Building on a Budget $150K or less

aportholeDecember 23, 2012


Long time lurker, first time posting. Just wondering if there are any other low budget builds going on. It seems many of the threads in the building forum (and others) are geared toward items and price ranges way over our heads.

DH is a firefighter and I'm a stay at home mom to a 3.5 year old and a 9 month old. We are getting ready for our first build. We recently sold our 1st home that we renovated and owned for 3 years and are now renting a basement apartment from family while we will be building just down the street.

DH has many years of construction experience in framing, tile work, hardwood install, and most general construction prior to and along side his firefighting career. His dad is also a GC but lives 2 hours away so will be helping with the framing and on weekends here and there. Because of DH's schedule of working 8 24-hour shifts per month, he will basically be working full time on the house.

We are buying 2.5 acres from my family for $70K. Our build budget is $150K or less. Shooting for $130 ideally. We are almost finished getting all bids together (septic, dirt work, concrete for foundation, lumber, trusses, siding, roofing, insulation, HVAC, electrical, drywall, trim, doors, windows, cabinets, counter tops, and flooring all in) just waiting on plumbing and a few small things like bathroom and lighting fixtures and appliances. We will be meeting with the bank with our estimates and plans in the next 3 weeks. We will be financing pretty much everything, lot and build, so around $200-$220K. House plan is 1800 sq ft, 2 story, 3 bed (4th option/bonus), 2.5 bath.

We are subbing out drywall, insulation, HVAC, electrical, rough-in plumbing, and carpet install. DH will pretty much be doing the rest on his own and/or with help from family/friends.

Any other low budget builders out there?

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Well we are low budget for our area. We are building for 310K roughly. Not including the land. Most houses in our area are much more expensive and our appraisal came in at over 500K. But my DH is also a firefighter (and we also have two little ones) and doing quite a bit of work himself (installing ikea kitchen and bath, installing hardwoods, installing tile and painting). From what I have read- him doing those things is saving us a ton already. The cost is so dependent on the area- how are the bids coming back? Does it look like you will meet your budget goal?

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 2:12AM
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We're trying to build on a shoe-string too. I'm doing all of the work myself except excavation, septic, and concrete. Our house is ICF, not a cheap way to build, but we wanted a solid, energy-efficient home, and it's a good system for DIY if you can get some advice or experience. A lot of our specs would be considered high-end; ICF, fiber cement siding, metal roof, and good windows. The house is about 1250 sq ft, and will run about $80/ square foot, but there is also a 1250 square foot walk-out basement which is already insulated by virtue of the ICF. It would cost very little additional materials to finish the basement, which doubles the size of the house.

I left my job, and live on-site in a barn I built last fall. We're not financing, but have a limited amount of money. When it's gone, we're done, one way or the other!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 6:11AM
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I don't want to rain on your parade, but have you talked with lenders about financing such a high percentage of building costs? Many lenders are leery of doing this.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 9:20AM
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It's good to see small houses being planned and built. It can be done, but costs and labor prices vary greatly by geographical area.

Some folks can and are able to be their own GC, and some cant't. That's a very challenging, full-time job and not everyone has the personality, trade contacts, knowledge and skill to be their own GC, so it's not something for anyone to think they can do it on their own without the right contacts and skills.

There are a number of pre-designed small house sites on the Internet for reference for those looking to build small, and consider for ideas or for the actual plans.

When building small, some things to consider:

--Do the stair math and select stair design that best fits your age, health, family and functional preferences. Many stairs in stock plans are designed to code minimums and are very steep, as a means of saving floor space. This may be a false savings, depending on one's stair climbing abilities;
--Some rooms can't be minimized beyond a certain point, since their equipment and fixtures are standard sizes and proper space for human use and circulation is needed, ie, kitchens and baths, closet depth, door sizes, etc.
--That said, try to eliminate corridor space as much as possible by having circulation take place through other usable rooms
--Frank Lloyd Wright had a useful philosophy for many of his houses: he made the "living" spaces large, and the "sleeping and service" spaces (kitchens, baths, utility rooms, etc.) small. His reasoning, which is useful in today's high-priced houses, was to put the space where it is used by the most people for the most time.

Good luck on your projects.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 9:21AM
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@EngineerChic: I probably should have mentioned that the market value of the lot is $110K, so because we are only paying $70K we have $40K equity in the land. We have talked with the bank already and they are fine with financing up to 80% of the estimated value of land + build combined. Bank has also said any labor done by DH, that is savings over subbing, will also count toward equity value. My parents used the same lender/loan officer for their build 3 years ago and had a really smooth process as far as drawing funds easily without questions/excessive paperwork.

@sweet.reverie: Wow, it sounds like we have a freakish amount in common, lol. As far as how the bids are coming back so far, I know we will be able to stay under the $150K but we'll see how much we can trim down. Only a few bids were higher than expected (drywall and HVAC) but so far we haven't been looking for the absolute best prices yet, just putting together preliminary numbers for the bank. We know we can cut down in some of the finishings if needed and hopefully we can get some other bids that will be a little less.

At this point I have my heart set on SmartStrand carpet, $6/sq ft hardwood, and slab granite counters, but those are all things where we could easily cut quite a bit of $ if needed towards the end.

Oh and we are in western WA about half way between Seattle and Canadian boarder.

Here is the plan that ours is very closely based on. It is being modified slightly by expanding the front entry and some small things in the interior we will change/customize, only 1 sink in kids' bathroom, adding exterior man door to exit garage on far right side, small changes in master bath.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 10:45AM
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My BIL self GC'd a 150K 2000 sq ft. house here in TN, but it's a low cost area of the country. It would be double just about anywhere else. Even so, it's entirely builder grade with no upgrades. Construction drug on and on and cost them a lot in interest that impacted the budget. At the end, the city was in a war with them to get it done to be able to close out the permit so they had to hire some stuff to be done that they thought they were going to do themselves. They manged to close the permit, but there is still so much undone in the house 5 years later. There are still rooms without moldings and that only have primer on the walls. Life gets in the way some times and it takes a LOT more time and effort than most people think to build a house with their own personal involvement.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 11:22AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Have you priced out manufactured housing? It certainly goes faster and then all you have to do is "plug the house in" ... Plumbing, electrical....

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 11:35AM
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Annie- It's a bit more complicated than have to have a contractor level the lot, pour the foundation for the home, connect all your utilities after bringing them from the lot line to the home, and deal with all the 'little things' that don't get done properly during installation. I helped my mom do this and she's very happy with her home...but it was certainly more than plugging it in.

For a two story home, a modular home might be another option. The 'shell' is built at the factory to your specs (not an existing plan like manufactured homes) and then the inside is completed on site. I think Bob Vila followed a modular home from set up to completion, on one of his shows. Once the shell is up, it's similar to a stick built home's timeline.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 12:27PM
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Modular usually means manufactured in a factory so the drywall etc is up at the factory so not at all what LL is describing. Modular can be stock floor plans or it can be custom.

But maybe the words have different meanings in other parts of the country. I experimented with modular with a low cost build but the actual cost wound up being higher than stick built.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 2:20PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

When we were pricing out our home, we found modular more expensive, but not on an apples to apples is more expensive if, for example, you are comparing 2x4 walls to the 2x6 they need in a modular....but the biggest cost savings comes from financing costs because you are supporting 2 places for a much smaller period of time...

LL, I understand that the "plugging it in" was an exaggeration, but certainly there's a lot less for a DIY to do when the house is delivered in assembled boxes than when you have to stick build it yourself...that was my only point.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 3:16PM
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aporthole-yes there are. :) My dh is a policeman. I was a stay at home mom for many years. I started working part time when both of my boys were in school full time. One of us is always home to get them on and off the bus and we are able to avoid day care completely. I don't see my work status changing for a long time if at all with the crazy schedule dh keeps and the schedules my boys are starting to enter into.

We are looking to build a 2,000 sq ft 1 1/2 story around $200-250k not including the land. It's higher than yours but still significantly lower than many around. We aren't as far along as you are. We hope to start on house plans early next spring and go from there. We are also fairly handy and will DIY as much as possible. Because dh has such a non-traditional work schedule that should help dealing with house stuff and being around during the build. I anticipate hiccups and being fully consumed and exhausted by house stuff when it kicks off but I am hopeful we can handle it and will get through it. This too shall pass right? I am sure I will be muttering that a lot! We could not afford to have it built turn key. Doing some of the work ourselves should allow for a few upgrades in finishes. That is the dream anyhow.

We are in west Michigan.

Please do continue to post. There are a few of us out there in the same budget range.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 3:45PM
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Ha! We are in WA too! We are practically the same person. :) But we are right by Seattle. Sounds like you have a good handle on things. Have you looked at Lumber Liquidators? You might be able to really save on your hardwoods.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 5:38PM
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Wow! I'm surprised in W Washington you are able to build for what you are talking... (Sweet.reverie is also W Washington, as I recall, as am I, though we are both closer to Seattle. Still, great that you are finding affordable subs).

I like to see houses that are smaller on this board too, because it feels more like what I'd actually be able to do someday.

Also, there is a small house forum, which you may want to visit--not so much for build advice, as building is building and you run into things for small and large alike, but because of the way you must live in a smaller house. So, if you haven't stumbled on the small house forum, you might head there and poke around some.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 5:39PM
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My hubby is also a firefighter, and I, a stay at home mom with 2 little ones ,3 and 1:)

We plan and doing most of it ourselves on a building budget of 200k.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 11:44PM
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I wonder what it is about firefighters and building houses, I have met quite a few that have. For DH I guess it is the time off. So funny that all three of us are so similar in our situations.

Maybe the OP will come back and update on her build :)

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 12:15AM
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My husband and I are both music teachers though he is a public school teacher and I am a private lessons teacher. We live in a rural area (and he commutes about an hour to a better school district) so houses and building houses are a little cheaper. If we lived in the county where he teaches we would literally be lucky to afford a shack. We live about 90 minutes away from DC near Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Forest. We are currently waiting to break ground on our first home which will be $250K (lot included). I'm thrilled to find a thread with people building similarly to us!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 12:40AM
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My husband and I are building a 4 bedroom, 2086 sq ft home on a 1/3 acre subdivision lot backing to preserve land for $175,000 including the land in southeast Ohio. We are DIYing many of the tasks such as painting, landscaping and finish work to stay in that budget. We have also stuck to budget finishes in many areas, such as vinyl siding for the exterior and vinyl flooring and laminate countertops in the kitchen.

We are about halfway through our build and should be ready to move in by June 1st.

Its nice to see other low budget builds on this board. I've wanted to share pictures or plans on this site many times, but have always hesitated out of fear that the house my husband and I love will be ripped apart by those spending and building 2-4 times what we are.

This post was edited by kittykatzchen on Sun, Mar 24, 13 at 10:32

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 8:31AM
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I would normally be one who discourages the idea, but my brother in law is a firefighter too and amazes me with the things that he has accomplished on his off time. Most of his firefighter buddies seem to have the same skills. If your dh is anything like these guys.....

So who knows. Your plan is very conservative, but nice. Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 8:56AM
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Just a comment about the windows in your plan:

This looks like a plan that was designed for a home built on a small lot, close to other homes -- there are no windows on the side walls, aside from the one over the tub. You are on acreage -- wouldn't you like to be able to look out over your land? Could you add some side windows?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 9:10AM
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Yes, the schedule of a firefighter is pretty hard to beat and having a handy hubby is pretty nice, too.

Not a ton to update at this point.
- Septic design was approved by county building department.
- Building permit application and documents were submitted a little over 2 weeks ago, so we're currently waiting on that.

We were hoping to finance through Northwest Farm Credit but things ended up not working out with them. We are technically building through hubby's contractor dad so we have a large portion of gifted labor from FIL and hubby's labor as well. In WA Farm Credit does NOT do owner-builder so their underwriters were put off by the situation even though on paper we have a GC. Part of the problem also had to do with FIL didn't pass Farm Credit's Contractor credit approval due to a short sale on a personal home 7 years ago.

-Washington Federal on the other hand has been great to work with since they do all financing in house and do owner-builders. We are on track for our loan (for lot and construction) to close by April 15th. My mom and step-dad built through them 3 years ago as well as 2 other local friends in the last couple years.

