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Apartment complex: plow and salt: road, parking, sidewalks, dumpster areas

Discussion in 'Bidding & Estimating' started by non applicable, Jul 23, 2013.

  1. non applicable

    non applicable Junior Member
    from Utah
    Messages: 20

    I'm wondering if someone more experienced can give me their annual bid for snow removal and salting the following:

    63 inches of average annual snowfall, though this number can vary drastically.

    7/8 linear mile of sidewalks (standard 4 ft wide, plow w/atv is not an option so two passes with a snow-thrower)

    3/8 linear mile of road (11ft width x 2 or ~44,000 square feet)

    1/4 mile of uncovered parking (11 ft length or ~14,500 square feet)

    5 dumpster areas that are approx 40ft by 20ft.

    It is likely that the complex will be purchasing all of the salt that they want me to disperse for this job.

    There aren't a lot of areas for stacking snow, but I have seen how other operators have done things in the past. This is my apartment complex by the way, and they've asked me for a bid because the current company never clears the walks, doesn't salt, and they plow all the cars in.

    Attached is an image of the apartment complex.

    Thank you for any and all input.

    Edit: In case it is of use I will be plowing with a 2008 3/4 ton truck with an 8600 Blizzard Speedwing plow and a 5 cubic foot tailgate salt dispenser. I am purchasing the Toro Power Clear 721 Commercial Single Stage snowblower and I will be salting walkways with a walk-behind salt dispenser. I am doing this work by myself, and my travel time is 0 mins =).

    Last edited: Jul 23, 2013
  2. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

    Your over your head on this on one if that's all the equipment you have. Sure hoped you looked at this place after midnight,I'll bet a lot more cars then whats in that pix. Also when your doing places like this,you'll be plowing it twice each storm.
  3. RLM

    RLM PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,270

    There is probably a reason the walks aren't getting done. They went with the cheapest contractor and once the contractor figured out he couldn't do it for the price he started cutting corners. Over the years, I have found apartment complexes don't like to pay much, want multiple service visits because people move cars at odd hour, require lots of babysitting for little money. Your situation is worse because you live there they can see if your home & call because Mrs Smith decided to go to dinner so now you can clear her spot out ;)
    We were fired from an apartment complex job a few years ago, they didn't like our service. Contract said the manager had to call us to receive service, they barely called, of course your not going to be happy. When they dropped us I ran the numbers using a site we have adjacent to them (same supposed trigger too), we should have billed in the 11k range....their bill was less than 3k due to lack of call outs....no wonder your not happy, IMO I should have been the one not happy I was loosing out on a lot of money by not getting called in, then when they finally would call we had either deep snow or hard pack to deal with because they had driven all over it. Needless to say we still have the adjacent site 3 or 4 seasons later.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2013
  4. non applicable

    non applicable Junior Member
    from Utah
    Messages: 20

    I also have an Ariens dual stage and of course shovels, but I find that the dual stage isn't necessary very often, and I just have it as a backup for the heavier storms that may or may not occur. Generally those storms do not occur in the part of the valley where I will be doing this job. Yeah, it will be slower when / if I need to pull out the dual-stage on this job, but I just plan accordingly and give myself an extra couple of hours.

    Since I live here, I am fine clearing the uncovered parking mid-day while the cars are gone. I'm also fine dumping as much salt as necessary on the parking lot, since I'm not paying for the salt. The contract would be written such that I plow in the morning and evenings with a 2" trigger and I clear the uncovered parking mid-day while the cars are gone. If a given car doesn't move, I don't clear there, and it's the responsibility of the property to take care of that spot.

    As I figure it, worst case scenario for the walks is being able to clear them at 1mph for each pass, which would give me 2 hours to clear all of the walkways. Salting the walkways is easy, I am a competitive runner and I can run the drop-spreader around the walkways in under 15mins. The sidewalk is all flat and does not have any steps.

