What is the cheapest house design to build?

If you think a ranch style home is the cheapest house design to build, you are right. It is by far the most economical home to construct. However, I assume you came here looking for answers on features to building economically and not a particular style of home. If my assumption is correct, you’ve come to the right place!

Building a home can carry significant cost depending on the nature of the house design. This comes down to a range of factors beginning with the floor plans and elevation design concept. The design itself will greatly dictate the level of expense in raw material and construction labor. Other factors such as details and finishes are variables outside of the design boundaries that can add to or rein in your cost. So with this understanding, let’s venture into what is the cheapest house design to build and their common attributes.

Common attributes found in the cheapest house design to build

1. Home designs with a slab foundation

House foundations can account for twelve percent (12%) or more of the total cost of building a home. Ultimately the total cost depends on your location and the size of your home. Choosing a floor plan with a slab foundation is definitely one of the cheapest house designs to build. Slab foundations are the lease expensive to build. A slab foundation house requires very little land prep work, which makes for fast and simple construction. Slab foundations are cheap, easy to build, & dries quickly. They have low risk of infestation compare to basements or crawl space foundations. Another plus to slabs are that they are low-maintenance and have higher energy efficiency.

Monolithic concrete slab foundations on average start at around $5 square foot to pour. Crawl space foundations average around $13 per square foot to build and a basement foundation generally began at around $30 per square foot for unfinished living space.

2. Floor plans with a basic footprint

A basic footprint usually starts from a square or rectangular concept and serve as the main baseline or body of the design. Square and rectangular footprints make for easy and fast framing during construction. Every time there is a corner turned on the outside wall, the labor cost increases. In addition to that, you are also likely to lose money on each corner due to construction waste. A floor plan that doesn’t have many offsets would be the best option for the cheapest house design to build.

Using a rectangular footprint is an economical approach, but it might not have the best curb appeal. In this case, find a house plan with some offsets on the front of the design. Offsets and corners on the front of the floor plan footprint adds definition and break up the monotony. The best case scenario is to have some offsets on the front and straight walls on the sides and rear of the footprint. It is idea to keep the walls uninterrupted on the sides and rear as much as possible. The more ins and outs of complicated floor plans will require more cost in material and of course labor.

It is by far cheaper to build a home with a simple footprint than it is to build one with multiple offsets and angles. The cost of construction is drastically reduced as long as the footprint remains simple.

Greenwich house plan
Our Greenwich house plan has a basic footprint with front offsets – 3 bed, 2 bath – 1,606 sq ft: Click image for plan details

3. Two story house designs…in some situations

A single level home with a slab foundation and a basic footprint are important attributes to the cheapest house design to build. However, one story house plans may not be an option for you. Your property may not have the space you need to build out, so you will need to build up in order to make gains in livable space. In this case, going with a two story floor plan design would be the best alternative to gain the additional square footage you need while still controlling cost.

It is more cost-effective to build up than it is to build out. Two story house plans can have a significantly lower cost to build from the foundation to the roof based on just the design of the home itself. For example, a two story design will typically offer a smaller footprint when compared to a one story design of the same square footage. That equates to less time excavating the land and pouring the foundation. Furthermore, the roof will have a smaller span to cover making the overall cost of material and labor more economical when compared to one story house plans.

Hampshire Hills house plan
Our Hampshire Hills house plan has a square footprint with minimum offsets on two floors – 4 bed, 4 bath – 2,718 sq ft: Click image for plan details

4. House plans with minimum interior walls

House designs with minimum interior walls may be a debatable attribute for some experts. There is an argument to be made that the lack of interior walls can run up construction cost, particularly if the design requires expensive beams to help carry the weight and load of floors, ceilings, and the roof. However, we will make the argument that eliminating unnecessary walls can indeed make a home cheaper to build. You’re using less material and decreasing labor. That leads to lowering your construction cost. It all comes down to the home design itself.

With one story home plans, you want to use designs with room sizes that are measured for standard spans of ceiling joist. When joist extend their capacity to carry loads, beams are required. Beams can tap into your budget and cause serious problems on the overall cost of the project. In terms of materials, the basic cost of framing an interior wall runs between $3 and $10 per square foot. Using a beam, the basic cost averages between $50 and $200 per foot.

On two story house designs, you want a plan that utilizes stacked walls. You should choose a house plan where many of the walls are aligned on the first and second floors. That makes it easy for framers to frame the walls, floor joist, ceiling joist, and roof rafters. This technique saves money on material and labor. Stacking interior walls don’t mean you have to give up the idea of an open floor plan design. The key is to strategically eliminate non load-bearing walls where privacy isn’t important. When the concept is well planned and executed, it becomes a cost-saving, practical, and functional floor plan.

5. Home plans with a simple roof design

Picking a house design with a simple roof is another cost saving measure. A simple roof design can mean having a roof line with minimum breaks and offsets or a low pitch roof. The best case scenario will include both, giving you the best cost-saving measures on building the perfect house plan.

Roof designs are mainly dictated by house plan styles. Depending on the style, you may not have an option of whether to go with a hip, gable, or a low pitched roof. However, picking floor plans with basic footprints and not many offsets can help minimize construction cost on your roof. Hip roofs are generally more expensive to build than gable roofs because they are more complex in nature. Moreover, hip roofs usually require more building materials and labor.

The difference in a house design with a low to moderately low pitch roof and a high pitch roof is measured in thousands of dollars. The cost increases as the pitch goes up. The steeper the pitch, the more material required. A 4/12 pitch roof needs about 2% more materials than a 3/12 pitch roof. A 6/12 pitch roof needs nearly 10% more materials than a 3/12 roof. Roof pitches up to 8/12 are consider to be low and roof pitches at 9/12 and above are considered to be high pitch. A steeper roof pitch is a more difficult task and that increases labor cost.

As mentioned above, hip roofs are generally more expensive when compared to gable roofs. However, if you pick a design with a simple footprint and minimum offsets you can justify going with a hip or gable if you prefer.

Park Place Farmhouse plan
Our Park Place Farmhouse plan has a rectangular footprint with an open concept floor plan, minimum interior walls, & simple roof design– 3 bed, 2.5 bath – 2,069 sq ft: Click image for plan details

Things that can make the cheapest home design more expensive to build

The cheapest home design to build can easily turn into a more expensive house with your choice of finishes on the interior. Interior finishes include items such as flooring, drywall, trim, paint, cabinets, countertops, fireplaces, appliances, and more. These items can chew up as much as twenty five percent (25%) or more of your construction cost. However, you have complete control over selections which makes this variable cost flexible. It isn’t necessary to go for the most expensive product on everything. You can opt for a very expensive item on some things and go for a lower grade item on another product to balance out the cost. The important thing to remember is to spend the money where quality matters the most.

Finding the cheapest house plans to build

Finding the cheapest house plans to build is not a hard thing to do if you know what to look for. The five attributes listed above are key factors in finding the perfect house plan to build. Obviously a slab foundation is more economical, but having a basement or crawl space foundation may be needed depending on terrain of your lot. To minimize expenses on a crawl space or basement foundation, follow the guidelines of the remaining four attributes to obtain the end goal of building your dream home without destroying your budget.

Last Updated on July 12, 2023

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