Did I pay too much for a steel handrail

I needed to have a steel handrail fabricated and installed along one (1) side of a slightly curved set of seven (7) concrete steps. The
steps are about two feet long and each step drops about eight inches from the previous one. The estimate for the handrail was $1,700. I went ahead and had it done.
This morning two men installed the handrail in four and a half or five hours.
The material involved consists solely of:
- about 25 feet of one inch square steel cut into seven or eight pieces to serve as uprights.
- about 33 feet of solid steel toprail, an inch and one half wide with a little decorative hill-like feature running down the center the entire length. This toprail was cut into eight pieces varying in length. There are two eight foor pieces,three four foot pieces, and one three foot piece.
There are no other components, decorative or otherwise. The uprights were inserted into holes drilled in the concrete and filled with a special cement. The six inch overhangs on the ends of the toprail are bent down to resemble a swan's head.
Given the foregoing, would anyone care to hazard an opinion on whether I poaid too much, too little, or just about the right amount?
Thanks.
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My honest opinion? Did you get a kiss with that screwing?
If all the work was accomplished on the job site, not in a shop, where the components were sawn to size and assembled first, you got screwed. Based on what you told us, even at $100/hr per man, it would be hard to rationalize the cost. There must be more to the story.
Harold
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My honest opinion? Did you get a kiss with that screwing?
If all the work was accomplished on the job site, not in a shop, where the components were sawn to size and assembled first, you got screwed. Based on what you told us, even at $100/hr per man, it would be hard to rationalize the cost. There must be more to the story. Was it fabricated first, and the installation took the five hours?
Harold
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It sounds high but for hiring workers the numbers just about work out.
The $100 per man-hour is a bit high.
My rule of thumb is that the labor just about equals the materials cost.
So take his 1700 and make 100 of that tax. Then the labor was 800 and the materials were 800.
Five hours, two men, makes that 80 per man-hour.
It kind of adds up. The other way to do this is get three bids and take the middle one. I like to get three bids only because each craftsman who looks at a job will have a different approach or a different idea. Very instructive.
Jim
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On 24 Apr 2004 20:35:50 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net (John Sanders) vaguely proposed a theory ......and in reply I say!: remove ns from my header address to reply via email
Where are you? What's $1700 worth to you?

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A basic railing cost is $50 per foot of hand rail for simple rails, and $100 per foot for fancier rails.
That applies to simple steel pipe rails.
33 feet x $50 = $1650.
Sorry it seems steep, but I have made a lot of railings for a lot of places and that is the going rate. It has to cover the contractors' cost of doing business. Tools, Trucks, insurance, licenses, labor... A few dollars difference per foot and I lose any hint of profit on a railing job. Hell , you blow one concrete core drill and you lose $100.
That is why I tend to stick to high end stainless tube and cable rails. A higher level of cost, but also a higher level of detail. Plus I have less competition.
The hand rail you describe is called "molded cap rail", and costs about twice what a similar sized simple steel bar would cost for the same length.
The end pieces are called lamb's tongues. They cost about $30 each, and get welded on.
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Ernie knows what he is talking about. I spent 7 years in the fab business, and there are a lot of costs that the customer never sees. A loner working out of his garage might be able to do it for less, but for any established business with employees and a shop, that is a reasonable price.
Mark
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M writes:

Every contractor whines about overhead, like nobody had thought of that.
Sorry, but two guys for part of a day, some tools, and $100 worth of materials, does not add up to $1700 in this line of work, at least in a competitive market. Clearly the customer got highballed and took the bait.
If the "loner in his garage" can do the equivalent, just what justifies this overhead? The pros have to do it better, or cheaper, or both.
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One point that seems to be left out of this discussion is the fact the contractor also needs to carry some form of liability insurance to cover this "little" job. Have you priced liability insurance lately?
If the homeowner or guest gets hurt while walking past this assembly, you can bet your last dollar some lawyer will be all over him like you know what.
There are many jobs I would like to tackle, if only for the challenge. I won't touch them because of the liability/lawsuit issues.
Jim Vrzal
Richard J Kinch wrote:

