What is ‘Builder Grade’?

‘Builder grade’.  It’s a term we’ve all heard and have probably used, but what does it really mean?  Does it really mean anything?  The term is almost always used in a negative context, usually to complain about the perceived quality of whatever a builder had installed in someone’s home.  Sometimes it is used  to indicate that a client doesn’t want expensive finishes, “just price for builder grade” or the opposite, “we don’t want builder grade”.  Again though, what does that mean?  Is there a ‘car manufacturer grade’?  The truth is that different builders will use different products to achieve acceptable quality at different price points, just like in any other business.  It all goes back to the old adage that  ”you get what you pay for”.  I don’t fault builders for using less expensive and often less durable products, when it is in line with what they are charging, any more than I fault Chevrolet for using less expensive parts than Mercedes.

Often though, perceived value and actual value are two different things.  Copper water supply pipe is still perceived as high quality and pvc or pex as builder grade.  Homeowners with older homes that have developed pin hole leaks in their copper piping might see things differently.  Painted MDF cabinetry is perceived as lower quality than solid wood, but the reality is that the MDF is a much more stable product and moves less than natural wood, resulting in less gaps and cracks seasonally and may be a better choice in some applications.  Even certain brands of products have managed to get themselves ‘good’ or ‘bad’ reputations, when the reality is that many of them carry different product lines of differing levels of quality, so the higher end of the ‘bad’ brand may actually be better than the lower end of the ‘good’ brand.

 Here at Custom Dwellings, everything we do is 100% custom, so you get to choose the products that we install.  You are truly getting what you pay for.  If you want to save money on less expensive finishes, we can do that.  If you are fortunate enough to be able to and want to splurge on higher end products, we can do that as well.  If you want to strike a balance between the two extremes, we love working with clients to get the most for their money.  Where we don’t compromise is on quality of workmanship.  We are firm believers that quality of installation should be the same for any product installed.  With our reputation on the line, we use the same qualified trades people for all of our builds, regardless of the price range or products chosen.  When it comes to the less sexy products that some people may not even think about, such as exterior trim materials or wall sheathing, we use products that will stand up over time, such as treated, composite, or pvc trim materials versus primed pine or ½” osb or plywood sheathing versus foam insulation panels.   Sure, we could price our jobs for less by using less qualified trades people or lesser quality materials, but that’s not the market we want to be in.  We’d much rather be known as the good builder instead of the cheap builder.  We want to make ‘builder’ a good term again.

– Russell

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