Cost of Building a Home in Pittsburgh: 4 Factors

When it comes to the cost of building a home in Pittsburgh, there are a few key factors that come into play. Of course, the size and type of home (spec home vs. custom home) you’re looking to build will impact the overall price tag, as well as location. But other factors such as quality of materials used, and level of contractor expertise can also affect the cost.

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Aging in Place Design: Tips for Building Your Forever Home

As people are living longer, the demand for aging in place design in new construction is on the rise. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 15% of Pittsburgh’s residents were 65 years of age or older, and 19.3% of all Allegheny County residents (per July 1, 2021 estimates).

More and more people want to be able to live independently in their homes as they age, instead of paying to live in a nursing home or assisted living facility. If you are building a new home, it is important to think about features in your house that will make it easy to live and move around comfortably as you age. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the most important aspects of aging in place design and how you can incorporate these features into your new home build.

What is Aging in Place Design, and Why Should You Consider It?

Aging in place is based on the concept of Universal Design, which focuses on creating functional spaces for people of all ability levels. Specifically, aging in place is the idea that your home will remain accessible and safe for you and your family as you age and need more accommodations.

When building a new home or remodeling the one you’ve got, it’s smart to take a holistic approach to your needs. A certified aging in place specialist (CAPS), like us (Dan Meade is CAPS certified), can help you thoughtfully design your space to grow with you so you can remain at home longer or take care of aging loved ones.

How Can You Make Your Home More Accessible?

By thinking ahead, you can build flexibility into your existing home, so it can be transformed to accommodate your changing needs as you age. This can be done with style, and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Here are a few things to consider when building or renovating your home:

  • Laundry room. Add rough plumbing in the downstairs walls to add a full bath and laundry hook-ups later. This can make first-floor living a possibility.
  • Wider doorways and hallways. They should be no less than 32 inches but a minimum of 36 inches is ideal. Hallways should also be a minimum of 36 inches (wider is preferred).

  • Open floorplan. They’re much more accommodating for wheelchairs and walkers.

  • Plenty of windows for natural light. As we age, our vision becomes impaired.

  • Stacking closets (in design). Closets that are designed on top of each other can be converted to an elevator shaft later, if needed.

See this Aging in Place Remodeling Checklist for a more comprehensive list of ideas that can also be applied to building a home.

What Are Some Common Features of Aging in Place Design?

As you design your home, think ahead and create a space that will be functional now and in the future. 

The Entryway

Create a space that’s open and accessible whether you’re on foot, using a walker, or sitting in a wheelchair. This means creating an entry that’s flush with the floor (no steps) and an entrance space that’s greater than 36 inches wide. Additionally, you can add non-slip rugs and hooks for outerwear and purses at varying heights.

The Kitchen

Choose the countertops and cabinets you love, but think about functionality down the road. For example, create workspaces at varying heights to accommodate a wheelchair and ensure the room has enough space to turn around. Consider a microwave drawer, instead of an overhead microwave, which is much easier (and safer) to lift hot items from. It’s also important to select appliances that are ADA compliant and ones with easy-to-read controls.


The Bathroom 

Bathrooms are one of the best places to consider mobility because there are so many lovely materials and products on the market with accessibility in mind. Grab bars, a shower bench or fold-down seat, an adjustable showerhead and slip-resistant floor tiles are all great additions to a bathroom that can help with safety as you age. You may want also to consider a sink that’s 34 inches high and a toilet seat that’s 17 to 19 inches tall, so you won’t need to bend too much to use them.

Our Aging-in-Place Remodel in Mt. Lebanon

The Main Floor

When designing your home, think about how your first floor can be transformed. With careful planning, a dining room can be converted into a bedroom and a small bathroom can easily be transformed into the main bath. Consider adding washer and dryer hookups on the main floor as well, so you won’t have to use the stairs as much. 

How Will Designing for Aging in Place Impact the Value of Your Home?

Thinking ahead will certainly provide a higher return on investment (ROI) when it’s time to sell your home. Many people are thinking about accessibility and their future needs when buying a home (or needs of a loved one), and aging in place and universal design is an excellent selling point. This will save buyers money in the long run, making it easy to transform the home as they age. 

Tips For Finding the Right Contractor to Help With Your Aging in Place Design

It’s important to find the right home builder in Pittsburgh who understands your vision to age in place. Find a builder who’s got experience with aging in place design and can provide ideas on how to incorporate this concept into your renovation or new home construction project.

If you’re ready to start planning, contact us. Our team at Prime 1 Builders are experts at designing homes that will grow with you so you can live comfortably at home.

Home Upgrades: What to Add Now and What Can Wait

Building a new home comes with lots of selections, and most of them will impact the final cost of your custom home project. However, when choosing which home upgrades add value, it’s important to think about the return on investment—a value that adds to the enjoyment of your home—not simply dollars and cents.

Let’s look at a few home upgrades that you should take care of during the building process, and a few that you can wait to tackle later.

Upgrade Now: Space

As you go through the design-build process with your builder, think about the square footage you need now and the square footage you may potentially need later.

Upgrading your square footage now—during the building phase—does not necessarily mean you need to “finish” the space entirely now. Some examples include:

  • Add a deeper basement (for more ceiling height) to finish it in a few years.
  • Add an unfinished bonus room that can be used for storage today and has the potential to be turned into a teenager hang-out down the road.
  • Design a bigger garage to accommodate your needs. Think about when your garage door goes down. Will it fit your large truck or SUV and all your storage items?

This Washington County homeowner asked us to build a secret kids room for him to finish later, and we happily accommodated his unique request.  And when designing this one-story house in Pittsburgh’s Robinson Township, we considered how we could eventually add an addition to the rear of the home—if and when the time comes.

Wait Until Later: Minor Aesthetics

Although you want your home to look exactly the way you want, some aesthetic home upgrades do not need to be added. One place where homeowners tend to overspend when building a house is fixtures—everything from light fixtures, drawer pulls and knobs to plumbing fixtures. These items can be easily upgraded later on.

Additionally, hardwood floors are beautiful, but laminate is just as appealing, and it’ll cost you far less (and it’s much easier to maintain.)

Upgrade Now: Tech Features, Energy Efficient Mechanical Systems, and Wall Outlets

If you want a “smart home” take care of this upgrade during the building process. It may require extra wiring before the walls are closed. Waiting until later can cost more and be a messy renovation.

While building, it’s also an excellent time to install energy-efficient mechanical systems and any plumbing or electrical you’ll want for your unfinished spaces (basements and bonus rooms). Again, your builder will walk you through this process.

Make sure you add plenty of wall outlets before the drywall goes up. Be thoughtful about placement, too. Think about each room’s interior layout: where the furniture will go and where to plug in lighting and other electronic devices. You really can’t ever have too many outlets in a home.

Wait Until Later: High-End Appliances

Appliances can be pricey. While you may want the latest-and-greatest kitchen appliances, consider how important it is to have high-end appliances right now. If they can wait, select a nice stainless steel package for now. Not only do they look nice, but they withstand the test of time. You can always upgrade your appliances later.


Upgrade Now: Cabinets, Countertops, and Kitchen Storage

If there is one place in the home where we find our clients becoming extra thoughtful with design, it’s the kitchen. Naturally, you’ll want to space to look great but also function. Here are some things to consider:

  • Extra-tall kitchen cabinets for aesthetics, and the height will give you one more shelf for storage.
  • Choosing the right cabinets can greatly improve kitchen storage. From cabinets that organize small kitchen appliances to sliding spice racks and lazy Susans, the days of having to crawl on hands and knees to find things are gone.
  • Varying the counter height for universal design considerations for family members (or your future needs).
  • A microwave drawer
  • Deep refrigerator cabinet to make the fridge look more “built-in.”

Wait Until Later: Lavish Landscaping and Outdoor Living Spaces

It’s fun to dream about sunny afternoons on your deck or a landscaped lawn with rose bushes and shrubs, but designing your perfect outdoor living space can wait. Your builder will probably provide a basic landscaping package (lawn seeded with a few shrubs on the front exterior of the home. Once you are moved in, you can work with those basic elements to add to the home’s curb appeal. For example, add a flower basket near the front door or expand a few of the flower beds.

For the backyard, we recommend you move into your home first, and get a feel for where the sun hits in the afternoons and evenings, before committing to an outdoor living space upgrade.

Home Upgrades to Add Now

To recap, some of our top home upgrades you should consider adding now include:

  • Square footage
  • Tech features
  • Energy efficient systems
  • Wall outlets
  • Kitchen cabinetry
  • Countertops
  • Kitchen storage

Building a new home doesn’t need to be financially stressful. Working with your builder to create a realistic budget and then sticking to it will create the home of your dreams without breaking the bank. It will be a nice return on investment – both financially and in enjoyment.

Contact us at Prime 1 Builders to get started on the design process for your new home.

Keep Costs Down When Building a House in Pittsburgh

When you’re looking to build a new house, the cost is always a factor to consider. Here in Pittsburgh, there are ways to cut costs without cutting corners on quality. In fact, there are some effective techniques for keeping your construction budget under control. But as a builder, we’ve seen where homeowners can overspend when building a house. Here are a few of our suggestions for how to keep costs down when building a house in Pittsburgh.

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One-Story vs. Two-Story House: Which Should You Choose?

Homes come in all shapes and sizes, and when you’re ready to design your dream house, you’ll need to decide which type you like best: one-story vs. two-story house. Depending on your unique needs, one style may be more appealing, and we’re here to help you make an informed decision. Let’s explore all the pros and cons of building one and two-story homes so you can build a home that’s perfect for you.

