$65 Sq foot to build

frank-11April 17, 2008

Does anyone think this is possible. Me and DW are planning to sub out all the labor. We are going to buy all the materials. We are building a single story 3100sq ft home. We have found many of the high dollar items on the local craigslist, i.e. concrete blocks, drywall, lumber. Am I dreaming?

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I don't know where you are from, but most likely you are dreaming :)

    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 11:30PM
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dreaming or smoking something you should be sharing with me. Not saying it cannot be done, well it cannot be done here in California, but it might be done elsewhere.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 12:17AM
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I know someone who built a home-3 levels, basement, main floor and upper level with bonus room over garage. Entire home was almost 6000 sf. The basement was framed but not finished. If you included entire house the cost was $65 psf. This was in 2006. The design was fairly simple and it did not have alot of windows. Nicely finished interior, with granite in the kitchen, some custom cabinets, hardwoods etc. They did some of their own painting and trimwork. I don't know if that helps or answers your question but, Good Luck!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 12:45AM
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I don't see how you could do it. I would think you might get to the drywall stage for $65 in a cheap labor area. But to install flooring, cabinets, plumbing and lighting fixtures... very unrealistic.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 7:53AM
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Our basement is unfinished and we are about $60/sqft. 1800 finished and 900 unfinished.

We did all of the work ourselves except for the rough plumbing, excavation and two labourers that did framing and exterior finish with DH.

I still do not have a kitchen or permanent light fixtures. We have more work to do but that will be our own time. The materials are all purchased and I don't expect many surprises at this stage.

I think depnding on your area it might be possible but not without serious input of your own. We literally spent the last full year at the house site working. My DH more than full time, my Dad full time and myself after work and on weekends. Our 10 year old son threatened to move away to live with my mother and he was only partly joking. It was a long year.

I expect our final cost will be close to $65.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 8:05AM
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Where are you building? That is the big question. We contracted our house (not including lot) ourselves in Louisiana for less than $65/sq ft. We hired everything out. Some people cannot believe it, but it can be done. It took alot of shopping and dealing, but we did it. Including our lot, the total was $76. Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 9:21AM
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it can be done,i am just finishing a house i started last summer.i did almost everything except the cement and the roof. it is a nice house.2400sq ft on main and 2400 sq ft basement 3bed,2 bath. poly foam insulation,2/6, tile and hardwood. grainte in kit and master,tiled shower,heat pump, all andersen w 3 frenchwood patio doors,tripple garage,custom cherry cabinets, full poured walkout basement.
here are the numbers:
cost less land 190,000
cost per sq finished $79
cost per total sq ft $39.5

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 10:09AM
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One thing I noticed is you are talking about a 3100square foot songle story. The slab alone on that bad boy is going to be expensive!!! Also, if you plan on subbing out all the work and not doing any yourselves then I see that figure as very low. If you were to contribute a great deal of sweat equity, it may be possible.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 10:12AM
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it all depends on your area and how much labor YOU do!

my ex and her current husband have built several houses for under 35.00 a sq ft, including the land cost, and then sold them for 50-60 per sq ft. he is a licensed HVAC and electrician, so they did all of that themselves. but they still hired out for slab, framing, exterior, roof and plumbing. most of the painting they did themselves. they tried doing the drywall onthe first house, and after 1 room said screw it and hired it out. now they get the drywall put up and floated then they come in and prime then paint.

so can it be done, yes it can in many areas, but not in all or even most areas.

also, keep in mind that in my part of the country homes average selling for around 65-70 a sq ft. and even custom built homes with all labor hired out only avg running around 60 a sq ft. high end homes run 20-25.00 a sq ft higher, but average 1800-2000 sq ft are in the 65-70 range. i bought my 2400 sq ft house on 4 acres for 144k, so 60.00 per sq ft of conditioned space.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 10:28AM
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It really does depend on your area. It can certainly be done here, even with having a builder do the whole thing. I posted a while back that our's is $70 for nice finishes, and got plenty of people who didn't believe me, some even bordering on rude.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 11:10AM
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Not here! Our house is insured for replacement to code at $160/sq. ft. (Fire coverage doesn't figure in the land or foundation.)

