10 Keys to Reducing Your Building Cost
1. Fewer corners on exterior walls
Limited number of exterior corners often can be found on homes designed with cost
of construction in mind. Corners increase cost of material and labor in virtually
every phase of the construction process. In value-engineered house plans the back
and sides typically have no concave or convex corners. The distinctive architecture
is found primarily on the front of the home.
2. Use increments of 2’0"
One estimate suggested 1/6th of the materials purchased end up in the landfill. Reducing
waste in construction means maximizing material usage. With few exceptions lumber,
drywall, flooring, sheeting of various types are provided in 2’0” increments
(i.e. Carpet 12’0”, vinyl 6’ or 12’, drywall 4’x8’,
x10’ or x12’, plywood or OSB 4’x8’ etc...). Planning your
design with 2’0” increments will dramatically reduce waste.
3. Due diligence when hiring a general contractor.
Just about everyone is concerned about pricing. It should be noted that in the end
a more skilled and more expensive builder might reduce time, mistakes, and unexpected
overages. Builders have subcontractors with whom they have longstanding relationships.
For example, a plumber who may be in the higher middle part of the market may provide
exceptional service, and have a track record of business integrity your builder
may see as a benefit. If you should decide to contest the use of his plumber for
someone he doesn’t know and who was recommended by someone you know, you increase
the risk of problems in the construction process. It is very common for sub-contractors
who have no relationship with the builder to walk off the job. Who is then hired
to fix their work? The builder’s original plumber is the person of choice.
The cost to the client is often much more than it would have been if he had just
worked with a reliable subcontractor.
4. Build smarter with space... Smaller house, mult-use spaces.
Some of the most interesting designs are also designs with the most creative use
of space. There have been some really fantastic books written on how to do more
with less. The best known is “The Not So Big House” by Sarah Suzanka.
In our designs, we try to reduce hallway for hallways sake. Desks, hidden laundry
alcoves, and walkways around furniture can become multi-use areas. When exiting
the home, well-planned niches can provide ample space for coats, lockers, and home
organization desks. It’s helpful to think beyond only lateral spaces. Consider
the vertical spaces as well. A laundry wall can host a seat, storage, coat hangers,
and a basket shelf all in a space of four lineal feet.
A dining room for many will be used sparingly except on special occasions and holidays.
Creating an expandable plan adjoining space that might not be used at the same time
for another purpose is a great way to minimize the footprint of the dining room,
while keeping it as a formal feature of your home. A desk in a kitchen area is another
way to keep home organization close at hand without need a den or office. Hiding
features in behind a millwork door allows the space to be defined and orderly when
guests are present.
5. The value of a basement.
In many cases the least expensive area in the house to construct is the basement.
It requires no additional roofing, the floor above adds no cost. It is only a matter
of excavation of dirt, and the additional poured material. If you finish the basement,
it can usually be allocated as finished space when selling the home.
The basement’s overall soundness makes it a great location for mechanical
utilities such as boilers, furnaces, and water heaters and purifiers. In the same
way, the sturdiness of the basement makes it an ideal location for recreation. It
provides ease of access to plumbing and ductwork and if properly installed can reduce
the problems of crawlspace moisture and infestation, as well as insulation costs.
6. Use roof trusses wherever possible.
There is no question that some of the most beautiful and interesting interior spaces
can be created within the roof structure. A hand-cut framed roof provides the most
opportunity for such spaces. However, the construction cost of a framed roof can
be significantly more expensive than a trussed roof when time and materials are
considered. Trusses are pre-designed structural components that reduce material
and framing time. Trusses usually provide a flat ceiling but can be vaulted and
7. If you truss, use attic trusses in your attic.
Attic trusses are trussed that are open rather than webbed, and include a bottom
cord or framing member sufficient to carry a floor system. This allows you to lay
down a sub-floor and use the space for storage, or the potential of a future room.
The addition of space can mean future living space opportunity and increased salability.
8. Change Orders.
Changes during construction are inevitable, and they pose the greatest threat to
your budget. While some builders make their money in change orders, others do not.
Either way however, reframing a window location, upgrading your carpet or a kitchen
counter top, has a dramatic affect on the final price. Having a way to track those
changes their associated cost increases allows the homeowner to make decisions.
The change order between the builder and the homeowner, in many cases, is a verbal
directive that is undocumented. When the homeowner gets the revised bill he’s
shocked. The way to mitigate this is to be disciplined. First, avoid giving directives
to subcontractors – do everything through the builder. Document in writing every
change you authorize and have both parties (the builder and the homeowner) sign
the change order. It should have a description of the change, and the anticipated
cost of the change. Where appropriate, we recommend a dimensioned drawing of the
change as well so there is no confusion.
9. More planning less guess work.
Time is money! In designing and building a new home forethought reduces lag time.
Lack of information leads to increased loan interest and increased labor costs as
workers wait for decisions to be made. You can improve time usage by detailed planning
of the project. Every room, floor walls, and ceiling have color and material choices
to be made. Take time to walk through window placement whether based on exterior
appeal, or interior aspects. Choose your appliances and your plumbing and lighting
fixtures during design. Even if this isn’t included in your house plans, having
a ledger of finishes, fixtures, and appliances will dramatically improve contractor
bidding, and provide answers before the questions are asked.
10. The value of using a professional.
If you’re building the home yourself and you are not an experienced builder,
you are taking a significant risk with one of the largest assets most people ever
own. Builders have knowledge regarding code, how trades interact with each other,
understanding how to finish components of the house, and they offer relationships
with reliable and skilled tradesmen. Only a portion of what General Contractors
or Builders charge is related to scheduling. Because of this they have significant
risk and liability. When people build their own house they may be able to save a
significant amount of money but usually, in the end, it either shows in the project
quality, or will be paid for in error corrections. A consulting service can dramatically
reduce errors but then again it costs a percentage to secure those services, and
often the consultant has limited liability.