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Means Pricing Guide Book


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By Joe in Duluth, MN on 10/15/2009


Does anyone have any experience with the Means Contractor's Pricing Guide books, specifically the Residential Square Foot Costs 2009 Book? How accurate are they? Is it worth picking one up?

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By Jeff in Hartland, WI on 10/18/2009


Hi Joe,

I picked one up about 12 months before starting construction. My goal was to use it to generate ballpark estimates. In reality, I never used it, so I can't tell you how accurate it would be. I originally thought that it would be a great way to estimate the cost of building, and that it was probably a great tool for general contractors. I got estimates from three different builders. None of them used it.

Jeff

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By Joe in Duluth, MN on 10/20/2009


Do you have any cost spreadsheets from when you built your home (that you’d be willing to share)? I’ve been on your blog, and the construction quality that you used is comparable to what I am planning. It would be nice to get some ideas on actual costs.


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 10/20/2009


I used the R.S. Means Manual for Residential Construction when I was estimating build costs. I liked it because you can run plenty of "what-if" type scenarios when you are planning, and really dial your cost down through efficiency. One that comes to mind quickly (I built several years ago, my memory of this has probably faded a bit) was that I wanted some glass block. RS Means showed 8" glass block was ultimately cheaper (installed price per square foot) than 6" glass block due to cheaper labor. However jump to 12" glass block and the square foot installed price increases again. So for glass block, 8" it was, and my architect needed to understand that where he showed block, he needed to ensure dimensions were correct to accommodate 8" nominal.

The RS Means allows you to do this for many factors in your construction (cabinet quality, brick facade, etc.). I guess more than anything it helped me narrow down what I could afford, or wanted to afford, before I even went to the architect.

I also used it to identify tasks I might like to do myself and how long they might take. I assumed that between my learning curve and my lack of skill I could probably work about 50% of the production rate of a professional (sometimes this was a high estimate, be realistic with your own skills), but it helped me ballpark how long various tasks might take me. Knowing production rates, it also helped me rough up a schedule (or various schedules depending on which tasks I might DIY).

I went to the library and used their copy. It was in their reference material, so no checking it out and taking it home. No problems, I really found most of the data I wanted in two sittings (planning before architect, scheduling for banker). As to ultimate accuracy for cost estimates, that's not how I used it. You also might try a used version, while pricing would change some of the other factors (like I used) would not.


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