Looking to save some costs but not quite DIY

Discussion in 'Quotes and Proposals' started by TJamesW, Dec 20, 2012.

  1. TJamesW

    TJamesW Member

    Hello all,

    I'm just familiarizing myself with the various threads here. I'm building a home in 2013 and would like to familiarize myself with this industry before I commit to a contractor. I've built homes before and have been in the building materials business since the '80s. I just had a few questions.

    Is this a plumber, heating contractor or specialized Geothermal contractor that I'll be dealing with?

    Industries vary, but is there generally a markup on materials that they buy? Similarly, if they bring in trades (excavator) is there an expected markup on their subcontract labor?

    I want to use a contractor to install, but am looking to see if I should handle the excavator, or buy the materials myself, etc.

  2. waterpirate

    waterpirate Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Hi and welcome!

    It is generally a specialised trade. A good hvac guy can make a a real mess of geo. Hire someoe with a good track record specific to your location. Typically good geo people have working relationships with people who " know how to get it done " and unless your time is free and have free use of the excavator, I would get numbers before you bite that off.

    Are you married to a horizontal? In a lot of places drilling can be competitive with excavation, a lot of other places it is not. Bottom line is do your homework, get all the facts and numbers before you go in one direction to far. Joe on this forum is the local consult for Michigan.
    Hope this helps
  3. TJamesW

    TJamesW Member

    Thank you for the hospitality and generous reply Eric. Makes complete sense. There's a lot of backhoes in driveways where I'm building, as it's agricultural.

    I'll look for Joe's posts here on the forum.

    Thanks again,
  4. Calladrilling

    Calladrilling Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Well here is my take on DIY installs. The loopfield is in theory simple to install. Just dig a hole and throw pipe in the ground. But it's also the area that when something goes wrong, it's the hardest to fix! I always recommend to leave the loopfield to the experts. We have worked with a few DiY'ers over the years though. Like Waterpirate said earlier, going horizontal is not always a huge difference in price either. We have actually come in cheaper to drill vertical loops than a DiY'er has received on the same job to go horizontal loops.
  5. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    One gets what one pays for, that said it all starts with a heat loss/gain.

    I have assisted DIY contractors in the past as does Joe Hardin.

    If I do not mark up subcontractor labor and materials I sell to you I can not afford to cover the warranty if anything goes wrong. It is sort of why I do not give free estimates. I charge a fee for design work. This is like asking how much does open heart surgery cost.

    I hope this helps.

  6. TJamesW

    TJamesW Member

    So there's commonly a mark-up on all sub-contract labor as well as parts. That's good to know.
  7. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Why is it good to know?

    Cut the profit of the guy that designs and stands behind your system installation?

    Who is going to drive to your house in the middle of the night when something fails?

    Who is going to insure installation of metering devises that prevent issues?

    Who knows how to install the correct piping and possible manifolds for your site? The guy with the backhoe? I use drillers and backhoe guys. but they do what I ask or tell me why not. I think Mike and Dan would give me a run for my money if I asked them to do something wrong.

    There was a new guy here last week with vastly undersized near heat pump piping, I would like to know how he made out and what he is going to have to do.

    I do not do my own thing, thinking I am able when it comes to dentistry, heart work or rough carpentry just because I understand the procedure.

    A good supply house outside salesperson is of more value than taking a ladder back to Home desperate because it was the wrong color. That salesperson when teamed with the buying power of his house can make the earth move when you are on hold to the 1-800-please wait.

    I detect a bit of hostility at a trained professional charging you for what he knows and how to best do the job. So my hackles are indeed raised. I do not know your plan just the attitude as I read it.


    There are folks here that are best in the world who will help you, but this is how we make our living and we share here for free.

    Thanks for asking,

    warm regards.

  8. TJamesW

    TJamesW Member

    I thank you for your hospitality here.
  9. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Sorry if I sounded harsh.


    Welcome, Mark
  10. AMI Contracting

    AMI Contracting A nice Van Morrison song Industry Professional Forum Leader

    I make money as a general contractor on a geo installation as I am not only responsible for the sheet metal and permits (usual tin-knowcker side) but also coordination of the plumber, excavator/loop contractor, electrician, well driller, landscape repair company, directional boring firm etc. as well as additional insurance fees (liability and comp) and additional warranty liability for their work as well as mine.

    So while I do not mark up the subs, per se, I do get a percentage as a GC (about 10%).
    If you have built homes then you know the importance and the responsibilities of a GC. Many folks who try to cut out the GC actually pay more as most subs charge extra when the job is not professionally run. It is fair as DIY projects tend to be more demanding of a contractors time. The only job I've walked away from in the last 10 years was run by the homeowner.

    We also work with DIY projects and just wrapped one in Gaylord. But those contracts are very specific as far as what is included and how much of our time. Some expect us to teach them to be a plumber or tin-knocker. That is not how it works. If one already has some skills they can get some sweat equity and hire out the tasks they can't do.
    I've attached a previous blog on all the tasks involved in a geo project.
    View attachment DIYgeotasks1.docx
  11. TJamesW

    TJamesW Member

    A guy has to make a living. No question
  12. AMI Contracting

    AMI Contracting A nice Van Morrison song Industry Professional Forum Leader

    You still have opportunities for sweat equity.
    So not quite DIY but looking to save is doable, you simply have to assume some of the burdens. Most folks picture excavation as an easy place, but it is fairly inexpensive to have trenches dug. The real money for a loop contractor is in the other stuff they do. Digging yourself may save $300/ton. My looper charges me $1,650/ton with materials, flush, fusion and flow center. On a 4 ton that is only $1,200 (from which you would deduct 30% if loop contractor does it. If you borrow a backhoe and do it yourself the savings is less.
    So I gave you a list, pick what you can do yourself and we'll see what you can save.
  13. waterpirate

    waterpirate Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Do what ever you are comfortable with, and willing to assume liability/ warranty for. We are all big boys and everyones level of risk is different. It is a proccess, weighing all the options, but take your time, do the homework, and the solution that works the best for you will present itself as obvious.
  14. TJamesW

    TJamesW Member

    A problem is getting quotes from quality contractors. Who is quality? They all are if you ask them. And there are so few that do this. So do I look at quotes from contractors that are hours away? That makes little sense since that would require the contractor, his excavator, the loop contractor, the electrician, the plumber... to all travel hours away to me. Either that or the Geo contractor has to find suitable replacements locally.

    So if I'm in a rural area, and my contractor choices are limited, my liability goes up a lot. This is looking less attractive all the time.
  15. waterpirate

    waterpirate Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Remember the movie " legend of bagger vance "? There is a perfect shot that only belongs to you, I would modify that statement to include the word choice. I tell at least 1 person everyday that Geothermal may not be the best choice for you, you have to weigh all the other choices and decide which is better for your personal situation.
  16. TJamesW

    TJamesW Member

    The concept of geothermal is great. What I'm hearing is there is a lot of liability in contractors
  17. Palace GeoThermal

    Palace GeoThermal Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Hey Joe,,,does this price include excavation?
  18. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader


    You have to "meet" Joe's digger. Top notch. I would use him any where his stuff will travel to. The "meeting" is the fun part.


    Do what Eric and Joe tell you. If all else fails I will come up and design your home.



    I love that film.

    Last edited: Dec 26, 2012
  19. TJamesW

    TJamesW Member

    How P.O.'d would a local contractor be to receive the design and told to simply follow the plan designed by another contractor? Should I expect a corresponding drop in his price?
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2012
  20. waterpirate

    waterpirate Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    I may have used the wrong word. Take out the word " liability " and insert " responsability ". As a contractor I have gotten prints designed by others add nauseam. It does not bother me one bit. If the person holding the prints takes responsability for them. I.E. the outcome of the project. If I see a glarring flaw, I point it out, but I do not fight over it. If it is too bad, I simply do not bid.

    So if you are a big boy, and take responsability for doing your own dirt work, and pipe work, you can save a bundle on your project. As for price reduction for no design work, I charge the same regardless. Others may give a discount for no desk time if you assume the responsability for the project.

    Hey Mark,
    Which clip did you like? The grout kitchen has gotten some rave reviews from all the critics/ except the guzzling gourmet who I was trying to emmulate, sans the glass of wine.

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