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Build Cottage Cost Guide
Updated: November 21, 2022
The word cottage is synonymous with cozy living, vacations, and rural settings. Cottages have a long and varied history. They were often created as small laborers' homes, built from materials found on the land within a small radius. Eventually, they became synonymous with any small, cozy dwelling, usually located in a rural or vacation setting. Today, the term most frequently used is cottage-style to describe a small, cozy home with amenities designed for comfortable living.
The national average cost to build a cottage is $200,000 to $400,000, with most paying $300,000 for a 1,500 sq.ft. cottage with a slab foundation, wood and stone exterior, and 1½ stories. This project’s low cost is $112,000 for an 800 sq.ft. prefab cottage with a slab foundation and wood shingle exterior. The high cost is $600,000 for a 2,000 sq.ft. 2-story cottage with a full basement, stone exterior, and luxury materials.
Cost to Build a Cottage
|Cottage Construction Costs|
|National average cost||$300,000|
What Makes a House a Cottage?
There is no definition of a cottage or what makes a house a cottage. Instead, a cottage is generally considered a small, cozy home, usually located in rural and semi-rural areas. Cottages may be used as year-round homes but are often more frequently used as summer homes or vacation properties. Cottage-style architecture is usually considered simple, classic, and stands the test of time. Cottages themselves can be traced back to the Middle Ages, which is where the word cottage comes from. A cottage was the home of a “cotter” or a person who lived on the property of a nobleman’s manor. The cottage was a small, cozy addition to a property rather than the main home.
Several characteristics are common among cottages and, when featured by a small home, can be agreed upon as “cottage style” or a “cottage-style architecture.” Some of these features include gabled roofs, with cross gables and Dutch gables being common, arched entryways between rooms, bay windows, divided or paneled windows, small front porches, lanterns and sconces around the entryways, and prominent chimneys with wood-burning fireplaces indoors. Most cottages feature traditional interior living spaces, including a master bedroom, living room, dining room, and bathrooms. Some larger cottages may also have a cottage kitchen with a dining area and room, while some smaller cottages may have a kitchen with a dining area in place of a dining room. Most cottages are single story, but 1½ and 2-story cottages can also be found. These vary based on location.
Common Materials for Your Cottage
Cottages are built to be cozy, last, and use many natural materials found in the surrounding area. For that reason, you often see cottages with stone or wood-clad walls and stucco walls and brick or brick accents. Traditionally, cottage roofs were thatched, but as that is a skilled trade that is uncommon in the U.S., most cottages in this country feature cedar or wood shingle roofs. They may also use asphalt or slate shingle roofs.
Most cottages are framed in wood, but depending on where you live, you may also use logs, hemp, sod, or insulated concrete blocks to build your home. It is also not uncommon to build directly with brick or stone in some areas. For cottage interiors, you find a lot of wood, stone, and wrought iron. Wood flooring is common, as are tile floors and plaster walls. Consider wicker and wood furniture when furnishing your cottage.
Cottage Prices by Type of Construction
Cottages are typically built in two ways - stick-built and prefab. The first is traditional or stick-building. It is sometimes called a custom build because the cottage is built from plans that can be easily modified. In this case, the cottage is built using plans on-site, with the homeowners and contractor making choices for the finished design. This method is the most common and flexible, allowing you to make changes as you go. It is also more expensive and takes longer. The second method is a prefab or modular cottage. This is usually based on a set of readymade plans built off-site before traveling to the final location. Prefab cottages prices are lower than stick built and are faster to build, but they may not offer much room for customization. No changes can be made once the build is underway, so this method has less flexibility. You can get a custom-made modular cottage, meaning the home is designed using custom plans and built modularly, but this is fairly uncommon. Modular cottage building is frequently called prefab cottage building.
|Type||Costs per Sq.Ft. (Labor Included)|
|Modular / Prefab||$140 - $200|
|Custom / Stick-Built||$170 - $300|
Cost to Build a Cottage by Size
Traditionally, cottages have always been smaller than the average home size. However, as the average home size in the U.S. has increased, so has the average cottage size. There is no one size you can find or build a cottage in. Most cottages fall between 1,000 and 2,000 sq.ft., but many can be smaller. The cottage size directly influences costs. So, the cost to build a small cottage is less than the cost to build something larger. Costs vary depending on the size, building method, how many changes you make to a plan, and whether you have custom plans drawn up with an average cost per sq.ft. of $140 to $300. Costs may also vary by the area you build in. Below are common cottage sizes and their average costs to build using both methods.
|Size||Modular Cottage Costs (Labor Included)||Stick-Built Cottage Costs (Labor Included)|
|400 sq.ft.||$56K - $80K||$68K - $120K|
|600 sq.ft.||$84K - $120K||$102K - $180K|
|800 sq.ft.||$112K - $160K||$136K - $240K|
|1,000 sq.ft.||$140K - $200K||$170K - $300K|
|1,500 sq.ft.||$210K - $300K||$255K - $450K|
|2,000 sq.ft.||$280K - $400K||$340K - $600K|
Cottage Construction Cost Breakdown
Regardless of the cottage size and how it is built, most cottages have a similar build process. They go through a planning stage, site preparation, foundation pouring, framing, utility and HVAC work, and finishing work for the exterior and interior. The following breaks the costs down for the average 1,500 sq.ft. cottage. Your costs may be different if your cottage is larger or smaller. These costs reflect stick-building methods because modular building has its own cost breakdown.
|Project||Cost (Labor Included)|
|Pre-Construction Planning||$4K - $10K|
|Site Preparation||$12K - $22K|
|Foundation||$22K - $44K|
|Plumbing, Electrical, and HVAC||$30K - $60K|
|Framing||$34K - $68K|
|Exterior Work||$48K - $96K|
|Interior Work||$50K - $100K|
Plans and pre-construction planning for cottages cost between $4,000 and $10,000. 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. Depending on the site, you may also consult with a structural engineer about the soil and foundation type. You may use readymade plans or draw custom plans. The site, materials, and layout impact your final costs for this stage.
Site preparation costs start at around $12,000 to $22,000, depending on the land condition. Prep work for building a cottage is similar to what you would expect when constructing a year-round home. If the site is not already prepared, the ground must be prepped. This may involve cutting trees and removing stumps. You also need to set up temporary electricity and arrange for building permits. Excavation and preparation for the foundation are also done to ensure the cottage is on level ground.
The average foundation for a cottage costs $22,000 to $44,000 to complete. Every new build begins with the foundation. This is what your cottage rests on, meaning the foundation supports the building weight. Total costs for the foundation include excavation, concrete delivery and pouring, and finishing the foundation. Because cottages are commonly built in rural areas, costs usually include visits from a structural engineer and sometimes a soil engineer to help determine the best foundation for your cottage. You may need a thicker foundation if your cottage is built in freeze/thaw areas, or you might want to include a finished basement foundation when building in certain areas.
Rough Plumbing, Electrical, and HVAC
The cost to install your plumbing, electrical, and HVAC in a new cottage averages $30,000 to $60,000. After the framing is complete, your cottage has its rough plumbing, electrical, and HVAC work done before the finish materials are installed. This involves running pipes and plumbing through the entire home, wiring each room, roughing out outlets and switches, and doing the roughing in for electrical and plumbing fixtures. At this stage, ducts can be run for forced hot air and central air conditioning, or pipes can be run for a boiler system. If you choose to add a fireplace to your cottage, plan on an additional cost of $4,500 to $15,000.
The cost to frame a cottage is $34,000 to $68,000. Cottages are built of nearly any material, making them unique. Concrete forms, metal, wood, sod, and earth are typical building materials. However, wood-frame homes are probably the most common.
The rough framing is completed first. The cottage skeleton includes the interior and exterior walls, roof, and the beginnings of the floors. Regardless of what the home is finished with, this frame must go up first to support the final structure.
Full exterior finish work ranges from $48,000 to $96,000. Completing the home’s exterior includes first insulating and wrapping the sheathing to create a tight building envelope. After this, the final exterior finish materials are installed. Cottages can be clad in wood siding, stucco, fiber cement, brick, or log siding. The roofing can be asphalt shingles but may be thatched, slate, or cedar shingles, with many homeowners choosing metal roofing for durability. Your exterior work also includes the windows, doors, porches, balconies, porticos, and other features you add.
The average cost of finishing the interior of a cottage is $50,000 to $100,000. Completing the interior involves installing insulation, drywall, flooring, finished ceilings, and the finish work. This work includes moldings, trim, doors, windowsills, cabinetry, closets, painting, and appliances. Like any home, cottages can be finished with any materials or style, depending on personal tastes, layouts, and architecture. Interior finish work varies enormously in cost, depending on the number of walls, flooring type, and kitchen style.
Backyard Cottage Cost
If you have the space and are zoned for the structure, you can build a cottage in your backyard for $56,000 to $180,000, depending on the building type. You can also build a tiny cottage on your property for $40,000 to $50,000. Any structure built in the backyard is technically an accessory dwelling unit or ADU. ADUs go by many names but are frequently called backyard cottages. These can be used as guesthouses or in-law apartments, depending on where you live and the zoning laws. Most backyard cottages are under 600 sq.ft., but you can build larger if you have the space. They have the same costs per foot as other cottages. Many states have building size laws under 400 sq.ft., and whether your tiny cottage requires a foundation. Before building, speak to your local municipality about your area’s ADU and sizing laws.
There is no one architectural style that can be referred to as a cottage style. Instead, cottages can be found around the world, and each may have certain traits that may be appealing to your personal tastes and where you live. Universally, a cottage is considered a small and cozy home, easy to heat, cool, and maintain, and frequently built of local and natural materials. Many have gable roofs because these are the least expensive roofs to build, and those with 1½ or 2 stories may feature dormers to make the most of the space. The following styles are reflected in their places of origin, and you can find or build cottages that take elements from each.
English cottages are frequently considered the first cottage type or style. Many people think of these cottages when they hear the word. English cottages typically have thatched roofs and walk out into gardens. They are normally just 1 story and may have stone or stucco walls. These cottages are also sometimes called country cottages.
The Nordic cottage is sometimes called the mountain cottage. These cottages were first found in Nordic countries like Denmark and Sweden. They are made of wood and often painted red to stand out from the surrounding snow or trees. These cottages are often designed to be vacation spots or second homes. They may be taller at 2 stories and are often well-insulated and comfortable with large fireplaces.
The American cottage is sometimes called the beach cottage or coastal cottage. These cottages were first found in areas like Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard and can still be found in these areas and other parts of the country. These cottages feature shingle or wood siding exteriors and often wood roofs. Some are left to weather to a natural gray hue, while others may be painted white, gray, yellow, or blue. These cottages may have 1, 1½, or 2 stories and frequently feature dormers.
Like the American cottage, the Canadian cottage is frequently found near water. These are tall, narrow homes. They are usually 2 stories and frequently clad in wood siding or shingles. Cottages in Canada are most commonly used for vacation and getaway purposes. You can find them on lakes, coasts, and in rural settings. Many feature dormer roofs and porches.
The modern cottage has no real cohesive style other than nods toward contemporary architecture. These small homes feature clean lines, many windows, and frequently have flat roofs that can be used as a garden or deck. You can find modern cottages on beaches, lakes, rivers, and in some mountain areas. Modern cottages tend to be larger than more traditional styles. They are also not as cozy or feature as much natural wood and stone as other cottage styles. Instead, there is more glass, metal, and concrete.
Cottage vs Cabin Price
Cottages and cabins are frequently built in rural areas. Both homes are also commonly used as vacation homes and primary residences. While cottages do not have a single architectural style, cabins generally fall into several types, including the scribe, post-and-beam, A-frame, and chink. Most cabins are built with logs or post-and-beam frames and given a log exterior.
Like cottages, cabins are frequently small, cozy homes. However, unlike cottages, many cabins can be much larger. It is not uncommon for many people to build cabins up to 4,000 sq.ft., while cottages tend to stay under 2,000 sq.ft. Because of the different construction for a cabin, their costs tend to be higher. Below are the average costs to build cottages and cabins.
|Project||Cost (Labor Included)|
|Cottage||$200,000 - $400,000|
|Cabin||$250,000 - $450,000|
Cottage vs House Price
Cottages are a type of house. They tend to be smaller than the average house and may be more frequently found in rural areas, but they share building codes, parameters, and techniques. Because cottages are smaller, they cost less to build. They are also more likely to have slab foundations than full basements and less likely to have garages and other outbuildings, which would increase the cost of the property and project. However, their overall cost to build does not differ tremendously from the average home.
|Project||Cost (Labor Included)|
|Cottage||$200,000 - $400,000|
|House||$260,000 - $710,000|
Cottage vs Bungalow Price
Another small, cozy, and easy-to-heat and cool home is the bungalow. Unlike cottages, which do not have a set architectural style, bungalows are a unique home. Like cottages, they are small homes that tend to be under 2,000 sq.ft. Bungalows originated in India. They are most commonly single-story homes but may have a partial second story called a one-and-a-half story. Many cottages may also have a partial second story for additional space. However, some types and styles frequently have a full second story with or without dormers.
Bungalows are designed to be inexpensive. They usually have lower costs per square foot than cottages or other home types. However, you can build more complex bungalows or add features that raise costs. Below are the average costs to build both homes.
|Project||Cost (Labor Included)|
|Bungalow||$125,500 - $345,000|
|Cottage||$200,000 - $400,000|
Enhancement and Improvement Costs
Build a Dock
If your cottage is located next to the water, you may want to think about adding a dock. Since many cottages are built in rural locations, it is common to find them on lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. Building a dock can help make the most out of your cottage’s location. Costs to build a dock range from $7,000 to $25,000.
When building in a truly remote area, you may want to ensure your cottage can be off-grid. This means your cottage does not depend on the local utilities but is self-supporting. The cost to install an off-grid solar system averages $45,000 to $65,000.
You should landscape the area around your new cottage because construction typically disturbs the existing landscaping. Landscaping costs vary depending on what you plan to do and how much space you have. Average landscaping ranges from $8,000 to $15,000.
Your waste disposal options for your cottage vary depending on location, city ordinances, and your needs. Outhouses and composting toilets are options for small cottages in rural areas. If your cottage is beside the water and cannot be hooked up 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.
Front and Back Porches
Porches are popular additions to many homes because it increases the outdoor living space. A porch enhances your cottage’s appearance as well. Many cottages have porticos and other small porches, while others are large enough to support a full-sized porch. The average cost to build a porch is $15,000 to $35,000.
Additional Considerations and Costs
- Location. Your cottage’s location influences the foundation type you need. For example, building beside water requires considering the water table and soil conditions. Because many cottages are in rural areas, it is common to have a slab foundation.
- Remote locations. 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, such as natural gas. In this case, other arrangements must be made.
- Blasting. Blasting for foundations or septic systems can be very expensive. If the area you are building on is rocky or made of “shelf,” you may have added blasting costs.
- Zoning and codes. Check local zoning, ordinances, and building codes before starting construction. Some areas have restrictions or codes for mitigating seismic activity, high winds, or floods, impacting your project. Speak to your builder if you are unsure if these may impact your home.
- Seasonal use. If your cottage is designed to be seasonal, some areas may exempt your building from certain codes. Seasonal homes may also not have as many utilities or insulation, lowering costs.
- Permit. Like any major construction project, a cottage build requires a permit. This is applied after the plans have been drawn but before construction begins.
- Private roads. Some roads in rural areas may be privately owned. Find out who owns and maintains your road and what your associated costs may be. These roads may also be narrow, making delivering materials difficult.
- Insurance. All cottages require homeowners insurance. Your policy is affected by wood stoves, fireplaces, boats, water, waste systems, and location.
- DIY. It is not recommended that cottages be built DIY. While they are generally smaller, they are still complex projects that require permits and inspections. Many states also require home builders to register with the state, making it difficult to attempt a DIY build.
- What defines cottage style?
There is no cottage-style when it comes to architecture, meaning elements from different buildings can be combined. However, cottages tend to be small and have details or styles that make them cozy or eclectic. It is also common for them to have 1 to 1½ stories, with low roofs and lots of interior detail.
- How much does a small cottage cost to build?
Cottages cost between $140 and $300 a sq.ft. to build, so a 600 sq.ft. cottage has starting costs of $84,000.
- What is the average size of a cottage?
There is no one average size for a cottage. Cottages are simply described as being smaller than the average home, between 1,000 and 2,000 sq.ft.