Are you a sub-contractor; do you work for yourself? Get paid by the square yard or the square foot? Pay for your truck, supplies, and help? Do you determine your pricing structure by a careful analysis of your costs of doing business with a fair profit added? Or do you allow the company purchasing your services to pay you on some number pulled out of his...umm, the air. Well, brother this article is for you.

I have been involved in installation since August 24, 1970, twenty-one years as an installer, the last fourteen years as a manufacturer’s representative. I have traveled all over the United States and Canada working with installers and have listened to the complaints about the level of compensation, the questions of why there isn’t a fair standard for installation pricing. In all this time I have never heard of a national standard for installation pricing, until now.

All the pricing seems to have been established sometime in the ‘70s, when gas was $.60 a gallon, a new work van would cost about $6,000, rent for a nice one- bedroom apartment was less than $200 per month, and you could buy a home for less than $50,000. The pricing hasn’t changed much since then. Who’s to blame? Well installers for sure for letting some retailers take advantage of them, some retailers for taking advantage of the installers, and of course some mills for taking a “Huh? Installation is not our problem” attitude.

I have written an article on how to determine your cost of doing business, then using that information figure out what to charge. I also wrote an article suggesting ways to market yourself to help you charge more (Selling You).

At this last August’s CFI Convention Jane Walker volunteered, er I mean, asked me to do a seminar on how to determine cost of doing business and set up a price list. When I got to Convention, Jane was quite excited to show me what David Coley, a CFI installer (and a good businessman) from Oklahoma, had found. David is the past president of the Oklahoma CFI chapter, and unselfishly tries to help installers better themselves in any way he can. “We have to get this information out to as many installers as we possibly can,” she said. Then, Jane handed me what David had found, a copy of the Bluebook Residential & Light Commercial Cost Guide for Cleaning, Reconstruction, and Repair.

Yes, that’s a big title, but this baby is a big deal. Until that day, I never knew there was a national standard for installation. I know what you’re thinking, “Bluebook? Isn’t that for used cars?” Yes, that is one of the things they do, but for over forty years Bluebook has been providing pricing information for the building trades as well. Just like the used car book is based on the average selling price of a certain model, the construction pricing book is based on the cost of services in a certain area. Not just carpet, but everything, wood, tile, ceilings, decks, painting, clean-up, hauling away, vacuuming, I mean too much to list. You need to buy this book! The country is broken down into zones, 1 through 9. Different cities in the same state will be in different zones and prices based on many factors. It is all explained in the book.

I can’t list all the pricing for a couple of reasons: A. it’s has a copyright and B. the durn thing is four hundred and fifty pages long! But, I will give you an idea an average cost for carpet installation and some of the things that go along with it. I will list the high vs. the low as Z1 the high (zone 1) the low as Z 9 (zone 9).

Carpet installation per square yard Z1 $5.45 Z9 $4.65, removal of carpet per square foot Z1 $.27 ($2.43 per sqyd) Z9 $.19 ($1.71 per yd), stairs 3 feet wide $11.18 each Z1, $9.63 each Z9, furniture move and replace Z1 $33.96 per man hour Z9 $23.83 per man hour, provide and install new metal $4.31 per lineal foot Z1 $3.63 per lineal foot Z9, replace tackstrip $.21 per lineal foot Z1 $.18 per lineal foot Z9.

Do you take doors off to install? Of course you do. What do you charge to remove and replace a set of sliding closet doors $12.46 (Z1) $8.95 (Z9)? How about remove and replace a bedroom door, $5.67 (Z1) $3.98 (Z9)? No? Neither did I. Why? I didn’t know it was the standard charge. This is just a scratching the surface of what is available in this book.

As many of you know my sons worked their way through university installing carpet. My youngest son Jon is a sophomore at Pitt and I work with him some weekends. We have our price list set up on either an Excel or a MSWorks spreadsheet. Our price list is very easy to use; it is broken down to the service provided. You just enter the number of square yards or number of units (stairs for example) and it totals it across for that line and at the bottom for the complete total. Customers seem to be a lot more accepting of pricing when they can see how you arrived at the cost.

FCI has agreed to make these spreadsheets available on the website at no charge. Click Here You are free to use these forms as a template to set up your own price list. I will post them with the pricing for a 60-square-yard basement with stairs and furniture as an example. You will be able to change anything by clicking on the cell and entering the price or service you wish.

It is important to bear in mind these prices are based on top-end installation, following all manufacturer’s installation specifications. That means sealing all seams, power-stretching, installing stairs with tackless, and vacuuming when you are done.