Best 6 Quick Tips on How to Cut Constructions Costs

Best 6 Quick Tips on How to Cut Constructions Costs

a Kensington House under construction, Berkeley Hills, CA 2001

Golden Gate View Villa, North Berkeley Hills, California by William Edward Summers

Most people who are renovating or commencing a new construction project want to find ways to reduce the cost. Lowering your construction costs  often does not involve just one big item but usually is a matter of saving a hundred dollars here and there. It can add up to a significant amount at the end so it is well worth the effort to approach your project with a sharp pencil.

“I have thirty-five years.experience, after university, designing projects and have also been an owner renovator so I have seen a wide range of strategies employed to cut costs. However sometimes getting exactly what you want is worth the extra expense, After all you only pay for it once but get to enjoy it for many years after” says designer/author William Edward Summers.

Having said that let’s begin with some big ticket cost cutting:

1) Subdividing: Get the biggest lot that you can and check the zoning to see if you can subdivide. If you do not want neighbors that close to you perhaps you can build and rent to relatives or friends. If you just sell the new lot it might reimburse you hundreds of thousands dollar just for the bare land.

2) Secondary Unit: The zoning might allow for an in-law apartment, guesthouse or accessory dwelling unit. By building the second dwelling area you can always generate an income steam if desired.

3) The Right Shape: If you can recall your geometry that you said you would never need, remember that a square encloses the most area with the least perimeter. Perhaps that is the reason those classic old houses from the early 20th Century often had a square floor plan. Also remember that the second floor costs 25% less than the ground floor so go up not out to save on costs.

4) Single Wall Sheathing: If desperate to slash costs consider single wall sheathing. Though not the most beautiful exterior finish T1-11 siding is possibly the least expensive, next might be board and batten made using 5/8” plywood. This dramatically reduces the cost of your exterior finish because you will now have only one outer layer instead of two. These two choices provide good seismic design and can be easily covered over later when the budget permits.

5) Floors: If building to rent or needing to find savings, consider vinyl flooring installed directly on the plywood sub-floor. This could be done in some or all of the rooms. The beautiful thing about it is that you can later install hardwood, carpet or ceramic tile directly on the vinyl.

6) Times Two: Most building material is sold in increments of two feet so that 13 x 15 room will fill your dumpster with the wasted one and two foot material. It is so much better to keep as much of your project as possible in even number increments of two. Many people just must have the nine foot ceiling height, I say why not make it eight or ten?

Start your project with an eye to saving costs as you go because those minor savings will add up. When you, or your builder, are estimating material be careful with the numbers. Those extra fifteen or twenty sheets of plywood or drywall can create hundreds of dollars of unnecessary expense. Good, smart design, and careful project management are two items that are worth every penny and will make you money in the long run..

Getting a building permit? “Guide to Optimizing Your Building Permit Application” by William Edward Summers is something you will want in your back pocket. Buy directly from the author at or search for it by title on Amazon.


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