Log Blog

Building Cost Reference Sheet

This document courtesy of: Summit County Builders Association & Summit Association of Realtors

We get a lot of clients coming from parts of the country where buildings costs are half of what they can be in the High Country. In an effort to explain why construction costs begin in excess of $200 per square foot in Summit County, the Builders and Realtors put together this information. Any home built after 2008 must incorporate the 2009 IECC Building code. The new codes going into affect in 2014 will add more insulation requirements and may include sprinkler systems for all new construction! When comparing a home built prior to 2007, be aware that it may not be as energy efficient. Homes built 10 or more years most definitely are built to a lower standard for Sustainable Building Practices and Energy Efficiency.


as set forth in 2009 IECC (International Energy Conservation Code) require more costly insulation packages due to and higher R-Value requirements. Example: a 3,000 sf home with R-19 walls/R-38 roof with fiberglass batting insulation under the old code cost approx. $6000...Today's R-21/R-49 cost approx $25,000. Additionally, these Energy Codes require that we use 2 x 6 wall framing in order to achieve the necessary insulation requirements that simply cannot be met with typical 2 x 4 framing seen elsewhere in the Country.


look for this designation with a certificate or sticker on the electrical panel or in the boiler room. An independent inspector has assured with on-site inspections, blower door tests and other verification that the home will be warmer and more efficient than standard construction. The testing fees avg. $1500 and the items required can cost 10% more in the overall construction costs.


which is equivalent to Northern Canada! The standard rating dictates many construction methods not required in lower zones like minimum U-Value Factor for windows and doors. The average Aluminum Clad window package on a 3,000 sf home is $25,000. We also incorporate air seal methods to minimize infiltration and improve comfort. This Climate Zone can add items like heated driveways & heat tape on roofs to the plumbing under walkways, unique flashing details, and electrical needs.


steep roads, snowy roads and driveways can make deliveries of materials more expensive. Fuel surcharges to come 75 miles from the nearest metro area add to materials costs. Site conditions also slow the building process (time is money). Excavation in the mountains can take months due to freezing conditions, boulders, poor soils, wetlands etc. vs. metro areas where a home may be excavated in a few hours or days. Average excavation cost for a 3,000 sf home can be $20-$50,000 with driveways and retaining walls. If power and water are not part of an established subdivision, bringing water, sewer or power to a site can be in the tens of thousands of dollars.


All local municipalities require stamped, engineered plans for all structural elements of a home. Cost of engineering can be up to $3 per square foot. Requirements are much more extensive than other parts of the country for both roof and foundation. Our 42" frost line requires more concrete in the foundation and sometimes thicker walls to support a home on a slope with an average cost of $25-$40,000. Typically, in other parts of the Country thickened slabs are acceptable for structural suport. This difference alone adds up to thousands of dollars in additional concrete costs vs. other areas of the Country as well as deeper excavation, more hauling of materials, etc. Snow load requirements of 90-100 lbs per square foot mean we use 2 x 12 or I-joist roof framing materials vs. 2 x 4 material in non-alpine environments...which equates to approx. $15,000 extra in materials on a 3,000 sf structure. Keep in mind that a multi-story home is less expensive to build than a single floor "ranch" due to these increased foundation and roofing costs.


fees for Building Permits can run $10-$15K, Affordable Housing Impact Fees around $5K, and sewer & water Tap and Line Extension Fees can be up to $30K without adding any noticeable value to the home!


due to the high value of Ski Resort Property, most custom homeowners request/require a higher level of interior finishes. This may be seen in upgraded Wolf & Sub-Zero Appliances at $30,000+ vs. a Kenmore package at $6,000; custom finished wide-plank hardwood flooring @$25/sf vs. carpet @$6/sf. Specialty granite and tile at $70/sf vs. standard level one simple edge treatments at $40/sf. ; custom hand crafted cabinetry vs. builder grade stock cabinets. Recognizing some of these upgrades can help identify value and quality. These items can add up to $100/sf to the total cost of construction.


some subdivisions like The Highlands & Three Peaks require a minimum of 3 exterior finishes on a home. Custom home builders use quality products like real moss rock at $25/sf vs. synthetic stucco used in other parts of the country at $6/sf. In-floor radiant heat is customary in Summit County and will cost on average $10,000 more than forced air. Most builders choose better quality finish materials for the exterior due to our harsh environment, high UV and sun exposure.


Most custom builders drywall, paint & heat both lower levels (walk outs) and garages. The only difference in cost to build a garage is finished flooring. Some real estate forms, tax assessors and appraisers do not count this finished, heated lower level or garage in finished square footage calculation. This makes it difficult to compare apples to apples on cost per square foot.


It starts with Design review fees and deposits and includes items like garages that cannot face the street. This means heated driveways on a northern exposure, or more complicated foundation and roof system with more corners. Landscaping and other things that are difficult to do when it can snow 10 months of the year also add to the cost in our rocky environment.


County requirements for "Defensible Space" around each home mean not only cutting down Beetle Pine dead trees, but also live trees if they are within 10 feet of your building envelope. Average cost per tree removal $50/ea. Some homes over 4,000 sf and all homes over 6,000 sf are required to have sprinkler systems at a cost of $30,000+.


this is a hidden cost due to a higher paid workforce from everything to day labor to skilled trades. Builders can sometimes outsource labor from metro Denver, however there is a trade-off in quality, trip charges and warranty issues. Front range trades don't always understand construction methods used and required in the High Country, and when something goes wrong they are often not available to correct. You get what you pay for.

Please join the Summit County Builders Association (SCBA)

If you would like to learn more and gain relationships with your local Builder Community. We encourage you to partner with a SCBA Member Builder in who can answer your questions, and make you more familiar with their building styles and reputations. The SCBA meets for dinner the 2nd Monday of each month. You may come as a guest , RSVP at www.summitcountybuilders.org. We encourage you to use our valuable resources. Most builders are happy to preview a lot prior to your clients going under contract to advise on whether the home they wish to build is suitable for the lot they are considering. These relationships can be a win/win for you and your buyers to find the correct fit for their needs.

Brian L. Wray in
Breckenridge, CO on Houzz
Brian L. Wray in
Breckenridge, CO on Houzz
Brian L. Wray in
Breckenridge, CO on Houzz
Brian L. Wray in
Breckenridge, CO on Houzz

We Service the Following Counties in Colorado, USA : 

Breckenridge & Summit County – Frisco, Silverthorne, Keystone, Copper Mountain

Steamboat & Routt County

Fairplay & Alma in Park County