Tag Archives: concrete work

Barndominium Subcontractor Bids

Barndominium construction bids are very important. Be diligent! For each contracting or subcontracting job for your barndominium, get bids or estimates from at least three contractors. Make sure bids are for similar work and be sure job specifications are identical. 

Never accept a bid “by the hour.” It doesn’t work. Remember Murphy’s Law; “If you want to see how long a job can take, pay someone by the hour.” You may pay a little more for a fixed price bid, but it’s worth it for peace of mind.

For example, if an excavator quotes $X per hour per man plus $X per hour per piece of equipment, insist on a firm total. If he (or she) won’t offer one, move on to the next excavator on your list.

People and companies you will be contacting know how to give estimates based on plans and are used to being asked for bids. Don’t worry, this is part of their job, whether you eventually hire them or not.

I take my building plans, drop them off or email them to a subcontractor or supplier, and say, “Give me a price on XXX. If you see anything else on these plans you can provide, give me a price on them too.” You might be pleasantly surprised – excavators often also do septic systems, driveways, backfill, rough and final grading, and a few others. They also usually know others who do foundations, concrete slabs, flat work, etc.

Your suppliers and subcontractors will determine the nearly exact number of items and square footage of materials needed based on your house plans. This is called a “take off.”


What is the difference between a bid and an estimate? A bid is a firm price to do a given scope of work, an estimate is “about” what it will cost. Obviously bids are what you are after.

Here is what you should expect when getting bids for various jobs.


Plumbing bids should include all plumbing fixtures right down to toilet seats. They will not include accessories such as toilet paper holders. If colored fixtures are to be used, specify color and brand. Plumbing showrooms are your best bet for selection of these fixtures. Magazines and brochures don’t tell you enough and often don’t give prices. Most plumbing showrooms won’t tell you wholesale prices, but you’ll be paying list anyway, as plumbers make a profit on each fixture and it’s included in their bid. Don’t make an issue of this. This small profit in fixtures is one of a plumber’s sources of income and they earn it.


Your heat and air-conditioning contract should include vents (generally fan-powered) for  bathrooms, clothes dryer, stove, and range hood.


Electrical bids should include all switches, wiring, receptacles, circuit breakers and their respective panel boxes, a temporary service box and installation, saw service, wiring of all built-in appliances, and installation of ovens and ranges, furnaces, heaters, and air conditioners. Electricians in many areas do rough wiring for phones and the Internet (if you are not wireless).

Utilities must be connected. Exactly who is responsible for running water lines, sewer lines, and electrical hookups will vary with each subcontractor involved. Get responsibility pinned down when you are hiring subs, then follow through to be sure it is done properly.

All subcontractors should be responsible for obtaining needed building department inspections, but make sure they do (before paying them) or you will have to do it yourself. Lack of inspections can cause delays. Proceeding without getting inspections can be troublesome and expensive.

Hiring for Concrete Finishing

Yesterday I was having an ongoing discussion with a client about concrete finishing and his budget.

From Elko, Nevada, the client was weighing whether he should hire a contractor to “turnkey” his new 30’ x 40’ pole building, or to construct it himself. In this instance, turnkey would include providing the design and materials, constructing the shell of the building as well as concrete and labor for a four inch thick concrete floor.

A local contractor had told the client the concrete finishing would cost about $20,000. The Hansen Pole Buildings material quote was under $11,000 delivered. Here is where it gets to be fun…..

The client assumed, for budgetary purposes, $5100 for material and labor to pour a four inch concrete floor.

Now personally, I hate concrete. I know “hate” is a very strong term. Having prior limited experience with concrete, I am thoroughly convinced I could not pour a 2 foot square of concrete and get it to turn out smooth or level. Call me concrete challenged. I know concrete finishing is hard work, but is it hard enough to justify what they want to be paid?

For sake of discussion, let us assume a level, well-compacted site has been prepared in advance. The work of the finisher will be some final fine grading, pour and finish. It should also include saw cutting, or some other type of expansion joint.

With a nominal four inch thick concrete pour, one yard of pre-mix concrete will cover 80 square feet. In the above example, 15 yards of concrete would be required.

I took the liberty to call this client’s local premix provider and found today’s delivered price of “five sack” mix was $100 a yard, plus sales tax (6.85%). In this case, with sales tax, just over $1600. One thing I always recommend to building owners – pay for the pre-mix yourself. This allows a greater degree of control over what is actually being paid for.

Doing some quick math $5100 less $1600 leaves $3500…..hmmmm.

Now granted, I have not been a builder since the 1990’s. The last time I hired a concrete finisher, he charged 35 cents per square foot to finish. He worked by himself and could easily pour a floor this size in a day. 1200 square feet times 35 cents was $420. In my mind, this was a good value. Yes, he worked hard, but he made $50 an hour.

Each individual case is different. Only the actual end user can determine what is a justifiable expense, as well as fair to all concerned. If nothing else, this may provide food for thought and save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for your concrete finishing alone.

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