General Contractor Markup Guide

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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.

Have you ever wondered why your toolbox has everything except a magic wand to calculate 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 guide over here is the safety net ensuring that 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!

Did you know? With InvoiceOwl, markups are a breeze. No more manual calculations – just simply input the required data and you are good to go. Curious? Witness the magic here!

What is General Contractor Markup?

General contractor markup is the added percentage applied to the direct cost of the construction project. It is added to cover the overhead expenses and desired profit.

For instance, a construction project has so many expenses to incur and a lucrative profit to make. To cover those expenses and earn a profit, an additional percentage is applied to the total estimated costs of the project. That sprinkled percentage above the direct cost is nothing but the ‘general contractor markups.

The applied markup percentage is itemized into categories such as materials and labor costs, subcontractor fees, permits, fees, insurance, and more. General contractor markup ensures that all operational costs are covered and that the contractor achieves a specified profit margin on the project.

And here’s the golden rule: the heftier your markup, the fatter the profit slice for your construction industry. 🍰✨

Types of General Contractor Markup?

General contractor markups are further subdivided into several other types of contractor markup. This includes:

  • Subcontractor markup percentage
  • Contractor markup percentage on material costs
  • Overhead markups

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What is the Difference Between Markup and Profit Margin?

general contractor fee percentage
Markup Profit Margin
Markup is the additional percentage added to the costs for arriving at a selling price. The profit margin reflects the overall profitability & efficiency of the business.
Calculated as a percentage of the cost of goods sold (COGS). Calculated as a percentage of the selling price or revenue.
Relatively stays stable as long as COGS. Can easily fluctuate due to changes in selling price, operating costs, and even sales volume.
Provides a glimpse of pricing individual items. A quick and holistic view of the company’s financial performance & profitability.

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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How to Calculate Markup as Contractors?

How to Calculate Markup as ContractorsThe markup is the gap between what the contractor charges for the service and what it costs to complete it.

The formula to calculate markup percentage 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 and material costs, and equipment costs 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 make a 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.

What are the Factors Affecting Markups?

material markupMarkup is calculated using three major factors:


Construction companies 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.

How to Communicate Markup to Clients?

Developing confidence and trust in your job requires communication with clients. However, your clients will only want to pay as much as 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 is meant by gross profit margin?

    Gross margin is a financial metric used by analysts to evaluate a company’s financial wellness. It is basically the total revenue generated after deducting the total sales from the cost of goods sold. It determines the profitability of a company’s core business activities, specifically the production and sale of goods or services. A company can also use the metrics to see if they need to cut costs or improve sales.

  3. By what other name is gross profit popularly called?

    Gross profit is popularly termed as gross margin or gross profit margin.

  4. Is markup and gross profit percentage equivalent?

    Though markup and profit margin are related concepts, they are not the same or equivalent.

    Markup is simply the amount added to the overall job costs incurred in order to determine the sales price. On the other hand, profit percentage or gross profit margin is the measure of profitability that considers both the cost of goods sold (COGS) and all other expenses incurred by a business. It represents the profit a company makes as a percentage of its total revenue.

  5. What markup percentage do most general contractors charge?

    There is no industry standard set for calculating contractor markups. However, 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.

  6. 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.


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