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Steel Building Cost Per Square Foot (SQFT)

cost per square foot

Steel is a great material for building structures. These structures are strong, durable, and can be efficiently constructed. However, one of the most relevant variables when you are planning a building project is cost. This article zones in on the aspect of cost, and will help you plan accordingly.

One of the first things you want to know when looking at steel building prices is “how much is a steel building per square foot”?

This number will help you quickly asses if a project is feasible, or help you budget for your planned building.

Here you’ll find answers to those questions and more.

  • A metal building costs on average $10 – $25 per square foot, but can range from as low as $6 to as high as $120 depending on options. 
  • The main things that affect per square foot costs are: steel market prices, location, snow and wind conditions, building complexity and construction costs. 
  • The cheapest buildings are quonset huts, and the most expensive are modular buildings. 

In this guide, you’ll find out all you need to know about a steel building’s actual cost per square foot and detailed info on all the cost variables. We will start by giving you a guide to calculating the cost per square foot of a steel building project. Then, we will give you some strategies to reduce overall costs. Finally, we will take you through the various elements that constitute the costs when building with steel.

So let’s get started.

What’s in this guide?

How Much Are Steel Buildings Per Square Foot?

Structure Cost per SQFT
Quonset Hut Up to $12 per SQFT
I-Beam Up to $17 per SQFT
C-Channel Up to $18 per SQFT
Modular Up to $60 per SQFT

Building Dimensions and Estimated Costs

Although the exact cost of your steel building will depend highly on the supplier you choose, as well as the materials that you need and where they are from, you can use the table below for a guide.

You should always compare your options before you make any decisions about your steel building, to make sure that you get the best deal for you and your business.

Therefore, the best way to read this table is to first make a rough plan of the materials you need and how you want to build. Then, match your ideal plans to the figures below. This way, you can get an accurate picture of how much your ideal steel structure will cost.

Example for the most simple warehouse structure, with no options:

Building Dimensions Square Foot Estimated Cost Approximate Price Per Square Foot
24×24 576 $5,800 $10
30×40 1,200 $9,100 $7.50
40×60 2,400 $17,500 $7.30
60×80 4,800 $33,600 $7
50×100 5,000 $31,000 $6.20
80×100 8,000 $48.800 $6.10
100×100 10,000 $60,500 $6.05
100×200 20,000 $120,000 $6

Example for a residential home, with quality options, windows & doors, finishing, plumbing, electrical fitting, lights and dry wall:

Building Dimensions Square Foot Estimated Cost Approximate Price Per Square Foot
24×24 576 $69,120 $120
30×40 1,200 $120,000 $100
40×60 2,400 $252,000 $105
60×80 4,800 $480,000 $100

What Can I Do to Reduce the Cost per SQFT?

No one wants to be paying more than they should for their steel building. Luckily, there are steps you can take to ensure that you don’t make this mistake.

Before you do anything, figure out your budget and know exactly what you want from your building. This allows you to have a clear idea of what you can afford regarding design, size, and additional features.

By doing so, you eliminate the possibilities of hidden costs and other unwanted surprises down the line.

If you want to reduce costs even further, you should consider opting for pre-made designs or standard steel lengths instead of specific ones which incur higher costs due to the additional work required to cut and shape the steel to your requirements.

Nevertheless, some things are worth the extra cost because of the long-term savings they offer.

Building Structure

Firstly, the design of your steel building is an important factor that dictates your final cost per square foot.

Steel buildings that are pre-made, such as Quonset Huts that have simple construction procedures, are lower-cost seeing as the material does not need to be further cut into specific shapes and sizes.

Thus, suppliers can pass the savings on to you.

Nonetheless, if you have a specific use for the steel building, then you should expect to spend a higher amount per square foot to account for the additional costs of building a more complex structure.

For example, agricultural and commercial buildings are relatively more expensive per square foot than a simpler structure like a garage. This is because they must be built in very specific ways, with add-ons and sections for various uses. This adds to the complexity of the build, and you will end up spending more overall.

The following are some of the more popular types of steel building structures:

Quonset Hut

Quonset huts are traditionally one of the cheapest steel buildings that can be constructed, because they are often less complicated than other structures.

