Finally, a building cost website that makes it easy to calculate how much it would cost to build your own home.

Each time I find a new little house plan website with creative plans to drool over, I can’t get my head around how much it would actually cost to build a particular design. Most home plan sites either estimate a ball park figure (regional prices vary greatly, so this is no help at all) or prompt you to call them once you’re ready to begin purchasing the blue prints. Neither method helps me make my initial decision;  to choose a home within my price range.

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”auto” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]If you’re interested in building your own tiny home, check out the Tiny House Plans book. It has some great building plans.[/dropshadowbox]

However, after skimming the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company for their newest plans and sales, I noticed that they are now advising would-be builders to a website that helps determine building cost: This site is awesome and the first I’ve seen of its kind. Here’s how they estimate building cost:

  • Select how many total exterior corners. Fewer corners may mean less expense.
  • Enter the total living area square feet including porches.
  • Select the quality of building materials. Tumbleweed has a sample step-by-step manual that meets their recommendations. Some building materials can be good or average instead of excellent to reduce cost.
  • Add in extra square feet for porches, attics, basements, etc.
  • Quickly answer a couple of questions about location such as is this a tract home and is it within or outside a metro area.
  • Decide on cooling and heating; central air vs. wall units.
  • Decide on fireplaces.
  • Select your state and metro area.

The estimated cost includes a foundation on normal soil (I’m guessing this does not include initial soil samples or prepping the lot, ie. leveling it out for a flat foundation pad), excavation for the foundation (Question to readers: does anyone know if this means leveling out the lot?), plumbing, appliances, permits, supervision, design fees, electrical, and hook-ups, plus a few other items associated with building.

After choosing one of Tumbleweed’s larger “small” houses, the B-53, for a total of 940 square feet with a second story and using their cost guide as a reference, the total estimated cost ended up at $144,636 if I were to build this home somewhere near the central coast of California. That’s a heck of a lot more reasonable than what I would have expected.

Of course,  quickly searching for similarly sized houses in the area, buying an existing house costs the same amount. And it already includes the land, so really it’s cheaper. However, many of these homes are older and would need some remodeling. So I guess it boils down to wants; Do I want to design my own floor plan? Do I want to spend the extra money and build something new? Or can I take an existing home and remodel it to meet my needs for less? Those are the questions that perplex me.

Have you looked into building your own home? Have you built your own home? Did you take an existing home and remodel it? What challenges did you face?

*Photo: Tumbleweed B-53, as of 2016 I couldn’t find this home on their site anymore. However, the floor plans and images are easily found online.


  1. Nice website! I found you by way of pfblogs.

    We built our home about 5 years ago, and I was actually surprised at how “effortless” it was (we hired a general contractor). They biggest advice I have for anyone building a home is to research the bejusus out of the contractor(s) performing the work. The cheapest quote is often never the “net” cheapest one (considering overruns, repairs, etc.).

    As far as pricing estimates, most local lumber and hardware stores offer free pricing estimates and have a list of experienced or recommended contractors in the area.

    If you’re planning on doing most of the work yourself, they can also offer you free advice and information about good subcontractors (drywall, framin, foundation, electrical, plumbing, etc.).

    • @Benjamin – I always enjoy reading stories or comments from people who actually built a home of their own. Everything I’ve written about so far has been based on theory! 😉 It’s good to expect overruns and plan accordingly. I also hadn’t thought about asking my local hardware store for contractor referrals, but that’s a great place to start. Thanks for visiting!

  2. That’s awesome! I’ll need to check that cost estimator our. Not that I’m ready to build our dream little cabin in the woods yet, but someday…

  3. Eliza from Happy Simple Living Reply

    This is so interesting, and I’m going to have fun experimenting with different options and estimating my dream house!

    • @Eliza – It is fun calculating the costs, but it still comes out a little more expensive than buying an already built home. But it’s still fun fantasizing about it!

  4. We’ve looked into builidng our own home but for us, it’s too expensive. Now that we’re actively looking for a new home, we’re looking more for potential than turn-key. For us, renos are the way to go, especially in the area we’re looking to move.

    • @Jana – When we eventually buy, I’m guessing it will be a fixer, but that scares me a little bit. I guess as long as you are really handy or know contractors who are terrific, that will help.

  5. retirebyforty Reply

    $144,636 is pretty high. I thought it would be a bit less. I guess building cookie cutter homes are a lot cheaper due to volume.

    • @Retireby40- It’s definitely high considering the square footage is not very big. But you’re right, I think that developments are cheaper because of the volume. There’s always the portable Tumbleweed homes for under $35K!

  6. We’re not the type to take on the house-building project. However, we’ve done extensive remodeling before. Having a contractor made it easy because he coordinated it all. We just picked out the colors and wrote checks!

  7. Bill Brikiatis Reply

    My first reaction was there are just too many variables involved to get an accurate estimate of how much it will cost to build, but then I thought business estimating tools use much the same methodology and because there are so many factors the inaccuracies tend to balance out. So I’m probably wrong about the estimate being inaccurate.

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