There are so many ways to design a cost-efficient home during the design process. What saves money in your home will vary from one design to another, but many general considerations can be made.
Small changes in inclusions, such as the type of render, air-conditioning or floor coverings, can save thousands straight away. The facade and type of roof chosen can also have a significant impact on the cost of the home to build. Even the block quoted for the build may influence cost through soil type, wind rating, and slope. Even the building option you choose can have a big impact on price.
Our trained sales consultants can assist with re-designing aspects of your floor plan like removing unnecessary walls, halls, and dead space, removing kicks out in the external walls, pushing out some of the floor space out under the eaves (i.e. garage), re-positioning rooms to save on space, and advising on other little design options that can save you money so that without compromising on design or quality you can build your new home to meet your budget or even allow you some extra cash for those special items that you have on your new home wish list.
A building or extending a home is one of the most expensive financial commitments you can make, so it pays to know where you can save money on the project.
It’s also worth noting the areas in which choosing a cheaper option can be a bad idea.
How To Keep Building Costs Down?
Often the problem is what builders call ‘site costs’, which are not generally included in advertised display home prices. Building on sloping, rocky or unstable sites can require additional piers, stronger slabs, retaining walls and additional drainage. Removing large trees can also be costly.
As for the home itself, costs will be affected by the project’s size, the complexity of the build, the level of finishes specified and who needs to be involved in the build. The bigger the house, obviously, the more expensive it will be. Not all rooms cost the same: a bedroom is cheaper per square metre than a kitchen, requiring plumbing, cabinetry, and appliances.
It’s always wise to have a contingency amount up your sleeve to cover any unforeseen building costs. Five per cent should be enough in the case of a display home but for a renovation or a higher-end, custom-built home, consider putting aside as much as 20 per cent.
Fixtures and Finishes
Sticking to conventional building techniques can help keep a lid on costs. If you want polished concrete floors, shadow line ceilings and concealed gutters, be prepared to pay extra.
Then you need to stump up for fittings and finishes in the bathrooms and kitchen. Features such as marble benchtops, tapware in special finishes and a stone-composite bath can add tens of thousands but, it must be said, such items can more than pay for themselves in resale value if well executed.
The same goes for complex design inclusions: they can be a good investment. If you’re constructing a one-off home, it pays to involve the builder early on. They can advise at the concept stage whether particular aspects of the design will be economical (or not) to proceed with.
Stick to the Plan
Changing your mind once work has begun can be extremely costly. Any amendments to plans or finishes after the building contract has been signed and construction has commenced don’t just mean additional material and labour costs. Builders will typically charge a premium of 20 per cent on ‘variations’. Finalise all plans, fittings and finishes upfront if you want to stay within budget.
Save with smart design
Keep the perimeter of the home as regular as possible. Lots of indents and direction changes add length to the perimeter and increase the build cost considerably.
The same goes for the roof shape. Complex hip-and-valley construction costs far more than a simple shape.
Stay single storey if you can because two-storey homes can be costlier. If your block dictates that you must go up, use designers with a good record in a multi-level building who will customise your two-storey home to the best possible size, shape and price.
Use standard window and door sizes from a widely used range. This makes the building easy to construct, and big suppliers will have better after-sales service if you have a problem down the track needing spare parts.
Specify built-in cupboards robes and storage spaces. This reduces the need to buy free-standing units and also saves a huge amount of space in your rooms.
Build for the block
Make the most of the natural features, contours and shape of your block. This will save a fortune in foundation work and retaining walls. If you have mature plants, you can save, then the cost of landscaping will reduce.
Exploit to the limit your state’s development codes or planning regulations as they apply to the building block. Building extra space costs, but a good designer or building broker can advise you on which areas of the build cost less and get you a great home that maximises what’s legal for the lowest possible price.
Include as much living space on the north-facing side of your home. Winter sun can greatly reduce your heating bills, and summer sun on entertaining areas and outdoor space improve the appeal of the home.
Conversely, keep the bedrooms on the south-facing elevation wherever possible. Comfort from a cool bedroom away from the hot summer sun will reduce air conditioning costs and improve your home’s liveability.
