How Much Does It Cost to Put Down Mulch?

Average range: $150 - $400
Low
$80
Average Cost
$275
High
$700
(3 cubic yards of bark mulch, delivered and laid out)

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How Much Does It Cost to Put Down Mulch?

Average range: $150 - $400
Low
$80
Average Cost
$275
High
$700
(3 cubic yards of bark mulch, delivered and laid out)

Get free estimates from landscapers near you
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Whether you want to improve your landscape appearance or protect the soil in your garden beds, mulch can be a great solution. Mulch is a loose material that can be made of organic or synthetic ingredients. It is added on top of your soil to retain moisture and regulate the garden bed’s temperature. Mulch also looks attractive and improves the appearance of your yard.

Many types of materials can be used as mulch, and it can be spread in various locations. Therefore, there is a wide range of costs associated with this project. The national average cost range is $150 to $400, with most homeowners spending around $275 for 3 cubic yards of bark mulch, delivered and installed. The lowest cost for this project is around $80 for 1 cubic yard of straw mulch raked out, while the highest cost is around $700 for 5 cubic yards of cedar mulch, delivered and blown out.

Mulching Costs

Mulching Prices
National average cost$275
Average range$150 - $400
Minimum cost$80
Maximum cost$700
Updated: What's new?

Mulching Cost by Project Range

Low
$80
1 cubic yard of straw mulch, raked out
Average Cost
$275
3 cubic yards of bark mulch, delivered and laid out
High
$700
5 cubic yards of cedar mulch, delivered and blown out

Why Use Mulch?

There are many reasons to use mulch in your gardens and landscaping. Mulch keeps moisture in the soil by preventing evaporation. Mulch also acts as an insulator for plant roots, keeping the ground temperature regulated. A layer of mulch also protects the soil below from rain, snow, and frost. When paired with a weed barrier, mulch prevents weeds from growing, and those that make their way through the mulch are usually easier to remove.

There are a few types of mulch. Some types are made from organic material, such as wood chips and grass clippings that break down over time. This adds nutrients to the soil. Using a naturally insect-resistant mulch like cedar also protects your plants from infestation.

Finally, mulch improves the look of your landscaping. Both organic and synthetic mulches come in various colors and materials to enhance the appearance of your garden beds.


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Bulk Mulch Cost

Mulch is sold in two different ways. You can go to your local big-box store or garden center and purchase bags to bring home and spread yourself. You can also order mulch by the cubic yard, which is generally less expensive than the bagged material. Mulch typically becomes less expensive per yard, the more you order at one time. So when mulching multiple areas, you save in the long run by purchasing all the mulch at once.


Bulk Mulch Cost

Bulk Mulch Cost


Number of YardsAverage Cost Per Cubic Yard
1 - 3 Yards$40 - $60
4 - 6 Yards$30 - $40
7 - 10 Yards$20 - $30
10+ Yards$10 - $20


Bag Mulch vs Bulk

You can purchase mulch by the bag or in bulk. A bag of mulch contains about 2 cubic feet, so for a full cubic yard, you need 13 bags of mulch. The cost for 1 or 2 cubic yards is roughly the same bagged or delivered, with the biggest difference being convenience. 13 bags of mulch take up a lot of space. So unless you have a truck or SUV, you must make multiple trips to the store. You also have to move each bag. Having a cubic yard or more delivered in bulk is much more efficient and convenient. Also, the mulch is ready to spread and can be dumped right where it is needed. When you purchase bags, you haul and move one bag at a time, which increases the time for the project. Some landscapers spread bulk mulch as part of the overall cost, while bagged mulch must be spread by the homeowner or have additional installation costs. This makes bulk more cost-effective in the long run.

Mulch Cost by Type

While most people are familiar with bark mulch and chipped hardwood mulch, there is a broader range of material. Mulch can be made of several organic materials like bark, but it can also be made of different synthetic materials, such as rubber. Both materials enhance the look of your property, but they work in different ways. Organic mulch provides your soil with more nutrients over time but may need replenishment as it breaks down. Synthetic mulch lasts longer because it does not break down, which makes it more cost-effective long term.

