Beach and bay homes built on Galveston Island require different engineering and construction standards than homes built on the mainland. Here are some frequently asked questions. The answers are provided by retired local builder C.J. Poirier.

Q. Why do homes built in Galveston cost so much more per square foot than homes built on the mainland?
A. The wind storm code for seaward homes and the fact that all beach/bay homes are on pilings 10' to 12' up in the air adds from 10% to 15% to the cost of building a home in Galveston. Elevating a house with living area and decks adds about $20 to $25 per square foot to the cost of the main deck area. Most mainland homes do not have several hundred feet of exterior decking. Also, elevating a home requires one or more stairways, longer plumbing and electrical services. The HVAC for a slab home is roughly one ton per 600 square feet of air conditioned living area. An elevated or beach type home needs one ton per every 300 to 350 square feet of air conditioned living area. Mainland homes do not have floor insulation. There are more factors involved that affect cost, but these are the most significant.
Q. We've seen some homes with storm shutters and others without. Which is better?
A. It's all about costs. Impact storm shutters cost $35 to $40 per square foot. Impact glass costs around $30 a square foot. Add the $35 or $40 to the $10 a square foot that a good regular vinyl window costs and you get up to $50 a square foot cost for a window. For example, a 3'x6' window with shutters would cost about $900. An impact 4'x6' window costs $540; a regular 3'x6' vinyl window costs $180 and an aluminum 3'x6' window can be purchased for $75 to $85. A great big difference. The same cost structure works with exterior doors.
Q. Which is the best exterior material to use: vinyl siding, hardi-plank or stucco?
A. All beach-type homes move in high wind. The movement is less pronounced with the use of vinyl siding which is not firmly attached and allows for expansion and contraction. Any good carpenter can install wood and vinyl siding. Stucco would be my last choice for an elevated home. It costs the most and offers the most prob- lems if not done properly. It requires a skilled applicator.
Q. How long does it take to build a beach or bay home? Is it hard to get permits?
A. Four to six months is normal construction time for most houses. Permits for any subdivision are available. It takes time and they are not cheap.
Q. We've been looking at canal lots and see bulkheads made of different materials. Can you explain the differences?
A. Concrete bulkheads cost the most. Any good bulkhead will last about 25 years with proper maintenance. Bulkheads are like everything else: a poor job in any material isn't going to last long.
Q. Do you have any suggestions for choosing a lot?
A. Prices for lots vary a great deal, depending on the neighborhood, the view, beachfront, beachside, canal or dry land locations. I'd say choose the one you want. The hot summer sun makes a lot with a back yard/canal to the east my personal choice. A lot facing north would be my last choice.
Q. What should we look for in a builder?
A. I recommend you look for a builder that has been in the area for several years and has completed product that you can see. Interview several builders. NEVER choose a builder because he gives you the best price, unless their product and reputation are solid. NEVER use an out of town builder who is unfamiliar with our construction requirements here. As the new builder learns, you pay.

Now retired, C.J. Poirier has been in business in Galveston since 1976 and is well versed in all areas of home construction. His company has constructed over 100 custom homes, principally in Pirates Beach and Pirates Cove, in addition to remodeling, commercial build-outs and historical restoration. If you have more questions about building your vacation or permanent home here, please e-mail C.J. at
Here are some additional websites you might find helpful and informative:

Wind codes, insurance: