Cost Per Square Foot – A Useful Evaluation Tool

It means different things to different people, professionals and layman alike; It could mean:

1)  All costs by heated sq.ft

2)  All costs by total sq.ft. under roof ( garage, guest house, covered porches, outside kitchen, etc.)

3) All costs for the house only: (grading, decks, porches, underground power, well, septic, paving, landscaping, entry gates, etc.  eparate from house costs.)

When discussing cost per sq.ft. It is useful to use several of the meanings of cost per sq.ft. to add prospective. Cost per sq.ft. can and often does provide some “ball park” for overall assessment of ideas to get a home owner started down the right path and not to over extend themselves in the design/build process.

SOME homes we have built have had as many as seven fire places, antique flooring, elevators, massive amounts of stone work, stone and brick patios (rather than wood decks), porticos, garages for RVs, four bay garages, elevated decks, retaining walls and more. SOME homes we have build have 1500 sq.ft. of outside deck and porches and similar homes have had 500 sq.ft. of decks and porches. Details like this make  a difference.

Mountain Construction does not estimate by the square foot. We estimate by the “scope of work” - the ‘detail outline” – “engineering”  and – “specifications” of what is in the home. Often the scope of work, detail outline and specifications change as the project is built and new and details are provided by the home owner.
This is not unusual.

Below is a “critical path” for building to help home owners track individual costs involved in any project. It is readily seen that building a home is not simple and involves many professionals the achieve the final goal of “turn key” and move in.


Blueprints & Site Plan

  • Go over plans, study, & advise you if any problems are noted or foreseen

Build the Team

  • Choose carpenters, grading contractor, surveyor, electrician, plumber, masons, designer

Obtain Building Permits

  • Set up percolation test
  • Apply for septic permits
  • Apply for power permits
  • Apply for driveway permit
  • Apply for building permit

Temporary Power

  • Set up the install for underground & overhead power
  • Sets up the temporary power inspection

Water | Septic | Well

  • Set up the septic install & temporary water service

Site Excavation

  • Survey the lot
  • Manage site prep & clearing:
  • Slope protection
  • Erosion Control
  • Excavation & backfill
  • Set up soil treatment if needed

Foundation | Concrete

  • Set up the footer inspection
  • Provide all aspects of the foundation and concrete:
  • Footers – steel, bulkheads, etc. (includes deck footers)
  • Foundation piers
  • Garage floor
  • Porches
  • Walkways & driveway

Provide Under Slab Prep

  • Manage all under slab components:
  • Plumbing, radon mitigation system, etc.
  • Block walls
  • Expansion & control joints
  • Provide under slab prep:
  • Vapor barrier, gravel, & wire mesh
  • Set up under slab inspection
  • Pour slab

Building Materials

  • Choose materials with owner & order:
  • Masonry: stone, block, sand, cement
  • Steel
  • Framing, truss, floor beams, & supports
  • Roof
  • Decks, porches, & patios
  • Siding
  • Windows & doors
  • Flashing

Foundation Waterproofing & Drains

  • Provide foundation waterproofing & drains:
  • Drain placement & filter fabric between gravel & fill dirt
  • Waterproofing
  • Sill Plates
  • Flashing
  • Masonry
  • Manage masonry
  • Fireplaces
  • Landscape masonry

Trusses, Joists, Framing & Subflooring

  • Install the trusses, joists, framing & subflooring
  • Treat floor with a sealer if it is going to be exposed for an extended amount of time

28-Day Backfill – this is a required waiting period after walls are poured and first level

Logs, Timbers, Framing Panels, etc. (Whichever One is Appropriate)

  • Erect logs, timbers, framing panels, etc.
  • Install decks, porches, & patios

Mechanical Systems

  • Manage the planning & install of the mechanical systems:
  • HVAC
  • Plumbing
  • Gas lines
  • Electrical
  • Smart home

Building Framing Inspection

  • Set up the building framing inspection

Fascia & Soffits

  • Finish the fascia & soffits


  • Install the roof
  • Include roof felt & titanium UDL

Windows and Doors

  • Install the exterior windows & doors


  • Install the rough-ins:
  • Trim (exterior)
  • Siding
  • Gutters
  • Plumbing
  • HVAC and electrical
  • Set up the rough-in inspections

Exterior Paint

  • Choose exterior paint & sealing choice
  • Manage the painting of the exterior


  • Install the insulation:
  • Main house, basement, & crawlspace
  • Foundation
  • Windows & Doors
  • Set up the insulation inspection

Drywall & Other Wall Details

  • Install the drywall & other wall details:
  • Wall coverings
  • Ceilings
  • Interior stone


  • Install the flooring:
  • Wood
  • Tile
  • Stone
  • Carpet (wait until the last possible moment with the least amount of foot traffic possible)

Interior Finishes

  • Install the interior finishes:
  • Cabinets
  • Countertops
  • Specialty vanities
  • Custom built-ins
  • Trim
  • Wall finishes – ceramic, paint, stain, wallpaper, etc.

Interior Trim-Outs & Fixtures

  • Provided the trim-outs & install the fixtures:
  • HVAC
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Lighting
  • Sound communications

Exterior Finishes

  • Manage the final exterior finishes:
  • Paint, Stain, Masonry, Wood, etc.
  • Gutters


  • Install the hardware:
  • Bath
  • Fireplace – inserts & doors
  • Shower doors
  • Specialty & interior doors


  • Manage the final landscaping:
  • Retaining walls
  • Specialty fill
  • Sprinkler system
  • Top soil, sod/lawn, plants

Final Testing

  • Set up the water testing
  • Set up the septic cleaning & testing

Whole House Cleaning

  • Set up cleaning of the entire house

Owner Inspections & Punch Lists

We will be glad to assist you with building your vision. We build extraordinary homes that are well thought out and well built. We leave no stone unturned to represent our clients interests.