-We've increased our build budget up to $160,000 with $15K of that designated toward updating the detached garage + 900 sq ft shop currently existing on the property. It needs a new roof and some siding replacement, so we will be re-siding the front to match the house, re-panting to match, re-insulating and drywalling in the shop. The shop has current electric, plumbing, gas and even it's own septic system. It was used as a business in the '80s but has been vacant for over 20 years since my family acquired the land. We are planning to convert the shop to a 1 bed, 1 bath guest house and will finish it out with personal funds as our budget allows. Estimate for the new home is looking right around $145,000.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 10:51AM
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Chibimimi, regarding the windows: Yes, the plan was for a sub-division. We are trying to save money by sticking to the stock plan as much as possible and generally I think this plan meets our needs pretty well. If I were to have a custom plan drawn up we would do things a little differently. The way the house is situated, the back side of the house is facing south, so we will get most of our light and views that direction. Because of the layout of the house, the only place an additional window might be nice is in the living room to the left of the fireplace. Not sure how it works with building permits and adding windows not included in the plan, but it may be something we consider adding if it won't effect permits.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 11:29AM
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Congratulations on your build! I am also going with some of the budget finishes in my home with the hope that I might upgrade in the future. But I'm just thrilled that I'm getting to build my own home and not having to, either, buy someone else's 'vision' or get a prefab national build house in a cookie-cutter neighborhood. And to be honest, some of the builder finishes aren't that bad when I get to personally select the color or finish. In the house I'm currently renting, there are builder finishes (and landlord DIY) EVERYWHERE and the house is so horribly mismatched and in ugly colors.

But I totally understand your feelings on sharing on the forum. I had that experience last week when I decided to ask for opinions on a floorplan and instead received comments telling me how horrible my house was going to be. I was very close to deleting my original post and not visiting the site again until I received a comment from someone who was incredibly encouraging. I kinda think the majority of the people commenting may be building houses 2-4 times more expensive than yours or mine BUT there ARE some like-minded people and there are people who may be building houses 2-4 times more expensive but they're kind and realize that you do what you can.

I, personally, would love to see your house photos! :) I've just learned to ignore the negative posts and remember that their budgets are greater than mine and they won't be living in my house. While I did get some good advice, I know what I'm building will work wonderfully for me and my husband and in the end, that's all that's important! :)

Good luck on the rest of your build!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 6:56PM
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We used WA Fed too and have been very happy!

And I would not worry what other's think. If you are happy, that is what matters ultimately.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 12:03PM
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Always sub out roofing and wood floor finishing.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 12:26PM
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We are getting ready to start building our home in upstate NY we were able to score family land and made a pretty big profit from our first fixer upper, so I'm fortunate enough to have a good start. We have a different philosophy and some ideas that you may find useful. We ended up using an architect, which was $5k but well worth it for us. We're aiming for putting bulk of our money towards the core of the house, meaning a geothermal system,radiant floor heating, and quality windows and and basically skimping on any eye candy that can be upgraded without too much headache later. We compensated by keeping the house simple in regards to shape and roof lines, basically a Greek revival farmhouse with a shed roof of the back. The roof is essentials a 3 gable ends with no dormers and a stand alone shed roof off the back. Keeping it simple has helped out alot, it's easier to estimate materials, labor is cheaper and faster without having many ins and outs to slow them down.
To save money we have a couple ideas, we're close to an Amish community that have some excellent builders available, they aren't always cheaper but they're reliable and can frame a house in 7-9 days, you pay them in cash daily. I also plan on tackling some of the work myself. I'm an electrician by trade and the brother in-law to a family of masons to install blocks in basement (cinder blocks saved a lot of $), I saw no need to go with icf's as its not a big deal to me to insulate basement walls myself. have no experience installing radiant floor heating but have put in several large ice melting systems commercially using the same method (will sub out the manifold connections. I also hope to install my own septic and dig the trenches for the geothermal, if all goes well this will save me roughly $15k.
Thankfully my wife has the same taste as I do and would rather plop a reclaimed sink into an antique dresser from a local salvage store than spend a fortune on vanities and fixtures. Old stair dowels and salvaged gutter hooks cost $12 and are stronger than a $40 brass towel bars. We went with a walk in pantry with open shelving at end of kitchen in order to reduce the linear footage of cabinets as I think they are extremely overpriced sometimes. I'm currently hoping to find a quality cabinet company to sell me their cabinets without doors and make our own using barnboard. I know better than to cheap out on a high quality cabinet when I have my 3 kids slamming them all day. Keeping my molding simple and light fixtures in check. I've saved some of the gas station fixtures I've removed from the factories to use in our kitchen (I liked the way they turned out in my last home) . Again many aesthetics can be swapped out down the road so I'm out to save in this area.
Sorry for long post, our way is not for everybody and if I had more resources maybe it'd be different, but hopefully it'll help you a little bit. Finally, I'm not a firefighter, but If the several members who mentioned they are married or related to one could give them a big "thanks" for putting their lives on the line day in and day out.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 12:23AM
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Ibewye, would you mind sharing your floor plan?