Mulch Cost by Type



TypeMulch Cost per Cubic Yard
Organic$30 - $100
Synthetic$40 - $3,000


Organic Mulch Price

There are many types of organic mulch. Organic simply means that it is a natural material, not man-made, and it will break down eventually. Examples of organic mulch include grass clippings, shredded leaves, bark mulch, chipped hardwoods, and even seashells. Each one has a distinct appearance and provides different nutrients. For example, if you only want to insulate and provide nutrients, grass is an excellent option. To increase acidity, opt for shredded leaves. If you want to add nutrients and stop pests, shredded cedar is the best option. In general, organic materials cost between $30 and $100 a cubic yard.

Synthetic Mulch Price

Synthetic mulch is man-made. It does not break down over time, so it lasts longer than most organic mulches. This means it saves you money long term, even though synthetic mulches are usually more expensive than organic to purchase. Synthetic mulches are usually used for their appearance. For example, rubber mulch comes in a rainbow of colors. Glass mulch enhances the appearance of a garden bed by catching the light. Synthetic mulches cost between $40 and $3,000 a cubic yard, depending on the mulch type.

Organic Mulch Cost by Type

There are many organic mulch types to choose from for your landscaping. Some merely insulate and protect plants but do not enhance your landscaping appearance. Other types provide better appearances or benefits that may make them worth the additional cost. Each type has a price range, depending on the color and amount.


Organic Mulch Cost by Type

Organic Mulch Cost by Type


Organic Mulch TypeMulch Cost per Cubic Yard
Pine/Hay Straw$30 - $40
Shredded Hardwood$40 - $60
Bark Mulch$40 - $60
Tea Tree$40 - $60
Crushed Seashells$40 - $400
Hemlock Mulch$45 - $65
Redwood Mulch$60 - $75
Garden Compost$75 - $100
Cocoa Hull$90 - $100
Cedar Mulch$100 - $110
Pine Needles$125 - $150

Pine Straw Mulch

When looking for a temporary mulch to act as an insulator, pine straw is a good choice. This is an easy-to-spread material that breaks down fairly quickly. It insulates well when on top, and you can break it up and churn it as it breaks down to feed the soil. Pine straw is not very attractive, so it is not known for being a decorative or landscaping mulch. It is something you use for function only. It costs between $30 and $40 a cubic yard.

Shredded Hardwood Mulch

If you are mulching an area on a slope and need a material that holds up well without migrating, shredded hardwood mulch may be the answer. This material is made of several hardwoods that are double shredded. The result is a fairly dense mulch, with larger pieces mixed into a loamy surface texture. Depending on the hardwood, it can be several different colors and have larger or smaller pieces. Prices range from $40 to $60 a cubic yard on average.

Bark Mulch Cost

Bark mulch is one of the most common types used for landscaping. The mulch has much larger pieces that have texture. It is lighter than hardwood mulch, so it is better for flat surfaces than slopes. The mulch has a more decorative appearance, and it comes in several colors from red and brown to black, depending on the bark used. The lighter pieces migrate more with this mulch than others, so you may find yourself raking it more. Expect to pay between $40 and $60 a cubic yard.

Tea Tree Mulch

Many tree types can be used for creating bark mulch. Mulch that comes specifically from the tea tree is known as tea tree mulch. This is the tree that is frequently processed to produce tea tree oil, an aromatic oil with anti-microbial properties. Trees harvested for this purpose can have their bark used as mulch. The bark has the unique scent of the tea tree, but not everyone finds this a pleasant aroma. However, it helps repel bugs. This mulch costs between $40 and $60 a cubic yard on average.

Crushed Seashells Mulch

When looking for a unique, long-lasting mulch that adds nutrients like calcium to your soil, consider crushed seashells. Crushed seashells can be made from many different shellfish, each providing a different appearance and cost. Crushed shells generally last longer than other organic mulch because they break down slower. They also do not migrate as much. But they can be sharp to walk on, so take care with children and pets. They have a wide price range, from $40 to $400 a cubic yard, depending on the shell type.

Hemlock Mulch Cost

Hemlock is an aromatic softwood. It has a medium color and a fairly dense texture once shredded. It works well in numerous areas, including with slopes, garden beds, and just for landscaping. It does not migrate as much as other bark mulch types, and it may repel some insects. It maintains its color for a long time, resisting fading better than other mulches. It costs between $45 and $65 a cubic yard.

