Cost Estimating Questions

From: Ling

"Dear Carl,

1. When was the Cost to Build Examples (1 thru 10) first published? Are they recent? I am trying to find out whether this reflects the current (5/2008) cost.

2. Generally speaking, does it cost more to demolish an existing house than build from ground up?If I demolish a house, that is about 2,000 sq.ft. and I leave the foundation “as is”, should I expect it to cost more to rebuild than building from scratch?

3. Would you please advise why in your Cost to Build Example #5 for Spartanburg, SC, the Masonry Frame cost is not included? I checked the other examples, e.g. in Example 1 and 3, & they both include Masonry Frame cost, which is a big item. Please advise."
Hi Ling,

Answer to #1:
The Cost to build Examples started in January of this year (2008). They are only approximate estimates, from & done by a computer. I would dare to say that prices have dropped since January.

Under NO circumstances, would I use the “Cost to Build” from my examples, or from the “Cost to Build” calculator to form my final decision to build or not build a particular house plan.

Only when you go through your own process of obtaining actual bids for labor and materials and completing your own spreadsheet, will be able to make an intelligent, informed decision.

Answer to #2:
Tearing down (demolishing) a house has its’ own set of costs. It is NOT cheap.

There are demolition permits (and permission) to obtain, Utility company expenses, and trash hauling and “dumping” fees to calculate, as well as the labor costs. It has to be done by a professional.

Be sure to read my the last chapter in my (FREE) eBook on "tearing down".
Here is an excerpt:

"This option usually requires a lot of cash or existing equity in the project. The only legal way to tear down a house is to either own it free and clear or to pay off any existing mortgages. One could get permission from the mortgagor, but this only works if the loan balance is less than the value of the land, since once the house is torn down, the only thing of value left is the land! Whatever improvements you put into the house as cash or equity over and above the value of the land is gone forever once it is torn down."
By the way, I don’t know how you can demolish a house without severely damaging the foundation. I don’t think it’s possible.

Besides, in an older house, the foundation usually isn’t worth saving.

Answer to #3:
Ooops! I made a mistake on # 3 when using the calculator and clicked on Masonry Walls. I have never built a house with masonry walls. I meant to click on “Frame walls” with brick veneer as the siding (full brick).

Image courtesy of Cool House Plans

I have corrected that on the example and it should be up on the web site by tomorrow. You can view it here for now: House Plan of the Week & Cost to Build.

#1 doesn’t have masonry walls either, just some stone trim.

I was not surprised to find out that it actually cost more to build “stick frame” walls with brick veneer than “masonry walls” on #3. I knew it would.

Hope I have sufficiently answered your questions.
If not, let me know.

Thanks for your interest in