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Open Concept vs. Traditional Floor Plans: Which is Better?

The open concept floor plan is a popular choice in new construction since the modern design provides an airy space for entertaining, collaboration and creativity. However, some people prefer the privacy of a traditional floor plan instead. In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each home layout so you can decide which one meets your needs best.

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7 Dismissed Details in Custom Home Design

If you’ve decided to custom build your home, you’ve probably spent lots of time on Pinterest or Houzz looking at cabinet choices and color schemes. However, some important details in custom home design can often be dismissed by homeowners—leaving them with regrets when their homes are complete.

Before you decide to build your home, take the time to thoughtfully discuss these seven details with the builders you are interviewing so your finished home is both functional and beautiful.

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6 Questions to Ask Your Builder Before Building Your Custom Home

When it comes to building, no two builders are the same, which is why you should be prepared with questions to ask your builder as you begin the process of designing and building your dream home.

A custom home is your opportunity to create a place that is truly yours, uniquely designed to suit your lifestyle, personality, and family in a way no pre-built home ever could. This is why it’s vitally important that homebuyers pick a builder they are comfortable and confident in.

The home-building experience is both exciting and stressful to undertake. Homebuyers often feel that stress keenly with builders who are not on the same wavelength during the design/build process. But when you find the right builder, that stress is minimized significantly so that only the excitement shines through as you see it all come together.

How do you know when you’ve found the right builders for your custom home? By taking the time to “interview” the builder by asking questions. No doubt, the answers will blossom into full-fledged discussions that will reveal if you have found the right builders and grow your confidence that you’ve found the custom builder who’s the right fit for you.

Here are six questions to ask your builder so you can find the perfect match for building your custom home.


1) What is the cost of building a home in my area?

Home construction costs are defined by four factors:

  • Location of lot and site condition: Prices of lots vary from township to township around the greater Pittsburgh area. Additionally, the condition of the lot will affect construction cost such as if the site is located near a wetland or is rocky and additional excavation is needed.
  • Home design: The style of home you wish to build, and the square footage are two factors that will dictate the cost of your home.
  • Materials and selections: We’ve all seen the news that lumber prices have risen significantly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but all of the materials you wish to have in your newly built home—from flooring and tile to kitchen cabinets and master bathroom features—will all factor into the cost of your home.
  • Project schedule: Tighter timeframes or delays from changing the design (once finalized) will affect the cost of construction.

Keep in mind, however, that building a custom home is priced differently than building a neighborhood home or a spec home.  

2) What is your experience level as a builder?

Ask your builder team how long they have been in the business. Many builders have been constructing homes for decades, while others are relatively new on the scene. What truly matters beyond the years of experience in the construction and design expertise available and how satisfied customers were with previous projects.

Ask to see a gallery of homes that your builders have built in the past to get a feel for their style and quality level. You can also ask for referrals so you may interview past custom home buyers on their experience. 

3) Can you also design my home?

Many custom home builders offer a unique design-build experience, which means they can custom design your home from the ground up.

There are many advantages to designing and building with the same custom home team. The first is that your vision will be realized from beginning to end. The next is that the entire process, from blueprints to construction, will be streamlined internally without the need to hire additional services and experts to aid in the design and plan approval process. And lastly, the builder will be able to help you design a home and select the materials that fit into your budget. There’s nothing worse than having plans for a home that you love only to find out that it’s not within your budget

4) What is your construction timeline? How long will the building process take?

From design to completion, the custom home process can take anywhere between 6 months and 12 months. On average, you can expect a medium-sized custom home construction to take about a year to complete from foundation to finish. Larger homes may take longer to complete.

Another variable in the construction timeline is how long it takes for materials to be shipped. Specialty tiles, custom cabinets, appliances, windows, and even your bathtub can take as little as a few weeks to as long as 4-5 months to arrive on site.

Always ask for an outlined construction timeline. Look for a builder who can give you a concrete answer and break down how the timeline works section-by-section. 


5) Is the lot cost included?

Whether your lot cost is included depends on your builders and home construction circumstance. In many cases, custom homebuyers first buy the lot, then hire their contractors to build the house. However, if your builders are also neighborhood property developers, they may offer the lot price along with the home price as a package deal – because they already own the lot. 

6) How do you determine the budget for the project?

This is one of the most important questions you can ask and feel comfortable with your builder’s approach. Your budget will be determined by a wide variety of factors – factors that your custom builder can break down for you to see. This process will help you understand what may cause any off-plan expenses.

It’s no secret that your home is one of the most important investments you’ll make in your lifetime. It’s a place where you can retreat, relax and recover from the stress of work and day-to-day life.

So why not build the perfect space?

Download our e-book to gain a solid understanding of the home building process.


