Camera Labor Estimate: Low Tile / Grid Ceiling

By Brian Rhodes, Published Nov 13, 2014, 12:00am EST (Info+)

IPVM is launching the first surveillance labor estimate standard.

This is the first entry in that series.

Here, we report on a common scenario "Mounting a Camera in a Low Tile/Grid Ceiling." The actual survey question asked is:

"The location has 1/2" thick fiber acoustic tile suspended from grid, with no existing backing material or needed plenum rating, located 8' - 10' above the floor.  Cabling has previously been run and terminated to the mounting spot. How many manhours would you estimate for mounting a camera in the following area?  Why?"

We purposely reduced the question scope to only mounting the camera, and disclaimed tasks like running cable, configuring cameras, and adjusting VMS as separate tasks addressed by followup questions.

Below, we share estimates, key issues and drivers for installing in this scenario.

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  • "** ***** ******** ******** ***** * manhour, **** *** ***** ******** ** 2."

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  • "** **** *** * ****** ****** installation, ***'** ******* ****** *** * hours. *******, ** **** *** * multiple ****** *******, ***'* *** ** total ******* *** **** ***. "
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Comments (7)

I don't think you were asking about billable times, travel times, setup time, cleanup time, or anything else except mounting the camera. Is that correct? If I were standing in that room you picture with a ladder, 4 lightweight dome cameras, and the mounting hardware ready to go I could install them in 1 hour no problem. I'm not counting walking to truck, clean up, or anything else just install. If you take into account setup, clean up, trips to the truck, lunch etc., then you want to bill for an hour/camera to make a profit even though realistically any half way competent installer worth his weight should be able to 15+ in a single day.

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I think this is something that is challenging for them to compile simply because of the way each person/company may handle estimation standards. Also, there is varying level of qualities from different technicians/company which impacts time frames.

For example: I worked at a company where our estimate was replicated at 2000 sites. Missing something that costs $10 would cause damages of $20k. The inverse was also true and could price us out of a project. We accounted for items as small as nuts and bolts in our estimates. Conversely, many conventional integrators I have worked within figure x hours per unit, throw some miscellaneous cost at it, and hope it all balances out in the end or beg for change orders.

Basically, each person will find loopholes in the methodology used to acquire and present the data. I think this is valiant effort and much like the NECA Estimation Guide it's to be used as a baseline, not a hard rule. NECA has had difficulty compiling their estimation book in a usable fashion for years, and it's still marginally useful. Unlike the NECA guides these IPVM time frames are actually applicable to our industry and not something like installing a distribution panel.

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It does seem that some are answering in billable time estimates and yet others using stopwatch time estimates.

This is indicated in general by this statement

Several integrators noted they would not estimate under a certain limit, even if the task ultimately took less time.

and in particular by things like

2 hours because it's our minimum charge.

If this was a single camera installation, you're getting billed for 4 hours. However, if this was a multiple camera install, you'd get 30 total minutes for this one.

We never estimate mounting under 1 manhour, this one would probably be 2.

This may be the cause of the valley in the sample, the .5s being more realtime estimates and the 1.0s being more minimum charges.

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If it was a single camera install, I would figure two hours. That's not including running a cable to the camera. If it was part of a larger job, it would be different. In general, depending of bid of the job, we charge 2 hours a camera, with cable run. It also depends how long the run is.

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I did a job where I would have billed 8 hours. Why? Access to the place could take most of that time getting in and out, by boat, which leaves and returns once a day.

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For what it’s worth to add. I’m learning a lot from what I see as an average install expectation from pros. I’m currently learning and cutting my teeth and I charge a flat fee to keep it fair for customer, as I’m still compiling proper time saving tools and skills. It gets done slow sometimes and I don’t have to worry about time, other then recording in my notes for my future jobs, so I can gage my efficiency. I’m very honest with the clients. “I haven’t done one like this, but I’m sure I can pull it off.

I wonder if any of you have had similar starts?

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In case you didn't see it, we have an updated survey:

IPVM Image/

To answer your question, I think your simplified 'flat fee' pricing approach to labor is indeed common for smaller/ new installers.

The approach of individually pricing runs is often multi-disciplined, but if you're selling/buying/installing/invoicing all under one hat, getting quotes in front of the decision makers quickly often requires a simpler approach!

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