Author Topic: DIY building a house  (Read 10088 times)

Guses

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DIY building a house
« on: April 17, 2014, 11:30:15 AM »
Hello,

We are considering downsizing from our current 1600 sqft bungalow (3200 sqft total) to a 2 storey house with approx 2000-2400 sqft (800 sqft per storer with a basement). I am a pretty handy person ( I can do framing, basic electrical, basic plumbing, finishing) and we were considering DIY a house construction.

My objective would be to have a house that is very well insulated so that it needs very little energy to keep at temperature.

I am wondering if a fellow mustachian could help me out with figuring out ballpark costs for materials and contracting items. For example, I would likely have someone do the foundation and the outside framing.

Anybody has experience with costs to finish a house that has the basics in (foundation, walls and roof)?

I know that this will depend highly on my location but I do plan to do most of the labour. I am located near Ottawa.

Greg

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2014, 11:49:23 AM »
As you say, a lot will depend on your local prices.  I would suggest creating a basic design and shopping it around to subcontractors in your area for the work you'll sub out.  For the parts you'll do yourself, you can make rough materials calculations based on square footage, wall area etc. and adding 10% or so.

In addition to insulation you'll want to look at better windows, skylites and doors, and ventilation.  These things can work well together if you plan ahead.

Guses

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2014, 12:36:58 PM »
Thanks Greg, that is a good suggestion.

I don't know if I will be able to get a quote over the phone though. In my experience, tradesmen like to come in for an estimate before giving any kind of number. Since we are in the very preliminary phase of maybe thinking about it, we doN't have any plans or location in mind yet.

It's a thought experiment for now.

Cheers,

G.

Pedro Gonzales

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2014, 03:20:59 PM »
Sorry, don't have any answers, but i'm going to tack on my dream sustainable home to-do items.
1) Rainwater harvesting system commingled with gray water plumbing for toilet flushing and garden irrigation.
2) Geothermal heating/cooling system (likely pricey if you outsource it, but perhaps you could just get someone to drill the wells and build the rest of the system yourself.
3)  (For me in AZ, but unsuitable for you in ON), 40deg roof south-facing roof slope with integrated solar panels.
4)  Rest of the roof would be a flat-roof (otherwise the south-facing 40 deg roof would be too tall), with a rooftop vegetable garden.
5) Old school dumbwaiter to haul stuff to the roof.
6) Get the home sealed to avoid heat loss.

Greg

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2014, 03:27:23 PM »
I don't know if I will be able to get a quote over the phone though. In my experience, tradesmen like to come in for an estimate before giving any kind of number. Since we are in the very preliminary phase of maybe thinking about it, we doN't have any plans or location in mind yet.

A sub or tradesperson should be able to give you a pretty good idea just from a set of plans.  They don't even have to be super detailed but indicate square footage, wall height, truss or rafter construction, materials and surfaces.  Window and door locations and sizes.  You can sketch this up yourself on graph paper (usually 1/4" scale) and make copies for folks to look at.  After you get some quotes, you can refine your designs.

Similarly, places like home depot can take your plans and give you a quote for drywall or insulation based on the plans.  In my area, lumber suppliers do this for home owners and builders alike.  A detailed "take-off" of materials based on a set of plans is a great way to gather information and help you decide on what needs changing.

Spork

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2014, 03:31:28 PM »
It's not just dependent on location, but also on your design.  The more complicated the design, the more materials and labor it takes to put it together. 

To put it simply: the more corners you have (outside, inside, in the roofing) the more it costs.  If your house is a one room box with a very simple gable ends on each side, it will be MUCH less expensive than if it has a varied shape, multiple rooms and a complicated roof.

This is part of what a general contractor does.  A good one will give you an exact cost (to the penny) of the house (assuming he has exact materials you plan to use).   And if you really want to do some of it yourself, you can specify that upfront to the GC.

We recently built our own using a GC.... and while I was not brave enough to do it all... I did specify things like trim carpentry, cleanup, tile, paint, etc would be done by me. 


Guses

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2014, 03:43:45 PM »
Part of the reason I ask is that I often hear 120$-200$ per SQFT for construction which I think is preposterous!

I recently finished about 900 sqft of my basement for less than 6$ per SQFT including framing, flooring, sound insulation, drywall, plumbing, lighting and electrical. Reason is I did much of it myself.

I am trying to figure out approximately how much I should be planning to spend on top of that to include foundation, exterior framing, electrical hookup, sewage hookup and roofing.

We are thinking of a relatively simple floor plan. For the sake of argument, let's say its a simple 40 by 20 rectangle over 2 storeys with a basement of the same size and a simple roof like this ^ . We want regular everything except for R40-60 walls and maybe R60-70 roof.

