Need ideas for cost cutting for building a house

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by marisal, Mar 12, 2004.

  1. marisal

    marisal Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2003

    We are planning out our house to build, we are WAY over buget. We need to find ways to cut the cost. The builder we will probably go with is pretty flexable with what we do ourselves. Right now we are planning on doing ourselves:

    Ceramic tile
    linoleum tile
    Hardwood floor (Maybe)
    Less expensive lighting
    Site clean-up
    have someone we know do the driveway

    We are not very skilled at all at building things, we've tried, it's not a pretty picture.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!!


    ~Marisa :)
  2. Explorer

    Explorer Well-Known Member Supporter

    Dec 1, 2003
    Far West in the White Mountains, Arizona
    The only way to significantly reduce the cost of a new home is to think smaller.

  3. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

    May 11, 2002
    I agree. Cost is pretty well directional proportional to square footage. IMHO you would be better off with a quality smaller house than one in which a larger one was built as cheaply as possible. Say you have a choice between grades 1, 2 and 3. Likely grade 1 isn't three times better than 3, but perhaps eight times better. If the cost isn't eight times more, than you are sacrificing quality for not going with grade 1.

    Ken S. in WC TN
  4. Don Armstrong

    Don Armstrong In Remembrance

    May 8, 2002
    central New South Wales, Australia
    Thinking smaller does not necessarily mean "smaller". It can mean designed so you can finish-up some now, then do an addition (integrated, designed from the beginning as part of the whole) later on.
  5. moopups

    moopups In Remembrance

    May 12, 2002
    In beautiful downtown Sticks, near Belleview, Fl.
    Place plumbing orienatated rooms back to back, this saves materials and labor.
    Eliminate gables by makeing all roof slopes either triangles or trapazoids, this is about $700 to 1000 for each and prevents further painting and maintance in the future. Do not include carpets, drapes, ect into the original cost, these things wear out and need to be replaced long before the mortgague does. Go with a plain interior and add luxury later. There is no such thing as too much insulation, it pays you back through hvac savings. Have your contractor put up the 'shell', then work with the subs yourself, it gives you more control and there is no need for the middleman. Work with subs that are recommended by people you trust, always get at least 3 bids of any thing. Do not fail to get 'mechanics lean releases' before you pay the subs, this is very important. Attend workshop sessions at big box suppliers, you may find that you can install the drywall, or do the painting yourself; same with floor coverings even the electrical system. New construction costs are mainly labor, about 60% or so, what ever you can do your is paid to you in savings.
  6. marisal

    marisal Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2003
    See, this is where I don't want confussion.

    I DO NOT want a cheaply built house.
    I want to save money, but not cut corners. I know it can be done, I just need ideas of what we could do compared with the builders doing something.

    We can not make the house any smaller. It is the smallest we will comfortably go.

    I am looking for ideas, like what can wait to be put in till later, for example, we will rough in for a AC unit, but not get one yet, that will save us $2000 up front...We are passing on the walk out basement....

    I am looking for ideas like that.


    ~Marisa :)
  7. Beeman

    Beeman Well-Known Member

    Dec 28, 2002
    East TN
    The design and size are the 2 most costly things you can control beyond fancy finish details. The items you list as doing yourself are some of the cheaper ones that homeowners generally do themselves.
  8. Amy Jo

    Amy Jo Well-Known Member

    Mar 29, 2003
    I was always told a split level is much cheaper than a ranch... something to do with how much of the house is in the ground...

    Perhaps not the most helpful tip... but the only one I can think of right now. We're going with a premanufactured home. We'll get more of what we want at a price we can afford.
  9. Hoop

    Hoop Well-Known Member

    Jan 1, 2003
    Northern Wisconsin
    If you are way over budget, it will only get worse. Yesterday, I talked to a friend of mine that had a huge home built with all the fancy trimmings. They figured from the start they would be going 1/3 over budget. He told me they by the time it was turnkey, it was not only 1/3 over budget.....but an additional 1/3 over the 133% mark!
    They now have an absolutely stunning home! Unfortunately, some of the kids/spouses/grandkids moved back home :waa:

    Going over budget is part of the building process. I'm convinced everything related to the building process, costs more than one expects....and takes twice the time to get it completed.
  10. have you looked at the clover leaf home?

    the design is conveniently expandable/effecient
  11. Gercarson

    Gercarson Well-Known Member Supporter

    Nov 2, 2003
    Florida Pan Handle
    We all know where you're coming from and wish you the best. You will see where you can "cut corners" as the corners come up. Lucky you are dealing with someone who is willing to work closely with you - that is a big help, he could be giving you pointers too. Just take that deep breath and go to it!
  12. barbarake

    barbarake Well-Known Member

    Oct 23, 2003
    Upstate SC
    You're in the process of designing the house?? So nothing has actually been built yet, right??

