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Is this a good estimate for a weather-tight shell?

traditionaltiny | Posted in General Questions on
This is the cost estimate we received for a timber frame shell (18 ft by 26 ft) in New England USA.  Does anything here seem wildly off? 

Interior partition walls, interior doors, cabinetry, drywall, paints and coatings, plumbing, and electric are excluded.

$185,000 – 210,000
Foundation, insulation, and parging 20k
Timber Frame 40k
Board Sheathing 10k
Air Barrier and Vapor Control 8k
Insulated Wood Fiber Board/Rigid mineral wool 20k
Windows and Doors 25-35k
Roofing 5k
Flooring 6k
Stairs 7-10k
Plumbing/Electrical project management for underground work 5k
HRV and Range Hood 4-6k
Siding 15-20k
Masonry chimney and Woodstove 10k
Decks and Porches 10-15k

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  1. ohioandy | | #1

    Hey Tiny, in a way your question is kind of like, "How much does a house cost?" I mean, there are so many factors that go into a breakdown like this, there is no way you're going to get any meaningful input from us internet strangers unless you give more details. Like:
    - you already got this thing drawn up and spec'ed? Maybe attach some cross-sections and elevations, say more what you mean by "siding', "roofing", etc.
    - what's the site like? How remote? What's the climate?
    - are those windows and doors gold-plated?
    - what are your energy goals? How does the woodstove/chimney factor in to this?

    The one thing I'd say with certainty is I would upgrade your roofing plan.

    Sounds like a great project. Looking forward to hearing more about it!

    1. traditionaltiny | | #2

      Hi Andy, sharing some pictures with you.
      The site is remote and climate is heavy snow in the winters.
      Our windows are Marvin Elevate double pane.
      Our energy goal is to use 1 cord of wood in the winter.

  2. Robert Opaluch | | #3

    $400-$450/SQFT just for the shell, no electrical, plumbing or interior work?? That's a high end rough estimate for a new home, complete. Granted smaller homes are more expensive per SQFT, and you give no indication of the quality, complexity, specifications or location. I'm assuming you have lots of details besides the list you've provided, which most of us would not consider a real estimate.

    Have you done any comparison shopping? I'd suggest you contact They are likely the best, high end, high performance, timber frame builder in New England.

    1. traditionaltiny | | #6

      3 stories. Full attic. $200 per square foot.

      I wasn't impressed with Bensonwood and we got an estimate from them for $400 per square foot.

  3. charlie_sullivan | | #4

    The per square foot number is half of what you said, counting two stories of 18x26 each.

  4. user-4885540 | | #5

    Our project is in SW MT and pretty remote (9 miles up a sketchy forest service road). What we have found is that most contractors overbid due to the logistics of building not in town, and I can’t say I blame them. We have had subs get stuck, break down, need nails, etc and blow a day or two getting back to “the job.”

    Having said that, your window package seems almost ridiculous - we got a bid for Marvin Elevate triple pane with Marvins trim, etc and averaged around 700 a window delivered (granted that was not installed - not sure if your price included that). On the other hand the wood stove and chimney seem like a steal at 10k. Our bid on the stove and metal chimney was 3500 not installed.

    I agree with Robert - you are probably into Bensonwood Unity territory and ought to at least check them out. Also Ecocor is probably an option though not timber frame.

    1. traditionaltiny | | #7

      We're getting Marvin Elevate double pane -- Not sure how much it costs per window but we'll have 24 windows on a 3 story house.

  5. ssnellings | | #8

    I agree with Andy above, estimates are highly variable based on characteristics that just aren't available to people (like us) over the internet who aren't involved in the project or local to the work being performed.

    That said, the price seems fine to me. Low, if anything.

  6. rockies63 | | #9

    Looking at the overhead plan it seams that your house has a LOT of tiny rooms. You seem to be building interior walls for the sake of building walls, like the wall between the two doors into the bathroom on the 2nd floor. After all, 18 x 26 isn't large so things should feel more open.

    The staircase also takes up a lot of space on each floor so If I were you I'd move the staircase so that it runs in a straight line along the north wall and have it open up into the main room. Put storage under it and have the main floor one big space with the kitchen in the southeast corner and dining/living across the south and west sides.

    As to windows, don't make every one an opening window. You'll need some windows for fire egress and ventilation but fixed windows are much cheaper - the more the better.

    1. Expert Member
      Akos | | #12

      Scott knows what he is talking about, I would defiantly follow his suggestions.

      It is easy to design open concept spaces, but when it comes to room layout and flow, you need someone with experience to do it. It is hard to get a feel for a place by looking at it CAD and it is easy to go down the wrong path.

      Since it looks like you are doing the design yourself, I would look at some off the shelf floor plans for a similar size house and modify those instead of starting from scratch.

      The other day I was walking through a small town north of me with a friend and were looking at the local houses, or in this case the lack of any design. It is very clear which places were design/build and which were done by an architect. Good design cost little up front, doesn't add a lot of extra in materials and finishes but makes the place much more enjoyable.

  7. walta100 | | #10

    You could likely save 50% if you gave up the real timber frame and had some decorative timbers attached after the drywall was in.

    Getting the details done correctly in a timber frame is very time consuming and expensive. Make sure the framers do not take shortcuts that will take days of work to air seal.

    Get the plumbing out of the exterior walls.


  8. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #11

    For what you have spec'd, that pricing seems very reasonable to me. There are ways to get the cost down, of course--nobody "needs" a traditional timber frame, board sheathing requires a separate air control layer (vs. plywood which just needs taped seams) and there are less expensive types of insulation. The window line item is high for the product, but assuming it includes installation it's very fair.

  9. rockies63 | | #13

    Here's what I'd consider doing with your main floor plan. A lot of people think that with a timber frame every bay has to be the same size. That can put posts in the middle of a space, making placing furniture difficult.

    On this plan all the window and door locations can change depending on your needs and preferences but try to keep the placements symmetrical in the bay. Don't have one window 6" away from a post and another window 12" away from the next post. You want window and door placement to look harmonious on the facade.

    The main floor has entry, storage closet and stairs on the north side and kitchen, dining and living on the south. The entry/storage area could be closed off to create a mudroom.

    Upstairs put the bathroom over the storage closet, a bedroom in the southeast corner over the kitchen, a bedroom on the west side and leave an open area in the middle (maybe have a desk there for an office or kids study space). With the open space in the middle of the 2nd floor you eliminate the need for a hallway.

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