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Be Your Own General Contractor - Building the House

Building the House


  1. Staking the lot & house = 1-3 Days

  2. Clearing & excavation = 1-3 Days

  3. Ordering utilities, temp electric, & portable toilet = 1 Hr

  4. Footings (1st inspection made before pouring) = 1 Day

  5. Foundation & soil treatment, the foundation survey = 1 Week

  6. Rough ins for slab plumbing + inspection = 2-4 Days

  7. Slabs, basement, & garage = 1-2 Days

  8. Framing & drying in = 1-3 Weeks

  9. Exterior siding, trim, veneers = 1-3 Weeks

  10. Chimneys & roofing = 2 Days - 1 Week

  11. Rough ins (can be done during steps 9 & 10) = 1-2 Weeks

  12. Insulation = 3 Days

  13. Hardwood flooring & underlayment = 3 Days - 1 Week

  14. Drywall = 2 Weeks

  15. Priming walls & pointing up = 2 Days

  16. Interior trim & cabinets = 1-2 Weeks

  17. Painting = 2-3 weeks

  18. Other trims (Formica, tile, vinyl floors) = 1 Day - 1 Week

  19. Trim out plumbing, electrical, mechanical, & hooking up utilities = 1-2 Weeks

  20. Clean-up = 2-3 Days

  21. Carpet &/or hardwood floor finish = 3 Days - 1 Week

  22. Driveway (can be poured any time after step 14) = 1-3 Days

  23. Landscaping = 1-3 Days

  24. Final inspections, surveys, & closing of construction & interim loans = 1-3 Days

  25. Enjoy your home!


The Steps Explained


Step 1: Staking the Lot & House

  • If the house is placed in violation of setbacks by a surveyor, they are responsible for paying to correct.

  • Inspect when the surveyor is done to ensure proper direction of your house.

  • When the lot is cleared & basement dug, you may want the surveyor to re-stake your house.

  • Initial stakes will be offset to mark 4 corners without being disturbed during excavation.

  • You will need a topographical plat (topo) from your surveyor if your lot slopes more than 3 or 4 feet.

  • A few considerations when positioning your home:

    1. Interior light: A North-South facing house will be darker than an East-West facing house.

    2. Water flow: How will it affect landscaping & basement drainage?

    3. Other houses on the street: Setback requirements can be influenced by your neighbor's house.

    4. The street itself: Should houses be parallel to the street? What if the street curves? Corner lot?

    5. Privacy: Think about what your windows outlook, & what your neighbors might see.

    6. Solar Orientation: South facing with lots of glass collects the most energy from the sun.

    7. Minimum setback & side yard requirements: Make sure you're within the legal boundaries of your property.


Step 2: Clearing & Excavation

  • Clearing the lot includes removing trees, brush, rocks, roots, & debris from where the house will sit, & 10+ feet around the foundation.

  • Cut the large trees down to 10-12 foot logs & make your own firewood.

  • If a basement is to be dug, your sub must have & know how to use a transit.

    1. Surveyor may need to check proper depth.

  • Some or all of the dirt removed from the basement might be put aside for later backfilling & landscaping.

  • Your contract price should include hauling all stumps, branches, & rocks to a landfill.

    1. Burying stumps will create depressions.

  • Put unwashed crushed stone on the driveway for trucks to drive on during wet weather.


Step 3: Ordering Utilities

  • Arrange for temporary electric service for your subs.

    1. Your electrician is responsible for installing & inspecting, but you will apply for the service from the utility.

  • Wells & septic can be installed at this time.

    1. County or city health inspectors may be required to determine locations of these.

  • If no temporary water is available, you will want the well dug & temp plumbing installed for your brick masons.

  • Get a portable toilet on site.


Step 4: Footings

  • The footing is a mass of concrete supporting the foundation of the house.

  • It must be poured below the frost line, or it will heave when the ground freezes & thaws.

  • If you have to be several feet below grade level for your footings, only excavation & a concrete slab are needed for a basement.

  • After your foundation walls are up, put in a footing drain.

  • Building inspectors usually check the locations & sizes of footings prior to pouring.


Step 5: Foundation

  • Foundations can be made of brick, concrete block, or poured concrete.

  • The foundation wall needs to be high enough that the finish & framing are 8" above final grade.

  • A crawl space should be at least 18" deep for annual inspections.

  • The foundation should be waterproofed from the footing to the finish grade line.

  • Your soil may need to be treated for insects & pests, particularly termites, after foundations but before basement & garage concrete.


Step 6: Rough ins for Plumbing

  • If you have a basement with plumbing / are building on a concrete slab, your plumber needs to install the sewer line & water pipes after foundations.

  • Your treatment company may want to treat the soil after this underground plumbing is complete.