    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 12:32AM
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Mrs fireman, I'll gladly have that up tomorrow, as its almost 2 am here and alarm goes,,off at 5am. Good Night

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 1:45AM
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I too am a long time lurker (about 6 years now) and we’re finally in the process of building the house I’ve been working on (in my mind) all these years. For a long time it was hard to get a clear idea about whether or not we could afford to build. I needed to come in around $100 per square foot but everyone seemed to say that wasn’t really possible unless you were incredibly lucky or resourceful or had a lot of experience. I’m happy to say that our build (including everything but the land) is coming in around $107 per square foot and while we had to compromise on some things that we might have liked (i.e. going with laminate countertops), for the most part we are getting finishes that I am very happy with. You’re looking to come in under $83 per square foot, but you’re going to be doing a lot of the work while we’re not.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2013 at 1:01PM
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We are planning to build a 2,000 square foot house for less than $90,000. Some people may think that sounds crazy, but we already own the land and are going to be doing all the interior work ourselves. We live in the country, so we don't have strict building codes to worry about. We're in AR and have access to affordable building materials.
I'm a seriously frugal shopper and have a knack for finding building supplies (and everything else) very cheap. I'm not concerned at all about higher end finishes - this will be a comfortable, country family home. We have worked a long time to get to this point and are planning to pay cash for our house as we don't want to take on additional debt at this point in our lives. I've already talked with a few builders as to what it would cost to get "in the dry" (outside done, inside only with framing, electrical, plumbing and subfloors.) First bid was around $80,000, so that would leave us about $10,000 to finish the inside. I also have a friend who has built two houses for his family himself, and he is going to help us as well.
I am going to serve as the contractor myself.
My advice is to not worry about what anyone else thinks about building a house on a budget - you are the ones paying for it and the lucky people who get to live in it once it's done!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 1:39AM
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Just remember that building codes are state adopted, even if there are no local inspection and enforcement of them. They are the minimum allowable rules that affect your family's safety and comfort. Nothing says you can't build better than code minimums, especially since you will be spending the extra time to DIY. And if you do want to insure the home, your insurer will want assurances that it IS code compliant.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 7:59AM
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GreenDesigns - Absolutely! While we are most certainly going to be cutting corners on finishes and doing a lot of the work ourselves, we are not compromising when it comes to our safety. We also want the house to be energy efficient. Thanks for your comment!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 8:58AM
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I do not see you finishing the inside of your 2000 sq ft house with only $10,000.

If you went with $4.00 Sq ft flooring it would cost $8000.00 alone. (4.00 x 2000) = $8000.00

Perhaps it will be a bit cheaper flooring at $1.00 or even $2.00, but that puts you at $2000.00-$4000.00 for flooring.

Cheap Interior doors will cost you $55.00 each


Counter tops?





Plumbing Fixtures?

As you can see, the bulk of the cost is really on the interior of the home. I am not saying you can't build 2000 sq ft for $90K. I have done it 100 times over, but you need to get the "shell" bid way down or you are not going to be close to making it.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 10:38AM
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We are also acting as owner builders, but not doing that much DIY aside from hiring/managing /paying the subs (and chief garbage haulers). Our family of 6 has stayed living in the home while a large house addition was added, and much of the existing house was gutted. The worst, of course, was the cold temperatures as we are in the process of switching to in floor heat so have not had a furnace during this past winter. (and we are in Canada). The project has dragged on for sure, but in a way that has bought us time to make the many decisions. I am not sure I would have liked making 20 decisions a day with an impatient GC needing immediate answers. Given we are both school teachers, the school holidays do afford us blocks of business hours to get things done. However, in between holidays our work progresses very slowly.

As per adding windows after permits, I would strongly urge the OP to consider some side windows. It makes such a huge difference to have windows in rooms on two sides of the house. We added a few more windows than what was on our permit, and that was fine with our City. You just have to pay attention to percent of allowable openings. However, with your big property you should not have many restrictions on openings.

