Why I Charge for Wood Floor Estimates

Pete Anderson Headshot
Pete Anderson at his San Jose, Calif., historic Craftsman-style home, which he has restored room by room.
Pete Anderson at his San Jose, Calif., historic Craftsman-style home, which he has restored room by room.

I have been a floor contractor since 1977. After two years working for a local hardwood floor company, I had the opportunity to purchase a van and tools from a 78-year-old man who was retiring and selling his floor business, and after two years of being in business for myself, I acquired enough work from customer referrals to keep me and one employee busy full time. My wife, Debbie, who still does all the scheduling of estimates and jobs for me, was getting more phone calls requesting floor estimates than I had time for—I needed to be at the job sites working with my employee to complete the jobs and stay on schedule.

At the time, I was giving free quotes, and many of my jobs were from 20 to 40 miles’ driving distance from my residence in San Jose, Calif. I was limited on time, and gas was getting more expensive.

One day our washing machine stopped working, and I was unable to fix it. Debbie called an appliance repairman and was told there would be a $35 charge to come out and diagnose the problem, and the fee would go toward the repair if he was hired to do the work. We felt that was fair and hired the repairman to fix the washing machine.

The idea of charging for an estimate was very appealing: It would help defray gas costs, compensate for my time and limit giving bids to folks who were looking for the cheapest price. I generally spend between 45 minutes to two hours or more for estimate visits depending on how many questions clients have and how large and problematic the project is. So, we decided to give it a try. We started charging fees for estimates, and the fee was determined by how far I would need to drive to look at the job.

We have now been charging an estimate fee for over 25 years.

We have now been charging an estimate fee for over 25 years. When a customer calls or emails to request for me to visit the potential work site, Debbie tells them about our policy of charging a fee and deducting the fee if we are hired to do the work. Some people are willing to pay the fee and some are not. As a policy, we do not give prices over the phone and do not have a square-footage price; I feel every job is different and needs to be dealt with on an individual basis.

Since I get all my work from referrals from previous clients, by the time potential customers call, many of them have already been made aware of my estimate policy. Otherwise, Debbie will explain it to them. I now charge anywhere from $40 for local neighborhoods in San Jose to $150 for jobs up in San Francisco or Oakland.

Since my company is the same size today—me and one employee—I still do the work and make all the bids myself. As we had hoped back when we started the policy, requiring a fee for estimates eliminates people who do not care about quality of work and don’t respect the value of my time. Since I am established and have a good reputation as a wood floor craftsman, I always recommend doing all the work necessary using the finest materials available. My skills include wood floor installation, repairs, refinishing, borders, inlays, custom stains, stairs, consulting and restoration for interior and exterior work, and so putting a value on my time just makes sense.

Today, I’m still the only wood floor man I know who charges for estimates, but because of my reputation and the referrals that creates, I am able to stay busy. If my estimates were free, I feel I would spend all my time looking at potential jobs instead of being able to make a living and have free time, too.

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