Ask Andy – Cabin Costs

by Andy Sheldon

in Ask Andy

I got this question yesterday, and I thought it might open a discussion about construction costs in various areas of the country, building cheaply, etc.

Where do you get the idea that a 600-700 sq. ft. building complete will run $100,000. I am hoping to get a cabin built , including the pluming and electrical and ground for $20,000… John.

My answer to John, and anyone else interested in construction costs would be to first go to  I just did that for John’s 700sf cabin.

If you want to follow along and go through the same exercise, the inputs I used are below.  (when you get to click on “Start Calculator”):

  • Screen 1: 4 corners
  • Screen 2: 700sf
  • Screen 3: All Class 3 – Standard Quality
  • Screen 4: No input, all 0’s
  • Screen 5: Housing tract=No, Outside Metro Area=Yes
  • Screen 6: Forced air heating only
  • Screen 7: No input… no fireplace
  • Screen 8: Your State (I selected NJ)
  • Screen 9: Your Zip Area (Mine is 085)

Screen 10 is the full report, and I have included the totals below:

Cabin Cost  700sf Class 3So here we are… in my area of NJ a 700sf Standard Quality cabin, contractor built, with no fireplace or porch is $141,715.  Dividing that by the 700sf we get $202.45 per square foot.

I can tell you that from my private client experience in the Princeton NJ area, that is about right.  And for custom higher end projects, it is definitely more.

I began to wonder how close we could get to the $20,000 that John is targeting.  So next I changed the quality class to the Minimum Quality of Class 6. (Change Screen 3 to all Class 6).  The results are below.
Cabin Cost 700sf Class 6
This was very surprising to me at first, until I recalled that you can double the cost of a small project simply by choosing more expensive materials.  So here we have the same cabin with minimum quality selections for $68,958 or $98.51/sf.

Now I realize that the Princeton NJ area is going to be more expensive than many other areas of the country. I did not look at how much of a difference that would make, (it might make a bunch!).

But I think it is clear that John might need to do some of the building himself to reach that $20,000 at the $700sf size.

I would suggest that if you are curious about the construction cost of your cabin, that you run through a few options with and compare it to what your local area range of square foot costs are.

Personally, I have found that is pretty close in Princeton, NJ area as well as Washington DC and the surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia.  I had the same experience in the Adirondacks and upper State NY.

I would love to hear from you as to what you think.

As always, your comments are very valuable not only to me but to the others who drop by.