Nine times out of 10 you are calling us with a version of this question. You might warm us up a little with some small talk, but “how much” is the primary reason for your call.
I know you think that when you contact a place that builds gates for a living that price should be an easy question to answer. But, have you ever started a project with someone where they quoted you one thing, then the final bill shocked you? That is the nightmare we want to avoid.
Please allow me to explain why estimating is not that easy for us. Then, keep reading so I can tell you about the process we use answer your question and avoid any ugly surprises.
OUR PRICING CHALLENGE
We design+build custom iron gates that are one-of-a-kind pieces of art. When we say “custom”, we really mean it. The gates are designed to capture your style and personality. Then, our metalworking expert handcrafts it. We are proud of the workmanship and details on each one.
You won’t find a stack of pre-built gates waiting to be sold at our shop. In fact, we rarely build the same gate twice. If you want us to copy one of the gates we have done before, we suggest a little something different to make it an original.
What I’m trying to say is that since we treat each piece like an individual piece of art, we have a hard time nailing down the price until we have drawn up your gate to yours and our satisfaction.
However, we do understand your pain. You need a place to start to wrap your mind around this project and you don’t want it to take all day. That’s fair. We have created some broad categories with budget ranges. They are really very general, but it is the best we can do before you give us a call.
OUR PRICING PROCESS
Once you are ready to contact us, we’ll set up a free consultation over the phone or in our shop with Jeffery. He will give you a lot helpful advice on your project based on his 30 years of building experience and introduce you to our team.
As part of this consultation, you will discuss the following and whatever tangent you want:
- Kind of gate you want
- Scope of project (just gate or complete entrance design)
- Pictures you have found
- Gate size
This meeting is a great way to find out if we all have the potential for a good working relationship. We like to show you around if you come to the shop. Over the phone, we don’t get to do that, but we do our best to help you know who we are.
By the end of this meeting, we should have enough information to help us develop a better “guestimate” than our online resource. However, it will still be rather rough budget range. The next step is a start contract that includes a design agreement or feasibility study.
To move past the free consultation, we are going to ask you for a design agreement that will include a site visit (if in our area), a concept drawing and a formal estimate. If you already have a drawing, we’ll still ask for a contract and use your drawing to work up a feasibility study and formal estimate. Jeffery got the idea for a start contract after reading Markup & Profit by Michael Stone. That book helped us understand margins and markups and how to use them in the construction business.
The cost of our design agreement (or feasibility study) will depend on the scope of your project, but it will likely be between $500 and $1,500. If you proceed to job completion, this fee will go towards the entire project budget. It just covers the time we spend initially on developing your drawings and a detailed and more accurate estimate – the one thing you have been after this whole time!
We’ve been delightfully surprised that most everyone understands this part of our process. But some still think or say, “Why pay for a quote when someone else will do it at no charge?” For those folks, let me breakdown the numbers that lead to our decision to start handling business this way:
- A site visit in our area is between 30 minuets to 1.5 hours one way (sometimes further).
- The onsite project discovery is usually 2 to 3 hours.
- The concept drawing (which specifies the size and details of the project) takes 3 to 5 hours.
- Once the drawing is approved, we’ll have quotes we need to get for materials and subcontractors. That plus calculating everything takes about 2 hours on average.
That is a total of somewhere between 8 to 13 hours per project to do a formal estimate. If you multiply that by 2 to 3 of them a week, that is 16 to 39 hours of non-paid time in a week. And, for the most part, those that are looking for a free estimate are either not sure they really want to do the project, or they are looking for the lowest price. Both scenarios mean a lot of unpaid work for us and we have found we can’t afford it.
WORKING IN YOUR BUDGET
You know. We can also help you with your project by going about it a little differently. If you could share your budget with us from the beginning, we can usually work with that.
It is funny that so many are reluctant to tell us what their budget is. I think there is an underlying belief that’s how you get the best deal. But, our costs are our costs and we now know what are margins (or markups) have to be for us to stay in business.
So, if we know your budget range, we can show you designs/pictures that are in that range. Then, we work from there. Read more about our three categories of gates and budget ranges.