Greg Harth, co-owner with his father, Allyn Harth, of Harth Builders, in Spring House, Pa., created this estimating spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel.

“It’s a simple spreadsheet that captures all the important information you need in an estimate,” Harth says, “and it’s easy to manipulate.”

“You can build a proposal or scope of work in parallel with it,” he points out. “Every time you write something in a proposal, it’s going to have a cost associated with it. Every time you commit to doing something, there’s a cost. In the spreadsheet, we’re just defining costs that we have in the proposal. By breaking down the estimate into smaller and smaller pieces, it’s easier to get a more accurate proposal.”

A. Whether it?'s Harth Builders or an outside trade partner doing the work, this column shows who is responsible.

B. The labor rate shown, $32 per man-hour, includes burden. "Our base rate is $25 per man-hour," Harth says. "Another $7 per hour per employee is added to that to cover things such as workers, compensation and general liability insurance, vacation, benefits, holidays, nonproductive times, cell phone use, vehicle allowance, and gas reimbursement." Note: This figure is not your markup.

C. This percentage markup adds to the price so that your company makes a profit.

D. The last line item — the retail amount — is all that Harth Builders' clients get to see.

E. Harth broke out information for the skylights and family room options.