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Lumber And Building
Materials Suppliers

As an owner builder, lumber and building materials suppliers are your friends in the owner-builder-home-building-business. Partnering with the right suppliers can make your life a lot easier.

Lumber and Building Materials SupplierOne of the really important things they can do is point you towards some good subcontractors - the ones who do business with them!

We want to help you understand what your relationship with them will be.

As the owner builder, you need to understand how to find the suppliers you need, how to get them to quote on your job, how to get the best prices, how to order your materials, and how to pay your bills.

Let's start by looking at the kinds of suppliers you may need in your exciting home building adventure.


Look for one lumber and building materials supplier who does a lot of builder business - not just retail business. They will be the most helpful in developing your Cost Estimate. These "general" construction materials suppliers will be able to supply much of what you need.

Here is a listing of other building materials suppliers you may need to locate in assembling your materials cost estimate:

  • Concrete
  • Masonry Products
  • Sand and Gravel
  • Steel
  • Trusses
  • Windows and Doors
  • Trim Materials
  • Hardware
  • Garage Door
  • Appliances
  • Prefab Stairs
  • Cabinets and Vanities
  • Glass and Mirrors
  • Floor Coverings
  • Nursery (Landscape Materials)
  • Construction Rental Equipment


Lumber and Building Materials SupplierFortunately, almost every town has access to one of the big "box" lumber and building materials suppliers (Lowes, Home Depot, etc.) available either in their town or in a nearby city.

Some of you owner builders are comfortable working with the giants.

Others will prefer working with a smaller, perhaps home-town, construction materials suppliers.

Maybe you have a lumber yard in your town. Be careful here! Your lumber needs to be dried to a certain moisture content and, if you will come under the jurisdiction of a building department which has adopted a standard building code, your lumber will have to be grade marked.

Your general lumber and building materials supplier will probably be able to tell you where to find most the things they can’t furnish. Also, when you’re talking with your subcontractors, get their recommendations on suppliers. They know many of the good subs in the area. And they often hear about their professional reputations.

Hard to find stuff? Get on the Internet! It's amazing what you can find to help you complete your home building project. From good deals on hardwood flooring to antique plumbing fixtures, it's all there!

Be sure to allow plenty of time for deliveries. Also be sure to check Internet suppliers out thoroughly. There are a few dishonest people out there.


Owner builders always ask about getting "builder prices." Of course, building materials suppliers are private businessmen. They can charge what they want.

Lumber and Building Materials Supplier But when they learn you're going to need a whole house full of materials, they're apt to to be a whole lot more interested in your business.

Especially after they see your construction loan commitment. They know they'll get paid!

The best policy is to simply ask if they offer a discount for professional builders. If the answer is yes, ask if they will extend that discount to you since you are the builder on this project. If they say "no," it's always your option to buy from someone else.

A couple of things you'll want to check out with building materials suppliers is their return policy on unused materials and if they offer a cash discount. Lumber and some other building materials suppliers used to offer a 2% discount on bills paid within 30 days.

With today's computer aided payments, it's pretty normal to make that deadline. So fewer and fewer suppliers are offering it. Hey! It doesn't hurt to ask!

One Supplier
Cost conscious owner builders will be tempted to buy the least expensive items available. And why not? A 2x4 is a 2x4. Right? Doesn't matter where it comes from. Does it?

Well, actually, wood species and grade marking do come into play when you're talking about 2x4's. But that's another topic. The point I'm trying to make here is that sometimes it's better to stick with one supplier - especially with materials you'll be using throughout the home building process. Like lumber.

Having one building materials supplier means you won't have to remember where a stick of lumber came from - if, for example, you need to return it. In addition if you're dealing with one lumber supplier, you'll get much better service. Believe me, it'll make you life a lot easier.



Working With Lumber and
Building Materials Suppliers

Your relationship with lumber and building materials suppliers begins with getting a quote. This process - getting and recording quotes is a bit much to cover on a general page on Suppliers like this one. So we've assigned it its own page. Click here.

Establishing An Account

Once you have decided which suppliers you will use, it's time to get your accounts set up so you can buy on credit. Talk with the credit managers at each supplier to find out what they require.

If you have good credit and local references, you probably won’t have any trouble here. On very large purchases, like the framing package, the supplier may want the framing draw made out to you and them jointly. This is OK if your bank doesn’t object.

Many home construction loans are automatically set up to pay that way, or even to pay the supplier or subcontractor directly. You'll discover all these details when you set up your home construction loan.

Some suppliers will take your credit application, but may not finalize approval until your construction loan is approved. Once that happens, no problemo!

With a construction loan in hand,
everyone will be ready to do business with you!

Ordering Materials
A good owner builder is always working not only with today’s subcontractors and building materials suppliers, but also those who won’t come into play for two or three weeks.

After you have gone through the process of putting your Cost Estimate together, you will be familiar with your contact at each supplier's office as well as the details of each item you are ordering - model numbers, units of measure, etc. You'll need to give precise information when you place orders.


Modern building materials suppliers should be selling materials in ordinarily understood increments - like linear feet, square yard, cubic feet, each, etc.

Some however, may try to slip a board foot or worse yet a thousand board feet in on you. Don’t let this throw you. Just ask the building materials supplier to translate these measurements into linear feet.

Translating Board Feet
To Linear Feet

In case you’re interested, it isn’t very difficult to convert one to the other. A board foot is a piece of wood whose unfinished* measurements are 1" x 12" x 12".

The rule is to multiply the nominal dimensions together and then divide the answer by 12. Example - for a 2x4: multiply two times four. The answer is eight. Divide eight by twelve.

The answer is .67. Each linear foot of 2x4 has .67 board feet. So a 2x4 which is ten feet long has .67 x 10 = 6.7 board feet. Ten 2x4’s which are ten feet long have .67 x 10 x 10 = 67 board feet.

To convert board feet to hundred board feet, divide by 100. To convert board feet to thousand board feet, divide by 1,000. In our last example (ten 2x4’s, each ten feet long), you would have 67÷100 = .67 hundred board feet.

Easy, huh? Lumber dealers like to price their lumber this way because that is the way they buy it.

* A "2x4" is actually 1-1/2"x3-1/2"

Good News!

In many cases the building materials supplier's representative (salesman) will need to come out to your home building project and take a measurement before the materials are ordered.

In many cases your subcontractors will take these measurements. They want an accurate measurement because they'll be the ones that put them in.

Again, be sure that your supplier will take unused materials back for a refund or credit.


Moving Ahead

That's the last of our "top level" pages (see the navigation buttons on the left). If you follliwed our advise on the Home Page and ignored some or all of the rabit trails (links), now is the time to go back and explore the supporting materials, forms, etc., that will deepen your inderstansing of the Home Buildint Process.

For additional insight into Materials Suppliers,
see Lesson Eleven of our online course
Successful Home Contracting

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