A Step-by-Step Guide to the Home Building Process

step by step

Building your new home is exciting, especially when you understand how the process works. The following overview outlines the typical steps in the construction of a home and what happens at key stages. The result? A first-rate new home that is personalized to your style and taste.

1. Prepare site and pour foundation: Often, site preparation and foundation work are performed by the same crew, but this may not be the case with a wooded lot. Using a backhoe and a bulldozer, the crew clears the site of rocks, debris and trees for the house and, if applicable, the septic system. The crew levels the site, puts up wooden forms to serve as a template for the foundation, and digs the holes and trenches. Footings (structures where the house interfaces with the earth that supports it) are installed. If the soils report indicates that caissons (concrete piers buried in the ground) are required, they are poured at this time. If your home is going to have a well, it will be dug at this point.

If the home has a full basement, the hole is dug, the footings/caissons are formed and poured, and the foundation walls are formed and poured. If it’s slab-on-grade, the footings are dug, formed and poured; the area between them is leveled and fitted with utility runs (e.g. plumbing drains and electrical chases); and the slab is poured.

Once concrete is poured into the holes and trenches, it will need time to cure. During this period, there will be no activity on the construction site. After the concrete is cured, the crew applies waterproofing to the foundation walls; installs drains, sewer and water taps and any plumbing that needs to go into the first-floor slab or basement floor. Backfilling of excavated dirt into the hole around the foundation wall is implemented at this point.

INSPECTION #1: When the curing process is complete, a city or county inspector visits the site to make sure foundation components are up to code and installed properly. This inspection may be repeated depending on the type of foundation (slab, crawl space or basement). We remove the forms and begin coordinating step 2, the framing phase.

2. Complete rough framing: The floor systems, walls and roof systems are completed (collectively known as the shell or skeleton of the house). Plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) sheathing is applied to the exterior walls and roof, and windows and exterior doors are installed. The sheathing is then covered with a protective barrier known as a house wrap; it prevents liquid water from infiltrating the structure, while allowing water vapor to escape. This reduces the likelihood of mold and wood rot.

3. Complete rough plumbing, electrical and HVAC: Once the shell is finished, siding and roofing can be installed. At the same time, the electrical and plumbing contractors start running pipes and wires through the interior walls, ceilings and floors. Sewer lines and vents, as well as water supply lines for each fixture, are installed. Bathtubs and one-piece shower/tub units are put in place at this point because there’s more room to maneuver large, heavy objects.
Ductwork is installed for the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, and possibly the furnace. HVAC vent pipes are installed through the roof, and insulation is installed in the floors, walls and ceilings.

After the roofing goes on, the house is considered “dried in.” Our electricians then install receptacles for outlets, lights and switches and run wires from the breaker panel to each receptacle. Wiring for telephones, cable TV and music systems is included in this work. Note that HVAC ducts and plumbing are usually installed before wiring, because it’s easier to run wires around pipes and ducts than vice versa.

INSPECTIONS 2, 3 and 4: Rough framing, plumbing and electrical and mechanical systems are inspected for compliance with building codes. These will be three different inspections. The framing inspection will be conducted separately from the electrical/mechanical inspections. At this stage, drywall (also known as plasterboard, wallboard or gypsum board) is delivered to the building site. Sheetrock®, a registered trademark of USG Corporation, is sometimes used as a generic term for drywall.

4. Install insulation: Insulation plays a key role in creating a more comfortable, consistent indoor climate while significantly improving a home’s energy efficiency. One of the most important qualities of insulation is its thermal performance or R-value, which indicates how well the material resists heat transfer. At the very least, insulation will be applied in all exterior walls, as well as the attic and any floors that are located above unfinished basements or crawl spaces.
Blanket insulation, which comes in batts or rolls, is typical in new-home construction. Fiberglass and mineral-wool batts and rolls are usually installed in side walls, attics, floors, crawl spaces, cathedral ceilings and basements. Manufacturers often attach a facing such as Kraft paper or foil-Kraft paper to act as a vapor barrier and/or air barrier. In areas where the insulation will be left exposed, such as basement walls, the batts have a special flame-resistant facing.

5. Complete drywall and interior textures; start exterior finishes: Drywall is hung and taped so the seams between the boards aren’t visible, and drywall texturing (if applicable) is completed. The primer coat of paint is also applied after taping is complete. At this point, we begin installing exterior finishes such as brick, stucco, stone and siding.

6. Finish interior trim; install exterior driveways and walkways: Interior doors, baseboards, door casings, window sills, moldings, stair balusters and other decorative trim are installed, along with cabinets, vanities and fireplace mantels and surrounds. Walls get a finish coat of paint and are wallpapered where applicable.

Generally, exterior driveways, walkways and patios are formed at this stage. We prefer to wait until the end of the project before pouring the driveway because heavy equipment (such as a drywall delivery truck) can damage concrete.

7. Install hard-surface flooring and countertops; complete exterior grading: Ceramic tile, vinyl and wood flooring are installed as well as countertops. Exterior finish grading is completed to ensure proper drainage away from the home and prepare the yard for landscaping.

8. Finish mechanical trims; install bathroom fixtures: Light fixtures, outlets and switches are installed and the electrical panel is completed. HVAC equipment is installed and registers completed. Sinks, toilets and faucets are put in place.

9. Install mirrors, shower doors and finish flooring; finish exterior landscaping: Mirrors, shower doors and carpeting are installed, and final cleanup takes place.

INSPECTION #5: A building-code official completes a final inspection and issues a certificate of occupancy (C.O.). If any defects are found during this inspection, a follow-up inspection may be scheduled to ensure that they’ve been corrected.

10. Final walkthrough: We will walk you through your new home to acquaint you with its features and the operation of various systems and components, and explain your responsibilities for maintenance and upkeep as well as warranty coverage and procedures. This an opportunity to spot items that need to be corrected or adjusted. We call this a Punch List

A Few Words about Inspections: Your new home will be inspected frequently during the course of construction. In addition to mandated inspections for code compliance, we conduct quality checks, usually on a bi-weekly basis and always at critical points in the process. Talk to us about attending inspections. While not required, it’s an opportunity to learn more about what’s behind the walls of your new home and how everything works

For safety as well as logistical reasons, we discourage clients from dropping in unannounced at the construction site. If you’d like to pay a visit, be sure to arrange it in advance. We always conduct regular walkthroughs to bring you up to speed on the progress of the work.

Congratulations! Your new home is complete. Your home offers the latest on energy-efficiency, open floor plans for the way we live today, and is ready for years of enjoyment.


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