Need cost cutting ideas for building a house

whitemagick(z6 NY)March 12, 2004


We are planning out our house to build, we are WAY over buget. We need to find ways to cut the cost. The builder we will probably go with is pretty flexable with what we do ourselves. Right now we are planning on doing ourselves:


Ceramic tile

linoleum tile

Hardwood floor (Maybe)

Less expensive lighting

Site clean-up

have someone we know do the driveway

We are not very skilled at all at building things, we've tried, it's not a pretty picture.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!!



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silvergryffin(z4/5 NE)

Hello :) We are planning to start building our own house very soon also. I am not sure if your into "alternative" forms of building or not but there are a few things you could check into if your interested. Heres a link to a site, it has a TON of links about everything from eco communities and many different alternative building types and info. We are going to be using ideas from the earthships and cobb & strawbale..combining them all, lol.Using passive solar, recycling old tires and using them for part of the main wall of the house and using hay/strawbales for insulation and "cobb" or adobe/clay in place of part of the cement that is required in building a house.Hope the link helps or at least gives you some ideas of new options for you! Best of luck! Silver

Here is a link that might be useful: Great

    Bookmark   March 13, 2004 at 5:21AM
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babanna(z5 NY)

My husband has his own sawmill...a Woodmizer. We live on our own land we bought. Put in the electric then water well and septic. Placed a portion of the house in first. It's a 14x16 ft section full cellar, first floor and upstairs. We then bought a trailer for $1,000 and placed it to the side of our mini building. This year we were able to save enough money and put in the full cellar and capped it to the side of our little 14x16 portion (so we can still live in the trailer without delay) and our cellar is 28'x40'. We have saved tons of money due to switching out of family helping to lay the block foundation and sawing our own lumber as well as digging the foundation ourselves. Over the winter we couldn't build further but did manage to put in my new root cellar, finish the cellar windows, built shelving, put in the cellar door and steps, and built stairs to go upstairs with, and layed the fireplace/woodstove chimney block. Now if it ever stops snowing we have cut enough wood to frame the house and cover the shell this spring or summer whenever traded help willing.

Keep your ideas going for yourselves. Swap skills, time, craft work etc. Live with the outside done knowing you can always do the inside or frame up rooms later.....keep it simple to begin. Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2004 at 4:06AM
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Ben_gardening(z4 MN)

Sometimes it is better not to skimp on initial construction. Don't skimp on insulation. Plan your plumbing, heating/cooling, and electrical for future needs. It is cheaper to put in extra initially than to put more in later. If you can do the landscaping yourself you can save some money. You can also tend block for any masonary work or help with the roofing. Some people people choose to build in phases, adding on as the can afford to. Others build the complete structure but leave the basement and/or upper level unfinished. I plan to do the latter but you need to decide what is best for you.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2004 at 8:16AM
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As a professional builder I can tell you that the main way to save money on your own home is to be your own contractor - you don't have to be skilled at building to do that. Many contractors rarely get out of their pick-up truck.

It's not as scarey as many think to find and hire sub-contractors on your own - you make it clear at the outset that you are ordinary folks on a tight budget and you will likely find someone to do each phase for a fair price. It isn't difficult to discover what the going prices are- online, at the local lumber-yards, or even just ask builders and subs flat out. Most people like to give free advice - here I am doing it myself!

Number one advice when dealing with builders and subs - do not try to get more than you pay for. You will get screwed. Myself and everyone I know in the business will go the extra mile for reasonable clients. We know how to deal with the graspers - and they won't know how we evened it up.

Be extremely up front and clear as possible with what you want from each sub and don't hire anybody who is not equally clear. "No problem" and "we'll work it out" are warning signals.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2004 at 4:34PM
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molly_clover(z4 IA)

Your major cost will be in the finishing. We built our house ourselves ( with help from friends ). The only thing we contracted out for was the digging of the basement. Our cost for lumber for a 30x40 story and a half was $4000.00. We are in the finishing stage, and it's nickel and dime, nickel and dime.

