Construction Budget/ Cost Breakdown

Creating a construction cost breakdown is one of the first steps to building a cabin or house.  If you need to secure financing, your bank will want to see this and usually have it backed by some bids from subcontractors. Our construction costs consisted mainly of materials since we did almost all of the labor ourselves. Folks will often times over-estimate the amount of labor they plan to do themselves and in turn end up with an unrealistic construction cost breakdown.  It's best if you can plan for worst-case on the construction budget, assume you'll actually complete the labor on a few areas where you already have expertise, and then you'll be less likely to get in a bind.   The only areas we hired out during our cabin construction were excavation, foundation, insulation, and drywall.  The cost savings in doing these tasks ourselves weren't significant enough to make it worth our time.

   Cost    
Plans  $    1,000
Survey  $       650
Building permit  $  10,000
Excavating  $    5,000
Rebar/steel  $    3,900
Footings material  $    2,950
Foundation material  $    5,490
Foundation Labor  $    3,500
Basement floor& misc concrete  $    3,750
1st & 2nd floor framing & misc  $    9,500
Trusses  $    2,500
Soffit & facia  $    2,000
Metal Roof  $    3,500
Log Siding  $    5,500
Rough Cut Wood  $    5,500
Windows & doors  $    3,800
Doors  $    1,500
Plumbing  $    3,500
Electrical  $    3,800
HVAC (geothermal)  $    6,000
Insulation  $    3,500
Fireplace  $    1,000
Sheetrock Material  $    2,500
Sheetrock Labor  $    2,200
Finish material/hardware  $    2,500
Paint/stain  $    1,500
Garage doors  $    2,500
Deck  (Trex)  $    5,500
Tub Surrounds  $      800
Tile-kitchen, bath, dining, hall  $    1,000
Carpet @ $25/yard  $    5,600
Interior railing  $    1,000
Fireplace rock  $    1,000
Appliances  $    2,500
Cabinets  $    2,500
Miscellaneous  $    2,500
Total  $149,490

Construction Hard Costs versus Soft Costs

Construction Schedule

Owner-Builder Saving Secrets

In the slow economy of 2009, we found it very useful to call around and check prices to get the best deals.  For our surveying, we had one person bid $1600, another $900, and finally one $650.  Just a couple phone calls saved us $1000 right at the start of our project.  You'll want to update and adjust your construction cost breakdown or construction budget as you progress through each building phase.

Getting multiple bids on our insulation and drywall, which we hired out, also turned out to save us a lot on our construction budget. One insulation bid was over $2K more than the company we went with for the exact same material/R-value.  On drywall we received one bid for $12K, then had some guys show up one day uninvited to the cabin who were drywallers who said they were looking for sidejobs.  They gave us a list of materials they would need to complete the job, we had the materials delivered and stocked in the cabin and they came the next week and whipped out the job.  Total costs for labor and material on drywall came to about $5K - a huge savings over our first quote.

Buying your Building Lot

In addition to the building costs listed above, another major expense for building a cabin is the vacant lot.  We looked at a number of lots in the Bear Lake area before we decided on this one.  Some were missing utilities such as sewer, some were in subdivisions where cabin renting was not allowed, some had better views of the lake than others, etc.  All of these things should weigh into your decision on where to build your cabin. As you've probably heard before in real estate the most important thing is "location, location, location."  Once you have narrowed down your selection on lots, standard negotiating skills should be employed to save yourself some money...especially if the real estate market is in the dumps like it was in 2008-09 when we bought our lot.  The initial asking price was $60K.  We offered $35K, they countered with $50K.  We offered $40K "final offer" and they sold it to us.

Things to consider when purchasing a property

  • Is there a recorded plat and survey of the property?
    • This is something you should probably have done before you buy a property just in case the seller is confused as to where the property lines are.  Buyers will often negotiate the cost of the survey into the purchase price of the property.
  • Has the site been engineered or soil tested?
    • If the building site is within a subdivision, the developer should have had a engineer do soils analysis and compaction tests to see that the soil will support the houses they intend to build.
  • Are there any fill areas or hazardous waste dumps in the subdivision?
    • For obvious reasons, these types of unknowns would drive your costs through the roof to fix.
  • Are there any easements or rights-of-way on the property?
    • This is typically what a title company does on a title search.  They look for all easements and rights-of-way disclosed on the property for the last 25 to 50 years but you should ask anyways.  Utility easements and setbacks can really restrict your buildable area on a property.  The sooner you know about these things the less time your spend looking a property that is not feasible for your building plans.