These are 13 things to budget for when planning your house build. The single most important thing to do if you want your house build to go as smoothly as possible, is get a realistic budget in place before you start designing.

A budget is not what you want to spend, that is just a notional figure of what funds you think you can live without.

A budget is the result of a multi-stage process of

  • preparing a wish-list of what you want to build, (the ‘brief’)

  • working out what that will cost,

  • fighting and crying for a bit

  • selling the dog and your collection of first-edition vinyl New Romantics records

  • working out what you omit from your wish-list to make your brief robust and reflect what is financially acceptable

Now you have a brief, a budget, and are ready to start designing.

The second step is the difficult one when you have no experience of commissioning a construction project.


Hard costs, are the costs associated with things you are physically going to build, usually they are what the main contractor is going to be tendering for. I call this the ‘contract sum’ in my costs plans.

Soft Costs, are costs which you must pay, which are peripheral to the contract sum. I am going to show you how to allow these in the 13 steps, but as a rule of thumb, add 30 to 40% onto the hard costs. Or to put it another way, your hard costs are likely to be about 75% of the overall budget.

So you can see straight away, if you plan a build project around a builder’s stated ‘€ per square foot’ (i.e. pub-talk*) you will be instantly heading for a world of pain. Bye-bye Rex and Japan.

(*pub talk costs are a fascinating topic and I will do a separate analysis of this when I get a minute).


This is a rule of thumb to work out the cost of the house itself. It will be related to the size of the space contained within (the Schedule of Accommodation).

I have an effective rule of thumb method, where I attribute higher costs for main rooms, and middle cost for other rooms and a basic costs for utility rooms, storage etc. But I will simplify here.


Add up the floor area of all the rooms you want. Add 15% to cover halls/circulation space and add 4 sqm if two storey for the stairs in addition to the 15%.

Multiply by €1,600.00 per square meter.

This rate is based on tenders in 2018 with good experienced contractors and a fully designed set of drawings and a Bill of Quantities with engineering drawings.

It is to passivhaus standard, so if you only want to build to the legal minimum, take 8% off this figure.

If you intend not complying with the Building Regulations, then use pub-talk.


That figure would include a modest kitchen, say €10,000. Add €5,000 for what most people will actually spend. Add €5,000 if you want stone worktops or other shiny things.

Keep about €3 to €5,000 for appliances, these are not part of the builders contract and you will pay for them directly.


If you want big sliding windows or feature entrance glazing, you need to add a premium here. Anything from €5,000 to €30,000 over the basic allowance for a nice but restrained design.


My rate would include about €1500 for light fittings, but if you want a show-house with feature lights, all low energy, add another €2500 for those. Double it if this is something you are going to go nuts on. See more on budgeting for lighting here


Excluded from the basic build cost are things that you are going to purchase yourself, built in wardrobes, blinds, curtains, furniture, any ‘loose’ fittings, kennel with a picure of Rex.


Included is a heat pump, heat recovery ventilation system, wiring for an alarm,

Not included; ‘Phone-watch’ services, solar panels (not needed with heatpump).


Included; waste treatment plant, water connection, soakaways

Not included; garage, well drilling, electric gates, rainwater harvesting.

I would add in about €10,000 for a 15m long driveway. If you want this paved with brick this is extra, of if it is longer allow for more.

Demolition of existing building is not included.

Tree removal is not cheap, roughly €1,500 per mature tree.

Boundary works such as wall building, fencing, gates, piers, hedge removal are all extra.

If your site is sloping, you need to add a figure to cover cutting and filling, retaining walls, soil disposal.


Add about 6% to all the hard costs above (not the stuff you are paying for directly which the builder is not installing) to cover the builders overheads like skip hire, waste removal, temporary toilets, insurances, cleaning, security, scaffolding etc.


I am advising clients doing costs plans today, to allow 4-6% per annum inflation in construction costs. If you are costing this today, you will take 1 year minimum to get a design together, apply for planning, do a detailed tender package, tender and negotiate a contract and issue your commencement notice. Longer if you need to do an An Bórd Pleanála trip or a trial separation from your spouse.


Add 13.5% VAT to the construction cost.


Topographical survey €900 plus vat

This is the site layout and levels required for planning applications.

Asbestos survey if you have a pre year 2000 structure to demolish. €700 plus vat

Trial pits for drainage/foundation design. €400 plus vat

Possible others are;

Well drilling. Tree survey


Structural/Civil engineer report/services

Architectural fee for standard services including Design Certifier.

Assigned Certifier (Opt-Out to be considered)

Quantity Surveyor services

Mechanical/electrical engineer services

Project Supervisor Design Process

BER rating

Thermal Bridge calculations

PassivHaus Certification if required

Climate data if required

Archaeology if required

allow say 10 to 16% of the Contract sum ( steps 1 to 10, excluding vat and things you are not getting the contractor to do) for all of the above, but it is project specific.


Printing, postage €1,000

Planning application fee €65

Local Authority contribution could be €3 to €5,000 depending on floor area.

Commencement notice fee €30

Irish water contribution excluded.

Psychotherapy or Drying-out clinic


There you go! You now have absolutely no excuse for your project not going to plan. Unless you have no hope of getting planning permission.. But that is a topic for another day! Do come back and see my advice on how to address that one. 


I would love to hear your comments on the cost plan and if you have any questions post them in the comments below and I will get back to you. Thank you for reading my blog on this issue and do share it using the buttons opposite!

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