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I requested a quote (from Lowe's) to replace the existing carpet with vinyl planks. The area the quote uses to calculate the labor cost of installing the planks ("basic labor floating LVP/LVT") is about 5% larger than the area to calculate the labor cost of removing the carpet ("removal haul carpet and pad no glu [sic]"). Why is there the difference? They are for the same physical area since the project is replacing the carpet with vinyl planks.

I am new to this site. I hope this question is not off topic since I am not installing the flooring myself, but it is a technical question about a home project. Thank you!

Followup: Just to add a few notes, some brought up in the comments to the answer.

  1. Yes, you are able to return any unused parts, including unopened boxes of planks, to Lowe's, on your own.
  2. If you order both parts and labor from Lowe's they won't be able to track the shipping of your parts or provide an estimate of the arrival of the parts (at the store). If time is of the essence, consider ordering the parts on Lowes.com (which does provide order tracking) and hire someone separately to pick up the parts from a local Lowe's store (in the case of pickup in store) and install the flooring. This way you perhaps also have more flexibility regarding any unforeseen issue that arises during the installation - you get to come up with a solution with the installer you directly hire, not bound by Lowe's scheduled timeline.
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    Have you asked the contractor(s)? The difference may be obvious or there is an error. Either way ask them - all we can do is guess.
    – Solar Mike
    Apr 28 at 12:20
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    Were the estimates measured by different people? Are room dimensions listed? We don't have much to go on here. That said, waste overage is calculated differently for different types of flooring, and labor is calculated based on total product, not actual dimensions. It all has to be handled, installed, and disposed of, after all.
    – isherwood
    Apr 28 at 12:43
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    If your room is not simple rectangular shape, for installing vynil they may took just two biggest dimensions. Plank may be cut to fit and calculation done with full footage before cutting.
    – user263983
    Apr 28 at 12:58
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    Planks will inevitably be cut and discarded. Damaged planks will be discarded. The 5% extra is likely to accommodate this inevitable waste. I'd much rather have a box of planks leftover than having to buy more as I try to finish up a project. It would be preferable if the contractor left you a box of planks in the event of future damage to your floor so you can replace broken ones.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Apr 28 at 13:12
  • @isherwood Lowe's just told me that the installation labor is based on the inclusion of the material overages, without giving a particular rationale. Your answer explains it. Thanks.
    – tvk
    Apr 28 at 17:41
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There are two main reasons:

  1. When you install planks there is a requirement that the ends of the plank must be within a certain distance of ends of other planks on adjacent rows. This means you probably cannot make your rows match perfectly even if the planking comes in a variety of sizes. So you will have some cut-off waste and for most planking, especially click lock, you do not want to install small pieces often.

  2. There can be defects in the planks. The installer will not know until he is out there. It could be scratched, miscolored, whatever. These will be thrown out.

The extra 5% is to accommodate cut-off waste and any issues with the flooring. For smaller jobs we actually go to 10%. Lowes is probably being nice because it is something they stock or can get easily.

Note: On the question of also paying for installation of the extra 5%.

I am a little perplexed there. I am sure there is some kind of marketing/sales reason to this but I will say - NOT NORMAL. If someone wants 2000 sq ft of hardwood installed. I will charge them for materials including 2100-2200 sq ft of hardwood and 2000 sq ft of labor. I have never heard of charging for the 5% or 10% extra for the install price.

It isn't fishy it is just weird. Any install you have, you have materials left over and clean up. If you want a new door installed on your house there might be 2x4s, trim, shim materials, screws, nails, tons of stuff... I have never heard someone quote me... well I charge for a 36x80 door at about $300 an install plus materials plus a clean up fee based on overages... No. Just weird.

Why wouldn't Lowes just charge you 5% more per sq ft. We aren't talking a lot of money until you start multiplying that across 1000s of installs. If they are charging 2.99 sq/ft why not just 3.15 sq/ft? Probably because they want to keep up with the other big boxes on pricing and 2.99 looks better in an advert. If it is always 3.15 (or higher) why advertise 2.99? Its weird. It is very big boxish.

And just FYI Lowes does almost no vetting for their installers. They send whoever is free out and people bidding on the contract. It's just a random dude. They might (and might is the right word) not send somebody out after tons of negative feedback. But these are just your local installers who do not have enough work on their own - and good installers are usually booked pretty solid and often cheaper than what lowes charges.

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  • Indeed. 10% for larger tiles/planks in smaller areas, 5% for smaller tiles/planks in larger areas. Ultimately it depends how many you end up cutting. As for issues with flooring material, it's possible -as you allude- that Lowe's simply bears the risk with their easy return policy, and can thus lean towards 5%. Specialty shops / special orders might require 10%.
    – P2000
    Apr 28 at 16:53
  • @P2000 - exactly. Lowes could have asked for 10% extra and then on some of these you can't return it if the box is open, hoping installer rips open every box - some installers are "weird" let's say and I swear will just open everything. Thinking they can scope out color issues and whatever... I have told my installers if you got 6 boxes you can open 4... but you aren't opening all 6 unless you want to pay for them. But yea at most tile shops you are looking at 10% and seriously I have been down to last tile at 10% for some bathroom jobs.
    – DMoore
    Apr 28 at 20:30
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    Where is your quote block from? There's no explanation given for why it's formatted as a quote.
    – Kat
    Apr 30 at 16:19
  • @Kat - quote from me as personal opinion... please use James Earl Jones's voice while you read it.
    – DMoore
    Apr 30 at 16:53
  • @P2000 Just as a note, according to a local Lowe's associate (and if I understood correctly), if a customer asks Lowe's to install the planks for them, the leftover planks arising from the 5% overage are not returnable.
    – tvk
    May 2 at 17:36

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