Five Ways to Save Costs on New Construction

Posted by Roberta Bartel on June 20, 2018


Materials, time, home size, your builder, and timing are all considerations when maximizing your building dollars. Choose wisely.



New construction can be costly, but there are ways to make your dollars go further when building.

Here are five ways you can save on new construction:

One: Carefully Consider your Materials

Utilizing materials, which increase your home’s energy-efficiency and longevity while cutting construction labor costs is a win.

 James Van Raden, a general contractor with Fargo-Moorhead company Engage Build (, is currently working on two homes using Enercept Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs.)

 “In my opinion, there’s a lot of different ways to build,” he says. ”But when it comes to an off-the-shelf energy efficient product that saves you time, money and resources, there is no question where it’s at — and that’s SIPs.”

 Ease of use and less job site waste result in shorter construction time lines, saving during the construction process and the panels’ energy efficiency means smaller heating and cooling systems are required and continued savings for end users.

 “We need to get these costs to go down and our quality to go up. That’s my whole intent and purpose of really consciously choosing the SIPs,” says Van Raden.

Home by Engage Build

 Two: Less Can Be More

The average square footage of a single-family home went from 1600 square feet in the 1950’s to 2400 today.

 While large homes are still plentiful, a recent trend toward smaller and even “tiny homes” has come about over the past few years. Van Raden contends the market is demanding something different due to different demographics.

 “This industry is based upon 250 years of tradition unimpeded by progress. Builders of today are stuck in a trend … we build for 3.5 children and a three-stall garage and all these things because this is what the market is asking for. That’s a flawed process because that’s one demographic. Millennials and empty nesters are starting to ask for smaller homes.”

 One of the existing dynamics in this industry, Van Raden says, is the prime driving forces being financial institutions and appraisers. Appraisals are based upon square footage. They don’t account for qualities such as energy efficiency, longevity, and sustainability … all benefits for the end user.

 “Builders are starting to listen and starting to think differently. Less is definitely more,” Van Raden says.  

Three: Do-It-Yourself and Save

There are many opportunities to DIY, and they can provide ample savings. Van Raden suggests asking the electricians if you can pull your own wiring or see if you can paint or stain your own trim. Other ways to save include doing your own painting or installing curtain rods, blinds, etc. yourself — the savings can add up!

 One tempting place to save is in planning, a temptation which comes with a caveat from Van Raden.

 “There are ways to be thrifty and save money. But there is a lot of value in preparedness in planning. Don’t get hung up on the cost,” he says, adding that a relatively small expense (in proportion to total project cost) can save you a bundle. Errors made due to poor design can cost thousands of dollars due to wasted materials, labor costs and project delays. “It can cost you many times more to get them fixed.”

 Four: Ensure your Builder is a Good Fit

This is your project, and your goals are important. Find a contractor who shares your vision. And, Van Raden says, one that thinks outside the box and will have the end-users’ needs in mind throughout the process as opposed to his/her own or those of the developer.

 “We continue to build these houses. We build them the way we’ve always built them, and I want to see things better,” he says. “Make sure you click. Make sure that from the word go, they’re working for you and what you want.” 

Five: The Time is Now

Data from the Associated General Contractors of America’s (AGC’s) labor department indicates construction costs have surged in 2018, driven largely by price increases for a wide range of building materials.

 Van Raden has seen this firsthand. “Costs are going up. Costs will continue to go up. That is another thing for people to realize about SIPs. SIPs are probably one of the most price-stable products that are out there. When it comes to sticks and sheets — when costs start to spike — those sticks and sheets tend to go thru the roof. They increase more drastically than the SIP product does,” he says.

 Combine that with climbing labor and fuel costs and rising interest rates, and it’s clear sooner is far better than later when it comes to building your new home.

 “If you’re waiting for the perfect time,” Van Raden says, “you’re going to wait forever. Now’s the perfect time.”


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Topics: SIPs, building systems, Structural Insulated Panels, Offsite Construction