Building a new home is an exciting project that involves a complex mix of people, intricate scheduling, hundreds of products and a variety of building materials and systems.
Moreover, the construction process varies considerably depending on the region of the country, type and size of the home and builder practices.
Though focused on the building of a “stick-framed” production home, most of the steps also apply to other housing types, such as concrete block and stucco homes. Be sure to ask your home builder for specific details on the construction of your new home.
1. Plot the Home
After you sign the purchase agreement, select your lot, make your color selections and option choices, submit your earnest money and, if needed, get approval for a mortgage loan, work on your individual home begins. Soil tests are conducted and a plat of survey or plot plan for the home is drawn, following local zoning setback and lot line restrictions. This will indicate where the home is to be erected on the building site. The builder then obtains a building permit from the city or town where the home is being built.
2. Dig the Hole
Finally, construction on your new home begins. The site is cleared and leveled and the building outline is marked or “staked” on the lot. Trenches are dug for poured concrete footings (which must be below the frost line in cold weather climates) that will support a concrete slab for the house with no basement or with a crawl space. If the home will have a basement, the entire footprint is dug out. Dirt will also be excavated for a basement. If there is a basement, a hole is dug, as well as any septic system or well needed for the home.
3. Pour the Foundation
A drain tile system is run around the outside of the footing. This steers rain water to a sewer, dry well or to the yard. For a home with a basement, the tile connects to a sump pump pit. Foundation walls are poured or placed, waterproofed and the foundation is backfilled. Water supply lines, sewer pipes, sump pump drains and rough-in plumbing is set in the ground before the slab is poured. Incoming lines are punched through the foundation wall. If needed, the soil is treated for termites. Crushed stone is spread and the slab is poured. Basement window wells, if any, are installed. A city inspector will make one of five visits to the site throughout the process; the first one is made before the home’s frame is erected.
4. Erect the Frame
Rough carpenters install a sill plate around the house perimeter as a nailing surface for two-by-four or two-by-six wall framing. (Exterior walls might also consist of structural insulated panels, concrete blocks or insulated concrete forms). If the house has a basement, trusses are set and a plywood subfloor is laid. Next, two-by-four partition walls are erected to define the interior rooms. Plywood, oriented strand board or rigid foam sheathing is attached over the exterior studs and covered with house-wrap. The steps are repeated for a home’s second floor. Stairs are installed. Roof trusses are erected and sheathed.
5. Close-in the Home
To close-in the home, windows and exterior doors are installed, weather-stripped and caulked. Brick or stone veneer and exterior siding are installed. If included, a prefabricated fireplace and flue is installed or a masonry fireplace and chimney is erected and flashed. Next, the exterior trim is added and the exterior is caulked and painted. Roofers then install the roofing system, including soffit vents, underlayment, water barrier, ice guards (if needed) and rooftop exhaust vents. Roofing materials range from asphalt shingles, concrete or clay tile, wood, slate or metal.
6. Equip the Interior
Plumbers, electricians and HVAC subcontractors now go to work to install the homes mechanical and electrical life lines. Plumbing pipes, HVAC equipment and ducts, cold air returns, furnace and fan exhaust vents, electric wiring and low voltage wiring for such features as cable TV, Internet, intercom, doorbell and alarm systems are roughed in within the framing. Water, vent and drain lines are run to each plumbing fixture and large tub and shower units are installed. Outlets, switches, receptacles and can lights are installed and wired to the main circuit breaker box.
7. Add Insulation and Drywall
Once the behind-the-wall equipment is in place, insulation is added to exterior walls, floors and attic. There is a variety of insulation types used by homebuilders, including batts, rolls, loose-fill particles, foams, blown-in or sprayed products. Energy-saving benefits depend greatly on how well the material is installed, so the construction team will make sure all gaps around doors, windows and corners are filled or “chinked” with insulation. Drywall is then hung and interior walls and ceilings are sprayed with a primer coat of paint.
8. Finish the Interior
Next come the finish or trim carpenters. They’ll install all interior trim and moldings, stair rails, interior doors, kitchen and bath cabinetry and built-in cabinets. Underlayment is placed. Hardwood, vinyl and tile flooring is installed. Appliances, kitchen and bath countertops and mechanical trims also go in at this time. This includes light fixtures, switch plates, sinks, toilets, mirrors and shower doors. Next, walls receive a finish coat of paint. Unfinished hardwood floors are stained and sealed. Finally, any wallpaper is hung and padding and carpeting are installed.
9. Complete the Landscape
The final job in completing your new home likely will be the addition of your landscaping package, including final grading, a sodded or seeded yard and any bushes or trees selected. The home’s sidewalk and patio will be completed. Any deck option and the driveway will be finished with concrete, brick pavers or asphalt topping.
Expect your builder to conduct a final quality control inspection. Following yet another inspection, the local building code official will issue a certificate of occupancy. Your new home, then, is finally ready for move in.
Watching your new construction home come to life is exciting. But it’s not a quick process. So, if you’re on the fence about building new or searching for a resale home, hopefully the steps outlined above have given you an idea of what to expect
Roy Diez is a freelance writer and marketing professional specializing in the architectural, building and construction industry. He is a former editor-in-chief of Professional Builder magazine.