Good luck to all those trying to keep costs down by DIY, acting as owner builders, or keeping the build on tight budgets. This too shall pass and we will all have lovely homes to live in.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 12:53PM
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Cleanfreak0419 -

Thanks for your feedback! I really do appreciate it!

I should've included in my original post that we do already have quite a bit of building supplies, etc already - things like flooring, light fixtures, trim, appliances, paint, etc. So, the $10k budget isn't really representative of the total cost to finish out the interior, just what I hope the remaining things we have to purchase would come to.

In my last job, I oversaw construction of a public facility that had a budget of about $650,000 (almost 7,000 sq ft), and I am almost finished with doing extensive remodeling to a house we were renting out (renters did about $30,000 worth of damage to a $75,000 house, but the majority of that was labor as our insurance covered paying someone to do the work - we are selling it!)

While building a home is new to me and I certainly have a lot to learn, I hope that what I learned from those two projects and helping my family build our home as a teenager will come in handy with building our house.

But, I am certainly open to any suggestions, ideas, comments!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 6:11PM
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You are welcome.

If I read your post correctly, it looks as if the only items left to purchase will be the cabinets and countertops and perhaps plumbing fixtures?

These (3) items alone can be very expensive. It will depend on whether or not you use granite, formica, etc.....and what type of cabinets you choose.

Since you are new to this, do you have the tools required to install all of the items you mentioned, or do you plan on subbing these items out for the labor portion?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 5:20PM
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I think a person with a 150K budget is far from alone . . . it just seems like it on this board because a number of people are building large, upscale houses, and it's easy to get the idea that "everyone's building these". Also, quite a few people are clearly still in the "just dreamin'" stage (because they bounce around between wildly differing ideas, and that's okay when you're still just dreamin') and will end up cutting back when they begin to discuss real budgets with real builders.

My husband and I are looking at something in the neighborhood of a 200K budget (to include an in-ground pool), which goes a long way when you already own the land, when you're in a low cost of living state, and when you are willing to take some cost-cutting measures. I have no doubt this is do-able.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 9:10AM
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You can add me to this list. Our build is under $150k with none of it being done by us except interior painting. I'm in rural Louisiana and its a low cost of living around here and we already have the land paid for (3 acres).

    Bookmark   October 31, 2013 at 2:58PM
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My budget is about $250K excluding the lot, which is low for this area. I already own my lot as I found a beautiful tax forfeited lot that I bought from the county for $15K so that was a big help to start with.

My house will be one level with about 1450 sq ft on the main level plus a walkout basement. I'm upgrading a lot of the finishes as I'm coming from a 1930s Tudor so I like wood floors and nice woodwork. The floor plan is simple though, and the baths are standard size baths.

I'm not going to serve as GC as I did that on a remodeling project, and with my current work schedule I just don't think it's feasible this time.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2013 at 3:31PM
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I'm building a 1456 square foot home. We paid 10,000 for the lot and the budget for the house is 160,000. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, separate office and unfinished basement. 2 car garage, front porch, back deck. Ranch style. I live in southwest Wisconsin. The appraisal actually came back at 185,000 for the house prior to building. We have a GC.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2013 at 3:10PM
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We're well under $150k on our build. We're right at 1500 sq ft. We should be right around $100k including the acre of land. The appraisal was coming in at $115k prior to the build, but the comps they used were all standard builder grade homes. We have made several changes that we didn't inform the appraiser about that will impact the value quite a bit such as adding a 2 car garage instead of the 1 car carport the plan showed or doing vaulted ceilings instead of regular 8' ceilings plus the following upgrades. We put in upgraded kitchen cabinets, granite countertops in kitchen and bathrooms, double sided stoned fireplace between the living room and dining room... The living room, dining, kitchen, mud room, laundry room, and both bathrooms have heated floors. Also, we are saving on flooring in a sense because the living room, dining room, kitchen, mudroom, and laundry room will all be stained concrete. We were able to do so many upgrades because my husband and father in law has done almost all of the work. The only work that was subbed out was the roofing, electrical, insulation, and drywall.

We're in rural TN, so the cost of living is relatively low too.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2013 at 2:41PM
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I posted an update in the October build thread, but wanted to post here, too. This update is a few weeks old now and exterior painting is now done, bathroom and laundry floor tile is down and grouted, upstairs doors are being being hung and windows are almost done being trimmed. Things were delayed a bunch over the last month with hubby being very tied up with some work related activities, so our Thanksgiving move-in will probably be pushed back a couple weeks. We are optimistic about being in by the 2nd or 3rd week of December.

