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A Guide To Contractor Markup: For Customers & Contractors

Contractor markup is the sum of a contractors’ overhead and profit. This number or percentage (as shown in most contractors’ costs list) that gets added to a job’s direct costs. The markup that a contractor sets for jobs can either make or break their business. It’s an important figure that shouldn’t be taken lightly by either contractor or customer.

As an example, if a jobs direct costs (materials needed, employees wages, etc..) come up to a total of $10,000 then a contractor can add a markup of 25% (15% for overhead and 10% for profit) for a total job cost of $12,500.

What Goes Into Contractor Markup?

Contractor markup is the combination of overhead and profit. Contractor overhead would include things like advertising, insurance, accounting, licenses, taxes, supervision (especially if there are subcontractors involved), etc.. Profit, on the other hand, is money a contractor actually gets to keep for themselves, or more than often goes back to the business. 

What Is The Average Contractor Markup?

contractor markup

The average contractor markup can anywhere between 20%-35%.  The average contractor mark up varies depending on where you live and what type of contracting job is being done. Each contractor will have their own markup and ways of calculating mark up, so even two contractors in the same place, and industry might have completely different mark ups. 

How Should Contractor Markup Be Determined?

Each contractor has their own way of establishing what mark up to set for their contracts. Some may have different business models that might play a role.

There are certain formulas that are often used to determine a contractor’s markup which involves calculating total employee salary costs, materials cost, etc. In the following section well go over how to calculate markup so you can have an idea of a system or as a customer a general idea on how it gets calculated.

How To Calculate Markup

For contractors that are trying to figure out how to calculate markup here is a general way of doing it based on your fixed overhead expenses, variable overhead expenses and profit percentage.

Fixed Overhead Expenses

Annual Cost

% of Annual Sales (out of 1,000,000 for simplicity)

Employee Salaries



Your Salary






Insurance (Business & Health)



Legal Fees



Accounting Fees












Variable Overhead Expenses

Annual Cost

% of Annual Sales (out of 1,000,000

Supervision Costs



Tools & Equipment



Vehicles (Maintenance)






With this we can see an estimated fixed overhead costs of 137,000$ making up 13.7% of your total annual sales and an estimated variable overhead costs of 70,000$ making up 7% of your total annual sales. 

Assuming your making more sales as the year goes by you can estimate a higher increase in sales for next year, let's say to  1,300,000$.

On those estimated sales you want to make a profit of 10%.

So do the following calculations:

To figure out percentage of new variable overhead costs: 1,300,000 x 7% = 91,000$

Figure out the profit of your estimated sales cost:

1,300,000 x 10% = 130,000$

Add fixed overhead costs (137,000$) + variable overhead costs (91,000$) + profit (130,000$) = 358,000$.

1,300,000 - 352,000 = 942,000$

1,300,000 / 942,000 = 1.38 or in other words in this case you would need a contractor markup of nearly 38% to reach your goals.

How Can Contractor Markup Be Negotiated?

For the most part, contractor markup can’t directly be negotiated with a contractor but you can definitely negotiate the price in a way where it’s beneficial to both parties. Some ways to negotiate price is by considering the materials being used for the job.

  • If you are okay with using cheaper material for a certain job, then you can talk to the contractor about it and have them pass the cost of the reduced expenses back to you.
  • Determine who gets to keep any leftover material at the end of the job. If you’re not interested in it and there is enough material left over to make it worth it then a contractor may be interested in offering a reduced price.

Contractor mark up is a very important figure since it can determine whether a business is successful or not. While you might be able to find a contractor that charges a smaller markup, when you’re dealing with the biggest investment of your life (your home) it’s not always a good idea to go with the lowest price possible. 

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Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson is the founder of Contractor Advisorly. He has over 15+ years of professional experience as a home improvement and home construction contractor. Whether you're looking for DIY advice, tool recommendations or anything home improved-related, he's happy to share his insights.