How to Build Your Own House

Nov 2, 2022

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After record high interest rates in 2022, many consumers are considering using cash or bank loans to fund the construction of a new home.

While COVID led to some Americans moving off the grid and building a house in the country, other folks simply wanted to embrace remote work and build a home that better suits their lifestyle. So, whether you're building on a lot in the city, moving off the grid or you just want to save on construction costs, our step-by-step guide will help you get started!

Step 1: Purchase Lot or Land Tract

Searching for a piece of land is exciting. Whether you're driving to nearby neighborhoods and towns nearby, or hours away to the beach or the mountains, checking out land is usually what inspires people to build.

Other than location, the most important questions to consider are:

  • What is the price per acre for the land?
  • Does the land need utilities installed?
  • If rural, will you need a well or septic tank installed?
  • How is the land currently zoned?

Step 2: Hire a "GC" vs Be the "GC"

Unless you've built a home in the past, or have a "GC" (general contractor) in your family, it's typically advised to hire someone to lead the construction efforts and have a written contract.

That being said, it is very doable to contract out all of the work and in effect be the "acting GC." In addition, most counties and cities allow a property owner to apply for an owner exemption, which enables you to obtain permits on your own - without an official general contractor.

Step 3: Obtain Building Plans

Whether you work with a general contractor or you lead the entire construction process yourself, you'll need official building plans that are certified by an engineer or architect, depending on your local municipality.

You can also view and purchase building plans online, but it's best to understand permitting rules prior to buying a plan online. You'll want to take into account the topography of the land when obtaining building plans. And you'll need to decide overall square footage and basic requirements like number of bedrooms, baths, etc. This will also be the time determine the size of a garage, or if the home has a patio or basement - among other things.

Step 4: Interview & Hire Subcontractors if Building on Your Own

Building a home is a complex undertaking. You'll encounter dozens of different "trades" (aka subcontractors). Here's a non-exhaustive list of subs you'll be working with along the way:

  • Carpenters: framers, cabinet installers, finish carpentry
  • Electricians and plumbers
  • Roofers, siding installers or brick masons
  • Flooring, tile and countertop contractors
  • Window and door installers

Step 5: Obtain Building Permits

Before you begin construction, either you or your contractor will need to obtain permits from your county or city building office. The types of permits you will need could include:

  • General construction permit
  • Electrical permit
  • Plumbing permit

Step 6: Pour Slab or Foundation Walls

Prior to pouring the foundation, you'll need a contractor to clear the land with a bobcat/skid-steer to remove any debris, trees, etc. They will also grade the land to create a slope that allows rain and runoff to drain away from the property.

Depending on the topography, your home will have either a slab foundation, a crawlspace, or a full basement poured or constructed.

A concrete contractor will typically use poured concrete for a slab or cinder blocks for the perimeter wall.  Vertical foundation walls are waterproofed and access points are created in the foundation to allow for the "roughing in" of water supply and drain lines. The concrete then goes through a curing process for about 1-2 weeks, at which point the plumbing and framing can begin. Once the foundation has cured, drains and water supply lines can be installed via the plumbing stubs.

Step 7: Go Vertical - Frame The House

Once the slab is inspected and approved, you can go vertical! This is a very exciting phase, as you can finally begin to see walls being constructed.

Carpentry framing crews will build 2x4 or 2x6 exterior walls, sub-flooring and roof trusses. This step could take between one and three weeks to complete.

"Dry-In" the House

In order for the house to be "dried in", the exterior sheathing needs to be installed. Typically this is done with 4ft x 8ft  sheets of OSB or plywood. Next, you'll add house wrap in order to create a moisture-resistant exterior envelope around the house.

Windows & Exterior Door Installation

As part of the dry-in process, the windows and exterior doors will need to be installed.

HVAC Ductwork & System

Once the house is protected from rain and outside elements, the HVAC ductwork, air handler, condenser can be installed.

Step 8: Install Plumbing & Electric

Once all framing is complete, your plumber can start the rough-in process. Typically the first step is to walk the property to identify the baths, kitchen and laundry areas to corroborate the location of each plumbing fixture. You'll also  the main water hookup, and the supply lines required to link the water and drain lines.

Electrical Panel

The electrician can now run electrical wiring through the walls and ceiling framing, prior to drywall being installed. At this stage, the HVAC is connected to the panel and Romex or equivalent wiring is run to junction boxes, outlets, light switches, etc.

Step 9: Install the Roof

At this stage, the roof joist and plywood sheathing in place. Now it's time for a new roof. Roofers will install flashing, underlayment and roof shingles or other desired material (e.g. metal, clay, synthetic, etc.).

Insulation

Once the roof is installed, you can safely insulate the attic and also the exterior walls. Depending on the situation and the climate in your area, you may also add insulation to the basement and/or crawl space if necessary. The most common types of insulation are fiberglass, cellulose and foam spray. Rolled insulation is easy to obtain from a local big box retailer like Home Depot or Lowes.

Step 10: Hang Drywall & Paint Walls/Ceilings

Drywall is hung throughout the interior of the house, as well as on the ceiling. We’re nearing the final steps to building a house!

At this stage, the walls will be painted, and it’ll start feeling a little more like your home. If you’re going with a spec or tract home, you may not have many choices in paint color, but if it’s a custom home, you could have your choice of colors, or even have wallpaper put on the walls.

Step 11: Install Exterior Surface

The most popular exterior material in recent years has been fiber-cement siding (or commonly referred to as Hardiplank-siding). Vinyl siding is a cheap siding material but may not be allowed in your local jurisdiction. Stucco is more common in coastal areas and is a more complex application process. Brick is timeless and is a versatile choice that appeals to most consumers.

Step 12: Lay Flooring

Once all the painting is complete, flooring is laid. Floor covering options include LVP, carpet, hardwood, tile or engineered wood flooring. If you choose site-stained hardwood, keep in mind there are 4 steps (install, sand, stain, poly). Most other flooring options can be installed in 1 step.

Step 13: Install Cabinets,Vanities & Appliances

Vanities and cabinet installation is next on the list. For kitchens, you want to be methodical in planning this because many cabinet manufacturers have lengthy build times. If you're buying stock cabinet sizes, it will be a faster process. Bath vanity install generally happens after tile showers are complete.

Install Countertops & Appliances

Countertops and appliances are the next things to go in. There are a variety of countertop materials to choose from, but the most popular include quartz, granite and marble.

Step 14: Install Final Fixtures, Hardware & Trim

As you near the finish line, you'll install bathroom fixtures such as faucets, shower heads and toilets. It's also the time when HVAC register covers, door knob and cabinet hardware will be installed.

Lights, Fans & Fixtures

After all the electrical work is complete, light fixtures, fans, outlets and switches are connected.

Trim, Baseboard & Molding

After all the flooring has been laid, next comes the trim. Casing and trim will be installed around the windows and doors, along the floor, fireplace, etc.

Other Tasks and Steps

In terms of budgeting, here are a few other things that will likely need to be tackled along the way:

  • Pouring concrete driveway
  • Installing landscaping

Home building can be a great alternative for people who are considering buying a home or moving to a new area. There are many advantages to buying a pre-existing property - potentially even one that was built in the last 5 years. In this scenario, you can still take advantage of newer construction and modern finishes, plus you’ll also be facing a much shorter timeframe for moving in.

Before deciding to build, learn more about buying an existing property and check out low rates with some of our top mortgage partners.

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