How to Bid on a Framing Job: the Details You Need To Know

by Steve Coffey  // in Construction, General Contractors


When it comes to getting a framing job, you need to be able to compete with other guys. Bidding for a framing job means that you are competing against other framers to win the project. Usually, the lowest bidder wins the job.

If you are a newbie to frame bidding, it can be overwhelming to know what exactly is going on. You may not know how much your project will cost, but if you want to start right, you should learn everything there is to learn before you even begin.

Fret not! Here’s how to bid on a framing job as a contractor.

Know Your Stuff

If you don’t know what you’re doing, you won’t be able to give a robust plan for the framing. So, as a newbie, it’s the best time to familiarize yourself with the different types of materials used in framing jobs. The basics of modern stud-wall framing are similar to those in the past years. However, the materials and tools have changed a lot.

The assembly process was revolutionized using pneumatic nail guns that were novelties until the mid-1970s. We’re seeing engineered lumber steadily replacing sawn boards, and the metal connectors have enhanced stiffness and sturdiness.

Different Framing Methods

A green home under construction with a yellow lift sitting in the front.

The older framing method involves the use of thick posts and beams in framing. At the same time, the newer methods like balloon framing involve the use of extra-long studs. Most framing contractors use eight or 9-foot high wall studs resting on the plywood-sheathing subfloor. 

For multiple-story buildings, the platform framing method is applied. In this method, framing for each story is made on top of the previous one. Most builders use this method, using the floor as a platform for constructing the next floor. This stable work surface allows the laborer to do the framing work quickly.

Apart from familiarizing yourself with materials, it would help if you also looked for the tools that make framing easy. Framers use several tools, and they have essential tools like hammers, squares, miter or table saws, nailers and compressors. Alongside, you’ve got additional tools like tape measures, chalk reels or pencils.  

Get an In-Depth Understanding of the Job You Want to Bid

A person wearing a pink respirator sawing a large panel of wood in a warehouse.

In framing, every job is unique. So, it’s best to understand the specifics of the framing job given in a timely. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll probably end up overspending or underbidding your competition. Study what the job entails; see the project’s scope so you won’t make mistakes.

For the most basic projects, you’ve got to know each part of the framing, including the floor, walls, and ceiling. Here’re some common framing elements you must identify for the project. Understanding these components will also help you prepare an accurate bid estimate.


  • The essential framing component of the floor is joists. They run along the length of the floor and act as support for the floor of the home. The wall panels will attach to these joists. Once they’re connected, we cover them up using plywood sub-flooring.
  • The next part is a floor truss comprised of 2×4 or 2×3 lumber pieces connected with metal plates. Regardless of the configuration of the truss, it must form a stable support for the floor and resist bouncing.
  • Sub-flooring is also a vital component fastened to the floor structure, directly transferring the load from above the floor to the joists below.


The framing for load-bearing walls and non-load-bearing wall involves a different set of details. Similarly, the details of openings like windows and doors are an essential consideration. 

A load-bearing wall is the main wall that carries loading and can be an exterior or interior wall. A non-load-bearing wall is a partition wall separate from a load-bearing wall and acts as a divider. 

Another type of wall is a shear wall that mainly resists lateral forces like wind and earthquakes.

Regarding walls, here’s some vital information:

  • The main frame of a wall consists of a sill, top plate, and bottom plate. While the sill piece is the lumber that anchors the house to the foundation, it consists of joists spanning foundation walls. On the other hand, the top plate is the lumber that runs on top of the wall supporting the roof and ceiling. The bottom line sits on the floor and is the bottom of the wall.
  • The lumber connecting the top and bottom plate is called lumber, which is spaced 16 or 24 inches apart.
  • Another essential wall component is sheathing, which ties the studs together and strengthens the wall. Common types of sheathing include gypsum, cement board and plywood.
  • After fixing the sheathing to the frame, you cut to allow space for doors and windows. To strengthen the wall, there must be headers bridging between vertical pillars. The load above the door and window opening goes down along pillars to the king and jack studs.

Ceiling and Roof

Horizontal elements or joists are provided for transferring the roof and ceiling load. These joists are typically 6 x 2 and spaced at 16 to 24 inches. For supporting the roof sheathing, rafters are provided from the ridge or the roof to the wall plate side by side.

Trusses are quick to install and easy to make. The truss supporting the roof decking is prefabricated and acts as a web shape of beams. At the same time, the shape of trusses distributes the weight of the roof on a broad area.

The roof deck sits on top of the trusses providing support for weatherproofing and roofing layers. It’s generally of plywood or strand board.

Estimate Your Overall Budget

Your success as a framing company depends a lot on the accuracy of estimates you make. Your profit margins are usually not huge at the start, and you only win projects by bidding competitively. For most framing, drywalling and other building services, contractors usually take a profit margin of around 10%. 

