So you are thinking about becoming a rain gutter installer, and want to know the possible pros and cons? First you must ask yourself a couple questions, and be real honest with yourself!
ARE YOU SCARED OF HEIGHTS?
Rain gutter installers go up to heights of 30 feet, and sometimes over. You will for sure be put in possible uncomfortable situations while doing this job! Most gutter installers take pride in the fact that they can overcome this adversity. I have had people come to work with my crew thinking that they were fine with heights, only to decide that they were mistaken.
CAN YOU CARRY A TOP HEAVY LADDER?
Most gutter installers walk around the yard with a top heavy fiberglass or aluminum ladder with a stand out adaptor on top, making the ladder a little unstable at times. I have had guys that were shorter than me, and they had real problems with the ladder needed for the job. I am not saying that if you are short, you can’t do the job, but it is something to consider, being that you have to leverage the ladder to walk with it.
DO YOU HAVE RELIABLE HELP?
I have seen several gutter jobs that can be done with one person. A lot of gutter installers work with a crew, which makes the job way easier, especially when there are extra long runs. One person can handle runs up to around 40 feet, sometimes longer if extra experienced.
DO YOU HAVE THE START-UP COST?
Gutter machines can range in price from a used machine ranging in the $3,000 dollar range on a 5 inch machine, to on up in the $20,000 dollar range for a combo 6/7 inch machine.
DO YOU HAVE MONEY FOR MATERIAL COST?
You still need a tailor or box truck for the gutter machine to be set up in, along with cost for the up front material to do the jobs as they come in. You should look to have an additional $500 to $1000 to keep the jobs going. You will also need all the required insurance. General Liability insurance is a must for any service business, along with Workman’s Comp insurance, depending on state requirements.
DOES YOUR STATE ALLOW YOU TO DO GUTTERS WITHOUT A CONTRACTOR’S LICENSE?
You need to find out all the local and state regulations before just jumping into the gutter business, every state is different, along with their regulations.
ALSO READ: Gutter Services in Tennessee
Expect the Unexpected!
Starting a business is hard work, and if it can go wrong, it will. Just try to look ahead a bit when planning. Say for example: If you have a new gutter machine, in a new trailer, and a twenty year old truck to pull it with, you may need to figure in the cost to repair that truck?
What Could Go Wrong with A Gutter Business?
Several things can go wrong with a gutter business, as with any business. You are responsible for the gutters working, any possible property damage, and what if a worker happens to fall off a ladder and get hurt, or even die? You, and your business is responsible for all that!
Not only will your insurance take a hit, you will have to live with the fact something like that happened. You could have people working for you, and you have no work. Could be anything from weather to sickness.
Good Reasons to Start a Gutter Business
If you have work, and people skills, the gutter business is good money, not to mention, you can just step right into the business with around twenty thousand dollars in a lot of cases. This is if you keep it to the low end, and make the best decisions. You would also need some of the tools up front at the $20,000 investment mark.
Customers are not that hard to come by during the busy seasons, and once you get established, most crews stay busy all year.
How Do I Find My First Customers?
There are several services that help with getting your business on the internet in the area you operate. You should by all means do research before signing any contracts. Home Advisor is a good start for a new service business wanting to be found, but keep in mind that their leads are shared leads. This means that you along with other service people get the same lead, driving down the prices you can charge to be competitive in your field. Home Advisor also charges you if you win the job or not.
Some other options are, Google My Business, and the BBB, which are both reputable and they give people the option of rating your work. Of course all of these services are pay services if you want your own ad’s. Be very sure to ask about your ability to cancel the service if it doesn’t work. You can by all means find ratings on these companies also.
If you are good at your business, word of mouth will take you a long way, and most everyone with a house has gutters. I have personally seen someone’s gutter coming loose from the road as I drove by. I just stopped and asked if this person needed the gutter fixed. Most people in bigger cities are in Home Owner Associations, which require the houses to be in working condition.
Lots of times, the people are ready to have the gutters fixed if you just stop with a card, and ask. Of course, you would want to make sure to look for any signs that say no solicitation or anything to that affect before approaching the house. Most times when a person is good at whet they do in any business, word of mouth will find them a lot of work! Be sure to go that extra mile for the customer.
Is Gutter Installer School Required?
I would check with your state as to their requirements to be a gutter installer, but in most cases, you can learn on the job. There are lots of gutter crews out there needing quality help, making on the job learning the best way to go in my professional opinion. I personally started with one of the bigger gutter guard companies.
Once you have worked on gutters at some degree for a period of time, you know if you want to move forward with the business from there because it is not a big jump. If you can make it a complete summer with a big gutter company, you for sure can do your own work, once you have the correct tools.
Bidding Gutter Jobs
No job is the same when it comes to gutter installing. You will run across everything in the process of bidding a gutter job, and everyone does it a bit different. You will run into jobs where you may have to remove the old gutters before you install the new system. The customer may need the facia replaced from the old gutters making the wood rot. The customer may ask you to add splash blocks or other types of water diverters that do not come with a normal install. You as the contractor, are responsible for making sure everything that comes with your bid for the job is in writing, and clear to the customer. If you have a list that also has other options for each job, be sure to mark out options that are not being used. This is important! If you leave blank items that the customer can change later, who is to prove otherwise? It is best to cover all the blank spaces with a NA (Not Applicable), a “NO,” or a slash at the least. If you do not cover your bases, who will?
