From just a glance at the title, one might think that what is good for the mason is contrary, or in conflict, with what is good for the customer. In this article I am going to try to rationalize why that is NOT true – why the Win for One party is NOT the Loss for the Other party.
In reality, the dynamics in the entire market of real stone and real stone thin veneer have changed, and life can be a win – win for all involved.
Here’s 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 lay manufactured stone thin veneer (but there seems to be some margin). If you break manufactured stone to make it fit you have a problem hiding the chopped off end; whereas if you trim real stone thin veneer you don’t have that problem. The guys that are good at it tell me they can lay an equivalent amount of either real or fake stone thin veneer in a day. The only thing I can think of is that some contractors may charge more to lay real stone thin veneer because of the “perceived value” of the final job. Obviously, real stone thin veneer (especially high quality; with natural tops, bottoms and ends) will look like a full bed depth job in real stone. There’s no comparison between that look and fake. Since customers generally pay a little more for real stone thin veneer than fake, I’m guessing some contractors will try to get whatever the market will bear. My prediction is that when the amount of people accustomed to and experienced in laying real stone thin veneer, becomes equal to the amount of people experienced in laying fake, I think we will definitely see the labor rates come down.
I believe a lot of this has to do with just understanding reality and mostly boils down to education. What needs to take place is a paradigm shift in people’s thinking. Once experienced masons are enlightened that the philosophy that I am trying to impart upon them is a win / win / win / win situation, I am hoping a light bulb will turn on and we’ll all live happily ever after.
Here’s what I’m talking about in true numbers. The day your average mason realizes the following facts and converts the numbers into acceptable logic we will see labor rates fall.
Installation time for real stone thin veneer is just about the same as it is for manufactured (fake) stone thin veneer.
The average mason can lay approximately (4) times as much thin veneer in a day as full bed depth stone. Normally this equates to 160 feet per day versus 40. As a side benefit, the customer is elated that the “mess” of labor is at his home or place of business is only there for 1/4 of the old time-frame.
Logic has it that if a masonry installer wanted to make the exact same amount of money per day installing thin veneer versus what he used to earn installing full bed depth ledge, 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 ledge 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 veneer in a day (real or fake), and charged ¼ of his normal rate, or $6.25 per sq. ft. for labor, his labor bill for the day would be the same $1,000.
If $1,000 per day was acceptable earnings for installing full bed, why wouldn’t $1,000 per day be acceptable for installing thin veneer? And, why should there be any difference between whether the thin veneer was real stone or fake stone? The question is just like why would a painter charge differently to paint with green paint versus to paint with red paint?
The mason wants more?: charge 1/3 of old rate, $8.33 per sq. ft. and earn $1,332.80 for the days’ labor.
As a disclaimer: the above numbers are just for illustration purposes. Labor rates are diverse across America and certain places cost more than others because of many factors.
Also, I’m the first to agree and say that all masons are not created equally, and you get more or less what you pay for. The final look of the job depends upon the installer – not the stone, not the architect, and not the person paying the bill. The three later variables and parties can have all good intentions, but the same stone will look different depending upon the expertise of the installer.
Just like I am trying to share my thoughts and knowledge, I think if stone quarriers, stone fabricators, stone wholesalers and stone retailers work together, we can teach people in the installation trade how to better analyze this equation as well.
First, they need to understand, accept and be pleased with the logic of the numbers. Carefully stated, 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 veneer installers) is important to the very essence to what I do for a living. Even though some “do it yourselfers” will install real stone thin veneer, the majority of the work is still being done by professionals.
Second, they need to know how to actually install real stone thin veneer. I envision “How to” classes by the stone yards who take the lead to be instrumental. Anything well understood is perceived easier to do, and is in reality, easier to do.
Third, everyone needs to understand the concept of everyone winning.
I want the mason to understand he is winning. He will earn just as much money, or more, installing real stone thin veneer, as anything else he does.
I want the mason to understand that if he is running a crew, that his crew can do more jobs in a year because each job is going 2 – 4 times as fast. This actually means that his company could double, triple or quadruple gross revenues. This logic is equal for the installer running solo.
I want the mason to realize and remember that he’ll 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 the job decreases. The less the total cost of the job – the more jobs that will be done because of the larger number of people that will be able to afford to have the work contracted. With budgets being tighter than ever, a larger number of potential customers is obviously a big plus in today’s economy.
The quadruple win?
The ultimate consumer is paying less and getting more value for his expenditure, and more customers are getting stonework.
Positive “word of mouth” advertising is created – the best type! The mason is actually earning more money than he did before.
With more jobs being done, the Stone Yards and Building Material companies are selling more thin veneer to their contractor customers.
And my selfish reason for educating – we, the quarrier and fabricator will sell more stone to our dealers.
If the current work pool of masonry contractors does not understand nor embrace my philosophy (and the philosophy shared by many piers that 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 installers of real stone thin veneer do not become more competitive, other people will enter the labor market, learn their trade and take their business away.” People move towards jobs. Therefore, if masons in premium markets do not catch on, I warn – watch out!
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 tile setters for example, will learn the trade and lay real stone thin veneer for less money than the guys that are controlling 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 laying real stone thin veneer at a $5- $10 per foot rate and be happy with the money they are making.
This is all positive news, if you didn’t receive that feeling from your first read of this article…read it again! (please)