Author Topic: Suggestions for saving money when building a house.  (Read 3752 times)

Frugal Firefighter

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Suggestions for saving money when building a house.
« on: January 14, 2015, 11:24:48 AM »
We are building a house and detached garage. After months of preparation, we are ready to start on the garage next week.

I'm in a unique situation; I work full-time for a fire department with a 24 hr on, 48 hr off schedule so many times it already feels like I work part-time. On my days off a work for a small construction company, 3 of us, mostly doing remodels and new additions to houses. Although I've been doing odd job/handy work for a while, I've only actually been routinely doing the construction side of it for 7 months now.

We are going through the contractor I work with. He's given me, what I feel like is a tremendous deal; cost plus 10% with the 10% being only on the jobs we won't be doing-concrete, brick for porch pillars, framing, exterior painting (which I or we may do), roofing, drywall, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and not on any of the materials/finishes.

I also have the option to pick out any job that I feel capable of to complete on my own; as of now theses are likely siding, tile & plank, vinyl flooring, door hardware, parts of the bathroom finishes, site cleanup, staining moldings, and possibly interior painting. On top of this, when we take care of one of the projects, my hours get deducted from the cost. If a job is bid at 30 hours and it only takes us 20, then I'm only being charged for the 20.

The house is 1 1/2 story, ~1750 sq ft, 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath house. The garage is 875 sq ft. with almost half of it as a shop. The shop is being plumbed so that it could potentially be finished years from now as a living quarters for aging parents or our kids since we live in a college town.

I've read through the simple google results of top 10 things to save money when building a house, but what are some ways in which you guys know or have saved money throughout construction?

Catbert

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Re: Suggestions for saving money when building a house.
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2015, 12:52:17 PM »
Look for free/low cost materials.  Does the company do remodels?  If so, can you re-use items which were torn out of a customer's house for your new house?  People re-do kitchens and bathrooms and tear out perfectly good cabinets, sinks, vanities, etc.

Look for Habitat for Humanity Re-Use stores and keep an eye on Freecycle and the free section of Craig's List.

Especially for finishing items try to keep your plans flexible enough that you can incorporate free/low cost items.

NV Teacher

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Re: Suggestions for saving money when building a house.
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2015, 01:16:47 PM »

Look for Habitat for Humanity Re-Use stores and keep an eye on Freecycle and the free section of Craig's List.


This is a great suggestion.  My sister just finished her house and she visited the Habitat store frequently.  She picked up pedestal sinks, light fixtures, cabinets for the laundry, basement bathroom, and garage for next to nothing.

MrsPete

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Re: Suggestions for saving money when building a house.
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2015, 04:04:08 PM »
We're planning to build a house for our retirement years, so this is something I've been researching.  I want to build what I want, but I want to do it for the best possible price.  My thoughts:

- Build a reasonable sized house.  At 1750, you're in our ball park; however, I read another board about custom house builds, and most people on that board are building the most ridiculously over-sized houses:  Really, anything under 4000 sf is considered something of "a cottage", and 6000 sf builds are not uncommon!  I can't imagine anyone would really want to sink that much money into a house, much less pay to furnish, maintain, heat/cool it! 

- Build a house with a simple footprint.  A simple square or rectangle is cheaper than a house with lots of jigs and jogs. 

- Plan around standard sizes.  Standard-sized trusses, off-the-shelf sized doors and windows (which can be covered with inexpensive store-bought curtains rather than custom), ordinary sized appliances, simple 8' ceilings. 

- Make simple choices.  Straight staircases cost less than switchback stairs.  Rectangular windows cost less than arch-topped styles. 

- Investigate all your options rather than going with what's trendy.  For example, people tend to demand French doors and poo-poo sliding doors as having "gone out" in the 1970s.  But if you investigate your options, you'll see that the new gliding doors LOOK like French doors, but they're significantly less expensive, and they don't interfere with furniture placement like French doors do. 

- Similarly, ask yourself whether you really need today's "must haves".  For example, are you and your significant other really going to use your bathroom sink at the same time?  Do you really need to hide your toilet inside a closet within the bathroom? 

- Consolidate your plumbing.  That is, plan for your kitchen and bathrooms to "back up to one another" (or stack on top of one another in a two-story).  The fewer walls that contain water, the cheaper your plumbing will be.  Similarly, try not to place your sink on an island; the plumbing is substantially more expensive. 

- Don't engage in false economy.  Choose good materials that will last and will save money on utilities in the future.  Brick may be expensive up front, but it doesn't require painting every couple years.  Hardwood floors (or laminate) will not look ratty after a couple years, whereas carpet will.

- Choose your splurges carefully.  It's okay to buy that great sink that you really love -- but place it on a laminate countertop or linoleum flooring.  Splurge where you will really enjoy it. 

- Plan your kitchen to be small . . . but include a large pantry for good storage.  Storing your kitchen items in a pantry is cheaper than housing your goods in expensive cabinets. 

- Search for less-expensive materials.  Habitat for Humanity has already been mentioned; my brother bought a great exterior door for $10.  Try ebay, Craigslist, and the clearance aisle at your local Lowe's.  For example, not long ago I found 4-5 boxes of lovely blue mosaic tile on the clearance aisle at Lowe's; someone had special ordered it, then didn't take it.  It was half price.  If the store doesn't have enough of the item, look into whether you could buy that quantity on clearance . . . and then finish off the rest at full price.  My brother did this:  He wanted to buy laminate wood flooring at a super marked-down price, but he needed two more boxes.  A few minutes of investigation showed him that he could buy MOST of what he needed at the clearance price, making full price for those last two boxes quite a bargain. 