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bait.
It is clear you have never run a commercial business.
Some of the costs:
Rent on a commercial building Phone book advertising Liability insurance (High in the welding business) Workman's comp (also high) Fire insurance Payroll taxes Payroll itself (those guys have to feed their families even when there isn't much work in the shop, so you save for a riany day) Welding equipment (not cheap, and it wears out) Fabrication equipment (bought any ironworkers lately? A hacksaw or a torch that the loner might use gets mighty slow and tiring when you're doing it all day long.)
I could probably go on for several paragraphs like this... Ernie (who IS in the business) will back me up. That price was not outrageous at all. In fact, it sounded very competitive to me.
Mark
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M writes:

It is clear you don't know anything about me.
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Ernie Leimkuhler wrote:

What's a "cable rail", Ernie?
Ted
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Cable rails are usually a rather sturdy series of vertical pieces and a top handrail made from Pipe or Tube, with a series of stainless steel cables running horizontally underneath. They are often used for decks with beautiful views because they can almost disappear to the eye. They are a bit tricky to install, and require good planning as to cable tension. You need a few special tools like Nicopress swagers, and Felco cable cutters.
Check out these sites
Feeney http://www.cablerail.com/index_2.html
Johnson http://www.csjohnson.com/pages/architectural_products.html
American Wire Specialties http://www.cablerailings.com/cabletn.htm
Arakawa http://www.arakawagrip.com/i_balustrades.html
Arakawa has stopped selling their railing system in the US. You can still get it, but you have to pay to ship the components from Japan The building I was working on most of last year had about 100 feet of Arakawa cable railings. It is very high tech and fancy, but also extremeley expensive. The Client decided he really wanted them so he ordered them straight from Japan.
Check out he rest of the Arakawa site to see some really cool little cable grippers.
Feeney and Johnson both came out of the Marine industry , making cable fittings for sailboats. They just adapted their hardware for architectural applications.
Most states now have a "babyhead code" Meaning that there can be no gap in a railing that allows a 4" ball to pass through. This usually only applies to residential railings adjacent to living spaces, but it can also apply to railings in shopping malls and hotels. Resdential railings are usually 36" high and commercial railings 42" high.
Because of the flexibility of the cables, inspectors often make you skrink your spacing to 3" between cables.
You have to be careful in tensioning these things. ten 3/16" stainless steel cables can develop a LOT of pull if you tension them too high. I have seen 3" pipe bent by over tensioning them. Some installers actually have their end pieces rolled to a curve, so the tensioning pulls them straight.
The distance that one cable can span varies by manufacturer. Arakawa limits you to about 10 feet, but Johnson and Feeney can span longer runs, as long as your vertical tubes are stout enough on the ends to take the higher tension.
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Ernie Leimkuhler wrote:

Thanks for the reply. Very interesting idea.
When we add the deck we planned on, I will have just that problem and I like the idea.

I would think so!

Nicopress swagers I have. I don't know what a Felco cable cutter looks like but my big crimpers have a cutter that handles 1/4" easily without ravelling the strands.

I'll have to work out the tensions needed as a function of spacing but I sure like the concept!
Ted
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    Note that not all agreed that it was a highball estimate, some considered it quite reasonable. I have no background to estimate the reasonableness of a given estimate, but those who do seem to agree that it was a reasonable estimate.
    The photo shows that the top rails themselves are not curved, so that bit of information may change the opinions -- of those who see the image. This one made it though to me simply because you used an older encoding scheme (uuencoding), instead of the more common base64 encoding, which seems to be blocked somewhere along the net feed for my news server.
    [ ... ]
    I'm posting the following part, instead of using private e-mail for two reasons:
1)    You have your e-mail address "spamproofed", and while it appears     straightforward to correct it, it may not be, and I choose not to     bother.
2)    Posting this will get the issue before more people, who may thus     avoid the mistake which you have just made.

