Building a Custom Vancouver Home: How Much Do Skilled Tradesmen and Materials Cost?

Everyone has opinions about how much skilled tradesmen and materials cost when discussing custom Vancouver Home building projects.

One person might look you straight in the eye and tell you that building contractors simply grab a number out of the air, with no real method of pricing.

Others will tell you that cost is determined by a highly scientific, complicated formula that mere mortals could never hope to understand.

Because I have heard so many opinions about this topic, I believe now is the time to give a more thorough, complete explanation of how we as a company determine the cost of tradesmen and materials.

Costs of Tradesmen and Materials Depend on the Market

First, it is very important to understand that a large part of the cost of tradesmen and materials is determined by current market conditions.

Most people get quotes for custom homes in Vancouver from more than one contractor, if only for comparative purposes. When you look at the breakdown of cost between builders for the same job, you’ll find that the fee for tradesmen and materials will generally fall within 5%-10% on the proposals. If one quote is significantly higher or lower, there is usually a reason for that (one builder is using better tradesmen and/or materials or the other is cutting corners in order to win the project.

However, an important caveat is that this figure assumes a balanced market. In an unbalanced or disturbed market, this percentage can go up (sometimes dramatically) due to supply and demand, or competition from competing market forces.

For instance, material costs have skyrocketed recently due to limited supply brought on by a combination of lots of people building and remodeling homes during the initial Covid surge.

This is a more extreme example, though it is easy to see how big an impact this can have on supply and demand.

Tradesmen and Materials in Vancouver: Skills + Materials = Cost

When it comes to tradesmen and materials in Vancouver, in a very real way, it comes down to a simple mathematical formula:
Skills + Materials = Cost
Nobody has to like this formula; however, it does demand respect.

If anyone wants to get stuff done, assuming they care whether it is done to a high degree of quality, it necessarily comes with a price tag.

Building High Quality Custom Homes Takes Skill and Quality Materials

Building high quality custom homes in Vancouver for many years has taught me just how true 2 principles are:

  1. Better building materials always costs more (except in a weird one-time circumstance that will likely never happen again)
  2. More skilled tradesmen cost more

I’ve been around the block many times and have seen just about everything under the sun. I know custom home building in general and the relationship between the cost and quality of building materials in Vancouver, as well as the connection between the cost of tradesmen and the skill they bring to your custom home project, are both indisputable.

In my experience, these are the most common quality shortcuts certain contractors sometimes take when building custom homes in Vancouver:

Contractor “A” hires tradesmen off the street at a fraction of what it ought to cost, in order to save on the cost of qualified tradesmen. They rationalize the decision by using decent to good quality materials, believing that things should work out in the end. An inexperienced, unqualified tradesman isn’t a miracle worker and the inferior tradesmen won’t be able to handle the job, especially one as important as building a custom Vancouver home that will last.

Contractor “B” cuts corners on materials and invests in good tradesmen, again thinking things will work out in the end. The problem with this approach is that the best tradesmen in the world cannot make inferior materials work for any length of time. Here’s the real danger: it might look good for a short time, then quickly begin falling apart.

Now, contrast the examples above with the way Larch Construction sources materials and hires tradesmen: We work exclusively with tradesmen we have worked with repeatedly. We know these people, the quality of their work, and the kind of incredible work they consistently produce for us and others.

The same is true of the way we source building materials. We only use truly good quality building materials, which are based on overall quality, durability, and are a true “apples to apples” comparison between other similar building materials.

The reality is, building a custom home is a massive undertaking, especially since you will likely only build – at absolute most – one or two custom homes in your lifetime. So it can be difficult to make comparisons of building materials and tradesmen.

We stake our reputation on the work we do, which is why we essentially vouch for our tradesmen, much like Baeumler Approved vouches for us.

Critical Factors That Determines Cost

I cannot tell you how many times clients who have hired Larch Construction to build custom homes come to the project with a fundamental misunderstanding of one of the little-known factors that go into determining the cost of a construction project: the amount of time involved. More on that shortly.)

The sad part is, it isn’t their fault. If this describes you, keep reading because I’m going to make this super easy to understand.

First, most people have never actually tackled a project (it doesn’t matter if you’re thinking about building a custom home from scratch or ripping pipe out of a wall in the bathroom that sprung a leak).

Most people try to do the right thing when learning how much it might cost to get a specific project done. They do what the so-called experts tell them to do:

  • They might measure the area themselves or guess about the size of the project
  • Do a Google search about the cost per square foot for whatever kind of project they are interested in learning about
  • They estimate the cost of the project based on what they’ve read
  • They call around and get a couple quotes
  • They convert the price of the job into a dollars per square foot figure
  • They get upset because it is super expensive (on a per square foot basis) or in total dollar amount

An Example to Help You Understand a Little Better

Let’s pretend somebody is doing a small remodeling project. The homeowner has done what they thought they should, then when the quotes come in, the estimated cost is 50% more than the homeowner had expected.

First, why is the quote so high?

Skilled tradesmen have to price all jobs in a reasonable way, even small ones.

The “little” job the homeowner has in mind doesn’t take into consideration that the skilled tradesmen who will be doing the job will have to drive across town multiple times, source materials, possibly spend the day destroying a wall just to replace a few pipes.

Because he needs to earn a reasonable living, regardless of the size of the job, he has little recourse but to account for all of these little details.

Therefore, the price of the job is much higher than the homeowner might expect.

The reality is, many tradesmen would much rather spend their time on larger projects where they are creating masterpieces from scratch.

And who can blame them?

Smaller jobs are often more time-consuming than seemingly larger projects, especially when you factor in multiple trips across town to take care of all the little details related to getting that “little” project done. Depending on your perspective, you are either spending lots of time on these steps or wasting it on unproductive activities.

This is why quality builders like Larch Construction don’t typically handle little renovation projects like this. We focus on full construction projects for a couple of reasons: we are energized by the thought of creating architectural masterpieces from the ground up.

The second reason? Homeowners who don’t understand all the time involved in small projects can be almost apoplectic when they find out how expensive a “simple” renovation can be.

Savings Opportunities Abound in Materials

For the purposes of this article, I am operating on the assumption that you are potentially interested in building a custom Vancouver home.

While you don’t necessarily want to pinch pennies on a small project, you may be interested in finding savings opportunities on materials costs.

When we work with a homeowner who is having us build a custom Vancouver home, this is one of the things we do as a matter of course.

We work extensively with homeowners to determine certain savings opportunities that will not impact the quality of the build, yet present unique opportunities to save money when determining the overall budget for a new Vancouver custom home.

For instance, we sometimes have homeowners tell us when we are planning their home that they would like a fantastic quality toilet that costs about $800. Here’s the truth: Unless you want to impress people with how much you spent on your commode, we recommend buying the $200 model available at Costco. You don’t spend that much time on a toilet and you won’t know the difference when you’re taking care of “business”.

That said, if you want $10,000 toilets in your custom Vancouver home, we are able and willing to facilitate your desires.

However, we have the skills to source lower-cost building materials with a little or no impact on the overall quality, depending on what you would like to do.

A Final Thought

The thoughts above are just a few of the details that go into planning custom Vancouver homes that are built to last. There are many pieces of the custom home building puzzle – budgeting, design, planning, building, and many others – that can help you make your Vancouver custom home a reality for you and your family.

When you’re ready to begin a conversation about how Larch Custom Home Construction can be a valuable resource in building your custom Vancouver home, you can reach out to us to get started.

Back to Articles Next Articles

Let's Build Together

Our team is here to help you with your new home build

Contact us

Follow Us: