10 WAYS TO BUILD A BEAUTIFUL HOUSE WITHOUT BREAKING THE BANK
Houses aren’t getting any cheaper.
The cost of building keeps going up, but a new house doesn’t have to cost the earth. It is possible to build a house you can afford, that is sustainable, yet looks and feels great.
You don’t have to buy a cheaply built and poorly designed project home.
With a bit of know-how, everybody can save money without compromising on design. You just need to make the right choices at the outset and be prepared to think a little differently about what constitutes your ‘dream home’.
Here are my top ten tips for getting the best house you can afford:
1. STAY SMALL
How do you make a house more affordable? Its obvious….. just build less of it!
Modern houses are unaffordable simply because they are too big.
Glossy magazines and builder’s brochures alike are filled with unnecessary and rarely used spaces, bloated floor plans and over-sized rooms. Do you really need a separate family room, rumpus room, home cinema and lounge room? or might all of these functions be combined into one space? How much space do you REALLY need? Think about it.
It has also been proven that a smaller house will actually make you happier, bring you closer to your family and give you back more free time to spend on the things you love.
2. KEEP IT SIMPLE
Good design doesn’t have to be complex, in fact the opposite is true.
Many houses being built today seem to have numerous gables, complex roof lines, a multitude of different materials and a raft of unnecessary corners. This is just an attempt by builders to ‘jazz-up’ what are drab and poorly considered designs – a surface treatment intended to take your mind off the real issues.
Its time we learned to love the box.
Cubes and rectangles are the simplest and most affordable things to build.. and they can be beautiful too. Successful architecture is about proportion and spatial experience, materiality and functionality, not just how the thing looks from the street.
Good design has a clarity to it that makes it easy to understand and affordable to build. This simplicity is applied to the floor plan, the roof form and even the construction details.
3. OPEN IT UP
Keep the plan simple and look to combine spaces into multifunctional, open plan areas where practical.
Apart from the fact that you wont have to build as many walls or hang as many doors, creating visual connections between spaces increases what is called ‘the sense of space’ – making the room feel much larger than it actually is. You will also feel more connected to the other occupants of the house (your family) as you inhabit various ‘zones’ yet share the same larger space.
Good planning should eliminate all wasted space and ensure that the layout is as efficient as possible. Limiting the amount of space dedicated purely to circulation and overlapping functional areas is another great reason to open things up.
4. GO FOR TWO STORIES
For some reason, especially here in Australia, a lot of people think adding a storey makes a house more expensive. The result is large, sprawling single storey homes that cover almost the entire block, with little space left over for a back yard.
This is such a big mistake.
In most house projects, the two most expensive parts to build are the foundations and the roof. Walls are pretty cheap in comparison. When you build over two stories you effectively half this cost. You can have the same floor area with half as much concrete and half as much roofing, providing massive savings on the build cost.
Two storey hoses allow for greater privacy and potential for views from the upper floor areas. They are also more energy efficient to heat and cool as the heat from the lower rooms naturally rises to those above, and can easily be vented through the roof when required.
5. PRIORITISE YOUR SPENDING
Just because you want your house to be affordable doesn’t mean it has to be cheap.
You will need to make savings, certainly, but you can still have a few nice things. You just need to focus on the things that really matter and decide where best to put your money.
I prefer to spend more on the things that you touch and interact with – items like door handles, light switches and tapware. Apart from the satisfaction you will get from them, it has the effect of elevating the overall feeling of quality in the entire house, even if you opt for cheaper items elsewhere.
Likewise, it is worth investing in a better quality, more durable kitchen bench top while saving money on kitchen cabinets and doors which are essentially all the same. Spend money on quality bathroom fittings and tiles but have one, larger, family bathroom rather then several smaller ones.
My advice for every aspect of architecture is to build less and build better, and I recommend investing in the best quality construction you can afford. Get the ‘bones’ of the house right and it will pay for itself in the longer term.
6. CHOOSE MATERIALS & FIXTURES CAREFULLY
When it comes to material choices durability is key.
More hardwearing materials and better quality appliances may cost you a little more at the outset but you will save far more in the longer term in maintenance and potential replacement. Truly affordable housing should not be cheap to build but expensive to run.
If you are going to opt for cheaper materials and fittings only do so on easy to replace items. Things like surface mounted light fittings or bench mounted taps can easily be swapped out for better items later. Built in items like a fixed shower or concealed cistern toilet would be much more costly to upgrade.
Likewise, don’t feel that you have to limit your appliances and fixture choices to just one brand. Combine appliances from different manufacturers to get the best deals, just make sure they have a matching finish (stainless steel is usually a pretty safe bet)
7. KEEP THE PLUMBER HAPPY
Plumbing and electrics can be expensive and if allowed to spiral out of control they can really blow your budget. This is made all the more frustrating because utilities are largely hidden in the walls and under the floors. It can be difficult to see where all your money is going.
As with everything, it pays to keep plumbing as simple as you can.
The best way to do this is to group together major areas of plumbing, such as the kitchen, laundry and bathrooms. They may be located in adjacent rooms or above or below one another, but siting wet areas in close proximately will greatly reduce the cost of running costly pipework all over the house.
It also helps, when planning the layout, to zone off ‘wet areas’ in a certain portion of the house, relative to access to daylight and necessary privacy.
8. INVEST IN INSULATION & ORIENTATION
A well sealed and properly insulated house that faces the sun will save on energy costs. Im guessing we are all pretty familiar with that by now.
However, what many people don’t realise is that an energy efficient design will also save you money upfront, by reducing the size of the heating and cooling equipment you will need to install.
Combining low energy demand with on-site renewable energy production and storage, may also allow you to avoid connecting to the energy grid entirely. Depending on the location of your new home, this can represent a significant saving in itself.
9. CONNECT WITH OUTSIDE
By creating a visual connection with the outside, using large picture windows, you effectively bring the outside into your home. A view out of a space, apart from making the room more enjoyable, instantly makes the room itself feel bigger, allowing you to build less and keep the costs down.
Rather than opting for large expanses of expensive glazing, however, try to frame strategic views out focussing on specific features or landmarks. Think of it like hanging a living photograph on the wall – it can be really dramatic!
Decks and patios are also relatively inexpensive, meaning you can create an ‘outside’ room much more cheaply than an inside one. Direct access between living areas and outside spaces allows these rooms to literally ‘expand’ outdoors during good weather.
Building less house will also allow you to have more space outside to sit during the summer months or for the kids to play. You may even choose to grow your own vegetables, another great way to save money!
10. STAY LOCAL
Finally, I always recommend opting for locally available materials where possible.
This will not only help your house ‘belong’ to its site, but it will save you quite a bit of money on shipping and handling costs as well. Similarly, you should aim to work with the locally available trades as much as you can. (Travel costs for tradesmen are usually added onto the labour rate)
A little bit of local knowledge can go a long way when it comes to construction.
Although some of the points raised in this article may seem to be more about spending money than how to save it, it is important to avoid a false economy when building your house.
Focussing too greatly on the upfront costs at the expense of maintenance and durability is both a common mistake and a costly one.
I have successfully adopted this approach for my own renovation projects and for many of my clients. However, there are many other things to consider. For example, you will also need a good builder onboard who is willing to work with you help you stick to your budget.
I am passionate that good design should be affordable to everyone and if you have any more ideas on how to achieve this, Id love to hear from you in the comments box below.