House construction


Material Information

House construction how to reduce costs
Series Title:
Home and garden bulletin ;
Physical Description:
16 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
United States -- Agricultural Research Service
Newman, Jerry O ( Jerry Okey ), 1936-
Dept. of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service
Place of Publication:
Publication Date:
Slightly rev. Sept. 1970.


Subjects / Keywords:
House construction   ( lcsh )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Statement of Responsibility:
prepared by Agricultural Research Service ; by Jerry O. Newman.
General Note:
Originally issued Aug. 1969.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 004953369
oclc - 643338480
System ID:

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Location .............. .... 3
Style or design . . 4
Interior arrainemenrts . .. 5
K itchen . . 5
Bathrooms . . 7
Laundry . . 7
Storage . 8
Selection of materials . 9
W alls . 9
Floors . . 10
Fireplaces . 11
Windows and doors . .. 11
Construction . 12
H handling in;lterial; . 12
Working tips and precautions .. 12
Construction practices . 13
U utilities . . 14
TeatiiiL, cooling, and ventilating .. 14
Plumbing ... . ... 16
Wiring and lighting . 16

The authors gratefully acknowledge the cooperation and assistance of
the members of the Western Region Plan Exchanmge Committee of the
operativese Farm Building Plan Exlchange.

Issued August 1969
Washington, D. C. Slightly revised September 1970
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington, D.C. 20402 Price 10 cents


How to Reduce Costs

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You're building a house and
want to keep down the cost. How
can you do it ?
First, plan carefully "on paper"
before you start construction. By
doing so,, you can avoid costly mis-
takes in the building and in the
purchase of materials. Careful plan-
ning and proper d(-ign will reduce
not only the initial cost but also the
cost of furnishings, utilities, and
mainttni: ice.
Second, avoid unner'---:;Iry fea-
tures and expensive "frills." Nu-
merous features found in today's
homes could probably be eliminated
without sacrificingl living comfort
or efficiency.
Third, do some of the work your-
self. Limit yourself, however, to
those jobs that you know you can
do. Mistakes can be ,-,l ly.
Economical construction does not
mean inferior construction. Poor
workmanship and shoddy materials
are not economical in the long run.
Maintenance and repair costs could
soon nullify any initial savings.
Following are many specific ways
to reduce the cost of a house. Your
Iuilder may know additional ways.
You yourself may have some ideas.

Choose the house site carefully.
By doing so, you can avoid future
problems that could be expensive to
correct. For example, poor soil
drainage could lead to a wet or
damp ba,,iiit-..
Look for these features:
Firm, 'ecll-drainrd soil.-Avoid
poorly drained or unstable land. In
some cases, it may l)e necessary to
provide (good drainage with tile and
ditches. Well-drained sloping sites
are ideal for basements.
(Good a(r ci, rcl at ;on.-A void
building in low pla'e- where thlie air
may be trapped.
Go,,,l accek't li;ty.--Pr ivrate roads
and driveways are expensive to
build and maintain.
Atirailability of p/b'1!c ut'ilitis-
g7.'. 'irter, clecfric';ty. and ,ciwaCge
(l/./)o.0t /.-If tlie site is not collveln-
ient to a public sewer ssstel, make
sure that it is suitable for an in-
dividual sewage-disposal system.
Check with local health authorities.
Sewage disposal must be down-
grade from the house and well away
from the house water supply.
(rood or;entat;on.-Can you take
advantage of winter sunshine for

warmth and summer breezes for
cooling? Large picture windows
should face south for maximum
sunshine in the winter.
Adequate ( distance from other
h bildinvf.--W'inds can ca rry odors
from animal shelters or other


Design or plan the house to meet
your family's requirements. Too-
small a house, for example, would
,)e false economy. Here are some
principles of economical design :
Two-story houIe- cost less per
square foot to build than single-
story ones. The main reason is that
less roof area is required to cover an
equivalent amount of living area.
Rectangular floor plans cost
less per square foot. to build than
L-shaped, U-shaped, or other irregu-
lar floor plans.
Simple gable roofs are the most
economical. Flat and shed roofs are

Consider Your Future Needs
In planning your house, consider
your future needs as well as your
present. In time, you may need more
bedrooms or another bathroom or
The space for additional bed-
rooms can be an unfinished attic or
a clean, dry basement. The heating
and electrical work can be roughed
For future bathrooms, you can
rough-in the plumbing in the attic
or basement, or in a large walk-in
This additional construction will
increase the initial cost of the house,
of course. However, it may be more
economical in the long run because
such work can usually be done
cheaper at the time the house is

cheaper but have poor drainage and
high maintenance cost. Ridges and
valleys increase the cost of a roof.


