9 Ways to Simplify Your Home Design & Save

Custom Home Building Process St Louis Home Builders St Louis Custom Home Builders
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One of our most important jobs as your custom home builder is to serve as the steward of your budget - working to ensure that your project never exceeds your comfort level. One of the ways we do this is by working closely with your architect to develop a floor plan that has your needs, wants, and wishes tempered by your budget. Individuals that choose to involve a builder from the outset of their project are more likely to build their true dream home on budget, because of that builder involvement during the design phase. Those that choose to design without a builder's involvement, often 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 help clients simplify their design and save money, without sacrificing the quality of their custom home.

1. Build up, not out.

While ranch homes are our most-requested floor plan type, they are also the most expensive to build because of their wider footprint. When you're building a ranch home you'll have additional foundation and roof line costs over your usable space, which will drive up your costs. If you can shift some of your square footage into an upper story with a 1 1/2 story floor plan you can save up from 10% to 15% per square foot during construction. Alternatively, if you can shift some of your usable square footage into a finished basement, rather than keeping it all on the main floor, you can also find substantial savings.

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

Floor plans that have their garage separated 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 overall 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 your two most important areas in your home, allocate your budget accordingly. Spend more of your budget making your primary focus areas all that you've dreamed of, while finding opportunities for savings by being thrifty in the less public areas of your home.

One easy area to save is in 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.

If you are picking and choosing your dream home items to fit your home build into a strict budget, we prioritizing 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 be a deeper foundation pour, lower level plumbing rough-ins, 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 great number of items that are easy to upgrade in the future. If you're looking to save some money during your initial build, choose a more basic option for these items and upgrade them a few years into living in the home. These are items like plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, hardware such as knobs, hinges and cabinet pulls, and even flooring.

7. Buy Closeouts & Remnants

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

You can save up to 30% on your geothermal system through the end of 2019. The available tax credits step down each year through the end of 2021. There are also 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.

Ready to do a deep dive on building budgeting as you prepare to build your custom home? Listen to Episode 11 of The Art of Custom podcast, where we share everything you need to know about your home build budget.

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.