Redwood Mulch Cost

Redwood mulch is made from another aromatic softwood. This has a richer, redder color and is fairly dense once shredded. This is a good mulch for repelling insects and enhancing landscaping with its color. The material does not migrate as much as some bark mulches, and it can last for many years without breaking down too much, making it a good investment. This mulch costs between $60 and $75 a cubic yard. If you live in an area where redwoods are plentiful, such as parts of the West Coast, it may cost less.

Garden Compost

If you want to insulate your garden bed and add lots of nutrients to your soil, garden compost makes a great material. But compost does not act as a long-lasting mulch. It breaks down fairly quickly, so you can add it as an insulator and then plant in that soil within a few seasons or less. You can make your own compost at home by starting a compost pile with leaves, clippings, and kitchen waste, or you can purchase ready-to-use garden compost. In most cases, this compost is more of a soil additive instead of a mulch. It costs between $75 and $100 a cubic yard.

Cocoa Hull Mulch

Chocolate is made from beans from the cacao tree. The bean’s hull is rich in essential nutrients that benefit some soils. The hulls are faintly aromatic and make an interesting and unique mulch. Cocoa hull mulch is usually used sparingly because of its higher costs. It can be poisonous to dogs and wildlife, so if you have pets who regularly access your yard and garden, you may want to choose another mulch. Cocoa hull mulch prices range from $90 to $100 a cubic yard, but you can buy smaller quantities by the bag.

Cedar Mulch Cost

If you like the smell of cedar, you will enjoy having cedar mulch in your garden. Cedar is an extremely aromatic softwood with a rich, red-brown color that is closer to golden in some lots. This is an excellent bug repellant, making it a great choice for gardens. Cedar is a dense mulch that does not break down quickly or migrate much. So, it is also a fairly long-lasting choice. However, it is more expensive because of the incredible demand for the wood. Expect to pay between $100 and $110 per cubic yard.

Cost of Pine Needles

Pine needles are the leaves of coniferous trees, such as pine, hemlock, and cedar. Once a tree pulls some of the stored nutrients from the needles, it sheds them like other trees shed their leaves. Pine needles are difficult to get in large quantities from the ground, so it is possible to purchase larger amounts to use as mulch. Pine needles are aromatic, repel pests, and make a unique-looking mulch. They tend to migrate because of their lightweight, which means you may need to replenish them often. They cost around $125 to $150 a cubic yard on average.

Traditional Mulch Alternatives

In addition to purchasing mulch for landscaping, there are alternatives if your goals are insulation, moisture retention, or adding back nutrients to the soil. These mulches can be gathered and laid by the homeowner, for no additional cost beyond the labor involved.

Shredded Leaves Mulch

Shredded leaves make a great mulch for insulating plants for the winter and adding nutrients back to the soil. But not all leaves act the same way. For example, oak leaves are highly acidic when they break down, so use them only in areas where you want to raise the acidity. Leaves are easily shredded either with a leaf shredder or some lawnmowers. Rake and gather the shredded leaves, and add them to your garden.

Grass Clippings

Grass clippings are another good insulator that add nutrients to your garden as they break down. Grass clippings are the smaller parts of grass left over after mowing your lawn. If your lawnmower bags the clippings as you mow, simply empty the bag onto your garden. If you have your lawn professionally mowed, ask the landscaper to leave the clippings. If you pay a disposal fee, this can save you money.


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Synthetic Mulch Cost by Type

Synthetic and non-organic mulches generally last longer than organic mulch. Organic mulches break down over time and are lighter in weight and likely to migrate. Synthetic and non-organic mulches do not break down. This means that while they cost more than most organic mulches, they do not need replenishing as soon. Depending on the type of synthetic or non-organic mulch, they have a variety of appearances.