Tools You Need To Do A Gutter Installation Estimate
In order to go to a persons home and do a honest estimate, you will need a couple of things. You will first need a quality measuring wheel, I use this measuring wheel from Home Depot with fairly good luck. You need to roll each length of gutter in order to find total feet of gutter you need. You will also need a sheet that says exactly what you plan to do, and for what set price. This paper can double as a contract if both parties agree and sign.
If you plan to make sales for your gutter business, the best tip I can give, is come with a smile, a smile puts people at an instant ease. Relate to the person in some way before talking business. If they have a nice tractor, ask about the tractor to break the ice. Anything you can relate to the person with will help in the long run. Ask for the job, say, I would really like to do business with you, and feel free to ask me anything.
How Do I Make An Estimate?
First before you get to the potential customers home, make sure you look somewhat professional if possible. You haven’t got to have a suit and tie on to sell gutters, but a nice company shirt and jeans that are in good shape may be a good practice.
When you make an appointment with the future customer for say, 9:30 AM on Monday, get there at 9:25 AM. Do not get at that customer’s house 30 minuets early! If you see you are not going to make the appointment on time, call and explain. This will go a really long way in a lot of cases, because no one likes unexpected anything. I have had people have issues with me getting there too early.
When you take the gutter measurements with the measuring wheel, be sure to add at least 2 to 4 feet on total length for good measure. A lot of the big companies can add up to two feet per run, being that they send out a sales person, not an installer. You will have of course pre-planned a little before you start this process. You will need the price per foot of gutter on average that it cost you to install.
What I do when I bid, is if I am doing the job myself, I bid a set price per foot on the top gutters, then I add in the cost of the downspouts, and I also add in the price of having a person help me, for instance, if the house has a extra long run I could not do alone. I may pay a helper around $120 a day on average.
Gutter Install Profit Breakdown
There is 150 feet going around the house, if my price is $7.50 a foot, that would be $1,125.00. Now you would add in the cost of downspouts, and that usually averages around $120 to $140 for up to 100 feet of downspout. You would also figure in help if needed. So you would be looking at around $1365 for a one hundred fifty foot gutter install. In a lot of cases with big companies, they charge a lot more than this.
You would of course have to subtract for material cost, labor, gas, food, and whatever else your business uses along the way. You are looking at probably $700 to $800 profit on that job with those prices. Everyone charges differently however, and after doing the bidding a while, you will come up with a method that works best for you. Average size gutter jobs range from around 100 to 225 feet in my experience.
What Other Gutter Work Can I Do Without A Gutter Machine?
A gutter machine is a big part of being in the gutter business, but a gutter machine is totally not required to be in some sort of gutter work. You have out there a huge demand for gutter workers that are dependable.
If a person has a will to learn, a dependable truck or van, and tools, you may have a easy time finding that gutter job! There is good money in working for these companies also, with the average gutter installer averaging in the $39,000 a year or $20 dollar an hour range. I started in the gutter cover business before starting AmeraPina LLC and getting a gutter machine. Take into account that these jobs are mostly 1099 jobs, that pay you without taking taxes out.
In a 1099 position, the contractor is his own business, responsible for their own vehicle, tools, fuel, and anything else required to do the job, unless otherwise agreed to. You do get tax breaks on business cost in this situation. If you are a W2 employee who is paid by the hour, with taxes already removed., you do not get the same tax breaks.
There is also lots of work cleaning gutters, that only takes some basic tools to get into with gutter cleanings ranging in prices from around $100 dollars for a small house on up in prices depending on the size of the house. A good day of cleaning gutters can be in the range of $300 to $600 dollars on the high end.
If all this sounds like it fits you as a person and you think it is time to move forward, I would recommend that you take a little time and draw out some guidelines to stick to, like total cost for first year for instance. I made some mistakes as I want. I purchased everything I needed to do the job, tools, insurance, workman’s comp, financing, paperwork, and when the slow season came, I realized my advertising wasn’t adequate.
So as I sat with rent coming, and no jobs to do, I realized my best planning wasn’t so good. I would say to think of everything possible and put it on paper, or a white board in order to see. Take into account that most people are not thinking about gutters in freezing weather. You may want to have a savings for those seasons, or a back up employment-side job, till things are going well.
Another mistake business owners may face. If you trust someone to represent you and your company without supervision, don’t. You will need a boss or a Forman on most jobs in order to keep other contractors honest. I lost count of the jobs I had to personally fix because I trusted someone. If you find someone that is reliable, honest, and trustworthy, you better pay them well, because they are really hard to come by these days, sad to say!
Set some rules in place for your crew, as to how to act on a job. I have an issue with my people cussing on the job! I personally have cussed when things go wrong, but I try to keep it at least muffled. People do not want a bunch of gutter guys saying dirty words in their yard. Rules are just good in some cases, and you should set standards also. I set a standard for height of downspout from ground, so there are no questions.
Anything that your business can need to plan for, you should have written down ahead of time in order to see what you are up against. Once you have all these checked off and covered, you will rest better.