How to Estimate the Cost of Building a New Home

This will serve as a help guide by providing some tips and techniques for estimating the cost of building a new home. As an expert residential estimator there are many things to consider before you begin estimating.

Construction estimating can be difficult and it does require a high level of accuracy and detail. It also requires good math skills and a little geometry knowledge. It requires the ability to read and understand construction drawings and details and how they are applied. Basic construction knowledge helps and being familiar with the local building codes.

You may want to enroll in a construction estimating course at the local college or technical school. Another option is to purchase an estimating manual from your local bookstore or go to estimating.org which offers online courses and has a bookstore.

One of the rules that I have learned along the way is the old saying, “measure twice cut once.” Whenever I do a takeoff or an estimate I always follow this rule in order to help minimize mistakes.

What will you need to put an estimate together?

You will need a notepad, a calculator, an architectural scale, and an engineering scale. These are the basic tools you need to put an estimate together.

Architectural & Structural Drawings

Now you are ready to open the plans and begin to review them. The easiest thing to do is look them over and get a feel for the basic building concept. You should get familiar with the information that is contained on each sheet.

Most construction projects have a set of architectural drawings and a set of structural drawings. I will explain the difference between the two.

It is important that the plans are to scale and have all the required details and wall sections needed to properly estimate from.

What is typically included in a complete set of architectural plans? The drawings at a minimum need to contain the following sheets: a title/cover sheet, a site plan, a floor plan, a foundation plan, four elevations, a roof plan, an electrical plan, a sheet with a typical wall section, a sheet with the window and door schedules, and a sheet with the necessary building and architectural details.

The structural drawings are drawn by a structural engineer, not the architect, unless the architectural firm has an in-house engineer. Any interior shear wall or bearing wall is detailed on these drawings.

The engineer calculates all the uplift and bearing loads of the roof trusses on all the interior and exterior. After doing the calculations they determine which walls are shear or bearing or both and what is required to properly support those uplift and or bearing loads. The engineer will put a structural note on any wall that is bearing or shear. The note will indicate the sheet number and detail number illustrating how that wall needs to be built.

A load bearing wall for example could have a thickened concrete footer with two pieces of steel and the wall above it may need to be framed out of southern yellow pine versus spruce with special metal hardware. These should be highlighted on the plan so they will not be overlooked. Sometimes the hardware called out by the engineer is a special order and can take several weeks to get. So if you wait until the framing package needs to ordered and there are a two or three shear walls with special order hardware it could delay the construction.

You need to make enough copies of the architectural and structural plans for multiple subcontractors and suppliers bidding the job. To save you money, ask your architect and engineer to convert the drawing files to a PDF file. This will save you time as well and make it convenient because you can email them to as many subcontractors and vendors as you like.

Specifications

A list of product specifications must be provided so all the subcontractor and vendors are bidding apples to apples. This is a list detailing all the products and finishes you want in your new home. It does not make sense to send the plans out to bid without a set of specifications. Without this, the bids you receive will not be apples to apples. Then you will need to have them all rebid the project. It wastes a lot of time and creates a lot of unnecessary work for the subcontractors. Remember these guys do not need practice bidding and some of them may not submit a bid without a set of specifications included. Therefore, everything from paint colors to the floor finishes need to be selected. They need to be listed on the plan or on a separate document.

Doing the Takeoffs

It is too technical to put in a written guide how to quantify the concrete, masonry, lumber, and shingles just to name a few. For example let’s assume you need to quantify the masonry block on a single story block home. You have to know how the wall is assembled which includes the ability to visualize and understand construction methods. If the exterior walls have multiple heights, a regular block (8x8x16) needs to be added and a lintel block needs to be deducted in each location where the plate heights change. If some of the walls are on a 45 degree angle you need to be able to know whether to estimate an angle block or butterfly block. The door and window openings need a certain quantity of regular blocks deducted plus a half block every other course on each side of each opening. You could have too much of one size block and either not enough or some units not accounted for at all. These inaccuracies will throw off your budget and cost you time and money. This ability and knowledge can not come from a book but through hands on experience combined with years of estimating experience.

