Understanding new home construction cost per square foot, can be confusing, simply because there are so many different ways to think of it. Cost per square foot varies from one location to another and by quality as well. It also varies by degree of completion. Actually degree of completion involving shell homes is a fairly consistent number.
Variations by Location – $75 to $130 per square foot state averages
Variations by Quality – $60 to over $1000 per square foot from economy to luxury
Cost per square foot for a Shell – $20 to $30 per square foot, with the majority at $25
Using Shell cost per square foot is an excellent way to calculate the cost of your home, because the price is consistent. What is not consistent is what it includes. All shells include framing and sheathing or equivalent in alternative materials and the exterior walls. Most shells also include windows, exterior doors, roof trusses and the roofing materials. Some shells also include insulation and drywall but others don’t. If ordering a shell be sure to find out what it includes.
If a shell only costs about $25 per square foot, then why is the rest so expensive? Here is a breakdown of things not included in your shell:
Foundation – Cost varies according to type, climate and soil
Dry Wall – Cheap materials, costly to install. This labor intensive installation is not complex but it is time consuming.
Wall Insulation – The best closed cell insulation is will cost over $10 per square foot, but is well worth it. It will pay for itself in 8 years or less.
Radiant Barrier Attic Insulation – Well worth the price as well, this keeps your attic cool.
Wiring – While wire is cheap and light fixtures vary significantly in cost, the major expense is the necessity to hire a licensed electrician. Expect to pay this worker at least $10,000 for a very basic wiring job.
Plumbing – Plumbers pay is very similar to that of an electrician, and his price goes up with every sink, tub and toilet he installs. Plumbing fixtures vary considerably in cost. Plumbers also charge for the space between each plumbing fixture, so plan your home so that the kitchen is close to the bathroom. It is not considered acceptable for the bathroom to open up to the kitchen or the dining area however. Place the bath next to the kitchen, but make the door open up to the family room, for the best economy.
Cabinets – The cost of purchasing and installing cabinets and countertops can amount to a major expense. The combination of cabinetry, appliances, electrical wiring and plumbing makes the kitchen the most expensive room in the home. The bath is second most expensive for the same reasons.
Appliances – Energy Star Appliances are well worth the added costs. Like insulation they pay for themselves.
HVAC – Heating and air conditioning systems are another major expense, and while you may want to price around, it is most important to get the most efficient system. There is no such thing as cheap HVAC, but the quality does vary. The best doesn’t cost that much more, so pick the most efficient unit.
Floor coverings – Carpet, hardwood floors or tile, can also be expensive. Compare the cost your home builder offers on the upgrades, to the cost of carpet at your local carpet store to insure you are paying a fair price for these items. Ceramic tile can always be installed later, as a do it yourself project if you feel up to the task. Installation of tile can be very expensive and time consuming.
Paint and Wall paper – This simple task that you could easily do your self very cheaply, is going to cost a good bit, because the labor.
By knowing what exactly costs extra you can save on your overall costs. Omitting an extra bath or choosing less expensive floor coverings can save you thousands of dollars. For more information on new home construction costs per square foot, read our many articles on the topic, and download our free 98 page book.