Guide to Residential Construction Costs

By Bob Borson

Estimating a project 's cost is like playing darts -- here's what you need to know to hit the target.

Residential construction costs are not that complicated unless you really want to make them that way. There are some general broad stroke pieces of information that if you know them, you will not be surprised when it comes time to planning your budget. I get asked these questions all the time, it makes me wonder if doctors get asked to look down people’s throats everywhere they go? (I hope so…).Since all these costs can be screwed up in any number of ways, take all this information with a grain of salt. It would seem reasonable to assume that masonry construction in the border states, with the amazing amount of readily available skilled labor, will cost less than masonry construction somewhere in non-border states. Texas is also a right-to-work state and we don’t face some of the typical cost issues that unionized states enjoy. So now that I have my disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk numbers!When starting to plan for a construction budget, there are some items that you should plan on including in your budget. These would include:
  • Providing utilities to the site if not currently present
  • Site Preparation (clearing away trees, stabilizing soil, cutting and filling to grade the site, etc.)
  • Demolition (if there are structures currently on the lot)
  • Construction costs, including foundation, framing, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, interior finishes, exterior finishes, lighting, cabinetry, appliances, plumbing vessels, etc.)
  • Construction Management Fees and Site Superintendent Fees (in my area of the world, these are typically set at 10% to 20% of the total construction cost)
  • Sales Tax
  • Hardscape (exterior built items i.e. sidewalks, driveways, patios, pools, etc.)
The list above are large categories that will represent most, but not all of the total project costs. These are the expenses that are generally not considered part of the construction budget. Hopefully you and your architect would discuss these matters up front, I know I would. If you say your construction budget is $500,000, most would literally consider that to be the construction budget, not the project budget. Please make this clear, otherwise the relationship between architect and client won’t be all that great when the disappointment sets in.

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Originally Published in Bob Borson/ Life of an Architect

Mon Aug 12 00:00:00 PDT 2013