How Much Does It Cost to Build a Ranch Style House?

Building a ranch-style home offers a blend of simplicity and functionality that appeals to many homeowners. The practical and spacious designs of ranch houses, cherished for their open floor plans, can vary significantly based on factors like architectural style, landscaping, and interior design. This emphasis on practicality and functionality influences the costs, providing a reassuring choice for prospective homeowners.

Material and labor costs are crucial in determining the overall construction costs. For instance, labor alone may constitute about 40% of the total construction cost. Additionally,  interior design costs vary significantly based on design quality and detail. High-end homes often feature luxurious materials, custom finishes, and unique design elements, creating a distinct and upscale interior experience. In contrast, builder-grade homes typically use standard materials and finishes that are more budget-friendly but offer less customization and sophistication. This difference in design levels results in a notable variation in the overall look, feel, and cost. Understanding these variables helps prospective homeowners make informed decisions and budget effectively for their dream ranch house.

Pre-Construction Considerations

Acquiring Land and Preparing the Site

Acquiring land is the first step in building any home. Land costs vary significantly by location, including the lot’s size, proximity to urban centers, and local real estate demand. Once the land is acquired, the first phase consists of site assessment and planning. This phase includes a site survey, soil testing, and additional investigations such as environmental impact assessments, historical value analyses, and vegetation surveys. Preparing the site can involve clearing areas of the site, establishing site access, setting up erosion controls, and ensuring proper drainage. This step can cost around 10% to 25% of the total construction budget. 

Permits and Fees Necessary for Building

Before construction can start, you’ll need to obtain various permits. In new construction, you typically need several essential permits: a building permit for the overall structure, a zoning permit for compliance with local laws, and a grading permit for land work. You’ll also need plumbing, electrical, and mechanical permits for the respective systems, as well as possibly an environmental permit for natural resource impact. Your architect and contractor will manage these permits. The cost for permits usually falls between $500 and $2,000. Permit processing times vary, so factoring this into your timeline is crucial. Pre-construction permits and fees average up 10% to 25% of the total project cost.

Key Cost Factors in Building a Ranch House

Size and Layout

The size and layout of a home play a significant role in influencing the total construction costs. A larger home requires more materials, labor, and time, thereby increasing expenses. The type of ranch-style home also plays a role in cost variations, with different styles and designs impacting the overall budget. A newly constructed home’s cost per square foot might range from $150 to $300. Open floor plans often simplify designs, minimizing costs, but adding too many customized rooms or complex layouts can increase the price. Understanding these cost implications can help readers make informed design choices that align with their budget.

Materials and Design Choices

Materials and design choices significantly impact construction costs. High-end materials like plaster walls or custom lighting can substantially raise expenses. On average, rough lumber costs more per square foot due to its varying quality and semi-renewable nature, while finished lumber costs significantly less per square foot. Choosing common and recycled materials can keep costs within budget. Exterior finishes like stucco or natural stone will also affect costs, depending on your preferences and budget.

Construction Phases of a Ranch House

Foundation and Framing

Setting up the foundation marks the start of the proper construction phase for building a ranch house. This step is crucial as it ensures the home remains solid through time, providing a sense of security and confidence. Builders must create a stable foundation, per the engineer’s drawings. Standard options include slab-on-grade, a crawl space, or a full basement. For a 2,000-square-foot ranch house, the foundation and slab can cost around $9,260, while excavation adds approximately $3,000.

Next, framing the house involves erecting the structural skeleton. This step includes installing lumber or metal framing.  Based on the proposed 2,000-square-foot home, the framing could cost about $16,000. Rough carpentry labor costs around $22,260. Over the past decade, the pricing of wood and framing materials has grown increasingly volatile. While we strive to provide estimates to aid understanding, these figures are highly conceptual and may not reflect current accuracy. Framing is essential in constructing a home, shaping its structure by outlining walls and providing spaces for windows and doors.

Roofing, Exteriors, and Major Systems

Roofing is a vital component in enclosing any ranch house build. Installing the roof ensures the home is weather-resistant. Roofing shapes and materials can range from simple shingles over manufactured trusses to complex, custom stick-framed designs.

In this stage, you decide on exterior materials like fiber cement siding, brick, or stone veneer. Each material has a different price point, with stucco on the higher end. 

At this point, major systems like plumbing, HVAC, and electrical are installed. Plumbing and sewer connections are also a factor in your budget, which can cost around $20k, depending on the size of the home.

Interior Finishing and Detailing

After installing the crucial Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (M.E.P.) systems, attention turns to interior finishes. This stage encompasses the placement of drywall, baseboards, painting, lighting, trim, tile, flooring, fixtures, and countertops and cabinets.

With these finishing touches, the ranch house starts taking shape, ready to become a comfortable home.

Outdoor Areas

When budgeting for building a ranch house, including the cost of outdoor spaces is essential, which can significantly alter the overall expenses. Elements like landscaping, patios, decks, driveways, and outbuildings like barns or sheds require distinct investments based on material, design, and location. Basic landscaping can range from $5,000 to $10,000, while more elaborate projects may exceed $20,000 to $30,000. Decks may cost $15 to $60 per square foot, and patios range from $10 to $30 per square foot. Outbuildings, such as barns and garages, can further impact the budget, costing anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $50,000 or more, depending on complexity and features.

Budgeting for Your Ranch House

Managing a construction budget methodically can save money by planning thoroughly before starting. Ensure your contractor, and you have a detailed, itemized list of all potential expenses. Communication with your contractor is vital. They can offer valuable insights into cost-saving opportunities and the best times to purchase materials.

If your budget is tight, consider phasing your construction. Complete essential parts first, delaying non-essential elements until more funds are available. This method helps spread costs over a more extended period, making the project more manageable.

Review your budget regularly and track all expenses with your contractor. Monthly budget meetings will help you avoid surprises and keep you on track to meet your financial goals. Consult with professionals, such as architects, engineers, and designers, who can provide cost estimates or selection alternatives and help you stay within budget.

Lastly, keep a contingency fund. Unexpected costs often arise during construction, and having a financial buffer prevents these surprises from derailing your project. A good rule of thumb is setting aside 10% to 20% of your total budget as a contingency.

Overall, ranch houses balance affordability with functionality, appealing to many homeowners.


Building a ranch-style home offers a blend of affordability and practicality, making it a popular choice for many homeowners. While costs can vary based on location, size, and design preferences, ranch houses generally provide a cost-effective solution compared to typical multi-story homes. Their mostly single-level layout ensures easy accessibility and family-friendly living, though they may require larger plots of land and incur higher roofing costs. Effective budget management and clear communication with contractors are crucial to navigating these expenses. Ultimately, ranch houses present a balanced option that combines functional living with budget-conscious construction.



Emily Warren, AIA, NCARB

Emily is celebrated for her insightful commentary and technical expertise. As a licensed architect with over a decade of professional experience, Emily boasts a rich background that spans high-end design, historic documentation, and sustainable development. She honed her skills with the National Park Service’s Historic Documentation Programs, mastering complex projects completed to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.

Emily’s work is distinguished by meticulous attention to detail and a passion for advancing architectural knowledge. Her leadership and teaching capabilities, demonstrated by her guidance of interns and management of multimillion-dollar projects, underscore her commitment to fostering growth and excellence within the architectural community. Emily’s compelling narratives and technical prowess make her an invaluable voice in the field as she continues to inspire readers with her dedication and vision.

more articles

Charlotte R. DeChant



As a young artist, Charlotte tailored her pre-architecture undergraduate degree at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, and completed her Master of Architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver. With her fresh eyes, she is an observer, analyst and critic of our processes, and her imagination inspires and contributes to our creativity. Of the partners, Charlotte’s willingness to raise the children fostered Doug’s ability to focus upon the practice.

She is a lifelong resident of Colorado, skied Vail in the early years as a child and remains an excellent bump skier (if the sun is shining). She was an original teammate of the Vail Breakaways, Vail’s first women’s hockey team. Charlotte’s vision includes an amazing gift for seeing, rescuing, restoring and placing cast-off furniture and other elements, giving the pieces valuable, renewed lives.

Douglas M. DeChant

Founding Partner/Principal


Architecture is more than a profession for Doug, our principal designer; it is a calling, understood since childhood. While a modernist at heart, his work reflects the necessary context of each setting and the voice of each client. He trained in the program of modernist and former Bauhaus Director Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, at Illinois Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in Chicago. After working throughout the nation and overseas, Doug settled in Vail in 1985, where he met his wife, Charlotte. Together they founded the practice in 1989 and have enjoyed raising four amazing children.

Doug’s service has included the Eagle County, Colorado, Planning Commission; the faculty of the Byron Fellowship, an annual sustainable communities conference; panelist at the Summit for Creativity in La Jolla sponsored by The Design Futures Council; participation in local design review boards; youth sports coaching; and various lay-leadership positions in his church. In 2004, he conceived ‘Benevolent Architecture’, a proprietary service offering low-cost or no-cost architecture and consulting to worthy ministries and non-profits.  In 2005, Doug began to develop an intimate, artistic retreat and conference venue, Wellspring Ranch, LLC, relocating and restoring several historic Colorado structures upon a remarkable property outside of Buena Vista, Colorado.

He is a member of the American Institute of Architects, certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, and has been licensed in numerous states, including Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Indiana, Georgia and Pennsylvania. He finds balance in guitar, sculpture, hiking, snowshoeing, golf and crafting various elements of his retreat venue. 

Tom Bashford


Tom, one of our most valued, gifted leaders, passed away unexpectedly in March 2017. Together with his joyful spirit and hilarious dry wit, he enhanced our studio with a wealth of design and management experience. Tom will never be replaced. He was the type of person, father, leader, and mentor to which we all aspire, and the fruit of his efforts will live on, in his son, in us, and in our projects.

Pam, Peraya Mongkolwongrojn


Peraya, Pam, is originally from Bangkok, Thailand, where she first became interested in Architecture from the rich spatial environment.  She explored Canada before moving to the States to pursue her passion for architecture. Pam went to the University of Arizona to earn a Bachelor of Architecture professional degree. During school, she energized a passion for the arts and drawing. 

In her free time, Pam enjoys exploring the great outdoors, hiking through Colorado’s scenic landscapes, and finding inspiration for her designs in nature. With a keen eye for detail and a creative approach to problem-solving, Pam has been involved in many of our custom residential homes. Her passion for the arts and drawing has influenced her design style, which incorporates elements of beauty and functionality. Pam’s commitment to excellence and her love for architecture make her a dedicated professional who strives to make a difference through her work.

As she continues to grow and learn in her field, Pam remains devoted to creating innovative spaces that enrich people’s lives and leave a positive legacy for future generations.

Brett Lehr

Project Manager

Brett is a designer with a unique blend of expertise, holding an undergraduate degree in Media Arts from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and an M.Arch degree from the University of Nebraska. His diverse educational background has ignited a passion for utilizing realistic virtual environments to enhance the efficiency, enjoyment, and overall success of architectural design processes.

Beyond his professional pursuits, Brett finds joy in a variety of hobbies, including snow skiing, biking, fly fishing, golf, and hiking. Embracing the scenic wonders of the Vail Valley, he has found the perfect lifestyle fit, drawing creative inspiration from the surrounding natural beauty.

Laurie Baggott


Our studio is fortunate to have Laurie bring her considerable experience in business and finance to our daily operations. Among her many administrative responsibilities, she manages accounting, payroll and invoicing for us. When not busy here or as a private chef, she avidly hikes in our beautiful summers and snowshoes in the winter.

Patricia Marcine


Earning her Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Houston in 2016 was just the beginning. From there, Trish headed to Europe, to study at the Graz University of Technology in Austria and work at the Aedes Architekturforum. Then she determined it was time to return to the Rocky Mountains. We became beneficiaries of her delightful, collaborative spirit when she joined our studio in early 2018. Her savvy technical support and inspired design voice enhance each project, while her design comprehension and growth demonstrate that she has a future with much to offer the profession. As a lifelong artist, Trish’s search for a practical art form and meaningful profession has been fulfilled by custom residential architecture, where “…not a day truly feels like work.”

Trish grew up in Northern New Jersey, playing club and varsity soccer, enjoying ski club with friends, and learning to snowboard at a young age. As a teen, she competed in various equestrian events, highlighted by working for Frank and Mary Chapot to train Olympic-level show jumpers. Eventually, faster hobbies were necessary, and Trish became a driving instructor for the SCCA and track-day rider on her CBR600RR. She’s also been an enthusiastic racer on our company’s ‘ski team’. When a new project surfaces, she’s pleased to slow down enough to collaborate with the team.

Emily Warren


Emily joined us from the DC area, lured by the mountains, our core values and our creative environment. She earned a Master of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Architecture degrees from SUNY Buffalo’s School of Architecture & Planning, with a minor in Earth System Science.

Through her wonderfully infectious spirit, Emily eagerly contributes diverse knowledge and experience, having worked on historic National Park Service documentation, and urban high-density residential projects facing strict constraints. She is a productive and dedicated team player who thrives through learning and contributing to the growth of others. Her detail, project management and organizational skills are exceptional. Emily is licensed in Maryland, and nationally accredited by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

Emily is passionate about youth empowerment, with considerable experience teaching and mentoring in schools and camps. She’s an ardent weightlifter, hiker and nature enthusiast, embracing the Vail Valley’s active, outdoor lifestyle.

Cam Frey


Cam was introduced to Colorado’s rivers and mountains at an early age, returning annually from Michigan with his family to fly-fish and hike near the small mining town of Creede. His interest in design and architecture was ignited by his high school drafting teacher, who instilled a balanced approach to design through technology and craft. Cam received his BA from UNC, Chapel Hill, followed by a few years of medical research before heading West to earn his Master of Architecture from the University of Oregon. There he became interested in the interdisciplinary study of Biomimicry; an approach to solving design problems by looking to nature. Not coincidentally, this interest, the stunning landscapes, wildlife, and outdoor lifestyle led Cam back to Colorado in 2014. He joined us in 2017, quickly becoming a central piece of our culture and project management structure.

Cam serves on the Design Review Committee of the Arrowhead at Vail community, is a certified Biomimicry Specialist and licensed Architect in the state of Colorado.

His other pursuits include fly-fishing, skiing, hiking, and a good game of euchre…, and the list continues to grow. He is married to a wonderfully talented children’s book illustrator, and dotes on his young son.

Ben Marion


From an early age, Ben had a pen in hand and a curiosity for exploring both natural and built environments. Much of his adolescence was spent drawing what he observed, balanced with his passions for cross-country skiing the New England forests and playing soccer as far away as Europe. Like many of us, Ben arrived in Colorado as an adult, following a lifelong passion to further pursue the resort lifestyle. After graduating from the University of Colorado, he practiced with some of the finest architects and builders in the region, creating fine homes and other structures. His broad experience includes California mountain resort homes, as well as mixed-use and commercial structures, peppered with an interesting mix of furniture building and construction. In our studio, Ben is a strong design voice and outstanding project manager, leading by quiet example as he mentors our emerging leaders.

Ben remains passionate about skiing and soccer, coaching both youth sports locally. Travel remains in his blood as he and his family explore the west in their vintage 1967 camper.

Bert Willemse


Bert found a home away from home in the Vail Valley while exploring North America’s most beautiful landscapes on a post-graduation road trip…, from his hometown of Bellvale, New York to Wasilla, Alaska. He had completed his studies at SUNY Buffalo and apprenticed with two well-known firms in New York’s Hudson Valley area before joining our studio. As the son of a general contractor Bert gained practical construction knowledge with hands-on experience in the field. His many professional attributes are exceeded only by his wonderful, collaborative spirit.

Naturally, Bert is an active individual who embraces hiking, biking and skiing in our amazing Colorado mountains.

Adam H. Harrison

NCARB, LEED AP / Principal

After graduating from Illinois Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in 1994 and working as an intern for three years at Fujikawa Johnson and Associates in Chicago, Adam packed his van and toured America to determine where he might settle; he found Vail and Shepherd Resources in September of 1997. After growing from intern to project manager to associate, Adam began transitioning into ownership in 2017 and became a principal owner in early 2020. As a dedicated designer, Adam loves collaborating with his fellow architects and interns while managing a busy studio.

His priorities are rooted in sustainability, strong leadership skills, and staff mentoring to uphold the core values of the practice. He is licensed in Colorado, Michigan, and North Carolina and serves as the chairman of the Red Sky Ranch Design Review Board. Adam enjoys golf, mountain biking, skiing, music, and any activity involving his daughter Bellalee. Adam has been practicing for a quarter century and looks forward to designing and collaborating for another quarter century; the opportunity to doodle a quick sketch, with the future opportunity of walking through such a doodle fuels his creativity and passion for design.

Adam H. Harrison

NCARB, LEED AP / Principle

As a young artist, Charlotte tailored her pre-architecture undergraduate degree at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, and completed her Master of Architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver. With her fresh eyes, she is an observer, analyst and critic of our processes, and her imagination inspires and contributes to our creativity. Of the partners, Charlotte’s willingness to raise the children fostered Doug’s ability to focus upon the practice.

She is a lifelong resident of Colorado, skied Vail in the early years as a child and remains an excellent bump skier (if the sun is shining). She was an original teammate of the Vail Breakaways, Vail’s first women’s hockey team. Charlotte’s vision includes an amazing gift for seeing, rescuing, restoring and placing cast-off furniture and other elements, giving the pieces valuable, renewed lives.