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Well-drained, gently sloping sites are ideal for basements. Economical features
of this house include the one-story rectangular design and the plain gable roof.

Shed dormers provide more usable space than the gable type.

Basements add low-cost space to
a ho,,-c. If well lighted, well venti-
lated, and dry, they can be used for
living quarters.
Attics also add low-co-t space.
And shed dormers, while they may
cost a little more, provide more
usable space than giable dormers.
Slab-on-grade construction is
cheaper than crawl-space constriue-
tion. However, crawl space may be
used for utilities eqluiplent such as
pumpsp, furnaces, air conditioners,
water tanks, and piping. This will
free valuable space in the living
In most climates, large porches
are an expensive feature because
they provide usable living- space
only during the warmer months of
the year.


As with the overall house design,
plan the interior arrangements to
insure your family's comfort and
satisfaction. Yet there are many
ways to economize:
Make rooms multipurpose as
far as practical. For example, con,-
bine family room aind kitchen (or
family room and diining room.

Large openings between rooms
make small areas fun(lctionallv
If room dlimenisions conform to
standard rug -iz.s, carpet widths, or
resilient flooring sizes, you can save
a great deal when furnishings and
finishing the house. Standard rug
sizes, in feet, are 3 x 5, 4 x C, G x 9,
9 x 12, S x 10, 1( x 14, and 9 x 15.
Carpets are sold by the square yard.
Standard widths are 12 and 15 feet.
Limit hallway space to what is
necessary for good traffic circula-
tion. HIallways that include built-in
storage and laundry equipment
areas become mnultipurpose.


A good kitchen can be designed
for a limited space. In fact, small
kitchens can be more et'fliii.t than
larger ones. In an efficient kitchen,
the work areas and equipment are
arranged for use in a step-saving
Make maximum use of the
space in an economy kitchen. For
example, you can install an under-
counter hot-water heater in an
otherwise unusable corner base
cabinet. ()r. you can turn the un-

Rectangular floor plans are the most economical. Other economical features of
this arrangement are the combination kitchen and dining area and the compact
utility room.

usable corner span.' into a conven-
ient "pa-sthlrough" to the adjoining
dining room.
Plan storage carefully, keeping
cabinet space to a necessary mini-
mum. Seldom-used items may be
stored on top of cabinets or in the
attic or basement. Leave adequate
space for any cabinets you plan to
add later.
Both wood cabinets and metal
cabinets come in a wide range of
prices. However, if well made, cus-
tom-built cabinets may be more eco-
nomical in the long run. Cabinets
that are to be painted may be made
of less-expensive wood.
Open shelves are cheaper than
cabinets. Closures can be added
Use standard-size cabinets,
countertops, and appliances. Cus-
tom-built cabinets should conform

to the 3-inch kitchen module sizes
(6-, 9-, 12-inch, etc.) to facilitate
later additions to or remodeling of
the kitchen.
Conventional ranges take up
less space than separate eyelevel
oven and countertop range units.
And they are cheaper when you
add the cost of cabinets to contain

U-shaped kitchens are very efficient



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Maximum use is made of the space in this kitchen.

the separate units to the cost of the
units themselves.
Single-bowl sinks cost less than
double-bowl ones and take ulp 1.'
space. Porcelain sinks are the cheap-
est. type.


Bathroom facilities may be full
bath, half bath laboratoryy and
toilet), or lavatory or shower only.
For the most compact, efficient,
and economical fixture and plumb-
ing arriiangiment in a bathroom, in-
stall all of the fixtures along one
For the most economical
pllumbing arrangement, install two
bathrooms one above the other or
back to back.
Well-planned compartmented,
or divided, bathrooms cost less and
take up less space than two separate
bathrooms. With the tub and toilet
in one section and one or two lava-

stories in the other, two or three per-
sons can use the bathroom at the
same time.
Utilize the space above the
toilet (water closet) for storage
cabinets for bathroom lilicn i and


Laundry equipment should be in
a convenient but inconspicuous
Basements or utility rooms in
basementless houses are the favorite
locations for washers and dryers.
Combination washer-- dryer
units or stacked wa-l, r and dryer
units take up less floor space than
separate units.
In warm climates, washers and
dryers might be located in the car-
port or garage. This is relatively
'cheap" space and more convenient
to outdoor drying lines should they

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Many different bathroom arrangements are possible. In the top group, all
fixtures and plumbing are along one wall. This is the most economical arrange-
ment. Fixtures and plumbing are along two walls in the bottom group.

be needed. Also, you save in the cost
of venting the dryer.


