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Residential Construction Price Guides

Residential Cost Guide Publications

Did you know that you can go to most major libraries and get some very cool books that allow you to calculate the cost of different building and remodeling projects? These manuals have been around for years for the commercial construction industry. They were used heavily - and still are - by architects and commercial builders. The manuals break projects down very cleanly into their separate parts. A unit measure cost - usually square foot - is then assigned to each task. The manuals cite labor costs and frequently material costs for a typical task.

The best part is that there are regional and city adjustment multipliers. These numerical adjustment tools allow you to zoom in on the cost for your area. The cost manuals are updated annually so that inflation, supply/demand factors, etc. are all calculated into the final number you look at.

The publishers below have books and cost guides for the residential market. The Means Residential Square Foot Costs: Contractor's Pricing Guide 2004 is a good one that I have used with a reasonable degree of accuracy. The other publishers have fine cost guides as well. I suggest you contact all three of the below companies and ask for a catalogue of their products. The Craftsman Book Company has some fantastic books about residential construction. I own a swell book of theirs called Roof Framing. It is a very technical book about old fashioned roof framing techniques, math, etc. They also publish great books about plumbing, electric wiring and carpentry.

Whatever you do, DON'T bet the ranch on numbers you get from the price guide manuals. They are to be used to get you close to a number, not a drop-dead actual estimate. Do that by getting old fashioned bids!

  • R.S. Means Company, Inc.
    P.O. Box 800
    63 Smiths Lane
    Kingston, MA 02364-0800
    800-334-3509
  • Craftsman Book Company
    6058 Corte Del Cedro
    Carlsbad, CA
    760-438-7828
  • National Association of Home Builders
    1201 15th Street, NW
    Washington, DC 20005
    202-266-8200

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