What do Contractors pay for Drywall Material?
In short, they usually pay about the same as everyone else. The market in the US for drywall and drywall related supplies is pretty competitive. Because of this, various material distributors charge rates that are fairly consistent among competitors. Some local drywall material distributors may offer contractors a small discount hoping to court their future business. However, this usually only amounts to a small percentage, (10% for example). And if one local store offers such a rate to a contractor, other stores are likely eager to match that price in order to maintain the business of a prized contractor. The strongest factor in negotiating a discount for a contractor is the quantity of material supplied. If a contractor is able to order an entire flatbed semi load of drywall, he will likely be able to negotiate a discount.
Usually, when contractors order drywall material for one house or a smaller project, they are interested in more than just the base price. For example, contractors are very interested in what type of delivery the supplier offers. Some suppliers will stock the drywall in various locations in the house, whereas others will simply offload the material with a forklift outside the house and the contractor is expected to somehow get the material into the house. Though driveway delivery may be slightly cheaper, the expense of paying someone to carry 200 or more sheets into a house usually negates that difference.
Another important factor contractors consider in choosing a drywall supplier is the brand of drywall, or drywall mud that is carried. Some drywall finishers prefer certain types of drywall mud and if the supplier doesn’t carry that brand, they may simply go with another company for all their materials, including drywall, to simplify the buying process.
One other factor is the location of the drywall supplier. Of course suppliers prefer to deliver to jobsites that are relatively close to their location. They may even charge a little extra for deliveries outside of their home area. At the same time, Contractors prefer convenience as well. Dollars saved may not be worth the time and gas spent to drive to a further location to pick up last minute drywall materials, even if they are cheaper.
So why do contractors charge different prices for the materials they supply
To understand how contractors charge for materials and how that affects their overall quote, it’s best to understand the biding process. Contractors are businessmen. When running any business, you have to come up with a formula that brings in enough revenue to cover the costs, provides income for your workers, and still is low enough to win bids. The two main factors to consider in creating a winning bid is cost of materials and cost of labor. As discussed in a related article about drywall costs, labor costs can vary greatly between different contractors and even with the same contractor, labor costs can vary between different types of projects.
If material costs are basically the same among contractors and non contractors alike, why are there differences in the amount contractors charge for their materials? One difference could be a result of different brands of material. One contractor may prefer certain brands of material over others, so he uses those average prices when preparing the quote, though this is likely not a major factor. Some contractors itemize every single supply, being careful not to add any type of padding to the number shown for material cost. Their approach is to try and promote trust with the customer through transparency in material costs. Whereas other contractors, may simply use a square footage ratio to estimate projected material costs. This square footage ratio may be ‘padded’ slightly to cover the cost of preparing the estimate and ordering or picking up materials.
The time spent preparing a written estimate, ordering materials, picking up materials, and doing other paperwork associated with running the business must be accounted for in one way or another. If a contractor never was compensated for the time spent looking at potential jobs, writing estimates, communicating with potential customers, ordering materials, handling returns, etc. why would anyone be a contractor. Otherwise, he would simply be doing all of this work for free while his employees continued to be compensated for the physical labor done on the job.
The bottom line is that any quote for a job is going to include charges that allow a contractor to continue doing the day to day office work required to run their business. Some contractors account for this in their material charges, while others account for it in their labor charges. Fewer still account for it by itemizing office work charges on their invoice.
So can I get a better deal if I order the material myself?
Ordering and purchasing material for any construction project is a skill in itself. Knowing what material, how much material, what brands, and from where to order material takes experience. Since tradesmen work with these materials on a daily basis, they get accustomed to the advantages and disadvantages of certain products. In the end, they are the ones who will install the materials so it is usually in your best interests for the tradesmen to use supplies they prefer.
Most tradesmen are not eager to prepare an itemized list of materials, otherwise known at a materials take-off list, for your project unless they are compensated for their time. By the time you compensate them to prepare a take-off list you may as well have them order the materials. So while it may be possible to save a very small fraction of the cost by getting materials yourself, the convenience of having the professionals do it for you is worth the relatively small fee they may charge. If a contractor will provide materials even if it includes a small fee, save yourself the headache and just let them do so.