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The Tricky Principle of Cost Per Square Foot in Home Building

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The cost per square foot in home building is a vast oversimplification. There are many variables involved in the cost of a home that are beyond the scope of cost per square foot. Does the cost per square foot remain constant between larger and smaller houses? What factors can directly impact the cost per square foot? We will also look at the hidden costs of heating, cooling and maintaining a larger house.

Cost Per Square Foot Home Building Factors

Cost Per Square Foot Home Building Factors: The consistency of cost per square foot
The idea of cost per square foot is deceptively oversimplified. No matter how large or small your home is, it must have a kitchen and at least one bath. The kitchen and bath are by far the two most expensive rooms because of appliances, plumbing, plumbing fixtures, cabinets and more electrical wiring. The size and scope of baths and kitchens, and the percentage of a home used for baths and kitchens, can vastly impact the cost per square foot.

The cheapest cost per square foot is in closets, porches and garages. Garages and most porches are not even included in cost per square foot, and are calculated separately at a significantly lower cost. The cost for garage and porch square footage is usually over 40% less than heated square footage. The cost of an upper floor is about 30% less than the first floor, and attic space is less per square foot than a second floor. Sometimes basements are also a cheaper source of square footage. Problems commonly encountered in some areas make basements more costly than in other areas though.

The cost per square foot in a home is less if the home is approximately square and has fewer Ls. It is also more efficient to heat. The fewer roof gables a house has, the cheaper it is to build. The greater distance between exterior walls the less expensive a home is per square foot. There are limits to this rule though. Widths of more than 32 feet are not standard. Wide expanses without interior load bearing walls can require extra bracing, including steel beam reinforcement. This can be costly.

Cost Per Square Foot Home Building Factors: Square footage trade offs
Fireplaces, stairways, and creative design features cost extra, but then they also have payoffs. Expensive stairways lead to lower cost square footage upstairs. Expensive fireplaces can save on heating costs, if they are efficient. Fireplace inserts and blowers can make a fireplace very efficient. Traditional fireplaces do not tend to help that much with energy bills. Sometimes fireplaces make heating cost more as heat travels up the flue.

Cost Per Square Foot Home Building Factors: Hidden costs for extra square footage
Every extra square foot has additional monthly price tags including an increased electric bill, and increased interest on mortgage payments. There are many future expenses involved in maintaining a larger home as well. There will be more floors to mop, more area of walls to paint, more carpet to replace and more furniture to buy. For this reason it is important to design floor plans with very few hallways, and no wasted space. Awkward inaccessible corners, and rooms that are just a bit to big, or just a bit too small for furniture can be a waste of space. It is important, when designing rooms, to make sure they will accommodate either standard or slightly oversized furniture comfortably.

Calculating the cost per square foot is a way to roughly estimate the cost of a home, but it is not an accurate reflection of this rule to assume all square footage is equally expensive. There are ways to save on the cost per square foot, such as building a small two story home, finishing an attic as a living area, avoiding too many gables and building a home with a small but efficient kitchen. Electing for one and a half baths instead of two baths can also save money and space. Using these factors to reduce the cost per square foot in home building can reduce the overall cost.

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