If you decide to quantify the materials yourself I suggest you refer to Walker’s Building Estimator’s Reference Book, frankrwalker.com which has instructions on how to estimate the quantities of concrete, masonry, lumber, drywall, etc. It is considered the bible for construction estimators and it is one of required books included in the study guide for most state contractor’s exam. Just keep in mind that these reference books do not have tips and tricks as well as real world experience as explained above.

You can employ the help of your subcontractors bidding the work or your suppliers. You may pay more for their product or service or you can hire us. Either way you are paying for someone to review the plans and quantify what is needed to build the project.

If you have your lumber yard quantify the material remember he is trying to win the job so he may provide a takeoff that is too tight. This does not benefit you if you have to keep reordering more lumber. The obvious answer to this is to have your framer put together the lumber list for you. Well that does not work either because he will over order so he does not run out of material and have to make additional trips to finish. They want to finish as fast as possible so it can get inspected and they can get paid. The bottom line is neither are working in your best interest.

I recommend you do not attempt to quantify the materials yourself. I have outlined valid reasons why. It is very technical and requires someone with years of estimating experience combined with hands on field experience.

Soliciting Bids

This part of preparing an estimate can be done by most anyone. I suggest you contact your local builder’s association to get subcontractor referrals or use Angie’s List, angieslist.com which prescreens contractors as well

You may have heard the term RFQ – Request for Quote. You want to solicit at least contractors. Most people will say three bids, so why do I recommend five bids? Let’s say you contact five contractors and all five contractors bid the project. You got to figure one will be the high bid and one will be the low bid. So those should be set to the side because chances are the low bid is probably missing something and the high bid is priced too high. The remaining three bids should be reviewed thoroughly to make sure you are comparing apples to apples.

When you contact all the subcontractors that you want to bid your project be sure to give them a bid due date. That way you do not have to chase them. Give them a reasonable amount of time to review the plans and specifications, typically a week or two.

Analyzing the Bids

First organize all your bids by trade, such as putting all your electrical bids together. A three ring binder with dividers and tabbed with each category is a good way to organize all the bids.

Once you receive the bids you need to read them carefully and review them against the plans and specifications. They should have the project information and the date. They need to be detailed and itemized. The cabinet bid should not say “cabinets”. Instead it should list and quantify all the cabinets by finish, style, size, and location, example 15 lnft of 42″ oak raised panel kitchen cabinets, 1/ea 60″ melamine master bath cabinet, 1/ea 36″ melamine hall bath cabinet, etc. If it does not include the countertops it should state that so there is no misrepresentation.

When a proposal needs to be revised, make sure it states the revision date or states “revised”. That way when you compile the bids and you need to refer back to them you will be looking at the latest one.

The proposals should also indicate workmanship and warranty. All this is important, especially if the contractor does not perform and mediation or worse litigation is required.

How to Negotiate the Best Price

Once you determine the three competitive bids the hard part is negotiating with the contractors. You have to assume that all the quotes will be inflated with the understanding you will negotiate less. Therefore, you need to get them down as low as you can to the real number. I always ask my subcontractors and vendors if the bid is negotiable. Remember it never hurts to ask, the worse they can say is no. And if they say yes, then I ask them what is the maximum they can cut their bid. They normally respond with, “how much do I need to cut it to get the job” and again I put it back on them by saying, “the maximum you can cut your price”. Never name a price first! You should already have a budget of what you can afford to spend on each item. You never know whether or not they would be willing to do it for less than that.

Once they lower their bids and you determine the low bidder you need to compare warranty, workmanship, and references. Price is important, but if they can not finish the job the price does not mean anything. You definitely need to check both project references and credit references. The bottom line is you want the best contractor for the least amount of money.