Synthetic Mulch Cost by Type

Synthetic Mulch Cost by Type


Synthetic Mulch TypeMulch Cost per Cubic Yard
Gravel$25 - $55
Rubber$200 - $400
Plastic$275 - $300
Glass$2,000 - $3,000


Gravel Mulch Cost

Gravel is a unique mulch material. It is neither organic nor synthetic. It is a non-organic material that decomposes slowly, taking hundreds of years. This means that the gravel will not break down in your lifetime and will last much longer than organic mulches. It will also not migrate as easily, although it requires some raking. Numerous gravel types and colors can be used as mulch. They range in cost from $25 to $55 a cubic foot.

Rubber Mulch Cost

Rubber is a good alternative to other types of mulch when you need a long-lasting material that protects the soil. It is also soft underfoot. Rubber mulch is sometimes used as playground mulch. It is also frequently called colored mulch because it comes in a rainbow of colors. The pieces are fairly regular in size, making it look attractive as well. Rubber mulch does not migrate as much as some organic mulches, and it helps with moisture retention as well. It costs between $200 and $400 a cubic foot.

Mulching Plastic Price

Mulching plastic is a very different mulch material. Instead of being a loose material, mulching plastic is a large roll of black plastic that is spread over the ground. It protects the soil underneath and aids in moisture retention. Its best use is to block weeds, which cannot grow beneath it. Some mulching plastic is biodegradable, meaning they break down over time into the ground and do not need removing. They cost around $275 to $300 on average.

Glass Mulch

When looking for a unique and decorative look, tumbled glass mulch may be a good alternative. These are small pieces of tumbled glass in roughly the same size as organic mulch pieces. It is used mostly in small amounts and areas as an accent, mostly due to its high cost. It does not break down or lose color over time, although it may migrate and need raking to keep it in place. It costs between $2,000 and $3,000 on average

Mulch Installation Cost

Mulch installation costs depend mostly on the mulch selected. Some types like hay are placed down by hand using gloves for protection, or they may be broken up and raked into place. Other types like plastic must be rolled out. However, most organic mulches are spread out evenly over an area using shovels and rakes.

Landscapers are usually the professionals hired to install mulch. They understand how to calculate the correct amount of mulch and determine the correct type for your soil and aesthetic needs.

Landscapers charge by the hour for most mulch installations. The cost to spread mulch generally ranges from $55 to $75 per hour for a 2-person crew. For 3 cubic yards of mulch, expect the job to take around 2 hours to complete. This includes planning, application, and equipment handling. Two hours of labor costs approximately $110 to $150.

For small mulching jobs, you may be charged less if fewer workers are required. Landscaping is a seasonal job, so you may find lower quoted labor costs during the fall and winter months.

Mulch Blowing Cost

Mulch blowing is a newer mulch installation. Rather than shoveling and raking it by hand, the landscaper uses pressurized air to direct the mulch. This has a cost of around $35 to $55 a cubic foot, so for 3 cubic feet, expect costs of around $105 to $165, making this comparable to other mulch installations.



Backyard with mulching on flower beds


How Much Mulch Do I Need?

To determine how much mulch you need, speak with your landscaper. The amount varies depending on the use, area, how flat or sloped the ground is, and the mulch type. Some mulches spread more, so you can use less. Others are denser, requiring more to cover the same area.

Mulch is sold and installed by the cubic foot. In general, 1 cubic yard of mulch covers 100 square feet with a depth of 3 inches. If you want deeper mulch, you need to purchase more. For a lighter covering, you can make 1 cubic yard cover more are.

Below are very general guidelines. If your beds are larger or smaller, you may need more or less mulch.

How Much Mulch Do I Need?

How Much Mulch Do I Need?


Area to MulchAmount Needed (Average)
Small Garden1 - 1½ cubic foot
Playground1½ - 2 cubic feet
Flower Bed2 - 3 cubic feet
Landscaping8 - 10 cubic feet


Mulch Delivery Cost

Delivery costs are a separate charge from the installation fees. Mulch is sold in large, heavy bags or loose in truck beds. Some companies roll the cost of delivery into the price for larger projects. For example, when purchasing 10 cubic yards of mulch, they may waive the delivery fee. Otherwise, fees range from $50 to $150, depending on the distance the mulch needs to travel and how much you purchase.

