How much does it cost to build a new house by the square foot?

Cost to Build chart

This is kind of like asking “How much does a new truck cost per pound?” There are so many variables to consider, like; Is it 2 wheel drive or 4? Is it a 6 cylinder or 8? Does it have leather and a navigation system? Just a few things can make a huge difference in the price of 2 seemingly identical vehicles.

There are many things to consider when pricing out your new home. I could quickly spout of an answer of $80, $180, $1,000 per SF. Almost any answer could be correct, or not, it depends. Sound confusing? Well, it is. So, I’ve compiled this list of 5 things to consider in your quest to calculate what your new home might cost.

Home Style

  • Split Foyers are one of the most economical home styles because they utilize the “basement” as easily accessible floor space. You can even add a garage without having to build one.
  • Next comes the boxy 2-story. By building upwards a 2-story has the same square footage with only half the roof and foundation as a rambler. You can even add a basement for more square footage or future expansion.
  • Then comes the Cape Cod where a little more difficulty building the roof adds square footage to the “attic”.
  • Lastly, while ramblers offer great benefits like one level living they are usually more expensive to build because every square foot of floor space has an equal sized foundation under it and a roof over it.

Many home plans are hybrids of the above mentioned styles, like 2 story homes with a single story wing or a Cape Cod like bonus room over the garage, so it’s important to consider the impact that each style has on the bottom line.

Design Elements

Once you’ve figured out which style or combination of styles works best for you, it’s time to figure out what your home will look like and what impact the design elements will have on your budget.

  • What kind of foundation do you want? While a crawl spaces and slabs are often easier on the wallet, a basement can add square footage now or can be an economical expansion option later.
  • What kind of roof do you like? Low pitched gable roofs built with trusses are typically more cost effective. Steeper roofs, hips, mansards, dormers, and reversed gables add a bit of curb appeal along with a few more dollars in your monthly payment.
  • How about a front porch? A small portico over the front door will protect you and your guests from the weather. A nice wide porch across the whole front of the house is an inviting place for family and neighbors to hang out. Wrap around porches really add to the look your home. And what about a back porch for family gatherings an such?
  • Do you need an attached garage? One car, two, three? I have a friend with at least 10 garage bays.
  • What about vaulted ceilings, fireplaces, arches and columns? The list goes on and on.


In addition to design, there are so many wonderful things you can do to make your home uniquely yours, each having an impact on the bottom line. The kitchen alone can have roll out drawers, soft closing doors, hinged panels, wine racks, glass doors, and pantry cabinets, double ovens, built in appliances, islands and peninsulas. The opportunities are seemingly endless.

Now make a list for the other rooms. You can add built in bookcases, crown moulding, architectural columns, multi-headed showers and so many other features.


Here’s where some big differences come into play. There are so many variables. The sky is truly the limit. Consider floor covering. Carpet, vinyl, laminates, hardwood, and tile all have different price points. Beyond that each have different grades. Take tile for example. Ceramic tile can come in both porcelain and non-porcelain, glazed and unglazed. Then there’s natural stone tiles like granite, limestone, travertine, and slate that can all come in a natural, honed, or polished finish. Lowe’s has a ceramic tile that sells for 59₵ per square foot while the Italian company Pietra Firma has a handcrafted black onyx tile with mother of pearl insets and diamonds that sell for around a hundred thousand dollars each.

There are tons of options available when choosing every piece of the house and they all come in a huge variety of prices. It can be a real juggling act to create your perfect home without breaking the bank. The trick may be to figure out what’s most important to you; looks, resale value, energy efficiency, durability, or any number of other things and concentrate on that.


Even if you’ve gotten a handle on all of the items that we’ve discussed so far there’s one more thing to consider in figuring a square foot price. As a house gets bigger it gets cheaper (at least by the square foot). Let me explain.

Suppose you’re looking at 2 plans. Both have 4 bedrooms, 2-1/2 Bathrooms a 2 car garage and all the exact same features and finishes except one is 2,000 SF and the other 2,500. The larger house will cost considerably less per square foot because both houses will only have one water and septic system, garage, deck, driveway and both houses will likely have the same amount of plumbing and light fixtures, door hardware, closet shelving  and fireplaces just to name a few.

So now let’s put it all together. It’s easy to calculate the price per square foot of a house that’s already been built. So,

  • First, find an existing “newly built” home the same style as yours with many of your desired design elements that is as close to same size as at all possible (remember what I said about size).
  • Subtract out any land costs and then account for differences in the cost of the well and septic, any tap fees, proffers, extended driveways, the clearing of trees and shrubs and all other sitework items.
  • Then decide which features and finishes you’d like to change in your house and then add or subtract for the difference.
  • Divide the amount that you’ve come up with by the square footage of the house and there you have it.

This method will give you an idea of what you may spend on your new home. Another way is take the plans and modify them to your specific needs, determine what finishes you want to use and break down every piece of material and labor involved in building your home. This will give you a much more accurate picture of the cost and where you can save money if it turns out to be a little over your budget.

As a home builder I use a hybrid of the two methods. First I’ll work with you to choose and modify a plan to best fit your wants and needs. Then together we’ll decide what features and finishes are most important. Then, I’ll sit down with all of this information and break down the building process into 21 different categories each with sub categories to ensure that every piece of material and labor is considered. For some items I’ll contact various suppliers and associates to get some exact prices that they’ll guarantee and for others I’ll refer to the costs from homes I’ve already built. In the end I’ll give you an exact price to build your house exactly the way you want it and if you want, I’ll tell you how much it will cost to build your new house by the square foot.