The cost to build a house includes a large number of components and variables based on site factors, design and materials. There’s a lot of information to tackle, but that’s what we’re here to do. You won’t find a more comprehensive, itemized list of costs for building a home from the initial site work on a vacant lot to the finished product. This home construction cost guide covers:
- Land development costs and fees
- Foundation costs
- Framing costs
- Exterior finish costs such as siding and roofing
- Interior rough-ins such as plumbing and electrical
- Interior finish costs from drywall to flooring, cabinets and countertops
- Final grading and landscaping
- Driveway and deck
In each section, you’ll find: a price range and an average cost for that phase, factors affecting cost, percentage of the whole cost that each phase represents, potential pitfalls, and a timeline for each phase of development and construction.
Average Home Size
According to the US Census Bureau, the median size of new homes sold in 2019 (latest available data from Census) was 2,438 square feet.
Now, according to the NAHB survey (which is largely in line with the US Census bureau) published in January 2020 (NAHB survey was conducted in the Fall of 2019), the average size (not median) of a new single-family home sold in the US was 2,594 square feet of floor space (house footprint) in 2019. That’s the size we will use for the average new home construction costs provided below.
Note the results of the upcoming NAHB home construction costs survey for 2020 is expected to be published in the Fall of 2021 (based on the previous publishing schedule). Thus, the cost data is provided in the latest report is backward-looking and doesn’t take into account two years of inflation. We recommend adding 5-7 percent to the costs provided in this report to arrive at the current average market prices to build a new single-family home in 2021.
Let’s jump into residential home construction costs from start to finish:
Residential Construction Site Work Cost
- Average cost: $18,323
- Cost range: $10,000 to $25,000
- Share of total construction cost: 6.2%
Overview: These are fixed costs regardless of home size. This phase involves the work needed to make vacant land habitable. Engineers inspect the property to determine whether it is buildable, where the home (and well and septic field, if applicable) should go and how the site should be graded for drainage.
The more complex the site and house design, the higher the fees will be. Water on the property typically raises the costs significantly, as an impact study must be done. The design, engineering and studies are often done for entire developments, so the absolute costs might be higher, but the cost could be less on a per-home basis.
Time frame: 4-10 weeks depending on the complexity of the inspections and engineering and the workload of the engineers.
Potential pitfalls: Finding wetlands on the property or a water table so high it prohibits building or the installation of a basement or standard drain field, delays in getting site reports completed or plans approved.
Here is a breakdown of the average costs of the steps involved in permitting, planning and preparation process based on the 2,594 sq. ft. house footprint:
- Permits, fees, and inspections: $5,086
- Impact study cost, if required: $3,865
- Architecture & site engineering fees: $4,335
- Water and Sewer fees Inspections: $4,319
- City water hookup: $1,500 or Well: $4,500
- City sewer hookup: $2,500 or Standard septic system: $3,700 or Engineered (mound) septic system: $13,500
- Other: $719
Excavation and Foundation Cost
- Average total cost: $34,850
- Cost range: $10.75 to $19.25/sq. ft.
- Average cost: $13.43/sq. ft. ($34,850 / 2594 square feet of finished floor space)
- Share of total construction cost: 11.8%
Overview: Installing the home’s foundation involves excavating the site by clearing brush and trees, removing the topsoil for the home and driveway, grading the site for drainage, and installing a concrete foundation, either a full basement, crawlspace, slab, or a combination, and backfilling the foundation.
Did you know? The type of foundation is the largest cost variable.
Time frame: 5-10 days including up to 7 days to allow the concrete to cure before building on it.
Potential pitfalls: Muddy conditions making it impossible to get heavy equipment or a concrete truck onto the work site until the soil is drier, spring frost laws (seasonal weight restrictions) preventing concrete trucks from using roads leading to the site until the frost is out of the ground, excavator behind on other work.
Itemized excavation and foundation average costs:
- Dirt work – removing topsoil, digging the foundation, adding drainage and pea stone and backfilling: $7,600
- Concrete slab: $5.50/sq. ft.
- Concrete crawl space: $8.85/sq. ft.
- Full concrete basement: $11.75/sq. ft.
Home and Roof Framing Cost
- Average total cost: $51,589
- Cost range: $14.75 to $27.00/sq. ft.
- Average cost per sq.ft.: $19.89/sq. ft. ($51,589 / 2594 square feet of finished floor space)
- Share of total construction cost: 17.4%
Overview: This step includes the cost of the framing materials including the trusses and sheathing for the home, and the labor to construct the frame. Most trusses are built offsite in a factory, trucked to the construction site, and installed using a lift or by hand. Pitch of the roof and roof type – gable, hip, combination – affect the cost of the truss package and the amount of sheathing required.
Time frame: 7-14 days for most homes.
Potential pitfalls: Delays caused by bad weather or trusses not ready on time, builders having issues with the architect’s design.
An itemized list of average houses framing costs:
- Trusses: $2.42/sq. ft. of the home’s footprint
- Framing materials and labor: $15.66/sq. ft.
- Sheathing Materials and Labor: $1.24/sq. ft.
- Steel and supplies: $0.57/sq. ft.
Finished Exterior Construction Cost
- Average total cost: $41,690
- Cost range: $8.25 to $35.00/sq. ft.
- Average cost: $16.07/sq. ft.
- Share of total construction cost: 14.1%
Overview: Roofing and siding are usually priced by the square feet they cover. For consistency, these costs are based on the 2,594 square footage of the average single-family home.
Keep in mind that multistory homes have less roofing than ranch/single-story homes with the same square footage. The quality of the materials used produces wide cost ranges.
Time frame: 4-10 days
Potential pitfalls: Weather and material delays; Installation quality suffering due to inexperienced labor.
Itemized home exterior construction costs:
- Roofing: $3.84/sq. ft. of house floor space.
- Exterior Wall Finish (Siding/wall cladding): $7.45/sq. ft. of house floor space.
- Windows, doors, and garage door: $4.53/sq. ft. of house floor space.
Major Home Systems Rough-in Costs
- Average total cost: $43,668
- Cost range: $13.15 to $18.85/sq. ft.
- Average cost: $16.83/sq. ft.
- Share of total home construction cost: 14.7%
Overview: These electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems are installed before the drywall, flooring, cabinetry, and other finish items are installed.
Note: There’s a narrower cost range in piping and wiring than in other phases of home construction.
Time frame: 7-14 days
Potential pitfalls: Poor planning of the workflow can either lead to conflicts when contractors’ schedules clash or delays when no work is being done; delays can be caused by problems with the utility company installing its equipment.
Itemized home system rough-in average costs:
- Electrical mast, hookup, panel, and wiring: $5.32/sq. ft.
- Plumbing rough-in: $5.68/sq. ft.
- HVAC – Heating, air conditioning and ductwork average total cost: $14,111
- Average total cost: $75,259
- Cost range: $21.75 to $44.75/sq. ft.
- Average cost: $29.01/sq. ft.
- Share of total home construction cost: 25.4%
Overview: The quality of materials used is the major factor in the total cost.
Time frame: 14-35 days
Potential pitfalls: Once home construction has started, this is the area most prone to delays through material shortages, materials or appliances damaged during shipping, poor scheduling of the contractors or contractors being behind on other jobs, the homeowner wanting last-minute changes and delays in the bank clearing loan money to pay contractors.
Itemized home finished system costs based on the national average size of 2,594-sq. ft. for new single-family homes:
- Insulation: $2.00/sq. ft.
- Drywall: $4.10/sq. ft.
- Painting: $3.18/sq. ft.
- Flooring: $4.63/sq. ft.
- Doors and trim: $4.09/sq. ft.
- Appliances: $4,710
- Light fixtures and covers: $3,437
- Plumbing fixtures: $4,108
- Fireplace: $1,867
- Cabinets and countertops: $13,540
- Other: $923
Cost of Final Construction Steps
- Average total cost: $20,116
- Share of total home cost: 6.8%
Overview: These steps add the finishing touches to your home, and some are optional.
With the exception of the final cleanup of the interior, these are exterior projects and don’t affect the homeowner’s ability to move into the home. They are often delayed by months until weather permits.
Time frame: 7-21 days, weather permitting.
Potential pitfalls: Bad weather, contractor delays, wrong season for planting or installing a driveway.
Itemized final home construction costs:
- Final grading and landscaping: $6,255
- Driveway: $6,674
- Deck, patio, or gazebo: $3,547
- Construction cleanup and waste disposal: $2,988
- Other: $402
All Other Construction-related Costs
- Other: $11,156
- Share of total home construction cost: 3.8%
Total Home Construction Cost
Now, let’s add up the total costs and consider the cost per square foot based on the 2018/2019 costs for an average-sized single-family home 2,594 square feet:
NAHB Stats: The average contract price of $296,652. Thus, we can derive the average cost per square foot:
- Average total home construction cost: $296,652 (not including the cost of the land, lot finishing, and marketing and sales costs)
- Average cost to build per square foot: $114.36
Home construction cost per square foot has risen from about $80/sq. ft. in 2011 to $95/sq. ft. in 2013 to today’s figure of $114.36, per the National Association of Home Builders, the industry’s leading professional association.
The NAHB also reports that the size of new homes has generally been rising over the last decade while lot sizes are shrinking!
If you’d like to share your costs for any phase of your building project, other readers will benefit from your experience.
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