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Last month, we sent several of our staff to an estimating course sponsored by the Lumberman’s Association of Texas and PrimeSource Building Products. We are committed to continuing education for our staff. When the subject of estimating comes up, there seems to be a lot of opinions and frustrations. I often get the question, “How reliable is an estimate for lumber?”, usually followed by the comment “My clients and I have been disappointed so many times with underestimates.”

With new software tools and BIM for 3-D modeling, you would think the industry would literally have it down to a science.  With the bankruptcy of Katerra in 2021, however, the “inevitable shift” to factory-built homes faltered once again and we continue to build homes on-site. And that is where estimating meets reality! Simply put, estimators are educated guessing (rather than WAG) at how project managers are going to manage the job site and how framers are going to build.  The estimator must make many assumptions, has no control over how the material will be used, how much goes into the dumpster, and what changes a homeowner may make. Therefore, it remains an art.

Davis-Hawn Lumber and Architectural Carpentry Materials (ACM) staff have compiled a list of some common misconceptions and suggestions regarding estimates for your framing packages. While this is not everything you need to know, we encourage you to keep an open line of communication with your salesman regarding estimating expectations.

We strongly encourage questions and interaction at the planning and design phase, so please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Common misconceptions about and suggestions about estimating:

Framing Prices

– FraminDave Reichertg lumber is one of the few budget line items subject to material change and uncertainty, we suggest two strategies:  Re-price the estimate in the month that framing begins to re-set expectations for your client because commodity prices are constantly changing (we normally adjust our prices at the beginning of each month),
– Add an allowance of at least 10-15% of the lumber budget to account for job site changes, waste, theft, weather and missed estimator assumptions. ~ Dave Reichert, President, Reichert Woodworks

Paul BarringtonAn estimate is a tool developed to help clarify price and value fit relative to a budget. Estimates are educated guesses based on preliminary or limited information and details.  Trade-offs or design alternatives often follow budget estimates, especially with custom millwork.
– Quotes are based on refined specifications, schedules, and drawing details which accurately define the scope of a proposed offering for a particular job. Accepted without further alteration, a quotation can be accurately priced and becomes the basis of a sales contract. ~ Paul Barrington, Director of Window & Doors Sales

Brian Graham– Estimates are an opinion.
– There are too many variables involved in giving an exact price when selling a commodity. Do you have a list of supplies needed? Do you have engineering plans already?
– It is the buyer’s responsibility to make sure the estimate is accurate (or at least reasonable to rely upon).~ Brian Graham, Outside Sales, Davis-Hawn Lumber

JP Ratigan– It is always best if your firm’s estimating department or framer can supply you with a list of building needs. If that is not feasible, we are able to offer estimating services, but remember to include a PDF of the structural/architectural plans. Include any general construction or special notes or instructions.
– It is always helpful to specify any time sensitive deadlines so we can serve you better.
~ JP Ratigan, Estimator, Davis-Hawn Lumber

Ben Reichert– Estimating is not an exact science and we are not the framer who is building the house. Estimates are best used as a guideline / budgetary number. Best practice is to have the framer review the takeoff and call in their orders based on what they need.
– An estimate is only as good as the plans/information given up front.
~ Ben Reichert, Sales, Davis-Hawn Lumber

Rodolfo Hernandez– When submitting plans for an Estimate, make sure you send us the full set of plans, not just a couple pages.
– We need to see the full picture.
~Rodolfo Hernandez, Sales, Davis-Hawn Lumber


Michael Martin– Each month, we receive pricing forecasts and updates from the industry trade publication Random Lengths. Random Lengths provides us with incredible information for the wood products industry including reports of market activity and prices, related trends, issues, and analyses (see March’s information below).
– Be sure to check with your salesman regarding the latest trends.
~ Mike Martin, Purchasing & Inventory Manager, Davis-Hawn Lumber

March’s Lumber Pricing Trends:

  • March Price Trends
    Lumber Market Panel Market