9 Ways to Simplify Your Home Design and Save

As your custom home builder, our job is to partner with you to make sure your project is built for your unique vision and construction budget. To achieve this, we work closely with your architect to value engineer your design and develop a floor plan that has your needs, wants, and wishes within your budget.

Homeowners who involve their builder involved in the design phase and from the outset of their project are more likely to keep their new home construction within their budget. While often times homeowners who go to design without a builder need to have their plans simplified and scaled down after the fact, in order to hit their budget target.

Below, we have compiled a list of 9 ways that we work with our custom home building clients and their architects to simplify their design and save money, without sacrificing the quality of their custom home.

1. Build up, not out.

While rambler-style, or ranch homes, are our most-requested floor plan type, they can also the most expensive to build because of their wider footprint. Building a ranch home requires additional foundation and roof line costs over your livable space, which can drive up your costs. By shifting some of your square footage into an upper story with a 1 1/2 story floor plan, you can save as much as 10% to 15% per square foot during construction. You can also shift some of your livable square footage into a finished basement, rather than keeping it all on the main floor to save on foundation and roofline costs.

2. Place Your Garage Within the Main Footprint of Your Home

Floor plans that have a garage detached from the main structure of the home are growing in popularity. The look is certainly distinctive and tempting to choose when you're looking to build. However, the cost to build a garage that is separated from the primary footprint of the home can be substantially higher - in the tens of thousands of dollars - due to the additional foundation and roofline needed to support such a design.

Your best bet, if you're looking to reduce your building cost, is to consolidate your garage into the overall footprint of your home.

The pictures below illustrate two floor plans that take different approaches to garage placement. The one on the left has included the garage within the main footprint of the home. The floor plan on the right has a guitar with its own foundation footprint.

3. Square Up Your Exterior Walls

When you look at an overview of your floor plan pay special attention to the exterior walls of your home. Count the exterior planes on the outside of your - each line and bend. The more you can do to reduce the complexity of your plan and the number of walls or planes on the exterior of your home, the less expensive your home will be to build. Below are examples of a simple squared up floor plan and an overly complex floor plan. We've numbered the planes on each one to highlight the difference.

In the second example, you see that there is a curved wall on the rear of the home. Eliminating rounded or angled walls will help reduce construction costs on your home as well.

4. Prioritize Your Budget

If your kitchen and master bathroom are the two most important areas in your home, allocate your budget accordingly. Put more construction budget into making these high-priority areas all that you've dreamed of, and find opportunities to save by being thrifty in the less public areas of your home.

An easy area to save is on any secondary spaces - such as a finished basement or upstairs bedrooms. Instead of putting hardwood flooring in these areas, you can find significant savings by choosing carpet. Installing hardwood floors can cost between $8 and $12 per square foot, compared to $3 to $5 per square foot for carpet.

Secondary lower-traffic areas in the home can still be well appointed with slightly more basic finishes.

5. Simplify Your Roof Line

When you're looking at floor plans or speaking with an architect about your proposed design, consider designing with a simplified roof line. While various slopes, shapes, and gables may look ornate and attractive, they will also drive up the cost to build your home considerably.

6. Pick & Choose Your Upgrades

During the selections phase, prioritize the upgrades and features that will be cheaper and easier to tackle up front rather than down the road. Anything more structural should be prioritized to occur during initial construction, if possible. This may mean adding a deeper foundation pour, lower-level plumbing rough-ins, the installation of a fireplace, etc. These are all much easier to build into your home initially than they are to add to it later. Prioritizing these sorts of upgrades now will save you money and headaches down the line.

On the other hand, there are a number of items that are easy to upgrade in the future. If you're looking to save some money during the construction process, consider more basic options for those items easier to upgrade after living in your home. Choosing basic finishes for the easier to upgrade items like plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, hardware such as knobs, hinges and cabinet pulls, and even flooring can save you money during the initial construction of your home.

7. Buy Closeouts & Remnants

When you're in the process of making your selections for cabinets, countertops, appliances, and flooring, ask about closeout deals or remnant options. Some vendors only provide builders with access to their remnant section, so remind our design team that you're looking to consider those options and our team will help you get access to those areas to review those items.

8. Use Available Credits for HVAC, Windows & More

While many energy efficiency tax incentives have expired, there are some tax credits and incentives available to homeowners who make responsible choices in their materials. Look for tax credits available for wind turbines, solar energy, and other renewable energy systems.

Eligible Energy Star windows, doors and skylights may yield you a tax credit equal to 10% of the cost of your purchase (exclusive of installation costs).

Use the Energy Star rebate finder to find available rebates for various home purchases in your zip code.

9. Simplify Your Deck Design

Ask your architect to design a deck that fits to standard planks of wood (typically 10', 12', or 14' in length). This will result in less lumber waste and less laborious cutting. Another way to save on lumber and labor with your deck design is to choose a standard straight board layout rather than having the boards laid diagonally.

A standard wood plank design will result in less lumber waste and less laborious cutting.

This more complex design requires additional labor for cutting - and will result in more wasted lumber.