Custom-Build vs Display Home
If you’re building based on a display home, then aside from site costs, the final price is quite foreseeable, says Weller. Be aware, however, that there are different standards of finish, so you need to understand which inclusions are covered and what they will cost.
There are potentially more variables with a custom-built house, and you need to put more work into preparing the budget. With renovations, many costs can’t be foreseen, and there is the most chance of blowing the budget.
Variations, however, are the most contentious area of potential conflict. Changing paint colour is not a problem, but some variations may mean going back to the council for planning approval.
Clever options and features
Build in as much “whole-of-life” savings as you can afford by building with low maintenance in mind and installing appliances or equipment that won’t date too quickly or cost much to run.
Consider making the most of your budget in the key areas your friends and family will see in your home. Reduce the specification considerably in the secondary bedrooms and bathrooms, study, and less-used spaces. This will leave more money for the powder room, living area, entry statement and kitchen, so that you can wow your guests and still keep the budget tight.
Keep landscaping simple but effective. Remember that plants and shrubs soon grow, so specify small sizes to keep the cost down and let nature take its course as your garden matures over time.
Take advantage of a building broker’s huge buying power and specify as much as possible for your home within the build package. This will mean that you benefit from the great deals they have in place with major suppliers that you won’t get if you shop alone after the build is done.
Make certain that your house is not the best in the street. Look at the prices of the homes around you, and design so that your homes falls among the median values. Overdeveloping a block can be a costly mistake.
Tips On Home Construction
There are a few little tips and tricks which can help you save thousands of dollars. By being a little creative and choosing different materials, different places to shop and ways to build, you’ll find that you can still have your dream home/kitchen/bathroom and still stay under budget.
Living room construction cost-saving tips
You can do some minor things whilst building your home to help save on costs for your living room. Although there aren’t as many features to the living room as the bathroom and kitchen, there are still ways to save money.
Choosing suitable lighting not only will save you money while you’re building, but it can also save you money in the long run with reduced costs to your utility bills. Lighting should be effective in the size of your lounge room. For example, choose lights that are large enough to light the area they are intended for. Some people buy smaller lights to save money, but soon realise they are too small to light the area. Not only do they then have to buy a new light, but they also pay for the electrician to visit again to install it.
Just like your lights, choose ceiling fans for their intended use/size. A small fan will likely be perfect for a small room such as a bedroom, but be hopeless in a large living room. There are some quite pricey options when it comes to ceiling fans, but choose one with features that you need and don’t be caught up in all the ‘shiny new features of the other fans that are a couple of hundred dollars more. If you don’t need a remote control for your fan, don’t get one. These small savings will add up immensely in the long run.
Depending on what flooring you want to choose, there are many options to suit your budget. This decision will also depend on what kind of use your living room will get. Some people with allergies will only opt for wooden, tiled or concrete floors, but others would argue that carpet is a better option as it “holds” the dust and allergens, meaning it is not free-floating in the air of your home. Whichever way you choose to go, there is flooring for every budget. If you choose carpet, you should spend a little more and buy 100% wool carpet, as it lasts a lot longer, is durable, and is better for allergy sufferers. Although it is a little more expensive than other materials, you may find that it will last almost twice as long as other carpets.
If instead, you choose to go with wooden flooring, there is the great option of “click-clack” style, floating floorboards. Not only do they look stylish, but they also look just like conventional wooden flooring and are a fraction of the price. To go even cheaper once again, vinyl flooring is a great option. It looks great, and decent vinyl that is installed correctly can last many years without any issues. Alternatively, a concrete floor could be the perfect choice for your living room. Concrete flooring is a durable option designed to stand up to the wear and tear of everyday life. Decorative concrete can provide an artistic and functional feature for your room without costing the earth, so it is well worth exploring.
Something that is often not thought of when building and designing a home is your electrical outlets. If you’re a tech-savvy family, you may want to invest in installing extra power points throughout the home, particularly the living room. The living room is often the hub of electrical goodies.
