Builder Grade

I’m a member of several discussion groups on LinkedIn. For those of you who are unfamiliar, LinkedIn is a business-oriented social site, used mainly for professional networking. One of the discussion groups is titled simply as “Builder”.

A recent posting for discussion was, “What can be done to change the negative image builders get when the suppliers and big box stores refer to their cheapest price and lowest quality products as “builder grade”?”

One group member stated, “It is disheartening to see the reference to “builder” associated to the lowest quality, lowest cost products. (builder grade siding, builder grade vinyl window, builder beige etc.)”

Sadly, at least in the pole building industry, building owners who hire contractors to provide and construct the building for them, rarely get the highest level of quality in materials. Why? Because they (the building owner) is not implicitly involved in the selection of the components being ordered.

There is so much downward price pressure on builders today so, in many cases, in order to turn any kind of a profit, quality is sacrificed.

In many parts of the country, either permits are not required to build, or (if they are required) no structural plan review is done. Buildings can be built to less than building code requirements, as there is no process in place to prevent it from happening, and building owners are none the wiser.

One of the places some builders will cut corners, is one which should be the most obvious – doors. Hundreds of dollars per door can be pocketed, with building owners none the wiser until problems occur down the road. Primed steel entry doors are available at several popular “big box” locations for just over $100. Hung in bare wood jambs, unless the entire assembly is promptly painted and then frequently repainted, they degrade quickly. Sliding doors, yes they slide, but made of wood they will be heavy, as well as prone to warping and twisting. One chain store markets a name brand steel sectional overhead door, with parts which have been “cheapened” – lower grade hinges and brackets and low cycle springs. Dutch doors? Built from all wood, they have a lifespan measured in months, not years, especially when not hung in heavy duty steel jambs.

Another saver, which building owners won’t notice until after the builder is long gone down the road, is lower grade or lower paint quality steel. I know of one builder who had warehouses full of steel roofing and siding he bought from steel roll formers at 25 cents on the dollar as “seconds”. Why? Usually the steel was under thickness or had paint quality claims. Some builders will install “liner panels”, which is low or no warranty steel panels with polyester paints.

Hiring a builder to provide your new post frame building? Not a problem – just make sure the specifics of various components and the quality levels are clearly spelled out in the purchase agreement. Or, better yet, purchase a complete building package yourself, where you have direct control of the quality of the materials, and (if not constructing yourself) hire a builder to do the actual labor only. By the way, not all building contractors “cheap out”.  Keep your eyes open to be sure you know exactly what quality you are really buying.  If you’ve gotten a quote on a building package only to be underbid by a contractor who says he can “do it for less including labor” – I only have one thing to say.  Buyer beware.

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