I do however suggest that you purchase some good books, talk to your local lumberyard folks, and friends that you know are handy ( a friend will always know of someone else you can call with your questions ), and build the house yourself. It's easier than you think, and a grand adventure that will give you immense satisfaction!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2004 at 9:27AM
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A couple of quick things here ---Once you make up your mind --DO NOT change it. Changes cost big bucks. Think carefully first before you commit to an idea but once you commit, stick with it.

Go less expensive on things that can be changed easily --laminate countertops, lighting, maybe the carpet in the bedroom.

Keep in mind finishes -- oak is less expensive for cabinets than maple, cherry or in most cases, white. Simple knobs can be found at flea markets, clearance racks and Habitat Humanity stores.

Pedestal sinks can often be less than vanities once you add in the top and sink.

If you have a Re-Store store near you, go often. Every week --doors, sinks, lighting fixtures can be a great bargain. HD and Lowes often donate discontinued merchandise to them. My friends got a $900 Kohler farmhouse sink for $45. And architectural pieces can add a lot a pzazz to the house for very little money.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   March 15, 2004 at 9:26PM
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A couple of other things you could consider doing yourself:
Insulation (you would probably do a much better job than someone who will not have to pay the energy bills)
Have your cabinets built by a local, install and/or finish them yourselves.
Mrs H

    Bookmark   March 27, 2004 at 11:02PM
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the best way to save is in the design stuff like closets,vaulted ceilings,stuff like really costs alot.Maybe a radiant floor heating system.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2004 at 10:03PM
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there are may options . a freind bought a house built by a builder for himself . He cut corners . Many building supply houses have odds and ends left over, they sell them cheap. for instance the bathroom had an orange tub ,an avacado toilet, and a yellow sink . all instaled brand new and bought cheap because they were not part of a matched set.
There is also the possibility of moving an existing house
If it is less than 3 stories high and 7 miles or so from your lot . this must be done by a professional and you have to pay for a new foundation on your lot plus the moving charge . You would have to replace things damaged in the move and to hook up to utilities. does anyone know what they call these building movers? I will be looking for one once I find my lot.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2004 at 12:43PM
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You can get second hand lumber from places that are remodeling . I got plenty of 12 year old whole plywood sheets for free and could have got steel outside doors . and windows this way . It is good enough for out buildings and the stuff you cast you foundation on . You can get discontinued colors for the price of scrap (in drainpipes for instance). Check the free giveaways in your area . screen your own fill and loam . do your own landscaping , painting . . After you get the land buy a truck and put adds up in supermarkets like this . "Wanted, I will haul away free any: good usable : shingles, tar paper, bricks tiles , cement, mortar , cabinets , windows, doors non lead paint . plaster , nails and other hardware . you can turn down anything you do not like BUT be prompt in removing what you do want . You would be surprised what people have to get rid of in a hurry . I just emptied 2 10x10 x35 foot storage units and took good usable stuff to the dump.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 11:18AM
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dan_fritschen(Northern CA)

THere are some great suggestions here. I would like to add that you simplify the design as much as you can - windows that require standard headers, rooms that are multiples of 4 or less than 12 in one dimension for carpeting etc.
Also start buying products for price only - check for items being given away. I just picked up $400 with of paving stones and $100 worth of pond pumps/filters that others were giving away. Also watch craigslist. Delay trim and other items that can easily be added later.
Tile, insulation and painting are good projects if you are comfortable doing them. Also consider doing the rough electrical - this is a lot of drilling and pulling wires through the studs and installing some fixtures. A simple book will show you a few of the techniques you need to use. Then hire an electician to install the breaker box and hook up the power the house. There is a website that has a bunch of ideas for saving on remodeling and building a home in your case.

Good luck

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 1, 2010 at 6:16PM
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Here's a little idea I read somewhere... when planning the floor plan try to group the bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry room close to each other to save on the cost of pipes. That's all I got. Great suggestions everyone, I'm going to write these down.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2010 at 5:05PM
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