    And the situation is that you want a well-built house as inexpensively as possible. So there are two main things you can do - alter the design of the house and/or do some of the labor yourself.

    In terms of design - the more 'square' (or 'rectangular'), the better. Every bumpout costs money and it makes the foundation more complicated.

    Simple rooflines are better - the cheapest (and probably the best in terms of stability/longevity) would be a gable roof. Complicated rooflines are expensive to build and are more prone to leaks. Dormers add significant cost.

    Two-story houses are cheaper to build than a one-story house (same square footage).

    Keep water lines close to each other. Keep bathrooms either next to each other or above one another. If they're close to the kitchen, that's even better.

    Plan for the future. If you think you might need more room in the future, plan to add on later. We're not just talking about having more children - do you have any parents that might need a place to stay, etc. Maybe pitch the roof higher to leave room for future expension. (Yes I know it's a bit more expensive - but it's a heck of a lot cheaper to finish off an attic than to build an entirely new wing.)

    Think 'multiple use'. Don't design rooms for specific uses, you'll probably regret it in the future.

    If you want 'well-built' - well, would you consider buying an older house and fixing it up?? I bought a fifty-year-old house and had it moved to my property. It is so much better built than the current houses (which are built like cr@p, IMHO). And much much cheaper.

    Does your builder have any 'stock' houses that you like?? If he's already built a dozen houses of a certain design, he'll be better (and faster) at it than if he has to build one he's never done before.

    I would reconsider omitting the walk-out basement. That's relatively cheap space that might come in very handy in the future. Think about it.

    The work you're talking of doing (finish painting, etc.) is definitely do-able - but remember that this is what you 'see' and makes a big difference in the appearance of a house.

    Look for bargains in the newspaper. I just bought (two days ago), over 4,000 square feet of 3/4" thick, 3" wide, tongue-and-groove pine paneling for $1,500. That's about 1/7th the cost of the local Lowe's or Home Depot. I found a new $900 sink in a thrift store for $35.00. I bought doors through ads in the paper.

    Remember the old saying - "You can have it cheap, fast or well-done. Pick two out of three". If you're in a hurry, you'll have to choose between cheap and well-done.
  13. Cost cutting measures that still leave a nice home.

    If you had planned on using oak woodwork, you can often substitue ash and still have nearly identical woodwork for looks. It is amazing how close they are in looks.

    Kitchen cabinets would be a great place to save $$$$. Perhaps you can find a local craftsman that is retired but willing to make the cabinets. INSPECT a number of his cabinet jobs however to determine that he is qualified to do a good job. Learn how to install cabinets and do the installation yourself.

    Vinyl will be a lot cheaper than linoleum since it is used so little anymore. Linoleum does have a certain anti-bacteria property which makes it great for hospitals and doctor's offices. Perhaps you are in need of this.

    You say you are not very skilled at building things. Are you sure you can handle ceramic tile? It is tough to get a good looking job.

    I don't know what you were planning on using for countertops, but a plastic laminate would be about the cheapest. Wilsonart, and Formica are just a couple of brands. Built on site would probably be cheaper. It is pretty easy to do. The solid surface countertops eat money fast, but who wouldn't love to have them. They appear wonderful. Some people do use concrete countertops that have a finish applied to them, but I don't care for the looks of them at all. I understand that they are on the low side of cost compared to others.

    Whatever you do, don't skimp on insulation. You will pay for that mistake the rest of the time you live in the home. There are builders in the New England states that super insulate and weatherproof homes to the point that they forego installing furnace systems.
    Air infiltration prevention is number one. Not just with a house wrap either. Something to think about.

    You must have windows that look good to have a home you will be proud of. Make sure the windows are as energy efficient as you can afford. Look at brands beyond what the local suppliers handle. Get a known and respected brand that has been in business for decades. They have the where-with-all to have product testing and can back up their claims to good windows.

    If you can, skip carpet and use large area rugs. Carpet will soon be gone, but when an area rug is worn you can change it out yourself in an hour.

    I hope you get the house of your dreams even after corners are cut. Best wishes.
  14. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

    Dec 9, 2003
    give us some more information to work with here:

    Are there covenants or other neighborhood restrictions included in your requirements?

    What is the timeline?

    Are some amenities already in place?

    How big are you planning?

    Will the bank be your partner during construction?

    How far off budget are you?

    You may not be able to keep your budget if you only negotiate minor details. If you haven't built a house and you are designing this one, you're bound to overlook something or a lot of somethings.