However, in some cases, you may have to reduce the rate to 8%, but that’s too low. A 15% profit margin is ideal, but that’s only attainable once you’ve got a handsome number of sales. You also have to understand your regular expenses in the business. These are called business overheads. Two types of costs are associated with keeping your business open – direct costs and indirect costs. 

Direct and Indirect Costs

Direct costs are connected directly with the project or departments like labor costs, machinery, and equipment. Indirect costs include general administrative costs like office expenses, equipment, book-keeping and taxes.  

Similarly, while estimating materials and prices, you need to know the potential fluctuation due to the uncertainty of the market.

Calculating the Size of the Framing Job

Typically, the contractor prices the framing bid on a square foot basis. So, it’s crucial to know the accurate size of framing members and each section in the frame with dimensions.

It would help if you removed the dimensions from the construction plans and drawings. For jobs without a plan, you make a rough sketch or plan. But be sure to identify wall sizes and essential information like door and window openings and wall studs. It would help if you had spacing between the wall studs and the point of intersection.

For accuracy, you can follow a sequence taking each column and detail. Specify the beams and details per floor that will help you summarize the quantities per floor. Anyhow, try to note down as many details as possible.

Estimating the Number of Studs Required

After you’ve got the overview of the project specifications, the next step is to estimate the number of studs required. Try to know the wall length in feet and multiply that by 0.75. 

For corners, you need to add three studs for 90-degree corners and four studs for 45-degree corners. For openings, we add two studs for windows lesser than 5 feet in width and one stud for opening wider than 5 feet. Finally, don’t forget to add 15% wastage to your estimates.

We add two 2 x 12 lumber pieces for header material between half-inch thick plywood. The framing material for door openings includes 7 inches plus the opening size of the door. For the wall frame, the header is 3.5 inches plus the width or depth of the opening.

Estimating Supporting Plates

The next step includes estimating supporting plates. It would be best to consider single bottom and double top plates for load-bearing walls. So, multiply the total length of the wall by three to get the entire length of the supporting plate. For plates, the general practice is to take a 5% to 10% wastage factor.

In the end, you can estimate the sheathing by calculating the total wall area. Subtract the area of openings from the total area and divide the result by 32 to get the number of sheets for one wall face. 

The result of the estimate is a comprehensive table or list of materials in your design that specifies the framing element, quantity used, and the total length required for a particular section.

Create Your Framing Takeoff Sheets

In your framing takeoff sheets, you have four basic measurements. These are lengths or dimensions, numbers or count, area, and volume. The joists and studs are in terms of length but grouped by size to help during procurement. For example, you may have to know how many 8-foot studs and 10-foot joists are required for this project. 

For count or pieces, you have items like screws, fasteners, no studs and nails. The overall pieces will help you compute your comprehensive estimate, and the area dimensions help estimate roof decking, wall sheathing and subfloors. The areas will help you compute the amount of material needed; from there, you can evaluate the material costs. 

Although volumes are still not that common in framing jobs, you may need a few in small projects. For example, in calculating the pier or footers, you may have to get some volume dimensions.  

During bidding, contractors usually offer prices based on the rate at the time of delivery. But due to fluctuation, you must incorporate an escalation clause into the contract to deal with unexpected price hikes.

Calculate Your Time Frame

Once you’ve estimated the material and labor costs, you must know your project timeline. For that, you can divide your entire project into a set of activities and milestones. Now try to estimate how long each part of the job will take.

The time for framing a house depends on a host of factors. Your experience and complexity of a project impact the project’s overall timeline. For an average-size project, with a crew of three experienced carpenters with two helpers, the average time for framing is seven to eight days. But this time is for a simple two-story house with a surface area between 1,900 to 2,100 square feet.

However, the time will be much more for the same crew to frame a bigger custom-designed house. So, it is crucial to assess the complexity of the project.

Anyhow, organizing framing activities is the key to completing the work in the shortest possible time with the best quality results possible. But organizing does not just mean hiring a professional crew; it is also about managing work and activities at the job site. A reputable framing contractor plans everything and each step so there’d be no delay because of lack of material, delay in transportation of material, or miscommunication.

So, you can prepare a timesheet to help you in future projects. A time sheet is simply a list of tasks you will perform during the project, and this timesheet will be a template for your future projects.

Set Up a Proposal

Treat your bid like a resume for getting a job. It has to follow bid instructions studiously and should be appropriately organized. You can share relevant awards and certifications or even include testimonials from happy customers. So, try to make a solid proposal and ask the client for any clarification where necessary. 

