How Much Does It Cost to Build a Home in Hawaii?

You’ve been collecting pictures of your dream kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and ideal layout. You’ve weighed the pros and cons of building versus buying in Hawaii. And you have decided to build!

But how much does it cost to build a home in Hawaii? And what are some unexpected costs?

Lex Allen, Owner of Solid Build Construction, Inc., based in Kapolei, has built custom homes, additions, and lanais, and done full remodels, including kitchens and bathrooms, across Oahu. With years of experience in the home building business, he kindly offers his advice for future Hawaii home builders.

What is the average price per square foot to build a home in Hawaii?

It is approximately $250 per square foot for a basic build.

What are some additional upgrade costs that people might consider?

Additional upgrade costs typically include the following:

  • Upgraded waterproofing in showers
  • Upgraded moisture management (moisture barriers or flashings) on exteriors
  • Upgraded cabinets and vanities
  • Upgraded flooring

  • Upgraded lighting
  • Central air conditioning with energy recovery ventilators
  • Upgraded insulation and home sealing
  • Smart home wiring and technology
  • Solar panels

  • Upgraded, energy efficient windows
  • Upgraded exterior fiber cement siding and trim
  • Upgraded exterior fasteners (i.e. stainless steel)
  • Upgraded roofing (i.e. metal)
  • Exterior features, such as lanais, pergolas, decks, pools, and outdoor kitchens

There is a lot you can do if your budget allows for it, but you do not want to skip on hiring a contractor that goes above and beyond the building code. Hire someone that studies best building practices and the latest building sciences.

What are additional unforeseen costs after the build begins?

A geotechnical survey may reveal foundation issues.

Do you recommend people having an extra budget before they begin a build?

Sometimes people are very nervous before they begin a build, so they want everything to their budget. However, as they enter into the building process and begin to trust their contractor, they start to see that construction costs are expensive, and the budget is what it is. Meaning, the contractor has to stick to the budget.

But people usually start to explore other ideas as they start building, as it is an exciting process. Therefore, it is recommended to have a “dream” side budget for little wanted things that weren’t discussed at the beginning due to the cost.

I recommend having 10-20 percent additional for “dream” items. Therefore, if you are doing a $200,000 build, you might have an additional $20,000 to $40,000 saved.

What should people consider before building a home?

Don’t simply go for a builder because they are a third-generation builder. Sometimes that might mean they have built the same way for three generations and haven’t learned better available practices. Very few contractors on this island actually understand the complexities of the building process and systems: moisture and vapor management, bulk water management, healthy homes and air sealing.

Find a contractor who is passionate about the building sciences and who cares about building a quality home. Let your architect and designer design your dream house, and then hire a contractor to make sure the home is built to last.

What are some signs to look for when selecting a builder?

Go around and look at other homes the builder has constructed:

  1. Is the sliding less than four inches from the concrete or deck (or less than eight inches from the ground)? If yes, this is a sign the builder isn’t good.

    Some builders on Oahu run the floor joists all the way out to the deck/lanai. It is good for their budget, but it doesn’t give you a four-inch stepdown from the interior flooring to the deck. This means the siding will be too close to the exterior flooring of the lanai, and when it rains and is windy, that moisture will weep into your home.

  2. Are the roof-to-wall junctions on a two-story home flashed properly with one-piece kick-out flashings?
  3. Do the trim, design, and windows look proportionate to the home? Or was it designed by a “build and design” firm that doesn’t have any credentials as a designer?
  4. Walk around the home at an arm’s length, about three feet away. Are the details constructed properly, or do you notice a rushed job?
  5. If fiber cement lap siding was used, did the builder caulk the butt joints in the field? If yes, this is not a good builder. Fiber cement best practices advise not to caulk butt joints but to backflash them instead.

As a landowner getting ready to build a house, try to find a builder that can sit down and educate you on building a home that is made to last through the harsh elements of this hot, humid, coastal, Hawaii environment.