Camera Labor Estimate: Low Tile / Grid Ceiling

By Brian Rhodes, Published Nov 13, 2014, 12:00am EST

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.


Over 75% of all responses fell between 0.5 to 1.0 manhours. The full spread is shown below:

The average of all answers is 0.94 manhours for this location.

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Color Commentary

The majority of responses fell within 0.50 of each other, and clearly suggest that most installers estimate the task in one manhour or less:

  • "1 to 1.5 man hours, easy install very little risk"
  • "1 hour for camera mounting. Easily done from a step ladder."
  • "1 hour max. An experienced installer should be 0.5 to 0.75. Give yourself an 0.25/hr buffer."
  • "One man hour is sufficient. This is a ground floor install needing a simple 6 ft ladder in a controlled environment with no need for dust control.."
  • "I would put this at 1 man hour. Mounting the camera would not be the most time consuming part, but still need to leave time to cleanup since you never know how bad it is above one these ceilings."

Even when responses indicated more total hours, it was generally due to including additional tasks like cable termination or camera focusing that fell outside the question scope.  Those results were not included in the distribution above.

Tile Reinforcement: Biggest Cost Variable

One aspect of the install not addressed by the question was whether or not the tile needed to be reinforced first. We deliberately did not include this detail, as to avoid biasing the answers to a specific mounting approach (ie: Not permitting use of grid clamps, if preferred). In most cases, if installers discussed tile reinforcement, their estimates were higher. 

  • "About 45 min.  I have to install a backbox across the bridge, cut the tile, install and adjust the camera and then clean up."
  • "I would estimate the camera install to take 1.5 hours. This is due to needing a mounting bracket to be installed across t-rails and physical mounting."
  • "You need about 1 hour and 30 min to mount the camera since you need to drill and catch the cables and be able to enforce the back of the camera to be hold on the ceiling."
  • "1.5 hour to mount. This is allowing for mounting of a dome that has been pre-configured with the correct IP address. Technician will remove tile, make cable hole, mount camera using a wooden back-plate."
  • "1 hour minimum, depending on the camera model. We will typically install a "Caddy bar" support that spans the grid, and that supports the weight of the camera, which is mounted through the tile."

Minimums Apply

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

  • " We only charge in increments of half hours. We'd estimate 0.5/hr.  If the cabling is truly right on the spot this should be an install any tech can do within a half hour as long as there is nothing above the tile blocking the path."
  • "It is hard to do anything in less than 1 hour. We'd estimate that for this (example camera)."
  • "2 hours because it's our minimum charge."
  • "We never estimate mounting under 1 manhour, this one would probably be 2."

Our question made no distintion between the estimate being for a sales/service call, or as part of a bidded project. However, that situation could impact how much time is estimated purely on the logistics of moving tools, setting up, or otherwise 'making a job worthwhile'.

Volumes Matter

Another condition that affects estimated task time is whether the job is hanging a single camera, or if it is one of several. In every case, the 'single camera' estimate was higher than if it were just one in a group:

  • "Probably 1 hour - depends on the number of cameras being quoted like this however."
  • "For (1) camera only, 3 hours. (arriving at site, getting "oriented", etc.) If say, (5) cameras on this hallway or hallways close by, I would say 1 hour orientation and then 1 hour each camera."
  • "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. "
  • "1 Hour if is just a single camera installation, if more than 1 camera its going to be installed in 0.45 hours/ camera."

For larger jobs, the estimate per camera may fall according to economies of scale.


We are publishing a series of results like this for our survey. Do you have questions or feedback to share as we produce updates? We would appreciate your thoughts.  Please comment below.

2 reports cite this report:

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