5 Ways to Save on Building Costs

Biggest Impact in Up-Front Construction Cost (for average size house):

1. Keep Design Simple. Exterior walls should be set to 2' modules, roofs should be single-pitch and have very little variation. Laying out the house on a strong East-West axis will save energy. Think rectangular box for least expensive design. (savings up to $20,000)

2. Use Builder-Grade Windows in Standard Sizes. Aluminum is the absolute cheapest and for some purposes it works perfectly fine. Vinyl windows are more energy efficient but large windows tend to warp so keep to small sizes. I prefer using commercial grade aluminum windows when the budget allows but the cost can be prohibitive (savings up to $10,000)

3. Be Budget Conscious with Interior Finishes. Control yourself and don't splurge. Finishes can generally be high-quality without busting the budget because they are a relative small item in the overall building process. However, there are a lot of temptations out there to splurge. A solid surface countertop like Silestone in a base color can cost as little as $39/sf and that's a reasonable amount to spend for what you get. But upgrade to unusual colors or opt for soapstone or honed granite and you're suddenly you're up to $85/sf. That can easily add $5000 to a project right there. For countertops plastic laminate is the cheapest at $7/sf and can work perfectly well in certain designs.(savings up to $10,000)

4. Use Siding for Exterior Surfaces in lieu of Masonry or Stucco. Cementitious siding products (like Hardie siding) are durable, energy efficient and cost 40-60% less than most alternatives. FSC certified wood siding is also an affordable alternative but there's more maintenance involved in the long term. There's more design options for siding than just a traditional aesthetic. (savings up to $8,000)

5. When using Hardwood Flooring, go for Pre-finished Hardwoods ($6/sf installed). Having to finish the hardwoods on site doubles the cost but it looks better. However, if on a tight budget do you really need site-finished hardwoods? Pre-finished engineered hardwood floors are even cheaper but not by much. If you have a slab foundation then stained or simply sealed concrete floors are the cheapest option at $2-3/sf. (savings up to $6,000)

I post construction costs for every project on my portfolio page. If you want to see some affordable modern house designs, please visit my website.

Coming next: Biggest Savings in Long Term Building Operational Cost.