How to estimate Construction Costs

There are many ways we can work with you to help get an estimate of what the project may cost.

Throughout the process we may use several ways – for example at the early stages a ballpark estimate may be appropriate where further on in the process a builder can give a much more accurate estimate.

Ballpark per/sq.ft. estimate based on the size and type of project:

- We do this in-house for free based on the construction costs we've tracked for recent projects designed by our architecture firm.

- Because this method doesn't account for specific details or material choices, it can only get you a rough idea of whether or not the house you want to build will be within your budget range.

Builder's estimate:

- You can ask one or more builders for an estimate yourself, or we can ask for an estimate from one of the builders we trust and regularly work with. Depending on the builder and the scope of the project, this could be free or there could be a charge.

- Ultimately, the final price of a new home, addition, or renovation will be based on an agreement between you and your builder, but we (as do many architects) can work as project administrators during construction to help everything go as smoothly as possible.


  • We—as is the case with most architects—don't actually set or price construction costs
  • We can't tell you exactly how much your project will actually cost
  • Your general contractor is responsible for pricing your project
  • The best we can do is give you a ballpark figure based on pricing we've seen on other jobs

What is included in Ballpark Construction Estimating

When putting together a ballpark estimate for a new home or full renovation in we start with $200-250/sq.ft. as a base price. It is hard to build in this region for less than that. The price can easily get higher, depending on the complexities and material choices of a particular project. Yes you can keep it at $200/sq.ft. with some work and discipline (on your part and ours), but if you try to get down as low as $150/sq.ft., you will be dropping out of the range of quality construction in this part of the country.

Some of our clients have found competitive bids from modular-home companies or cheapo builders, but the low prices they promise typically fall apart when you start saying things like 'but I don't want vinyl siding' or 'can I get solid core doors?' or 'but I want the house to be well insulated'. Also be aware that a high-quality and high-performance home might cost more up front, but it will be a better value in the long run.

These per-square-foot numbers do include all construction, from digging a hole for the foundation to handing you the new keys to a nice livable space. So that means everything from foundations and framing to interior finishes, plus the installation of all appliances and fixtures. The ballpark prices do not include site work, landscaping, significant millwork, special interior finishes, alternative energy systems (like solar or geothermal), or professional fees (architects, surveyors, engineers, etc.).