I'm over budget 8% - Save Me!

gaonmymindMarch 26, 2012

Let me just say I love this house plan and the layout.The flow is exactly what I had in mind.

With that said I am over budget 8% and don't want to start my project that way.

The cost overrun was the playroom space which is unfinished space above the mudroom. Even unfinished it is putting us over the top. Because of minimum sq. ft requirements in my area the house cannot go below 4500 sq ft. We are 4506 without the 2nd floor unfinished playroom. So no wiggle room to remove sq ft other than that. I don't want smaller rooms.

My architect said we could get rid of it and just keep the mud connector by lowering the roof and getting rid of the dormers. The exact same space will exist in the basement and will be daylight so there is no need for it on the second floor.

Also I found out that because of the shape of our lot the back mud door is actually a drop off! That will be daylight basement under there. So unless I put a deck there, no one will be walking out a back door. I am thinking of ways to reconfigure the garage mud hall because of this, but still keep all the function. That side of the house has a neighbor on it so I would not be losing anything if there weren't any windows in the kitchen.

Any suggestions that I can play with while I wait on the architect regarding cost savings?

Here is a link that might be useful:

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What about pushing some of the space into the garage, make a larger garage, and then finish the extra space later? If you plan for the space to fit properly within the garage it should work fine.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 9:00PM
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little changes

Faucets? are you getting expensive ones or $20 ones. Really easy to upgrade later


Ceramic tile or vinyl?

I didn't realize it but for a ceramic surround in our master bath was $2000 more than a vinyl one.

Not changes that are fun thats for sure!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 9:11PM
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Wow, 4500 square feet min? If you are 8% over budget and if you're paying roughly $110/sq ft, that's about $40k you need to trim.

Things that are easy for a handy homeowner to replace later include:
Faucets on sinks
Cheap kitchen sink (if same size and config as desired sink)
Light fixtures
Door knobs
Bathroom vanities (save a lot by going with the cheapest option at HomeDepot with laminate counters)

Not as easy to replace on your own, but might save you a bundle:
Cheap carpet instead of hardwood flooring ($3/ sq ft versus $8/sq ft - this could save you $15k)
Vinyl floor in bathroom and kitchen instead of ceramic tile (or wood)
Cheap acrylic or fiberglass tubs and surrounds in the bathrooms, instead of tiled walls
Laminate counters instead of granite in the kitchen
Skip any glazing or special cabinet treatments - go for simple cabinets in a cheaper wood in the kitchen
Landscaping - go for the minimum (seed the lawn yourself rather than hydro seeding, can save a chunk of money if you spend a few Saturdays and buy a broadcast spreader)

Even with all these shortcuts it will be tough to trim $40k off the budget. It's a shame you can't choose a smaller floor plan so you can afford to put the money into hard wearing surfaces that will hold up better. I might be weird but I would hate to build a house and see daily reminders of all the places I cut corners, instead of all the things I love. But HOAs are pretty rigid and can be rabid about enforcing the rules. FWIW, we chose to live in a smaller home because finishes and details were more important than square footage. Are you sure you want this much space?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 9:32PM
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Thanks for the fixture suggestions. Yeah 4500 is a high minimum. My house will be the smallest in the neighborhood but the lot was a steal...so I decided to deal with the extra requirements.

I really don't want the house to be cheapened per se. I just don't see myself making changes later. Besides that I would move in feeling like I compromised too much.

I was hoping more for floor plan suggestions with the garage and mudroom. I believe by cutting out the playroom upstairs will save at least 6-7%.

I thought about killing the keeping room also and just have a nook over there. This would probably put me under budget and leave room for more upgrades and surprises along the way. So keeping the charm without all the redundant spaces.

As you can see my living room is quite big. My dining room is a music/ library room as well as we don't do formal dinners but a few times a year. Also the guest bedroom/ office will sit empty most of the time and could essentially become a first floor playroom.

My entrance is a "living room" of sorts as it is quite big. I plan to do something like the pic below. So maybe I can play with the size of the keeping room or just get rid of it. Too much space for a 4 person family. We also have a huge basement.

Foyer/living room/sitting room in the front of the house:

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 9:47PM
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It is my guess that the 8% is above 60K.

Is getting additional quotes an option?

I would not recommend to use cheap materials. Instead you could leave a couple of rooms "unfurnished" but with the walls finished.

