This section is from the book "The House: Its Plan, Decoration And Care", by Isabel Bevier. Also available from Amazon: The House: Its Plan, Decoration And Care.

The two most common means of estimating the cost of a dwelling are (1) judging of the comparative amount and expense of its finish - including masonry, frame, floors, walls and ceilings - and establishing a rate per square foot of the area covered by the first floor and so arriving at the total cost of the dwelling; or (2) figuring up its cubical contents - from cellar floor to roof - and then as arbitrarily setting a price per cubic foot, and so obtaining an approximate total estimate. Both of these means may be employed, the one to check the other. While the first method seems the somewhat rougher and more hit or miss, it is yet, granted the estimator has the judgment and experience to propertly set the square foot cost - both the quickest and the one that is in most cases sufficiently exact for obtaining approximate estimates. As nowadays there is but little difference in the height of stories in the house of average expense, the second, while apparently the more careful and accurate, is after all hardly any more certain. The accuracy of both will depend upon the amount allowed for the square or cube-foot cost, as the case may be, and the correctness of this item depends altogether on the experience of the individual making the calculation.

(A) COTTAGE AT BASS ROCK, MASS.

(B) COTTAGE AT BASS ROCK.

The figures given per square or cube foot that follow, are based upon prices in the vicinity of eastern Massachusetts, and include dwellings on good foundations, plastered inside and finished in pine or white wood, painted and stained, with hard pine floors, simple but good bath room fixtures, and with heating and plumbing, a laundry, and a cemented cellar under the completed house. It should also include a couple of chimneys, clapboarded or shingled walls, and any small sized simple porch, without additional allowance of area. For a large porch, or one having many columns and elaborate balustrades, some additional allowance must be made. If the second story is built out over the piazza, between one-half and two-thirds of the area it covers should be added to the area of the first floor before multiplying by the cost price per foot. No fixtures for lighting, no shades, or draperies, stoves, papering or other furnishings are included in the amounts given.

For a dwelling of about 1,000 or 1,500 square feet area, containing eight or ten rooms, the price per square foot will vary (in 1914) between $3.50 and $4.50, and the cubical contents could be estimated at from 12c to 15c a cubic foot. A house having eight rooms and covering 1,000 square feet, at $3.50 a foot would cost $3,500.00; and a ten-room dwelling with 1,500 feet area at $4.00 a foot would cost $6,000.00 The smaller dwelling, allowing 30 feet for its height, at 12c a cubic foot, would cost $3,600; and the other dwelling, the same height - but larger size - at 14c per cubic foot would come to $6,300.00. Such a building, with better interior and exterior finish or more expensive fittings or design, would possibly run to $4.50 a square foot ($4,500 on the small house, $6,750 on the large) or 15c ($4,500 to $6,750, on the two houses) or more per cubic foot.

If intended for a summer cottage, without some of the various items which become necessities in a dwelling used all the year - such as interior plastering, basement laundry, furnace heat, etc., - the cost might be reduced to the neighborhood of $2.50 a square foot ($2,500 to $3,750) and 8c and 9c a cubic foot ($2,400 to $4,050); while in exceptional instances, where local conditions were favorable and the plan was inexpensive in arrangement and treatment, it might even be possible to get the cost down as low as $2.00 per square foot.

For a somewhat larger house, say from 1,500 to 2,500 feet area, the cost would run from $4.00 to $5.00 per square foot, with a mean average of $4.50 ($6,750 to $11,750); and from 15c to 18c per cubic foot. This would mean a total cost of from $6,750 for the smaller size and price, to $13,500 for the larger. If of 2,500 feet area or over, the price would run at an average of $5.50 a square foot, and the cubic foot cost from 16c to 20c.

Such small dwellings as those shown at A and B, consisting of 9 rooms each and containing almost exactly the same amount of area (1,026. and 1,040 square feet respectively) and cubical contents (30,780 and 31,200) would agree with the rules given. At $3.00 a square foot they would cost $3,078 and $3,120; at 10c the cubic foot the same respective figures. House A actually cost just over $2,800 and House B, about $3,-200, when built during 1899-1900.

The Colonial House containing more elaborately designed finish, Oak and Maple floors and mahogany doors and mantels comes into quite another class. Covering about 2,658 sq. feet and allowing for porches 310 sq. feet more (about one-third their area - they are only half covered) a total of 2,968 sq. feet is the result. At $6.00 a foot this equals $17,898; and its cubic contents - 100,912 ft. at 18c a foot - equals $18, 164.16. The cost of this house ran somewhat over $18,000.

Continue to: