Building Cost Estimating (cont., pg. 2)


Material Take-Off

The material take-off is a list of items (with cost of each) that make up the construction of your house.  When done by an estimating professional employed by a full-service building supply company, the list can contain everything from foundation through finish details.

The list will give you a very good (but not exact) idea of what your material costs will be for the entire house.

When you get the take-off done, make sure all aspects are included – flooring, light and plumbing fixtures, etc.

Anything that is not on the list but will still be in the finished house, must be accounted for.

There will be a charge for compiling the list, which should be refunded with your first order.


A general principle in house building is that total material cost and labor cost can be approximately the same amount ─ each representing around 25% of the total budget.

That one-to-one ratio should be considered a guideline only, however.

So one way to get a pretty good idea of what your house will cost is to get a comprehensive material take-off, double that figure to get an approximate total of what all materials and labor will cost.  Add in your land cost, soft costs, and anything that wasn’t on the take-off.

Use this website to make your own complete list that will cover everything else, such as material and labor for driveways, sidewalks, landscaping, etc.

Then you’ll have a good idea of where you cost is headed.

As you get more numbers from potential subcontractors, you can come up with a more accurate forecast of total labor cost. 

For example, when you get a per-foot price bid from a framer, multiply that by total square footage, add that figure to material framing costs as shown on your take-off, and you’ll know just how much it will cost to have a framed house.

Soft costs are fairly constant.  You know what the major soft cost items will be and what they will cost.  I wouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to figure this, however.  Soft costs are what they are and there is little you can do to save money on them.

The last house I built, my soft costs were 7% of the total construction cost, and that is fairly typical in my experience.


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