Just at the television system, you may also have a pay-TV subscription box, DVD player and possibly even a gaming console (or two!). Instead of having a potential fire hazard on your hands, thanks to numerous powerboards, get the electrician in charge of your design to install some extra power outlets. The electrician may charge a little extra, but you may notice a reduction in your power bills (as you can easily turn off individual switches as needed), and your home electrics will be a lot safer.
Bedroom construction cost-saving tips
There aren’t many features in the bedroom, but that doesn’t mean there’s no more money to save. The bedroom is one room you will generally spend a lot of time in, so it needs to be comfortable, accessible, and suitable for your needs.
Here are some great ways to save some money when designing and building the bedrooms:
Most houses these days have built-in wardrobes, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Depending on the bedroom’s use, you can forget about adding a built-in wardrobe if you don’t think you will be using it. For example, if one bedroom will be used as an office, you may not need a wardrobe in that room as you will likely have bookshelves and filing cabinets to store your goods in. Depending on the use of the room, choose to install the wardrobes (or not).
If you decide to install a built-in wardrobe, consider saving a little bit of money by installing the shelving yourself. The builder can easily install the frame and doors for the wardrobe, but the shelving within can be your own canvas. Home renovator stores have plenty of space-saving shelving and contraptions to use within a wardrobe.
You can easily design a wardrobe to your needs, so you can design this hidden space to be just the way you want it. For example, if you have a shoe fetish, specific shoe holders are designed to be stored and made to be compacted to create extra room for more items.
Designing your own wardrobe is also a great way to leave your own personal touch on a bedroom.
As mentioned in the living room’s flooring section, you can save money on your choice of flooring in the bedroom. Some people opt to have vinyl, tiles, concrete or floating floorboards throughout the whole home and have carpet reserved for the bedrooms. Again, be sure to choose carpet material that is the best option for you and your family.
There is also carpet on the market that the Asthma Council specifically approves of Australia, so it is definitely worth researching and discussing with your family what kind of flooring is necessary for the bedroom.
Depending on who you are dealing with, you may be convinced that top-range double-glazed windows and french doors are your only option. Although this may be true in Australia’s areas that experience extreme temperatures or are in areas that are particularly noisy outside, it is best to decide on what you truly need. Standard sized windows look just as great as floor to ceiling French doors if they’re decorated well. You may feel like you want fancy bi-fold doors instead of a wall for your bedroom, but is it necessary?
Choose windows that are appropriate for the room. A room such as a bedroom only needs a standard-sized window to add some light but prevent prying eyes from viewing inside. The money you save on your window sizes and materials now can give you a little more freedom when it comes to decorating and furnishing the home later.
Kitchen construction cost-saving tips
The kitchen is often thought of as the heart of the home. It’s the place where the family often spends the most time together, particularly at mealtimes. It’s what often makes the rest of the home smell delicious and can create a warm sense of ‘homeliness’.
When building a kitchen, it’s important to think about space-saving techniques and usability. The size of your family can easily help you determine how large your kitchen should be. If you are single or a couple, you may not need a kitchen island that can seat six people at a breakfast bar. If you’re a family of five, a pantry that is only 450mm wide may not be the best solution.
To help you save money, here are some great tips for your kitchen build:
Today, benchtops come in a wide range of colours and materials to suit every need. But, there is an opportunity to save (potentially) thousands of dollars just on the benchtop alone. Granite and stone are often the most expensive materials you can buy for your benchtop, while laminate and timber benchtops are often some of the cheapest options. You may have a particular design in mind for your kitchen, and you can still have the same look but at a fraction of the price if you’re willing to look at benchtop alternatives.
There are some laminate benchtops that have a similar look to granite and stone but aren’t as heavy and are certainly not as expensive. Choosing a cheaper alternative can also save you money on potential adjustments needed for weight constrictions of heavier benchtops.
Wooden and bamboo benchtops also give a fresh, modern look to your kitchen, so make sure to look around for different materials and styles to get a good feel for what is available to you on the market.
