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Black Ink Properties LLC
4801 Woodway Dr   300East
Houston  , Tx   77056  

Phone: (832) 291-2401



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Black Ink Properties LLC
Black Ink Properties LLC 

Estimating for Construction 

Here you will find an overview of our estimating practice.

Our Specializations

We specialize in Commercial, Residential, and Industrial projects.  We perform estimates for Remodeling, New Construction, High Rises, Multifamily, Restaurants, Mixed-Use Retail and Residential, Warehouses, and more!  We do estimates for General Contractors, Subcontractors, Developers, Architects, Owners, Lenders/Banks, Appraisers, Insurance Companies, and more.

Average Cost to Build a House

Cost to Build a House by Location

State Average Cost Range
California $152,600-$490,000
Texas $233,000-$658,500
Florida $243,600-$344,300
Colorado $280,500-$545,800
Michigan $227,750-$262,750
Washington $201,250-$490,600
Ohio $292,000-$342,300
North Carolina $323,750-$442,250
Pennsylvania $345,000-$450,000
Oregon $140,000-$483,000
Georgia $102,500-$393,000
Virginia $328,000

Cost data is based on actual project costs reported by HomeAdvisor members.

Cost Estimates for Building a House

Single-family, or detached, home costs will vary based on the construction of the building, as well as added extras like location, lot size and materials. It's also important to note that detached homes are standalone structures. Due to their unique construction, the costs associated with standalone homes cannot be applied to duplex or townhome construction. Here's a look at the costs associated with each kind of single-family home build, including custom, prefab and development.

Custom Homes: $350,000-$1.5 Million+

Custom construction allows you to create a home that meets your exact aesthetic and functionality needs. The unlimited options associated with custom homes make them costly both in terms of money and time. Additionally, custom builds will require the services of a residential architect. Hiring design professionals can range from five to 15 percent of your construction costs. If you're hesitant to hire an architect, ask your builder to submit a design. Their costs typically range from $1.50 per square foot to more than $2.50 per square foot.
Estimating the cost of a custom home is difficult because of the wide range of options. Generally, custom homes cost between $100 and $400 per square foot. Location and materials will play a major role in the price of your custom home. Tiny homes are a popular alternative to larger custom homes. These downsized dwellings offer the personalization of custom homes without the price tag.

Modular and Prefabricated Homes: $50,000-$300,000.

Prefabricated homes are manufactured offsite and assembled on location. While prefab homes may not have the design options of custom homes, they come at a substantially lower cost. Many pre-built homes cost 10 to 20 percent less than custom-built alternatives. Prefabricated homes also break down into two types:
Panel building. Panel construction involves fastening premade walls to the floor of the home. This style of building is ideal for home designs with features that are unavailable in modular construction. Additionally, in many cases, panels are cheaper to transport than modules. Some builders install fixtures like sinks and toilets before installing the walls. This can speed up construction time and lower costs.
Modular building. Modular homes are created in sections and assembled onsite. Modular manufacturing can result in smaller rooms, but many modern modular homes offer additional design options that can open up cramped areas. In most cases, porches and garages are not available on modular homes. Combining modular and panel construction is a popular alternative for those seeking designs not available in modular construction.

Developers and Home Builders: $50,000-1.5 Million+

Housing developments offer a high degree of customization, but are limited to a library of floorplans and locations. Production homes are usually part of a master-planned community. While this can offer attractive amenities, it can also mean constant construction around the neighborhood. Additionally, many new-build neighborhoods are farther away from entertainment and cultural centers. Developments are priced for a variety of homeowners, ranging from first-time buyers to retirees seeking luxury homes.
The amount of customization available in a development is considerable. Housing developments are also more affordable than custom homes. In fact, opting for a development can save up to 15 percent on home building costs. In some cases, this can be on par with modular homes, but few developments will drop below that amount. Another option in this category is to work with a company that has a development in progress. This can increase savings, although the amount of changes made must be minimal to take full advantage of the price.

Material and Machine Costs

Your home's materials are an important part of determining the cost of your construction. The cost of materials will vary widely based on their type and the size of your home. The region of your home can also affect the cost of materials. Your pro should be able to give you an estimate based on your designs. Here's a quick breakdown of general building material costs:
Machine costs will also vary based on what your hired professional owns and what will have to be rented. The size and location of your home will affect machine costs. Building in rocky or unleveled environments will require specialized machinery, which will increase your costs. Most builders use backhoes equipped with the necessary attachments. The average cost of a backhoe is between $70 and $90 per hour.