I've posted a couple times, mostly in subgroups, but wanted to finally post a few pictures on our build. We are on 2.5 acres that we purchased the beginning of May 2013 and broke ground the day after closing. Our home is a much smaller budget and scale than most of the ones here (1800 sq ft, $160,000 total build budget) but we've learned a lot here and felt like sharing since I know there are others on smaller budgets too. My husband has done 80+% of the work himself along with the help of family and friends. Hubby worked on a framing crew before his current career as a firefighter. Hubby's dad is a contractor who lives a couple hours away and helped a lot with the framing and general guidance.

The only addition that has not yet been photographed is the exterior paint that hubby started yesterday. He finished the 2nd coat on the siding today and will get started on the trim soon.

We did the first coat of interior paint last week and put down backerboard to start tiling bathrooms, and laundry later this week. Hardwood will be going in once hubby is done with tile.

Our total expenses as of today are right at $90,000. We are hoping to be in right around Thanksgiving.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2013 at 4:58PM
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Looks good, hope you made it in for Thanksgiving.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 5:32AM
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We didn't make it in for Thanksgiving like we were hoping. DH had some unexpected work related additional commitments that required a lot of extra time.

Hardwood is done, cabinets are all set, and granite dealer came today for counter templating. Counter fabrication is about 5 days so we should have countertops in about a week.

Finish electrical is happening right now. Finish plumbing and tankless water heater hook up will happen as soon as the granite is done.

Interior trim painting is 80% done and will be finished up over this next week along with tiling the shower walls in our master bath. Doors still need to be sprayed and a final coat of wall color needs to go on.

We put in our carpet order on Wednesday and install is scheduled for December 14. We are really hoping to be in right after carpet goes in.

We are in the crazy place where the days on the calendar pass so quickly yet it feels like it takes forever for each task to be accomplished. DH is so tired and running on fumes. He's putting in 12 hour days working on the house, going to work for 24 hours and coming home straight from work to put in another 10 hours on the house. He's lost 30 lbs the last 7 months from being so busy, not even having time to eat, and all the stress. We are VERY ready to be able to move in a relax a little. We still have a lot of work to do on the shop that is going to be converted to a guest house eventually, but that will have to wait since neither of us even want to think about that at the moment.


All the recent pictures are on hubby's phone, so I'll upload later this week when I can get them off his phone.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2013 at 6:58PM
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Update 12/10/13

Counters went in today! Finish plumbing starting tomorrow along with final HVAC stuff (thermostat, fireplace hook up). Carpet install on Saturday. Hubby is tiling our master bath shower today and will finish tomorrow. Appliances scheduled to be delivered on the 20th.

Looks like we should be in a couple days before Christmas.

Here are a few pictures I snapped from today.

General info:
Main wall color: Sherwin-Williams Contented
Trim and doors: Sherwin-Williams Alabaster
Cabinets: Medallion
Kitchen counters: Exodus granite
Bath counters: Salinas White granite
Hardwood on main floor: Solid clear oak


Living room:


Kids' bath:

Master bedroom:

Powder room:

    Bookmark   December 10, 2013 at 11:04PM
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Aporthole, love your front door and the door seen in the kitchen.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 7:02AM
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Very Nice!
I remember when I first came to this site...
it was the peak of mcmansions.
so nice to see people focusing on less grand
scale & keeping efficiency in mind.

it was a shame to see people building on credit
cards, not investing in effieicney & lose thier home
later because of utilty costs & high interest.
its amazing how those houses stand out in my mind
years (decade+) later.

granted it was some, not all...but the ones that
lost their homes later..haunting.

best of luck to you all. & Merry Chirstmas.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 7:43AM
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Aporthole, everything is looking lovely! I love your front door with the side window. What a great accomplishment! I hope you get moved in soon!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 8:32AM
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Lori (loribug26_gw) Wagerman_Walker

Beautiful! :)

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 10:04AM
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Love the front door and the kitchen is looking great. Hopefully you will move in before christmas.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 12:40PM
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Looks beautiful!!!!! What price per sqf did you end up coming in at?

