Building on an Island

Is building on an island difficult?

Often times, I’m asked the question….”how in the world, do you build a house on a non ferry-served island?”
The answer I give is, “the same way you build one anywhere else.”
Yes, everything has to be shipped in, but the process, once you get here; is exactly the same. Many of the islands have resident contractors, who have established relationships with “mainland” lumber yards and sub-contractors. They know how to expedite the building process and save you costs on transportation. They can explain such things as the value of building in the summer vs. winter and choosing the right lot to minimize excavation costs.

Is it expensive to build on an island?

These days, its expensive to build almost anywhere due to the increase in costs for building materials. The increased costs that are unique for building on an island are primarily related to transporting materials and labor. Scheduling can be difficult if weather and/or tides don’t cooperate. Organization and timing is key for keeping the costs down so you need to hire a contractor who understands this and knows how to build as efficiently as possible. Most will only give you an “estimate” of your costs and if you ask for a formal bid, they will have to add 20-40% to cover for unforeseen factors. If you can contract for Time + Materials (T&M) you will probably save money.

Can kit or pre-fab construction be a more affordable option?

Purchasing a pre-cut kit through a company like Panabode may make your construction project more efficient and save you money. This is an exciting time for creators of alternative housing options and many choices are available. A few that I enjoy exploring are Method Homes and Lindal Cedar Homes.

Building on the islands seems to bring out the “creative” side of many people and they may choose an island cabin that fits a childhood fantasy or lifelong dream.  One couple’s project was featured in Seattle Metropolitan magazine in this article. A current “wave” of interest is building smaller, beautifully designed homes that are unique for their particular setting.  On this note, some sites that are fun to look at for home ideas are: