While looking into the idea of constructing a residential or commercial steel building, many of your questions may revolve around cost.
The price of steel is a complex topic and often times a moving target. At times, some of the information you see may appear contradictory.
In this guide, we will set out to answer some of these questions and explain why you may encounter strikingly different cost estimates for steel buildings.
Once you understand the various factors that can impact metal building prices, you can take steps to keep the cost of constructing your own steel building as affordable as possible.
How Much Does It Cost to Build a Steel Structure?
There is not any one answer to this question. There are general ballpark figures, which we will go over in-depth.
But the most important thing to understand at the outset is that significant variances exist in steel prices and steel building costs.
Key Point: Steel building prices vary significantly.
Keep in Mind: Steel Saves Money Over the Long Term
A steel building does not have to be expensive even in the short term, depending on the options you select and the time at which you purchase the materials.
But either way, it is important to keep in mind that steel saves money over the lifetime of a building for the following reasons:
- Steel does not break down at the rate of wood since it is not an organic material.
- Rodents, termites, and other pests will not damage your steel.
- A steel building is less likely to be damaged by harsh weather or fire.
- Far less overall maintenance is required for the upkeep of a steel building.
For these reasons, going with steel rather than wood tends to pay for itself over time.
That means that steel is ultimately a cost-effective building material regardless of initial outlays.
Key Point: The long term cost of a steel building is typically much lower than that of a wood structure since steel is much hardier.
Factors That Account for Changes in the Price of Steel
Factors which impact the cost of a steel building fall into two categories. The first are those which impact directly the cost of the commodity itself. The second are those associated with construction options.
Let’s begin by taking a look at factors which can cause the price of steel to rise or fall.
The price of steel is influenced by:
- The state of the economy
- How much oil costs (when oil cost goes up, so does the cost of steel)
- Recycled steel available on the market
- Geopolitical events
- Natural disasters
- Supply and demand
- Surcharges and trade tariffs
- Local currency strength
- Shipping costs
- Seasonal factors
The combination of these factors leads to some astonishing swings in steel prices, sometimes over a very short time period.
Obviously, if you had purchased your steel in September 2018 when steel prices peaked, you would have paid a ton more than if you had waited until December when prices dropped way down.
What can you do about these fluctuations in steel prices?
Well, unless you are adept at trading techniques which help you make predictions about the cost of steel, there may not be a lot you can do from an analytical standpoint.
But you can keep a close eye on steel prices, and if steel drops to a low, you can be ready to make a move.
There are some steel building contractors that will even let you lock in your materials cost for a certain period of time, for example a few months. So long as the steel is delivered to the site within that timeframe, you’ll pay the price you locked in, not the current price (which may have increased).
Key Point: The cost of steel as a commodity is constantly fluctuating, and is subject to a wide variety of domestic and global factors. You can save money on a steel structure by purchasing your materials when their cost is at a low point.
Other Factors That Impact the Cost of Metal Buildings
Now that we have talked about how the cost of steel itself can influence the overall cost to build a steel structure, let’s go over other factors which may make one steel building cost more or less than another.
- The type of metal building you choose will have an impact on cost. Rigid frame construction tends to cost more per square foot than a Quonset hut, for example.
- Doors, windows, and other features and embellishments can add to the cost of a steel building.
- The location of a steel building can also influence its cost in a couple of ways. First of all, different building codes can have an impact on design and construction, which can raise or lower costs (for example, building a steel structure in a hurricane zone). Secondly, the geography of where the building is situated also can potentially create challenges that raise the cost of construction.
- If you are building a very large structure (i.e. in excess of 5000 ft.²), you will usually pay less per square foot.
- Steel structures which feature wide, open designs tend to be more expensive for reasons involving higher wind loads.
- How you choose to finish your structure in terms of both the interior and exterior can have a significant impact on price.
- The contractor you choose influences your price. Some contractors cost more than others depending on their expertise, experience, and additional factors. You also might choose to do some of the work on your steel structure yourself to further reduce construction costs.
- Even the type of metal roof you install and the pitch of that roof can influence the cost of your steel building.
Key Point: There are many different factors which impact the potential cost of a steel building. This is why many contractors prefer to give you a custom estimate rather than trying to give you a ballpark figure.
What is the General Price Range for a Steel Building?
Although you can now likely understand the reason it is important to get a specific cost estimate for steel building, you probably still want to get a general idea for how much you might pay for a steel structure.
Here are some figures we have seen quoted for residential steel building kits:
- 1,200 square feet: $12,000
- 1,600 square feet: $13,500
- 2,000 square feet: $15,000
Here are some prices that we’ve encountered for commercial building costs this year:
- $16-$20 per square foot (this estimates includes costs for building a foundation, delivery, and labor)
We’ve also seen the following prices:
- $7 per square foot for rigid frame construction.
- $5 per square foot for a Quonset hut.
You can see that these are affordable costs. Again, the exact price that you will pay depends on many factors we have outlined already. Your costs could be in line with these prices or higher, depending on the options you choose and the cost of steel at the time that you construct your building.
Key Point: A steel building can cost as little as $5 per square foot.
Tips for Cost-Effective Steel Construction
If your goal is to erect a steel building as cost-efficiently as possible, following are some recommendations to help you keep the price down.
- As discussed previously, you should closely monitor the price of steel as it rises and falls, and familiarize yourself with common areas of support and resistance. This may help you to identify when steel has hit a swing low, which would be an ideal time to purchase before the price of the commodity bounces back up.
- If you are open to the look of a Quonset hut with its distinctive curved roof, strongly consider it. This is usually the least expensive type of steel building you can erect, and it is great for residential or commercial use.
- Think carefully about where you will situate your structure. Quality soil may help you to reduce foundation costs.
- A .5 to 1:12 roof pitch is more cost-effective than a custom roof pitch with an unusual angle or features.
- The more basic your steel building is in terms of features and customization, the less expensive it will be. If you like the look of a metal building, consider skipping out on expensive finishes. You will save money, and have a structure with a trendy modern appearance.
- Resist the urge to skimp on insulation. While installing higher quality insulation will cost you more now, it will make your building much more energy-efficient. This will save you a lot in the future in terms of heating and cooling costs.
- You will pay less overall for a smaller building, but the cost per square foot may drop as you tack on more square feet. So choose a size for your building which will result in you receiving the best value for your money.
- If you have DIY skills, think about building your steel structure yourself, or doing at least part of the construction. But if you will have to take time out of work to do this, calculate your lost wages into the costs before deciding whether this is the route to go.
- Conduct price comparisons between different contractors. This will help you to figure out if you are getting a fair price. But also look carefully into the credentials of the contractors you may work with, and remember that the cheapest contractor is not necessarily the one who will do the best job with your steel building.We have found wide fluctuations in quotes in the same location with different contractors. As much as a 30% difference. It does not mean that the higher priced contractor is trying to boost their profits- while that is a possibility, we found that contractors that do higher volume get a discount from the manufacturers directly. They can then pass those savings along to you. Get multiple quotes.
Key Point: There are many steps you can take to keep the cost of building a steel structure as reasonable as possible. It is largely a matter of educating yourself and planning ahead.
Final Thoughts: Steel Building Prices Depend on a Wide Range of Factors
You now have a better understanding of some of the many factors which influence the cost of a steel building, whether residential or commercial.
Our recommendation is not to try and build a steel structure as cheaply as possible, but rather to try and get the best quality you can for the most affordable price.
If you are not sure where to begin in your search for a trusted steel building contractor, you can view some companies that we recommend below.
The sooner you start planning your steel structure, the more attention to detail you can put into every aspect and the more research you can conduct along the way.
This is the key to minimizing your materials and construction costs and maximizing the value of your structure.