Preparing an Estimate

Once you have awarded the job to each subcontractor you will want to prepare an estimate. I recommend using Microsoft Excel to organize your estimate. It is the easiest and mostly widely used spreadsheet application, especially in construction.

It helps organize your estimate. You can use a separate worksheet for each trade within the Excel workbook. You can enter all the material lists and bid amounts you receive. You can track the job to make sure you are on budget. You can email your local suppliers your material lists so they can enter their unit prices and they can email it back to you.

One of the sheets needs to be the estimate summary which has the total cost for each phase or trade. It should include your preconstruction costs and direct construction costs.

It should have the estimate total at the bottom.

There are endless possibilities you can do with Excel and the level of detail is up to you.

We have for sale blank estimates that are in Excel. These are templates that we use which can help you calculate some of the material quantities and can also be used to prepare your estimate. They contain prebuilt formulas for calculating concrete, steel, masonry, and lumber. All you need to do is enter counts and lengths where indicated and the quantities are calculated for you. Contact us to send you a sample template.

Conclusion

I hope this has provided you will some good information on how to prepare an estimate if you are building a new home. We are available to answer any questions you may have. We can help you put together an estimate for any type of construction project, big or small, residential or commercial.

Home Renovation And Reconstruction – How To Do It The Budget-Friendly Way

When you buy or construct your home for the first time, everything seems perfect and flawless. The decorations are perfect and the space appears enough; in fact, you can’t take your eyes off the new walls and furnishings. However, as time passes by, it starts showing its signs of wear and tear on the structural conformity of your building. Whether you intend to stay in your house for a long time or sell it off in the near future, property maintenance works are a must. However, considering the present hectic lifestyle and work schedule, it’s pretty natural for you to go easy on home upkeep jobs. Over time, your negligence starts showing its results on the aesthetic look of your property. Of course, it’s advisable to be on the safe side with maintenance jobs, but renovation works often turn into a thing of priority.

Property refurbishment or home renovation is an excellent way to improve your lifestyle and lower the utility bills. Nevertheless, the huge expenses of house revamping projects deter many people from undertaking these types of construction projects. Yes, property renewal or reformation is not just about painting the walls or replacing the furniture; quite often, it’ll include some construction works as well. Even though the basic material and labor costs often remain the same, you can lower the overall expenses by choosing cost-effective fixtures, lumber and other facilities. Following are a few tips that’ll help you in renovating your house in a budget-friendly way.

Plan a proper budget

Of course you’ve heard it many times, but the drafting of a budget for your property revamping project is very essential. If you choose to work without a budget, you may end up spending more than what you would otherwise do. When opting for renovation projects, proper budget creation is a must. Assess the estimated costs, including the materials, permits, labor and so on. What’s more, most of the home refurbishment projects go beyond the budget. Therefore, always add 15 percent to your estimated cost.

Opt for discounted shopping

Just because you’re trimming down your reconstruction expenses doesn’t mean that you’ve to compromise with the quality services. As you take the initiative to renovate your property, make sure that you keep a track of the discount offers made by the local stores. From through professionals to handyman services, you must consider all the available options on hand. Quite often, it’s seen that the construction companies offer special concessions on their service fees. While most of these offers are genuine, scams or deceitful tactics do exist in the market. So, it’s very important to remain cautious when hiring a construction company for your renovation project.

Tips for Using Recyclable Materials in Your Building Plans

The use of recycled materials in green homes and buildings proves to be one of the most common ways to show sustainability. Aside from economic benefits, seeing recycled or salvaged materials never fail to imbibe feel-good factor to ones mood. Here are some tips on how some recycled materials can be incorporated in your green home.

Recycled woods are as effective as finished wood but they are generally cheaper in terms of cost. Recycled woods aside from structural uses in walls and windows can seamlessly find uses in drawers, cabinets, and shelves.

