Construction estimators produce and revise estimates for a project. They are familiar with the design and expenses incurred in the project.

Structural Steel Estimating

Structural steel is normally priced by weight, so having a firm idea of what structural sections will be used and the meaning of the lettering of each section is important for developing an accurate estimate. Get to know more.

Metal Fabrication Costs

One ton of steel costs about $400. To have this fabricated and one coat of primer applied it would cost approximately $1,200-$1,500 per ton of structural steel. If you are looking for other metals, or perhaps sheet metal fabrication of various designs, prices can go up as high as $2,500 per ton.

What is a steel estimator?

A steel estimator determines how much structural steel is needed for a construction job. Job duties include reviewing blueprints from the architects or civil engineers; making estimates about the quantity, safety needs, and costs of the steel; and reporting to project managers.

Why is structural steel so expensive?

Transportation Costs and Tariffs: Over its life, steel is moved from the mill to the fabricator then on to the jobsite. Each mile the material moves will add more to its cost. In addition to driver wages, transportation costs – including fuel, equipment maintenance and insurance coverage – tend to go up year over year.


From the volatility of steel prices to the complexities of predicting labor requirements, the estimator’s job includes plenty of room for error and inefficiency. 

However, don’t take this challenge lying down. There are strategies you can implement to help keep material costs down, avoid erroneous charges, and improve the accuracy of labor predictions. Here are just a few examples:

  • Keep your PM in the loop: Talk to your project manager. It’s better to keep them abreast of sourcing materials to ensure adequate supplies are on-hand and to avoid costly delays. 
  • Benchmarking: Industry benchmarking helps establish a standard against which to measure materials costs. By doing thorough industry research, you can ensure you’re not overpaying for steel.
  • Adopting the right software: By developing estimates using the right software solution, you can not only make your own job faster and more efficient, you can also improve the detailing, fabrication, and erection phases as well.

High demand for steel has cause a price spike

This, combined with a very limited supply due to the closing of many steel mills, led to the price of steel skyrocketing, with the futures price of hot-rolled steel (HRN00) up over 200% trading at $1,800 as of July 2021.

Tools and Materials

Aside from the steel itself, your project is likely also going to require the use of many other tools and materials to complete. Castings, fittings, hardware, tools, and much more will all be necessary and they must be accounted for in the preparation of your price estimate. Make sure to also remember to account for any disposable materials that will be needed because they can become a valuable portion of your estimate.


Depending on the type of project, you may be looking to achieve different types of finishes of the steel. Certain jobs actually require different finishes. The techniques needed to achieve these finishes usually add a great deal of expense to any project.