No matter what size your budget, anyone who plans on building a new home must address the question,”what is it going to cost to build this house?” While builders want to be helpful to their prospective customer, there are many variables that need to be considered to give an honest and realistic answer.

There are many questions to be answered that are totally in control of the customer, so a little time and effort would need to be put in to give an accurate number. There are thousands of decisions to be made in the building of a house (yes thousands!) though the making of certain ones negate the necessity of making others. If you are thinking of building, here is a skeleton of the body of choices that will need to be made. Questions to be considered which certainly can impact the overall cost start off with the


Is the lot cleared? Is a good deal of fill material needed? Are city water and sewer available, and if so what are the connection fees? Will the plans be drawn by a draftsman or an architect? What kind of building materials to be used, how high the ceilings? Everything affects costs. Ceiling heights for instance will in turn affect the cost of lumber, insulation, paint, air conditioning capacity and even down rods for ceiling fans.


Is something that would seem relatively straightforward. Some considerations you might want to consider with an eye towards cost are: Will you be tying into existing utilities and if so, do you want a filtration system for your water supply? What are the connection fees? Are you responsible to put in “fill” dirt? What kind of soil is there? What will the municipality allow you to place on the lot? Depending on the lot elevation and fill restrictions you could possibly be required to build a raised house which in turn would raise the price substantially. If you are buying raw land, how much excavation will be necessary? Tree and brush removal can become quite costly particularly if you are not allowed to burn the material in your location. Here on the north shore, pilings are not nearly as frequently used as in New Orleans as they are

largely unnecessary. But it is a possibility depending on your location. What will taxes and fees be? Are there any homeowners association fees? If you are in city subdivision how much will sod and landscaping cost? In choosing a site, it’s good to have a handle on these questions before negotiating the price.

So now you have picked out your site and know you are ready for your plan. Today in St. Tammany Parish, and most well populated areas, plans must be submitted with a PDF by the applicant to obtain a building permit. The regulating municipal agency will also require an engineers/Architects stamp. So do you want an architect or a draftsman to draw your plans? This depends on at least two things… your budget and your expectations. An architect will often have a more unique approach to the design, is required to be more highly educated and will often work from conception to fruition. A draftsman tends to be more oriented towards producing the plan itself. An architect demands a greater expenditure than a draftsman.

Once your plans have been looked at, necessary adjustments made, and your plans have been submitted to the authorities for review and you have paid all your fees, you’re ready to begin. By this time you would have brought your plans to the bank, paid for the appraisal and obtained your loan. The bank will work with you to oversee the the disbursement of the funds and will charge a fee to make four or five inspections, depending on which schedule they are on. Generally, these stages are when the contractors funding is released.

So now the construction begins. Any excavation has been completed and fill is in place. This is generally where the building contract begins.

THE FOUNDATION is the first major expense towards construction. The two types of foundations we use are 1) some type of raised system (such as concrete blocks or brick piers or pilings) or 2) a slab.

If you have decided to build a raised home because you like the look or feel it makes more sense because of where you are building, you are really building two foundations. Generally speaking, your piers will need to be connected to the concrete footing and have steel rebar running in both the footings as well as through the piers which will be filled with

concrete. This ties everything together nicely, especially when you embed steel connectors into the piers to connect to the sills. If you have elected to go this route, you have had to pay for forming and digging and pouring the footings, as well as the concrete and steel and lumber to do the same. You have also paid for a mason and concrete blocks and fasteners. But now you must pay for more lumber and a framer to build the flooring system. And you also have to insulate underneath the house. How will you address before hand the rats, raccoons and even snakes that might decide to infiltrate the insulation? Do you have visqueen down to avoid moisture infiltration?

If you have put in a slab then depending upon your location, it might have been necessary to drive pilings if the soil was substandard. The north shore is much less likely then the New Orleans area to require pilings .You will need the lumber and labor to form the slab, a crew to dig the slab and put in the steel, and concrete crew to finish it. A determination will need to be made whether or not a concrete pump truck is necessary, as often your site might not hold up to the extreme weight of a concrete truck. Today the typical slab would run between eight and $10 a foot.

