Estimating the Cost To Build Your House Plan

By Dan Gregory

A Cost To Build Report, say for Plan 888-2, above, can give you a very general idea of what to expect and help you develop a budget.

The Devil is in the Details! 

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. 
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 (like the one for Plan 888-2, shown here) that can be obtained for each of our house plans.

Note that the level of "build quality:" you require -- whether Economy, Standard, Above Average, or Premium -- affects the estimate, and as the bottom asterisk says: "Choosing the Premium build means your report will be prepared using all premium products and workmanship. This will effectively double the price which is typically calculated for the above average quality." 

Higher-end projects can get particularly fuzzy. As someone admitted to me not long ago: “I gave my architect an unlimited budget and he exceeded it.” So I asked architect Nicholas Lee, AIA -- who has designed many of our best selling Farmhouse plans -- to offer some Construction Cost Tips. Here they are. In addition to the plan links below I have included links to the Cost To Build Report pages for each plan (CTB).

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 — for example, as shown in 


 Plan 461-2 by Brooks Ballard — are less expensive to build. (CTB)

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. (CTB)

Plumbing Placement Affects Cost
It can be “stacked” — that is, bathrooms that sit directly over one another as shown in Plan 23-2267, below; see the ground floor powder room by the kitchen and second floor bathroom in the same location.

Plumbing for the kitchen and bathroom can also be placed back-to-back or adjacent to one another to save money. (CTB)

Roofs Rule
Simpler roof forms like the one on Plan 888-2 at the top of this post (CTB) and Plan 888-17, shown here, 
save

money and trouble. (CTB) 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. 

Thanks, Nick!

CTB reports are also a good indication of a plan's popularity. For example, at least ten Cost To Build Reports

have been run on the plans in this collage since January, and some plans have had more than thirty CTBs. The designs are as follows: left vertical row: Plan 430-156 ; Plan 929-1; and Plan 924-4; middle row: Plan 928-10; Plan 891-3; Plan 930-19; right row: Plan 497-31; Plan 928-13; and Plan 120-187.

This is an updated post.

Tue May 16 00:00:00 PDT 2017