This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
It is always a very difficult matter, with parties about to build, to ascertain what the house they propose erecting will probably cost. As a general -thing, the person purposing building cannot obtain anything definite without first going to the trouble and expense of having his plans and specifications made, so that he can dissect the quantities of the different materials required, and so arrive at the desired price.
This system generally leads to dissatisfaction, for it is mostly the case that the person about to build has fixed upon the price he wishes to spend before he commences his plans, and misleads himself into the belief that he can obtain a certain sized house for a given sum, his architect's opinion to the contrary notwithstanding, using as his argument that he has certain unusual facilities for obtaining certain materials, or doing certain portions of the work, and also, further, that such and such a person built his house for such a price, and why should he not be able to do so?
Now, to obviate these difficulties, I purpose giving a simple rule for ascertaining the approximate outlay, without being necessitated to first have your plans, etc, prepared; and one that I have generally found to work out correctly.
Having decided on about the style and character of house you require, and what degree of finish or ornamentation you want outside and inside, look around in your neighborhood for such description of house, and ascertain from its owner what it cost. Having obtained the price, then measure the size it occupies on the ground, and also the different heights, and "cube" the whole, so as to arrive at the number of cubic feet of space occupied by the house. Then reduce the number of dollars the house costs into cents, and divide the cents by the Cubic feet, and it will give you how much the house you require will cost every cubic foot of space it occupies.
When you have ascertained how much such a style of house as you require will cost for every cubic foot of space it occupies, set to work and sketch out the plan of a house to suit your requirements; having done so, reduce the same into cubic feet, and when you have ascertained the number of feet your proposed house will occupy, multiply them by the price per foot your neighbor's house cost, and it will give you the approximate cost of your proposed house.
By having the above figures at your command, it enables you to increase or decrease the size of your house, so as to come moderately near to the sum you wish to spend, all of which can be done before you commence to have your working-drawings and specifications made.
To make the above more easily understood, I give below the mode adopted for ascertaining the number of cubic feet of space occupied by a house. It is simply to multiply the width of the house by the depth, and the product will give you the number of superficial square feet in the house ; the square feet multiplied by the height will give the number of cubic feet.
In taking off the size of the house, do not measure in any of the verandas, as they are not room in the house ; at the same time, in planning your own house, you must bear in mind not' to put in m6re veranda, in proportion to the size, than your neighbor has, unless you add a proportional amount to your cost. In measuring your height, include about one foot below the cellar-floor, add in the thickness of the different floors, and when you come to the roof, or attic, make proper allowances to suit the slope of the roof, for if the roof be steep, of course measuring to the ridge or top line would not be correct - so, allow accordingly.
In naming the sum a house will probably cost; I generally find it best to leave out the mantels, grates, furnace, hot-air pipes etc, and plumbing, as these vary so much in different houses ; but the drains, cistern, cesspool and painting - indeed, everything, with the above exceptions - I include in my figures, and I think a party entering into calculations would do well to adopt the same plan. Of course, if he includes the items I name, in the cost of his neighbor's house, he can rely upon their being included in his own.
In future numbers of the Horticulturist, I purpose giving some plans and views of Country Villas that have been erected from my designs, accompanying which, I will state the price they cost per cubic foot so that a party purposing building may be able more readily to decide on the style to adopt for his new house, so as to meet his ideas of cost.