    This is a bad thing to do in a discussion newsgroup. Any binaries, images (such as this), sound files, programs, Microsoft Word documents, and lots of other things are supposed to be not posted to discussion (text-based) newsgroups. They should only be posted to newsgroups where "binaries" is part of the newsgroup name.
    The *proper* solution is to put the images on a web site, and just post the URL, so those who want, and who can afford the bandwidth, can got to the web site and download it.
    If you don't have web space, Steve Stallings runs the "dropbox" at http://www.metalworking.com which is available for posting metalworking related images and then posting the URL to the newsgroup. Visit the site, and you will note that there are instructions on how to upload the images (done via email).
    Unexpected attachments are very likely to contain virii, so they should be discarded without looking.
    And your image took up 367824 bytes on each and every news server around the world which carries this newsgroup. It is things like that which cause news administrators to stop carrying certain newsgroups (such as all of the alt.binaries.* newsgroups) Web sites have a single storage space and everybody comes to it to read the contents. Usenet newsgroups (such as this one) are stored in hundreds or thousands of news servers around the world, taking up space in every one of them until the article expires. (Another effect of posting binaries to newsgroups is that news admins will set the expire time short on newsgroups with the binaries, to keep the disk usage within control.
    Also -- they AUP (Appropriate Use Policy) to which you agreed to get your net connection probably forbids this, and it *could* cause you to lose your account, should someone desire to make an example of it.

    [ ... 265496 image, which was bloated to 367824 bytes by the     uuencoding necessary to get a binary to pass through the     newsgroups snipped ... ]

    Good Luck,         DoN.
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I'd say no. A few months ago, I bought a a decorative rail to go in a house, about 7' long. It had a cap similar to what you describe, very decorative pickets, fabricated, one trip to measure, one trip to install, cost about $1100 from an ornamental fabricator. All of the parts were off-the-shelf items not hand forged. Gary Brady Austin, TX
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On 25 Apr 2004 15:01:49 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@aol.comNOSPAM (Gary Brady) brought forth from the murky depths:

Let me guess: Same vendor?
I could see $1,700 if the guy cleared, framed, and poured the slabs for the walkway, too.
John, I hope you tell your brother this story and perhaps not ask for any other referrrals from him in the future.
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Sell price is not dependent on cost. It is based on what the market will stand. The best way that you can satisfy yourself that you paid a fair price is to get other quotes for the job from other reputable people in your area.
Roger

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Can't say buy IO know just plain picket molded handrail is pretty darn expensive. Too bad you can't weld or decided to tackle it yourself. I did find that 99% of most components no matter how fancy they are is readily available and pretty darn dirt cheap. Unless you have the skills to assemble it and weld and grind and fit, then this would be a moot........but I have built a heap of wrought iron stuff for my wife now that I have a MIG and found a source for anything you could imagine, and I would shudder to think what it would cost if I had to have it made. I would think the price may be a bit high, but its a curved stairway. Hey you don't get much for a dollar anymore, except perhaps unfinished ready to assemble weld up decorative metal items ;-) Visit my website: http://www.frugalmachinist.com Opinions expressed are those of my wifes, I had no input whatsoever. Remove "nospam" from email addy.
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We had a customer that wanted a hand rail too. One of our workers looked it over and said, no problem. When he got to the shop the boss shut down the idea. Around here that simple hand rail needs to be designed by an engineer to ensure that it is safe. This was a business situation, home may be differant. One of the fab shops in town did it. They have "standard" practices for stairs and railings. An engineer had his hands in deciding what those standards are. As long as they fab railings that meet the "standards" they can build them with out the engineers stamp of approval. But keep in mind the engineer stuck his nose in there somewhere, and a portion every railing made goes to paying that engineer.
Also keep in mind allot of thought went into the railing before it came to your home. Think of the time it would take if they just dropped of a bunch of metal, some tools, and a couple of workers and went to it. You would see allot of on site engineering going on! Greg
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