Milspecstache

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2014, 05:53:03 PM »
I used RS Means to cost-estimate my home-building DIY project.  It put me in the ballpark but you would come out better if you get 3 bids on each job.  Certainly RS Means was very accurate in material costs which allowed me to do more DIY when the bids wouldn't come out reasonable for my budget.

Feel free to PM me if you need add'l help.  Would be more than willing to walk you through my project and give you my tips/excel file/etc.

Spork

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2014, 06:51:11 PM »
Part of the reason I ask is that I often hear 120$-200$ per SQFT for construction which I think is preposterous!

I recently finished about 900 sqft of my basement for less than 6$ per SQFT including framing, flooring, sound insulation, drywall, plumbing, lighting and electrical. Reason is I did much of it myself.

I am trying to figure out approximately how much I should be planning to spend on top of that to include foundation, exterior framing, electrical hookup, sewage hookup and roofing.


We are thinking of a relatively simple floor plan. For the sake of argument, let's say its a simple 40 by 20 rectangle over 2 storeys with a basement of the same size and a simple roof like this ^ . We want regular everything except for R40-60 walls and maybe R60-70 roof.

Yeah, so that's definitely the problem.  We built a house that contained about 40% of it unfinished (to finish at our leisure).  And it looked overly expensive per sqft because of that when you ignore the unfinished space.

The larger you build in size, the less you'll get per sqft (but that's not saving money).   And 2 story vs 1 story will give you less per sqft (saving on foundation/roof). 

I think we ended up at just under $100/sqft but:
* we did not have a simple plan
* we live in a low cost of living area
* we did an odd combination of cutting corners where we could and spending more where we thought it would save money in the long run


I know people build for a lot less than that if they really put the sweat equity in.  (Rural will pipe in here in a little bit, I feel confident.  I think she did stuff closer to what you're talking about.)

Jmoody10

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2014, 05:56:14 AM »
We are in the middle of the same kind of project. We initially were going to hire a GC because we didn't think we could do a project like this. After looking at their proposals and seeing how inflated they were, we decided to be our own GC. We took their budgets and spent a few weeks really investigating them.

When we really started looking into the cost for things like framing, we decided to be our own subs as well. :)

My advice would be to work with a GC for a little bit of time and establish a reasonable cost. When we had people bid on our house, we had them separate each category into a materials and labor section. You could take our route or offer a few hundred to a GC to bid it out for you and to answer your questions.

Guses

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2014, 06:19:14 AM »
Thanks for the advice all, this is very helpful.

@Spork

Yes, this is part of the reason why we are going with a 2 storey house.

@Jmoody10

If I may ask, where did you build? And did you have prior building experience before jumping into this?

Part of our plan would be to live in a mobile home/ RV / basement while we build the house so that we can take our time (more or less).

greaper007

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2014, 06:35:21 AM »
Do you have your heart set on a new house?   Sometimes it's cheaper and easier just to upgrade an existing property.    Making a very well insulated existing house isn't really that difficult or expensive as far as a rehab goes.    Even if you remove all the drywall on exterior walls and install spray foam, you'll probably be ahead on building.

If you have other needs like a certain floor plan or want to build somewhere that doesn't have a house building from scratch could be a good idea.    Also, If you're building a house with thoughts of living in it for a couple years and selling or renting it out for a profit, it could be a good idea.   I used to work in construction and a lot of the trade guys I knew would do this.    I think at the time it was 4 houses and the next one was generally free.

Rural

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2014, 06:45:50 AM »
And here I am piping up as Spork predicted. :-)


I'm at a conference and have only a moment, so I'll say more over the weekend, but if you can DIY you can do it for much less. You won't have a life, though.


We built ours on one floor for $40 a sqft, just under 2000 sqft total.


More later. Remember the part about not having a life. :-)

Spork

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #13 on: April 18, 2014, 09:59:03 AM »

I might also add:
GC's do bring a lot to the table for their money.  It's a trade off.  But they have tons of contacts of "their best guys" and these guys will ask "how high" when the GC says jump.

If you're doing it all yourself... then it's not such a big deal... but if you're subcontracting it out... it can be.

We have friends that recently did their own GC work.  They had done it before several times, but in another state where he was working in the trades and had lots of contacts.  Here: he had none.  It's been a seriously long project with lots of cost over runs.  No one shows up when they say ... and it's really hard to schedule a known good crew to show up at a certain time.

Now: Is it worth 15%?  Maybe.  It's a trade off.  I know our GC worked his ass off for us.  15% sounds like a ton of money, but I think when you compute the hourly rate, it's not nearly as much as it sounds like.  He kept us on time and on budget and had 2-3 pools of known good subs he could get out with a week's notice.  (And I've never seen construction that was done as square and precise as this guy.   Anything questionable had to be re-worked.)

