How Much Would You Charge For This Job?

Here's the scenario. That's all your are told and you have to bid with just this:

"4-Camera Q-See system to be installed on his Split level residence, approximately 960 sq. ft. Of the 4 cameras, 3 will be exterior on wood, mounted over 12 feet high, and 1 will be interior on drywall. The customer would like the cables to be completely concealed by blind fishing. He also wants the DVR configured to the internet for remote access. Install is 10 miles from your office."

This is a real request only slightly modified.

There's obviously not a single right or wrong answer but it would be interesting to trade perspectives of how much each of you would charge - labor only, product bought separately.


Without seeing the site, I'd have to just quote it as "time and materials", as in: this is how much per hour; clock starts when I get there, and doesn't stop until I'm finished." Blind fishing in residential is almost always guaranteed to be a migraine headache at best... a wake-up-screaming-with-sweat-running-down-your-teeth nightmare at worst.

If I got on site and found easy access to a nice open attic and could mount the outside cameras to a soffit, and the indoor camera was going by a ceiling directly adjacent to said attic, AND the DVR was going somewhere on the level directly under the attic... then it SHOULD be easy-peasy and probably no more than 5-6 hours' labour.

If they want the outside cameras far away from the soffit, though... and the DVR in the basement... and the indoor camera at the opposite corner of the house... and there's a flat roof with no appreciable attic space... then labour time AT LEAST doubles.

One other thing I've found with residential (not that we've done a lot of it, but the occurence of this is disturbingly high in those few jobs) is the desire of the customer to "help". That alone can seriously draw things out...

$2,000 minimum or my truck doesn't leave the lot. I would much rather bang out 4 commercial jobs of this size in retail (read drop ceiling) environments instead of spending (potenitally) days fishing wires through mulitple, non adjoining walls. The only "easy" way to run this wiring job is outside. If he has corners that can conceal the wire in some channels, then it might not be that bad. All depends on the structure and locations of cameras.

I have passed on numerous installs just like this.

In my previous life working for an Integrator we would have just passed. No profit, very low likelihood of selling anything else and very low probability of any service contract. Let someone else lose the money.

$2,789.82

If Richard is willing to do it for $2,789.92, I will confidently bid $2,699 and be sure I'll make money :)

Haha! Touche!

In all seriousness, one part of the job that worries me is "He also wants the DVR configured to the internet for remote access."

The rest of the job can be done by a non computer literate tech, but this part can be a big problem for such an installer. They may not be able to figure it out at all, it might require a second trip, it could take hours of trial and error, calling up the manufacturer, etc.

site unseen, time and material... even seeing a job like this makes it difficult to know how you will end up at the end of the day... camera installations on residential are tricky, soffit cameras are difficult due to low pitched roofs, installing on an exterior wall is more difficult on a eave end of a house, gable ends would be the most friendly...

even if the cameras get installed easily where is the customers network switch for getting it setup online? usually in a locatation that was easy for the isp to install and not for anyone else to connect to... so you left with getting a wire to that not to mention the configuration that is potential for problems and can really burn time...

My biggest concern is hiding the cable the customers satisfaction. By split level I'm assuming a tri level house and those are nigh impossible to run cables in and hide them. If I had to bid it I would bid 16 hours of a residential installer and 4 hours of a network field engineer. Probably around $1,900. I would also like to add a clause that if my Tech decides it cannot be done with materials on hand, within our time frame or not able to be done to customers satisfaction then we reserve the right to leave with no charges.

1) I enjoy the humor John.

2) Keefe, you are absolutely right.

3) Dry wall camera first to install so you can same day - patch, mud and paint.

4) At "12' high mounted on wood"....perhaps this is siding?? If so, whats on the inside....bathroom? bedroom? If you're lucky perhaps another sheetrock hole to fish??

This is messy all over!! Who knows where the router is and customer wants DVR located in room X!! I think the job is 20 hours plus 3 hrs Networking provided U-Verse is not the ISP!!

Absolutely no jobs without a site survey. You might as well go to Vegas! Remember: the quote called for over 12' mounted on wood (not AT 12'). Is this 13' mounted to the soffit as some have suggested or 27' to pine trees comrising a structure for his "dream" treehouse? Sound ridiculous? Yes. Is expecting a professional quote without a site survey ridiculous? Yes. And how about that blind fishing? Was the house built in 1947 with horizontal stud spacers? Kinda hard to fish that...and as for the "DVR being configured for the internet for remote access"...that begs the question: Is the customer configured for remote access or are you going to have to spend a half-day educating customer on how to access the Internet? I won't bid T&M on just any customer...a perfect recipe' for dissatisfaction and a poor reference...which could more than kill any potential profit on this small job.

Thanks for all the comments, very insightful.

In the original request, the company was offering $675 to do this job, which is significantly lower than any of you are evidently offering.

I could see someone accepting $675, assuming 25 hours of labor (which is relatively conservative). That comes to $27 per hour. That means, though, the person would have to be a solo contractor / trunk slammer. Which given this is a QSee system strikes me as fairly appropriate. Yes/no?

I used to do a lot of day work. There are at least two dozen trunk slammers in my old neighborhood that hire extra help as needed, and certain day laborers got reputations as being very good at certain tasks. This helped the trunk slammer keep labor costs low- they could hire one tool carrier slash gofer at about $400 a week while keeping standards high. If you need a guy who was really, really good at doing telephone jacks quickly or focusing lenses or putting a DVR online, you could hire that guy for the day and get the job done as quick as possible without worrying about the quality of the work (trunk slammers used to get all their work from word-of-mouth exclusively, screw up too many jobs and you're out of business). Going rate in early-to-mid 2000s was $125 to $185 a day, depending on working conditions and travel distance, in cash.

My specialty used to be fishing wires in old construction.

I got phone calls on more than one occasion like this, and here's what I figure (all labor costs are ten years old, I assume everything is more expensive now).

In my prime, it would take not less than a day and (probably) not more than three days to run all the wires (I haven't fished a wire in years, so no doubt it would take me longer now), if I have a gopher to help. That's up to $735 in labor costs, not including parts (spackle, screws, tape), gas, wear and tear on tools, and of course profit, and assuming the trunk slammer is going to put the DVR online himself while his gys run around playing with drills and wires and so forth. So, say... $1,200? Assuming you're really, really, reeeeeeeally slow and have no other work whatsoever, otherwise the time is probably better spent doing something more profitable, like collecting empty soda cans or checking pay phones for spare change.

Like I said, all these labor costs are based on ten year old pay scales, so say about $1,600, maybe $1,750 at a guess. And, again, that's when you've been dead for weeks and your $400 a week gopher has sharpened all the drill bits and swept out the shop and rearranged the screwdrivers by length.

$2,000 absolutely sounds like a fair price if you're giving up more profitable jobs, as Jon Dillabaugh points out above. It might even be the friends and family rate.

$675 sounds like a guy doing a side job after work, by himself, for extra cash, without enough experience to understand exactly how long this is going to take him and what he's getting himself into.

"In my prime, it would take not less than a day"

Sigh... It's a young man's game. Now you can just live through reading about others doing so on online forums.

I wouldnt, i would tell the customer to return the product and purchase some inexpensive wireless IP cameras and recording software, and i would install those for him no problem and save him TONS of money.

Assuming electrical outlets are in the right place. And assuming the customer who specified all wires hidden is okay with power cables running loosely to wall-warts.