Residential  / Commercial

All too often, a spec builder is content to build a house without giving thought to possible disadvantages of the site. A wise builder knows what conditions add value to the fi nished home, and avoids any site that could reduce his profi t. When the house is finished and the property is appraised, the appraiser will look for:

1. Growth/decline of the local housing market

2. Where the property fi ts in the growth/decline pattern

3. The appearance and desirability of the street or area

4. Demographic and economic indicators for the area, such as population, employment opportunities, rate of growth or decline of the population and the reason why

5. Accessibility to good schools, churches, shopping centers, recreation areas and public transportation

6. Terrain

7. Adequacy of water supply

8. Adequacy of sewage disposal

9. Mandatory preservation of trees on the site (trees can add as much as 25 percent to the appraised land value, in many locations)

I F YOU HIRE AN architect to draw up blueprints for a project, his fee may or may not be included in your construction costs. You may opt to purchase stock plans, in which case they’d be part of your costs. If you’re building spec houses, the cost of the plans is always included. But if you’re bidding on a contract or working on a cost-plus basis, the blueprints will be provided by the owner, and shouldn’t be included in your cost estimate. Architect’s Fee Even the smallest structure would be diffi cult to build without drawings to help illustrate the building instructions. These drawings are known as blueprints, named after the way they were originally made. Before the 1940s, blueprinting was the only way to copy drawings. The drawing was traced in India ink onto paper or cloth. When exposed to sunlight, a blue image of that illustration appeared through the tracing material. The material was then taken indoors, washed, and dried. A clear copy of the drawing appeared as white lines on a dark blue background; hence “blueprint.” The process has gone through a series of improvements since the 1940s. But even though plans today are processed on fl atbed printers linked to computers, the term blueprint is still used.


Other Construction Estimating Info



A. Professional Behavior Expected Of The Cost Estimator

  • Ethics: The practice of construction estimating is a highly technical and professional discipline. It also involves abiding by certain standards of ethical conduct and moral judgment that go beyond the technical aspects of the discipline. Estimators are often the most familiar with the complete project. They must exercise sound moral and professional judgment at all times when preparing the project estimate. Estimators sometime receive pressure from other members of the construction team to make expedient short-term decisions that can result in an unsound bid. Resistance to this type of pressure is a part of the estimator's job. Examples of expedient behavior litter the history of inaccurate construction estimating. Deficient estimates can also cause strife and litigation between members of the construction team. The American Society of Professional Estimators (ASPE) has stated the following ethical, moral and technical precepts as basic to the practice of estimating. See the ASPE Code of Ethics .
  • Integrity: Estimators are expected to use standards of confidentiality in a manner at least equal to that of other professional societies. The estimator shall keep in strictest confidence information received from outside sources. The practice, commonly called "bid peddling", is a breach of ethics and is condemned by the ASPE and that of other societies and construction organizations.
  • Judgment: Judgment is a skill obtained by estimators through proper training and extensive experience. Estimators should always use sound judgment and common sense when preparing estimates. Proper use of judgment may mean the difference between profit and loss for the company or client.
  • Attitude: Estimators should approach each estimate with a professional attitude and examine in thorough detail all areas of the work. They will set aside specific times each day for entry of estimate quantities and data without interruption. Total mental concentration is a basic requirement for preparing accurate cost estimates.
  • Thoroughness: An estimator will allow enough time to research and become familiar with the background and details of the project and then promptly complete the quantity survey. They will review the various aspects of the project with the other disciplines involved. The estimator with the most thorough knowledge of a project best serves the owner and project team, and has the best competitive advantage when preparing a bid.

B. Common Cost Estimator Practice Traits

  • Awareness: The estimator should firstly consider the project scope and the level of effort and resources needed to complete the task ahead; the organization's financial capability, staff, and plant capacity (if working as an estimator for a construction company) to complete the project.
    • Consider the time allotted for the construction of the project in coordination with the owner's schedule needs.
    • Examine the general and special conditions of the contract and determine the effect these requirements have on indirect costs.
    • Consider alternate methods of construction for the projects.
    • Review all sections of the drawings and division specifications to ascertain an accurate perspective of the total project scope, level of design discipline coordination, adequacy of details, and project constructability.
    • Make other members of the project team aware of any problems with the project documents.
    • Communicate and coordinate information to other project team members in a timely manner.
  • Uniformity: The estimator should develop a good system of estimating forms and procedures that exactly meet the requirements of the project, and that is understood and accessible by all team members. This system should provide the ability to define material, labor hour and equipment hour quantities required for the project. Material, labor, and equipment unit costs are then applied to the quantities as developed in the quantity survey. Apply amounts for overhead and profit, escalation, and contingency in the final summaries.
  • Consistency: Use methods for quantity surveys that are in logical order and consistent with industry standard classification systems such as the UniFormat™ or CSI MasterFormat™ systems. These methods also must meet the specific need of the company or client. Use of consistent methods allows several estimators to complete various parts of the quantity survey, or be continued later by another estimator. Consistency also aids the identification of cost increases and decreases in certain areas as the project progresses through the design stages. Combine these surveys into the final account summaries.
  • Verification: The method and logic employed in the quantity survey must be in a form, which can provide independent method of proof of the accuracy of any portion of the survey.
  • Documentation: Document all portions of the estimate in a logical, consistent, and legible manner. Estimators and other personnel may need to review the original estimate when the specific details are vague. The documentation must be clear and logical or it will be of little value to the reader. Such instances may occur in change order preparation, settlements of claims, and review of past estimates as preparation for new estimates on similar projects.
  • Evaluation: When the estimate involves the use of bids from subcontractors, check the bids for scope and responsiveness to the project. Investigate the past performance records of subcontractors submitting bids. Determine the level of competence and quality of performance.
  • Labor Hours: The detailed application of labor hours to a quantity is primary in governing the accuracy and sufficiency of an estimate. The accuracy of the project's schedule and work force requirements are dependent on the evaluation and definition of the hours. The combined costs for worker's compensation, unemployment insurance and social security taxes are significant factors in the project costs. The most accurate method for including these costs is to define labor hours and wage rates; then apply percentages to the labor costs.
  • Value Engineering: Structure the estimate to aid in researching and developing alternative methods that will result in cost optimization. These alternative methods can include different construction methodology, replacement materials, etc. Using the same level of detail in both the value engineering studies and the base estimate is extremely important. This provides a more precise comparison of costs for proposed alternate methods.
  • Final Summaries: Provide methods for listing and calculating indirect costs. Project scope governs the costs of overhead items such as insurance, home office plant, and administrative personnel. Determine these costs in a manner consistent with quantity survey applications. Consider other work in progress, and/or owner occupancy of existing space that may have a bearing on projected overhead costs. Determine amounts for performance bonding, profits, escalation, and contingencies.
  • Analysis:
    • Develop methods for analyzing completed estimates to ascertain if they are reasonable. When the estimate is beyond the normal range of costs for similar projects, research the detail causes for possible errors.
    • Develop methods of analysis of post-bid estimates to find the reasons for the lack of success in the bidding process.
    • Calculate the variation of the estimate from the low bid and low average bids.
    • Determine from an outside source if there were subcontract or material bids provided only to certain bidders.
    • Determine if bids were submitted by a representative number of contractors for the level of construction quality expected.
    • Determine if the low bidder may have made omissions in the estimate.
    • Properly document this information for future use and guidance.
  • Conversion: Show estimating procedures that allow conversion of the estimate to field cost systems so management can monitor and control field activities. These procedures include methods of reporting field costs for problem areas. Make reports daily or weekly rather than at some point in time after the project is complete. Field cost reporting, when consistent with estimating procedures, enables estimators to apply the knowledge gained from these historical costs to future estimates, and help train field personnel in labor hour and cost reporting that provide the level of accuracy required.
  • Change Orders: Apply the highest level of detail from information provided or available to the estimator. State quantities and costs for all material, labor, equipment, and subcontract items of work. Define amount for overhead, profit, taxes, and bond. Specific itemization of change order proposals is essential in allowing the client to determine acceptability. Upon approval, use the estimate detail as the definition of scope of the change order.

C. Levels Of Estimate

As a project is proposed and then developed, the estimate preparation and information will change based on the needs of the Owner/Client/Designer. These changes will require estimates to be prepared at different levels during the design process with increasing degrees of information provided. It should also be noted that within each level of estimate preparation, not all portions of the design would be at the same level of completeness. For example, the architectural design may be at 80% complete while the mechanical design is only 50% complete. This is common through the design process, but should always be noted in the estimate narrative.