FRAMING is the next stage. The costs associated are lumber and various building materials which combined with framing labor generally runs today $13-$18 a foot. Also in this phase you will need to have your windows selected which can vary cost wise a great deal. Double insulated windows are the norm now but triple glazed is not uncommon. The windows may be aluminum frames construction or vinyl , Wood ,or fiberglass. Wooden windows are certainly nice but more pricey and require maintenance as a rule, although they now make hybrids. Fiberglass is growing in popularity, so depending on which windows you would choose, this would also need to be added to the cost of this phase.

THE ROOF is the next thing to go on to the home. The two main roofing systems we use in this area are the fiberglass shingle or metal. Metal roofs generally can be a bit more expensive but can add to the ascetics of the house and certainly can enhance the energy efficiency. The way a roof is cut up can also add to the waste on the roof(thereby,

expense), as well as the number of valleys, and the amount of flashing. A simple gable would be the most inexpensive design, and a 6/12 pitch optimal for solar panels.

INSULATION is an extremely important decision. Do you want foam or fiberglass batts or a combination of the two? The insulation value of the foam is effective because of the fact that it fills in the cavities (unlike the batts, which allows much greater air infiltration). When you spray foam on your attic ceiling as well, the difference in temperature in the middle of summer is amazing. But in doing this, you want to get a two speed air conditioning to regulate humidity which will raise your cost or to elect to have a whole house dehumidifier. Foam insulation is also more expensive than fiberglass, but will save on your utility bills. Foam in walls, and batts in the attic is an option. This can prevent the need for an upgraded ac system or dehumidifier.

So now the plumbing is in the walls as is your electrical wiring and your air conditioning components. Your air conditioning choices will be dependent on your house size, layout and location. If you really want to lower those utility costs, and you are somewhere where it is feasible, consider a water source heat pump. Again it would be a cost upgrade.

ALLOWANCE ITEMS are things you can totally control. While almost everyone thinks that their tastes are not too extravagant, when it comes down to making choices, the customer finds often that their preferences are not the most economical. Do you want a realistic idea of what this will cost? Go online, or talk to your builder about consulting his supplier. Plumbing fixtures, cabinets, countertops, electrical fixtures, flooring, mirrors and shower doors, exterior doors and hardware for doors as well, all have a huge range of pricing options. In shopping though, It is important to remember, big name stores often spec out their own fixtures from major suppliers and they will be much cheaper both in price as well as quality. They are cheaper because they are constructed differently. Who will pay the electrician or plumber to come out and replace the defective part when it is bad?

Someone will need to. When you purchase certain functional items such as plumbing or electrical appliances from discount houses, guarantees may fall off the shoulders of the contractors and onto the shoulders of the homeowner.

These allowance items, depending on the size of your home, as well as taking into account the size of your budget will be included in your price. With the contractor you will choose your allowance. If you spend more, you pay more (which depending on your arrangements at the bank may not be in the loan). And of course if you spend less, you keep it. There is no one who can give you an exact number, unless you pick out everything and get exact numbers with commitments from suppliers. An allowance is what you were allowed under the terms of your contract.

The exterior of the house can be in a number of materials…. Brick, stucco, vinyl, hardy board. Depending on the choices, exterior painting costs may be necessary as well as interior. What kind of paint do you want to use? And what finish?

Other costs are waste removal (building as well as personal) and well or septic depending on your needs. Well, septic and landscaping are normally not part of the builders charges.

These are the costs related to the consumers, and obviously do not include the licenses and insurances the actual builder needs to carry.

Finally, building can be a stressful time. If you look at these allowance options before hand, and choose which materials you want, it will generally move things along much more smoothly and quickly, thereby making the experience much more enjoyable. It will save you money due to the fact that there will be much less downtime… where you were just paying interest and waiting for completion.


Contact St Joseph Homebuilders for more information, (985) 966-0506.