    If you're way over budget now, its time to rethink.
  15. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

    May 22, 2003
    Zone 7
    Often the shopping for prices can be the best savings. Knowing how to get the maximum out of the materials you buy also helps. Just look at the waste at a development and you will see what I am referencing. The materials in the waste bin cost just as much as the materials in the house. Room dimensions can conserve while not wasting materials or forfeiting area. Use stock dimensions.... a room 12 x 12 should not cost as much as a room 10 1/2 X 11 ....these are the type of dimensions that waste material and increase labor. I suggest using only one floor, glue the t&g joints and save on the labor of the second floor. Have the least number of corners on the home, labor on a "cut up" house is much greater. Remeber this, most all rooms have a door, window and 4 corners regardless of size, these are the costly items, plain floor space is cheap. Often it appears cheaper to built something onsite, that is not always true. Truss systems cost more but they include the labor and it total they actually may me cheaper. You need to have an efficient worksite...keep trash picked up after each work day, have the next days materials on hand, anticipate problems and have solutions prior to causing a delay or work stopages. Meet with the supervisor frequently to maintain a good understanding, you do not want to rework anything.
  16. Tracy Rimmer

    Tracy Rimmer CF, Classroom & Books Mod Supporter

    May 9, 2002
    Manitoba, Canada
    Marisal -- my advice (based on experience!!!) is: do all the work yourself, but unless you do it for a living or have extensive experience doing it, have the footings/concrete work done by a professional. It'll save you money in the long run.
  17. thequeensblessing

    thequeensblessing Well-Known Member

    Mar 30, 2003
    Buckfield, Maine
    We just recently had a new home built for us. We went through Wayne Homes. They can be found online. We looked at several of their home models and found that any home that had "just what we wanted" was way out of our budget. So, we settled on a house that was almost, but not quite what we wanted, but that was less expensive then the average. It is a split level. We made some changes to the design which they gladly allow you to do. We have ended up with "exactly what we wanted" by spending time searching for a home plan that was inexpensive and adaptable to our lifestyle and desires. We knew what the home would cost going into the process and when closing day came, we had gone over our budget by 219.00 dollars. Now, we did have a 5000 dollar misc. expense fund figured into the mortgage that I originally thought we wouldn't have to touch, but now, I'm glad it was there. We used it all. I'm very pleased with the end result and how well we were able to stay within budget. They let you do many things on your own as owner equity. Also, you can trade out some things. They gave us a 650 dollar credit on the sliding patio door that we didn't want. I then went down to Lowe's and bought a 15 lite french patio door that I liked better for 330 dollars. That's how you can save a little money.
    Good luck in your adventure!
  18. seraphima

    seraphima Active Member

    Feb 13, 2004
    If you are not going to put in a basement entrance and windows, at least have it FRAMED for them. Reframing is a huge headache. I second the advice about insulation. Also, be sure to frame for a woodstove and chimney, if you are not going to put them in at the beginning, and they are something you will want.

    If you think you may want a greenhouse, or to use solar power for heat or solar electric generation, how you orient the house is essential. (and free!) Having a south room/wall onto which the greenhouse can be built should be in the plans. A greenhouse added on to the living area or kitchen can be a wonderful plan for the future, as it will extend your food growing time.

    One thing I have always liked in a house is to have adjacent bedroom walls lined with closets, giving sound insulation and storage space. Since storage is essential, if you are trying to save money, have the builder frame in the closets, and install closet doors and shelves yourself. You can use curtains instead of closet doors for a while, if need be.

    You can put in many fewer expensive kitchen cabinets if you have a walk-in pantry with floor to ceiling shelves you build yourself.

    Remember to put in electric outlets for the freezer and washer/dryer where you want them- it is much easier to do this in the original wiring.

    Lastly, if you plan to build a rootcellar/coldcellar in the basement, reserve the north corner, frame in at least the studs, include a floor drain, and a small window or other framed opening for venting to the outside.
  19. mikell

    mikell Well-Known Member

    Nov 7, 2002
    South West MI
    If you want to save money take a class or buy books. Plumbing can be easy just try to work with the inspectors and they may help. Actual plumbing materal cost for a home is only a coupla hundred bucks but installation will multiply that by 12 at least. Same with electrical I'm talking rough in not the fixtures. I just re wired and plumbed whole house for less than 600$ not including fixtures.

  20. You want to cut costs? But don't want to go cheaper? I'm confused!
    I built a 30 x 50 berm home with ICF's and a truss roof. I insulated the concrete floor and the front wall facing south is a 2x8 wall with r-39. The attic is r-50 cellulose and I didn't even burn a cord of wood this winter and that is the only source of heat. Zone 5A. I still have some work to do and have maybe 30 grand into the 1500 sq. ft. Can't wait for summer to see how cool it is. Labor is money. I saved alot of money so guess what I did?