Milspecstache

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #14 on: April 18, 2014, 03:20:18 PM »
I met a few GC's who wanted to talk until they realized I was on a tight budget.  Once they realized there wasn't a huge payoff they weren't interested.  If you are on this forum I would assume that you have a tight budget so hiring a GC that isn't a friend/relative is probably not going to be MMM.

A lot of the jobs are easy:
framing, subflooring, foundation footing forming, supply plumbing using PEX, pulling wiring (acting as gopher for an electrician), installing outlets/lights/fans, hanging drywall, installing baseboad trim, painting, cleaning

Just depends on how much money/time you want to spend.  I was short on money but had plenty of time (ie no life as Rural said).  Plus I wanted to be able to say that I build my own house (ie head strong and stubborn).

As to remodeling an old house... it depends.  I'd much rather start from ground zero where I can actually estimate costs vice doing a rehab where the house is old/not square with unknown problems like termites/lead/asbestos/foundation problems/stuctural problems/etc.  You can end up in quicksand quickly that is very hard for someone inexperience like myself to diagnose in the beginning.

Spork

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #15 on: April 18, 2014, 06:42:52 PM »
I met a few GC's who wanted to talk until they realized I was on a tight budget.  Once they realized there wasn't a huge payoff they weren't interested.  If you are on this forum I would assume that you have a tight budget so hiring a GC that isn't a friend/relative is probably not going to be MMM.


Ours joked abut how tight fisted I was.   He delivered statements (balanced to the penny) once a month.  He knew what he was getting going in and was pretty amicable to oddball things like me doing some of the work.  I recommend him every time I get a chance.

greaper007

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #16 on: April 18, 2014, 10:13:49 PM »
Mil, you can generally find out if there's asbestos from a quick peak in the attic and basement.   As long as it's not vermiculite or other types that can become airborne, and it's not fissured, it's not a big deal.

Any house built before the 70s or so is going to have lead paint.   Those were the only houses available in many communities when I lived on the east coast.   Again, if it's not chipping, paint over it and call it a day.


Otherwise, a decent inspector is going to find foundation problems, termites, knob and tube, etc.   

I bought a 50s bungalow in the Hartford area and had mondo utilities payments right away.    I ended up air sealing, putting another foot of insulation in the attic and covering the windows with cellophane in the winter along with turning down the thermostat.    We ended up saving about half on our utility bill.     

When it comes to insulation you have to thing about your house as a giant chimney.   Air gets sucked through cracks in doors, windows, sill plates and other holes and pulls the conditioned air up through the roof.      So first, seal up the cracks, then insulate the ceiling.     That takes care of the vast majority of insulation problems.     Things like walls and fancy windows make up a much smaller percentage.

Guses

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #17 on: April 22, 2014, 07:07:13 AM »
We are likely a few years out from actually building the house but we like to plan ahead :)

Any recommendations for a place to get free house plans?

Jmoody10

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #18 on: April 22, 2014, 08:40:35 AM »
We are building in southeast Georgia. I had zero experience before starting and am in IT by trade. I am lucky that I have some family who have done this before. Amazingly, it was easy to get a construction loan. It helped that our land was paid for.

I would recommend getting some really good books and start reading. Here are two that helped me a ton:

http://www.amazon.com/Visual-Handbook-Building-Remodeling-Edition/dp/1600852467/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398177493&sr=8-1&keywords=home+construction
http://www.amazon.com/Housebuilding-Do-It-Yourself-Guide-Revised-Expanded/dp/1402743165/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1398177493&sr=8-6&keywords=home+construction

And everyone is right about not having a life - building a house eats up every free moment. When you have a construction loan that charges interest, it will kill you to take a day off.

Milspecstache

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #19 on: April 22, 2014, 05:35:43 PM »
Amazingly, it was easy to get a construction loan.

Really surprised to hear this.  Can you give more details:
Did you need a general contractor to sign?
Rural or suburb?
How much land?
Local bank?

Jmoody10

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #20 on: April 23, 2014, 05:43:03 AM »
First - we went with a local credit union for this. The bigger banks didn't want to give us the time of day (especially because I have zero credit history). We are a mix between rural/suburb. Our town has around 100,000 people in it so it isn't that small.

At first, we thought we needed a GC to sign with us. Then we talked with the bank - explained to them the family resources that we had to help us. We showed them a very exact budget (that a GC helped us with). We also showed them everything that we did to the lot to get it ready to build (road, ditches, clearing the land, bring in temp power, etc).

We used 1.1 acres as collateral.

Guses

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Re: DIY building a house
« Reply #21 on: April 23, 2014, 08:18:49 AM »
We probably won't be needing a loan. Our plan is to have our current house fully paid within the next two years. Since we will be building for much lower than our current house is worth, we should be able to pay cash.