Another major difference between residential and commercial is the price margin, which is lower and less stable in the commercial sector. However, because volume is much higher, lower margins still bring in similar money when all is said and done.
"Often you are making a lot of the same things and can do them all at once," said DeCaro. "If you are set up for high production work, you can run your shop more quickly and efficiently. You don't have to make as much money per top because it's not costing you as much.
"I also prefer commercial because you have fewer customers," he continued. "Our commercial work is way ahead of our residential, but we have 20 times the amount of residential customers."
A Look Ahead
Everyone has an opinion on the future of the solid surface industry, and DeCaro is no exception. He has placed his bets and is waiting to see if they will pay off. One of the things he is betting on is growth for solid surface in the commercial arena, fueled largely by price
"Manufacturers have reached a realistic price point and we've seen prices drop dramatically for commercial business," said DeCaro. "You also get volume discounts, just like with any business."
"Sometimes you can get a really good price based on a high profile project," he said. "For instance we recently completed a job in Rockefeller Center that appeared on TV. The manufacturer was very generous with the material cost because it wanted to get the exposure."
Because material costs play a large role in quoting, Eagle Fabrication doesn't leave the price to a guess. "As the system stands now, we get price quotes from the distributor for every single job," said DeCaro. "We need to make sure we have the right number going in, before we calculate our cost. Dolan & Traynor has a very good quoting system and we are able to get the numbers from them within an hour."
DeCaro said that many manufacturers contact his company wanting to know why Eagle doesn't use more of their product. His response is that all of the material is high quality, but that it is the manufacturer's responsibility to generate demand for a specific product.
"We often see the quote requests asking for a particular brand in a particular color, rather than just 'solid surface,'" he explained. "We used to see 'or equal' all the time, but not much anymore. Somebody is doing a good job upstream working on the architects and designers to get branded colors specified. That's really where the pressure has to come from. By the time we get a job, we really can't influence the spec."