Cost of Home Building Materials – A Big Chunk of Money But a Fraction of the Cost to Build a Home

How much does it cost to build a home? Everyone wants to start with the cost of the building materials. And while that represents a huge portion of the overall costs (probably the biggest in most cases), it’s still a fraction of the total cost to build.

This article is designed to help you, as an owner builder, understand the factors involved in figuring the cost of a home building project. My goal is to present you with a birds-eye view of how the cost of materials, while representing a big chunk of the home-building budget, cannot be thought of as an indication of your cost to build a home.

A Home Building Budget is Complex

Let’s put the cost of home building materials in perspective. What have you got when you have a pile of materials? Sticks, windows, doors, cabinets, appliances, tubs, sinks, lights, floor coverings … yeah, lots of cool stuff, but pretty much useless in a pile. The magic comes in how it’s all put together.

It takes a lot of people, talent, time and energy to make a pile of materials a home. This is what we pay for, even when buying materials. But, we’re still only about 30% of the way home once we’ve priced out our materials package.

Your total investment to build will be spread over the following:

Cost of land and utilities
Coaching and project supervision
Building permits and other required fees
Home design and architectural work
Financing and reserves
Professional and casual labor
Deliveries, insurance, contingencies

Simplifying the Process of Pricing With Kit Homes

Many owner builders use packaged homes to make pricing a materials package easier. But it still doesn’t remove the need to factor in all the other costs of building a home. Don’t make the mistake of asking for the price of a package and think you’ve got a good handle on the cost to build.

Home building packages do include more labor than a site built home, but they only slightly reduce the need for all the other building requirements I’ve listed here. As always, I advise the use of a home building coach to accurately assess your project.

Building a Home – It’s Like a Leap of Faith & a Voyage Into the Unknown

Building a home is a lot like living a life. There are twists and turns that you simply can’t predict. Despite a cautious approach or extensive planning, someone or something is going to throw you a curve.

This scares a lot of people and stops them in their tracks. What about you? What holds you back and what spurs you on?

In my years of advising and coaching homeowners and home-owner builders, I’ve been fortunate to learn as much about people as about building and homes. I’ve found there is just as much uniqueness as there is commonality. Whatever the differences, there are two over-arching approaches people take when building (and living.)

1) Extensive Preparation & Planning

Those who know me understand that I’m big on planning before a home building or remodeling project. Extensive preparation can certainly minimize the number and magnitude of challenges that arise. Many people are convinced this is the only way to go.

I’ve worked with masters at charting a clear path and anticipating as many potential problems as possible. But, interestingly, their approach to home building doesn’t always result in smoother sailing.

2) The More Intuitive “Let’s Get Started” Approach

Then these are those who just want to plow ahead. They feel that they’re flexible enough to handle whatever comes there way, whenever it comes. And, they also seem to be convinced that very little will go wrong in the first place. They are the optimists that say “bring it on, we can handle it.”

Personally, I like optimistic people even though I favor more preparation. However, I’m often surprised to see how well it can work for some who do experience relatively smooth sailing despite the curve balls.

HomeBuilding & Life Require a Balanced Approach

Life would be boring if it were all scripted out for us and we knew everything ahead of time. We need challenges and surprises from time to time. It spices up our lives. Yet, at the same time, we need order and routine to give us security and a solid foundation that gives us the confidence to move forward.

It’s the same with home building. We must plan and prepare to get things done but be flexible enough to handle the “uh-ohs” when they surprise us. It’s a balance.

Parents, Teachers & HomeBuilding Coaches

There will always be the unknown. It’s my observation that we get past it, and excel in life by watching, emulating, and seeking advice from parents, teachers and other authority figures. From learning to walk and talk, to understanding how to interact with people, to making a living and reaching our goals, we receive guidance from others who’ve been there … done that.

It’s no different with home building and remodeling. There are those who have experience and knowledge that we don’t possess. Those are the people we should seek out. A home building coach can inspire you. A home building coach can get you started. A good coach can outline your path, provide support, trouble-shoot, and keep you on the straight and narrow.

The Faith to Leap

A good home building coach can inspire the faith to proceed. So, despite your approach to building, methodical or more intuitive, using a home building coach can provide the balance that brings success.

Who is your mentor and coach?

Building a Home – What Every Owner Builder Must Know About Home Building Materials

Home building materials play a significant role. Since the Three Little Pigs first wiggled their curly little tails, we’ve been aware of the importance of building materials. But, while they had only three choices, we have more … a lot more.

Today, it’s not only about the strength and durability of the home but also about economy, ecology, aesthetics, style and personal choice. With universal building codes the way they are, we can usually expect them to meet at least minimum standards of quality and longevity.

Knowing Your Options for Structural Materials

Over the years, I’ve worked with many different structural materials choices for homes. They all have their advantages and disadvantages. I’ve concluded that there may be no “perfect” choice. Nothing seems to stand head and shoulders above all the rest. That being said, there’s every reason to believe that of the many choices, you could find one perfect for you.

If you are exploring options for the structural components of your new home, start with these choices. You can expand from here:

Traditional 2×4 and 2×6 stick built homes: In North America, this is the most common approach to home building. These can be site built or pre-framed, factory built homes. Builders for this method are the easiest to find and these homes are usually the least expensive to build.
Steel Framed Homes: These are constructed much the same as the wood framed homes and can also come in pre-framed, factory built panels. They offer some additional green building benefits, being thought of as more sustainable by some authorities.
SIP built homes: Structural Insulated Panels are gaining popularity. These are structural panels that utilize insulation as part of the strength of the wall system. There are several different kinds of panels and methods of construction. They are often used for walls but can be used for ceilings, floors, and the roof structure as well.
Timber framed homes: Commonly understood as Post and Beam, timber framed homes are often combined with SIP panels between the posts and beams. The timber provides both the strength and the natural look and feel for the home. These type homes are most popular in the country and mountains as they are more rustic looking but can have all the amenities of the most modern homes.
Log homes: Today, log home materials are packaged and shipped to your site, and built according to the engineering specifications called for in whatever jurisdiction the building is taking place. Unlike the olden days, log homes can have every modern convenience you want. Or, you can choose to make them as rustic and traditional as you wish.
ICF built homes: Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) are stacked as legos might be stacked. Then they are reinforced with rebar (steel) and filled with concrete. These concrete exterior homes provide for extra strength and insulation values that save on energy consumption in most cases.
Insulated cement tilt up panels: Less popular for homes but used in more smaller buildings, cement tilt up walls offer rapid construction times and thermal benefits for homes as well. Some of these panels are constructed of two cement panels that sandwich insulating foam on the inside.
Straw/hay bale homes: As talked about as these homes are from time to time, they are still somewhat of a novelty. They do work, however. For the small number of homes built each year, there is an abundance of materials available. The bales offer structural benefits as well as insulation. Aside from thicker walls… you can built them to look just like any other home. And, no, the big bad wolf cannot blow this house down.
There are many more structural choices for building a home. You may wish to research them. I didn’t include things like brick and cedar homes because they are largely

The costs for each will vary but considering the overall cost of your entire project, the cost impact of different structural components will only alter the completed home’s cost by 0 – 10% on average.

Consider the Availability of Experienced Labor

A final thought. While all these may be viable options for you. It is important to check for the availability of the materials as well as qualified designers, installers, and builders in your area. In some cases, design and labor costs could add more to the cost of building. Also, for some of these approaches, you’ll definitely run into issues at your local building department. Sometimes they just don’t know what to look for in their inspections!

Most issues can be resolved. Take your time before you decide. Do your research. Ask a lot of questions and get good answers. Use an experienced home building coach to help with your decisions.

When it comes to building materials and the structure of your home, the more you know the better off you are.