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Build Cottage Cost

The average cost per square foot of building a cottage is $250.

In this guide

Pre-construction planning
Prep work
Foundation
Framing
Rough plumbing, electrical, and HVAC
Exterior work
Interior work
Design
Total costs
Enhancement and improvement costs
Additional considerations and costs
FAQ

How much does it cost to build a cottage?

The word cottage is derived from the old English word “cotters,” and it means someone who lived in a small home in exchange for working on the land. Today’s cottages, however, have an entirely new meaning

In America, the cottage is considered a vacation home, and while most are small, they can be quite elaborate and luxurious. Cottages can be built anywhere from in a backyard to beside the beach, and they can be constructed in nearly any style, using a variety of materials.

The average homeowner will find that building a cottage costs around $250 a square foot, all-inclusive. For an 800-square-foot cottage, the total project costs $200,000.

Pre-construction planning

Cottages may be small or designed to be occupied only part of the year. But the construction process is carried out exactly as it would be for any other house. During the pre-construction planning phase, you work with an architect or builder to finalize the plans for the cottage. Depending on the site, you may also consult with a structural engineer about the soil and type of foundation needed. For backyard cottages, this information is typically already known, but for new sites, it helps to have the land inspected prior to building.

Like any construction project, this phase involves selecting the site. If it is not in your backyard, how far is the travel time to your cottage and what type of setting will it be in? Part of the process is planning the layout and design and selecting the building materials. Cottages are slightly unique in that there does not have to be one architectural style. They are frequently a combination of several different elements. This means that you can select various features without worrying that the finished results conform to a set style.

Prep work

Prep work for building a cottage is also similar to what you would expect when constructing a year-round home. If the site is not already prepared, the ground will need to be prepped. This may involve cutting trees and removing any stumps. You also need to set up at least temporary electricity to the site and arrange for building permits. Excavation of the site and preparation for the foundation will also be carried out to ensure that the cottage is on level ground. Site preparation costs start at around $2,000, depending on the condition of the land.

Foundation

Every new build begins with the foundation, which takes the weight of the building above it. It is responsible for making sure the building is structurally sound.

Because a cottage is considered a vacation home, it is unlikely that you will need a full basement foundation. In some areas, a crawl space may be desired, while in others, a slab foundation 1 may be the right choice. Your foundation needs will be at least partially dictated by the style and size of the cottage as well as the area you are building in. A slab foundation 1 for an 800-square-foot cottage costs around $4,000 to $5,000 to complete.

Framing

Cottages can be built of nearly any material, which is part of what makes them unique. Concrete forms, metal, wood, sod, and even earth are all typical building materials used in constructing a cottage. However, wood-frame homes are probably the most common.

The rough framing is completed first. The cottage skeleton includes the interior and exterior walls as well as the roof and the beginnings of the floors. The sheathing is soon installed, and the home begins to take shape. Framing costs around $16,000 for an 800-square-foot cottage on average.

Rough plumbing, electrical, and HVAC

After the framing is complete but before the finish materials are installed, your cottage will have its rough plumbing, electrical, and HVAC work done. This involves running the pipes and plumbing through the entire home as well as wiring each room, roughing out outlets and switches, and doing the roughing in for electrical and plumbing fixtures.

Depending on the location and the times of year you plan on using it, your HVAC system may be fairly rudimentary. Or, you may want central air and a heat pump. Some small cottages may make do with a wood or pellet stove in the winter and a ceiling fan in the summer. When planning this phase of the project, consider how much use the cottage will get and when to ensure you are comfortable.

Expect the plumbing and HVAC to cost approximately $25,000 to $30,000 on average for an 800-square-foot cottage. These numbers can increase dramatically, however, the more you add to each system. Electrical work will run around $15,000 to $18,000.

Exterior work

Completing the exterior of the home includes first insulating and wrapping the sheathing to create a tight building envelope. After this, the final exterior finish materials will be installed. Cottages can be clad in wood siding, stucco, fiber cement, brick, or even log siding. The roofing can be asphalt shingles but may be thatched, slate, or cedar shingles as well. Cottages can be finished in all the same materials as a larger, year-round home, although many people like to add decorative details during this phase of the construction to set them apart.

The windows are installed along with the exterior finishes. Cottage windows can be large or small and may be done in any shape or style to complement the architecture of your cottage. Expect siding to be around $5,000, while the roof runs about $3,000 for asphalt shingles. Windows cost between $5,000 and $20,000, depending on the number, type, and style.

Interior work

Completing the interior of the cottage involves installing insulation, drywall, flooring, finished ceilings as well as the finish work. This includes moldings, trim, doors, windowsills, cabinetry, closets, painting, appliances, fixtures, and lighting. 

Like any home, cottages can be finished with any materials or styles, depending on personal tastes, layouts, and architecture.

Interior finish work varies enormously in cost, depending on the number of walls, type of flooring, and style of the kitchen. Expect prices to start at $10,000 and go as high as $100,000, depending on your cottage’s style.

Design

The design of your cottage influences many of its other costs. Simple, open layouts cost less to light, build, and finish, while cottages that include a lot of detail work, lofts, and custom planning are significantly more.

Many standard cottage designs are available that you can work with a builder to complete. Or, you can consult an architect to have a custom plan drawn up for you.

Total costs

Each cottage can have a significant range of associated costs depending on the materials you use and the overall size and layout of the building. Typically, the larger the cottage, the more complex the design and the more materials that will be utilized to build it. That is why costs can go up dramatically with an increase in square footage.

A small, 400-square-foot cottage would cost around $100,000, assuming an average price of $250 a square foot for mid-range materials. Using less-expensive materials could lower the cost to $58,000. Using high-end materials, however, could raise it to $150,000.