You have a hall bathroom by the guest bedroom that can be used by visitors, so you could:
-Rough in the power room but install vanity, toilet and maybe the flooring later - just close the door, no one will know and it can be a project to look forward in the future.
-You can install the mudroom bench later on.

I do not design or use materials with the only purpose of impressing others.
That being said, there is a difference between cheap, expensive and noble materials.
I find the granite to be noble. I do not like Corian. But if granite is not an option I prefer to use Laminate. There are new laminates that it is very hard to tell the difference.
Simple pine is very noble and "real". I prefer it to Composite wood (looks fake and is more expensive). What are you using for the big patio? maybe pine is a good option.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 11:37PM
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I really like the idea of a keeping room, but with your layout (and wanting to cut back a bit on the budget) it might make more sense to convert that area into a bigger nook...and no keeping room.

Maybe have doors from the nook area, out to the patio and a deck off the mudroom. It would be nice to have access from the nook and mudroom to the play area...if it's out that way.

With a big basement (can you save money leaving some/all unfinished?) that will give you plenty of room to spread out, especially as the kids get bigger. It's still a great plan :)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 11:42PM
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Too many jogs in the foundation and that translates into a complicated roof line. Simplify and create big squares. It will increase the square footage slightly, but it will lower the overall cost. A rule of thumb is that every extra corner costs you 5-10K extra depending on location. Inside and outside corners both count. You've got 28.

Garage/storage area--eliminate the jog and make it all one big rectangle.

Porch jog--bring the porch out to the plane of the DR.

Living room/roofed patio--make it line up with the front of the home.

Nook--just put a dining set in the keeping room.

Mudroom--bump it out to be even with the back of the garage instead of indented.

You've just eliminated 18 of 28 and not compromised the layout at all. Instead, you've gotten a bit more square footage, can keep the upstairs play space and still be under budget. This gives you a comfortable margin and also assumes that you do have the 20% contingency set aside in case you decide to do dirtwork or add that deck in now rather than later.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 12:05AM
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$5-10k per corner - you have got to be kidding. Maybe $1k.

Think about 28 corners even at $5k a pop. That is $140k in corners and I guarantee that is far more than her roof, framing, exterior trim and foundation combined. And no one else charges more for a corner (ok perhaps a tiny bit of carpet waste).

Having built a similar size house in a similar cost area, the total of those things was about $120k.

8% is a good chunk. We were copying a house and cut out about that and here is what we did - wait to finish basement, change stone supports on back deck to wood posts, eliminate copper roof over porch, eliminate some exterior trim pieces (little extra piece in roof gables that were decorative), 3 garage doors to 2, eliminate 15 can lights, change granite to laminate in office, removed some pendant lights, stoned only lower half of outdoor fireplace, eliminated gravel under deck, simplify grids in windows (2x2 instead of 3x3), use chrome bath fixtures. All that was about 8%.

Other things I would consider changing but didn't - make front door single instead of french, change closet doors to hollow core, cut landscaping budget from $18k by planting smaller things and doing more later.

There are ways to cut money that aren't bad but cutting corners is not going to get you 8%. Your best bet is to get a list of what things cost from your builder so you can make some decisions. I can't see cutting the playroom saving that much either...

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 7:17AM
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I agree with David. I would get a specific quote from your builder of what everything costs - i.e., framing materials, framing labor, concrete materials, concrete labor, brick allowance, masonry labor, etc. We had this before we signed with our builder - you may too. I would then look and see if the allowances are reasonable - ours had a lot of cushion in them in places. We saved 6k by doing trusses in the attic instead of stick built. Our house was bigger than we wanted/needed and we weren't going to use the attic space. Our builder shopped the concrete prices - we have a lot (a raised terrace and screened porch and lower patios) and found some cheaper than his quote by going with another supplier. He also used an engineered steel support system for our terrace rather than what he had originally quoted - not sure the details but this saved 14k.

It might be most helpful to get your architect and your builder in the same room and have them discuss where the most cost effective changes can be made.

Daylight basements are more expensive . . . could you eliminate that? I have a friend who cut 20 percent from the cost of her house in Atlanta by sitting down with her builder and architect. One thing they did was switch from a daylight basement to deep window wells (these can be attractive if done correctly), in part of the basement.

Also, if you don't need a full basement, you may save some by pouring part of the house on a slab.

We have a foyer similar to your picture but narrower. We did it because side stairs take up much less space, and we didn't want to waste more space than necessary on our foyer since our house was getting so big. We wanted 4500 and ended up with 5200 not including the basement . . .

