July 31, 2020

What's In A Number? Part III: The "Extras"

July 31, 2020

What's In A Number? Part III: The "Extras"

What's In A Number? Part III: The "Extras"

This blog was published in July of 2020 and will reflect pricing at time of publication. Material prices can change significantly over time and by region. For more recent tips on building costs in 2022 , click below to check out our webinar with industry experts.


Today we complete our 3-part series on building costs – what to expect, and what to include, as you weigh what you want to build and what your budget should be – and whether those numbers from other vendors are truly apples-to-apples.

If you’ve been following along with our last few blog posts (or newsletters), you’ve glimpsed some clues to what’s hidden in the costs behind door number 1 (site) and door number 2 (house) already. To close out the series, we will explore what hides behind door number 3: the costs of those seemingly elusive “extras”.

Visions vary, as do assumptions, so we work hard to ensure we understand what you’re seeking as we pull together your initial ballpark. What might be left out of early conversations with other designers/builders/entities are the elements that, to many, are what might make a house a home. Elements such as decks, covered porches, garages, breezeways, heated mud room connectors, screened porches, finished basements, finished garage lofts, storage sheds...the list can grow quite long – and all of these generally fall outside the cost of building the house itself. These are all of course important elements, but they are, unfortunately, not free (oh how we wish they were!). When added up, they can often amount to even more than the cost of the house, so it’s very important to take these elements into account when planning the budget for your new dream.


The garage: a monument, perhaps, to a bygone era, but for many who are outdoors enthusiasts, garages can still be an important element to include when building their new home. As with anything that requires site clearing, foundation work, concrete, framing, siding, windows, and (some pretty big!) doors, they do understandably add cost to a project. In greater Maine, a basic 24’ x 24’ 2-car garage with 2 garage doors, 1 man-door, 2-3 windows, a simple truss roof, and vinyl siding with asphalt shingles generally lands in the neighborhood of $45k-$50k.

Upgrades to materials or added complexity thus drives numbers up from there. For added stairs up to an unconditioned storage loft, for example, figure on an added $5k - $8k or so – this is because the truss assembly changes, the framing and finish of the stair adds cost and complexity, and it’s likely you’ll want to extend the length of your garage by at least a couple of feet, to allow room for the stair and for parking.

For garages that are directly attached to the home, with access from an upper floor, many are (rightfully) tempted to insulate and finish-out space above a garage. This is certainly doable, but in high-performance homes in particular, it’s important to recognize that the need to then air seal, insulate, and isolate this space floating above the gassy car park area will add some complexity, and thus cost. Nothing insurmountable, just worth noting – particularly if there is a situation where space in the basement might be a viable alternative for additional living space.

If, in the rebirth of intergenerational households (or simply an enterprising homeowner seeking to rent out some space on their property), there may be interest in building out the space above the garage into an accessory dwelling unit (aka mother in-law suite or studio apartment), the order of magnitude grows again. For space sufficient to accommodate a bedroom (or sleeping nook), a living area, a kitchen(ette), and full bath, the loft above the garage will likely require a dormer, additional windows, exterior door(s), and more extensive finishes and detailing than required for a big open room. This, in addition to the requirement of air sealing and insulating now 6 sides of the space and installing an independent heating system drives the numbers into a realm that nears building a small home (because that is, in effect, what it is). For a space such as this to be added into a garage, expect to see the numbers for the entire structure to land in the range of $135k-$200k+ (depending on size, scope, and finishes).

Decks & Covered Porches

Indeed, as often an integral part of simply getting into the house, these elements do blur the line between “included” and “extra” to the home. That said, their size and complexity will have bearing on how much they will cost. For a simple 5x5 open stoop deck with steps, the price range will likely fall in the very manageable $1k-$3k range (finishes, grade and materials dependent, of course). For a more extensive expanse of open deck with railings, plan on a figure closer to $10-$14k (higher end decking or top-tier railings such as glass or cable-rail will see those numbers climb). Covered porches follow similar trajectories, though with the added supports, framing, detailing, surfaces, roofing, etc., plan to tack on another $5k-$15k, depending on the size. Numbers here are tough to pin down without more specifics on size and complexity, though, so those shared here are meant to be merely a “head’s up” on some standard figures for your basic deck or porch. Just like the bag-of-groceries analogy for the cost of the house, the cost depends on what’s on the shopping list.


Often viewed as the cheaper alternative to decks and porches (and this is often true), patios offer a defined open space with a good deal less digging, frost piers, framing, finishing, and so on.  Patios can be achieved fairly simply and inexpensively – in the range of the upper hundreds into the lower thousands – provided simple, affordable pavers are selected and the grade is not too complex. If you’re trying to decide between a patio and a deck, talk it out with the builder while on the site. She or he may have some variables to ponder that aren’t obvious at face (grass?) value.

Screened Porches

In a state where we sustainably-farm mosquitos by the bazillions, screen porches are ubiquitous (and oh-so-glorious!). They come in all shapes and sizes, with most gravitating toward lofty-spaces with exposed beams, big swaths of screen, and aromatic wood detailing. From the smallest, simplest version (10x10 w/flat ceiling) to the more substantial, lofted, exposed beam, gosh-I’ll-just-live-there-all-summer version (14x20 w/vaulted ceiling), plan on allowing for between $12k-$40k for that gem of an addition to any home.

Additional Conditioned Spaces

As with the garage loft, the temptation to fill living space out into those air volumes we’re already creating is strong and valid. Basements, particularly when notched into a sloping site, are an obvious choice – and generally the most cost-effective. With BrightBuilt Homes, basements are insulated, conditioned, sealed, and thus part of the thermal envelope/air volume of the entire home. This means that the space is already more than halfway to finished, so the addition of flooring, finished walls and ceilings is very affordable, for the amount of living space gained. More extensive build-outs to include bedrooms and bathroom will warrant advance planning for egress windows and plumbing lines, but the costs still are much more approachable than building out an addition or space above a garage. A quick rule-of-thumb cost for finishing basements lands between $50-$125 per square foot, depending on the extent of the build-out desired and the level of finishes selected.

Other spaces that functionally meld into the day-to-day use of the home but still stand outside the base footprint (and thus base cost) of the home include spaces such as connecting breezeways or conditioned external mudrooms. Generally, these spaces connect the main body of the home to the garage or parking, and serve as a necessary gathering zone for the family boots, coats, shoes, and so on – all the way up to skis, bikes, doggie beds, and more. Given that most BrightBuilt Homes are constructed off-site, these connectors can often be stick-framed and completed on site, after the modules for the main home arrive and the garage is framed up. In either case (whether built on or off site), though, the space is additional space beyond that of the home’s footprint, so it should be taken into account as an addendum to the base budget. Prices range wildly here, due to the vast differences in how homeowners incorporate these spaces, but figure on an extension of the cost per square foot (psf) for the house if the space is fully insulated and conditioned – thus in the realm of $225-$350 psf. For open breezeway connectors, the numbers will be more commensurate with the covered porches noted above.


Extra! Extra!

For many of us, garages, decks, screen porches, and/or mudrooms are anything but extra to a home. For some, they define the very reason for owning and living in a free-standing structure. If this is the case for you but your budget is tight, take a moment to step back and weigh what’s important inside the house as well as out. You may find that, with these external elements taking precedent, you could do with a much more compact and efficient home itself – thus allowing room in your budget for the external accoutrements that mean the most to you.


What it All Comes Down To

If you can come to the table with as much clarity on what you want and what you can spend, it will help to shape what the ultimate project scope and costs should be.

If shopping around, ask questions to ensure any numbers you’re comparing are apples to apples for what the scope includes. Many outfits talk about house costs alone, and do not take into account site improvements or installation of well and septic - which will certainly need to be accounted for in the project budget. Others offer base prices with base finishes, so numbers may not reflect the aesthetic or finish level you desire.

At the end of the day, we’re all just doing our level best to answer this question as cleanly and clearly as possible, and to continue to refine the way we go about gathering data in order to best inform these conversations.

If you’re interested in looking at the potential budget and scope for your own vision, please reach out. We’ll happily walk through our ballpark spreadsheet with you, to see how it all comes together.