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The Simple House Construction Budget – The Cost To Downsize

“What was the simple house construction budget for your home at the farm?” 
“Did it really save you money?”

Ever since starting our Simple House Project series on the blog, questions like those find their way into our inbox nearly every day.  So do a mountain of other questions about downsizing, growing our own food, canning, and everything else that can go with trying to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle.   See: The Simple House Article Series

simple house construction budget

The house under construction this past summer.

It’s pretty easy to see that there are a lot of folks that quite simply, well…want to live more simple! They want to downsize, reduce their stress levels, have less or zero debt, eat better, and have more time to enjoy life. 

One of the biggest hindrances to living a more simple life is a home that is too big, too cluttered, or a combination of both. It not only costs more to build or buy a larger home, but also to maintain it. And that cost is both in time and money!

For us, it made complete sense to downsize to a home that had only the space we truly needed. And that is exactly what we tried to accomplish with the Simple House Project.

No, we weren’t looking to move to a tiny house. It just wasn’t reasonable for us. Nor is it for most people. In addition, I am always shocked when I see the cost of one of those 200 square foot trailers approaching $50,000 to $70,000.00 or sometimes more! That is a tremendous amount of money to spend for 200 square feet. We opted instead to build what we termed a “Reasonable Home”.

It seems like only yesterday that we published our very first “Simple House” article to start the process. The date was actually November 15th, 2015, and the article was titled : “Creating A Simple Home Design To Live With Less, Comfortably.” 

At the time, we still lived in our suburban home, with nothing more than the dream of downsizing. We had 3500 square feet in total. That included a never used living room, a once-a-year used dining room, and unused bedroom and basement space. Of course, we had to maintain, heat, and furnish it all.

Creating the Change

Our goals for the Simple House Project were straightforward. (1) create a home with only the space we needed to be comfortable. (2) Use multiple energy-efficient and cost-effective building methods. (3) To build as much of it as possible ourselves. (4) To share the entire process on the blog to help others looking to do the same.

living smaller

Eliminating unneeded rooms. The floor plan for the Simple House.

Fast forward 431 days later, and much has changed! During that short time – we sold our old house in the city. We went from living in a house with way too much space, to building and living in our 1054 square foot dream home at the farm. 

So what did it cost? Did it really make our life less hectic? And did it save money in the long run? Well, the cost portion is covered below. But to answer the last two questions, it has been nothing short of amazing. We certainly don’t miss the space. We love living at the farm, and it has saved on our budget and time enormously.

The Simple House Construction Budget

First, a bit of a disclaimer. We realize you can build an identical home in a hundred different areas and come up with a 100 different costs. In addition, everyone will have different tastes and methods of construction. With that said, hopefully, at the least, this can be a good reference for others looking to do the same. We included notes in each section for what we did on our own vs. hiring. Obviously, the more you can do yourself, the more you are going to save.

simple house construction budget

The house in late fall

When we started, our goal was to see if we could build a house that would meet all of our needs, now and into the future, for somewhere between $100,000 and $125,000.00. We knew to accomplish that, we would have to be willing to do a lot of the work ourselves. Sweat equity is an amazing way to keep a house construction budget in check. The key is doing absolutely everything you can and are able to, and leaving the things you can’t in the hands of great professionals. In that aspect, we were very fortunate to work with incredible professionals.

Although we have many projects in the future for the home,  the costs below represent the overall majority of the final budget. If you know us, you know that we will never be “done”. We simply love projects too much! Besides, we always need material for the blog. 🙂  As for our goal, as crazy as it sounds – we ended up right smack in the middle. Not too bad a for a pair of rookies.

The Final Itemized Simple House Construction Budget

Permits, Plans, Etc.  This included permits for more things than we ever thought we needed permits for!  Water well, septic, house, house permit inspections. you name it…we needed a permit. We were fortunate on the plans portion because Weaver Barns handled that as part of the package. Cost of all permits $975.00

Foundation: We opted for a slab foundation. For starters, we simply did not need the space of a basement. Our goal was to downsize, not find new areas for storage. Secondly, and of more importance, our entire heating system is housed in the concrete floor of our home. The foundation cost includes the cost of placing in the tubes for heating, as well as our plumbing pipes for drains, septic, etc. Cost : $21,500.00

simple house budget

DIY insulation saved a ton on the overall budget!

Complete Exterior House Shell – (Includes roof, siding, doors, windows, etc)  We had the entire shell of our house completed for us by Weaver Barns. If we had to have a single word to describe Weaver and the quality of our house, it would be: SENSATIONAL.