An average-sized, 800-square-foot cottage would cost $200,000, assuming $250 a square foot. Lower-cost materials would make this cottage around $140,000, while high-end materials would raise the price to $240,000.

Therefore, a large cottage, measuring around 2,000 square feet could cost as much as $500,000 to build, including all materials and labor for a mid-range design. A cottage this size with lower-cost materials could be constructed for $350,000 or a high-end version for $600,000.

Note that these costs do not include the land, only the cottage materials and labor. If you build a small cottage on property you already own, then expect these prices. However, if you construct a cottage on a new site, consider the cost of the land as well.

Enhancement and improvement costs

Eco-Cottage

Many people building new dwellings are taking steps to use a green or eco-friendly design. An eco-friendly cottage could save on energy bills but may include higher upfront expenses. Some things to consider include a geothermal heat pump ($7,500), solar panels ($18,000 to $20,000), rainwater collection systems ($2,500), and natural building materials like sod.

Front and Back Porches

Porches are popular additions to many homes because it increases the outdoor living space. A porch costs around $21,000 to build.

Dock

If your cottage is located next to the water, you may want to think about adding a dock. A freshwater dock 2 can double as a deck or outdoor living space and costs around $5,400 to build.

Landscaping

You will likely want to landscape the area around your new cottage because construction typically disturbs the existing landscaping. Landscaping costs start at about $13,000 for an entire yard.

Waste Disposal

Your waste disposal options for your cottage vary depending on location, city ordinances, and your needs. Outhouses and composting 3 toilets are options for small cottages in rural areas. If your cottage is beside water and cannot be hooked to a sewer system, you need a holding tank, which must be regularly pumped. Septic tanks are also an option for those who cannot connect to a sewage system. These systems range in cost from $5,000 to $40,000, depending on your needs and the number of users.

Additional considerations and costs

  • The location of your cottage influences the type of foundation you need. For example, building beside water requires considering the water table and soil conditions.
  • If your cottage is located in a remote or rural area, shipping or trucking materials and equipment may cost more. Some utilities may not be available, and those that are may have higher hook-up fees.
  • If you build on a rocky site, keep in mind that blasting for foundations or septic systems can be very expensive.
  • Always check local zoning, ordinances, and building codes before starting construction. Some areas have restrictions or codes for mitigating seismic activity, high winds, or floods, which can impact your project.
  • If your cottage is designed to be seasonal, some areas may exempt your building from certain codes.
  • The grade of the materials you choose for your home impacts its cost. The higher the quality of the materials, the higher the final costs.
  • Like any major construction project, you need a permit, and your cottage will be subject to state building laws and inspection.
  • Some roads in rural areas may be privately owned. Find out who owns and maintains your road and what your associated costs may be.
  • All cottages require homeowner’s insurance. Your policy will be affected by things like wood stoves, fireplaces, boats, water, and waste systems.

FAQ

  • How much does a small cottage cost to build?

The mid-range cost per square foot to build a cottage is $250. So, an 800-square-foot cottage would cost $200,000 to build.

  • What is the difference between a cottage and cabin?

This depends on the area, but in the U.S., a cottage is usually considered a vacation or seasonal home and is not lived in year-round, while a cabin may be a year-round home.​

  • What defines cottage style?

There really is no cottage style when it comes to the architecture, meaning elements from different types of buildings can be combined. However, cottages tend to be small and have details or styles that make them cozy or eclectic.​

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Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet

Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
glossary term picture Slab Foundation 1 Slab foundation: A layer of concrete, poured over a prepared surface of soil or gravel, that supports a house or other building structure
glossary term picture Docking Station 2 Dock: A device to which a portable device, such as a cordless phone, laptop, or mobile phone can be connected to charge its battery
3 Composting: A natural substance derived from plant, animal, or mineral matter that is added to soil in order to make it more fertile

Cost to build a cottage varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

picture related to the guide

Labor cost by city and zip code

Compared to national average
Albuquerque, NM
-14%
Athens, GA
-9%
Atlanta, GA
+24%
Aurora, CO
+10%
Austin, TX
+13%
Baltimore, MD
+12%
Boston, MA
+40%
Bronx, NY
+32%
Brooklyn, NY
+16%
Charlotte, NC
+6%
Chicago, IL
+40%
Cincinnati, OH
+6%
Columbia, SC
-10%
Columbus, OH
+5%
Coraopolis, PA
+7%
Dallas, TX
+10%
Denver, CO
+1%
Detroit, MI
+16%
El Paso, TX
-28%
Fort Lauderdale, FL
+2%
Harlingen, TX
-33%
Hollywood, FL
0%
Houston, TX
+24%
Indianapolis, IN
+6%
Jacksonville, FL
-1%
Jersey City, NJ
+23%
Kansas City, MO
+4%
Kissimmee, FL
-20%
Las Vegas, NV
+7%
Long Beach, CA
+16%
Los Angeles, CA
+11%
Memphis, TN
+11%
Miami, FL
+1%
Minneapolis, MN
+25%
New York, NY
+77%
Newark, NJ
+27%
Norcross, GA
+16%
Oakland, CA
+36%
Ocala, FL
-25%
Orlando, FL
+2%
Philadelphia, PA
+40%
Phoenix, AZ
0%
Pompano Beach, FL
+2%
Portland, OR
+11%
Raleigh, NC
-3%
Sacramento, CA
+8%
San Antonio, TX
-4%
San Diego, CA
+11%
San Francisco, CA
+53%
San Jose, CA
+33%
Labor cost in your zip code
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Methodology and sources