Without a doubt, the cheapest way to build your kitchen up with cabinets is to put them in yourself. Go to any local hardware or renovator store (such as Bunnings or Masters), and take a look at the huge selection of cabinets on offer. The easiest way to include this in your build is to make accurate measurements of your space and draw it to scale. Create your cabinet spaces by drawing them in and working out which type of cupboards will go where (pantry, microwave box, oven space, cutlery draw, etc).
Some online tools can draw your space available for you and let you play around with adding and removing different sized cupboards so you can “see” what it will look like. You will save quite a pretty penny making these yourself, but be sure to have a drill ready to save your hands and wrists from getting sore.
Cupboard doors can come in various materials and colours to suit the style you’re looking for. Depending on your choice of style, some cupboard doors will be more suitable than others.
Some UV finish cupboard doors add a luxurious look to your kitchen but can easily add an extra few hundred dollars to your spending. Choose cheaper materials for your doors, such as melamine. These doors are practical and sturdy and are of good quality. They can easily be customised, as they are available in a range of colours. Just check the order time on your colour of choice with your supplier, as some colours are less popular and may need to be ordered specifically.
The style of your door can also reduce costs. Flat doors will be less expensive than doors that are ‘heritage’ style with indentation detailing. Think about your design and your must-have inclusions. If you must have cupboard doors with indentation detailing, try and get them in a cheaper material to save extra money. Alternatively, you may find a flat style melamine door that can provide the look you want for a lower price.
Bathroom construction cost-saving tips
The bathroom is usually the first place you can relax after a long working day. Having a bathroom that reminds you of a refreshing day spa is ideal, and if you can have this at a fraction of the cost, then it’s even better. You don’t need to be downgraded in style with a cheaper budget, choose the right materials and design, and you’ll be relaxing in your 5-star bathroom in no time.
Tiles are one of the most expensive features of your bathroom. There are numerous styles of tiling that come in different sizes, styles and textures. There are tiles that average $100 per square metre, but then more affordable options look just as great. Porcelain tiles are cheaper than ceramic tiles; however, ceramic tiles are a lot more hard-wearing.
When choosing tiles for your floor, choose tiles that have a “gritty” texture to them to add a non-slip feel. However, your wall tiles should be smooth to the touch, so they are easier to clean, especially in shower and splash areas.
Your tiler may want to charge you extra due to the extra work for small tiles compared to the work involved with laying large tiles.
You can also save money with the amount of wall tiles you use. Instead of having the floor to ceiling tiles in your bathroom, you can choose to have the walls half tiled and the rest painted or even have a 40/60 ratio to tiles and concrete wall space. Not only will you still have a stylish look, but you will only have to buy half the amount of tiles.
Modern design has improved over the years, allowing builders and renovators to have a little of their own style and creativity have thrown into a build without looking “messy” or unfinished. Shower screens can be quite expensive, especially if you choose a custom size that requires specific glass to be cut to size.
Minimalistic designs mean you can purchase one singular screen (with no doors or handles), which acts as a splash screen to walk behind to take a shower. You do not necessarily have to have a fully enclosed shower to have a great looking bathroom. A singular shower screen can even make the bathroom look larger than it is.
Tapware can easily eat up your budget. With luxury showerheads and fascinating taps available on the market, it’s easy to spend thousands of dollars. Check out your local bathroom stores and showroom, and look at what styles they have. They often have sales on previous year models of taps and fittings so that you may find yourself a decent bargain.
Fittings such as showerheads can be reduced in price if you choose a smaller version. You may want a square shower head and find one for $500, but then again, there may be one that’s slightly smaller, which may have even a higher water rating, for half the price. Also, be sure to check with your plumber where the water fittings will be, whether they’re on the wall or in the ceiling, to know which showerheads and taps to choose from.
Building a new home doesn’t always have to be an overly expensive venture. Even if you aren’t building the home yourself and cannot manage a screwdriver, there are still several simple ways you can save thousands throughout the process. Who knows – you may even save enough for that spa bath!
And remember, the golden rule in construction is to question anything you don’t understand to avoid costly mistakes.