Tech Tip: Watch Out for Your Bottom Line with Commercial Bids

Robb Roderick

Robb Roderick, NTCA Trainer

Large commercial tile installation jobs require a bit of extra consideration when preparing a bid. In addition to requiring a lot of paperwork, state or federally funded commercial jobs will have minimum wage requirements. Large commercial jobs also require attention to detail as very small changes can cost thousands of dollars. Making sure you have a list of exclusions can help you avoid problems associated with unclear specifications.

Exclusions might include:

  • Nights and weekend work. Most commercial builders receive bonuses for completing jobs early and will push as hard as they can to get you done as soon as possible. Paying overtime to your people can unexpectedly drain all the profit out of your job.
  • Pattern work. If you bid for a 12×12 straight install and arrive to the job site to find the designer has changed the pattern to a 45 degree with dots, this will hurt your bottom line.
  • Surface preparation. On all estimates, be sure to include a line that states, “All surfaces to receive tile must meet the TCNS standard of no deviation of more than 1/4” in a 10′ radius. If the surfaces do not meet this standard additional preparation will be required that is not reflected in this estimate.”
  • Natural stone, glass tile, specialty grouts, grout sealer, and sealer labor. Anyone who has been an installer for very long has had an easy job turn into a difficult one because someone made a change half way through the project.

Having these exclusions written into your contract can help you get a change order and get paid for the changes instead of losing the money out of your own pocket. This may go without saying, but it is very important to read your contract thoroughly. If there is something you don’t understand or agree with, be sure to call the builder on that. Many builders will have you cross out or rewrite contracts that don’t meet your standards. Don’t be afraid to do this! Many contracts are written to give the builder all the protection, leaving you out in the cold.

The last thing to consider is becoming an NTCA Five Star Contractor. Many architects see the need for qualified labor and they are beginning to specify that the tile contractor must be certified by the Certified Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) or be an NTCA Five Star Contractor. I first saw this specification a few years back in my part of the country. It seems to be more common place with each year. If your the only one in your area with these credentials, you may be compensated for your better quality work.