When buying a house we focus on location, views, the kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms. We rarely think about the house building materials that went into the construction of the house, besides the granite countertops, hardwood floors and other visible features.
When you build a custom home or tackle a major remodeling project, you take more time to learn more about building materials. This can be challenging if you've never bought lumber or ventured into a plumbing store. I still remember when we built a house. Our builder sent us to N&S Supply, a plumbing distributor in Wappingers Falls, NY. We had to pick out toilets and he told us that “Donna or Denise” were included in the negotiated contract. If we picked something more expensive, we'd have to pay the difference.
Picking the Right House Building Materials
When buying clothes, you know what store you'll head to based on what you're shopping for – shoes, pants and shirt or an exercise outfit. Once you get to the store, you probably know what brands to look at like Nike sneakers. These decisions are ones you've made because they reflect your cost and quality preferences.
When you head to the store to buy lumber, do you know what sizes to buy or the lumber grade needed for your project? You can learn more about lumber sizes and lumber quality grades. Here are the things you want to consider when buying any house building materials or products:
- Purchase costs – include more than the initial cost to buy materials and/or products. You want to consider installation costs and how quickly you might need to replace a product. For example, an inexpensive hot water heater that must be replaced within eight years, is might be more expensive than a better unit that will last twelve or more years.
- Operating costs – are primarily the energy costs you'll pay monthly to run appliances, heating and cooling systems, irrigation and more. The EnergyStar program can help you pick the best products, continuing to expand so that it now includes roofing shingles.
- Home maintenance and repair costs – cover simple things like HVAC air filters. Decisions about exterior home building materials are far more important because of the wear and tear a house must withstand. Where you might love the look of wood siding, you should compare the cost of wood rot repairs and frequent painting to protect the wood. Vinyl siding or new composite siding will reduce these costs significantly and might be a better option if you prefer “low maintenance”.
Where to Buy House Building Materials
When building or remodeling, you probably don't realize how much expertise your builder/remodeler brings to the job. They have to calculate and order the correct materials and arrange for delivery. This date also has to be coordinated with the installer's schedule. You don't want to have materials delivered too early as it's risky on an active job site … or too late to miss a day of work and slow the project down.
With any do-it-yourself projects, you face the same challenges. Once project planning is done, you want to assemble all the materials and tools you need to get the job done on schedule. In fact, experienced remodelers will insist that all products you're ordering be onsite before they start working. Having experienced a two month delay in floor tile we ordered from Italy and custom kitchen cabinets that were more than four months late, I have to confirm that this is really smart for every project.
So where do you go to buy home building materials?
That depends on where you live and what you want to buy. My recommendation for most house building materials and products is to buy them locally. That's because it takes time and experience to learn what things feel like, so you'll feel more confident when you can see and touch things before you pay for them.
- Box stores – are very popular with homeowners because they're everywhere and their hours of operation are better than any other option. However choices are limited to the brands they carry, the number of products they stock and you may or may not find someone with experience to help you finalize your purchases. For example, at the last home builder show I attended, I learned from Progressive Lighting that the box stores only carry a handful of their light fixtures versus the more than 5,000 in their catalog.
- Local lumber yards and building supply companies – tend to work with fewer manufacturers, while offering a wider selection of their products to meet the demands of their builders and remodelers. What I like best is you can rely on their experience, stocking of sizes you can't get at the box stores and when needed, they'll order products in any color or finish.
- Salvage companies – are a great resource for materials when you're willing to reuse something old like a fireplace mantel, doors, hardware and so much more. There's so much hype about building things by reusing pallets but the idea isn't new, so be sure to visit your local architectural salvage company (find one at OldHouseOnline.com) before you buy everything new.
- Online resources – work well for tools and smaller items that are easy to ship. Some manufacturers are creatively coming up with new products like deck building materials (Acacia patio pavers from Amazon shown here), packaged in squares versus eight foot boards, so they can be shipped.
I’ll be sure to get the right building materials for my house. I want my home to last forever. So I need the best materials possible.
I am hiring someone to build my house but I can see how it would be important for me to learn about building materials. This way I could understand everything the contractor is saying. I could aslo spot any problems or misleading information if it comes up.
There are 100s of decisions involved in building a house. The more you understand, the greater chance you have to influence how your new home is built … good luck!
