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  #1  
Old 02-16-2004, 02:49 PM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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House Builders: What Is The Cheapest Style of House to Build?

I am wondering if there is a simple answer to a complicated question. I would like to build a new house, but I am limited in funds..hence, I would like to get the largest area for the least money. Is a two-story house more economical in terms of $/square foot? I don't like two story houses (I don't like staircases), and ranch-style house appeals more. However, for a given area, will a ranch cost MORE money?
Also, is a three-story house worth it? or does the staircases take up too much room?
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  #2  
Old 02-16-2004, 03:23 PM
desdinova desdinova is offline
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My copy of Marshall & Swift says a full second story costs 92% per square foot as the first story, and that this would also apply to a third story ($/SF of First Floor X 0.92 = $/SF of second and third floors). Three stories seems like the chief drawback would be walking up two flights of stairs, rather than problems with efficiency.

You'll also want a house shape that is as regular as possible (for example, a square). More weirdness in the shape means more exterior wall area, which means more money per given square foot. A fairly low-pitched roof and standard ceiling heights are also a must. A garage is out of the question if money is a real concern. If possible, you could probably economize on land prices by going out into the boonies and digging a well and using a septic tank. This may not be feasible in your location, of course.

There are, of course, any number of ways to scrimp on construction materials costs, but one thing to keep in mind is that a little more money in durable, energy efficient components will pay dividends, while a shoddily built home is going to cost you lots of money in the not very distant future.

I am not a builder, however, and you'll want the opinion of one before you get too far into this.

desdinova
general real estate appraiser
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  #3  
Old 02-16-2004, 03:54 PM
jimpeel jimpeel is offline
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Depending on where you live, look into Rammed earth construction. Here are a few links to peruse:

http://architecture.about.com/cs/rammedearth/

http://www.hahaha.com.au/rammed.earth/links.htm
(Don't let the URL scare you. It has nothing to do with the Ha ha ha Snow White virus but they did pick a stupid name for their URL.)

http://www.rammedearth.com/

http://www.rammedearthworks.com/

http://www.adobe-home.com/html/about_rammed_earth.html

Buy or rent a film of rammed earth construction: http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/rec.html

http://www.hahaha.com.au/rammed.earth/Default.asp

http://www.toolbase.org/tertiaryT.as...ocumentID=2142
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Old 02-16-2004, 03:59 PM
jimpeel jimpeel is offline
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And then there's this guy who calls his house a "cardboard yurt".

Believe it or not, THIS HOUSE is made of cardboard.
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  #5  
Old 02-16-2004, 04:14 PM
SmackFu SmackFu is offline
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Rammed earth costs more than stick, so not great if the cost is the primary driver.

Realistically, the cheapest building method is the common one in the area. Anything unusual either incurs extra expense by having to import specialized people to do it, or extra expense due to inexperienced people screwing it up.
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Old 02-16-2004, 04:24 PM
jimpeel jimpeel is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SmackFu
Rammed earth costs more than stick, so not great if the cost is the primary driver.

Realistically, the cheapest building method is the common one in the area. Anything unusual either incurs extra expense by having to import specialized people to do it, or extra expense due to inexperienced people screwing it up.
Sweat equity is dirt cheap, though.
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  #7  
Old 02-16-2004, 08:35 PM
cornflakes cornflakes is offline
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A simple answer? How about a house that every carpenter can build, but few people want. My guess is that you're probably looking at a simple gable-roofed box with minimal foundation (slab in the South, I don't know about the North), vinyl siding and linoleum floors.

Instead of putting a whole lot of sweat equity into something esoteric like rammed earth (especially if hard work tires you), you may want to look for someone who manufactures shell homes, where you finish out the interior. This would get your home "into the dry" quickly, and let you save on finishing costs.

BTW, I've had a few people recommend House Broken: How I Remodeled My Home for Just Under Three Times the Original Bid, by Richard Karn, as a guide for anyone building or doing home improvement. I haven't bought it, but it sounds like a good suggestion.
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  #8  
Old 02-16-2004, 08:58 PM
AveDementia AveDementia is offline
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What about straw bale?
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  #9  
Old 02-16-2004, 09:23 PM
Extraneous Extraneous is offline
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Depending on where you live, how handy you are, your ability and willingness to learn new tricks, etc:

See if there are any builders who will deliver a sealed shell home - the exterior walls are up, the doors and windows are in, the roof is on and shingled. From there it is a negotiation - youwant them to do the interior (non-load bearing) walls, or can you bang the 2x4's together yourself? Know how to handle headers and fireblocks? How about plumbing - you will probably get the DWV instaled, but how about supply? Feel like instaling a water heater, and running all the supply lines (HINT: use copper, don't wait until the next problem with plastic pipes becomes known (imho))

Kitchen and bath cabinets? counters? set a tub? all this can be done by:

Original contractor

You

Somebody you hire (a general contractor makes about 10% on the labor he/she hires out) (conversely, a laborer ay cut a deal with a high-volume contractor that isn't available to homeowner/builder.

Another low-cost option (if you can find anyone who will deal with them - contractors view them as a threat, and don't like to touch them): Pre-fab Homes - the trick here is that it is cheaper to built a chunk of wall in a factory than to build it on-site. You will need a slab poured, and a crew to bank everything together, but when you're done, there is little to distinguish between it an a stick-built house.
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  #10  
Old 02-16-2004, 09:40 PM
Balthisar Balthisar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Extraneous
Another low-cost option (if you can find anyone who will deal with them - contractors view them as a threat, and don't like to touch them): Pre-fab Homes.
Unless, of course, the contractor specializes in this. This is a great, low cost idea. If you're handy, you can also especially buy these unfinished or partially finished. We're not talking about "trailers" (mobile homes) here, but bona fide houses built out of the same stuff and to the same specifications as a "real" house.

It used to be that these were called modulars, but now a lot of the trailer builders are calling their trailers modulars, too. So, watch out.
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  #11  
Old 02-16-2004, 09:45 PM
DirkGntly DirkGntly is offline
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Don't knock the "trailers" too much - at least around here. For the most part, there is considered a difference in "modular" and "manufactured" homes...

That said, visit a dealer and walk out with a few floor plans. "Manufactured" homes are models of efficiency for space and materials...take one of those floor plans and apply standard materials and foundation and you'll come out WAY ahead of building and designing a typical custom home.
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  #12  
Old 02-16-2004, 10:10 PM
blasphmer blasphmer is offline
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Either prarie sod house or single-room log cabin, dependind on the propensity of trees on your property.

(Well he didn't say 2004 MODERN house, did he?)
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  #13  
Old 02-17-2004, 12:20 AM
prisoner6655321 prisoner6655321 is offline
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Recent Architecture school grad here. Straw Bale would be very cheap monitarily. But good luck finding workers. Sweat Equity is VERY high and it's not pleasant. The advantage of straw bale is that it is VERY ecologically friendly throughout the life of the house. Massive walls help your interior temperature stay relatively constant. If you do choose straw bale make absolutely 100% sure your straw is 100% dry or it could spontaneously compust after you plaster it. Do your research. It's not hard to do, but it's not pleasant. You could train day-laborers to do it without too much difficulty, provided they are willing to do it.

If straw bale is not an option there are other options. Spare tires for example. Fill 'em with stuff like aluminum cans and concrete. Again, environmentally friendly. But I would wonder about the cost. Tires are cheap, but concrete is expensive compared to stick framing.

Rammed earth is expensive, (specialized labor intensive) but probably the best, IMHO. When I can afford it, my house will be rammed earth, or completely underground. I haven't decided yet.

For these alternative methods you have to worry about city codes. Some municipalities might have a problem with straw bale, because it can catch fire all on its own.

Really stick (2x4) framing is probably your best best monetarily. It's the most popular for a reason. It's easy to build, easy to modify, intuitive. You can hire just about anybody to do it. You don't have to train your workers. I'm not so sure more stories are cheaper, though I could be wrong. The real advantage in value is the smaller footprint. If you have the land, and don't like stairs, go one story. That's my recommendation. The other recommendations already discussed in the thread are pretty valid too.

