A client just asked me to replace the carpet on her stairs with wood.
Whether is is laminate or solid is to be determined. What I don't have
is a reference for an estimate.
Has anyone estimated this type of job before? Is there a reference I can
use? I can always tell her $30 per hour plus materials, but then she'll
want to know how many hours....
The type of wood will be up to the client. She's worried about cost, so
I suspect that I'll be installing laminate.
There are some good laminates out there now. I've been glueing down some
machine-scraped wood-topped laminate for my finance guy, and it looks
good. It's easy to work, too. I prefer laminate for concrete subfloors.
I put down a solid floor on concrete for the same guy. With the 3/4"
plywood underlayment, it stands too tall next to his tile. It was a bear
getting the reducer to work right, too.
I'd prefer solid on the stairs since I'll have a wood subfloor. I know I
can get pre-made treads and risers, but I don't know if she'll go for
On 30 Dec 2006, you wrote in rec.woodworking:
Turn the job down. Really, you don't want it.
If she is going to nickel and dime the cost up front, there is no way she
will be happy with the completed job and you will get screwed in the end.
Installing laminate is not to save money, but it is strictly an alternative
to other more involved repairs and replacement. It may end up costing even
more than wood.
In my case, the stairs were in crappy condition and the landing at the top
(well used path to the kitchen) also needed something, so, at the time,
laminate was a good solution. Today, I'd probably use engineered hardwood.
I contracted with the local flooring store to do the job, but the installer
did the bottom half (split entry) and landing, but did not know how to do
the top portion with an exposed side. He left me high and dry so I finished
Don't do it. You have been warned!
OK, I probably shouldn't have used the word "laminate". I mentioned low-
end products like Pergo to her, downplaying them. I would only really
consider an ENGINEERED product. Laminate, engineered -- they're both
poor descriptions of tongue and groove plywood with a nice face.
What I haven't mentioned is that she wants wood floors throughout the
upstairs, too. Whatever goes up there goes on the stairs to maintain a
consistent look and height.
When in doubt, go with your gut feeling and add 50%. Plus materials.
Keep in mind that you'll need to add the same thickness on the top step
as well.... so you probably would want to use something thin. You also
need to finish off the front edge of each step as well.
Could be a fair bit of work. Is it just a straight run?
Can you get at the back of them? Can you slide in new treads? (That
would be easiest, IMHO.)
That's the problem -- I've never done stairs before, so I have no idea
how time-consuming it will be.
I guess I'll ask the sales guy at a local flooring store what they
charge. He's pretty open with their rates, hoping my clients will buy
materials from him.
I'm in Arlington, TX, if that matters. Several years ago, I got a quote
to do wood stairs in my own house in Michigan (this was back when I was
an IT weenie). That quote was somewhere around $60 per step. I thought
it was outrageously high, but maybe not.
Thanks, everyone, for the help.
If the stair treads are closed on both ends, it is a fairly simple job. If
one end is open, you have much more labor. You either have to come up with a
way of closing it in (what I did) or you have to miter the bull nose to fit
around the side, a much more involved process. Not to mention balusters if
they go into the tread.
This is a situation that can take double to triple the time you estimate and
still have an unhappy customer. I'd bail on this one unless you really want
to learn how to do it for the future and you can afford to work for two days
at no pay and still piss off a customer.
I may sub it out to a floor guy I met the other day. His flat work is
very good, and I'll see some of his stairway work this week. Depending on
how it looks, I might get him to do it on the condition that I can help
and learn his tricks. You never know -- that might lead to more jobs
referred from him in the future.
First, I wouldn't recommend estimating a job at 30 bucks an hour; that rate
won't give you enough to live on and pay for new tools, health care,
replacing your truck when neccesary, etc. Last year I would have said 45,
but with rising fuel & health care costs I'd go with 50. You need to make a
healthy profit so your business can grow, and you need to figure a fudge
factor into the price, especially with an "old work" job like this one,
where there are always surprises. And make sure the customer understands
that surprises are extra - for example discovered insect damage, or shoddy
and unacceptable workmanship found when you pull up the carpet.
One of the tricks to making a fair buck on jobs like this, is to sell the
customer on a job that will be profitable for you to do, and will be
pleasing for the customer to behold. I wouldn't recommend laminating,
because you'll be there fiddle-farting away with it for days. I'd go with
solid oak treads and painted risers. It's a very elegant look, and will
save the customer lots of money, and you lots of aggravation and reduce the
risk of losing money. You should be able to do the entire job in two days.
$1200 + paint, stain, varnish, and treads.
First you have to remove the old carpet. Do you have to cut and finish the
carpeting at the top of the run? THe carpeting has to be disposed of, the
area has to be cleaned of the fine black silt that lives under carpeting,
and all the staples have to be pulled from the risers and the holes filled.
The existing treads have to be removed. If they are open on one end, good.
Otherwise, they have to be cut in half first. That means sealing off the
rest of the house with plastic to keep dust from getting everywhere. THe
existing treads have to be removed from the site also, and disposed of - all
services that you need to be compensated for.
Once the treads are removed and the risers cleaned up, the risers can be
painted. THe treads should be cut to size and prefinished, then nailed on,
so the customer can walk on the stair right away.
If the customer doesn't like the painted riser idea, I would triple the
price - not to be an ass, but to cover my ass, and to give the customer
incentive to do the job in the most sensible way.
BTW, that 1200 dollar + material estimate is on the low side, and assumes
you can get in there and blast right through the job without any hassles.
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