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 11:21AM
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Am I dreaming? In Technicolor.

Serious back-to-earth types with skills, energy and imagination may be able to do this on a remote site using innovative materials. This doesn't sound like what you have in mind.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 1:34PM
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"innovative materials"
what do you mean? i used standard materials.i didnt downgrade anything. i did price sips and do regret not using them. it did save 5k but i think sips give a better product. i have used them in the past but their price has gone nuts. i decided to try 2/6 with blowin foam instead this time.
i do agree about the skils part. building a house yourself is a fulltime job for a full year. its a mistake to think you can do all the work and still hold a fulltime job. it will take forever.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 2:57PM
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"innovative materials"

Straw bales, tires, rammed earth, logs from your own property, homemade brick etc.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 7:41PM
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mikeyvon that cracked me up!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 10:29PM
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Yes, a friend of ours just did that here in Northern CA. He's a finish carpenter. He spent 5 years building (same size) and financed it himself as he went with wages and labor trades.
He finished it with shop cabinets and linoleum floors (shop cabinets to go into the basement later) because the tax assessor for his neighborhood is well known for aiming high. Balconies were, I believe , chicken wire. Since his house is now finaled he's working on nice cabinets and hardwood floors
for a bit more labor and materials.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 2:57AM
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I agree with others that it will depend on your location and your personal input of labor. Even so, here in northern Virginia, I would doubt you could have anything "wantable" for less than $100 sf (average is $200+); however, on the NVa-WVa line I would expect it could be done for less than $80 sf (average about $110) with some sub-contracting. The more subs used, the higher the sf will be.

By "wantable", I mean built to- or better- than code; with sufficient windows; a good floor design; well insulated; plenty of electric connections; and with the usual amenities.

So, do I think $65 can be done with ALL labor subbed out? Very unlikely. Teach 2007 did it, and that's the only recent case I've heard of which did; however, consider teach's location and date. In your shoes, I would plan finances on at least double ($130 sf), and learn later whether or not the final cost was less. I absolutely would not go into a build expecting to be able to keep to a severely undercosted estimate.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 8:01AM
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We're in rural North Central Ohio and have high end finishes - granite countertops, hardwood floors, tiled showers, oil-rubbed bronze faucets and lighting, Craftsman-style trim, porcelain tiled sunroom and laundry room, custom cherry cabinets and trim, leaded glass front door, sidelights and transom, lots of big windows. Our cost is about $110/sq ft (without land) and we're using an Amish builder for his superb craftsman and efficient work crews to do everything. Most people in bigger urban areas are amazed at the quality of work and materials we're getting for that price.

Depending on your area, I think you can do it for $65/sf if you're willing to do most of the work yourselves and will use more standard builder class materials. Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 8:47AM
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I'm in eastern WA and I do it for well under $65. Have to where I am at.
1)Single wall 2x6, blow in insulation, drop floor foundation, very simple floor plan with standard roof, no bay windows or anything, etc.
2)I go to recycle places and buy some pretty neat fixtures, cabinets, doors, etc. As example I am right now eating toast made in my chrome, 1949 Toastmaster.
3)If you get on the phone and start calling tradesmen you don't know then yeh, the price will start climbing. Call up an electrician to come out and then bend over.
4)you have to network. You need a good coffee shop, seriously. It helps that our area is actually always somewhat depressed. You can find people by word of mouth. I hired an older electrician who just wanted some income in addition to SS. I helped a little and got the job done for less than half of what it would have if I had just picked up the phone book. Other than that I seldom pick up a tool.
5) You can't build a mansion for low prices. It depends where you are located. It depends on what kind of person you are.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 9:39AM
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How are you planning on paying for the house? If you can do it and can't pay for it youself, I think you may have trouble getting financing from a bank so you may want to check that out before you invest too much in materials.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 1:36PM
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As example I am right now eating toast made in my chrome, 1949 Toastmaster.

Ah, that's the kind of guy who could do it for $65!

