When it comes to building your own home, you may have no idea where to start. Most of us don’t think about the exact process that is used to construct the houses around us, which can make the prospect of building one very daunting.
In this guide, we have detailed the process of building your own home from the first step to the last. For most people, and most buildings, you’re going to need some help. Whether it’s professional contractors or a few of your friends that know what they’re doing, you’ll need a team if you plan on building an entire house capable of housing multiple people.
Don’t worry, we have the entire process outlined below. We have also included links to supporting material that gives you more information about certain construction principles and techniques. No house is exactly the same, after all, so you may need to do some extra reading to realize your dream home!
Let’s start at the beginning with the things that everybody should consider.
Things To Consider Before You Start
Nobody wants to be halfway through a construction project before realizing it’s not a feasible build. You need to think a lot about your project before you even start. If you’re here, you’ve probably already given the build some thought. That’s great!
If not, then don’t worry. We have the three main things that disrupt and delay construction projects detailed below. Such delays can be costly, so you must have everything figured out beforehand so your build can be faster and more affordable.
Plans And Permits
First, paperwork. It’s not the most exciting thing, sure, but it is essential for building in any modern country on the planet. You’ll need to get permission before you start building, otherwise, the local authorities can and will tear the place down. If you own the land, you should still check if permission or an alert for the local government is required – it’s not always clear and differs between jurisdictions.
Through the process of gaining planning permission and building permits, you’ll also need to formalize your designs. This means you’ll settle on a blueprint for the home and won’t change it once the project has started (or you’ll need to notify and get permission for any changes/extensions that may be added).
So, you’ll need to have the design of your home figured out, too. This means knowing how many floors the home has and how many rooms are in each one, along with important maintenance information such as ventilation and those other unseen components that make our modern homes comfortable to live in.
These designs are best drafted up by a professional, of course. You’ll also need to show how the home will look from the outside, something that an architect does, though you’ll need to contract and pay them if you don’t have the skills yourself.
If you haven’t already figured it out – this can be a long process. Fortunately, houses are smaller than larger buildings that take even longer to plan and get permission for. On the flip side, your local authorities may process larger projects faster, because they’re more lucrative to the community. As an individual who just wants to build their home, you may get pushed back while bigger, more important permissions are granted. This all depends on how your locale is governed, of course.
Understanding Your Budget
Along with knowing what you’re going to build, you should also know how much it’s going to cost. Once again, the specifics will vary depending on your available funds, the nature of your project, and where you are in the world, country, and even state.
If you’re working with contractors, you should be able to get a quote after finalizing your project plans and letting them take a look. You’ll also need to pay for the materials that are being used, which will take up a significant portion of your budget, along with paying any specialists that are working with you to make the building.
Remember that contractors speed up the building process. Companies like G.H. Clark can take care of the physical creation of the whole building or just single aspects. Having a professional take on important structural roles can save you a lot of money in the long run, as they can secure your structural integrity.
Self-builds can be the cheapest or most expensive projects to attempt, depending on how you handle the budget and how fast and effective you can get the job done. Labor and material costs don’t come cheap, so you’ll want to be careful with how you handle the money.
Like with most budgets, it’s a good idea to retain anywhere from 10% to 20% more than you think you’ll need. That way, you have backup funding for unexpected issues, and you won’t run out of money halfway through the build.
Funds should be sourced from your savings, money from the sale of a previous home if you’re building a new one because you recently sold, or from secured funding elsewhere. That usually means taking out some kind of loan, which will need to be paid back with interest later.
If you haven’t got the funds right now, a loan can be great. That said, it can be dangerous if you’re financially irresponsible and have other types of debt weighing down on you. It’s also risky to borrow money from family and friends – you need to have a very strong relationship to withstand lending money to one another, especially if you may struggle to pay it back.
Needless to say, if you do opt for third-party funding, you need to have a solid plan first that you’ll follow to the letter. These ensure that the project gets completed fast and the loan is paid back on time.
Many establishments offer self-build mortgages for those who are making their own home out of thin air. These mortgages are handed down by banks and finance all or part of the build, to be paid back at a later date. You’ll usually need to front 25% of the entire project cost to the lender, though you may be able to find exceptions to this rule.