    Clearing the roadway / parking would take me 2 hours, since it mostly consists of clearing the roadway and waiting until mid-day when the cars are gone to clear out the uncovered parking, which would take another 1 hour tops (assuming it hasn't melted off yet). Here in Utah there are very few days that don't break freezing so clearing the snow mid-day is quite easy because it's either melted off considerably or it's just some slush to push around.

    So for each storm there's roughly 5 hours worth of work, but we'll say 6 hours just to make sure my bases are covered. There will be 15 storms throughout the year, which based on a 63" snow total would drop approx 4" of snow each storm.

    So by my calculations I will work a total of 75 hours per season on this location. At $100 per hour I figure a bid around $7500 is reasonable.

    I didn't provide all of this information in my original posting for a reason, I was hoping for some input. After I write everything out like this it can affect how a person views the job. Based on the threads I have read in the "bidding" forum it seems nearly impossible to get anyone to actually give a bid on a job for comparison, everyone is so focused on equipment and looks at a job with preconceived ideas of how they would do it. Bias is understandable because we see a job as how it would be done in our situation, but there are many ways to skin a cat. I should have left the equipment off of my original post, as well as leaving off that I was doing it myself.

    All of that being said, how much would you yourself bid the job at? Whether you use two trucks and a ground crew or figuring it as a one person job, however you feel you would do it. What would your bid be, please?
  5. non applicable

    non applicable Junior Member
    from Utah
    Messages: 20

    True, they did go with the cheapest contractor and it backfired on them. Now they are looking for a seasonal contract with someone who will do an adequate job of things. They're not looking for things to be perfect, if I only have time to clear one 28" pass on the sidewalks before I needed to hit another job they'd be fine with that as long as I came back later in the day to clear off the other 20". If the uncovered parking is full of vehicles I will come back mid-day to clear that area (which isn't actually a return visit, it's actually just me going home and having a look around to see what needs to be cleared before I go eat some lunch). If a vehicle has not moved during the time when I am doing clean-up then I have specifically written into the contract that it is the responsibility of the property to deal with the snow in that location. If they do call me 5 or 6 times a year to jump in my truck and push something off after a person moved then honestly I don't think that's too big of a deal, but I really doubt it would ever happen.

    In the post above I have written out the specifics of my bid that I am considering submitting, however I'd really prefer if you didn't read that information and you just gave me a ballpark figure of what you'd bid the job at based on however many trucks, people, equipment and time that you feel you would use. I'm wondering how much other companies will bid the job at and and how much of a buffer I can build into my own bid in order to cover my bases in case we have a year where there's 63" of snow falling in one month instead of as the yearly total. It's also a possibility that we get two snow storms for the entire year and I essentially get paid for being on-call, so I don't want to bid too high either. The snowfall here in the valley is very unpredictable, more-so than most places.

    Thanks again for your time and input, it is appreciated!
  6. peteo1

    peteo1 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,658

    I agree with Grandview, you're in over your head. To get that place done in a reasonable amount of time you'll need two trucks and a shoveler crew. Personally I'd park my skid steer in that lot and let it work but to your point, one guy in a truck and a snowblower isn't enough. Not to sound like a jerk but you probably should learn the snow business before you go out on your own and put yourself in the poor house. I don't think your pricing is bad but 5-6 hours to plow one apartment complex is way too long.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2013
  7. Wilnip

    Wilnip Senior Member
    Messages: 583

    If it only snowed between 11pm and 4am and no more that 2" per storm, no problem.
  8. non applicable

    non applicable Junior Member
    from Utah
    Messages: 20

    Thanks for the input Peteo, it is good to know that my bid pricing is reasonable.

