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Determining the Cost of Your Pole-Barn or Post-Frame Building Project

Everybody wants to know “What’s this going to cost?”

Is the project even feasible given your financial resources? Do you need to scale back your plans or can you afford to make the building bigger or include some nice options? It helps to have a frame of reference. The place to start is by calling your builder. But be clear about what you need at this stage. If all you need is a ballpark price on vague building specs to determine if such a project is feasible, tell him that. A builder will be happy to provide a rough price range, but don’t treat a ballpark price like a firm quote. A rough estimate is exactly that: rough, but enough to help you clarify if the project is feasible.

Once you’ve determined that the ballpark range is in line with your budget, it’s time to tighten up your building specifications so that you can get a more exact price. This is usually a back-and-forth process with your builder until you arrive at an acceptable convergence of size, aesthetics, functionality and price. Coming to a final agreement on your project specifications and pricing is typically an iterative process. You start with loosely defined specs and a rough price. As more decisions are made and the detail level increases, the proposals and pricing get more exact.

A builder cannot give you a specific estimate unless you give him specific information.

Consider the Complete Project Costs

Don’t forget that the building shell is only part of the overall cost. Be sure to include items such as excavation, concrete, electrical, etc. in your budget. You don’t want surprises later. We especially recommend talking to an excavator early in the process. Site preparation often costs more than people expect. Many variables, all within your control, can affect the total cost. Here is a list of common items:

  • Permit fees
  • Clearing and excavating
  • Building pad (gravel or concrete)
  • Building shell design and erection
  • Builders Risk insurance
  • Specialty windows & doors (if not included in shell price)
  • Interior build-out (can include framing, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, drywall, finish carpentry, etc.)
  • Masonry (brick or stone exterior if you choose to not use steel siding) 
  • Finish grading
  • Paving (sidewalks, driveway)
  • Landscaping

The design and construction of your building shell is just part of your overall project cost. This list should spur your thinking about other items you may need to consider. It’s important to get information on these costs early in the process so you don’t have any surprises later.

Insider Tip

Look for an excavator who talks drainage and soil types, then ask him for recommendations on where to place your building. Good excavators have an expert and practical eye for determining the best location for drainage.

Adding a Contingency Allowance is a Sensible Idea

It is prudent to include a five to 10 percent contingency allowance in your budget to address change orders and unplanned costs. You might need this for extra items – things you left out of the design that you later decide you want. When buildings cost more than expected, it’s often because the owners make changes after work is underway. Some others cost more because owners underestimate final grading and landscaping costs or because building inspectors require work to be redone when it’s not done right the first time.

Opportunities to Save

Builders prize optimal sites and flexible schedules. A “ready” site is one that has all the site work done, is easily accessible and has a gravel or concrete building pad. This allows the builder to be more efficient during erection, saving him time and you money. Builders like flexible deadlines because it allows them to smooth out their production schedule. Sometimes incentives are offered for schedule flexibility, especially during the winter months.

Have more questions about building costs not covered in this article? If you need help designing and planning, please contact FBi Buildings at 1.800.552.2981 or click here to email us.  If you are ready to get a price, click here to request a quote and a member of our sales team will call you!