Question: What should I know before building my custom cottage?
Here are a few basics you should have covered as you embark on your Muskoka custom cottage journey.
What’s your budget? Do your homework by connecting with your financial team to get a personalized picture of your budget and your financing options, if needed. Knowing what you plan to spend should guide your choices during design. You can also reach out to a builder once you have preliminary drawings to get an estimate of how much it will cost to build and make adjustments if necessary. Meeting on site is a good idea since site preparation costs can vary greatly. We also recommend adding a contingency amount to your planned budget, since it is quite common for clients to upgrade their finishes or add items during construction.
What’s your vision? What do you see when you picture your custom cottage? The style, materials, layout, textures, esthetics, and functionality are all important, and understanding what’s on your wish list, and how you want it to look and feel is important to your builder.
What are your priorities? What are the essential items that you want included in your custom cottage? What aspects would be nice-to-have, but could be sacrificed in favour of a less expensive alternative, or an incompatible priority? Understanding what’s most important to you helps us plan and problem-solve effectively.
Question: Why is Muskoka cottage country the best place to build?
We’re probably biased, but we love Muskoka cottage country and believe it’s one of the best places for rest, relaxation, and recreation. The Muskoka area explodes with activity every summer, offering stellar restaurants and golf courses, pristine parks and hiking trails, lots of lakeside fun, and many activities for the whole family.
The quiet and contrasting majesty of the other seasons is also worth noting. From breathtaking fall foliage to crisp winter air and beautiful spring blooms, Muskoka offers something special every season.
Question: What is your cost per square foot?
We only do custom homes, so the type of cottage you want to build dictates the cost per square foot. In the Muskoka region, a traditional timber frame cottage with mid-range finishes, including site prep and HST, averages $400-$600 per finished square foot; modern cottages with high-end finishes average $600-$800 per finished square foot. That being said, we have built cottages for less and for more; it all depends on the features and the finishes you choose for your cottage.
Question: Can we build within my budget?
Before providing you with an estimate, we will engage in a pre-build process to help determine the type of cottage you’d like to build and the finishes you expect to have. Based on your preferences, we provide you with an estimate that includes allowances for items such as flooring, tiling, millwork, etc. This estimate can be treated as a firm budget or used as a guide during the selection process. If budget is a concern, we offer cost-saving suggestions throughout the build.
Question: Is it better to build a custom cottage rather than buy?
That depends on your goals. If you’re looking to maximize your square footage and stretch your budget, you may be better off buying an existing cottage. A custom cottage is a great choice if you’re not interested in living with someone else’s idea of vacation living and lifestyle. Having input on every detail to support the way you and your family plan to play can elevate every aspect of your experience in your vacation home.
Question: How do I find the right land to build on?
Your builder is a great resource to point you toward available lots that will support the kind of cottage you’ve got planned. We can use our construction expertise to evaluate the extent of site prep required to build a cottage in the rocky Muskokas if you’ve got a specific lot in mind. Remember, demolition isn’t always a dirty word. Demolishing an existing cottage may not be as expensive as you think, and it provides a building site to start your project.
Question: Will your estimate include all costs?
Our extensive pre-build process reduces the number of surprises when it comes to cost. However, in our experience, clients often make changes and upgrade their finishes throughout the building process which adds to the cost. Custom lighting fixtures, appliances and landscaping costs are not included in our building estimates, so make sure you add these items to your budget, with at least 10% of the project cost saved for landscaping.
Question: Can I make changes once building begins?
Yes. Our pre-build questionnaire will help you envision the features and finishes you want in your cottage and our decision schedule will help keep your project on track, but we understand it’s hard to make every choice from start to finish without changing your mind at some point. While visiting your property, should you decide you want to change something, we will let you know how the change affects building timelines and the budget, and we have a sign-off process to ensure nothing gets missed.
Question: How long will it take to build my cottage?
The average custom timber frame cottage takes approximately 10-12 months to build from the time we start the foundation. Modern cottages take a bit longer. Job size, location, materials, and finishing details all affect the length of time it takes to build a cottage.
Question: What should I prioritize in my Muskoka custom cottage design?
Everyone’s priorities are different when building, however, there are some top focuses many homeowners identify when building a Muskoka custom cottage.
Invest in the structure/finishes that are challenging to change. Construction provides a unique opportunity to install elements that require open walls. It can sometimes be very expensive to change mechanical work or re-arrange walls or workspaces in the future. Adding radiant-heat flooring, a charging station for an electric vehicle, extra-wide doorways for wheelchair accessibility, and many other convenient features are easy to include during design and expensive to add later.
Invest in the things most important to you. It’s your cottage and it should cater to your lifestyle. Are you building to fit the extended family? Maybe you need an extra-long dining space and plenty of bedrooms and bathrooms. Planning to entertain frequently? Think pull-out prep and presentation spaces, custom outdoor living areas, and a beautiful bar with a beverage station. Designing your cottage means you can customize it to feel like your personal oasis.
Question: How will you update me on the progress?
As a company, we have worked on our communication practices to better serve our clients and keep in touch with you frequently by phone, email, and job logs. We schedule weekly or biweekly site visits so we can walk you through your property and discuss current and upcoming work. Should you have questions or concerns that arise, you can call or email your Project Manager and/or Project Coordinator directly anytime. We will also keep you informed about the progress of your project through CoConstruct, our online project management system. Pictures of build progress will be uploaded to this system regularly and you will be able to access important information about your build through this system 24/7.
Question: How often can I visit the job site?
Building a custom cottage is an exciting process and it’s fun to see the progress in person. We encourage weekly or biweekly site visits, which can be scheduled with your Project Manager and/or Project Coordinator. We schedule the visits to ensure the job site is safe for you to walk around and that we have someone who can walk around with you to discuss the progress and review any current or upcoming items that need to be addressed.
Question: At what point can I move into my cottage?
We know you want to get into your new cottage as soon as possible, but moving in too early can slow the finishing stage because the logistics change once people and possessions are in the cottage. As soon as we get the Occupancy Permit from the township, we walk you through your cottage and create a final list to be completed prior to move-in. During the walk-through we set a move-in date with you, and that time allows you to organize the move while we finish up the details.
Question: Why choose Ballantyne Builds as my custom cottage builder?
Ballantyne Builds benefits from the wisdom that comes with generational expertise. We’re third-generation builders. Our years of experience working in Muskoka’s cottage country equips us to manage the nuances of this unique landscape and deliver on the luxury a custom cottage should provide. Our stunning results speak for themselves, but we invite you to also review our testimonials for more about the next-level results and experience Ballantyne Builds creates.