    As for being in over my head, thank you for that input as well - I can understand your point of view. I would hire a laborer if it came to that, but I don't think it will be necessary. I disagree with you based on the following:

    Knowing that this complex is not willing to pay the costs associated with first rate service, they will never be the top priority account on any companies list, they will be the last. If two trucks clear the street and two workers clear the walkways and the team is able to finish the complex in 1.5 hours, what difference does it make when it's already 9:00 AM? Sure, the complex would like everything done by 6:00AM in the morning, and they would like it all for the lowest lowball price that anyone in the valley is willing to put out there, but the two conditions cannot be simultaneously satisfied. I have been living here for 6 years and in 6 years snow removal has never once even been started by 6:00 in the morning because the complex doesn't pay the going rate for that sort of service.

    My approach here is different from the textbook approach, but it is viable and the conditions of both parties can be satisfied. Yes, it does take me 4 to 6 hours to complete all of the work, however the crucial work can be completed in 2 hours. It will take me 1 hour to clear the roadway, and 1 hour to clear and salt a two foot wide walking path around the walkway. If I start at 4:00 AM, I am finished with the crucial work by 6:00AM. At this point I can make another pass around the sidewalk, clear the dumpster areas, eat my breakfast, and then after everyone has headed out to work I clear the uncovered parking.

    If I work 4 hours at $100 per hour on a team of 4 people and we clear 4 accounts in 4 hours, someone on the list is still last, I still made $400, and ever changing conditions still apply. If I work by myself for 4 hours, on one account, and I make $400, I still made $400, the apartment complex is happy because the walkways and roadways have a path clear by 6:00AM, and I am still able to do high quality work.

    This account is my top priority, as long as we both work together we both come out ahead. It is a different service than other companies provide, but in this particular instance I feel that it is a superior niche service.
  9. non applicable

    non applicable Junior Member
    from Utah
    Messages: 20

    Thanks for the input Wilnip. What do you feel about my proposed order of operation described in the post up above? With my proposal, as long as I keep up with the "crucial work" during the 2 to 6 larger storms that pass through each year it seems like I should do fine. Once there is a break in the storm (no later than noon generally) I just complete the rest of everything else. The valley is simply not going to see more than 12" of measured snowfall in one storm, it isn't going to happen. The record for the most snowfall in a 24 hour period is 18".

    Yeah, the larger storms (6-10 inches) will make for a long day, but it will make for a long day for anyone doing snow removal, and it's only 2 to 6 days a year. The record for snowfall in one season is 117", so even if every storm delivered a record breaking 18" of snowfall, that's still only 6 days per year of hard work. In college I put in hundreds of days of hard work, especially during finals. 2 to 6 days a year is not so bad.
  10. born2farm

    born2farm 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,310

    Is this going to be your only account?
  11. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

    This is were you will get boned,if you sign a contract with this place and it has set times things will be done and you sign it,you'll have to met the terms of the contract. So if it said it will be done by 6-7 am and your done at 9am your in violation of the contract. Another word,you say they don't pay top dollar so they'll get lower service won't fly. When you sign the contract for set price ,it becomes top priority. See what I'm getting at?
  12. TCLA

    TCLA 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,695

    Take GV's advice and keep the time frame ambiguous on the contract. Cover your butt and include verbiage stating that you will be first just "opening up" the site, then returning at some point later in the day to complete the work.

    Rethink the sidewalk work. +\-20,000 sq ft of sidewalks will take you mulch longer than you currently believe.

    If you don't have too many other commitments, you'll be able to pull this off. However, there will be times when you'll find yourself in a pickle.

    Are you responsible to service the lots and walks on refreeze and drifting situations?
  13. non applicable

    non applicable Junior Member
    from Utah
    Messages: 20

    Possibly, unless I hire a laborer to do the walkways or if I can get a few accounts that don't need to be cleared until later in the day.

    Exactly, that's what I'm banking on. I offer a niche service that does make the apartment complex a top priority, because they're getting one pass of the walkways with their roadways opened up by 6:00AM. Nobody else is going to offer that service for anywhere near my bid because when another crew rolls in they come with two trucks and 3 guys on the ground and they deserve to be paid appropriately for making this account a priority. If someone does match my bid they're just going plow all the vehicles into their stalls and leave.

