How to Estimate Labor Costs Effectively

by Kim GreeneNovember 22, 2022
Labor Costs

Have you ever calculated labor costs incorrectly for an electrical estimate?

It's easy to underestimate or overestimate takeoffs if you don't have a good system or are using manual counting methods. Software for automatic takeoff, like Constructem, may, nevertheless, be used to solve this problem.

If your takeoffs are precise, you should concentrate on how to accurately estimate your labor expenses. One area that the construction industry often overlooks and which may result in budget overruns for the business.

An hourly rate for your labor is a great place to start, but it often ignores other expenses that must be included.

Each business may use a different estimation technique since there are several variables that might affect labor expenses. For more precise labor estimates, keep the following in mind:

Methods for calculating labor costs in electrical estimating

What is the standard method for calculating labor within your electrical company? The cost of labor may be estimated in a variety of ways. Using labor units is one of the most used methods for electrical labor estimation.

Units of labor

"Labor unit" is the OECD's definition of average labor cost per unit of output. It compares labor expenses to production.

As a result, you may estimate how many labor units a task would need and price it using a cost per labor unit. Companies may price such labor units in one of the following two ways:

  • Average hourly wage in a shop

The formula for calculating this is to divide the overall field labor rate for the previous 12 months by the total number of field man hours over the same time frame. Using an average poses a risk since the sort of employment could have a large range. If your average labor rate is £30 but your average for commercial tasks is £35, for instance, you could significantly underbid labor for commercial projects. By the same token, if your average for residential tasks is £25 but your offer is based on £30, you can lose out on less expensive ones.

  • Average labor rate for jobs

This requires a little more calculation (and some informed speculation), but it is usually more accurate. It is computed by figuring out how many employees will be employed and what their average hourly pay will be. Understanding the job's difficulty and your staffing plans is necessary for accuracy. For instance, more experienced electricians could be needed for commercial projects at a higher cost, but fewer experienced electricians would be needed for residential tasks at a cheaper rate.

Keep in mind that these pricing could not cover overhead expenses. This covers items like holiday pay, sick pay, taxes, insurance, and any other costs that are a need for having a workforce. These must be considered while calculating labor costs. Otherwise, you may not have enough.

Determinants of labor costs

You may apply your labor unit cost across projects once you have it. You may provide an hourly rate for Constructem to use when calculating your estimate. This is the price that you will pay (before any markups) for an operative to install the works.

The estimate failed to take into account all the factors that may affect the cost, which is the most frequent cause of labor being underbid. Because of this, it's critical to evaluate each job based on its unique qualities rather than assuming it would be the same as a related, previous work.

Here are a few elements that may affect your actual labor costs:

Availability of labor and the work schedule

You should first consider the deadline for finishing the assignment. You may have to pay overtime or higher rates to employees if you can only access the building after hours.

The tendency for productivity to decline while working overtime, such as ten-hour days, must be taken into account. Stanford University found that employee performance drops considerably after 50 hours and totally after 55 hours. A 70-hour worker doesn't produce more than a 55-hour worker.

When estimating a task, this is a vital factor to take into account since you may wish to hire more workers than you need rather than expecting a smaller group to work longer hours. Fatigue is a serious problem, and if productivity drops below expectations, you can find yourself underquoting labor expenses.

When working on a construction project where your work depends on another contractor arriving and finishing theirs first, you should also take a close look at the project timetable. Understanding if the plan is doable initially is important practice since delays might cause your estimate to be wrong.

Building dimensions, design, and construction

Your crew will be less effective if the structure is bigger or has more intricate features and construction. On huge structures, just going from one section to another may have a significant influence on productivity and the pace at which the project will be completed.

In most cases, you have to add a percentage to your labor rate when taking into account multi-level structures. As employees must use the stairs or wait for the elevator, this percentage is often between one and three percent. In order to transport equipment to your preferred work location while utilizing a lift, there is sometimes a timetable you need to adhere to in big buildings. There's a chance you're sharing with numerous other contractors. The time needed to complete the task will also be impacted by this.

The potential "challenging" materials are another factor to take into account. For instance, it takes longer and is more difficult to drill through concrete block than it does plasterboard.

Location and ease of access

Your electricians may need to share space with other contractors if the task is for a big building project. This may result in difficult working circumstances and restricted access, which might have an effect on productivity.

The job's location is also important. For instance, it can be a distance that prevents personnel from parking close to where they would be working, or the location might make it difficult to park and store equipment (such as within a big city).

Do you have to work around the individuals who work there if the location where the project is to be done is inhabited or if you have to work after hours? When it comes to labor, this may lead to more inefficiencies.

Timing and accessibility of projects might also be affected by the weather. Productivity is affected by the weather, whether it is very hot or cold. Depending on how much snow there is, you could have to wait till it is removed or your team might have to do it themselves.


Electrical project labor costs involve more than predicting hours at an hourly rate. Estimators must go further into the project to grasp labor cost factors.

Your labor costs will depend on the structure's size and shape, materials utilized, site accessibility, and building timetable. Underestimating might cost you money, while overestimating could prevent you from getting the job.

Labor estimation errors are common, but you can reduce them by examining each job's unique features.

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