Old newspapers should not only find its way into paper mache. In fact, they can be used as insulation. Carton egg trays an also serve this very same purpose. Hundreds of dollars can be saved from your pockets with this simple act.

Raid your kitchen of empty wine bottles and mason jars. If you think that they can be used only as pen holders and organizers of tiny tots, you’ll be surprised that they can actually be used to build a house. Search for various inspirations of the internet and see that there is actually a wine farm in Australia which used abu 13500 wine bottles to design water-heating facility. Similarly, there is a Canadian man who used 25000 wine bottles to design his house.

Dating back to the 1900s, empty wine bottles have found various uses in construction of homes. In the United States, you can find several homes which have walls with embedded bottles on them. The idea is like hitting two birds in one stone as it serves aesthetic and structural purposes.

Reimagine your bathroom by using sea-sourced materials. If you’re living near the shorelines, then it is a very wise idea to use natural materials you can find and pick from them. Shells and pebbles of various colors, shapes, and sizes can be perfect inclusions in the walls and floors of your bathroom. Isn’t this idea very refreshing to embrace? This one can also save you from the usual high costs of bathroom tiles in home depots.

Sustainable living is an idea which one may find very difficult to embrace and carry out. But with proper thinking and inspiration, it is actually an endeavor that can become an easy reality. Start exercising your environment-friendly minds. And always remember that your very own household bins can become first-hand sources of recycled materials you can actually use to realize a green home.

Tips to Find the Right Garage Builder

Building a new garage on your property requires several careful considerations. The foremost consideration must be to find the right builder for the purpose. Not working with a professional and competent garage builder can turn out to be a costly endeavor for homeowners.

Here are some tips to help you find the right garage builder.

Search for Local Builders

A basic online search can yield names of leading garage builders in your town or city. Try using searches such as ‘garages in Stafford’ ‘garage builders in Stafford’ if you live in or around the area. Check their websites to see the type of building services they offer and if a specific company seems like a good match for you.

Check the website for information about their experience, expertise, local area knowledge, and the rates for their services. Proper knowledge of the local zoning and building laws is essential for any extension to an existing property or to construct a new structure. Residents may not have the proper information about zoning laws. Experienced and knowledgeable garage builders can guide you through the process so that you can construct the new structure without any hassles.

Also see if there are any client testimonials on the website, which can give you some idea about the quality of their services. Do you like what their previous clients are saying about them? Do they have reviews that have been verified by the BBB or the Better Business Bureau?

Ask the Right Questions

Once you have identified one or more prospective garage builders you like, it is time to contact them to know more about their services. Asking the right questions can help you finalize a builder who is ideal for your specific requirements.

Some ideas about the questions –

– Do they build structures in the size that you need?

– Can they meet your budget?

– What kind of garage structures they specialize in or usually build?

– What kind of materials they use for building garages? Do they offer any warranties for the structures they build?

– Who does the work – their employees or sub-contractors?

It is better to not hesitate when you have a query about their work. Professional builders will be more than happy to answer questions from prospective clients. The right builder will also be proactive in helping you plan the right garage design if you are unsure about it.

To Sum Up

The right builder will help you solve the problem you want to address by the construction of the new garage. People use their garage spaces for more than storing their vehicles. It also at times acts as the place for storing tools, for completing small DIY building/home projects, and such.

You can arrive at the right decision about the builder through your research and by asking a series of questions pertaining to your unique requirements.

Green Building – Sustainable Materials For Home Construction

There are prominent issues in the contemporary society especially those that tackle the massive impact of things in the environment. In the real estate industry, preferring technologies and systems that cater to the preservation of the environment is becoming a trend. One of the concerns prevalent today is on the use of sustainable materials for home construction.

There are innumerable criteria you can actually consider when talking about sustainable materials and how such items are qualified under this category.

