Blog Version 2 of 6
The same set of building plans typical for the region was sent to each building material dealer in PDF format for them to perform a take off and return an estimate with pricing. The plans chosen were intentionally vague to view the product differences each lumberyard’s estimating department would return. Specifically, for the structural framing, no two dealers returned the same solution, suggesting some solutions may be under built, some over built and no real clear consensus on the sizing of structural elements. Building departments in this area doesn’t require headers, floor systems or their supports to be specifically articulated on the building plans. While using any of the provided solutions surely wouldn’t result in the structural failure, it shows that structural elements and the variety in solutions can be a significant source for waste in construction.
Additionally, wall heights were not called out, requiring the estimator to scale the elevation drawings to determine stud lengths. Beyond that, finishes, specifically quality of doors, trim, asphalt shingles and siding were not specified on the plans. However, the salespeople at each location were given specific instructions to quote a particular prefinished siding system. As for layout and dimensioning, the building plans were very specific and quite adequate, calling out door sizes, swings and window sizes. Additional detail regarding window operation was provided to ensure all dealers were quoting a similar solution.
A majority of the communication took place over email to have a record of what was communicated. A few phone calls were made in some instances to answer questions and in a couple cases, reaffirm the sales people that it was a live person on the other end of the request. While all communication was professional and polite, the timelines were lengthy. The entire process took 3 weeks, often going days or weeks between conversations or email replies/follow ups. None of the dealers returned a quote within a week. One returned a full quote eight days after first being contacted, another within 10 days, two took 2.5 weeks and another required the full 3 weeks. While obviously a material estimate takes time to perform and additional time to develop pricing, in an age when most of the worlds information and calculations are only as far away as our smart phones; significant improvements can be made to this part of the purchasing process. Two to three business days, if not sooner, should suffice when replying to someone who wants to spend in excess of $50,000 with your business.
In order to accurately compare each dealer on the basis of their material estimates, we broke down each list of materials by construction phase and compiled the information in a spreadsheet. This allowed for more direct analysis and to draw more accurate relationships based on materials being placed in different areas of the various quotes. Grouping the materials in a similar format between dealers allowed us to see where particular items were left off or included above and beyond what was required to make a purchasing decision. While it didn’t nullify quantity discrepancies for comparison purposes, it did offer an overall idea of accuracy in the estimating process.
This LBM blog post is one of a series of posts outlining the findings from a study conducted on 5 various building material suppliers. To download the entire White Paper visit: https://www.lbmsupply.com/lbm-white-paper or visit https://www.lbmsupply.com/shop for purchase options of unredacted versions with pricing included.