Step 7: Slabs for Heated Areas

  • Many locales require slab perimeter insulation, often foam board from the top of the foundation to at least 12" below finished grade.

  • A 4-6 Mil plastic barrier under the concrete will prevent moisture seepage.

  • A 6" x 6" #10 wire mesh should be in the concrete to reinforce it.

  • The top of the slab should be at least 8" above final grade & installed over a 4-6" packed layer of crushed stone.

  • Expansion joints around the perimeter of garage slabs allow the concrete to expand & contract without cracking.

  • All slabs should be at least 4" thick.


Step 8: Framing & Drying In

  • You need only to order the lumber, windows, & exterior doors, & you'll have a house in a few weeks.

  • Rain & snow during framing are not desirable, but seldom do much damage.

  • When framing is complete, order cabinets, bookcases, & any vanity cabinets.


Step 9: Exterior Siding, Trim, Veneers

  • This phase of construction happens while work progresses inside & should be done before roof shingles.

  • Masonry chimneys are installed after siding or veneer.

  • Veneers, such as brick, should be installed before final exterior trim is added.

  • Once this step is complete, you are ready for exterior painting.


Step 10: Chimneys & Roofing

  • Chimneys should be built before the roof is shingled.

    1. This allows sheet metal flashing for waterproofing & avoids damage to the shingles.

  • A prefab fireplace & flue would also be installed at this time.


Step 11: Rough Ins

  • All electrical, plumbing, HVAC, phone pre-wire, cable, stereo, internet, & alarms should be roughed in any time after step 8 is complete.


Step 12: Insulation

  • Consult with your utility company on the insulation required to qualify for their lowest rates.

  • May require inspections by utility company & building inspection department before it is covered.


Step 13: Hardwood Flooring & Underlayment

  • Unfinished hardwood flooring, vinyl, or carpet underlayment can be installed before or after drywall.


Step 14: Drywall

  • Most residential walls are finished with 1/2" sheetrock.

  • Use waterproof board or paint with enamel paint in bathrooms & other moist areas.

  • Fire on 3 1/2 - 4 times the square footage of the floor area for the square footage of wallboard.

  • Your drywall sub can give you a price per square foot.


Step 15: Priming Walls & Pointing Up

  • After drywall & before interior trim, prime walls & ceilings with flat white latex primer.

  • Slight drywall imperfections can be seen & repaired (pointing up) after priming, & after interior trim install.


Step 16: Interior Trim & Cabinets

  • Doors, moldings, cabinets, countertops, & shelves are installed at this time.

  • Special molding or trim work should be discussed in advance to determine additional cost for installation.

  • Your millwork supplier can do a complete material takeoff for your trim & determine costs of extras.


Step 17: Painting

  • Your exterior painting can be delayed until this point, but unfinished siding may warp if sitting too long.


Step 18: Other Trims

  • Vinyl floors, ceramic tiles, & wallpaper should be installed now.


Step 19: Trimming Out

  • It's time for your plumber to set his fixtures.

  • HVAC must also be completed before your electrician.

  • Electrician will install switches, receptacles, light fixtures, & electrical appliances (oven & range). He will also wire devices for plumber & HVAC subs.


Step 20: Clean-Up

  • The bulk of outside trash, & inside trash can be picked up by a truck & hauled away.

  • Dumpsters are the responsibility of the general contractor, but don't hold a ton, so are better suited to remodels where trash containment is critical.

  • On new construction sites without landscaping, it's cheaper to bulldoze the trash & truck it away at the end of the project.


Step 21: Carpet &/or Hardwood Finish

  • Hardwood floors should be finished before any carpet is installed, because of the sanding required before stain & poly.


Step 22: Driveway

  • Try to time it so you have received all heavy shipments of materials, hauled off heavy loads of trash, & are finished with heavy equipment.

  • Concrete can support a moving van a week after pouring, but asphalt can't so put down a stone base & move in prior to completing an asphalt driveway.


Step 23: Landscaping

  • This job can be put off until after you move in, depending on your lender's requirements.

  • If you run into cost overruns at the end of construction, you may get away with grading & seeding or mulching disturbed wooded areas.


Step 24: Final Inspections, Surveys, & Loan Closings

  • All final inspections from the city for building, electrical, mechanical, & plumbing should be made after completing the house.

  • The lender will make a final inspection before it disburses the balance of the construction loan.

  • When approved, the lender will coordinate the necessary paperwork & schedule the refinance or modification of the construction loan.

  • Your lender may order a final survey to be sure no additional structures have been placed on the lot in violation of deed restrictions or zoning.

  • You must remember to convert your builder's risk policy to a homeowner's policy prior to closing.

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