If you do (much of) the work yourself you would be suprised how cheap you can build a "standard" house. Some things you have to legally contract out, electrical for example. But you can definately do the framing yourself. One of my friend's Dad built a house just off of Lake Houston himself. About 3000 sf. Two stories. Total cost including a good sized plot of land (IIRC), about $60,000.
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  #14  
Old 02-17-2004, 02:56 AM
Alereon Alereon is offline
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What about a geodesic dome design? I was under the impression that these homes tended to be rather inexpensive, energy efficient, and comparatively fast to build. Due to the design you also get a LOT of internal volume, meaning that the house feels larger than a traditional design of the same square footage. Check out this FAQ from domehomes.com.
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  #15  
Old 02-17-2004, 06:15 AM
Go You Big Red Fire Engine Go You Big Red Fire Engine is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fairblue
What about straw bale?
I was just having that thought. And prisoner6655321's opinion is pretty sound.
"With its mass and super-insulation properties, a straw bale structure has 10 times the insulation properties of double brick walls. ... Graham shows a house that was built in three weekends, except for the parts such as electricity installation that licensed tradesmen were required to complete. 'Wall-building is extremely fast. There's not much need for training - one weekend of working with someone else or doing a straw-bale course and you're away. The councils are not really a problem any more. Early on they were dubious about it, but now straw bale is a well-recognised medium.'"
[site: http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s257545.htm]
I would say that is the cheapest by far. But if you want a large interior, you might need a of a larger block, or sacrifice your lawn.
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  #16  
Old 02-17-2004, 07:28 AM
Thin Ice Thin Ice is offline
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Here is a link to Jim Walter Homes, which will build, on your prepared lot, a shell for you to finish on up to a complete home. I have no experience with them other than touring a few models years ago.

http://www.jimwalterhomes.com/
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  #17  
Old 02-17-2004, 12:44 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Balthisar
Unless, of course, the contractor specializes in this. This is a great, low cost idea. If you're handy, you can also especially buy these unfinished or partially finished. We're not talking about "trailers" (mobile homes) here, but bona fide houses built out of the same stuff and to the same specifications as a "real" house.

It used to be that these were called modulars, but now a lot of the trailer builders are calling their trailers modulars, too. So, watch out.
This is called SIP (structural insulated panel) construction and is a good way to go (although it has its detractors). The manufacturer can build a house to your specification, deliver the panels to the site and erect the house in about 30 days (depending on size). Here is one company that makes them and answers some questions you may have.
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  #18  
Old 02-17-2004, 01:48 PM
vetbridge vetbridge is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fairblue
What about straw bale?

Not a wise choice if there are wolves in the area. :-)
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  #19  
Old 02-17-2004, 03:45 PM
EvilGhandi EvilGhandi is offline
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As desdinova pointed out but didnt really touch on why, two story construction is a lot more complex (therefore more costly) than single.

First the ground floor needs to be built much stronger if it is to support more than just a roof. We're talking load bearing structures that can carry an entire second house, occupants and all. The foundation is also going to need to be more substantial, and if you're in earthquaque country forget it, the additional building cost will outweigh any land cost savings. Unless you plan to build on million dollar an acre real estate.

Plumbing a second story involves situating soil stacks and venting to avoid back pressure and flooding so floor planning is critical.

Floor joists are generally wider as they have to span a greater distance without support and wider means more expensive as far as lumber is concerned.

Etc. Etc you get the picture. People generally build multi story houses to get the max living space out of the land they have not because it it cheaper to do so.

Remember money spent on a house is not really spent. It's like you loan it to yourself. In most cases lately (around here anyway) a house in good condition sells for far more than it was bought for.

I know, not too usefull if you don't have the cash now, but still something to consider before you go and build a house out of dung bricks or whatever.
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  #20  
Old 02-17-2004, 04:35 PM
desdinova desdinova is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilGhandi
As desdinova pointed out but didnt really touch on why, two story construction is a lot more complex (therefore more costly) than single.
Actually, what I said (well, typed) was that each square foot of gross living area on the second (or third) floor costs only 92% of what it costs on the first floor, according to my Marshall & Swift cost manual. So if you've got a 3,000 SF home that costs $100/SF of GLA, and it's one story, it costs $300,000 to build. But if it's evenly split between two stories, the cost is 1,500 X $100 + 1,500 X $92 = $288,000. I can only assume this is the case, because all I've got is my cost manual to tell me so, but M&S hasn't steered me wrong yet. I always assumed this was because the money saved on a smaller floor plate is greater than the costs associated with strengthening the frame, floor joists, etc.