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 10:20AM
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It sounds to mee like you already have it figured out. If you don't need the 2nd floor playroom, and it certainly sounds like you don't, get rid of it. It seems like you can easily make some small changes to the mudroom/passthrough to make it smaller and still function. Switch to a single door entry and get rid of the back optional door to nowhere. Do you need a side entry? or can you just you the door in the garage for that purpose. I like my guests to come in the front door and I usually enter through the garage. I don't know the dimensions of your space, but it seems like your power room is oversized as well. You definitely don't want to go too small, but you may be able to get want you want out of less space.
I would much rather cut unnecessary space (while still meeting your minimum) than compromise on finishes. Some finishes are quite easy to change out later and some can be switched for something much less expensive while still getting a great look - such as bathroom wall tile - but you don't want to lose the beauty of the space.

It really is a great family plan overall - good luck.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 2:34PM
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Thanks Everybody! I will let you know what happens.

I talked to my builder and he is working on some inefficiencies. My architect is as well. He thinks they can come up with some cost savings. I really can't compromise on finish, so this is the only choice. I am also sending the bid out to someone else. Although my builder is VERY reasonable so I don't know how close another builder could come. But we will see.

I am going to go over all the details of his specs as well. Try to have everything disclosed up front because we need to do fixed price. We are doing that rather than cost plus because I will be giving birth when we break ground and my husband is too involved in his business to really get into the nitty gritty. I am am the one kinda in the driver seat on this house.

So with a one year old and a newborn, I don't want surprises and can't monitor every single nail and screw. So hopefully we can make it work with him because my realtor and banker recommend him as they have clients who have worked with him in the past and he has been extremely engaged in this process with us.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 6:25PM
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Buckheadhillbilly on this board used a builder she loved named Gary. She also did a lot of legwork herself (found beautiful Rutt Cabinets at the Habitat Restore that she used in her basement kitchen and bought some green cabinets on craigslist that she used in her upstairs laundry). If you do fixed price, do you have to have all faucets, appliances, hardware, etc. picked out or do you have allowances for those?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 6:29PM
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Wow...I am hoping to do some of the same things buckhead did. I will start to look at craigslist daily for these things.

Do you have recommendations regarding doing fixed price? I know you did cost plus with a GMP and fixed fee.

I have picked and bought all the appliances. I priced the marble, tile, fixtures, and trim. So I have put in budgets based on the high price I found for these items. So if I find a sale or decide to go lower than I can.

Also I have been lurking on this board for almost 6 months so we chose a lot of the building materials based on different recommendations. The HVAC, insulation, electrical...have all been discussed and will be in writing. We are going to specify the exact materials he has to use for the build in the contract too.

I wanted to do cost plus, but I think I will mess things up just from exhaustion. I am already on the edge planning and the new baby isn't even here yet. Let alone my 15 month old who is VERY active. We are also over an hour away from the homesite...so that will not help.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 6:51PM
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gaonmymind - can we see your second floor pictures to see how this fits together?


    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 7:09PM
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I cannot recommend Tapcu in Atlanta enough for natural stone. Their prices are amazing - beat everyone hands down. Our tile guy gave us his discount, which was half of the list price. He called ahead and told him he would do that so they just gave me a catalog with pricing (cost is half of retail). I got the travertine mosaics for all showers there, our master bath tile (also travertine), and one boys bath. They also sell premade thresholds and window sills that we used in our build. We used the travertine thresholds as curbs on the showers and as shelves in our shower niches. They look great - gives a very high end look at not much cost. We also bought their white marble windowsills to use as the bottom shelves of our niches in our two bathtubs (did daltile subway). The marble shelf in these looks so nice and upgrades the inexpensive subway.

We also found a great great looking ceramic travertine that we used for our boys showers. We mixed with real travertine for the niche ledges and shower curb and used real travertine (also from Tapcu) on their shower seats. It turned out great and really upgraded the inexpensive shower tile.

I also used a travertine versailles pattern tile in my back hall, mud, laundry area which looks fantastic and was 2.75 a square foot . . .

Back hall, laundry and mud room travertine

I also used Alabama White marble that I found at Stone Connection for my kitchen. It was a real white, unlike the carrera which was very gray, and much more affordable than calcattua which I also liked. It is very quiet, which I happen to like but it may be too simple for others . . . My husband is from Alabama so he was glad we used it - Bobby McAlpine uses it all the time too.

