Building Materials Pricing
Getting your building materials pricing is
the second step in doing your home
Estimate. (The first was getting your subcontractors'
At this point you have found some building materials suppliers
who can supply your home building needs. Now it's time to get
them to give you their quotes.
Note: If you arrived at this
page directly from the Cost Estimate page, and haven't read
about finding your subcontractors yet, click here for information
on the subcontractors you'll need and how to find them.
materials suppliers will want
to know the quantity and description of each item they are to
price. They may also want to know approximately when they will
be delivering the materials.
you need to know how much stuff you’re going to need -
counting process is called doing
a takeoff. This term simply
comes from the process of looking at your house blueprints
and "taking off"
the quantities of each item needed to build
it. The results can be tabulated to give you a total Cost
Estimate. We have developed Cost
Estimate Forms to help you do this
Once you know what materials
your subs are going to supply, you’ll
be able to figure out what you must purchase . . . whatever is
left! In order to be able to arrive at a Cost Estimate for your
home, you’ll have to determine how many, what kind, and the price of
You’ve already decided the
"what kind" question when you did your plans
The suppliers and subs will tell you their prices.
leaves the "how many" for you to determine.
Preparing this "how many" list
is called “doing
a cost takeoff.” Basically it’s a matter of understanding how things go together* and doing a little counting or simple
You know a brick and its mortar joint measure about 2.5" by
8" (you know this because you go out and measure one).
is about .139 square feet (2.5" x 8" ÷ 144 square
inches per square foot).
If you have a wall that is 8 feet tall
and 40 feet long, you’ll need about 2300 brick (8 feet x
40 feet ÷ .139 square feet per brick).
If you also ask
a mason or a brick supplier you'll discover that you need six
70 lb. bags of mortar mix and one cubic yard of sand for each
little simple arithmetic reveals that you’ll
need 14 bags of mortar mix (2.3 thousand bricks x 6 bags of mortar
mix) and 3 yards of sand (nobody is going to sell you 2.3 yards
This example is kinda bogus because, in reality, when you
hire a mason, he'll provide his own mortar and sand. It'll
be included in his quote. But if you're going to lay your
own brick, you would be buying your own materials.
* Talking with your subs and suppliers and visiting some homes
that are under construction will help you here!
OTHERS WILL DO THE WORK
Don’t let this "take off" process
intimidate you. There’s
good news! Most of this work will be done by others. Building
materials suppliers and subcontractors will be more than happy
to do your takeoffs and put together your home building costs - for the chance of supplying the
work or materials.
them it’s not complicated. They do it every day. Your main
job will be to coordinate the accumulation of the various prices,
and make sure the Cost Estimate is complete. If you want to know
more about this process, there are a lot of good books devoted
to the subject.
Please note however that many lumber
yards now charge a modest fee (typically $50 - $100) to
do a takeoff and building materials pricing. This is because it is a
time consuming process, and they want to discourage people
who are spreading dozens of plans all over town to make
sure they get the absolute lowest price on every item.
want a decent shot at getting the whole framing package.
So do them and yourself a favor. Select three good quality
stores you think you could work with and select one of
them after getting their quotes back.
CHECKING THE FIGURES
You may want to get involved in the actual
counting if something looks fishy with the quantity takeoffs
someone has done for you. It’s always good to take a close look at everyone’s
People do make mistakes!
You can do some rough estimates
to check their figures. For
example, you do some quick additions from the plans and
find you have about 300 linear feet of walls. You know
need a wall stud every 16 inches (1.3 feet).Dividing 1.3 into
300 you estimate about 230 studs (not counting extras for corners
and at windows and doors).
You know something is wrong when
you see the lumber yard is saying you’ll need 1,200
Go back to the supplier who did the
takeoff and ask them to recheck their figures.
When you identify a
supplier who carries materials you’re likely to need,
you can proceed to get that supplier work up some building materials pricing (a quote).
Ask to speak with someone who can quote builder prices.
you may not be a full time, professional builder at this
point, as the owner builder you are acting as the general contractor on this
job, and are entitled to builder prices! You don’t
have to deal with suppliers who do not agree on this point.
Some companies give special prices to
builders, while other firms charge everyone the same price.
Always try to get the suppliers
to quote unit prices instead
sum” or “lot” prices. This will make your comparisons
easier. Rarely will one supplier’s lot price cover exactly
the same materials as another’s.
Some prices - on the framing “package”,
for example - may only be good if the supplier gets the whole
order. Also, you should consider service as well as price.
The terms on which a supplier sells you materials is an important
consideration. Many suppliers offer a cash discount if their
invoice is paid in ten days (or by the 10th of the month).
This discount may be 2% or even more.
discounts can add up to big savings. Also find out about
delivery charges and restocking charges. These “hidden” costs
may make your low bidder turn out to be your high bidder!
As with everything else in building your home, try to eliminate
unpleasant surprises by getting all the information up front.
This is the length of time the
supplier will guarantee his prices will
not go up. It won’t do you much good to have a quote
that’s only good for 30 days if you know you aren’t
going to be starting your home for another six months.
90 days is a typical period for guaranteed prices. If you start
your estimating process early, be sure to confirm prices again
before placing your orders. It’s possible prices may even
have come down!
GET SEVERAL QUOTES
As with labor costs, try to get two or three quotes on each
item so you can compare. At this point you are not trying to
bargain hunt. Instead, you are getting a close estimate of what
the home should cost to build. Whatever you save by bargain
hunting when you are ready to actually purchase the materials,
will be to your advantage.
A NOTE ON WASTE
There is waste involved in many
operations involving materials.
Studs will be split, warped, or broken. Scraps will be left
over when trim materials are cut and mitered. Of course you
probably won’t need any extra furnaces or even doors!
These can be counted fairly accurately in advance.
of extra material that should be ordered to cover waste will
vary from item to item. Be sure to ask about waste requirements
when working with suppliers and subs in preparing your estimate.
10% is a good working figure for framing, trim, and masonry
If something sounds fishy, get a second opinion.
Here is where getting more than one quote is valuable. The
quantity estimates should be pretty close.
Recording The Results
Now it's time to complete your Cost
Estimate by recording all
your subcontractor and building materials suppliers quotes in
one place. Click here to see how the Cost Estimate Forms work.
For additional insight into Suppliers Quotes,
see Lesson Eleven of our online course
Successful Home Contracting.
to the Home Building Answers' Home Page
from Suppliers Quotes