I assume this has not been your experience?
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  #21  
Old 02-17-2004, 05:01 PM
cornflakes cornflakes is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefguy
This (pre-fab or modular) is called SIP (structural insulated panel) construction and is a good way to go (although it has its detractors).
Nitpick: SIPs may be used in modular construction, but I'd consider them to be more of a material type than a method, like modular or prefab. I have a friend who uses them for his custom homebuilding "hobby". Materials costs can be higher for SIP walls than for stick framed walls, but my friend likes them because he finds them easier to build with and they're really energy efficient.
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  #22  
Old 02-17-2004, 05:09 PM
AncientHumanoid AncientHumanoid is offline
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I've been watching Bob Vila's Home Again recent series of episodes on modular pre-fab homes.

With the builder he's highlighting, it's basicaly an assembly line of walls and roofs which are then assembled together on site instead of building from scatch on site. All the basics are the same when put together. It's just the middle part of the work itself itself that's different.

Opened my predjudiced eyes, let me tell ya. Seems like a very good way to go.
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  #23  
Old 02-17-2004, 05:47 PM
lucwarm lucwarm is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilGhandi
Remember money spent on a house is not really spent. It's like you loan it to yourself. In most cases lately (around here anyway) a house in good condition sells for far more than it was bought for.

I know, not too usefull if you don't have the cash now, but still something to consider before you go and build a house out of dung bricks or whatever.
I agree. You always need to be thinking about resale value. If you can stretch and spend $100k on a house that will be worth $120k, you're much better off than if you had spent $90k on a house that will be worth $80k.
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  #24  
Old 02-18-2004, 01:04 AM
prisoner6655321 prisoner6655321 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EvilGhandi
As desdinova pointed out but didnt really touch on why, two story construction is a lot more complex (therefore more costly) than single.

First the ground floor needs to be built much stronger if it is to support more than just a roof. We're talking load bearing structures that can carry an entire second house, occupants and all.
This really isn't all that true if we are talking about a stick framed house. Standard structural stud walls have enough excess strength built in them to handle an upper story. (BTW, the brick on the outside of most houses is not structural) 3 stories might be a stretch but the bottom story of 2 story houses are pretty much exactly the same as those found in a single story house. The studs aren't any larger and they aren't closer together. You don't have to add columns provided you have load bearing walls below the load.
The most you have to worry about is wind load. You need more bracing.
It is true that you have floor joists when you add a second story, but... duh. You got to walk on something. You might also need beams. Again. No kidding. But that's all a part of the structure for the second story. You also have beams below the first floor - grade beams. Except those are made of concrete and are integral to the slab. A floor made of joists along with the structure to spread the load to where it needs to go (beams) is a WHOLE lot cheaper than a structural slab, which you are practically cutting in half.
Quote:
The foundation is also going to need to be more substantial,
This is true.
Quote:
and if you're in earthquaque country forget it, the additional building cost will outweigh any land cost savings.
This is probably not true.
Quote:
Unless you plan to build on million dollar an acre real estate.
This is not true.
Quote:
Plumbing a second story involves situating soil stacks and venting to avoid back pressure and flooding so floor planning is critical.
Nah. While it's true that you have to do it, it really isn't all that difficult.
Quote:
Floor joists are generally wider
Wider than what? You either have floor joists because you have a second story or you don't have any at all. Unless your first floor is raised, which is possible, but it doesn't need to be any stronger. The load of the second floor doesn't go through the first floor's joists.
Quote:
as they have to span a greater distance without support and wider means more expensive as far as lumber is concerned.
Again, wider than what? It's true that you'll need more lumber but you make your foundation cheaper.
Quote:
Etc. Etc you get the picture. People generally build multi story houses to get the max living space out of the land they have not because it it cheaper to do so.
This is true. But in all I am thinking that the 92% that desdinova quoted is probably mostly accurate. It's cheaper to build up than out, unless you go very high, which requires steel. Steel's expensive.
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Remember money spent on a house is not really spent. It's like you loan it to yourself. In most cases lately (around here anyway) a house in good condition sells for far more than it was bought for.
Also true.
Quote:
I know, not too usefull if you don't have the cash now, but still something to consider before you go and build a house out of dung bricks or whatever.
I would recommend that the OP get a loan. The expense of housing is precisely why we have mortgages.
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Old 02-18-2004, 09:14 AM
desdinova desdinova is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by prisoner6655321
But in all I am thinking that the 92% that desdinova quoted is probably mostly accurate. It's cheaper to build up than out, unless you go very high, which requires steel.
I really, really, really hope it is at least partially grounded in reality... Marshall & Swift is the construction cost manual the entire real estate appraisal industry is based on. If there are any other cost manuals out there, I've never heard of them.

If that book isn't at least reasonably accurate, we've been appraising buildings wrong for a very long time (at least, more so )
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Old 02-18-2004, 10:01 AM
awldune awldune is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by prisoner6655321
Wider than what? You either have floor joists because you have a second story or you don't have any at all.
I think he was saying that floor joists in a two-story house need to be wider lumber, e.g. 2x12's vs 2x10's.

I don't think it has been mentioned in this post, but ranch-style homes are less practical if your lot is on a hill. The larger footprint means that more earth moving is needed.
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Old 02-18-2004, 11:33 AM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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Would a ranch on a slab be cheapest? I don't want a basement, and I think having two stories robs you of some floor area (a staircase costs you 50-80 sq. feet of area). I also like an open floor pan..kitchen, living room, dining room in all one space-this means fewer interior walls. Also, if I opt for fixed windows, do I save money?
I really like modern houses, so a somewhat stark appearence is OK with me (I absolutely LOATH Victorians)!
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Old 02-18-2004, 02:26 PM
cornflakes cornflakes is offline
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Yes, a slab foundation will be the cheapest, depending on where you live (so tell us your region, man!) The perimeter of your foundation has to extend below the deepest point where the earth may freeze (the frostline.) This is only a few inches deep in the Southern US, so a slab is a cheap way to build. The frostline can be several feet deep up north; I assume it's cheaper to lay floor joists on a perimeter foundation there.

Regarding layout, I can't repeat enough that a box (rectangular exterior) with a simple gable roof will save you money. The roof requires less planning and is easy to build and roof.

An open floorplan should save money; there are fewer walls, less wiring and fewer doors. Also, you can probably make more efficient use of the floorspace. A central load-bearing wall running the length of the house may make the ceiling and roofing costs cheaper, since the trusses or attic joists only have to span half the house's width. You would need to use headers to support things in the open areas. Then again, the wall may not be necessary; trusses can be made to span the 30 feet or so that I assume we're talking about.

Beyond floorplan and framing, try to have all your plumbing fixtures share the same wall; the bath should back up to the kitchen. Also have those rooms on the side closest to your water and sewage (or your well and septic.)

I think that flooring, electrical fixtures and kitchen and bath fixtures are places where you can really save money. Stick to the cheaper product lines at the supply houses, but get a tub that won't crack. If you have an electrician friend, they might be able to help you reduce the number and length of runs in your houseplan (for example, you will need an outlet every six feet along a wall, so a fourteen foot length of wall will require an extra outlet over a twelve foot length.)

Now, where should you spend money? I've always heard that one should put any extra money into the bottom and top of a house; the top protects, and it's hard to fix the bottom. Were this house mine, I would put extra money into the foundation (in a slab foundation, I'd pay for better subsoil, deeper beam footings, another sack of cement per yard of concrete and/or more rebar, in that order.) I really hate how cheaply most slabs are made. On top, I would make the roof overhangs wider, to keep sun off the walls in the summer and keep rain away from the walls and the foundation. I've also found metal roofs (Galvalume, specifically) to be both affordable and long-lasting, but they're not for everyone. You also want (at least in the South) to have a good ventilation system in your attic (probably a ridge vent) to reduce the amount of heat sitting on the other side of your insulation.

All said though, the cheapest housing bet would be in a subdivision built by a budget homebuilder (i.e., Kaughman and Broad Homes) or in a Jim Walters home if you already owned the land. That said though, I'd much rather build a home like the one I described above, just to make sure that it was done right.
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Old 02-18-2004, 08:09 PM
Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is offline
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Building design: what's the marginal cost of extra space?

Quote:
Originally Posted by desdinova
My copy of Marshall & Swift says a full second story costs 92% per square foot as the first story, and that this would also apply to a third story ($/SF of First Floor X 0.92 = $/SF of second and third floors).
How much does a basement cost, as a share of the ground floor?

How much does an attic cost? (Or is it thrown in for free, as it were?)

[slight hijack] What about a fourth floor? I understand that there are a couple of leaps in cost when you build up. At some point steel is required (at what floor?) and elevators must be installed (when?).

Also, after you have a steel structure and an elevator, what is the cost of an additional floor, as a fraction of the cost of the preceding floor (or whatever you want to choose as your base)?

Are there major commercial/residential cost differentials? [/hijack]
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  #30  
Old 02-18-2004, 10:02 PM
desdinova desdinova is offline
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Important disclaimer: I'm a commercial appraiser, and rarely do anything involving single-family homes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Measure for Measure
How much does a basement cost, as a share of the ground floor?
I'll have to get back to you tomorrow when I'm in my office on this one...

Quote:
How much does an attic cost? (Or is it thrown in for free, as it were?)
If it's completely unfinished, it's thrown in with the roof, assuming we're talking about a home with a pitched roof.

Quote:
[slight hijack] What about a fourth floor? I understand that there are a couple of leaps in cost when you build up. At some point steel is required (at what floor?) and elevators must be installed (when?).
M&S doesn't say anything about fourth floors on single-family homes to my recollection. For, say, a highrise apartment complex I'm pretty sure each floor is calculated to cost a fixed percentage of the first floor up to some point, at which we're talking about a pretty non-standard property and the usual calculator approaches are meaningless.

I'd imagine there would be no problem building up to a four story wood frame house, but above that you'd want steel or concrete. Of course, that ignores the fact that most single-family zoning districts won't let you build a four (or even three) story home.

Barring any objections from the local fire marshall or code enforcement officer, elevators are not required so long as it's your home and not a public building. Even for public places it's a little tricky... the Americans with Disabilities act is not a building code, and doesn't say much of anything specific about what buildings need to be compliant. I'm no expert in the ADA, so I really don't know. I can tell you two story garden apartment complexes certainly don't need elevators, though.

Quote:
Also, after you have a steel structure and an elevator, what is the cost of an additional floor, as a fraction of the cost of the preceding floor (or whatever you want to choose as your base)?
Have to look that one up tomorrow too... off the top of my head, here's a useful guideline: anything weird is gonna cost a lot of money. If we're looking for maximum floor area for minimum cost, weird stuff like steel and elevators out of the question for "normally sized" homes, say, at least less than 10,000 square feet (yes, I'm setting the bar for normal pretty high here). But if we're talking about giant multi-family affairs, high-rises are probably more efficient, particularly in areas where land is particularly expensive. Out here in the midwest, that isn't a problem. What's more, most renters appear to prefer garden (two-story, walk-up) apartments, so builders find those more efficient for their purposes in this part of the world.

Quote:
Are there major commercial/residential cost differentials? [/hijack]
There don't have to be, everything is negotiable of course. I find that, typically, a new multi-family development will cost more per square foot of living area than your typical new home. Of course, multi-family developments typically have office space, swimming pools, etc. They're also usually sitting on pricier land (typically it's only the crummier land that gets relegated to single-family residential use). This is by no means always the case, though. I may also be heavily influenced by the fact that much of my consulting and appraising is involved in the Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, and their tax credits are a function of their construction costs (within reason).

I can also tell you that, at least around here, "commercial grade" is frequently a synonym for "cheaper" as far as finishes are concerned. Commercial grade carpeting and sinks, for example, usually refer to very thin carpet and plain jane white toilets.

In the end, there's no real difference between the cost of installing one thing in a residential home and the same thing in a commercial building. It's the fact that the materials and designs are fundamentally different that causes the disparity. A prefab metal warehouse costs far less than a home of the same size, and a full-service restaurant will cost far more.
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  #31  
Old 02-19-2004, 01:39 AM
EvilGhandi EvilGhandi is offline
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Sorry desdinova, I completely mis-understood your point. What I asumed you were saying was that the top floor wasnt as expensive to construct as the bottom, for the reasons I pointed out. Ergo if you were to construct a single story building the same size as the first floor of our hypothetical two story, it would be around 92% of the cost as well.