In addition to construction costs, estimates for process or manufacturing areas require information related to the involved processes such as product line capacity, process layout, handling requirements, utility requirements, materials and storage required, service requirements, flow diagrams, and raw materials access.

The following descriptions constitute the different levels of an estimate. Estimates within each of these levels may be prepared multiple times during the design process as more information becomes available or changes are made to the scope. As the level of the estimate increases it will become more detailed as more information is provided; "unknowns" are eliminated; fewer assumptions are made; and the pricing of the quantities become more detailed. Contingencies for the aforementioned will be reduced as more design documentation is produced.

The levels of the construction cost estimate correspond to the typical phases of the building design and development process and are considered standards within the industry. These levels are as follows:


The purpose of the Level 1 estimate is to facilitate budgetary and feasibility determinations. It is prepared to develop a project budget and is based on historical information with adjustments made for specific project conditions. Estimates are based on costs per square foot, number of cars/rooms/seats, etc.

Project information required for estimates at this level usually might include a general functional description, schematic layout, geographic location, size expressed as building area, numbers of people, seats, cars, etc., and intended use.


The purpose of the Level 2 estimate level is to provide a more comprehensive cost estimate to compare to the budgetary and feasibility determinations made at Level 1 and will be typically based on a better definition of the scope of work. An estimate at this level may be used to price various design schemes in order to see which scheme best fits the budget, or it may be used to price various design alternatives, or construction materials and methods for comparison. The goal at the end of schematic design is to have a design scheme, program, and estimate that can be contained within budget. This estimate is often prepared in the UniFormat™ estimating system rather than the MasterFormat™ system, which allows the design team to easily and quickly evaluate alternative building systems and assemblies in order to make informed alternatives analysis decisions to advance the design progress. The Level 2 estimate is based on the previous level of information available at Level 1, in addition to more developed schematic design criteria such as a detailed building program, schematic drawings, sketches, renderings, diagrams, conceptual plans, elevations, sections and preliminary specifications. Information is typically supplemented with descriptions of soil and geotechnical conditions, utility requirements, foundation requirements, construction type/size determinations, and any other information that may have an impact on the estimated construction cost.


Estimates prepared at Level 3 are used to verify budget conformance as the scope and design are finalized and final materials are selected. Information required for this level typically includes not less than 25% complete drawings showing floor plans, elevations, sections, typical details, preliminary schedules (finishes, partitions, doors, and hardware etc.), engineering design criteria, system single line diagrams, equipment layouts, and outline specifications.

The Level 3 estimate provides a greater amount of accuracy, made possible by better defined and detailed design documentation. Estimates at this phase may be used for value engineering applications before the completion of specifications and design drawings.


Level 4 estimates are used to confirm funding allocations, to again verify the construction cost as design is being completed, for assessment of potential value engineering opportunities before publication of the final project design documentation for bids, and to identify any possible "design creep" items, and their costs, caused by modifications during the completion of the construction documents. This final construction document cost estimate will be used to evaluate the subcontract pricing during the bid phase. Level 4 estimates are typically based on construction documents not less than 90% complete.


The purpose of this level estimate is to develop probable costs in the preparation and submittal of bids for contract with an Owner. In the traditional "design-bid-build" delivery system, this would be with 100% completed and coordinated documents. The Level 5 estimate will be used to evaluate sub-contractor bids and change orders during the construction process.

In other delivery systems, becoming more widely used, such as design-build or guaranteed maximum price, the bid could actually be prepared at an earlier level, often Level 3 or Level 4. In such an instance estimates are prepared as previously described along with progressive estimates as the design is completed. It should be stressed that when preparing a bid at a prior estimate level, it is very important to include a complete and thorough "Scope of Estimate" statement that would state clearly such items assumptions, allowances, documents used for the estimate, and contingency amounts included.

For a discussion of project delivery systems.

To explore the impact of various delivery systems on a specific project.

Various types of construction contracts include:

  • Stipulated sum
  • Lump sum unit price
  • Cost plus a fee
  • Design-build
  • Bridging
  • Cost plus a fee with a guaranteed maximum price (GMP)
  • Turn Key

The transfer of the estimate information to the field cost control system provides management the opportunity to closely monitor and control construction costs as they occur. Computer estimating and cost control programs, whether industry-specific or general spreadsheet type, are especially valuable for rapid and efficient generation of both the estimate and actual construction cost information.

