Single-family residential (SFR) construction may be smaller in scale, but planning projects remains a complex task. Estimating costs alone can be a major undertaking. SFR project costs are affected by a wide range of factors, often evolving throughout the course of work. These include things like material prices, design elements, property size, and problems uncovered during site preparation or demolition.
Our innovative building process, known as the Design-Build method, includes a comprehensive range of services, such as detailed pricing exercises, architectural drawings, engineering checks, budget reviews, construction management, and final sign-off. It allows for more efficient planning, and thus, more accurate estimates of total project costs.
To provide insight into our cost estimation process for SFR projects, we’ve outlined the three primary project sub-types and how their expenses are assessed, giving you an idea of what to expect for your own unique project.
Complete New Build (Ground-up Construction)
Estimated costs: $425+/- per square foot
New construction is the most expensive project type, and the cost range is highly variable. Influencing factors include design specifications, materials used, and site conditions, which all need to be analyzed in depth. The costs listed here also include finishes and fixtures, which can account for 20% of the project’s construction costs.
- Project Size
Covering a lot of ground will cost you. Square footage of the home and any outdoor features being added (patios, driveways, etc.) is the starting point for cost estimation.
- Existing Structures
If existing structures require demolition, it will result in additional costs. Working around existing structures can also increase complexity and investment requirements.
- Terrain & Soil
Soil type and lot slope affect project complexity, as building on flat lots is cheaper, while sloping lots pose significant challenges. Extensive grading requires removing large amounts of soil from the site, calling for a haul route permit and additional expenses. If the soil is sandy, extra room in the budget will need to be allotted for a specialized foundation.
- Access & Infrastructure
Nearby road and street conditions must be assessed, including whether they are wide enough for heavy machinery to access the building site. Entirely undeveloped lots will require installing utilities such as gas, electricity, water, and sewer or septic, which can be costly.
- Design Requirements
Architectural styling and the quality of finishes used will impact costs. Traditional builds tend to see lower numbers, while modern finishes can come with a higher price tag. If you are aiming to use materials that meet specific standards, such as sustainability or energy efficiency, you can usually expect these to be on the more expensive end as well.
Major Renovations or Remodeling
Estimated costs: $175-$400+ per square foot
Major renovations or remodels typically require extensive work and a large scope of new installations. So while they are often less costly than new builds, they can still rack up significant expenses. The Design-Build process leverages three key practices to get an accurate picture of the expected price tag.
- Due Diligence
The first step of the project is conducting comprehensive research and due diligence on the existing property. This includes a review of inspection reports created during the property's purchase. Significant costs may result if any part of the construction or installations (i.e. mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) require redoing, either to achieve code compliance or simply to improve quality.
- Conceptual Design
The architectural and construction teams collaborate closely to create the initial floor plan and site plan sketches. Work involves deciding how the building will be updated and reconfigured, as well as any necessary structural work, retrofitting, and repairs. We compile a list of the scope of work and gather square footages from these sketches for our preliminary pricing.
- Exploratory Demolition
Exploratory demolition may be needed to investigate hidden, unexposed areas that could affect construction costs, such as the depth of existing foundations. This allows us to identify any hidden issues and ensure that you have a clear understanding of the project's scope. This reduces the likelihood of costly change orders down the road.
Major Renovations + Additions
Estimated costs: $400+/- per square foot
Many homeowners renovate with the goal of increasing the square footage their home has to offer. This endeavor comes with many of the challenges faced in both new construction and major renovations, which is why we use a number of the same strategies and considerations for cost estimation. Some extra factors can include the following:
- Additional Floors
Installing an extra floor in your home is a major change that will require structural retrofitting. This process will provide the extra reinforcement needed to support the added weight, all the way down to the foundation level. The sheer scale of this work will add a lot to your project total.
Staircases also require a lot of room and support to integrate into your home. Where you place them will impact the complexity of the project, and therefore the costs incurred.
Does your addition include a new bathroom, laundry room, or perhaps even a full mother-in-law suite? Then your project budget will need to account for all of the necessary plumbing as well.
Overall, the location of your home’s addition is going to influence cost. If you are expanding on the ground floor, the features of the terrain in that area will need to be assessed carefully to determine what work is needed to support the new structure. Expansions that require demolishing or reworking significant portions of the existing build will also drive up the price.
Get the Best Value for Your SFR Project with Letter Four
No matter what your project type, using a Design-Build approach allows you to entrust the entire project to one team, simplifying the process and saving valuable time and resources. The Design-Build method has consistently proven its ability to contain costs and keep projects on their predicted budget, making it the most sensible choice if you’re concerned about spending wisely.
Letter Four is a specialized Design-Build firm that has optimized the process of cost estimation. We provide an updated project budget three times through the course of the project. This eliminates surprises and gives our clients more control over their project budgets. When you work with us, you’ll have the help of a diligent team that goes the extra mile to ensure your project is planned accurately, and realistically aligned with your budget. We offer the best possible value for your build, delivering superior quality and craftsmanship achieved with efficiency.
If you’d like to learn more about what goes into planning an SFR project and predicting its costs, we invite you to download our FREE Project Planning Pack. This helpful guide walks you through all of the factors you need to consider before launching your project, protecting you from potential cost overruns later on. You can also get our help via one of our Project Action Plans - packages that cover the essential research and planning phases necessary for understanding your project’s scope. Book a call to discuss which plan will work best for your needs.