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Real Stone Thin Veneer Labor Numbers and the Speed of the Job – Mason and Customer Perspectives
From just looking at the title, one might think that what is good for the mason is opposite, or in conflict, with what is good for the customer. In this article I will try to rationalize why this is NOT true – why the Victory for One is NOT the Loss for the Other.
In reality, the dynamics in the entire real stone and real stone veneer market have changed, and life can be a win – win for all involved.
This is what I’m talking about…
First of all, it’s hard for me to understand why the cost of labor to install real stone thin veneer would be any different than the cost to put up manufactured stone thin veneer (but there seems to be some margin). If you break a manufactured stone to fit, you have a problem hiding the cut end; whereas if you cut out real stone thin veneer you don’t have that problem. The guys who are good at it tell me they can put an equivalent amount of either real or fake stone thin milk in one day. The only thing I can think of is that some contractors may charge more to put down real stone thin veneer because of the “perceived value” of the finished job. Obviously, real stone thin veneer (especially high quality; with natural tops, bottoms and ends) will look like full bed deep work in real stone. There is no comparison between that appearance and a fake. Since customers generally pay a little more for real stone thin milk than fake, I guess some entrepreneurs will try to get whatever the market will bear. My prediction is that when the amount of people accustomed and experienced in laying real stone veneer equals the amount of people experienced in laying fake, I think we will definitely see the labor rates go down.
I believe a lot of this has to do with just understanding reality and mostly boils down to education. What needs to happen is a paradigm shift in people’s thinking. Once experienced masons are enlightened that the philosophy I am trying to convey to them is a win/win/win/win situation, I hope a light bulb will go on and we will all live happily ever after.
This is what I’m talking about in real numbers. The day your average bricklayer realizes the following facts and converts the numbers into reasonable logic, we will see labor rates drop.
Installation time for real stone veneer is almost the same as it is for manufactured (fake) stone veneer.
The average mason can lay approximately (4) times as much thin lath in a day as a full bed of deep stone. Normally this equates to 160 feet per day versus 40. As a side benefit, the customer is happy that the “mess” of work is at their home or place of business is only there for 1/4 of the old time frame.
It stands to reason that if a masonry installer wanted to make the exact same amount of money a day installing thin veneer versus what he used to make installing full bed depth cornice, that he could (should) charge ¼ of the price.
Just a little deeper: If one mason laid 40 sq. ft. of real stone full bed depth cornice in one day and charged $25 per sq. ft. the labor bill for the day would be $1,000.
In the same vein, if that same mason laid (4) times as much thin lath in a day (real or fake), and charged ¼ of his normal rate, or $6.25 per square foot per job, his labor bill for the day would be the same $1,000.
If $1,000 a day was an acceptable income to install a full bed, why wouldn’t $1,000 a day be acceptable to install thin veneer? And, why should there be any difference between whether the thin milk was real stone or fake stone? The question is why would a painter charge differently to paint with green paint versus to paint with red paint?
The bricklayer wants more?: charge 1/3 the old rate, $8.33 per square foot and make $1,332.80 for the day’s work.
As a disclaimer: the numbers above are for illustrative purposes only. Labor rates vary across the United States and some places cost more than others due to many factors.
I too am the first to agree and say that all Masons are not created equal, and you get more or less what you pay for. The final appearance of the work depends on the installer – not the stone, not the architect, and not the person paying the bill. The three subsequent variables and parties may have all good intentions, but the same stone will look different depending on the expertise of the installer.
As much as I try to share my thoughts and knowledge, I think if stone quarries, stone manufacturers, stone wholesalers and stone retailers work together, we can teach people in the installation business how to better analyze this equation as well.
First, they must understand, accept and satisfy the logic of the numbers. Carefully put, it’s easy, not offensive. Hopefully I’m accomplishing that goal here because I have a goal for this message to be read by that group. The group (Masons and Thin Lake Installers) is important to the very essence of what I do for a living. Although some do-it-yourselfers will install real stone veneer, the majority of the work is still done by professionals.
Second, they need to know how to actually install real stone veneer. I envision “How to” classes from the stone yards that lead to be instrumental. Everything well understood is perceived easier to do, and is in reality, easier to do.
Third, everyone must understand the concept of everyone winning.
I want the mason to understand that he is winning. He will make as much money, or more, installing real stone thin veneer as anything else he does.
I want the mason to understand that if he manages a crew, that his crew can do more jobs in a year because each job goes 2 – 4 times faster. This actually means that his company could double, triple or quadruple gross income. This logic is the same for the installer running alone.
I want the mason to realize and remember that he will get more jobs if his rates are more reasonable. The cost of the job is materials plus labor. When labor decreases the total cost of labor decreases. The lower the total cost of the work – the more work will be done due to the greater number of people who will be able to afford to have the work contracted out. With budgets tighter than ever, a larger number of potential customers is obviously a big plus in today’s economy.
The quadruple win?
The ultimate consumer pays less and gets more value for their spend, and more customers get a stone building.
Positive “word of mouth” is created – the best kind! The mason is actually making more money than he did before.
With more work done, the Stone Yards and Building Material companies sell thinner veneer to their contractor customers.
And my selfish reason to educate – we, the quarry and manufacturer will sell more stone to our dealers.
If the current working group of masonry contractors does not understand or embrace my philosophy (and the philosophy shared by many bricklayers I respect), then my prediction is that we, as a group, will be teaching a new group of people to install. .
I believe that “if real stone veneer installers don’t become more competitive, other people will enter the job market, learn their trade, and take their business away.” People move to jobs. Therefore, if masons in high-quality markets do not catch, I warn – be careful!
Build with real stone and build forever…
There is no doubt that the market is moving from a tolerance for fake stone to a preference for real stone. Further, my contention is that some people, like tilers for example, will learn the trade and lay down a real stone veneer for less money than the guys who dominate the market today. Additionally, with the weaknesses in the economy, and the desperation of other tradesmen, maybe several other types of contractors will look at putting real stone thin coating at a $5-$10 per foot rate and be happy with the money they make.
This is all positive news, if you didn’t get that feeling from your first reading of this article… read it again! (please)
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