, I let them know that the price to hang all those crystal pieces or shells or firecrackers or whatever else you want to put on that light is going to incur a very substantial upcharge

I know the suggestion of $1 per crystal was made in jest, but that's really not all that far off. 288 pieces at a rate of 30 seconds per piece will take an extra 2.5 hours

That's a pretty good clip, considering all the sorting and the continual referencing of the ink blot on a piece of notebook paper that's been crumpled up inside the box.

And I agree about the difference between an hourly rate and a flat rate. The only time I give an hourly rate is when I'm trying to give the appearance that I have a very reasonable price. I'm always hoping for a flat rate because it's at least double what people want to pay per hour

For instance, if you tell somebody $100 per hour to swap out all the devices in their house, they'll probably have a mild stroke. But if you tell them you'll swap out all their devices for $15 each they are more likely just say yes. Then when you find you can change out 15 per hour, it's easy to do the math. You just double your price up to $200 per hour
 

mspicka

Member
Location
Colorado
Occupation
Owner
To all of you you who are saying to quote T&M, this is the wrong answer. I make way more money doing fixed price work. T&M only works well if the client thinks your labor rate is reasonable and they rarely do if you are charging correctly. The correct answer is to quote an accurate fixed price based on having correct labor and material data. In the case of this job, I did not, but I will in the future.
Perceived value is what it is worth. Figure that out and you will bump your income by at least a quarter.
 

Coppersmith

Senior Member
Location
Tampa, FL, USA
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
So how would you do this differently in future? HOs will almost always minimize the product complexity when they are the ones supplying the materials.
This is a good question. There does seem to be a positive correlation between chandelier price and complexity. Both of these chandeliers were expensive (although I didn't get an exact price). The usual big box store chandeliers rarely have so many hangy things to worry about. So I could ask the price, but that seems gauche. I could ask the make and model, look up the chandelier on the sellers website and evaluate it's complexity, but this adds time to the job pricing process. Or I could just assume that people who live in multi-million dollar mansions on the beach put up expensive, complex chandeliers and charge accordingly.
 

Fred B

Senior Member
Location
Upstate, NY
Occupation
Electrician
This is a good question. There does seem to be a positive correlation between chandelier price and complexity. Both of these chandeliers were expensive (although I didn't get an exact price). The usual big box store chandeliers rarely have so many hangy things to worry about. So I could ask the price, but that seems gauche. I could ask the make and model, look up the chandelier on the sellers website and evaluate it's complexity, but this adds time to the job pricing process. Or I could just assume that people who live in multi-million dollar mansions on the beach put up expensive, complex chandeliers and charge accordingly.
I tend to steer away from giving blind pricing for HO supplied product for that very reason. Unpredictable quality, complexity and even missing parts, some given everyone shopping Amazon - missing UL. Got one I've been waiting now going on 6 months for the right parts to come in from the HO purchased light fixture, 3 trips right now to install and each time wrong parts or missing parts and still not done as wrong part was shipped last time.
 

jjshocks

Member
Location
Florida
This is a good question. There does seem to be a positive correlation between chandelier price and complexity. Both of these chandeliers were expensive (although I didn't get an exact price). The usual big box store chandeliers rarely have so many hangy things to worry about. So I could ask the price, but that seems gauche. I could ask the make and model, look up the chandelier on the sellers website and evaluate it's complexity, but this adds time to the job pricing process. Or I could just assume that people who live in multi-million dollar mansions on the beach put up expensive, complex chandeliers and charge accordingly.
While I'd never ask the price of a fixture either, I do ask for specs to be emailed to me before I give an estimate. (I never give a set price for fixtures that require dressing. I also never trust an HO to explain, if it's so easy they would do it themselves.) That way you know what you're getting into and well as looking up the price. Once I have the price, I expect my install charge to be between 10% to 25% of the fixture cost. The smaller pieces to hang, the closer I get to 25% I present the cost as a base price (two men for two hours, as an example) and an additional cost for every hour over.

Any fixture over standard ceiling height with more dressing than a box store fixture, I charge to bring our lift onsite. It does ultimately save time and prevents injuries or damage to the fixture.

On the more intricate fixtures, it's not unreasonable to expect that all glass/crystal pieces will need at least a quick wipe before installing them. So, one man in the lift and the second unpacking and organizing the order in which to give the man in the lift.

I've installed a $20k plus fixture and the owner didn't bat an eye when I quoted $5k for the install.
 
Top