What Will It Cost To Build Your House Plan?

The Devil is in the Details

First, add ten or twenty percent to your budget! Seriously: How do you figure out what it will cost to build the house of your dreams? It’s an age-old question, with many variables and many answers, though the assumption is that the building

Windsor Castle Please credit the photographer: Peter Packer

process will not take longer than a thousand years, like, say, Windsor Castle, shown above — built, rebuilt, and successively expanded since the late 11th century (photo by Peter Packer courtesy royal.gov.uk). Cost estimating is an inexact science and actually more of a “liberal art.” It involves balancing quality with affordability and there will be inevitable trade-offs depending on the level of finish and detailing you require, as explained in the Cost To Build Report that can be obtained for each of our plans. Higher-end projects can get particularly fuzzy. As someone told me recently: “I gave my architect an unlimited budget and he exceeded it.”

So I asked Houseplans.com Chief of Design Nicholas Lee, AIA to offer some Construction Cost Tips. Here they are. Thank you Nick!

House Shape Is Key: Complex geometries such as angles, bump-outs, irregular shapes, and curves are more expensive to build. Simpler shapes, rectilinear forms, and shapes with fewer angles — as shown in Plan 461-2 by

Brooks Ballard — are less expensive to build.

Size Matters. Building a smaller house generally saves money for the obvious reason. BUT, there is an economy of scale in building a larger house: typically the kitchen and bathrooms are the most expensive rooms so an extra bedroom can be inexpensive square footage. For example, building a three

bedroom house like Plan 17-2450 (shown here) may not cost much more to build than a two bedroom house because you’re building the foundation, kitchen, and bathrooms anyway.

Plumbing Placement Affects Cost. It can be “stacked” — that is,

bathrooms that sit over one another as shown in Plan 23-2267. Plumbing for the kitchen and bathroom can also be placed back-to-back or adjacent to one another to save money.

Roofs Rule. Simpler roof forms like the one on Plan 491-10, shown here

save money and trouble. Roofs with lots of hips, valleys, and ridges require more flashing and water-proofing, and more material and labor. More complex roofs have a greater chance of leaking because of the transitions at ridges, hips, and valleys.

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