Metal Building Cost Per Square Foot

How to Get an Accurate Price You Can Actually Rely on

Steel Building Cost Per Square Foot

One of the most common questions from people looking to buy a prefabricated steel building is, “How much does a metal building cost per square foot?” Unfortunately for the person requesting the information, it’s often a disservice for a steel building company to provide a range such as $16-$20 as an all-encompassing per square foot price. In fact, if they do, that may indicate bigger problems ahead. There’s simply too many factors at play such as location, time of year, design, size, accessories, labor, unions and even the global economy, but we’ll dive into all of that shortly.

  • Making sure you know what you want up front and making sure the sales person understands your design is one of the most important factors in saving on your final cost.

We spoke with Vice President of General Steel and building expert, Lauren McCain, to get a better understanding of just how buildings are priced. “Many customers assume size is the only factor in steel building cost per square foot, but there are numerous other variables at play,” McCain said. Here are a few pieces of the metal building cost puzzle you need to consider.

Fluctuating Steel Prices

Price Puzzle Piece #1

Steel is a global commodity, and its value is subject to the always-changing landscape of the world economy, the status of the American dollar and unpredictable natural disasters. That lack of stability means the price of steel can fluctuate quickly. Steel has seen its value dip in the past few years, but industry experts are expecting a solid rebound this year. So while a metal building might be in your price range now, that can change in a matter of days. That’s why General Steel allows you to lock in a price with just a small deposit, avoiding any drastic changes in the market.


Price Puzzle Piece #2

Prefab metal buildings are becoming more versatile, and suppliers are now able to customize these buildings to satisfy specific customer needs. “There’s an endless list of features that can be added: doors, windows, insulation, vents, just about anything you can think of,” McCain said. “The costs aren’t substantial, but it’s important that these are shopped locally.”

Less Complex

Sectional Door, Walk Door, Crimson Red

Steel Building Cost Per Square Foot is Lower
Shop Base Building Packages

More Complex

Completely Custom Design

Higher Cost Per Square Foot for More Complex Buildings
More Complex: Price it Here

Necessities: Costs You Can Count On

Concrete, Erection and Yes Insulation

The necessary costs you will encounter in order to compete your building can fluctuate even more drastically than the price of steel. Other articles we’ve read on this topic claim you can count on $10-$20 per square foot for the necessities like concrete, erection and insulation, but that range is hardly accurate. Union labor, demand, time of year, economies of scale and your proximity to suppliers are just a few of the many factors that may influence the price per square foot in your local market. To demonstrate this fact, we asked our construction services department give us a more accurate price range by region.

Steel Building Cost Per Square Foot

It’s easy to see that the Northeast typically has higher construction costs than other areas, but that doesn’t mean every state in the Northeast is a cost leader. That’s why it’s important to not rely on general cost per square foot figures when it comes to planning a construction project.

Add Ons: Further Customization

Doors, Windows and Additional Functionality

The metal building components are what really makes an aircraft hangar distinctive from a garage or workshop and an office building different than an Ace Hardware store. Below are some of the most commonly selected components that can add functionality to a steel building.

  • Glass Storefront Doors
  • Horizontal Slide Window
  • Gutter
  • Downspout
  • GenStone
  • Roll Up Door
  • Walk Door
  • Steel Framed Opening

If you’re looking for more storage, a basic building package might be all you need. That simple design will most likely cost less than a highly customized steel building, even if each building is the same square footage. If you’re in need of a high degree of customization, it’s important to be specific with the supplier. “Making sure you know what you want up front and making sure the sales person understands your design is one of the most important factors in saving on your final cost,” McCain said.

Comparing Different Building Systems

If you’re completely new to steel building pricing, here are a few comparisons to other popular construction methods. Follow the links for more information on each building system.

Building SystemAvg. Cost Per Square Foot
Quonset Huts$13 – $15
Pole Barns$25 – $30
Modular Buildings$36 – $40
Metal Building Kits$7 – $14

*Price comparisons are for materials only, not including cost of construction or concrete.


Price Puzzle Piece #3

The size, specifically width and length directly influences the cost per square foot of metal buildings. In general, cost per square foot savings and increases occur around the same thresholds regardless of any other contributing factors.

SizeSquare FootageAvg. Cost Per Square Foot
16′ x 21′336′$14
40′ x 60′2,400′$8
50′ x 100′5,000′$7


Price Puzzle Piece #4

Metal buildings are engineered specifically for your location. Local codes and loads must be met or exceeded, so it’s important to communicate exactly where you plan to erect your building. For example, if you’re in the northern United States, wind and snow loads must be considered, while if you’re planning on building on the West Coast, seismic conditions will be factored into pricing.

US Wind Speeds Map

Building Cost Estimator Snow Loads

US Snow Loads Map

Building Cost Estimator Snow Loads

Technically speaking, these engineering factors are called atmospheric conditions and as you can see there are even some areas that must account for multiple factors.

Building Cost Estimator

Price Puzzle Piece #5

If you’re equipped with detailed information including size, design and location, a building cost estimator can start zeroing in on an accurate steel building cost per square foot. To find out what your metal building costs per square foot today, complete our Price Your Building Online form, a simple three step process designed to streamline metal building prices from one of our cost estimators.

  • Steel is very competitive with conventional construction, depending on the size of the project. But when it comes to bigger structures, pre-engineered steel almost always costs less.

Pitfalls to Avoid

Choose Experience Over Lower Upfront Pricing

It’s important that you choose a reliable steel building supplier. Some suppliers are eager to give potential customers the lowest quote possible. That quote, while seemingly an unbeatable deal, is low because it isn’t accurate. It fails to take into account all of the variables that go into pricing, such as seismic activity, snow loads and customization options. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

As McCain notes, another issue in immediately jumping on the lowest quote is the quality of work you receive.

  • Cheap structures are cheap for a reason. General Steel structures are made with solid, all-American, I-beam construction with a 50-year structural warranty. The cheaper companies offer no warranty and typically are tube steel or weld-up structures.

So how do you know the quote you receive is accurate? McCain says to give the supplier a call. “Call a sales associate, and they’d be glad to help you. It’s difficult to know if it’s accurate on your own. Our staff will review any quotes you get and make sure you’re getting what you need, with the correct loads and codes.”

Taking the time to do your research will ultimately lead to lower costs and a higher quality product.

Need Help? We’re Listening!

We have a solution for you no matter where you are in the process of building. You may be in the beginning stages if you’re searching for an average cost per square foot and that’s ok, just give our building experts a chance to give you the most accurate numbers possible. Call us at 1-800-745-2685 and your team at General Steel will get your project headed in the right direction.

Cost Per Square Foot of Metal Buildings
Article Name
Cost Per Square Foot of Metal Buildings
As you begin researching your metal building project, one of the first questions you may ask is "how much does a metal building cost per square foot?" Discover the average cost per foot of numerous building systems including prefab buildings and why this type of estimate is often unreliable.
Publisher Name
General Steel
Publisher Logo