Frequently Asked Questions
How much of my printed Means cost data book do I get when I order it on Means CostWorks?
You get all the data and estimating information that’s included in your printed book - in the format you’re familiar with - when you order a Means digital cost book (i.e. Means CostWorks), plus many powerful interactive features that make it easier than ever to use Means cost data.
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Where do I find out what a B-21 (etc.) crew is?
In the back of the book (The section with gray edges) is the crew section. Locate B-21 and you will see the composition of the crew including equipment. In Means CostWorks click on the seventh icon in from the left (The two workers heads with hard hats) and you will see the make-up of the crew. Note that the labor rates on this table are always national average.
What happens if we want a different size crew?
The daily output for a larger crew will increase from the output shown and for a smaller crew will decrease, however, the labor hours to perform the operation for each unit will remain the same. Doubling the crew will halve the elapsed clock time but labor hours will stay the same. Note: Divide the total crew hours worked in a day by the Daily Output and you will arrive at labor hours.
How is crew size determined?
RSMeans' engineers, based on their experience, set the crew size. However as explained in the FAQ "What happens if we want a different size crew?", crew size only affects lapsed time and not labor hours.
How is daily output determined?
Daily output or productivity is based on several factors; RSMeans, engineer's experience, trade labor productivity publications, contractor's inputs, and in some cases actual time and motion study observation.
How are labor hours determined?
Labor hours are calculated by dividing the crew labor hours worked in a day by the daily output. Note: Multiply labor hours by 60 to convert to hours and minutes.
Is the bare material price shown in RSMeans a list price?
It is RSMeans' intention that the bare material price is what the installing contractor pays for his material. The price is after the contractor's trade discount is taken.
How are the material prices updated?
RSMeans engineering department contacts manufacturers, suppliers, trade price sheets, pricing services and contractors to update material prices each year.
How often is the data updated and does RSMeans send out updates?
RSMeans database is totally reviewed and updated annually. The cost publications and Means CostWorks CD-ROM are new each year. RSMeans does not "send out" updated pricing, however, there is an electronic quarterly update service based on a variety of "key" materials.
What does the bare material and labor cost represent?
The bare material price is the cost of the material to the installing contractor. The bare labor cost is the base rate including fringes that is paid to the person doing the actual work.
What city are the prices based on?
Technically the material prices are national average. Some materials that vary across the country are listed in the Reference section and prices shown for 30 major cities. The union labor rates are an average for 30 major US cities for each trade. Note: The city cost index is the ratio between the US average for each trade and the union local for that particular city.
What is the "unit"?
The "unit" is the measure or description of whatever is actually being priced.
Does the bare labor cost include "fringes"?
The bare labor cost does include the employer-paid fringe benefits such as vacation pay, employer-paid health and welfare costs, pension costs, plus appropriate training and industry advancement funds costs.
How do I know if the labor prices are union or open shop?
Look inside the back cover of the book or at reference number R01100-070 (in most books and in the Reference section of Means CostWorks CD-ROM) and read in the upper left corner Column A: Labor rates are...
Which are the RSMeans union books?
The following RSMeans Cost Data books, both hardcopy and electronic, are based on union labor rates: Assembly, Building Construction Cost, Concrete & Masonry, Electrical, Electrical Change Order, Heavy Construction, Interior, Mechanical, Plumbing, Interior, Sitework & Landscape, Facilities Construction Cost, Facilities Maintenance & Repair, Repair & Remodeling, and Square Foot Cost Data.
Which are RSMeans open shop books?
Open Shop Building Construction Cost, Light Commercial Cost, Residential Cost, and the Contractor Pricing Guide Residential Series.
The RSMeans Cost Data publication I need is Mechanical, Plumbing, Site Work (or whatever) and they are only published as a union book. What do I do?
We suggest that rather than multiplying the RSMeans Bare Labor costs times your quantity use the Labor Hours times quantity. By using hours you can price the project in hours rather than dollars then multiply the total hours times whatever labor rate you want to use. Note: When you use your own labor rate do not use the City Cost Index labor correction.