You can also increase the hit rates by getting client feedback and making revisions accordingly. It is unlikely that the client will reach out themselves once you’ve submitted your proposal. That’s where you need to reach out, get their feedback on the bid, and follow up by asking if they’ve gotten a chance to review your proposal. With such, you can get a chance to make any revisions to your proposal, and that, in turn, will increase your hit rates. 

Even if you’ve discovered that another company has won the job, you can still ask the client about their feedback, and they’re more willing to offer their comments on your proposal. Once you’ve got extra information for each proposal, you can stay more focused on important information and strategies to win more bids. 

What to Include in Your Quote

Include everything in the quote, such as materials, labor costs and anything else that you believe could affect the price of your project. 

If you’re losing bids to “higher costs,” try understanding the costs of executing the framing job. You can use the activities list and add a price for all the tasks. Now you can find ways to reduce the cost or time of activity. Many contractors try to cut their profit margins, but that’s not always the right solution.  

Although accurate estimates are crucial at the same time, knowing your cost is also critical. So, try to focus on your cost of doing business and keep track of the overheads. You can also use some ingenious ways to organize the site, reduce wastage and may train your workers to accomplish milestones ahead of the timeline. That’s how you can improve productivity and deliverability. These small steps can guarantee handsome profit margins, and you’d be able to bid competitively for future projects. 

Submit the Proposal with Estimates

You’ll need to submit an estimate when you’ve finished setting up your project plan. It comprises of lumber takeoff spreadsheet, budget summary and material and labor costs. Labor hours are also included to suit the project schedule.

Whether bidding on a residential, commercial or retail project, ensure that you include all the details mentioned earlier to create a winning bid.

You can enhance your chance of winning bids by offering value to the client. You do not always have to cut down your profit margins or your cost of doing business. By offering quality services and earning a solid reputation, you can earn a position where clients are willing to pay more to get quality framing work. That’s what we call the price premium. 

Preparing to Place a Winning Proposal

But before submitting your proposal or a bid, ensure you’ve got the expertise and experience the work demands. Your quality and size of the team should match well with the resources needed for a particular project. You can enhance your value by offering an extra level of customer service and support and selling the true value of your team. 

That’s the secret of winning more construction bids, even when you’re not the lowest bidder. But that’s not a recommended approach when you’re new in the business and haven’t yet earned a name. 

In your proposal, every detail matters for winning a bid. Today’s framing industry is hypercompetitive, and it takes more than just the best price to stand out and earn projects. Your proposal has to be more comprehensive, professional, and accurate. Your good proposal will help you create a great first impression with the client and ultimately win the job. 

Keep a Spreadsheet of Your Bids

The best approach to improve your bidding quality is by tracking the results. Keep track of your estimates and bidding to improve your conversion rates. You may not get paid until finishing the project, but you still need to document your progress. Keeping a spreadsheet with all your bids will help you stay organized, manage your bids and track the progress of your projects.

The bidding process in framing work is quite daunting, especially when you have technical aspects to deal with. It is difficult for you to spare more time finding potential bidding opportunities, preparing proposals, sending, and tracking the bids. That’s where automating the bidding process with spreadsheets comes in handy. 

Using Spreadsheets to Track Multiple Bids

In the start, you may have just a few projects to track, but once you’re launched and have more than 100 projects at a time, how would you manage your bids? That’s where a bid tracking spreadsheet is a must. You can have one on your cloud storage and share it with your colleagues, so everyone is on a single page.   

You can easily prevent inaccurate pricing and know the reasons behind lost opportunities. You can establish these spreadsheets to quickly prepare a request for proposal and keep track of the approaching deadlines. You can also track the status of your proposal within a spreadsheet-like accepted, declined, or pending. 

Sharing and collaborating also help prevent miscommunication and errors. Your entire team will be up-to-date on all the details of the project. Plus, there’re no surprises at the time of billing or payment. 

Final Thoughts

As a framing contractor, you have plenty of residential and commercial projects. The trends are changing, and it’s the best time to expand and grow your business. That’s where planning and preparing a spot-on bid will help you close deals for more projects and opportunities. It would be best to stay in touch with market insights and trending stories. 

Before writing a bid proposal, ensure an in-depth understanding of the project and research your client’s requirements. Your bid proposal must clearly outline expectations and showcase your company’s eligibility for the job. You can evaluate the competition by knowing companies and their services and making a bid proposal to help your company stand out. Include all relevant information and proofread your framing proposal at the end. 

 In a nutshell, bidding on a framing job is attainable, provided you have a proper process to follow. Bid a framing job well and you’ll be rewarded with a job well done. At Construction Fanatics, we’re helping several contractors in different trades with our expert advice and in-depth insights into industry and trends. So, sign up for the newsletter today and watch your business grow.

About the author Steve Coffey

I am passionate about the building materials industry helping companies all throughout the channel see success and exceed the expectations of their audiences

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