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  • Writer's pictureSteve Baker PhD AIA

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Catholic Church: A Brief Rundown

The Catholic church is easily the easiest type of church to spot due to its age-old symbolism and relevance to communities around the globe. 


However, there’s one fact that has made things more difficult for the church. Catholic churches cost roughly 50% more to build than the churches of Protestants and other Christian sects. 


Today, we want to break down how much it costs to build a Catholic church, some of the factors that cause higher prices, and of course, some solutions to help you make your project more manageable.


Let’s dive right into it.


How Much Does It Cost to Build a Catholic Church? 


The cost of building a Catholic church is fairly high regardless of the type of church you’re trying to build. Parishes are the most commonly built Catholic churches. So, we’ll base the average price on a standard parish. 


In Portland, Oregon, and other East Coast locations, you can expect to pay roughly $5 million to $10 million, with the average price coming in at $170 per square foot.


That’s not a nationwide price point, and the upper East Coast tends to be a bit higher priced in every regard than, let’s say, Missouri, but keep in mind that a similar church for another Christian group would cost less than $5 million.


Building a Catholic church.

That’s a considerably high construction cost, and it can shock many project managers who are often church leaders and organizers unfamiliar with construction. 


However, there are some good reasons for that high cost.


Why Catholic Churches are More Expensive to Build


Catholic churches aren’t just charged more for what they are. They tend to have higher prices than other types of churches for several reasons. 


Here, we’ll break down each one.


1: General Focus on Luxury


One reason Catholic churches cost more is the traditional Catholic focus of making churches that are reflective of the purity and perfection of God.


From the focus on luxurious decorations to the more costly inclusion of high-end materials and structural layouts, the cost of the project tends to skyrocket fast. 


Those are important parts of the Catholic faith, and they’re difficult to do cost-effectively. 


In comparison, similar faiths are more prone to using simpler and smaller architectural designs with fewer luxurious visuals.


2: Lack of Project Management Experience


One thing that tends to be a common factor in Catholic churches costing more is that the church body tends to be the project management team, and that’s not their strongest trait.


Church leadership and members can get carried away by additions to the project budget, change their minds on various features, etc. 


This isn’t the church’s fault. Anyone contracting the construction of a custom building, who isn’t in architecture, tends to deal with this. Luckily, there’s a solution we’ll talk about soon. 


3: Hiring the Wrong Contractors


This is a major factor in the cost of a Catholic church. Not everyone is experienced in Catholicism and Catholic architecture, and bringing the client’s vision to life is difficult.


Catholic churches tend to be focused both on tradition and innovation, and no two churches are the same despite having the same core focus. So, there’s no standard template for contractors to use. 


Paired with the importance of instilling the sacrament, various Catholic theological concepts, and more into the architecture itself, a run-of-the-mill contractor is likely to make mistakes that must be fixed


How to Build a Catholic Church and Reduce Costs


Luckily, there are ways to reduce the costs of the Catholic church building process, and they don’t include sacrificing quality. It mostly comes down to making the right project decisions. 


First, there’s the issue of focusing on luxury. This works in tandem with the second major issue we discussed: a lack of project managerial experience. 


Building a Catholic church does require luxurious aesthetics that properly reflect the faith of the church. However, how that luxury is accomplished can make a major difference in the overall price of the project.


How much does it cost to build a catholic church - catholic church roof.

Modern technology has provided us with several benefits. 


BAUTRIM and other forms of foam can be used instead of expensive wood and stone for some visual aspects of the church such as exterior architectural molding and even structural features to reduce costs and project time while providing more benefits than traditional materials.


These features also lower long-term costs due to their low maintenance requirements


Understanding how technological advances can improve material costs and reduce project costs is key. 


Another technological benefit that has made it possible to reduce project costs is the use of laser scanning


If you choose the right church architects to help build your church, they can create 1:1 digital recreations of the actual space the building will be in, and using 3D models, plans can be made within 1mm of precision.


This reduces material waste and the likelihood of making mistakes that have to be fixed. 


Scanning technology also gives the contractor a way to show you plans in real-time, as they’re coming together, for immediate feedback. Making changes instantly and tweaking the plans without building anything reduces unexpected costs considerably.


Finally, you can’t underestimate the value of your contractor knowing the details of your faith and what you’re trying to convey through architecture.


While it is second nature to you, and you’ve spent years studying the concepts that are part of your creative vision, many contractor services haven’t. 


They don’t understand the sacrament or liturgy. The design layouts aren’t found in many other types of buildings they’ve worked on.


Final Thoughts


Now that you understand how much it costs to build a Catholic church, it’s time to find the best contractors for the job.


A Catholic church is a very niche building project despite being so predominant around the globe, and the people building it should understand what you’re looking for and why. 


The easiest way to do this is to partner with Baker Architects.


We offer all of the solutions we’ve mentioned here, including having a deep understanding of the Catholic faith and architecture, and we know how to blend the time-honored traditions of Catholicism with modern advances for more cost-effective and reliable results. 


Contact us, today.

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