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 1:18PM
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It looks like our build cost for the house (without improvements to the detached shop/future guest house) is going to total in right around $143,000. We are at $137,000 as of today which includes payment for all our appliances (Frigidaire Professional counter depth fridge, gas range, OTR microwave, Bosch dishwasher).

The house is 1800 sq feet, so right around $78 per square foot.

Thank you for the complements. I really love the front door, too. It's a fiberglass one from Home Depot. We were going to go with a wood one and then stain it, but I saw this one at HD and it was very close to the color we wanted to stain the wood one, so we went with this instead to save some time and trouble. It actually looks very nice up close and was $479. Link below:

Here is a link that might be useful: HD Fiberglass Entry Door

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 2:13PM
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aporthole-Congrats on being almost in and on staying in line with your budget! That is awesome (and I am jealous that we didn't stick closer to 1800-2000 sq ft)! I like your interior door style and your paint - it all is coming together so nicely.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 4:31PM
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Very impressive house and good for you for doing it in budget. Congratulations on all the DIY labour you and your DH did on this house.

I too like your interior door shown in kitchen. Can you tell us where you got the interior door and the make, style etc. We are trying to choose doors right now.


    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 6:13PM
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I will have to do a little digging on the specs of the interior doors. We purchased all the doors through our local lumber yard/building supply. I think we have the brochure we selected them from somewhere. They were about $10 more per door than the basic 6 panel hollow core pre-hung Home Depot ones and we were able to select whatever color hinges we wanted. I believe we have some hollow core and some foam filled for the bedrooms.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 10:45PM
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Thanks for the info. Were they made by Masonite by chance? They have a product called Safe and Sound? Were your doors pre-hung? Like you I would like to have solid core or Safe and Sound for the baths, bedroom and study and hollow core for the rest (mainly closets).



    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 8:24PM
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Our interior doors were pre hung. I found the invoice and they are pre-primed OrePac 760 Shaker. Here is the OrePac site. The pantry door seen in the kitchen picture only has the single panel on the lower portion but the rest of the doors have a split panel on the lower portion with a single upper. The hollow core pre hung 2/6 x 6/8 were $90 each with choice of hinge color. I thought they had a foam filled option but maybe I'm confusing them with another option we considered.

Here is a link that might be useful: OrePac Site

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 10:11PM
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I saw this post got a bit of a revival and I just wanted to chime in on the congrats on building such an awesome house on a tight budget. I'm working on a $170k budget (up north where materials are rather expensive) and I think it's wonderful that folks can still focus on quality over quantity. Square footage doesn't need to be 3000 just to be liveable. Your place is stunning. :)

    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 1:58PM
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Thank you very much aporthole for taking the time to dig up that invoice. I appreciate knowing about that option as I have never heard of that supplier. The door in the kitchen is beautiful as is your home.


    Bookmark   December 13, 2013 at 6:40PM
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We are starting the process of building ourselves. We're Purchased a lot for $28,000 and hoping to have everything done in the next 9-10 months. Our goal is to be in the house for under $150,000 including the land. It's not our 'dream home' but is big enough for us to raise our family. We're doing as much of the work as possible to reduce costs; due to local building codes, we have to hire out the HVAC, electrical, and plumbing. Will also hire out the foundation and drywall to speed the process up even more. My father-in-law is helping a great deal (contractor for 30+ years). We're designing the floor plans ourselves, just finalizing that and beginning to get bids from area contractors. Entirely thrilling and overwhelming process.

This post was edited by Ryan_33 on Fri, Jan 3, 14 at 17:56

    Bookmark   January 3, 2014 at 5:56PM
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@Ryan_33, how exciting! We've been in our house for 2 weeks now (moved in 5 days before Christmas). It was a long, crazy, stressful 7.5 months. We still have lots of little things to finish and unpack as well as finishing renovating our detached shop/guesthouse. We stayed well under budget though which was a great relief. I'm not sure we'd wish the stress of the last year on anyone, especially with 2 young children. If we ever build another house, we will do our best to be able to sub out as much as possible and basically just act as the contractor. We couldn't have subbed much else out with the budget we were on, but it would have saved us so much time and stress if we had been able to have that luxury.

The house is still a bit of a mess with rushing to move in, still finding a place for everything, and the general messes involved with life and kids, but I'm hoping to get some decent pictures to post soon. It really turned out great and I'm so proud of my awesome hubby.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2014 at 6:54PM
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