So how much does it cost to build a custom home? This is one of the most common questions we get asked. Another variation of this question is “How much per square foot does it cost to build a custom home?”
Below is a list of costs for budgetary purposes only and is for the Ottawa area. Please remember that every homeowner, home design and building site is different (hence the word “custom”) so there will be many factors at play for every project. Also, as we have experienced with the pandemic, material costs can fluctuate significantly.
There’s no way to answer this question with an exact number nor is there a way to give you a per square foot number. The reason is because there are millions of variations and thousands of factors at play. Here are some examples of things that will drastically change the price without changing the total square footage of a home.
Site Work, Well & Septic
One lot could have perfect native soil and another lot could have 3′ of rock that needs to be blasted or chipped away. Or, in the case of my home, we had 6′ of peat moss that had to be removed and replaced with blasted rock and an engineered pad.
Access could also affect the price significantly. Digging a small hole on a tight lot could be more expensive than digging a large hole on a wide open lot. However, large lots often come with the need for lots of fill and a long driveway.
Site work, well and septic are all items that will not increase with the size of the home. For example, a septic system for a 4,000 s.f. home will not cost 4 times more than a septic system for a 1,000 s.f. home. They will be fairly close in price. This is another factor that throws off the per square foot pricing model if you are trying to include that in the calculation. Similarly, the well will be the same price to dig no matter how big the home is. This means that smaller homes will cost more per square foot if you include everything that is required to build the home (not just the structure).
Checks in the foundation, pads, piers, garages, foundation type and height, slab thicknesses. structural requirements, basement or no basement: These and other factors all affect the foundation price. The simpler the design, the less it will cost. More corners equals more costs.
You could have a 2,500 square foot box with a gable roof or you could have a 2,500 square foot architectural dream design with overhangs, large windows, a flat roof and a 2 car garage. Same size, completely different price.
As previously mentioned, smaller homes will cost more per square foot as well because there is a start up cost. Economies of scale come into play and larger homes usually have more of the "cheap" space which is any floor area that does not have plumbing, cabinetry or fixtures associated with them (i.e. bathrooms, kitchens, bars)
Bathrooms & Kitchens
Your 2,500 square foot custom home could have an Ikea kitchen with laminate tops and 1.5 bathrooms or it could have a $100,000 kitchen with 3.5 bathrooms. Bathrooms and kitchens are the most expensive rooms in homes.
You could have vinyl siding on the exterior, high end wood siding, masonry veneer or stone. These all vary significantly in price and will affect structural requirements and finishing details. Keep in mind that changing one aspect of the build will often change details for other aspects.
Windows & Doors
You could spend $30,000 on cheap double glazed vinyl windows or you could go for Passive House Certified triple glazed windows with wood frames and aluminum cladding which could run you $100,000+. It’s not one or the other however this shows the significant price range.
Do you want cheap vinyl flooring and carpet or do you want reclaimed hardwood floors and porcelain tile? Carpet stairs or hardwood stairs? Wood railing or steel and glass railing? Finished basement, unfinished basement or no basement?
These are just some of the factors that will affect pricing of your custom home. I’m not saying you have to go to one extreme or the other, my point is that you can build a 2,500 square foot custom home on the perfect site with cheap finishes, 1.5 bathrooms and an Ikea kitchen OR you could building a 2,500 square foot custom home with reclaimed high end products, quality windows, a garage, 3.5 bathrooms and Passive House Certification. Both have the same square footage but they will be in completely different price ranges.
The Custom Home Budget
Now that I’ve laid the ground work and hopefully clarified where some of the costs may go, here are some numbers to keep in mind when planning your custom home project:
The goal here is to help educate and inform you of what is realistic for your custom home so that you can make conscious decisions.
Please contact us if you have any further questions.
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