It’s great that you mentioned that I should consider the purchase costs, operating costs, and home maintenance and repair costs when buying building materials. My husband and I plan to have our home remodeled soon, so we’re looking for a reputable masonry supplier. I’ll discuss what you said with my husband and the contractor that we would hire soon. Thanks!
My fiance and I are going to customer rebuild our house, and we are looking for advice to buy the building supplies. I like that you made a list of different places where you recommend to buy the house supplies, highlighting that it all depends on where I live. I will make sure that I let my husband know about it so we do deep research.
I hadn’t thought before about the maintenance needed for some building materials, so I appreciated when you said that we need to consider it as we look for some. My wife and I are going to hire a builder to help us build our first home, and we need to find a supplier to help them get the materials for the project. To be sure that it will fit our budget, I will consider the maintenance costs of the materials.
Very well written article. I believe it is really important that you keep an eye on the quality of material you are getting. My husband always gets the construction material from MP Moran, they have quality material in affordable rates.
Thanks for your confirmation Nataliya. Sounds like you’ve got some first-hand experience with what happens when you don’t buy quality materials.
My dad told me that he would like to remodel part of his house but he does not know where and how much material to buy. I like how you said that professional people that work in construction know what to buy and the right amount of material as well. since my dad keeps telling me that he will do the job, I will suggest to him to look for a rebar supply shop where he can get better advice.
Derek, Buying building materials is tricky. For common projects like adding a deck, a lumber yard will often come out & measure so they can give you a list of materials to buy … which they hope to sell you. On larger projects, each trade (framing, drywall, painting, flooring, etc) does their own estimates & builders / remodelers rely on this.
If your dad wants to do the work himself, maybe he can hire someone to guide him through the project?
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Hi Tina Gleisner, these are excellent tips, I like your point that an inexpensive hot water heater that must be replaced within eight years costs more when you include labor. Yes, definitely most people are convinced to buy low quality products for their cheaper price.
You’re right that most people pick a cheap hot water heater because they don’t have the money … which is why preventive home maintenance & planning for repairs like this, will always save homeowner dollars.
Alida Van rooi
I want to buy building material to extend my house but don’t know where to start. What kind of stones must I buy? Appreciate if you can help me on this please.
Alida, If you’re putting an addition on your home there’s a lot more to learn besides stone veneer. Can you explain more what you are planning to do?
I wanted to thank you for this advice for buying building materials. It’s good to know that the materials you pick for the exterior of a home could affect what maintenance costs you have in the future, like how vinyl siding will reduce the costs. It sounds important to research different materials so you understand what benefits they have that you could utilize.
Taylor, You understand perfectly & I think this will become even more important as home building codes get tougher & everyone in the industry tries to cut costs (both material & labor to install). I just saw this first hand with the pretend insulation my builder wanted to put in my house. While I haven’t compared the material costs of foam board insulation vs the pretend “brown paper & aluminum foil” insulation, I know there are substantial savings on the install side.
Thanks for the tips on buying house building materials. My husband and I are trying to find the right building materials for our house right now. I think it would be a good idea to find a company that can help us choose the best ones.
My husband and I are planning to build a shed in our backyard and we want to make sure that we choose quality building materials, so I appreciate the tips that you provide in this article! You make a great point that you should look for material that can withstand wear and tear because this will make them durable and cost-effective for us in the long run. Also, I like that you say to consider the lumber size and quality grades before deciding on which lumber to buy because this way we will know all of our options.
Thanks for the great tips for buying building materials. We want to remodel our home’s exterior a bit, so this is really helpful. I like what you said about getting vinyl siding if we want low maintenance. That would be awesome!
Ridley, I’ve had to talk handyman customers to my building supply showroom, in order to show them the quality of today’s vinyl siding … and it usually (but not always) works.
I like that this article pointed out that cheaper materials may need to get replaced sooner, which means more money will be spent. My aunt is rebuilding her home after a fire, but hasn’t decided on all the building materials. What are some fire resistant and long-lasting materials she can use?
Bethany, Fire resistant material is the focus of walls between units in multi-family buildings. The goal of thicker drywall (and often double walls) is to insure these materials will hold off the fire for a minimum of one hour.
My initial thoughts are your aunt should be looking at green and/or low maintenance building materials. I’ve got a blog category here called “Green, Healthy & Safe” which may have some helpful articles but I will need to do research on fire resistant materials.