Mulch Maintenance

Inorganic mulch like rocks and gravel require little maintenance. Most homeowners pull out the weeds and add in new rocks as needed. For organic mulches, you need to perform some maintenance to extend the life. This includes turning it over, breaking up clumps periodically, and maintaining the layer at 2 to 3 inches in thickness. If the mulch is next to plants, you may want to pull it aside to avoid plant damage. Weed as necessary to prevent the weeds from spreading. Some mulches discourage weed growth, such as plastic and landscape fabric.


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Mulch Safety Concerns

Some wood-based mulch, specifically mulch that has been dyed or color-treated, is made of recycled materials which means there’s a chance other harmful materials have made their way into the mulch. Materials such as chromium, copper, arsenic, aluminum and lead should not be recycled into mulch because they contain contaminants and can actually harm your garden.

The contaminants are made of materials that aren’t biodegradable, so they can exist in your soil for a long time, eventually causing issues with plant growth. Additionally, if you're located near an aquatic environment, the contaminants may also seep into the groundwater or runoff into the surface water causing harm to wildlife.

To avoid purchasing mulch that contains harmful materials, look for the Mulch and Soil Council (MSC) logo, which signifies that the mulch is safe,  eco-friendly and chromated copper arsenate (CCA)-free.

If you decide to use colored mulch that is not MSC certified, there are a few safety precautions you should take. It’s recommended to wear gardening gloves whenever you’ll be touching the mulch. And it’s also recommended to keep children and pets away from any areas covered in mulch as it can be harmful to them.

Mulching Pros and Cons

Aside from the aesthetics, there are numerous benefits to mulching your landscape. One of the most beneficial things mulching does for your garden is that it retains moisture in the soil, meaning you don’t have to water your plants as frequently. Furthermore, it helps reduce weeds, protects against temperature changes, adds healthy nutrients to your soil and helps prevent erosion and injury from weed killer and lawn mowers.

Although mulching has a number of benefits, there are also a few drawbacks worth noting. Too much mulch can bury and essentially suffocate your plants because water and oxygen aren’t able to reach the roots. It’s recommended to only use a layer of 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch. Inorganic much is typically more shallow, so you only need to use a 1 inch layer. Additionally, mulch can contribute to rolling bark if piled up around the base of a tree or shrub, so it’s recommended to keep mulch approximately 6 to 12 inches away from the base of a woody plant.

Light-colored, wood-base mulches tend to absorb nitrogen from the soil which can affect your plants. To counter this, it’s recommended to add a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to your soil such as soybean, alfalfa or cottonseed meal — all available at your local home and garden store for an average price of $15 for a 5-lb bag.

Colored vs Natural Mulch

If you’re looking for your landscape to really make a statement, consider using colored mulch, also referred to as dyed mulch. It’s a wood product that has been dyed to take on a new color that mulch doesn’t naturally have. The most common colors are red, black and brown. When dyed with iron oxide and carbon, both red and black mulch, respectively, are deemed safe to use in the garden. Other mulch dyes are vegetable-based, which means they’re organic and are safe to use. However, if you’re going with colored mulch, make sure you’re using organically-dyed mulch (iron oxide, carbon or vegetable-based dyes). If the mulch has been treated with unnatural dyes, it can harm your garden.

The main advantage of colored mulch is the aesthetic as it adds a sense of vibrancy and contrast to your landscape. However, because it’s dyed, it’s susceptible to color loss — red will fade the quickest and black and brown will fade over time.

Consumers have varying opinions on colored mulch, but it depends on the look you want for your landscape and what you want to use it for. For example, if you have a brick house or want to plant bright-colored flowers, using red mulch will create a vibrant, but blended look. It typically costs between $3 and $8 per bag, or approximately $30 to $40 per cubic yard. If you’re looking to achieve the vibrant look red mulch gives off, but don’t want to use dyed materials, consider red volcanic rock or redwood mulch. But if you’re a gardener and want your mulch to suppress any small weeds that pop up, using black or brown mulch should be your choice.


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Enhancement and Improvement Costs

Landscape Fabric Under Stone Mulch

Landscape fabric is beneficial for placement under any stone or gravel. The material prevents rocks from entering the soil and getting lodged there. Landscape fabric prevents weed growth by blocking them from sprouting. For retaining moisture levels, synthetic fabrics work better than stone alone. Landscape cloth costs an average of $15 to $25 per cubic yard.