We once let a handyman, whose wife had thrown him out on the street, take one bedroom in the five-plex we were renovating. He had a place, we had security. Within a week, he had a tv, radio, fan, hotplate going. He found them all in the trash and got them all working!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2008 at 3:07PM
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But the OP said that they plan to sub out all labor.

I think that those who DIY -especially over a long period of time- cannot give a fair answer to the OP question re having subs and still remaining in the $65 sf range. What they do give is support to the fact that the more free skilled labor which is provided by the owner, then the less cash needs to be paid for the subs' skilled labor, which in turn makes the apparent SF cost lower.

I suspect geraldo-linux gave a good answer (although it isn't clear if ALL work is done by subs when computing the sf cost). You can cut costs extensively if you take the time to shop for best price for all materials and appliances; are willing to be second user (or buy whatever is extremely discounted); and can network to find good quality labor at low prices. While many may think that saving on labor is a major contribution to "low cost", I feel that too often, paying less for labor equates getting less skill which means you will end up paying more because of the time extra time required to do the job correctly. Assuming it is done correctly.

Which brings us right back to the usual methods of cutting costs: keep the house design and floorplan ultra-simple; keep the materials simple, nationally manufactured, and commonly available, and use standard sizes; and spend many many many hours price comparing so as to spend least for most. I don't think there is any single magic wand which will reduce the sf cost, but by applying those basics, you should be able to spend less than the average builder.

But I honestly still doubt that --in most areas of the country-- $65 sf can be reached while producing a "wantable" house which is well-built and well-designed.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 11:16AM
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Yes...it can be done! Our cabinetry is in and we're at the painting stage of the our build that we broke ground on the last week of March. We have subbed out virtually everything. The house is 4240 HSF with 6380 under roof. Right now we are at $51.88/$34.48. By the time we are finished we'll be at $63.67/$42.30.

Our home is certainly not extravagant, but we think it's a "wantable" house. :o) We have site finished maple flooring, tile baths & mudroom, custom cabinets throughout with granite in the kitchen. On the exterior we used BluWood, prestained Nichiha siding, have flagstone stairs, a double mahogany & iron front door, and a 3 car garage.

How'd we do it? I price shopped for 18 months and prepurchased every faucet, light fixture, ceiling fan, and appliance before we ever broke ground. We made sure that the property already had utilities run to it.

We researched every sub thoroughly. We may just be lucky, but every one of the folks that have worked on our house has gone above and beyond what we asked of them. DH & I are at the house every day doing clean up, hauling lumber, laying stone, etc. While we are not skilled laborers, we put in the time and take pride in our home. The workmen have done the same for us. It may be wrong, but we greatly appreciate everything the subs do for us every day...and we tell them so. We heard from many of the workmen that they had never been told "thank you" before by a builder. It's a little thing, but I think it makes a big difference.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 12:38PM
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medly, all of my work is done by subs except once in a while, like with that electrician, I will help out some. I am too old to work very hard anymore. Persnickety seems to work like I do. I am around my builds too to clean up, be there, and watchdog it.
I get dried in framing for $5 and it is done right the first time. Ok, most of the time. In my area a "wantable" house is an affordable house. They have five million dollar homes around here, they are are just the exception. I want to repeat that I am referring to a very basic type of home.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 8:51AM
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Congrats on being able to build so reasonable. Your type of house is what we are wanting....sounds very comfortable...and even a bit luxurious~~

Do you mind telling me how much you had to pay your subs per foot for....framing, roofing, tiling, sheetrocking/finishing, laying/finishing your flooring......what kind of cabinets did you use and granite/mahogany doors, etc.? Also, I read that Nichiha siding was pretty costly....what was your cost per sf? I don't mean to be nosey, but I think you did a remarkable job of building such a quality home......congrats on a job well done!

I do plan to start "collecting" things as I see them...in fact we bought a Jen-Aire 48" cook top for a fraction of the selling price because it had small chip in the end...we found on a web-site that we can replace that for a few dollars and we saved several hundred $$ on it. I will also check appliances on ebay and closeouts on light fixtures etc. And I'll be sure to tell the subs that I appreciate them! Thanks for all of your great advice.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 11:04AM
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Thank you so much, phoggie! I don't mind sharing the info a bit. We learned so much from this board and it only seems right to share. :o)

Our framer charged $25,000 for the entire job and I cannot say enough good things about the entire crew. They were incredible. The father (who ran things) has been framing for 35 years and only builds custom homes. The rest of the crew consisted of his sons and employees who've been with him for years. They always said "yes sir", "no sir", "let me check for you sir" and ran (actually ran) to grab lumber. They took a 15 minute break at 9:30, another at 2:30 and an hour for lunch at 11:30. You could set your clock by them. He's the only framer we will ever use. Period.

Our roofer charged $5,033 for labor and he supplied the flashing. The shingles and ridge I purchased from a local lumber yard that was not going to be selling GAF/ELK anymore. Lucky for me they had the exact ones that I wanted. I got all of my shingles & ridge for $4219.55.

We shopped around for the Nichiha with 3 different lumber yards. One was high, the second was a really good price. The one we ended up going with called the second lumber yard to get their price and then beat it. We got prestained for $265 per square.

One of my dearest friends' husband owns a large HVAC company. He gave me 3 Carrier Infinity systems for $11,400. I do have to bake cakes for him for the rest of my life though. :o)

Our tile guy charged $2300 for the laundry room and bathrooms (including master shower & tub surround). I purchased the tile, backer board, grout, and pebbles for the shower floor.

Sheet rock was fun. We had 3 different subs that we liked and they were trying to beat each others prices. Our final price for materials, labor, and haul off was $12,900. They had it finished in 3 days.

The same guy who did our drywall also has a paint crew. We will supply everything and they do all the prep work, prime, and paint for $6300 (including the exterior trim).

I got a fantastic deal on the 4" maple floors online from Hurst Hardwoods. Since we needed so much of it Eric got it for us for $2.80 PSF and the shipping was just over $300. It's selling here locally for $4.59-$5.39. The installer that I found works for one of the flooring stores during the week and "freelances" on the weekend. He charged us $1.00 PSF to lay it down. We haven't had them finished yet, but that will be $1.75 PSF for sanding, staining, and 3 coats of poly.

We have custom cabinets from a local shop. They are made of maple and we had them painted SW Alabaster in the kitchen and laundry room. They are just recessed panel doors. Nothing fancy. :o) The vanities in the master are also maple, but we had them stained. The children's baths are painted. Total cost for cabinets, installation, counters for the baths, and laundry....$16,400.

The granite is coming from Atlanta Intown Granite. They do really nice work & offer some fantastic deals! Check them out if you're in the vicinity.

I bought all of the appliances online. Got some fantatsic deals. We have a 48" custom panel GE Monogram fridge that we purchased from a new construction house for $1560. The people who bought the house wanted stainless and wanted this one sold. Lucky me!!! I got a brand new Samsung washer & dryer set with pedestals for $1300. The double ovens have a scratch on one of the handles, so I got it for dirt cheap too. I just had the custom panel dishwasher delivered yesterday. It's sitting in my garage. LOL They are still selling them at Best Buy for $1400, but I got it on eBay from a company that sells Best Buy's overstock merchandise. My cost for the same item they're still selling? $643.00. Got my cooktop from the same folks too.

Saw our front door in a catalog for $6700 and then got in touch with the company that imports them. Bought it $1999 beacuse it was a slow time of year for them. They're now selling them for $2499, but hey...that's still a good deal. LOL

Bought all my drawer pulls, knobs, and doorknobs on eBay. Bought 3 Ellington Palladian fans from eBay too...for only $29.99 each (they're usually close to $400 ea). Saved a bunch. Same thing for faucets. I picked out what I wanted at the plumbing supply place and then watched the auctions and bought what I wanted at a great price.

I don't think we've really had to sacrifice anything but time to save some money. I'm putting the same things into the house that I would have if we'd paid full price.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 2:05PM
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Should also mention that we did go over on some things that weren't in the original budget, but that was by choice. We used BluWood throughout and did engineered floor joists on both levels. Those changes alone accounted for $14,000!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 2:12PM
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Persnickety and geraldo ~ y'all (and teach007) all deserve big congrats for showing that a house can be well built AND finish low-budget.

I personally know people who finished way below a low budget, but I don't know the exact figures although I doubt the sf as low as $65. What I do know is that --like you-- much time was spent shopping and comparing prices.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 2:39PM
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Some great ideas for the DIY in the above posts!

When I was building luxury homes in the $90 range in the late '80s, there was a neighbour who was convinced he could do it for $50. The last I heard of him was when his bank called me about where they could find him. Back to Pakistan, I said. The house/lot was sold under a power of sale.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 3:05PM
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THANKS so very much for taking the time to do this for me...impressive!!! Sorry to say Kansas is a long way from "granite country", so may have to settle for granite tiles....have seen them with only 1/16" grout line and I think I can live with that for the difference in granite...about $90-$110 SF here....that would be a budget breaker for us. We want to build a "nice" house that meets all our needs (retired and handicapped)...but do want to keep the cost down and energy efficiency high.
My DH is an architect so he is drawing the plans...and used to have a construction company, so he will purchase all of the supplies.
You are SO helpful here.....and if you would choose to do so, I'd love to see pics of your house...know it is beautiful~~ THANKS again! PS What kind of windows did you use?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 7:23PM
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Thank you so much for the kind words everyone!

Worthy...wonder if that house really did sell for $50 PSF when it sold under POA? LOL

Phoggie...we are fortunate enough to live in an area that has exceptionally good prices. It sounds like you and your DH are in the perfect position to take advantage of some wonderful deals...he's got connections. :o)

I'd definitely be happy with the granite tiles. Slabs are just so inexpensive here that it's often cheaper than the alternatives. For example our granite is only $37.95 PSF which includes templating, fabricating, cut outs and installation.

We used Simonton windows. We wanted no maintenance vinyl windows with Low-E2 & argon. Simonton's ProFinish Brickmould 600 offered the best choice for us...high efficiency, well constructed (with very low failure rates), a good warranty and a great track record for customer satisfaction. So far we're VERY pleased with them! The total cost for the windows for the entire house was $5891.57 (including taxes & delivery).

I've tried to post on all the "progress" threads every month, so there are lots of pics of the house out there. I should have done a blog, but didn't have the time. *sigh* At least I took lots of pictures. Here's a link to this month's progress (our house is about halfway down). If there is anything in particular that you would like to see pics of just ask...I'm sure I've got them. LOL

Here is a link that might be useful: September Progress Thread

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 9:29PM
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Your HVAC company wouldn't be Creighton Laircey, would it? I grew up in Augusta.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 6:44PM
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Hi there, Nan. I thought everybody who grew up in Augusta stayed here! Where'd you move to?

Not CL...Southern Mechanical. :o)

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 6:56PM
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Took a chance it may be CL since you are in Evans. My mother was good friends with Mrs. CL.

I've lived all over the midwest, moving with the DH's job changes, in Indiana now, but my heart is in the South. We bought 40 acres in Chester, SC where we will build our retirement home - about 5 years down the line. That's why I'm reading and learning now! These forums are just a wealth of info and ideas.

I've enjoyed seeing your build. Lovely, lovely home - best of luck with the rest of the build!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 7:16PM
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Thank you so much, Nan! Isn't Chester about midway between Columbia & Charlotte? I've been through there before and it is beautiful country. Didn't they film "The Patriot" with Mel Gibson around there?

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 7:28PM
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persnickety~~~LOVE, LOVE, LOVE you new home.....and you bought ALL of those beautiful windows for only $5891.57-- you are certainly a wise shopper. I have not seen Simonton windows, but will check them out......did you buy them direct, from a dealer, or a box store? I think you have done one terrific job!!! Thanks for posting the pics.

Lucky you, granite is very expensive here...and that price did not include fabrication, etc....and it is a cheaper kind.....we would need 75 sf....so still plan to use granite tile if it works out on this house that we are getting ready to put on the market....and that also is terrible here!!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 7:32PM
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Thanks, phoggie! We bought the windows through Lansing Building Products. Simonton has a dealer locator on their website. :o)

Here is a link that might be useful: Simonton Windows

    Bookmark   September 5, 2008 at 7:42PM
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