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Labor vs material cost????

cameraman's picture

My teenage sons and I were asked to help my sister in law rebuild a front porch. I have no intentions to do this on a reg. basis, but just to give my boys a side job. Both of the boys have taken construction trades classes at the local skill center and would like to take on this project.

I have no idea what would be a fair labor cost for my sons, want to be fair to them and not wanting a family dissagreement, ect.....

I am very expirenced a home remodeling and pretty good at estimating time and material to complete the task. Any idea of a ballpark labor cost vs material for deck work? 

I have heard double material price for labor to get you in the ball park. I want to equate this to an hourly wage for the boys.

I know this is a wide open question, just want to be fair to my SIL and boys. SIL has no intentions to hire a proffessional, If we don't do it, she plans on hiring a hack accross the street.


It seems to me that you are (post #205903, reply #1 of 12)

It seems to me that you are not taking advantage of an additional layer of learning and responsibility for the boys. Let them bid the job: they'll figure out materials and where to procure them, they will estimate their time to do the work, etc. Don't simply set them off on their own... stay close as an advisor but make sure they are making decisions on their own. 

Sapwood, I haven't got that (post #205903, reply #2 of 12)

Sapwood, I haven't got that far, we plan on visiting the site and do some explority work to see what can be salvaged and what needs to be replace, and they will figure the material list, pick up material, unload, ect...... I plan on just being an advisor and asking them, "what do you think" or "how would do this"

But I want a figure in my head on labor, just to keep an eye on them, don't want them taken advantage of.



+1 for what sapwood (post #205903, reply #3 of 12)

+1 for what sapwood said


Query:  Where is your brother in all this?  Any nephews or nieces in the picture?

Deceased? - dont charge your SIL for labor, material maybe donated depending on financial status of each party

Overseas on military deployment?  -  dont charge your SIL for labor, donate the material

Bigshot executive somewhere who cannot be bothered with building something?  -  about $150/hr minimum <G>

You get the drift.....

I see, use the sliding labor (post #205903, reply #4 of 12)

I see, use the sliding labor scale!   SIL is single and has hired "friends" to do work in the past. I get upset and make comments,  seeing the quality and what she paid a friend, so now she is calling me out!


But I don't need to give away the farm, my boys can stay home and work on our house rather than give it away!!


"pretty good at estimating (post #205903, reply #5 of 12)

"pretty good at estimating time and material to complete the task....

...I have heard double material price for labor to get you in the ball park"



Sit down with the boys and help talk them thru A hours to do this part, B hours to do that part, C hours to pick up materials and haul poff debris. Teach them about markup and contingency. Work with them to come up with a price. Then work with them for free - your time is doing tthe teaching because they are your sons.



Just bid it like you normally wouild and hire them to work for you.


I don't know where hacks come up with this krapola about labor cost having any sort of relationship to the materialks cost.

I can install a ten thousand dollar door in the same time it take me to install a three hundred dollar door

You will spend same time framing this whether you use PT, DF, SPruce, or whatever, but all those will have different costs.



Oh Well,

We did the best we could...

There is some correlation (post #205903, reply #6 of 12)

There is some correlation between labor and materials costs, when you look at the big picture.  Labor-intensive projects tend to "attract" labor-saving (and therefore more expensive) materials, just as a principle of economics.  On the other side, expensive materials "attract" higher-priced labor (since it's "penny wise and pound foolish" to go with the cut-rate installer of an expensive product).

Of course, the problem is that this correlation is fairly weak, with lots of outliers.  It can be used, eg, to guestimate what your neighbor is spending on the addition to his house, but it's far too unreliable to estimate labor for a job.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

I have to disagree, there is (post #205903, reply #7 of 12)

I have to disagree, there is a relationship between material cost and labor costs and it doesn't make someone a hack because they use it as a rule of thumb.  Having spent my career in estimating I know that there are reliable ratios of labor/material/equipment costs for every possible construction task. But the finer point is, in this instance because of the quantities and the circumstances it's appropriate to use a detailed estimate. Don't squander this opportunity as a  teaching moment.  Have a conversation with the boys about the basics of estimating. Get them  thinking through the job. Have them go through the process of breaking it down into discrete tasks, Start at the beginning and proceeding all the way through the end or as what you think the end should be. Assign time (labor) and material cost amount to each item (task).  Tally the hours, tally the total material costs, pick an hourly rate and extend the amount, and build the estimate in the same order as you will eventually build the deck. Of course this is a simple explanation but keep it simple and the boys will succeed.

As far as someone who boasts he could install a hollow core door with a PGFG frame in the same amount of time as a truly custom one of a kind entry way,,,,,,,, you wouldn't last an hour on any of my crews.  Now tell me truly,  who is the real hack here!

camera (post #205903, reply #8 of 12)

personally, it your sister needs help, then why don't you and boys help her?

No labor, experience is the pay.

A stint in the local trade class doesn't a carpenter make.    


I think they would / could gain way more in the job doing it labor free.  If your sister wants to buy them a circular saw as a thank you, all the better.

best of luck.



to the point of setting the prehung vx. hanging the 10,000 dollar door.....................I'd be treating the high dollar door just a bit better.  More liability, more money.

Sure, in reality - door/hang.

A Great Place for Information, Comraderie, and a Sucker Punch.

Remodeling Contractor just outside the Glass City.


I disagree.  Unless the SIL (post #205903, reply #9 of 12)

I disagree.  Unless the SIL is in financial difficulty, the boys should be paid.  Part of the dignity of labor is getting paid, and from that pay being able, to a degree, to support yourself, vs needing "a handout" to live.  Working and getting paid, even if it's a job you'd gladly do for free, is character-building.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

As to the original question, (post #205903, reply #10 of 12)

As to the original question, I'd suggest you make several "SWAGs" at it and then just pick a number a hair on the low end.  The boys do not need to earn a living wage, just decent "pocket money" -- if the estimate is too low then that's another learning experience (and the number should be on the low end anyway, due to their inexperience).  If the estimate turns out to be too high then they should return some of the money to your SIL.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

Labour vs Material (post #205903, reply #11 of 12)

Good morning


I build custom decks for a living, and depending on the level of detail and difficulty, ie., second story build, lots of deck direction changes, cut corners ect, the price starts at materials times two and goes up to almost three for low maintenance decking with lots of detail.

In other words if it is a simple easy weekend build then times two is more than enough. The faster they work the more money they make. Spend to much time on perfecting your skills on someone elses project and you lose money. This is just an example, every deck I build is designed to the customer, their needs and wants as well as the style of their house. No two decks are the same.

Hope this helps


Thanks to all comments, lots (post #205903, reply #12 of 12)

Thanks to all comments, lots of good advice, except the do it for free ones!!!! My SIL lives 10 miles away, has a good job, and I I want to my boys to do a freeby, they can work with me on our house.


This is a 7'x24', framing set on blocks that has nothing salvagable, 24" off the ground. We will work on a material list togethier, make some drawings, get a battle plan and figure time and set an hourly rate to this. Then compare the labor to double material cost to see where we are.

I have heard tradesmen use the double matreial rule of thumb as a gusesstament.


Thanks all, I will also take the boys with me to the building dept. regarding permits too!!