Fertilizer

Mulch can add nutrients to the soil, but it may take time for it to break down. If you need nutrients quickly, speak to your landscaper about having a fertilizer applied. Fertilizers add nutrients within minutes of application. The cost to fertilize averages between $40 and $140, depending on the area.

Mulch Removal

To change your mulch to a different color or material, the old mulch must be removed first. This is done by raking it away, at a cost of around $50 to $75 an hour. Add disposal fees of around $50 to $100, depending on how much mulch is removed.

Additional Considerations and Costs

  • In most cases, you do not need permits or licenses for mulch application. The only exception is for individuals who plan to produce compost and mulch on their premises, which varies by county. Check with your town or city hall for more information.
  • Professional installations are preferred over DIY applications. Mulch applications are labor-intensive, with each bag exceeding 20 pounds. The homeowner may do touch-up applications, but many individuals prefer to have landscapers handle any maintenance.
  • Never apply more than a 4-inch layer of mulch to garden beds. Too much mulch blocks sunlight and water from reaching the roots.
  • Check for dyes before choosing a mulch for your yard. Research has shown that some of the chemicals in dyes react with the chemicals in certain woods and can produce toxins.
  • Compost can be used as mulch for gardens. Consisting of decayed organic matter, compost is high in nutrients. Worms and bugs help break down the compost and ready it for the soil.
  • Create an edge around garden beds to stop mulch from being removed by wind and rain.
  • Shop around for mulch prices. A landscaper may charge more for mulch than if you purchase it directly from a nursery or home improvement store.

FAQs

  • Is it cheaper to buy mulch in bulk or bags?

Mulch costs less when sold in bulk amounts. Companies load the mulch directly into a truck bed and then deliver it without needing to bag the materials.

  • How much does a yard of mulch cover?

A cubic yard covers 100 square feet at a depth of 3 inches. If you need less depth, it can spread farther. If you need it to be deeper, it will cover less.

  • What type of mulch is best?

Bark mulch is considered the best mulch type. Although bark mulch has a higher average cost, it lasts longer than shredded types. Bark mulch is heavy, meaning it is less likely to blow around. It improves the soil composition as it decomposes, making the area more fertile for plants. The denser material is better for allowing sunlight and water to reach the soil beneath the layer.

  • How much should I pay for weeding?

In most cases, a homeowner hires a landscaper for a mulching and weeding job. With a two-person crew, one worker can prep the yard for the mulch by weeding while the other applies the mulch. On average, expect to pay $55-$75 per hour for landscaping jobs.

  • How many bags of mulch are on a pallet?

Home improvement and landscaping stores transport bags of mulch on pallets. On average, there are approximately 60 bags of mulch per pallet.

  • How much should I charge for mulching?

Landscapers adjust their rates, depending on the job location, time of year, and mulch type. On average, prices range from $150 to $400 for mulching a property.

  • What can I use to mulch?

Mulching can be done with organic materials like hay, wood chips, and shredded lumber. You can also use non-organic materials, such as gravel, landscape cloth, and plastic wrap.

  • Should I use cedar mulch?

Cedar mulch is considered one of the poorest choices for mulch. The wood has a reputation for harming plants and being potentially toxic. However, the beautiful appearance of cedar mulch makes it a good choice for ornamental purposes.

  • How much does mulch delivery cost?

Mulch delivery usually costs a flat fee of $50 to $150.​​

  • How much is a yard of mulch installed?

The cost of a yard of mulch installed varies, depending on the mulch type. Bark mulch is one of the most common and recommended types. A yard of mulch installed costs around $80 to $120, depending on the rates in your area.

Cost to use mulch varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

Updated:
The information provided by our cost guides comes from a great variety of sources, including specialized publications and websites, cost studies, U.S. associations, reports from the U.S. government, contractors and subcontractors, material suppliers, material price services, and other vendor websites. For more information, read our Methodology and sources
Gardener mulching flower bed with bark mulch
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Cost to use mulch varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

The information provided by our cost guides comes from a great variety of sources, including specialized publications and websites, cost studies, U.S. associations, reports from the U.S. government, contractors and subcontractors, material suppliers, material price services, and other vendor websites. For more information, read our Methodology and sources