TIME WAS, BUILDERS WHO FRAMED THEIR FLOORS with engineered I-joists would cut holes in the web to run HVAC ducts and plumbing pipes. Performing this job on site was costly and increased the chances of a mistake. But now more builders are having holes precut by distributors, saving money—and headaches—in the process.

Glenn Mikkelsen, an Orlando, Fla.–based Boise Building Solutions distributor, says his company invested in a computer-aided saw almost two years ago to offer precutting services to its customers. “Framers love I-joists, but HVAC and plumbing contractors charge more to make the cuts,” he says. Now, the distributor makes the cuts based on the house plans so builders save money, Mikkelsen says.

Instead of cutting holes in the shop, Las Vegas–based Team EWP, an I-joist supply and hole-cutting company, invented a saw that allows the company to offer accurate on-site cutting. “I have a team of workers, and we do on-site cutting for $100 to $150 per house,” says owner John Davis.

It is estimated that well over 50 distributors nationwide offer precutting, and the number is growing. Not only do builders save money, but having holes cut by a pro on site or in the shop gives them peace of mind that the job was done correctly and will not need repairs.