    Thanks for the additional feedback Grandview, I agree that I need to use caution not to box myself into a corner with this account.

    Any additional services besides what I outlined in the contract would be an additional per-event charge at $100 per hour for the truck and $50 per hour for the walkways. The sidewalks are straightforward here, and 1/2 of them have vehicles pulled up over the walkway so only one pass is actually feasible and I've outlined this in the contract.

    In a worst case scenario, as long as I can run a snowblower around .75 to 1 MPH I'm good. Since there aren't steps to clear and I wouldn't be doing any reversing with the snowblower I think that's feasible. I can definitely see what everyone is saying about cutting it close though. I'd really prefer not to hire a laborer because I don't want to cover workman comp, but if I had to I would.

    Since $7500 seems to be on track I'm going go ahead and figure in a buffer for in case I have to hire a laborer. 6 larger storms per year with an estimated 2.5 hours of labor and I'll adjust my bid by $750. If someone thinks they can beat that and give the complex top priority let them try.

    Thanks for the input everyone, I appreciate it.
  14. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

    Just remember your one pass thru. slip and fall.Make sure you have plenty of insurance,anything happens and this complex with put it all on you.
  15. cet

    cet PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,192

    When plowing the roadway are you pushing the snow off to 1 side? I have a feeling that it has to be taken to a piling area. This will take a lot of time, even with a snowing.

    I wouldn't be as concerned with the amount of snow as much as the # of snowfalls. One 4" snowfall will take far less time to clear the two 2" snowfalls. I would rather know the average # of events and not how much snow falls in a year if you are giving them a flat rate.

    $7500 seems low too.
  16. Mick76

    Mick76 2000 Club Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 2,157

    Hire a "Labor Ready" type employee...... Labor Ready covers them under their own expense
  17. non applicable

    non applicable Junior Member
    from Utah
    Messages: 20

    Good point, but If the complex only asks for one pass in the contract and I show up and deliver on what they've asked me to do I should be covered. I'll have a lawyer friend of mine look over the contract to make sure that things are worded appropriately.

    I've tried searching for decent weather history but I've not had much luck. The state records everything as precipitation, snowfall is something that only the ski resorts keep detailed records on. I'm basing everything off of totals, averages, and my own best recollection. Storms here are generally hyperbolic - it snows, and then it's done. Snowfall after 8:00 in the morning doesn't accumulate.

    Snow is stacked in about 10 different locations around the complex, most of them are on a turn and the snow is just pushed up onto the grass island area or back into a corner. Not as easy as just pushing it off to the side, but not as bad as a centralized piling area.

    With a $750 buffer the bid would be $8250. Do you feel that $8250 is low even if they are supplying the salt? What would you bid?

    Thanks for the tip! I'll look into that.
  18. TCLA

    TCLA 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,695

    Please do yourself a favor na...make sure you complete your in-event documentation for yourself. Write down your exact in and out times performing your work. Also separate out your sidewalk activity from your plowing activity, and the tools you used performing your work.

    You'll need to know your production rate at different snow depths for your future biding. And if any liability comes your way it may help in your defense. Measure and document the snow depth, and also separate out the time it takes you to salt vs the amount of time it takes you to clear off the surfaces. Also document the quantities of deicers you use.

    You won't be albe to analyze how much per hour you made without this, and you will also realize you can't estimate using mph as your constant.

    Good luck with it.
  19. Wilnip

    Wilnip Senior Member
    Messages: 583

    I think it makes sence. Communication is the key. Make sure you have a meeting with management to discuss tour plan before the contract is signed. Also, I'd find a teenager that lives in the complex that can help with walks when needed I feel that a Temp Service will give you some guy that's still drunk from the night before.
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2013
  20. TCLA

    TCLA 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,695

    Using an uninsured teen is an option I suppose...but this could cause problems for him.

    As long as na doesn't mind hack status it's all good.

    His butt will be covered using a legit temp worker.