Is An Open Floor Plan Cheaper To Build?

While the trend through most of the previous century was to build homes compartmentalized into functional spaces, as we approached the new millennium floor plans had taken an about-face. By the end of the century, home designs were all about large open plan spaces and unhindered flowthrough the home. The open floor plan provides a great setting for entertaining, however some pros and cons should be weighed up, particularly concerning the floor plan price differences.

There were some sound reasons why traditional style houses used to be cut up into separate spaces dedicated to one purpose or another, like kitchen, living, dining, reading, study. Take the formal dining room for instance. It was always the norm to keep this room tidy and formal for dinner, particularly so for entertaining visitors and guests. This separated entertaining from the unsightly clutter and mess of the kitchen. The family, however, typically ate more casual meals like breakfast and lunch at the kitchen table right in the kitchen itself. There were also issues of privacy, and separation of the generations. It was considered desirable to let the children play in a designated play area and shut the door so the adults could entertain or get on with things in another part of the house without being disturbed by the children’s noise and antics.

Everything Changed with the Rising Popularity of the Open Floor Plan

With the rise of the open floor plan design, however, there are downsides to be weighed against the benefits of the trend. The initial perception was that this new floor plan layout would be a cheaper build and when you coupled this with the advantage of having a wonderful, integrated entertaining space, its popularity was assured. One drawback of the open floor plan style has been the sacrifice of separated living areas. The bedroom is now the only retreat for the teenager to ensure solitude for study, or privacy to enjoy their choice of music. For younger children, their bedroom has also become the only place to play and make a mess. Aside from the bathroom, everywhere else in the house has become community space. There are other factors that change when your home is designed around an open floor plan. While it is nice to be able to interact with the family and their activities when you are in the kitchen preparing meals, the loss of privacy and the increased noise factor need to be considered.

The Increased Cost of Energy for the Open Floor Plan

The overriding main reason for the traditional floorplan of separated living spaces with walls and doors between them was, however, for temperature control. In colder weather, the family could gather in the lounge in front of the fire and the room could be sealed from the rest of the house and easily kept warm. In this way, each room in the house could be closed in for heating purposes and this was much more efficient and cost effective than having to heat the whole house when everyone was, say, gathered in the living room watching television.

However, when the design style of open floor plans became sought after, everything changed. With a reduction of partition walls, the home’s communal living spaces became one large open area with unimpeded flow from the kitchen, through dining to lounges and living rooms. As a consequence, heating and cooling became significantly more costly due to the open spaces that required temperature control becoming much larger.

The Comparative Cost of Different Floor Plans

While it would be tempting to think that building an open floor plan would be cheaper by avoiding all those internal walls typical of older home designs, this may not necessarily be so. Certainly, there would be a reduced quantity of partition wall framing, drywall and painting, and fewer doors and architraves to pay for. However, in older style floor plans, some of the internal walls functioned as loadbearing points. In other words, they broke up the span of the roof framing and this meant smaller timber members with a lower cost in materials and labor. The framing of traditional homes was kept to a minimum with the smaller, lighter materials and faster construction time.

The floor plan price differences become apparent once you build with an open floor plan. Certainly, the internal load-bearing walls are considerably reduced in number and this represents a saving. However, with the much larger spans across the open areas of the house, the roof framing members have a great deal more load to carry. This introduces the need for large, laminated beams or steel beams and supports. These heavy-duty beams add considerably to the cost of the framing, particularly if it is a two-story home. Furthermore, the handling of such large and heavy framing members increases the cost of labor and can even involve cranes in some cases.

Factoring in the Additional Costs

All of these increased labor and handling costs have a tendency to add up and have to be factored in. Once you also allow for the issue of higher energy costs over the lifetime of the home, added to the increased building costs, it may work out that open floor plan designs are in fact more expensive homes than the more traditional designs. Despite these floor plan price differences, the open plan style remains high on the list of desirable designs for home buyers today, especially if it is a smaller house where a sense of spaciousness can still be achieved with open plan living.