Ideas for Building a Great Custom Home within a Limited Budget
• Keep the finished, conditioned, area as small as possible while still adhering to your design program. This is the single easiest and most powerful tool to stay within a budget. Consider designating rooms with multiple purposes to save on square footage.
• Stack stories when possible. Foundations and roofs are minimized this way. It’s a more efficient way to build when possible.
• If the land is sloping consider finishing a light-filled lower terrace walkout level. Stacked stories works well to save dollars, whether it’s up or down.
• Minimize exterior corners and complicated rooflines when possible. We’re not talking about just 4 corners and one ridgeline here, but the concept remains the same – corners and multiple rooflines use up budget dollars.
• Purchase the highest quality windows within your budget. Spend the budget on the lowest U-factor window available rather than on expensive SDL grills or other frills. Reduce the quantity of windows if necessary and substitute larger units to save money.
• Spend money to build the tightest building envelope possible within your budget, as this will provide the most comfortable house with the lowest operating costs for the lifetime of the house. Save money and add enjoyment long-term by spending a bit more upfront for a well insulated tightly built house.
• Purchase the highest quality, most energy efficient HVAC system within your budget and design the ductwork such that it is all within the insulated envelope. Spend a bit more today in order to save on operating cots throughout the life cycle of your home. Consider upgrading to a Geothermal HVAC system. If put in place by 2016 the system is eligible for a 30% Federal Income Tax Credit. This tax credit makes a geothermal system competitive in cost with a conventional heat pump system.
• Use the WHOLE HOUSE APPROACH to design. Select your design and build team professionals early in the process and work together to build the best, most durable and most efficient house for the available budget dollars.
• Consider employing OVE or optimal value engineering techniques to lower material cost and improve performance. Also known as advanced framing techniques these include 2-stud corners, insulated sized-right headers, ladder blocking at interior partitions, 24” on center framing, etc.
• If using the TIMBERPEG post and beam system consider a pine frame rather than douglas fir to save money. Keep the timber frame as simple a possible. Consider spaces that are open and can offer multiple uses to keep the frame simple and smaller.
• Try and reduce hallways when possible. Use open space to create traffic patterns rather than closed in hallways.
• Buy high-quality “WaterSense” rated plumbing fixtures, but don’t spend money on fancy finishes and designs. A lavatory faucet can cost $100 or $500 but both may work the same. In fact the simple but high quality $100 faucet may have fewer callbacks than the fancy one.
• Consider saving dollars today on finishes that can be replaced easily in the future. This includes light fixtures, countertops, appliances and carpet. Even some plumbing fixtures are fairly easy to upgrade in the future if necessary.
• The 5 or 10-year plan: Design your perfect world site plan first so that work can be completed in phases. Build the house and prepare the site today then, in years to come, add on terraces, detached garage, breezeway, storage sheds, an addition, more landscaping, etc.
• Finally, consider providing “Sweat Equity” by providing some of the work yourself. In years past we’ve had owners doing everything from interior painting to ceramic tile to finish landscaping work. This aligns with the money saving concept of “Good Enough For Who It’s For”. If your desire to own a new, well-built, green-certified home outstrips your available budget then perhaps you can live with simpler, less costly finishes or some delayed gratification in order to get in and start enjoying the benefits of living in a beautifully designed, comfortable and energy efficient home.
Al and I wanted to thank Smith & Robertson for all you did in helping us design and build our new home. I think things turned out better than we had hoped for.
Al & Terri | Barboursville, VA