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Custom Home Cost Per Sq Ft Explained: Luxury Homes in Toronto

What is a Luxury Home Really?

In North America, we’re used to seeing stone and brick McMansions with mid-range finishes and fast construction being marketed as “luxury homes.” The truth is that the majority of these homes are actually middle market, middle quality builds with pretty stone facades. Real luxury homes have more thoughtful architecture, best-in-class construction methods, and high-end products and finishes implemented by skilled tradespeople. The level of luxury in your home starts with the architect

natural stone finishes in custom modern bathroom

Cost and Quality Start with the Architect

In the custom homeworld, it’s fair to say that not all architect services are created equal. Some architects will provide a 5 or 6-page drawing package with just enough information to get you a permit through your local building department. In this case, you and your contractor will have to figure out construction methods, products, finishes, and details on your own. The fee is low, and so is the detail. 

On the other hand, comprehensive home drawings may be anywhere between 50 to 100 pages. While these services will cost more, the quality is commensurate. You and your builder will have detailed guidelines for every aspect of the home. So while your home may be the same size as both types of architectural services, hiring a thorough architect increases both cost and quality.

Vertical Space Considerations

The second element that can increase the cost of your home without increasing square footage is vertical space. If a home has very high ceilings, more materials are required and the cost will be higher. If a home has large interior spaces with broad spans, a complex steel structure is required for appropriate structural engineering, and this alone could add $30 to $40 to your cost per square foot estimate.

Foundation Costs Explained in Hard Numbers

Standard block foundations with 8-foot basement ceilings cost about $10-$12 per square foot. Basements with higher ceilings and reinforced concrete walls can increase foundation costs to $15-$20 per square foot. Additionally, insulated foundation walls using insulated concrete forms can increase the cost of foundations to $30 per square foot. Finally, waterproofing systems for foundations can range from $1 per square foot for basic proofing to $5 per square foot for sophisticated systems.

Framing Costs Explained 

Most builders use dimensional softwood lumber for framing. However, no dimensional lumber is perfectly straight, and board dimensions can vary by as much as a ¼ inch in width. For perfectly straight walls and floors, builders can use manufactured lumber products such as LSL studs, LVL beams, and I-joists for floors. The cost of framing a home to a very high standard using manufactured products can increase the cost by $10 to $20 per square foot.

Building Envelope Costs Explained

Standard insulation is approximately 1” rigid foam on the exterior and R20 fiberglass batt insulation in the wall cavity. Using higher quality and higher R-value insulation products, such as spray foam and Rockwool batt insulation, can increase construction costs by $4 to $5 per square foot. Beyond this, upgrading air and vapour barrier products from standard to high performance will increase the cost of construction by $3 per square foot. 

Window and Door Costs Explained

Windows vary greatly in quality, from standard double-glazed vinyl windows at approximately $7.50 per square foot to aluminum-clad wood windows at approximately $15 per square foot. Large walls of glass and sliding doors can increase the cost of a window and door package by $20 per square foot, and very high-end windows and doors can cost as much as $50 to $60 per square foot.

Exterior Cladding Costs Explained

A 4,000 square foot home requires approximately 2,500 square feet of exterior cladding to cover walls. Standard cladding starts with vinyl or aluminum siding with aluminum soffits, fascia, and eavestroughs adding about $8.00 per square foot. Brick costs $13-$25 per square foot depending on the brick choice, size, and complexity. Stone costs $20-$40 per square foot. Cladding your home with materials like steel, zinc panels, exotic wood, porcelain tile, or aluminum composite panels can cost $30-$80 per square foot.

zinc cladding hidden garage flush on toronto luxury modern home

Roofing Costs Explained

Asphalt shingles are the standard roofing materials for mid-range homes and luxury homes alike. Depending on the quality and style of shingles selected, the cost of roofing your home can range from $15,000 to $25,000. Other roofing materials like steel, exotic metal products, cedar shingles, slate, imitation slate, etc. can range in cost from $40,000 for steel to upwards of $100,000 for a meticulous slate installation.

Drywall Costs Explained

Many of our clients are surprised to learn that drywall also ranges significantly in quality. Basic drywall installation using ½ inch drywall costs approximately $9-$10 per square foot (of floor area). Thicker and harder drywall for sound attenuation, in addition to a high-quality, smooth finish, can increase the cost to as much as $30 per square foot.

contemporary home showcasing dining area and staircase in toronto

Additional Cost Factors: Systems and Finishes

In addition to all of the factors listed above, you’ll need to account for systems costs. This includes HVAC systems, electrical installation, plumbing installation, and home automation and control systems. 

Finally, don’t forget to calculate the cost of finishes, which can also vary greatly depending on the quality of the materials selected. You’ll need to account for details like painting jobs, tile and stonework, millwork, and flooring. 

Calculating Your Custom Home Cost

In summary, every aspect of your custom home can range significantly in cost depending on the complexity and detail of the design, the quality of materials selected, and the skill level of the builders and specialty tradespeople. Because no home is exactly like another, the most accurate way to get a quote for your custom home is to contact your home renovation partner.

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