Running into overruns as you design your home? Use the 3D method to whittle a budget:

  • Drop expensive items from the project altogether or switch to less expensive alternatives.
  • Do it yourself instead of hiring it out.
  • Delay some aspects of your project until you’ve had a chance to rebuild financial resources.

The first option usually provides the greatest savings but comes at the cost of modifying your dream. Reducing the height of the foundation walls from 10 feet to 8 feet will save several thousand dollars, but the lower ceiling in the finished basement will be permanent. Switching from a solid masonry fireplace to a zero-clearance unit covered with artificial stone will also save several thousand dollars, but the look of the fireplace may change.

Hiring yourself to complete some aspects of your project can save hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on the tasks you take on and your level of skill. Do-it-yourselfing is usually a risky undertaking because most construction activities require specialized tools, skills, and knowledge. There is the serious risk that, should you get in over your head, you’ll need to hire professionals and they won’t be in the budget. Before assuming responsibility for any of the construction activities on your home, ask yourself if you have the tools, skills, knowledge and, most important, the time.

The third alternative might be called productive procrastination. By analyzing your project you may find things that can be broken into phases with only the initial phase included in your construction budget.

Before considering “phasing” any of your project, talk to your local building code authority and your lender. Ask what must be done for you to get an occupancy permit for your home. In some areas, you can move into a fairly unfinished house. In other areas, codes may require that your house be fully finished before you can occupy it. Lenders may also have special requirements before they will convert your construction loan to a permanent mortgage.

By only completing the first phase of construction of phased items or substituting less expensive alternatives for the short term, you may be able to shave tens of thousands of dollars off of your construction budget.

There are considerations to weigh in phasing any of these items. Here are some of the typically phased features:

    • Porches and decks
    • Wall and ceiling coverings
    • Plumbing and lighting fixtures
    • Doors
    • Cabinets and countertops
    • Fireplaces and stonework

How to phase these in over time was explained in the Country’s Best Log Homes Floor Plans & Design Guide.

Jim Cooper is a former log home builder-dealer and author of Log Homes Made Easy and The Log Home Project Planner.  He consults in log home projects and can be reached at