Kitchen marble

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 8:04PM
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gaonmymind, we were actually 20% over budget after the preliminary pricing. That was a huge bummer!

We made some changes to the plan: We eliminated the deck off of the back that connected to the screen porch, and we eliminated the basement under the master and put it on a slab. Both of those changes actually helped the way the house sits on the lot, so it was good. Both of those ideas I got from builders I was interviewing. When they came back with pricing, I asked them what they would do to reduce the cost. Some builders were less helpful. One was reluctant to name any savings, so I asked him what he would do if it were his house. He said he'd find the other 20%. We didn't really need to talk to him anymore. The builder I ended up going with said, "Let me see what I can do." Then he went back to all of his subs and told them that if they were all going to get to do the job, they were going to have to cut their price 10%. He dropped his fee 10% also. They ended up with work when nobody else had any. So, that's one way to go. Don't know if that would work now, but 2 years ago when everyone was struggling to stay afloat, it was better than starving.

When we decided to go ahead and build, we decided to get the "bones" of the house right and not spend much on things that need replacing after 10 years. And, yes, as Athensmom noted, I became the Craigslist Queen. I searched daily and got doors, tile, fences, adorable vanities made from antique huntboards (complete with tops, sinks and faucets), chandeliers, cabinets for both laundry rooms and a 48" dual fuel range. I scored big time on my first trip to the Habitat Restore. They had just gotten a donation from a high end lighting store and an appliance showroom, so I got $500 sconces for $30, a Miele dishwasher and warming drawer, laminate countertops for the laundry rooms and cabinets for the basement kitchenette. During the build, we were able to get many of the subs to include the basement in their bids, so even though we had not intended to finish the basement, we did.

Overall on fixtures and finishes, I would say, be flexible. Know the general look you want but don't get too fixated on a particular faucet or light fixture. I knew the look I wanted for my front porch fixture. I was having troubling finding anything quite as simple and classic as I wanted. One day scrounging for knobs at Builder's Surplus I saw a hanging lantern that was just the ticket. It was a little dusty and worn looking, but nothing that wouldn't either clean up or add character. It was marked $80 but rang up for $13 on clearance. You do that enough times and you have some real savings.

All that being said, you are in a bit of a bind. With a fixed price contract the builder has to figure that everything that can go wrong will go wrong and tack that on to the price. They also have to plan on inflation. When we poured concrete, we paid $75/cubic yard. A few months later, concrete had skyrocketed to $100/cubic yard. A contractor has to allow for such fluctuations when he prices it out at a fixed price. You are asking him to take the risk.

This was quite a rambling post. I hope you find some of it useful, and I wish you good luck. Remember, the house is just a house, the real treasures are the 15 month old and the one on the way!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 8:47PM
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Athensmomof3 and Buckheadhillbilly - You guys are awesome! I am foing over the details of what you wrote. Your suggestions and resources are tremendous. I was hoping to post a follow-up from my builder by today so we will see. He says he can find some money to save in the plan. We also have another guy bidding it as well, but I suspect just on his previous clients and how busy he is he will be higher.

As soon as I get the result I will post again. BTW I scored 15 closet/ laundry/whatever lights for $5 each! SO I think I will be the next Buckheadhillbilly on this board with my deals :)

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 9:26AM
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Congrats on the lights! I second buckheadhillbilly on the idea that a fixed price build will be more expensive, because the builder is taking the risk rather than you of rising material prices. I suspect there is some "cushion" built in there to protect him. Not sure what the better option is though?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 11:48AM
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Athensmomof3 - We are supposed to talk to him in the morning so I will let you know what happens.

I wish I could do cost plus, bust honestly I don't have the confidence in myself or time. His prices are very affordable compared to almost every builder I have talked and even my bank says he gets the job done on time and on budget. He is running for a public office as well so he has a serious reputation to maintain with the community. So I am willing to let him have his cushion if it saves me work and headache.

I know it may not be the absolute best solution, but if he can shave 8% while still maintaining our agreement of material, finishes, and construction then I feel the compromise will work for us. I can barely keep my eyes open these days.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 2:00PM
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I remember those days! I wish I could say it got easier but I have 3 boys 11, 9 and 6 and the sports and school activities are killing me - plus being in a small town means a trip to look at *everything* . . .

Certainly worth paying for convenience if you can come in at or under budget - building is not easy!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 2:25PM
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