Reply by scottb

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Posted on Counting The Cost: Estimating Questions

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3648 posts in 4323 days

#1 posted 10-19-2006 02:28 AM

My wife’s pretty smart with this one… whenever I tell her how long I think a project is going to take, she always doubles the estimate (in her head). Meanwhile, despite trying to hit my goal, more often than not she’s right. Until I get more experience under my belt, I’m going to go with her estimates.

I’ve received this similar advice in customer-service related workshops, from college professors, and Scotty on Star Trek – Underpromise and overdeliver. Tell someone it is going to take twice as long, that way if you finish early the customer will be really impressed, (and/or happy to save a couple bucks) or you’ll have a nice time cushion, without having to kill yourself to get things done.

That’s my 2 cents on time… as for materials, I try to draw up as detailed plans as possible, checking different options to see how I can save on the cost end. I try to allow myself as little waste as possible (and cross my fingers that I don’t screw something up beyond repair.)
Several years back I found plans for a fire wood storage bin, all made from dimensional pine. The bill of materials called for several 10 foot lengths. Knowing this wouldn’t fit in my car, and rather than tie it all on the roof, I drew up plans to see how it would fit on 8’ lengths. I was surprised to see that I would have had the equivalent of 8+ feet of waste had I gone the 10’ route. Not a huge cost savings for pine, but had this been a hardwood chest or something, the savings would have been considerable. Ever since then I’ve gone over the materials list carefully, and tend to doublecheck cutting diagrams for efficiency. Despite this I have accumulated a considerable amount of offcuts, most too good for the fire.

Yes, I know I should allow 10% or whatever for mistakes and such, and sometimes it works out that way, othertimes it makes more sense to economize a bit. I’m not impressed by some of the plans in magazines that call for a full sheet of some specialty plywood, only to use a fraction of it. In some cases there is no choice, in others, there are several plan “B” options no better or worse than the original. – Worst case, if I’ve scrimped on materials for a project and I come up short, or can’t find what I need in my shed, then hopefully the extra time I’ve quoted will cover the extra materials, and I still come out ahead. (Not that I’ve done that many projects for hire yet… just quoted one this week though!)

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

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