One of the main properties that sustainable and green buildings must be eligible with is its less environment impact. Since such real property entities account for many effects on the use of land, water and energy consumption as well as the alteration in the air and the atmosphere, buildings must primarily reduce its consumption of natural resources which are slowly depleting and eliminated without chances of renewal.

Sustainable materials are the ones that are recycled and reused in order to build or renovate homes and buildings. This way, you are not contributing to the exhaustion of the natural resources in order to answer the demands for new materials and items to use for construction and renovation of your property. There are numerous industries in the world of real estate that cater to the notion of recycling and refurbishing materials instead of producing new ones for constructing new properties or improving old ones.

In general, bear in mind that the process of building construction is definitely producing a lot of wastes. Hence, the materials that are recycled and reused must have the ability to reincorporate whatever scraps or wastes are made and remixed or reused it for other building construction purposes.

Another important criterion to consider is to look into the sustainability features of the material and to know if it is truly sustainable from the very moment it was harvested or gained as a raw material up to the time of its eventual disposal.

The material must have very minimal impact to the environment especially in terms of the waste, emission, energy consumption and its capacity to replenish itself in order not to deplete the resources taken from nature due to its production. The energy consumption especially in terms of the harvesting process of the material, its actual processing and the transportation required are all considerable qualities to tag a material that is truly not hazardous to nature.

There are different types of resources which are not recyclable however are still considered sustainable because these primarily have the capacity to highly replenish. Examples of such materials are straw, hay, bamboo, cork, adobe and clay among others. They are tagged with this kind of quality because they can quickly replenish and renew their quantity after they have been harvested. These materials also have low or very minimal rates on emission and are highly deemed for energy conservation.

Hence, if you want to build an eco-friendly and healthier property, you must consider using all natural materials which are sustainable and renewable in nature in every corner and foundation of your home.

Build The Home of Your Dreams With a Construction Loan

With the current economy trend setting low real-estate prices, many assume that buying a used home is worth every dollar they fork out. Others engage in apartment loans, thinking of it as hitting two birds in one stone: having your own home while gaining some extra cash through rental income. While these are all very good strategies, some families opt to get a construction loan and build the home of their dreams.

Although it might sound difficult, building your dream home is possible, provided you understand how a construction loan works. Presently, the construction-to-permanent loan remains the most popular option. This loan encompasses full lot and construction coverage, and even converts to a mortgage the moment your dream house has been established. Once you’ve laid down the down payment, all you have to do is make interest-only payments at a fixed interest rate. And after the construction has finished, the loan will be transformed into either a 15-year or 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

Certain banks will dish out interest reserve accounts that allow you to make interest-free payments throughout the construction process. The bank will calculate the amount of interest-only payments and add the total amount to the overall loan. Funds will be deposited into a different account, which makes this ideal if you currently have pre-existing mortgage or rent payments on your plate. The licensed contractor you’ve hired will then mete out a ‘release schedule’ that details the monthly construction schedule with the necessary funding in tow.

Once you have determined that one of these new home construction loans suits your tastes, then there are five quick steps to set you off on the right track:

1. Know your Affordability Limits

You need to determine how much of the total loan you can afford by using an online loan calculator. Remember that you need at least 20% of down payment to avoid PMI payments.

2. Find Lenders

Compare the current loan rates from online lenders and local banks. Ask a reputable building contractor for past lenders they’ve worked with, and attain their contact information.

3. Attain Pre-Approval

Skim through the pre-approval process of each selected bank. Outline the closing costs and estimated tax rates. Ask for a copy of a pre-approval letter.

4. Find a Contractor

Settle on a reputable contractor that is licensed, insured and has experience in constructing new houses. Figure out a budget plan, building cost and architectural schematics to get your house project underway.

5. Select the Land Piece

Hire a reputable realtor to identify a suitable piece of land in line with your budget. Verify any attainable building permits from your local municipality, and make sure a septic and water system is readily available.

Once you have all these five steps pegged down, you’re all set to building that dream house of yours!