I have to concede that the world of real estate apraisal is a mystery to me. Too many non-relevant factors for me to consider. All I know is a two by four costs me the exact same amount no matter where I put it, but seems to increase exponentially in value the closer to the ocean it is nailed up.

No disrespect intended prisoner, but in my 20+ years in the construction industry I have gotten many blueprints from "recent architecual school grads" that had me and the boys laughing our asses off in the trenches. I trust you don't routinely spec 9' ply sheathing or 22' I beams in your drawings.

Naw I kid, you know as well as I that drawings frequently go back because it is impractical to build them as planned. Just a reality of the biz.

I will answer some of your questions though, but if this gets into a long, blue vs white collar shit slinging match lets open our own thread so we don't lose the OP's original direrction.


*This really isn't all that true if we are talking about a stick framed house. Standard structural stud walls have enough excess strength built in them to handle an upper story

If this were true all you would have to do to convert to two floor would be to rip of the roof and frame another story on top. I know damn well it aint done like that.

I'll give ya that standard stick framing is used on a ground floor but it is built with the second floor in mind. This includes widers headers, load bearing interior walls etc. not to mention wiring races, ducting runs and the the whole host of crap not needed in a single floor.

*Nah. While it's true that you have to do it, it really isn't all that difficult.

For an architech no, but he will incur more cost paying for the more complex drawings. Of course he could just install a single, central wet wall and situate the kitchen and baths around that. Piece of cake, even for the owner/builder type.

*Unless you plan to build on million dollar an acre real estate.

This is not true

Are you seriously suggesting it would not cost less to buy a half acre at 500K and build a two story than it would to shell out a mil for the land for the same sq footage single story house? Dude, lumber is expensive but not as much as prime land.

*Wider than what?

Wider than the joists on a single story joisted floor. As I said, you can install pillers in the ground and use much narrower joisting in a single than you can on a second where you have a greater span. Hell, in the old days we used 2x6x8's with 5/8ths subflooring for the "plantation style" houses. Damn them things were noisy to walk on.

I won't even go into earthquake codes as it's been far too long since I built anywhere that had them. I'll just state that two story homes I worked on in the SF Bay area had substantially more to them than the single floor types.
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  #32  
Old 02-19-2004, 02:29 AM
EvilGhandi EvilGhandi is offline
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Oh I forgot to add, a couple of reasons for up cheaper than out.

Land cost of course and dont forget the labor/ equipment cost of grading a larger footprint for the structure. You are right, the larger the lot the larger in general the crew working it tends to be. This CAN add a substantial cost. I completly forgot to factor in what a dozer crew would run in my advice. On resale the larger lot would also command a higher price.

I was mostly adressing materials cost and the greater need for skilled labor to build up. Of course large single floor places sell for more than same sized two stories packed together in a cul de sac. Welcome to reality EvilG.

I really do believe he would do better cost wise if he were building on cheap or already owned land if he left off the second floor. Especially if he plans to do most of the work himself. None of us have even considered his location and how much it would cost to connect to utilities. If hes in the sticks it may well be a huge consideration.

Cornflakes tosses out some very good advice for the would be owner/builder I take it he is a builder or an experienced handy. His advice on how to prioritise spending is top notch.
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  #33  
Old 02-19-2004, 07:44 PM
Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by desdinova
Actually, what I said (well, typed) was that each square foot of gross living area on the second (or third) floor costs only 92% of what it costs on the first floor, according to my Marshall & Swift cost manual.
Um, is the staircase included in "Gross Living Area"?

If it isn't, you have to take into account the fact that a one floor unit will have no floorspace taken up by the staircase. That might offset the .92 ratio somewhat (although I would guess that a staircase would take up less than, um, 4% of the footprint).
---
Big Picture, as I understand it:
It's generally cheaper to build up. OTOH, there's an abrupt cost-shift when you add an elevator or change the structure of the home to steel.

Q: Does this cost shift generally occur between the third and 4th floor? If so, how much extra does the 4th floor cost, as a percentage of the base floor, once the elevator and new construction method is taken into account?
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