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Surging lumber prices have added an estimated $14,000 to the typical new home in just the last four months according to the National Association of Home Builders. While builders can do little about fluctuating materials costs, value-engineering the home – balancing livability and style with functional aspects and cost – helps with affordability. Yet many aspects of value engineering aren’t obvious​ or readily recognized. For example, roofing contractors typically charge more for more complex or steeper roofs.

The one-story Calverton (plan #8530), at right, was designed with 8:12 roof pitches, primarily for aesthetics. Reducing the roof pitch to 6:12 would likely reduce the cost of the home, but also make it appear smaller. 

Calverton - #8530 roof pitches
Foundations. A simple foundation with minimal corners saves money. Not only is your foundation contractor going to charge more for every corner, those same jogs often incur additional material expenses in terms of siding, roofing, and waste as well as labor costs for trimming out the additional corners. As compared with the original Tollefson (plan #6731), at left, the added 78 square feet of living space offered in the Tollefson II (plan #42152), at right, is very inexpensive.
Tollefson - #6731BL
Tollefson II - #42152

The Cedar Hill (plan #42435) has a straightforward foundation. It also takes advantage of cost savings afforded by using readily available, standard building materials. For example, all windows (except transoms) are the same size. Joining two windows together, as in the front Suite 2 and Bedroom 3 saves money by only cutting and trimming around one opening in the wall. (The windows were split in Suite 1 to provide a second bed headboard wall option.) All interior passage doors are 32” wide (except for the double doors into Suite 2). Though the Great Room will probably continue with the same flooring as the kitchen and eating area, if carpet were chosen, a single 15-foot wide roll would eliminate seaming labor and cut-off waste.

Cedar Hill - #42435
Cedar Hill - #42435
Structural Materials. Traditional dimensional lumber floor joists can be considerably less expensive than either I-joist or truss floor systems but can’t achieve the same span lengths. And many items covered in previous posts in this series such as designing to minimize costly structural members, materials used, and ceiling details are common areas to address in value engineering. Furthermore, your preferences such as having a simple rectangular island as opposed to an angled island; a flush snack bar rather than a raised island bar; or selecting a single wall oven plus range rather than double wall ovens all address affordability. When your plans call for a value-engineered approach, look to our plans for solutions that don’t compromise on aesthetics and marketability!

Look for our next blog post series as we explore other topics that affect your cost of home ownership!

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

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