- Be careful in buying things ahead of time.  Some builders won't warranty items if they don't buy them from their usual  suppliers.  The worst offenders are plumbers. 

- Take your time in planning so that you won't change your mind mid-way through.  Changes are expensive.

Jmoody10

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Re: Suggestions for saving money when building a house.
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2015, 04:10:54 PM »
Like others mentioned, check restore and Craigslist often! We got all of our appliances and many light / bath fixtures from there.

We also bought 10% off coupons from eBay for box stores like lowes. We would use these to buy some materials.

terran

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Re: Suggestions for saving money when building a house.
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2015, 10:17:46 PM »
Make the outside dimensions of the house a multiple of 8. building materials tend to come in 8 foot lengths or multiples thereof, so you'll get the most bang for your buck and less waste.

PEIslander

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Re: Suggestions for saving money when building a house.
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2015, 03:47:17 AM »
The biggest way to save $$$ is to reduce the size of the house!

Windows are a significant expenditure so research your options thoroughly.

Consider not putting in any closet doors. Just have simple drywalled recesses. You can always use a curtain to hide clutter if you find it a problem.

Rural

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Re: Suggestions for saving money when building a house.
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2015, 06:13:53 PM »
Simple roof, no valleys.


I'll second the 8ft lengths.


Restore, local salvage yards (usually cheaper than Restore), etc.


Consider things that may cost more now but save more than that in the long term - standing seam metal roof comes to mind.


Insulation will never be cheaper than when you're building. Squeeze in all you can fit.


... I may not have much more advice for you, our big economy n this house was labor, but we didn't skimp on materials, though we bought as many secondhand as we could.


Oh, a new house doesn't need new appliances if you have good ones that work, and the only thing wrong with laminate counters is somebody else's idea of fashion.

Frugal Firefighter

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Re: Suggestions for saving money when building a house.
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2015, 06:24:52 PM »
Thank you all so much for your replies.

I've not responded yet because we ran into a couple setbacks in a two day span that caused us to rethink our plans; 1) I did not read the city ordnances correctly and made my detached garage too large. Since it is detached, it can only cover 1/6th of the 35% of coverage allowed by buildings on a residential lot. I read it as I could cover up to 35% of the lot. Small detail-big difference. Being able to build my garage/shop/future detached sweet at this size was very important in the planning of everything. 2) Our lot is sloped much, much more when shot with a transit than it looks when eyeing it. We received an estimated from a local contractor for dirt work, which he shot at $3500-4000. The drop ~4' from back to front so this was going to create the house having to be built up, a possible retaining wall/small hill, as well as a few other problems.

My wife and I talked it over and decided to think about things differently, needs vs. wants, and to go back to a Mustachian way of thinking on a house project. Bad thing-we're out the expense of having had custom house plans made. We can live with that because it was a small price compared to the savings a different project could bring.

After talking it over with my boss/contractor, we've created a house plan that gives us everything we need, plus a little more. I've drawn them on a simple free floor planner website for now; I'll be using a home design program this weekend to redraw them for blueprints. I've attached a screenshot below.

Also, to alleviate a large portion of the costs of dirt work we've decided to go with a crawlspace house. Instead of hauling dirt in, it can be hauled out. As a bonus, 4 blocks away a museum is allowing cement and dirt to be dumped into a small canyon to help them with a project.

We live in a small community of 6000 so there is no Habitat for Humanity; however, I've been combing Craigslist several times per week.

About the new house:

40x46
~1550sq ft of living area with a one car garage (12x22)
Single story, single gabled, front to back/shotgun style house
8' ceilings

Upgrades:
Class 4 impact resistant shingles
Foil backed decking
2x6 exterior walls
Stone wool R-23 batt insulation on exteriors
Granite countertops <--- I cannot win this battle with the wife; I've tried several times.

Because of some of your suggestions, I've placed plumbing as close together as I could get, which consolidated some drains. The new design scratched a couple thousand off just in windows too.

deborah

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Re: Suggestions for saving money when building a house.
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2015, 07:06:55 PM »
Depending on what you are using your study for, I would tend to put it at the front, so you don't go through the kitchen each time to reach it. You could move all the other rooms in that block back, making the bathroom closer to the other plumbing. This might also allow you to have no wall between the study and the lounge room (and having a curtain or folding door instead), or put it in later. This would also stop the room from looking so long and narrow.

Which way is south?

NV Teacher

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Re: Suggestions for saving money when building a house.
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2015, 07:07:37 PM »
Four of my siblings designed and built their own house over the years.  A couple of smart things that they did I thought were worth mentioning.

-In the bedrooms put two outlets on each wall that is big enough for the bed.  That way you always have outlets on each side of the bed no matter what wall it's on.

-Make the house work for you as you age.  If you can, have wider doorways, wider hallways, a bathroom with enough space for wheelchair/walker, low rise or/no stairs.

-Orient your house to take advantage of solar heat in the winter and buffer it from the summer sun.

Good luck.

terran

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Re: Suggestions for saving money when building a house.
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2015, 09:05:34 PM »
Something you might consider given your sloped lot is a walk out basement instead of the crawlspace. Building multiple floors is always cheaper than the same square footage on one floor since the floors can "share" the basement and roof expense. Also, depending on the climate where you are basements having ground on a few sides can help with heating/cooling since the ground is a constant 55 degrees.