It should be noted that it is always good cost control practice to review and evaluate the final cost estimate vs. the actual bid. This exercise is not another level of estimate, but is a cost control mechanism and important data for estimating future projects.

D. Elements Of A Cost Estimate

Quantity Takeoff: The foundation for a successful estimate relies upon reliable identification (takeoff) of the quantities of the various materials involved in the project.

Labor Hours: Labor hour amounts can be developed by crew analysis or applied on a unit man-hour basis. The use of a labor dollar per unit of work (ex: $15 per cubic yard for grade beams or $20 per cubic yard for walls) is only applicable when the cost history supports the data being used. The estimator must make allowance for the varying production capability that will occur based upon the complexity of a project.

Labor Rates: The labor rate is the cost per hour for the craftsmen on the project. To determine any craft rate, whether union or open shop, the estimator starts with the basic wages and fringe benefits.

  • To the wages and fringe benefits, the estimator must add payroll burdens. These are FICA (Social Security), FUI (Federal Unemployment Insurance), SUI (State Unemployment Insurance), WC (Worker Compensation) and others mandated by legislation and/or company operations. These burdens, plus the base wages and fringe benefits, determine the hourly cost of a craft classification (i.e., carpenter, pipefitter, etc.).
  • The hourly rate can also involve a mixed crew where a mix of different crafts for a work crew for the performance of the work.
  • Overtime or the lack of overtime is another consideration in determining the calculation of the hourly rates. A project that is scheduled for completion using a forty hour work week (Some areas may have a standard 35 hour week) will have a modest amount of overtime costs required in the estimate. A project that is scheduled for extended 50, 60 or even 70 hour work weeks will have a substantial amount included for overtime and loss of productivity.

Material Prices: Material prices, especially in today's current market, fluctuate up and down. The estimator must both understand and anticipate the frequency and extent of the price variations and the timing of the buying cycle. Material prices may be affected by:

  • purchase at a peak or slack time of the year for the manufacturer
  • material availability
  • the size of the order
  • the delivery timeframe requirement
  • physical requirements for delivery, such as distance, road size, or site access
  • payment terms and history on previous purchases
  • sole-source items
  • exchange rates (if the material will be imported into the U.S.)

Equipment Costs: Equipment rates depend on the project conditions to determine the correct size or capacity of equipment required to perform the work. When interfacing with other equipment, cycle times and equipment capacity control the costs on the project. Costs will also differ if the equipment is owned by the contractor as opposed to rented.

Subcontractor Quotes: A subcontractor quote, like the general estimate, contains labor, material, equipment, indirect costs, and profit. It is dependent upon having the quantities, labor hours, hourly rate, etc., prepared in a reliable manner just like any other part of an estimate. The amount of the subcontractor quote is also dependent upon the payment terms of the contract, and previous payment history between the subcontractor and general contractor. Bonding costs should also be considered.

Indirect Costs: Indirect costs consist of labor, material, and equipment items required to support the overall project.

  • For the owner: design fees, permits, land acquisition costs, legal fees, administration costs, etc.
  • For the contractor and subcontractor: mobilization, staffing, on-site job office, temporary construction, temporary heat/cooling, and temporary utilities, equipment, small tools and consumables, etc.

Profit Amount: Apply appropriate or contracted profit rate uniformly to all contractors and to original bid and change orders.


Computers And Building Information Models (BIM)

Computers have played an increasingly larger role in cost estimation for complex calculations as the design and construction industry has become more computerized. For example, to undertake a parametric analysis (a process used to estimate project costs on a per unit basis, subject to the specific requirements of a project), cost estimators will often use a computer database containing information on costs and conditions of many other similar projects and geographic locations.

BIM is a simple concept—a master, intelligent data model, resulting in an as-built database that can be readily handed over to the building operator upon completion of commissioning. The BIM standard could someday integrate CAD data with product specifications, submittals, shop drawings, project records, as-built documentation and operations information, making printed O&M and Systems manuals virtually obsolete. The technology has moved forward, but the industry's ability to absorb these IT advances has yet to change. Clearly, if BIM offers a genuine solution to reduce errors and rework, while improving building operations, it will eventually change the way all project team members develop and share information over facility life-cycle phases.

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Contact us at (832) 291-2401 or via our contact form.

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