What does the Equip. column represent?
The Equipment column is the cost of the equipment used by the crew prorated per labor hour of crew time worked.
What is the Total column?
The Total column is the simple total of the bare material, labor and equipment columns.
What is included in the Total Incl. O&P column and how does RSMeans calculate it?
To arrive at the value of the Total Including Overhead & Profit column add 10% to the bare material and bare equipment cost. From the Installing Contractor's Overhead and Profit table (the inside back cover of books or Reference 01100-070 in Means CostWorks) determine the Column F percentage for the appropriate labor type and add this percentage to the labor. The total of these calculations is the Total Including Overhead and Profit. Note the calculations are illustrated step by step in the HOW TO USE THE UNIT PRICE PAGES and the HOW TO USE THE ASSEMBLY COST TABLES found in each publication just before the appropriate section and in the Means CostWorks References section.
What if my overhead or desired profit is different from the IBAC (Inside Back Cover)?
Do not use the price listed in RSMeans Total Including Overhead and Profit column. Calculate your own Total using the method outlined in the What is included in the Total Incl. O&P column and how does Means calculate it? question. Be sure to substitute your own values for the percentages listed in Means Column F.
Whose prices are represented? The GC? or the Contractor?
The prices listed are always the prices of the INSTALLING CONTRACTOR. The installing contractor may be the GC, a contractor or even a sub or sub sub contractor. Note: each time the costs are passed on up the chain of responsibility, a percentage or markup (frequently 10%) is usually added.
How do I correct the prices for my location?
For each CSI Division multiply the bare material cost by the MAT. Index for that city. Likewise multiply the bare labor cost by the INST. index for the city. If the desired activity has an entry in the equipment column multiply this cost by the equipment rental index. This is the first line under the titles for each of the cities listed. If you are using costs from the Total Including Overhead and Profit column in the front of the book then multiply these numbers under the Total column in the city cost index.
What is the difference between the CCI (City Cost Indexes) and the Location Factors?
The CCI is broken down by trade (Construction Specification Institute /CSI) division number. At the bottom of each city is the weighted average. This average is weighted by giving more value to the more expensive components of a construction and less influence to those trades that are usually the least expensive. The Location Factors are just these weighted averages. If you are concerned with the total building (all trades) then the weighted average is fine, however, if you are just concerned with a particular trade then use the City Cost Index value for that trade.
What is the most accurate way to revise costs for my location?
It is more accurate to use the indexes on the material and labor costs separately rather than using the Total index on the Total Including Overhead and Profit values. This is especially true for those lines where there is a large difference between the material and labor costs.
My city or town is not listed in the CCI. What do I do?
Use the factors for the nearest city that you can find. If a city or town is too small to have its own union hall workers, who wish to belong to the union, will travel to the nearest larger city that does have a union hall.
What is the unit?
The unit is the measure or description of whatever is actually being priced.
In Canada how do we account for the exchange rate?
When using RSMeans data the exchange rate is not a factor. The City Cost Index is all that is needed. The index is the ratio of the prices in any city to a stated price. For example the ratio of the cost of a sack of concrete in Los Angeles to the average or the cost of that same size sack of concrete in dollars as sold in Toronto to Canadians (regardless of where it originated). It is purely a ratio of sales costs as nothing is being transported across the border.
HVAC and Plumbing being both mechanical trades, what is the difference between the Mechanical and Plumbing Cost Data books.
The Mechanical Cost Data book primarily covers HVAC components and controls, while the Plumbing Cost Data covers plumbing fixtures and fire protection. The Plumbing book does include some small boilers and items that frequently are installed by plumbers. There is a large overlap in pipe and fittings between the two books, however, the Mechanical book does not include cast iron soil pipe. Both books include stainless steel pipe and fittings.
How are Assembly prices generated?
Assembly prices are created in RSMeans computer and are comprised of unit prices from our database. Some of our hardcopy books have a System Components table under the illustration, which shows a representation of what is included in the system and the quantity and unit of these components. This list of components is usually for the item on the first line of the following cost table. In the cost table as the sizes or types vary the actual components sizes and quantities may also vary. One advantage of Means CostWorks is that when an assembly is highlighted you can click on the jigsaw puzzle icon at the top of the screen and a drop down menu will show exactly what components and quantities are included in that particular assembly.
A structure was built 10 years ago for X dollars. What would it cost to build today?
RSMeans includes Historical Cost Indexes to calculate this. The Historical Index page is just before the City Cost Indexes in our hard copy books and in the Reference section of any CostWorks data. Included on the page is an explanation of the equation that allows you to move any construction cost forward or backward in time. Note: When used in conjunction with the City Cost Indexes it is possible to move any cost from one city and time to another city and time.
What is the difference between the Building Construction Cost Data and the Facilities Construction Cost Data?
The Facilities Construction Cost Data contains 60% to 70% of the material contained in the Building Construction, Mechanical, Plumbing and Electrical Cost Data books. It is basically the Building Construction Cost Data with a lot of additional Mechanical, Plumbing and Electrical data added. It is Means' most complete single database and as such is the one most frequently specified in JOC, DOC and SABRE contracts.
Which book has the most unit price lines, assemblies lines, etc. in any particular division?
The answer to this question is too extensive to answer here. However, if you have any of RSMeans cost data books go to the back of the book and look at the first yellow page. This page tells you how many lines, assemblies, references, etc. by CSI division are in each book to aid you in selecting those books that have the quantity and type if information that will be most useful in your work.
In Div. 17, the S.F. & C.F. Cost section, how are the costs determined?
The construction listed in Div. 17, S.F.&C.F. Costs are reports from real projects that have been completed. The last white page in each book is a questionnaire (RSMeans Project Cost Report) that contractors, architects, engineers, etc. can fill out on their projects and submit for discounts. RSMeans processes this data into the format of Div. 17.
In Div. 17 the S.F. & C.F. Cost section what does 1/4, Median and 3/4 mean?
When the questionnaires mentioned in number 34. above are received they are entered into a computer which arranges them for each building type from the lowest to the highest cost. These costs tend to follow a "bell" distribution. The nodes 1/4, median and 3/4 mean that at the 1/4 point 25% of that type of building costs less than the indicated price and 75% costs more. The median is the mid-point with half less than the cost and half more.
In Div. 17 the S.F. & C.F. Cost section what do I do if the building I need is missing the type work I need? Example: Apartments (4 to 7 story) does not have any HVAC?
The reason that Apartments (4 to 7 story) does not have any HVAC listed is because we have not received enough data to determine a statistically valid value. Unfortunately some forms are sent to us with many costs missing. To determine a reasonable value to use we recommend that you substitute something you feel is similar. For example: possibly one of the other Apartments entries would have a reasonably close value. Also Dormitories are similar to apartments. Do they have a value that might help? It is important to remember that the S.F./C.F. section only gives an approximate value of a similar construction and really is just a little better than an Order of Magnitude estimate.
What are the weakness' of Div. 17 the S.F. & C.F. Cost section and how does Means address them?
Div. 17 has several inherent weaknesses but three are very important and well worth remembering when considering use of this data. First, and most important, we have no idea what the type of construction is and what is included. Example: Is it a wood frame, concrete and steel, or masonry building? And does the Plumbing include a sprinkler system? Second, Was it built Union or Open Shop? Third, Where are they being built? RSMeans treats this section as national average because the data comes in from all over the country, however, this is not necessarily true. Example: For a period of time the eastern part of the country was not experiencing a population growth and some surplus schools were being converted into condominiums and elderly housing. The southwest sun belt states were having a population surge and having to build schools. Consequently the School prices, which we call national average, were reflecting southwest construction costs and styles. RSMeans recognized this problem and created the Square Foot Cost Data book based on the costs in our data base and in which the user has a choice of construction types and can see exactly what is included and can change components if desired.
What are the advantages of the printed books over Means CostWorks electronic data?
Printed hard copy books are very portable, and so can be carried around the jobsite. With a book it is also easy to flip pages to get a feel of the layout and also find or review features like the Reference section without having to progress through several drop down menus in a search which is difficult if the user is not aware of the existence of subject material.
What are the benefits of Means CostWorks compared to hard copy books?
Means CostWorks includes several important benefits. The user can enter his project location and instantly all material and labor costs are revised eliminating the need to manually multiply by the City Cost Indexes. A toggle is also available to instantly change from Union to Open Shop labor. Means CostWorks also incorporates a very fast, easy search feature and once the desired entry is located the quantity can be entered and a project list created with summed extensions for printing or export.
If you purchase the wrong product from RSMeans are you "stuck" with it?
Purchasers of any RSMeans product (from RSMeans directly) have a 30-day, no hassle, money back guarantee.
What is the difference between the RSMeans Light Commercial and the RSMeans Square Foot Cost books and if they have the same square foot models why is there a cost difference?
By looking inside the back cover at the table entitled Installing Contractor's Overhead and Profit the user can read at Column A (upper left corner) that the Square Foot Cost Data is based on Union labor while the Light Commercial Cost Data is based on Open Shop labor.
What is the little square box with an R number in it at the beginning of many sections?
The R number refers to an entry in the reference section. While some of the information in the Reference section is general in nature, much of it provides additional data specific to some particular material or application. The R number is RSMeans way of suggesting a location of potentially very useful additional information.
If you don't know what division a particular item would be in, how can you find it?
RSMeans is especially proud if its comprehensive index. We suggest its use whenever the user does not know where to look. It is also sometimes helpful to look up alternate names or reverse wording (ex: slate roof vs. roofing, slate), or similar materials. Note, RSMeans tries to avoid using trade or manufacturers' names so look up the generic description.
If you need to know source or other information about a particular line where do you look?
Source, manufacturer or similar information is not included with any of our data, published or electronic. If for some reason this is needed it is necessary to call RSMeans and talk with the engineering department.
For residential contractors specializing in a specific trade, would it be better to order the Residential Cost Data or the book for the trade such as Concrete and Masonry, Plumbing or Electrical?
The answer to this question depends on what the contractor is looking for and how he uses the database. The Residential Cost Data base is fast and easy to use and even includes Square Foot prices for completed buildings. It is also based on Open Shop labor in the hard copy book. It does not, however, include all the information available in RSMeans for the sub contract trades. For all available RSMeans plumbing information one would need the Plumbing Cost Data, likewise for Electrical, Mechanical, Concrete & Masonry etc.. Specific trade data found in any publication other than the Prime database is greatly condensed partial information that has been extracted from the total available. The Prime books are however, based on Union labor and so for residential Open Shop estimates it would be necessary to work the estimate in labor hours as explained elsewhere in this list of questions.
Why are the costs different in the RSMeans Building Cost Data and the Contractor's Pricing Guide?
The RSMeans Building Cost Data book is based on Union labor while the Contractor's Pricing Guide is based on Open Shop labor. Note, An Open Shop version of the RSMeans Building Cost Data is available.
The government, college, municipality, etc. wants to use RSMeans times a coefficient. Where does RSMeans list their coefficients?
RSMeans does not publish a list of Coefficients. A Coefficient is a number that the individual contractor must calculate for his own particular company. It is the number, that when multiplied times the prices in RSMeans, the contractor feels comfortable that he can accomplish the work indicated and make an acceptable profit. Various conditions are usually specified in the proposed contract and should be reviewed very carefully before calculating the coefficient. Bids from competing contractors are usually based on these coefficients.
Does Means list factors for severe weather conditions?
RSMeans publications do not have any factors for severe weather conditions. The productivity in RSMeans is based on normal average working conditions i.e. an eight-hour day, in daylight hours in moderate temperatures. The user of RSMeans data should incorporate factors if he feels that his project from normal and only he can gage the total impact on his particular project for his envisioned conditions.
When shingling, are nails included? When soldering is solder included? Etc.
When a line in RSMeans has a cost in the Labor column this means that the unit (whatever it is) is installed subject to any applicable notations or restricting headings. In order to "install" shingles, nails or some sort of fastener must be used. Soldered tubing requires solder etc. and so we say that the joining/fastening items/materials are included. In actual analysis the cost of solder per joint or nails per shingle, adhesive per whatever is such a very small percentage of whatever is being installed that essentially it is lost in rounding.
What is included when installing mechanical equipment?
The best definition of what is included can be found on page vii of the Mechanical, Plumbing, and Facilities Construction Cost Data books under the heading "Important Estimating Considerations". In addition general productivity background the column specifies; Movement into building, installation or setting of equipment; Connecting to piping/duct/power, etc.; Filling/flushing/cleaning/touchup, etc.; Startup/running adjustments; Training owner's rep.; Warranty/call back/service. Of course not all of these would necessarily apply to every line.
Ductwork is measured in linear feet of each size but the unit in the database is pounds. How can we convert?
Reference number R15810-050 Ductwork gives a very quick but crude table for estimating pounds of duct for aluminum, copper and steel. However, if you wish to be much more accurate for steel fabricated duct Table R15810-100 Sheet Metal Calculator (Weight in lb./ft. of Length) is the table to use. This table is predicated on the old SMACNA semi-perimeter method of fabricating dust. This method is no longer used for fabricating, however, it still seems to be the preferred method of estimating and the resulting accuracy is within acceptable limits.
Does Means publish a Flat Rate Service Pricing book?
No, RSMeans does not publish a flat rate pricing book for service work.
What is the minimum charge & how do I use it?
The minimum charge is just that. It is like a service call charge. Example; Some one wants carpet in an entryway. The area is 4 square yards. The cost of labor to install the carpet according to RSMeans is $3.36 per square yard or a total bare labor cost of $13.44. No tradesperson is going to go to some location and perform an installation for $13.44. There is usually a minimum amount that the worker needs just to cover his expenses to show up. To cover cases like this RSMeans has listed the Minimum labor/equipment charge. In this example the minimum is $84.00 or $132.00 with overhead and profit.. For small isolated jobs multiply the labor cost times the quantity required. If the results is larger than the Minimum cost use it. If it is smaller than the Minimum then use the minimum. In either case you would use the unit material cost times the quantity as there is no minimum material cost. Note, For small quantities and repair/service items or fittings the material cost could be considerably more than the cost indicated in RSMeans. This is justified as a service truck stock charge or convenience charge.

The data to support this is found in the R&R and Facilities Construction books.

I cannot find or understand the answer to my question in the above list. What do I do?
One major benefit that comes with using RSMeans' products is that you have access to the originating engineer. If your question is not included in the above list or you need further discussion or you want to know if we have further background information you can call 781-585-7880 and ask for engineering. Most of us can answer any general question on the books or data, however, some specific division / material peculiar questions will result in your being transferred to the engineer originator of the data in question. This is one benefit that in addition to the completeness of data, puts RSMeans way above our competition.
What is this abbreviation in the crew column?
Abbreviations of trade workers can be quickly located inside the back cover of RSMeans books. They are also located in the abbreviations table along with all the other abbreviations at the back of the book just before the index. In CostWorks use either the abbreviations list (click the S.Y. icon) or look up reference R01100-070 which is a copy of the inside back cover of the books.
For bid purposes, what is the methodology for determining co-efficients?
Most commercially available unit price databases are produced annually. Some contracts allow for a separate co-efficient for each year, others allow an escalation index, some maintain the co-efficient but use an updated database. A co-efficient is a multiplier that is used to raise or lower the unit prices found in the database.
What are the differences between JOC contracts and other traditional contracting methods?
A major difference is time. JOC methods reduce project schedules by as much as 60%. Bidders must have a complete understanding of the contract, use of a unit price database and the local construction market.
What has been the success of JOC contracting methods in specific markets?
The military has written JOC contracts since 1985 at an estimated 5 billion dollars worth of construction and renovation. Most JOC contracts are for repair and remodeling work with an upper limit of $250,000.00.