A Description of the Homebuilding Process, Construction Resources & Information

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Homeowner or home builder, if you are building a new custom home, the more you know about the homebuilding process, the more enjoyable your experience is likely to be. We are regularly adding new links to specific information about the various phases of construction which are listed on the right. Like the rest of the B4UBUILD.COM Web site, this section is a continuous work in progress.

Among other things, we are currently working on a list of associations & building trade organizations, a generic construction schedule for a large custom home, sample construction contracts and specifications, building codes, a list of how-to videos, information about the contractor selection process, a comprehensive list of home & garden books and a large directory our favorite informational Web sites.

If you are trying to decide on a particular house style or house type, you are welcome to browse our collection of house plans to compare exterior elevations and overall floorplans. As you gather ideas for your own home, be sure to focus on individual design features like kitchen and bath layouts, bedroom sizes and locations, closet and storage space, traffic patterns and room flow, roof pitch, dormer sizes and locations, window types, and any other individual components of the design that might fit your needs or wants.

Since it is our goal to be able to assist you in finding information about all aspects of residential construction, home improvement, please feel comfortable sending us your comments, questions, suggestions, or requests.

Good luck with your project, thank you for visiting B4UBUILD.COM and have fun building!

Regards,

Greg Susman
President, B4UBUILD.COM

 

Construction Phases

  Research
  Pre-construction
  Site Work
  Foundation
  Framing
  Rough-ins
  Interior Finishes
  Exterior Finishes
  Landscaping

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  Do Some Research B4UBUILD

  
 

The first step in any major project is to learn as much as possible about the subject at hand. Building a custom home is no exception. However, a surprisingly large number of people seem to think that anyone can design and build the home of their dreams without first spending the time to thoroughly learn what is involved. This is all too often a recipe for disaster.

Designing and constructing an appealing, comfortable, safe and well-built structure that fits the needs and wants of you and your family is not an easy task. Yet for those who take the time to familiarize themselves with the entire process, the construction of a new home is a memorable and very gratifying experience. So, whether you will be hiring a homebuilder, acting as your own general contractor, or building for someone else, you need to ask and answer many of the same questions B4UBUILD.

Of course, these are only a few of the things you will need to consider as you first start thinking about building a new home. As part of the early stages of your research, we highly recommend that you head to your local library and read a few books about planning your new home and the homebuilding process. Then, ask as many other people as you can about their experiences. Almost everyone who has built a new home has a few stories, which they are more than happy to share with others.

The more you know about the task you are about to undertake, the better your homebuilding experience will be. Depending upon the size of your project and the degree to which you want to be involved, building a new home can consume a major portion of your time for several months or several years. If your expectations are unrealistic, you will almost certainly be unhappy with the results. Building a new home should be part of the "American dream", not a nightmare.


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  Pre-construction

  
 

Congratulations! You have made the decision to build a new house. Now you must decide where you want to live and purchase the perfect building lot. It has to be in a great neighborhood, close to where you work and where you want your children to attend school. Is the property served by public utilities or will you need to have a perc test performed and a well drilled? Is their an architectural review committee that will need to approve your house plans? What are the zoning restrictions, building set-backs, future development plans for the area? Will access be a problem during construction or bad weather? Have you seen the property during a heavy rain? Be sure that you take the time to consider all of the related aspects of the property you are considering.

Next, you will need to determine exactly what you need and want in your new home. Do you want a rancher, split level, or 2 story house? How many bedrooms and baths do you need? Will it have an island in the kitchen, a home office, or a large family room? Homebuilding books and magazines are a great source of design ideas - not only things that you will want to incorporate, but also those that you will definitely not want to include. You can also get ideas by perusing online house plan collections, specialized plan books, and homebuilding software, which often contains hundreds of sample floor plans and elevations.

You may also want to seriously consider meeting with one or more architects or designers at this stage. While their fees will typically represent about 8 to 15% of the cost of your home, a good architect may very well be able to help you save more money than they charge for their services. After all, designing and overseeing the construction of buildings is their job. Depending upon your personal abilities and characteristics, your available time, your wants and needs, and your current circumstances, designing and building the home that you really want may very well require the knowledge and experience of a professional.

After you finally settle on a suitable design, you will need to identify all of the materials and finishes that you want to go along with it. There are literally thousands of items that go into the construction of a new home and every single one of them must be specified by someone. Those that you specify clearly enough for others to understand may actually end up the way you want them. However, those that are not specifically mentioned or clearly defined will almost certainly wind up being something other than you thought they would be. So, in order to get the things that you want the way you really want them, be sure that you put everything - and I do mean EVERYTHING - in writing and in as much detail as necessary, to create clear, complete, and accurate construction plans and specifications. Besides their importance in building your new house, these documents will be needed in order to create an accurate budget. You cannot realistically expect to know how much your house will cost to build, until you know exactly what you are trying to construct.

Finally, you will need to interview contractors, search for a lender, obtain the required financing, sign contracts with the people that will help you build your dream, and apply for the permits, licenses, bonds, and zoning variances that are required in order to build in your new local jurisdiction.

During the pre-construction phase you will be making some of your most important decisions. Decisions that you may have to live with for the rest of your life, or at least the life of your mortgage.