The package included the roof, siding, doors and windows and was a modification of their Cedar Brook model. The package included the labor erecting the house on our foundation. They also worked great with us when it came to letting us do certain things ourselves to save on the budget. The package can range anywhere from $50,000.00 to 80,000.00 based upon all of their near endless options available.  Cost: $59,000.00

Electrical – The electrical was extremely straight forward. It is after all a smaller, simple home design. We went with all LED lighting to save long-term on electric. We included built-in electrical outlets in our floor. Cost $3900.00  (see more itemized costs below)

Well : If we lived in the city, the well and septic categories would have been much cheaper!  But we love living on the farm, and these two categories were a must. We had to drill our well (250+ feet), install a well pump and septic system. Cost : Drilling $4985.00,  Pump $350.00,  Septic System : $8800.00

Plumbing – $3800.00 : We were fortunate to have a great plumber – and he was so helpful in setting us up with the floor heat system. With such a small house and all of the pipes located in one-quarter of the house – plumbing costs were extremely reasonable.

Heating System AND Hot Water Tank :  Probably one of our best decisions and one of our favorite things about the house. Our heating system and hot water tank are one in the same. We went with a dual, tankless water system that heats the floors on one side, while the other side supplies our on-demand hot water. The heat through the floors has been incredible – both in warmth and cost! No duct work need at all in the house. And to never run out of hot water…incredible! Cost : $3500.00  

*One extra note on the heating system. It has been incredibly energy-efficient to operate, and has saved tremendously on heating bills. Our gas bill in the middle of the winter is around $100. That is heating, water and gas cooking.

simple house construction budget

The on-demand water heater that serves two purposes – a hot water tank and our furnace. One side will send out hot water through tubes in the floor in the winter to heat the home efficiently without a single duct. The other side heats our hot water

Cooling System :  We opted for a split high-efficiency Mitsubishi AC system that also requires no duct work. Having zero duct work saved big on the overall budget. It’s also great for keeping dust in the house to a minimum. The system is designed to cool 1200+ square feet, and cools the place quickly when needed.  Cost : $3000.00

Interior Walls :  BIG SAVINGS HERE.  There is zero drywall in our house, it is all shiplap that we installed ourselves. (see our article : The Beauty of Shiplap). It went up easily, and we love the look.  Entire Cost of Walls and Trim : $2200

Interior Ceilings : Another huge savings! In place of wood or drywall for the vaulted ceilings, we used galvanized metal. We absolutely love the look and it saved us nearly $7500 if we had used wood or drywall. And no, it has not caused a reduction in our cell phone reception, and does not make the place cold in the winter, or hotter in the summer. Can you tell we get those questions a lot? Cost : $1500

Insulation : We about fell over when we received quotes for blowing in insulation. The vaulted ceiling alone quote was over $8,000.00.  We did this task ourselves, using a premium 12″ thick batt insulation for the ceiling, and thick 2 x 6 insulation for the walls. and spent a total of $1500 to insulate everything.  Cost $1500.00

Ceiling Fans : This was a must for us. We wanted to have a lot of air and openness throughout the house, so we have three big fans in the main area, and in the bedroom and loft.  Cost $1250.00 

Interior Doors : We created sliding barn doors for all of our rooms. It keeps the hallway and door space wide open and we love the look. We built each door using our homemade plans, and we found an incredible barn door track hardware system on-line for about $59 for each door that saved big on the budget. Cost For All Doors and Hardware : $425

simple house construction budget

Saving on the Simple House Construction Budget – building your own barn doors.

Railings :  Our railings we made from rebar and wood posts. We saw the look the first time at Weaver Barns  model home last year at the Cleveland Home and Garden Show. Cost :$400

Kitchen / Appliances We saved big in the kitchen by doing a lot ourselves. We purchased IKEA cabinets and assembled and installed them for around $1000.00. Our appliances we bundled in a purchase to save, and the biggest part of the kitchen, the island, we built on site from shiplap. The island cost around $125.00 in materials. We splurged a bit on countertops using quartz, but with the smaller space, it wasn’t nearly as bad as a huge oversized kitchen. Total Kitchen Cost $8500

Flooring : There was no flooring cost other than the acid stain. We had the concrete floor scored to look like huge tiles, and then acid stained to look like marble. It is not a hard project, more time than anything. But you save huge when you do it yourself.  Cost : $300

Lighting :  This includes our main lights in the  open area and fixtures. Small house – small fixture bill.  Mary found most of our lights on-line at a big cost savings.  Cost: $750

Bathroom:  We built the main large cabinet in the bathroom, and purchased two inexpensive stock cabinets to make a built-in look for way less.  Our shower was built on site with the help of a great tile man and relative – and that was a big savings! Total cost : $2100

Well – that about wraps up the major portions. We hope this series has been a help to those looking to build and downsize. We will continue to post updates and articles on the house in the future to keep you updated on new projects. To receive our Recipes, DIY and Gardening articles each week, sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column above. You can also like and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. This post my contain affiliate links. – Jim and Mary