Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Building a Modern House on a Budget

Can a Modern Home be built on a reasonable budget? And I guess by reasonable, I am saying within the means of most of us or for less than $300 per square foot! There is great variability in what it costs to build the average home in the US. Here in the Kansas City area, an average house costs about $120/sq ft. Depending on where you intend to build, your costs may be higher or lower. By average, I mean a home with nice finishes inside and out, not the real low-end cheap stuff, but not the very high-end options either.

A better question might be; What is the cost to build a modern home in my area? And I think the answer to this question relates to your goals and your budget. Building on a budget is the same everywhere. There are strategies you can implement to help reduce your overall building costs. For specifics, see my blog from March 9th. Beyond this, how can you achieve the modern house you want at a reasonable cost? And to be specific, I am speaking of a modern home similar to many of the MCM homes built in the 50s and 60s, not a modern mansion like you see in some magazines. Whether you build a ranch, a split level or a cube shaped home, the majority of the materials utilized are the same as with most other homes.

If we look at the differences between your friend’s traditional house and the modern home you want to build, you will see that the structure of both appears to be much the same. They all have some sort of a foundation and some variation of four walls and a roof. On a modern style home, one of the biggest differences has to do with the roof. Standard house roofs are typically built with trusses, which are fast and therefore cheaper. And most of these roofs have a medium to steep pitch, which allows the use of less expensive roofing materials (relatively). The roof on a modern style home may either be flat or have a shallow pitch. In either case, they are typically stick framed which takes more time and materials, increasing the cost. And they require more expensive roofing materials. So, a modern house roof costs more in comparison. How much more depends on the size of the home and the complexity of the roof, but for the sake of argument, lets say the roof costs an additional $25K.

Another major difference between your friend’s house and a modern house will be the windows. The modern house will typically have more/larger windows. This adds to the total cost. The cost increase is very dependent on the quantity, quality and the type of windows. By shopping around, you can typically find good quality windows at a price you can live with. Maybe the cost increase will be $5K or maybe a little more. The more windows you add, the higher your relative cost.

Exterior siding materials cost the same on either style home whether it be cement siding, wood siding, stucco or brick; no vinyl siding please! And the interior finishes have much the same cost too. Whether you use carpet, wood flooring or tile, these all can cost the same, depending on your choices. Appliances and fixtures too cost the much the same in a modern house. You will probably have to shop around to find what you want at a good price, but that is the same with everything. A modern style house uses many of the same materials as any other house, it’s just the finishes, textures and colors that make them look different.

Be aware that you can really blow your budget if you buy only $400 faucets, select tile that is $30/sq ft, cannot settle for anything less than a $6K refrigerator or spend $35K on your kitchen cabinets. To stay within your budget, you have to make realistic choices and some compromises. Keep in mind that just because something costs 5 times more, does not necessarily mean it is 5 times better. Plus, you can always upgrade interior finishes and fixtures in the future when you have more money.

One place you can save money with your modern home is by eliminating interior trim. Instead of trim, you can drywall wrap your windows and doors. There are all sorts of cool plastic drywall accessories that allow drywall to be terminated with a clean, sharp edge. With these, you can also eliminate all your base trim. Since trim is expensive to purchase and install, eliminating it can save you a few thousand dollars.

If we look at the cost of building a traditional 2000 sq ft home on a slab foundation at $125/sq ft, we get a total of $250,000. If we add the extra for the roof and the windows of a modern home, we get $280,000 or $140/sq ft. These are rough cost estimates and are only an example, but they illustrate the cost difference between your modern home and your friend’s traditional home could be as little as $15/sq ft. You have to decide if the extra money is worth spending to get what you really want. I realize that not everyone will be able to achieve this, but it can be done with a little work on your part.

You can find a similar article with a little more information on our Green Building page here:

1 comment:

  1. The rooftop on a cutting edge style home might either be level or have a shallow pitch. In either case, they are ordinarily stick surrounded which takes additional time and materials, expanding the expense. What's more, they require more costly roofing materials. Read More: