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 customized.

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.

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I love my house.  I wake up every morning, look at my new home, and pinch myself.  I come home every night, and wander through the house and pinch myself.  The design is absolutely fantastic. You did an exceptional job of pulling thoughts and ideas out of the air, putting them on paper. Jeanie M.