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Economical Ways to Build a House

January 30, 2013 by Latonya Alvarado No Comments »

Or some people might ask: Whats the cheapest way to build a house?  Economical is probably a better term.  There are several ways to build houses; this article examines the least expensive to the mid level to upper, starting with the most economical.

1.  2 STORIES ON NEARLY LEVEL GROUND Contractors whom Soellner has asked and his own experience have informed him that the MOST ECONOMICAL & LEAST EXPENSIVE WAY TO BUILD A HOUSE is: to make it 2-stories on nearly level ground.

The reason: the 2nd floor level is relatively cheap and easy to frame and you only need a single, simple straight stair run, if you design it with economy in mind.  What you gain: half the amount of foundations, which are not typically cheap: concrete is expensive and forming is expensive and so is steel reinforcing.  Also, the amount of your roof is halved.  You only have about half the amount of roof and foundations that you would have in a one-story house.  Also, if you are building on nearly level ground, your foundations will probably be simple and relatively shallow, unless some other geological conditions are present to make them otherwise.

Now then, that all being said: another aspect of this economy approach: KISS .  So, the simpler the container, the less work for the Contractor.  Also, be careful of your material selection inside and out.  If you want a genuine slate roof, realize that this high-end feature will increase your costs. Also: Location.  If you build in a remote location, the chances are that your builders will charge you more for the pleasure of the longer drive and other situations that occur as a result of being farther away from resources.  In other words: the Country is fine, as long as you have power, water, and paved roads no too far away from the supply yards and people who will build your house.

Ideally, you would have a fairly shallow height crawlspace: enough for contractors get in there and install their systems and to allow for future maintenance, but not so much as to jack up the house height much.

2.  BUILDING A MAIN LEVEL OVER A BASEMENT ON SLOPING GROUND The next most economical way is to build a main level house on top of a basement.

However, some people erroneously believe that the basement level will be free or nearly nothing, as they say that it will be unfinished.  This is a ruse that Contractors see coming a mile away.  Contractors even have a term for it.  They call this their Basement Profit Center, because they KNOW that you do intend to finish the Basement and that you intend to do this by small nibbles.  The Contractor, having done this in the past knows that you will actually end up with a completely finished house, hoping that you can coerce your builder to help you finish off the basement at a reduced price.  The reality is that your Contractor will end up charging you a premium for this, as you attempt to piecemeal this work into the main effort of building your house. What you do have going for you is that this type of house is fairly compact, in terms of exterior surface ratio to interior usable space, similar to the 2-story approach above.  However, do not kid yourself: it will always be less expensive to build a normal frame wall above the ground than it will be to excavate a huge hole in the ground and to form and pour a steel-reinforced 8 to 12 thick concrete wall that you then have to waterproof from the exterior, then insulate and frame out on the interior. And if you have steeply sloping ground, you will undoubtedly want a Walk-out Basement.  Most people do.  This means that the foundations, foundation walls and scaffolding around the house will need to be carefully planned and stair-stepped to deal with the sloping ground.  This of course adds cost to the construction in the form of added complication.

3.  ALL ONE-STORY ON NEARLY LEVEL GROUND The next most economical way to build a house is to probably go all one-story.  It can be a toss-up as to if this is the #2 or #3, depending on individual circumstances.

This confuses many people , because they view this as the SIMPLEST way to build.  It is.  However, the ratio of exterior materials to enclosed space is more spread out.  Also, there is more foundation, foundation wall, main floor structure, more shear walls to brace the additional space between walls, and more roof and more attic insulation.  In a nutshell: this approach, while the simplest to build, also has the greatest surface to space ratio.  So you do have some economies of scaffolding and other labor-related items, however, this approach usually has the highest amount of materials: particularly for roofing and foundations.

4.  MANY OTHERS: MAIN LEVEL + BASEMENT + LOFT, ETC. All other forms now come into play and become more complex.  Once you start adding lofts and 3rd floor levels, stairs begin to multiple and perhaps even elevators are included and all the concrete work necessary for a proper basement.  Cost and and will increase with the added complexity of all other approaches.

5.  THE MOST EXPENSIVE WAY TO BUILD On very steep ground, which will make your foundations very expensive.  With many angular changes in your walls, in as short of segments as possible.  Complicate your roofs as much as possible, with changes in slope and direction every few feet.  Use the very best of everything when it comes to materials:  real slate & copper roofs, walnut interior trim,  gigantic custom made fireplaces , built-ins everywhere, using the most expensive hardware and wood possible and all custom , heart pine wide plank floors and ceilings with pegs, hydronic radiant floors throughout, coffered ceilings throughout, thick & heavy stone faced exterior decks with steel and concrete support structure, log + authentic timber frame framing throughout, all native rock exterior wall finish , premium HVAC equipment, exotic septic systems and deep wells, and a 4 car+ garage.  There are probably several other things one can do to further increase the costs, but thats a good start.

Obviously, a little of these high-end features can go a long way, when blended with the less expensive approaches.  Its the difference between the French Palace Versailles and a cozy cottage.  There is a lot of variety between the two extremes.  Being judicious with such features and materials can raise the mundane into the realm of architecture; it doesnt take much of the right thing to have a major impact.

BLENDED HYBRID APPROACHES Blended approaches are often called Hybrid approaches, meaning to blend together two or more systems, materials and architectural approaches into a unique solution, giving the feel of both.  This often is the approach taken by the HOME ARCHITECTS ® to help satisfy their clients high-end tastes with lower to mid-range costs.

Call the architect:      1-828-269-9046

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