What advice would give for someone going in to the field of HVAC estimating and bidding?
The bidding documents that you’re going to look at for almost every single job are terrible. There’s rare exceptions. You’re going to see incomplete drawings and it’s just because of the times we’re in. It’s get it done as fast as you can and it doesn’t matter if it’s right. It seems that way, but that’s just me.
Other contractors have concurred that when the drawings are poor – there’s incorrect information, missing information, or conflicting information – that it can be a problem. If they show 12-inch piping going up to the floor above, and the next drawing shows two-inch, well, something doesn’t seem right there.
Or you’ll look from drawing to drawing, and a giant chilled water line doesn’t show up and you’re like, “where does this go?” You have to be very cautious and weary of drawings. I take every single bid and ask myself, “Okay, what’s going to be wrong with this one?” Because it seems to happen every time.
When you look at specifications, deciphering what they’re saying is an art in and of itself. Sometimes they’ll talk in circles or specify material that doesn’t exist anymore. Then you’ll have to A) talk to your supplier and qualify your bid using something comparable, or B) call the engineer, get his voicemail, leave a message, not get a call back… the idea is call the engineer, tell him that a product doesn’t exist, and ask him what can be used instead.
Often times owners of insulation companies and mechanical contractors will take a guess – a swag. They’ll take a guess at what material makes most sense, and oftentimes what is the cheapest. They’ll bid it with a certain type of material and then use a cheaper material. Sometimes they’ll get caught and sometimes they won’t.
I never got into that myself since I was never in a position to own a company, so I left those decision to others.