An Aging-in-Place Remodel in Mt. Lebanon

A Main Level Home Addition Prepares a Couple for Future Aging-in-Place Needs

This older couple had aging in place in mind when they sought out Prime 1 Builders to remodel their home. While they were not experiencing any mobility issues now, they wanted to modify their home to create more of a one-floor living space. They were concerned about climbing the stairs to their second-floor bedrooms and bathrooms in the future.


Aging In Place Remodel Design

The goal of this aging-in-place remodeling project and addition design was to create a space that can be enjoyed now while providing enough flexibility for future aging-in-place needs, should the clients need them. To accomplish this, we designed a space that is not only open (for ease in mobility), but also provides all of the features they will need should they need to be confined to one-floor living: bedroom, bathroom, easy-to-navigate kitchen and laundry room.

  • For now, the space designated as a future bedroom will be enjoyed as a TV room.
  • The laundry room was moved up from the basement to the main floor.
  • A lovely, modern bathroom is located off the kitchen, complete with a low-threshold shower. Attractive grab bars were installed in the shower, and additional blocking was installed behind the walls for more grab bars to be installed when needed in the future.
  • French style patio door opening lead out to a spacious and lovely, covered deck.
  • The area under the covered deck serves as a carport.
  • The addition created an additional two-car garage. The homeowner currently uses it as his woodworking shop.

Addition Construction & Challenges

One of the first challenges while constructing this room addition was to remove an old covered concrete porch perched over a concrete block storage room, but we were able to remove this structure without damaging the existing house.

Another challenge came from the close lot lines of this neighborhood which required us to excavate close to the neighbor’s newly constructed concrete driveway—installed right at the property line. We excavated and installed the new reinforced concrete block foundation without disturbing the earth around the driveway.

With an existing walkway at the front of the house leading to a gently sloped driveway, the addition and the garage can be easily accessed without climbing any stairs. The exterior siding and trim colors were selected to blend in with the existing home exterior.

Whether you want to build your dream home or renovate and expand your home to meet your needs today, we can help. Contact us.

Award-Winning Kitchen Addition & Garage Build in Point Breeze

A Kitchen Addition & Garage Built for this Urban East-Side Pittsburgh Home

When this client came to Prime 1 Builders, they wanted two items: to build a detached garage and to expand the kitchen of their brick home in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood. Their vision was to have their larger kitchen overlook their backyard, which is often utilized for dining and entertaining, as well as finally have a two-car garage to protect and charge their cars and store belongings.


Constructing a Kitchen Addition

This brick home was built in 1929, so care needed to be taken to join the addition to the existing home. The kitchen addition was affixed to the house where a modest back porch existed. The wall between the existing dining room and the new kitchen wasn’t entirely removed, but the opening was expanded, to allow access around the island and create a nice flow to a new backdoor. A flat roof, rather than pitched, was used on the addition. This thoughtful design feature limits any obstructions from the second-floor bedrooms, while still allowing for high ceilings and tall windows to overlook the backyard oasis.

The space that was previously occupied by the small, existing kitchen was transformed into a mudroom and powder room. The former butler’s pantry was opened—by removing a wall—to make room for the family piano. This also created a desirable open floor plan.

The large wall of glass windows that was added to the kitchen (at the rear of the house) now serves double duty. It allows for a tremendous amount of natural light to enter the kitchen and flow into the existing house, and it also creates a true “picture window” effect—looking out over the back yard and garage.


The kitchen with its island and generous counter space is truly an inviting room to cook, eat or just hang out in, and the brick exterior makes the room seamlessly integrate with the existing house and the back yard.

Building a Detached Garage in Urban Pittsburgh

These homeowners also wanted to build a detached garage in their Point Breeze neighborhood because they not only wanted indoor parking for their two cars, but they also wanted storage for their bikes, camping gear and still have enough room for a workbench. Additionally, since one is an electric vehicle, they also required an electric car charging station to be built into the garage.

Just like the kitchen addition, the garage exterior was designed to blend with the architecture of the existing house as if it were a part of the original construction. The width of the garage extended from one property set-back line to the other to create privacy and limit the access to the back yard from the alleyway. The garage roof was prepped so that the owner could install solar panels (which was completed), and the panels are not visible as parapet walls were designed to conceal the panels.


Underground electrical conduits from the garage to the house were also installed. This connects the solar panels on the garage roof to the “buy back” electric meter and contributes to reducing the home’s carbon footprint.

The main challenge in building the addition and garage was access to the lot. We knew that once we constructed the shell of the garage structure, we would no longer have access to the lot for moving any large or heavy items. We worked the project in such a fashion to ensure all the large materials and heavy lifting was complete before we closed off access to the area.

Whether you want to build your dream home or renovate and expand your home to meet your needs today, we can help you navigate the design-build construction process.

Contact Us.