As a general rule, it may be said that a house in which the plan is simple and uninvolved, with square angles and rooms large rather than small, and with stories not too high, can be built at a somewhat less proportionate expense than an arrangement of which the reverse is true. It is not the plastering of a plain wall surface nor the laying of a floor in the centre of the room that takes time and extra labor; but rather the work in the corners and angles of walls and ceiling, the fitting of the border strips of the floor around jogs and angles in the plan - where material is sawn with a waste and extra labor is required to complete the work - all expense that would be saved on a simpler structure, with fewer rooms and their less fussy disposition.
A chimney costs less coming in a brick exterior wall that,when isolated in the centre of a building; unless by so doing it is possible to make it take care of three or four rooms upon each floor instead of only one - as might be true of the other location. A single plumbing fixture placed by itself costs proportionately much more than two or three grouped together; while if they can be arranged to come over each other from basement to attic, a very considerable reduction in the cost of labor and piping may be effected.
It is comparatively easy to give the cost of a door, a window, a screen - or whatever other detail may be required in the construction of the house - but it must be remembered that this single item does not nearly express the cost of installing that individual fixture within the building. The door requires hardware and finish around the opening; the window the same, as well as presupposing the addition of blinds, screens, and, finally, in the furnishing of the house, curtains and hangings; while always there is an additional item - which cannot be expressed so definitely in figures - to cover the labor of making and framing the opening, of furring and plastering around it, and otherwise supplying the various extra material and time necessary before the fixture may be actually set in place.
As a rule the small house costs less per square foot of the area it covers than the large house, but this is merely because the house of larger first floor surface generally presupposes a dwelling more expensive in finish and design. If the larger structure were built with the same finish, with as proportionately few door and window openings, it could actually be carried out at a less cost per foot of area than when condensed in a dwelling of smaller size; although heating and plumbing would average a slightly higher cost per fixture in the larger dwelling, because of the longer runs of piping required.
Some years' experience has tended to prove to the satisfaction of the writer that the owner is too much inclined to look only to the initial cost of his dwelling and allows it to govern too greatly his determination of plan and selection of materials; when, as a matter of fact, a somewhat broader point of view would in the end save him a considerable amount of money upon the total of his investment. The installation of cheap floors, for instance, demands their eventual treatment with paint, carpet or other material - wearing out constantly and requiring as constant renewal or repair at a cost that, while comparatively small yearly, in the end totals up to a pretty considerable sum. A porch floor much exposed to weather or storms could frequently be originally laid in brick or rough tile at a cost but slightly more than finishing it in hard pine, which latter demands yearly treatment by the painter and probable renewal, in part or in whole, every few years.
It must be remembered, too, that while the best of these suggested materials costs but a little more in the first instance than the less expensive and far less permanent coverings, and while it will indisputably earn back its extra initial cost in the mere saving of labor and maintenance; there is still another point of view from which the prospective owner of a building should closely regard this investment, and that is as to its appreciation in value in case it becomes at any time desirable to sell or dispose of the property. There are few people who can afford to entirely disregard this practical and commonsense point of view, even when planning so sentimental a problem as the home. This fact, if properly regarded, will rightly influence to a certain extent the plan and arrangement of the house, keeping it from departing too far from the conventional, and so preventing the use of extreme, outre, and fantastic ideas; while the well constructed modern appearing house of plaster or brick is always more readily salable and at a much better price.