Volume 41, Issue 6 - June 2006


The Low Number
Vendors Can Help You Ensure a Winning Bid
by John B. McClatchey Jr.

The other day I was following up on some of the larger quotes in my territory and had a customer tell me something that really left an impression on me. He said: “I love how architects want us to quote something just so they can figure out how over their budget they are.” This is often true. Ours is an industry where the designers start out with grand ideas that are very intriguing on paper. They let their imagination run free and the result is often a wonderful concept. They have numerous general contractors and subcontractors bid on different parts of the job. When the dust settles, everyone’s bids are high and some folks are invited back for round two, three, four and so on. This is, simply put, the price of doing business. The question is, though, how do you get to be the low number? Your vendors are the key. And, in regards to your metal, the alternatives are plentiful.

Give and Take
The quality of the finish is easy to work around, but there is a give-and-take in the world of painted finishes and anodized finishes. We are accustomed to our painted finishes being a Kynar finish, with anodizing being the most common alternative. Here is a rule to remember: anodizing is not as expensive as painting—that is the give. The take is that the finish is not as consistent. 

There are alternatives when it comes to painting. Most basic are the coil-painted goods, which are far less expensive since they are produced in one mass run of aluminum coil. The “give” here is that the material is less expensive. The “take” is that there are a limited selection of sizes and colors. You must also consider the type of the paint selected. A standard, two-coat, non-metallic, non-exotic, mixable Kynar finish is the most basic. From here you need to ask your vendor for alternatives. The more unique the finish, the more expensive it will be. Ask the general contractor and architect if they will accept alternatives.

Pricing Matters
The price differences in anodized finishes are two fold. Coil anodized aluminum will always be the least expensive of all finishes. With batch anodized materials the price is usually determined based on the color and the anodic thickness. The thicker the finish, the more expensive it is. Anodic coatings less than 0.4 mils (coil coated or batch anodized) are very affordable, but not recommended for exterior architectural use. This material appears anodized, but is not a high quality finish. It, too, is very affordable. Clear anodized is affordable as well, but the darker the anodic finish the more expensive it is. Anodized products with thicker anodic coatings are class II (0.4 mils minimum) and class I (0.7 mils minimum).

If you are glazing metal wall panels into your curtainwall, it is a bad idea to try to change the job from a 0.125-inch thick metallic painted product to a coil anodized 0.040-inch product. Your cost could be as much as one-third of the price, but you will lose durability and overall quality. A better alternative may be a 0.063-inch 2-coat mica. It will still appear metallic, but one less layer of paint needs to be applied. At this point, too, set up charges will come into consideration. Additionally the fewer fabrication set ups the lower the price. Consider longer pieces such as one 14-foot piece of brake metal as opposed to two 7-foot pieces, keeping in mind temperature expansion of aluminum.

Constant Communication
Having good dialogue with your vendors is the bottom line. They are experts and can volunteer options you may not have thought of. Tell them that you need some suggestions or some alternatives and allow them to be creative. They will probably come up with some new ideas. Usually vendors will quote the job as requested, but let them know you need alternatives and you will be amazed at the different ways they can help you shave some money off of a bid and ultimately win the job.

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.