Whether you’ve been in the fence business for years or are just starting out, you know that every season is going to bring a few surprises. No matter how much you dial in your fencing estimates and how carefully you word your communication with customers, there’s always something new that sneaks up on you.
While we definitely can’t prepare you for every situation, we have been doing fencing estimates for a while, and we can give you a few tips to help you avoid problems a little better this year. Here are a few must haves for every fencing estimate and quote.
Every fencing estimate and quote you send out should always have the fence unit and length it’s based on. Not only do customers sometimes use strange dimensions when they ask for quotes, but sometimes, fence lines aren’t completely clear from plans or site measures. A clear number of feet and a note that you are measuring in linear feet is enough to make everything clear to your customer.
Every quote you send out should have a height on it – even if that height differs for various parts of the fence line. Where you do have different fence heights on a project you’re quoting, make sure you specify how many feet of each height you have included.It’s also a good idea to make a note if your city requires special permits for fences above a certain height, and that your customer will need to apply for those before you can start the project.
Sometimes, fences are pounded into the ground, and they don’t have any footings at all. Sometimes, they’re installed in concrete, and sometimes, they’re baseplated to existing surfaces. You should always spell out how the fence you’re quoting will be installed, and what size any baseplates, bolts and concrete bases will be. If you are bolting your fence onto an existing surface, or breaking through one to make your holes, be sure to include a note that you can’t guarantee their surface can support your fence, or that it won’t be damaged by excavations. You can take all the care in the world, but you can’t guarantee someone else’s work!
There are a lot of people out there who think a fence is just a fence. But if you’re like most contractors, you have dozens of specifications in your fencing estimate software. Always make sure that you spell out exactly what kind of fence you are quoting, and if possible, include drawings or photos of the fence and important components. The more detailed you can be in describing what you are quoting, the less confusion there will be later! Remember that if you are specifically excluding something, it’s also a good idea to state that. Sometimes, if you don’t tell people it’s not included, they will assume that it is.
Like fence types, the colors and finishes you could use in your fencing estimate are almost endless. From galvanized steel to powder or vinyl coated, and untreated cedar to stained pressure treated wood. There are so many brands and products out there that it’s important to mention exactly what you’ve quoted (and what any options are.) Including pictures of the various finishes and colors so your customers know what each one means is important too.
Usually, brand name products come with manufacturer’s warranties, and that means a lot to customers. So if you are including any brand name fence products in your fencing estimate, be sure to mention what they are, and give your customer information about the manufacturer and the product you’re recommending.
No matter what kind of fence you’reinstalling, it’s going to take longer and usually use more material to do an end post or a corner post. Changes to the layout after you have completed your fencing estimate can have a big effect on the price to the customer. So always ensure that you specify how many corners and ends you have included in every quote.
Another big factor in any fencing estimate are gates and gate automation.Make sure that you list the quantity of gates and their sizes, and if you have included any automation or special hardware, specify that on your fencing estimate too. All of these things can have a big impact on the final price, so if you can, it’s also a good idea to include them as a line item – so customers can decide what they really need now, and what might be a job for another time.
Some fence contractors use mostly hand held tools, including portable post pounders and augers. Others use skid steer or Bobcat mounted tools for pounding and excavating. Your access needs are going to differ based on how you do your installation, so if you need a specific amount of access to the site and fence line, be sure to spell it out in your quote.
Very often, before you can start installing a fence, you need to have permits and locates for underground services. Be sure that your fence estimating and quoting software also mentions that, and who is responsible for doing them. Usually, clients have to do these before you can start the job, but if you handle things differently, mention that too.
When you’re working on fence estimating, there’s a good chance you include a visit to your client’s home, so you can look at their fence line and give them an accurate quote. But there are things that you can’t see when you visit their home, and things that are under the ground is one of those.A clause about unknown adverse subterranean conditions in your quote can help to inform your client what happens when you run into hidden underground boulders, rocks, buried concrete or other problems, and who covers the costs.
Sometimes, your fence estimating is based on your clients providing services like secure storage on site, a waste bin for disposing of old fences, water for mixing concrete or power for your tools and equipment. If you expect your client to provide those things to you, you need to mention it in your quote. Remember that everything that is not specifically stated in your quote is open to interpretation, and that might not work in your favor.
Every quote should have a validity period, and that validity period should be based on the average increase of material and labor costs over time. Right now, with material volatility due to supply chain problems, many fence contractors are choosing to reduce their validity periods from 30 days to 14 days or even one week. Choose a validity period that works for you and put it in writing.
You can’t guarantee how quickly you can start a job after you get an order (and you should make your client aware of that too!) but you can provide a rough estimate of how long it will take after you start. Try to give this kind of information as a range, like “1 to 2 weeks from date of order” and specify whether it’s from the date of order, or from the date you start the project. If your scheduling is based on clients paying a deposit, be sure to mention that too.
Finally, when you are doing your fence estimating and quoting, be sure to mention your payment terms. Most contractors expect payment on completion, but ifyou need a deposit before you start, you need to mention that too. If you have any interest or other charges for late payment, be sure to mention that too, and if you only accept certain forms of payment, specify what they are.
There’s a lot that goes into creating a detailed and accurate fencing estimate and quote, which ensures that everyone is protected and is fair for you and your client. We built CostCertified to do all of these things, and more. It’s completely customizable to your fencing business, and it allows your customers to have an ecommerce like experience when they’re reviewing your quotes.So if you’re having trouble keeping up with fence estimates and making sure you cover everything, get in touch. Our team is ready to show you how our quoting platform can change the way you estimate, quote, manage and invoice your fence jobs.