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How to Bid on a Commercial Electrical Job

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Electrical subcontractors are hired by general contractors and construction management firms to perform the electrical work on commercial construction projects. This includes all tasks related to a complete electrical system, from pulling permits to running conduit to installing light fixtures. If you'd like to get involved in some commercial work, you'll have to start offering bids. A bid is the price you plan to charge for performing the work on a particular project. While the lowest bidder usually gets the jobs, there are other factors to consider, including experience, relationships and work history.

Find jobs to bid on. General contractors will send out invitations to bid on projects to all the appropriate subcontractors on their bid list. To get on the bid list, contact the contractor and let them know about your company. Inquire as to how you can qualify your electrical company to get placed on the bid list. Usually it will involve filling out credit and work history forms, but sometimes you will meet with the company to discuss whether you'd be a good match. Once you are on the bid list, bid invitations will be sent to you on a regular basis.

Choose your jobs wisely. At first, it may be tempting to bid on every job that comes your way, but this isn't always the right choice. Look for where the job is located, what the schedule is and what specific products are required. You don't want to bid on a job that is hours away from your office or requires greater manpower than you currently have. Some jobs may require you to supply light fixtures or panels that your company is not trained or authorized to sell yet.

Accept an invitation to bid and request the plans. Once you've decided to bid on a job, ask that the contractor send you the drawings and specs. Review the plans and make sure you have everything you need to complete your bid. While electrical work will be shown on the electrical plans and in Division 16 of the spec book, it is wise to review the other sections of the plans as well, especially the section on mechanical equipment. You will be required to wire major mechanical equipment, which may not be shown on the electrical plans.

Create an estimate of what it will cost you to do the work. Include labor and material costs, as well as profit and overhead. This includes wire, switch plates, receptacles, panels, equipment and the cost of the permit. Read the general conditions specifications carefully to see if there are any surprise costs you should include. These may include money for a performance bond, wage scale, night work or even parking for your electrical crews.

Send your bid. On a piece of company letterhead, include your price as well as the scope of the work. Specify where sales or other taxes are included. Detail each item you plan to perform, including permits, wiring, lighting, equipment connections, etc. This helps the general contractor compare your bid to others.


Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.