Attics and basements (dry ones)
provide good storage spal'e. But you

also 1ied more convenient. "every-
day" storage room:
Storage walls may be iised in
lieu of convent ional wall-. You can
buy themll~ i- n;--elliled or rr;idy-to-
assemble units, or you c. i, build
your own. They help buffer sound


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Compartmented bathrooms are more economical than two separate bathrooms.

between rooms as well as provide
storage space.
UT-e well-planned closets. Make
them no deeper than necessary. Un-
le-, arranged as "walk-ins," deep,
dark closets waste space.
M:aki walk-in closets wide
enough for storage on both sides.
Single hung doors are satisfactory
for these closets.
Gain space by installing hooks,
rack-, or shelves on the back of
closet doors.


Your builder may buy most of the
material-, but you mainly deride
what to use. Mutual agreement on
the type of materials, the sources,
and the prices is necessary. Here are
s l te general ways to economize:
Buy locally to avoid shipping
charges and in quantity to avoid the
higher cost of small deliveries.
Buy stock materials in stand-
ard sizes.
Buy the cheaper material when
it will do the job satisfactorily.
Never conmprnni-e, however, on the
quality of plumbing fixtures and
fittings: light switches: furnaces.
pumps, and other mechanical items
subject to wear: paint; and lumber.

Shop around to get the most for
your money. (heck independent
performance ratings of material
and equipment. Take advantage of
sales and pre-season promotions.
Know what materials you need
and where you can substitute should
you find a bargain.
Limit the number of different
types of materials used. This will
reduce waste and save on cln-truc-
tion costs.


Walls made of materi-al that
form both the exterior and interior
wall surface are more, economical
than composite walls (several layers
of material) of similar qual it. For
one thing, they may require less
labor to build. Concrete block walls
are a good example.
Large-dimension wall units
save time and labor. For example,
8- by 16-inch concrete blocks go up
faster than 2- by 8-inch bricks. Or,
4- by 8-foot sheets of plywood go up
faster than sheathing.
Use insulation board instead of
sheathing where it will be strong
enough to resist the wind load and
support the other loads that it must.
Prefinished wood, hardboard,
and gypsum wall paneling are rela-

tively expensive. But they are easy
to install and require no finishing
which saves time and labor and
helps offset the higher cost.
Hardwood floors are economical
over a long period of time, but their
initial cost is high-both to buy
and to install. And prefinished
wood flooring is even more expen-
sive, although the time and labor
saved by not having to finish the
flooring helps to offset the addi-
tional cost. You should consider
using tile flooring or carpeting in-
stead of finished hardwood floors,
especially for long service.
SThick tile flooring costs more
than the thinner type, but it lasts

longer. It may be more economical
in the long run for areas of high
war;r such as the kitchen and hall-
Dark-colored tile costs less than
the lighter colors. Dark asphalt tile
is the cheapest type. It is satisfac-
tory for use in all areas except the
kitchen. Asphalt tile coated with a
plastic film should be used there.
Vinyl asbestos tile and sheet
vinyl floor coverings, which are
comparable in cost to light asphalt
tile, are favored for use in
low-cost housing. Vinyl asbestos
and asphalt tile may be used for
basements or ground-level floors.
The new indoor-out-door-type
carpeting is easy to install and to

Storage walls, which may be used in place of conventional walls, come as
ready-to-assemble units.

Assembled storage wall units can accommodate a variety of items

maintain. While it may be slightly
more expensive than regular car-
peting, it is also more durable.


Fireplaces are neither an efficient
nor an source of heat.
One may be too much of an expense
unless you use cheaper materials and
do much of the work yourself.
Stick to a simple design. Raised
hearths, mantels, and decorative
molding are attractive but unneces-
sary features.
Prefabrir-ited fireplaces and
chimneys are cheaper than masonry

Windows and Doors

Buy standard-size window and
door frames from mill stock.
Factory-assembled w i n d o w
units ready to drop into rough open-
ings save labor.
For large window areas, pre-
fabricated window walls may be
used. These consist of a wall, frame,
window frame, sash, and an integral
exterior trim.
Consider standard ready-made-
drapery measureenit when choos-
ing window sizes; custom-made
draperies are expensive. Standard
drapery lengths are 36, 45, 54, 63, 72,
81, 84, and 90 inches. Standard

pleated widths per pair are 4, 6, 8,
and 12 feet.
Double-track storm windows
are cheaper than triple-track ones.
Door prices vary considerably
depending on the inmterial and qual-
ity. Consider factory-hung doors,
especially if an experienced door
hanger is not readily available.


Handling Materials

Keep the handling of materials to
a minimum. This will save labor
and speed up the work:
Schedule deliveries to corre-
spond with the work progress.
Unloaid and stack or pile the
materials as close as possible to the
place of use.
Stack lumber in separate piles
according to the seltlen'llr of use. If
space is limited, stack it in one or

Wide, shallow closets are convenient
for storing frequently used items.
Note the additional storage pro-
vided on the wide-opening, double-
hung doors.


Prefabricated fireplaces usually cost
less and heat more efficiently than
comparable size masonry fireplaces.

two piles with that to be used first
on top.
Lift materials into place by
means of a front end loader on a
tractor or other such equipment
when possible.

Working Tips and Precautions

To speed up the work and prevent
personal injury-
Avoid working on your knees
and tiptoes. These positions are un-
comfortable, time-consuming, and
Avoid working on ladder- and
scaffolds. If ne.'v:-,ary to do (n,, be
sure the ladder or scaffold is -wcu'lre
111and stable.
Keep scrap and debris clear of
lie working area. Clean up after
each day's work.

Construction Practices
These construction practices can
speed up the work, save labor, and
Reduce cnA-I-. All may not be appli-
cable to your lhom u-, however.
Grade and stone the driveway
before you st art conwit auction of the
house. It will be convenient for
making deliveries of materials and
for getting to and from the site in
bad weather.
Place all utilities before you
pour the concrete slab in slab-on-
grade construction.
Ii-t4all all utilities before you
enclose and finish walls and floors.
Place drains and sewers before
you pour the foundation footings.


Fabricate truI -e and gable
ends on the ground~ where a jig can
1)e uiedl to speed up the job and im-
prove workmanship.
Build the wall panels on the
platform of the house.
Omit non-load-bearing parti-
tions until after you finish the floors
and ceilings. You can tlen install
the flooring and ceiling in two or
1more roo1m0-1 at one time and save
some cutting and fitting of mate-
In crawl space construction,
floor joists generally span about
half the width of the house with
the ends near the center of the house
supported by a beam. Shorter spans
will allow the use of smaller joists.




Foundations must be carefully designed to avoid uneven settlement of the house
or other trouble. Increasing the thickness of the concrete slab under load-
bearing walls (top) saves pouring separate footings.

Support the joists with two or three
beams. However, don't spend more
on beams than you save on joists.
In concrete-slab construction,
increase the t'hi-lness of the slab
under load-bearing walls iistiead of
pouring separate footings.
De-ign to meet the minimum
structural standards for loads set lby
the Federal Housing Administra-
tion (FHA) or local building
codes. FIIA standards, which cor-
respond to most of the predominant
building codes, are:
Pounds per .*j Iu q '*'
Exterior walls. 20
Interior walls....... 15
Steep roofs ... 15
Low-pitched roofs .... 20
Flat roofs ....... 40

Design to meet maximum code
deflection. FItA standards are:

Rafters .

Floor joists .

Ceiling joists


1/180 of span or
1 inch maxi-
1/360 of span or
21 inch maxi-
1/240 of span or
4 inch m1axi-
1/360 of span or
12 inch maxi-

Have the structural st reingth
required for foundation walls cal-
culated by a well-qualified person.
considerablee material can be saved
if a thinner wall will be strong
Di-ignn the foundation and
footings carefully. Too often chim-

ney or column footings support a
heavier load per square foot than
sidewall footings. This caii-es un-
even settlement of the house which
in turn causes crak-. Size the foot-
ings in proportion to their load-
large footings for heavy loads and
smaller footings for lighter loads.
Wall studs may be pl:ahed 24
inches on center instead of the usual
16 inches, if building codes permit.
Allow beams to be continuous
across supports. If two l-,earns meet
over a center support, overlap them
and fasten them together securely.
While this will not strengthen the
beam appreciably, it will reduce
beam deflection makee tlhe beam
Allow beams to overhang their
supports when possible. This will
create a balancing force on the beam
and reduce deflection of the inter-
mediate spans. It will also dereae.
the intermediate beam span (mak-
ing it stiffer).
Wall -l;hething is not required
if the structure is strong enough to
resist the racking of a 20-pound-per-
square-foot wall load. A r:.rk ilng
load is one that acts parallel to the


Economy is possible not only in
the installation of utilities but also
in the operation.

Heating, Cooling, and

In basenientless hol-c-, central
heating and cooling equipment may
be installed in an attic or crawl

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The peripheral circulation type heating system is economical for one-story houses
with crawl space.

space to free space in the living
Large windows facing north
and south are cooler than those fac-
ing east and west. And with win-
dows f ri ng south, you receive more
winter sunshine. This helps keep
the house warm.
Light-colored roofing materials
absorb much lh'- of the sun's heat
thanl: darker materials. This keeps
the house cooler.
Shade the house against direct
rays of the sun with trees, awnings,
and other natural or artificial shad-
ing. This too will keep it cooler.
Black-top or concrete areas ad-
jacent to a house reflect or radiate
solar heat into the house. This
makes it harder to keep the house
A hood and blower unit over
the ranlle or oven is a good way to
ventilate a kitchen, although wall

and ceiling fans may be Ib-. expen-
sive. If the range or oven is along
an outside wall, it will be cheaper
to exhaust through the wall in t( ad
of the roof.
Attic fans provide good ventila-
tion at relatively low cost.
Install air-duct systems with as
few turns as po(r-ible. Turns create
resistal,(e to air flow and thus re-
duce effective heat distribution.
Pipeless furnaces are more eco-
nomical for houses with crawl space
than friirnIac-and-duct sy.slern.
The peripheral circulation type
heating system is especially adapted
to one-story houses with crawl
spl:ie. It is illiut rated in the draw-
ing above, and described in TTSDA
Production Research Report 99,
"Economical and Efficient Heating
System for Homes." To obtain a
copy of the report, see the box on
the next page.




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Concentrate plumbing fixtures
as much as possible to reduce the
amount of piping required. In a
two-story house, "stack" the fix-
tuirc---locate the bathroom directly
above the kitchen or a downstairs
bathroom with all fixtures on the
same wall. Or, in a single-story
house, locate the kitchen and bath-
room or kitchen and laundry room
back to back with the fixtures back
to back.
In-tall an elctrio, water heater
in an area not suitable for other use.
For example, you might put it
under a stairway, in the crawl space,
or in a corner base cabinet in the
Automatic washers, dishwash-
ers, and garbage disposals increase
the load on a septic tank. Too s-imall
a tank will need more frequent

cleaning. It is much cheaper to in-
stall a large tank at the time of
construction than to replace an
inadequate system later on.

Wiring and Lighting

Never compromise on the quality
or safety of your electric wiring. In-
stallation by an experienced elect ri-
cian is recomiiiended and may be re-
quired in many areas. In all cases,
have the wiring inspected.
Install adequate outlets and
switches. Wire for your future
needs as well as your present.
Switch-controlled outlets may
be installed instead of ceiling fix-
tures. This is more practical if you
already have lamps. If you have to
buy lamps, it might be more expen-
Omit lights in closets where
hallway or room lights will provide
siiffici.iit, light.

Free copies of the following publications are available from the Office
of Information, U.S. Depart I eunt of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250.
Send your request on a post card. Include your ZIP Code in your return
F 1869, Foundations for Farm Buildings
F 1889, Fireplaces and Chimneys
F 2227, Fire-Re-it:lat Construction of the Home of Farm
F 2235, Home He:iting
G 100, Equipment for Cooling Your Home
M3 1006, 3-Bedroom Farmhouse-MasLonry Construction, Plan No. 7170
M 1011, 3-Bedroom Farmhouse-Slab on Grade, Plan No. 7167
These publications are available from the Superintendent of Documents,
U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, at the price
M 1020, A IHouse-Farming System for Low-Cost Construction (15
lPRR 99, Economical and Efficient Heating System for Homes (20 cents)


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