Everything to Know About Builder Grade Materials in Homes

Paige Bennett
Written by Paige Bennett
Updated October 4, 2021
man carrying pieces of wood
Tomasz Zajda- stock.adobe.com

Builder grade doesn’t mean high-quality—the opposite, actually

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You’ve probably heard the term “builder grade” whether referring to construction materials or an entire home. While builder grade might sound trustworthy, these building materials might surprise you. Here’s what to know about builder-grade materials before making any upgrades to your home.

What Does Builder Grade Mean?

Builder grade doesn’t have an exact definition and can vary by products, but generally it means mass-produced, low-cost materials. Builder-grade products are not very durable or long-lasting, so although they can help you save money while building a home, they might not last as long as higher-quality building materials.

Types of Grades

warehouse with different wood materials
juniart - stock.adobe.com

There are four types of grades: builder grade, quality grade, custom grade, and ultimate custom grade.

Builder Grade

Builder grade is the lowest in the hierarchy of grades. These materials are usually inexpensive and short-term products for a home. These materials are often made from things like plywood and plastic.

Quality Grade

Quality is a step above builder grade in terms of durability. These materials are usually still inexpensive, but will last longer than builder-grade products.

Custom Grade

Custom grade is more expensive than the first two grades, but it comes with more options for customizations. Custom-grade products will be designed to meet your specifications for color, configuration, and size.

Ultimate Custom Grade

Ultimate custom grade is the highest grade on the hierarchy and offers the best durability and most options for customization. These materials will come at a premium cost, but will last longer than other grades.

Builder-Grade Products

There are several different types of builder-grade products. Consider the benefits and drawbacks of each when designing or remodeling your home.

Windows

Builder-grade windows don’t include improved insulation or soundproofing qualities compared to higher-quality windows. These windows will work best in homes in mild climates without extremely hot or cold temperatures. Opting for builder-grade windows, which may need replacing in just 5 years, is a common mistake to avoid when building a home.

Roofing

It’s important to invest in high-quality roofing. Builder-grade roofing will need to be repaired and replaced more frequently and could lead to leaks and water damage. Builder-grade roof materials are typically asphalt, with the lowest-quality type of roofing material being three-tab asphalt shingles. These shingles are prone to algae growth and damage from wind.

Siding

You can find builder-grade siding, typically vinyl, but keep in mind that this lower-quality builder-grade material is not likely to withstand the elements. Sunshine and wind can cause the builder-grade vinyl siding to crack, dent, and fade over time.

Doors

Builder-grade doors are hollow, so they can be easily damaged and offer little to no soundproofing. These doors are made with inexpensive materials like plywood and MDF. While a solid door can be refinished if it is damaged, a hollow-core door will have to be replaced.

Gutters

Even gutters are available in builder-grade quality. Inexpensive gutters are more likely to become clogged, which can create a host of problems, including attracting pests or causing leaks or floods.

Cabinets

Most people are familiar with builder-grade cabinets, which are standard in many apartment units. While they might not offer much in terms of style, builder-grade cabinets are still functional and a decent choice if you want to save money during a kitchen remodel. Builder-grade cabinets often include plywood backing with doors made of wood or plastic veneer overtop of particleboard.

Faucets

Builder-grade faucets are another popular option for rental units. These faucets use plastic, rather than metal, for the mechanical pieces. That means the mechanical pieces wear out faster and require repair or replacement more often.

Should I Use Builder Grade Materials?

Builder-grade materials aren’t all bad. While it’s great to invest in higher quality products, that’s not always in reach. You don’t have to entirely discredit builder-grade materials.

Pros

  • Price: The biggest benefit to builder-grade materials is that they are often the most affordable option.

  • Entry homes: If you’re looking to buy a home, you can often buy a builder-grade home or a home renovated with builder-grade materials. It will still look nice until you can save up money for any upgrades.

  • DIY: If you love to get creative, you can upgrade builder-grade materials to look high-end on a budget. So go ahead and paint those cabinets and swap out the handles and drawer pulls for a luxe look.

Cons

  • Durability: Builder-grade products are made from inexpensive materials that are easily damaged from regular use or the elements, such as sunshine, rain, and wind.

  • Longevity: Builder-grade products are more of a short-term solution, so expect carpets, windows, or cabinets to last about 5 years before they are dated.

  • Customization: If you aren’t handy at DIY projects, you’ll find a limited amount of options in terms of customization for builder-grade products. These products are mass produced, so the colors and styles available at the home improvement store are the colors and styles you have to choose from.

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