February 11, 2019

Stick-Built vs. Prefab: What's the Difference?

When deciding a structural solution, you might be stuck in choices between traditional, stick-built structures and prefabricated buildings. You need to keep several factors such as cost, lead time, and code requirements in mind while making this choice. While considering these factors is a good starting point, they only constitute the tip of the iceberg. The debate of which of these two types of structures is better is never-ending. As the saying goes, "A coin has two sides," so do each of these two types of building methods. Therefore, Northgate Industries has outlined a guide to help you compare stick-built and prefabricated buildings.


Time is one of the most important factors for any job. Lead time, build time, and downtime are all essential to the building process. This factor can improve or destroy the flow of the project.

Stick-built- The architect typically draws this type of structure and gets it approved by the customer. The materials needed for this construction are then delivered at the job site. They can often come in multiple batches throughout the duration of the project. The construction of the building starts once the materials reach the site.

Prefabricated- On the other hand, prefabricated construction can provide a decreased lead, build, and downtime. Once there, the professional crew takes about two to four weeks to complete the project.


While comparing prefab versus stick-built construction, consider the ease of future expansion or modification. If your business grows in the future, and there is a need to expand your office due to an increase in labor and space, you need to be ready for it.

Stick-built- Adding a second storey can create a cloud of unwanted dust and debris in the air and around the office.

Prefabricated- Modular construction is less invasive. You can quickly start with new walls attached to the existing walls and unscrew the binder posts. Prefab construction uses standard parts made in factory settings. With little to no demolition, prefab additions to the existing structure are installed in no time.

Code Requirements

In industrial and commercial construction, all materials and the finished structures must meet the code of requirements in the area.

Stick-built- The designs made by the architect must be stamped to assure they meet the codes. The laborers then finish the steps in construction such as plumbing, electric, framing, foundation, etc. After the completion of the steps, the finished work needs to be approved by the inspector.

Prefabricated- The building components are already tested and approved for wind, fire, and load ratings. Just like traditional buildings, even prefab structures are expected to meet the codes and regulations of building.


A major concern in today’s society is to build structures in an environment-friendly way.

Stick-built- Traditional stick construction uses less recycled material and more trailers, and heavy equipment that generate air and noise pollution. Also, materials that are wasted during the construction process can’t be recycled.

Prefabricated- The modular components used in this process are manufactured in a factory environment, and then transported to and assembled at the desired location. Not only does it reduce noise but also dust on site.


Although previous factors are important in choosing the right building method for your specific needs, the cost has always been a major deciding factor. It can be hard to compare stick-built versus modular construction cost. The following are some points that you need to consider to make sure your comparison is accurate.

  • Cost of the structure,
  • Installation costs,
  • Costs of getting required permits,
  • Cost of the future expansion (if needed),
  • Cost of architects and engineers,
  • Business downtime

We suggest you to consider all these points for both prefabricated and stick-built construction.

Northgate Industries Ltd. manufactures an array of custom modular buildings which are built to withstand extreme climatic conditions. From designing to installation, along with employing the strictest of health and safety standards, we are skilled at producing modular structures more efficiently at a cost considerably lower than traditional on-site construction. Drop us a line if you're considering a prefabricated (modular) building.

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We offer new, used and custom made modular buildings in a wide range of sizes and styles. Our experienced sales staff will work closely with you to understand your unique requirements and your budget.