Guide for Calculating General Contractor Markup

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Ever wondered why your toolbox has everything except a magic wand to magically reveal the perfect markup? 🪄

Well, you’re not alone! Every contractor has scratched their hardhat at some point, pondering over the mysteries of markups and profit margins. 🤔 But fret not!

A general contractor markup is the safety net ensuring your business thrives in the future. It’s that extra sprinkle of percentage charged beyond direct costs, ensuring you’re not just breaking even but actually profiting. 🚀

Charge too much, and you might wave goodbye to a potential job. Charge too little, and you’re left with empty pockets after settling all bills. 🤷‍♂️

Calculating the right price for your job, including markup, is a skill you must master! Dive in to master the art of striking that perfect balance and calculating construction markup like a pro!

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📝Key Takeaways:

  • Markup Importance: Properly budgeting for overheads and calculating markup is essential for scaling business productivity and ensuring profitability.
  • Markup Components: Markup is the added percentage over direct costs, encompassing materials, labor, and overheads.
  • Markup vs. Profit Margin: While markup includes all project costs, profit margin represents the net profit from a job.
  • Client Communication: Building trust with clients may require transparency about markup, but revealing exact percentages is at the contractor’s discretion.

What is Markup?

Book Definition: General contractor markup is the percentage added to the total direct costs of a project to account for overhead expenses and desired profit. This markup ensures that all operational costs are covered and that the contractor achieves a specified profit margin on the project.

When you tally up your direct costs and then sprinkle on a percentage for overheads and potential profit, what you get is the magic number called ‘contractor markup’.

For our residential contractor friends, this markup isn’t just a simple addition; it’s a comprehensive sum that factors in everything from materials and labor to insurance, fees, and those ever-important permits. And here’s the golden rule: the heftier your markup, the fatter the profit slice for your business. 🍰✨

Average Markup for General Contractors?

Most contractors are looking at a 35% margin; thus, a markup of 54%, or 1.54, is required. Subs typically have a gross profit margin of 50%; hence they require a markup of 100% or 2x.

Remember that your markup must include more than just your direct costs when determining the difference between margin and markup. You must also meet your expenses and earn a profit margin.

As a result, you must understand what percentage of income your overhead consumes and what percentage of revenue you wish to maintain as profit.

Several contractors have a net profit of 35%, 25% of which goes to overhead, and 10% is retained by the company. This is known as developing a business model, and it is one of the first things you should do when starting a business.

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Markup vs Profit Margin (Make a comparison table)

general contractor fee percentage

Markup Profit Margin
Contractor markup comprises all direct, indirect, fixed, and variable costs incurred while working on a project. It includes administrative expenses, labor, overhead, transportation, and profit. This is how you’ll figure out how much to charge for your services in order to earn the net profit you want. Profit margin is how you decide how much you’ll make on a specific work, but it’s calculated differently than markup. You deduct your COGS (cost of goods sold) from the total project cost. For instance, if your company declares a profit margin of 30%, it suggests you earned $0.30 for every dollar generated.

How to Calculate Markup as Contractors?

How to Calculate Markup as ContractorsThe markup is the gap between what you charge for the service and what it costs to complete it. The formula is as follows:

Markup = Gross Profit [Job Cost ($) + Overhead (%) + Profit (%)]. x 100 [Job Cost]

Contractors often incur three types of direct and indirect costs:

Direct costs– These include labor, materials, and equipment for subcontractors.

Indirect costs– These include payroll, transportation, and insurance.

Overhead– Office expenses, including those for accounting, taxes, and marketing, are referred to as overhead.

Calculate a markup on your direct costs to produce a net profit while also covering your overhead and indirect expenditures. To avoid underestimating a work, identify all indirect costs and overhead and calculate the monthly cost.

Factors Affecting Markups

material markupMarkup is calculated using three major factors:


Contractors must mark up the materials they buy for each job to compensate for the costs of buying, sourcing, warehousing, and transporting the materials to the job site. Markups differ from one contractor to another, in some cases, from one project to another.


There are no industry standards for labor markups or hourly rates. Labor markups will certainly be higher in areas with high expenses and complex regulations, such as New England and California, than in the Midwest.

With an hourly labor cost, it’s critical to set objectives and benchmarks (both for the employee and the customer) because each hour over the allocated work will reduce revenues. 

However, individuals frequently underestimate the value of labor. The length of a project and the labor rate in a given area might have a significant impact on your bottom line.


Overhead expenses include “indirect soft costs” such as general office expenditures, rent, utilities, taxes, accounting fees, advertising, and marketing. Overhead expenses also include all the other recurring costs associated with running your organization that is not directly related to a job.

Determining overhead costs is equally as important as calculating markup on all other expenditures related to your business because it helps you plan and budget and guarantees a profit.

Should You Let Customers Know Your Markup?

Developing confidence and trust in your job requires communication with clients. However, your clients will not want to pay any more than is necessary to meet both your standards and their requirements.

Many contractors avoid providing their markup on estimates and instead show only the total cost.  If you have your clients’ trust, that may be all that is required. Clients might expect more information if you have no prior relationship with them.

In general, markup cannot be negotiated, but there are ways to negotiate some expenses to give your clients the assurance they need to approve the job.

Provide affordable materials

This can be as simple as changing out the siding on the walls, selecting a less costly tile product, or converting from granite worktops to a less costly solid surface material.

Propose a partial DIY

If it’s a remodel, your client might prefer to do some of the work themselves to save money.

Sell your leftover material

When the job is finished, sell any remaining supplies at a discount and send the money to the client.

You might be hesitant to reveal your markup, but if your customer demands, be prepared to explain the direct and indirect costs associated with keeping your business going. 

Everyone recognizes the necessity for a gross profit, and as long as your markup is justified, you won’t have any problems.

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Frequently Asked Questions
  1. What is a good profit margin for a general contractor?

    According to the Construction Finance Management Association, pretax profits for general contractors and suppliers range between 1.5 and 3.5 %.

  2. What percentage do most general contractors charge?

    General contractors typically charge a flat rate and a predetermined fee of 10% to 20% of the overall cost of the job, known as a “cost-plus.” The contractor might raise this fee by 25% for more elaborate work.

  3. What is a typical general contractor markup?

    Charging a 50% markup on your services is a safe idea because it assures that you are generating enough to cover overheads while still making a profit. If your profit margins are low, you might be earning only enough to cover your production costs.


We hope this blog helped you understand how to calculate your markup appropriately to retain your profits. 

However, you also need the aid of a digital solution that can help you save time and money and also boost profitability.

With InvoiceOwl, you can efficiently create invoices and purchase orders error-free, keep track of client information and generate analytical insights to make informed business decisions.

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Author Bio
Jeel Patel
Jeel Patel

Jeel Patel is the founder of InvoiceOwl, a top-rated estimating and invoicing software that simplifies the invoicing and estimating processes for contractor businesses. Jeel holds a degree in Business Administration and Management from the University of Toronto, which has provided him with a strong foundation in business principles and practices. With understanding of the challenges faced by contractors, he conducted extensive research and developed a tool to streamline the invoicing and estimating processes for contractors. Read More