For example, a Quonset hut will usually be made from a single sheet of metal which is arched to make a roof and the walls of the building, with a concrete slab beneath.

This can help you save significantly on costs that you would have otherwise spend on excessive metals and windows or doors.

I-Beam & C-Channel

I-Beam and c-channel buildings are generally a similar price per square foot as well as a similar construction complexity.

Because, the difference between the two are typically flanges which are at the top and bottom of the beams, making the ‘c’ shape which gives c-channel buildings their name.

These types of buildings are an average cost thanks to the minimum materials used.

Modular

High quality modular buildings are one of the most complicated building styles because they are the closest to a traditional building in terms of the materials used, the fact that they have windows, doors and sometimes even insulation.

These structures can be easily expanded, and even added to in order to make larger buildings or things like student accommodation.

They can also be customised to match your specific needs, not just in functionality but also aesthetically in regards to extra materials and paint colours.

All of these elements might add to the overall price of your modular building, which is why it’s generally more expensive than other alternatives.

Overall Cost Factors

In this section, we will run through the top considerations that you should keep in mind when determining a rough cost outline for your steel building. These are all general guidelines as to what you can expect. To get an accurate picture of what your building will cost, you will have to examine all of these categories as an overall picture.

The best way to do this is to have an accurate picture of your plans beforehand. The more accurate your plans, the best cost estimate you will be able to provide.

Size

Although larger steel buildings have a larger overall cost, they offer a lower cost per square foot. It is common practice to see suppliers offering higher discounts when your building size requirements go up.

This is done to attract and encourage more buyers to construct larger buildings under the premise that you can get more for less.

Material

The type of material you use is another element that determines the cost per square foot of your steel building. People tend to forget this, but there’s more than one type of steel for you to choose from.

For example, galvanised or stainless steel both provide the unique qualities that make them suited for different conditions and purposes.

The primary selling point of high steel typically offers higher quality, more cost-saving benefits and additional properties that contribute to the building’s overall structural integrity.

Prefab Metal Building vs. Buying Materials

Another factor that may influence cost is whether you choose to buy a prefab metal building kit or if you want to build your metal structure from scratch. Although not directly tied to steel prices, it is still a worthy consideration in purchasing your materials.

Prefab does tend to be the cheaper options overall, although the materials might cost you more up front. This is because you are essentially paying for the benefit of prefab materials, which is that everything is constructed and ready to build. However, you do tend to save enough money in building and labour costs to compensate for this difference.

Steel Prices

At the very core of your final cost, are the current market prices of steel and the materials that it is made from: scrap metal and iron.

The commodity market, much like the better-known stock market, determines the prices of steel and its components through the buying and selling of the tradable commodities.

As a result, the prices of steel fluctuates with the market’s supply and demand forces, as well as external conditions such as natural disasters or economic sanctions that can cause sudden price shocks that have a drastic effect on the final cost per square foot of steel.

Don’t Forget: Labour Costs

Labour costs have been tied in throughout our calculations within this article, but it does deserve its own section because it is such a big consideration. While not directly tied to the cost of steel, it is still very relevant because the materials you buy will heavily influence the amount of labour required. Additionally, the type of steel structure you intend on building will heavily influence this as well.

Keep this in mind when planning your project overall. Any additional complexity to the materials involved might also add additional complexity to the labour, increasing your costs in more ways than one.

Additional Cost Factors

To top it off, you may see one last increase to the cost per square foot from extra features that improve and customize the building.

This includes accessories like hangar doors, windows, and insulation packages which quickly brings the cost up to $40 per square foot.

Suppliers generally give you price estimates that don’t take into account any additional costs that you will most likely need.

Seeing as your building is a long-term investment, I’m guessing it should be built in the best way possible with all the features that you want.

This is why it’s essential that you have a specific idea of what add-ons you want and are prepared for the actual cost per square foot of the steel building.

Conclusion

In conclusion, when you use high-quality steel and take additional measures to protect your building, such as insulation and fireproofing. This reduces your overall costs over time, which makes them a worthwhile investment.

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