Oh, the million-dollar question! Figuring out the construction costs should be one of the first steps in your journey. It will allow you to make decisions, and if you need financing, an itemized list of costs will likely be required by your lender.
Let me begin by telling that you that you won’t find a dollar amount on this post, and here is why: it simply won’t matter to your specific project and will just give you false hopes. But, here is what you will find on this post: you’ll know how to easily calculate the cost of your very own cabin project. A simple recipe that we have used over and over to figure out our numbers before diving into the glorious days of construction.
Step 1. Find a Building Site
First things first: the property. Whether you have found a special plot of land or you are still visiting a few different places, make sure to walk around it a few times - ideally during different times of the year - and look for the following items:
Beauty spots: Is there a unique tree you’d like to see from your kitchen sink? Maybe a creek that would sound lovely from the bedroom? How about that sunset that can only be seen through this particular angle?
Ugly spots: What things you don’t want to see from your cabin? It could be the view of a messy neighbor through the trees during the Winter or the headlights off the road that will shine straight through your bedroom window.
Practical spots: These are the natural areas that can make construction easier (and cheaper), such as a natural clearing of trees that could be the perfect building site or an ideal slope for the driveway.
Cabin construction is a wild journey! It touches every aspect of your life: financial, emotional and physical.
Step 2. Get a Cabin Build Blueprint
I know what you are thinking: expense! But hear me out: an architect or designer will combine what you found in Step 01 with your cabin plan. They will also look at things you may have missed, like predominant wind and sunshine. Hiring a professional will cost you more money, but it is well worth it - trust me, the financial and time costs of redoing what was done wrong because of a lack of proper planning can be so much higher.
One way to save money is to do as much of the work yourself - this is how we have always done it, and it has definitely saved us lots of dollars. The downside is that you will spend a lot of time on square papers and erasers (or software). You will have to spend some time researching things you never thought you’d need to know, such as the minimum recommended toilet clearance - 30 inches, center to center, in case you are wondering. The designer will then turn the sketches into a blueprint and a materials list.
Step 3. Get Materials Quotes
With the materials list and blueprint in hands, it’s time to get some numbers! Take your materials list to the big lumberyards and your local ones. Smaller local lumberyards are usually great to work with because they may be open to work with you on discounts plus, they are an excellent resource to find contractors in your area. Now, you have quotes coming in for all of the materials needed to build your cabin.
Step 4. Get Contractors Quotes
Whether you got a list of contractors from your lumberyards or have some recommendations, it’s time to make phone calls. Contractors are very busy people and a high commodity these days, so finding one that is not only available to build something for you in the near future but also to take time to give you a quote is truly a blessing - thus why you must be very organized before calling them and have a blueprint and materials list handy.
Step 5. Add all the Costs to Build Your Cabin
Now you have a building site, a cabin plan, and a bunch of quotes. What do you do? If you are anything like me, you’ll spend a lot of time overthinking all the possible bills you may have missed. To avoid that heartache, here is what I learned:
Pro Tip: Always, always *ALWAYS* add a buffer. The buffer size is up to you, and it depends on your risk tolerance. We usually stay between 30%-50%, which feels like a lot, but we don’t love surprises and like playing it safe. That means once we have added up the materials plus labor quotes, we add an extra 30% to 50%. Our experience building a cabin during Covid prices has taught us that costs and delivery timing can change quickly, and we’d rather be safe than sorry. To help you determine all the potential costs involved during construction, I prepared a construction costs checklist and a calculator with the most common expenses for you to start getting some quotes and figuring out the cost of your cabin dream (please note that this list may not contain all the costs associated with your building).
Cabin construction is a wild journey! It touches every aspect of your life: financial, emotional and physical. Making sure you are as prepared as possible for the next chapters is a must, and figuring out the financial piece will give you confidence and ease that you can move ahead and gracefully deal with whatever curve balls construction may throw at you.