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  Site Work

  
 

Now we're having some fun! Trying to find water 300 feet below the surface and counting the dollars in every dry foot along the way. Paying to clear all those big, beautiful, trees off your premium priced wooded lot. Buying tons and tons of fresh, clean, stone to spread on the ground for a construction entrance so it can get buried under the mud from your once wooded lot. Digging out tons of earth to construct the foundation of your new home only to find that the water you had been looking for 200 feet away and 300 feet down was only 6 feet under the surface the whole time.

If you are prepared for what may happen, this can be a very exciting time during the building of your home. You will finally get to see where your house will sit, how big it will be, and what views you will have. This is the first physical work on the long and sometimes bumpy road to realizing your dream.


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  Foundation

  
 

The foundation is the structure on which the rest of your house is built. Whether it is stone, concrete, steel, or wood; a basement, crawl space, pilings, or slab on grade, it needs to be strong and square and dry.

This is not a good place to try to save money. Be sure the footings are properly sized and reinforced for the loads that will be carried. Build the walls to be able to withstand the forces of the earth that they will need to hold back. And, invest in a waterproofing system that will protect areas below grade.

A house is only as good as the foundation on which it rests.


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  Framing

  
 

Many people consider the framing stage to be the most exciting. When the framing crew finishes the first floor deck, you will finally be able to take your first walk around your new house. It is an indescribable moment.

Framing will take anywhere from a week for a small house, to several months for a larger one. You will be able to watch the basic structure take shape very fast. Your home will suddenly have walls, a roof, and windows.

This is also the time when the first on-site changes will probably take place. Room sizes and layouts become much easier to see in 3 dimensions. Even the best architect frequently finds something that didn't turn out quite the way it was envisioned on paper.


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  Rough-ins

  
 

As the individual trades converge on your house, things will appear to slow down considerably. In reality, a lot more work is actually being done on your house during the rough-in stage, it just isn't as dramatic.

During the next several weeks or months, dozens of people will be installing the inner workings of your house. Plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, lighting, security systems, central vacuum lines, television cable, entertainment systems, computer networks, exhaust fans, phone lines, fireplaces, and scores of back-ups and nailers for things yet to be installed.

This may not be an exciting time, but it is very important that everything and everybody be properly coordinated. Take the time to get things right at the rough-in stage, and you will save yourself lots of aggravation later on.


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  Interior Finishes

  
 

When you are absolutely certain that everything has been roughed-in properly, it is time to finish the walls, install the doors & trim, hang the cabinets, put down the hardwood flooring, install ceramic tile, and cover everything that doesn't move with either paper, plastic, or paint.

This is also just about the time that you start worrying about the fact that your existing house still hasn't sold and the kids are going to have to change schools midterm. Well don't get too concerned yet. There is still a lot of work to do before you will be able to move into a completed home.

After the paint, the next things to be installed are the light fixtures, counter tops, appliances, plumbing fixtures, mirrors, shower doors, security systems, door knobs, towel bars, and toilet paper holders. Most of these things will even be installed in the correct locations.


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  Exterior Finishes

  
 

While work is progressing inside, there is much to be done outside as well. Keep in mind that almost all of the exterior finishes need to be designed and installed to keep out the elements and protect the main structure for as long as possible.

The exterior finishes might be any combination of brick, stone, stucco, vinyl, aluminum, concrete, or wood. Before you make a final decision, you need to take into consideration the weather conditions in the area where you are building and how much time you will be able to spend on maintaining the outside of your house. How much will you really save by not using brick if you are going to have to paint every few years?


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  Landscaping

  
 

Landscaping can tie your house together with the land. Properly placed trees can help keep your house cooler in the summer, and protect it from cold winter winds.

The walks, patios, pool, walls, pond, and plantings that make up a landscape can easily represent a sizeable expense, yet they are very important in making a new house look and feel like a home.

All too often, because this is one of the last phases of the job, people forget about the importance of blending the structure with nature. Be sure to make a reasonable budget for landscaping and try very hard not to spend it on something else.


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  Completion

  
 

Chances are that you still have a long way to go before we need to discuss what happens when your house is complete. In fact, if you are building your own home, you may find that you never really finish working on it. Even when you think the project is just about complete, you will still have some of the most frustrating work ahead of you - the punchout work. Replacing those two broken tiles, hiding that bad drywall seam, fixing the squeaky floor in the dining room, or getting the plumber to come back and move the powder room faucet up to the master bath, where it belongs, just seems to take forever.

"Alright! Everything is finished. Now we can finally relax and enjoy or new home!"

Wait a minute... not so fast. Most likely it won't be very long before you will need to make the switch from learning how to build your home to learning how to repair your home. The homes built today contain so much stuff, that it is just a matter of time before some of it will start falling apart. When the time comes, here is a good home repair book.

In the mean time, the best advice I can offer is to gather as much information as possible, before you build. Treat those with whom you are working fairly, honestly, and respectfully. Maintain a positive attitude, communicate effectively with others, and always "hope for the best, and plan for the worst".

Good luck with your project and have fun building!


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Pre-construction
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Framing
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Interior Finishes
Exterior Finishes
Landscaping
Completion

 

 

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