Stone Restoration and Maintenance Corner: Calculate Your Operational Costs
Bob Murrell
M3 Technologies
Photos by Bob Murrell
Above: Majestic Low Odor Solvent-Based Impregnating Sealer is approximately $.15 per square foot. |
Above: Diamond tooling costs when using TX set of 5 is approximately $.05 to $.10 per step, per square foot. |
Above: Polishing marble with Majestic 5X Gold costs approximately $.05 per square foot. |
One of the most common questions I get asked is, “What can I charge, or do I charge for this project?” My response is usually something like, “If you do (this many steps), the price is roughly $x/step/ square feet (also modified by your location, employee wages, travel costs, and other operating factors). So where does this figure of “$x/step” come from? Well, for most businesses, the answer is that the figure should come from operational costs plus profit.
For over 30 years now, I have received calls asking how much diamond discs are and what the expected life or square footage is to be expected. These numbers are essential (when comparing one diamond to another), but not really that important in the scheme of operational costs. Don’t get me wrong – getting 50,000+ square feet out of a set of expensive metal bond concrete diamonds is efficient, for sure. However, when you get down to it and do the math, you come up with a diamond tooling cost factor that, even with many variables, stays relatively consistent.
First, let me apologize in advance for the following mundane math – it’s simple, and necessary to quantify these costs. Are you ready? Let’s do it!
I have been calculating these numbers through the years and have come up with an average diamond tooling cost factor of between $.05/ square feet /step and $.10/ square feet /step.
The math goes something like this: Let’s say your M3 Triple Thick resin diamond disc costs you $15 (that’s $75.00 per set using five discs each grit, under a 17-inch machine). Let’s say you get between 1,000 square feet and 2,000 square feet of life on average from these resin discs, on an average hardness marble. That works out to be $75 ÷ (divided by) 1,500 (average, square feet) = $.05/ square feet /step. Let’s say you do three steps (220 grit, 400 grit, and 800 grit), so that is 3 steps x $.05/ square feet = $.15/ square feet, for this particular diamond tooling cost example.
So now that we have the floor properly honed (etching and minor scratches removed), it is time to polish, right? So what does the polishing cost factor add to the diamond tooling cost?
These calculations go something like this: If you are using Majestic 5X Gold (which I highly recommend), and you purchase the 45 pound container size (which is the best value per pound price) at $410, that equates to $410/45 pounds = $9.11 per pound, on average. You get approximately 200 square feet / pound, to 250 square feet /pound of coverage. We will average that at 225 square feet / pound.
Therefore, $9.11 ÷ (divided by) 225 (square feet /pound) = $.05/ square feet for polishing powder costs.
If blending is acceptable, then no hand tool work for the edges/borders may be necessary. However, in some cases edge work is necessary. This very tedious and hard work will need to be completed before each floor machine grit. In other words, you will have to do 220 grit around the edges, then overlap your floor machine 220 grit to that… then the 400 grit with the hand tool, again followed by the floor machine. You get the picture. About 100 linear feet per hour should be achievable.
Next, you may need to include the impregnation or sealing process costs. Let’s say you are using Majestic Low Odor Solvent Based Impregnating Sealer, at a cost of about $125 per gallon. If, on a medium porous polished stone, you get about 600 square feet to 1,000 square feet per gallon, your average cost is about $125 / 800 square feet = $.15/ square foot, just for the product. Figure in about three man hours to apply.
For all of your ancillary material costs, such as Tape & Drape, blue and/or red tape, contractor’s paper, rags, Majestic pH Neutral Cleaner for your rinse water, natural (hog hair) pads, PLP 12,000 grit diamond impregnated pad for clean up after polishing, mop heads, and various other items (like machine maintenance and drive plate replacement), you can add about $50 per 1,000 square feet, on average.
What about employee costs, gas, inventory, vehicle maintenance, overhead – and of course, profit? For employee costs, let’s assume that the above scenario costs are based on approximately an 8-10 hour day to accomplish about 500 square feet to 1,000 square feet per day. Let’s average that to 750 square feet/day for a three honing step marble job, plus polish. This will most likely require two technicians, one experienced and one helper. The experienced technician will get roughly $25/hour to $40/hour (depending on industry rates where you’re located), and the helper will get $10 to $20/ hour. So that is $32.50/hour (average) x 9 hours = $292.50 for the experienced technician, and $15 x 9 hours = $135 for the general laborer. The total labor cost is $427.50/day for 750 square feet of general marble restoration.
If the project is 35 miles away, of course you have the gas expense (let’s call it $.50/mile for an even number) and travel time to and from the jobsite. Also, if the project is to be sealed, it is best to wait overnight (forced air drying is possible) before impregnating. That would mean an additional trip back to the jobsite. Keep these potential costs in mind.
So let’s add it all up and take a look:
Diamond tooling = $.15 sq. ft. x 750 sq. ft. = $112.50
5X Gold Powder = $.05 x 750 sq. ft. = $37.50
Ancillary costs = about $37.50
Wages = $427.50
Mileage = $35.00
Optional impregnation = $.15 (impregnator cost) x 750 sq. ft. = $112.50,
Plus 3 man hours at $15
(general) and another $35 for mileage = $192.50
Total materials plus labor cost = $824.50
At $.50 to $1.00 (average to $0.75) per step, per square foot that would be 750 sq. ft. x 5 steps, including impregnation, or $3.75 x 750 = $2,812.50. Subtracting your approximate materials costs from that: $2,812.50 – $824.50 = $1988.00 (profit).
Don’t forget to figure in for some consumable accessories like tape and drape, rags, paper towels, pads, and other required products. |
Remember, even after you have paid yourself, you are providing the building or facility, utilities, phone and internet services, insurance and licensing, truck, machines and equipment, products, doing the training of the employees, selling, absorbing any call backs, and whatever else comes along.
So you see, that $1,988 profit gets whittled down very quickly. This is merely an example using best-case scenario numbers, but it should give you something to start with. There is money to be made in the restoration business, but like anything else, it takes money to make money.
Another suggestion I can give you is to invest in an ISSA Cleaning Times manual. This handy little guide will give expected times for stripping, general cleaning, dilution rates, and conversion charts. Trust me, you need this manual. Go to www.issa.com to order one. They used to be about $10 back when I got mine. They may be a little more now, but they are worth the investment.
As always, I recommend submitting a test area to confirm both the results and the procedure prior to starting a stone or hard surface restoration or maintenance project. Also, the best way to help ensure success is by partnering with a good distributor that knows the business. They can help with technical support, product purchase decisions, logistics, and other pertinent project information.
Bob Murrell has worked in the natural stone industry for over 40 years and is well known for his expertise in natural stone, tile and decorative concrete restoration and maintenance. He helped develop some of the main products and processes which revolutionized the industry, and is currently the Director of Operations for M3 Technologies.