They’ll also give you the money in doses, at each major step of the construction process. This ensures you don’t take the money and spend it all on the foundations.
While self-build mortgages are better and more trustworthy than taking out a random loan, you need to be reliable and meet your mortgage payments. You’ll also need to agree on a plan of action with your provider and, once they consent, you can’t divert from it or you risk losing your funding.
You’ll have some idea of how your project will be spaced through the planning and permitting process, though you should give this a lot of thought. A project that starts and then stops because of improper spacing planning will cost a lot more due to delays, especially if you’re hiring contractors or renting equipment. Also, time is money anyway, if not more valuable.
Contractors may also charge based on a set price per square foot, so knowing all of the relevant numbers is important. You can measure square footage by staking out the grounds of your home and then measuring it, then measuring it again to make sure your first measurements are correct.
You don’t just need to know if the patio will fit behind the home, you need to make sure everything is properly spaced inside the house too. The rooms should be proportionate and you don’t want a bathroom three times the size of the living room.
For fixtures, make sure that they are appropriately placed in certain rooms. If you have a fireplace, for example, you don’t want it to be off-center and in the way of anything else in the room.
Setting Up Foundations
To start, you’ll need to set up the foundations. Where else would you start? You could start with some minor landscaping if you own the land and want to make some small changes but, for the house itself, you need to start from the bottom.
There’s a formula for setting up foundations, outlined in the three subsections below.
Before throwing concrete down on the ground, you need to make sure some preliminary steps are taken so that the foundation of your foundation isn’t compromised. First, the site of the foundation needs to be leveled. Crews often do this using bulldozers, backhoes, or some other equipment out of the average person’s reach. You can also rent the equipment if you know how to use it.
When laying foundations, you need to prepare the ground before introducing concrete to it. As we said, you need to level it, along with clearing any debris that may become a problem.
You also need to stake the ground to make sure you know where the footprint of your home is. This guides where you need to dig and makes sure your footing and foundations aren’t off.
To stop the home from sinking further into the ground, footings made from either concrete and rebar or brickwork need to be installed. This is also the time when any subterranean features, like wells or a basement, will get dug.
Naturally, the footing concrete needs to be left alone so that it cures, so the construction site takes a break. To bear the weight of the foundation and the house on it, footings often need to be wider than everything sitting on top of it.
Lastly, all you need to do is pour the foundation onto the footing and the rudimentary frame that you have, which will be improved upon later. Concrete can take a while to properly cure, especially in large quantities and in areas where it is warm. This can take a few weeks, a month, or even two months.
Consult the relevant professionals to find the perfect curing time for your concrete and the type of build you are doing.
An important but overlooked part is waterproofing the foundation. Water beats everything when given enough time, so a waterproof membrane is often added to both the footing and the foundations. This stops residual and seeping water from the ground, so it doesn’t gradually wear away the foundations and weaken the home.
Framing starts when the builder places wooden markers as a template for where the foundation will go. This involves digging trenches and holes around the framing, too.
At this point, the footprint of your home should be plain to see. This is where the main framing starts, where walls and a roof skeleton are erected. These are made with plywood or other inexpensive wooden parts, which are then wrapped in protective wrapping to keep everything together. This is also where window spaces are left for future reference. If needed, a waterproof wrap is also added to keep wood rot and mold away.
As roofing, sides and windows are the main defense against the elements, you may want to hire a contractor to handle this important step. Companies like G.H. Clark handled these areas with care and dedication. If you discuss the rough plans with a contractor at this stage, they can use their expertise to eliminate any concerns about structural integrity.
This whole process can take months, though smaller homes will take less time. As for the cost, it is typically calculated by square footage. It can be $8 to $16, or even more depending on the services you’re getting.
There will be ditches and trenches dug for certain things that haven’t been added yet like the plumbing system. However, any other trenches that were dug around the framing just to install the footing can be refilled now, and they’ll provide extra support to the skeleton as more and more is added to it.
With the frame mostly complete, you need to add some functionality to it. This means adding electrical and plumbing systems to provide warmth, entertainment, and hygiene to the occupants of the home. Seeing as that’s you, it’s something you’ll want to take seriously during the build process.
Here’s a list of just some of the things you can expect when electricals and plumbing are being added, mainly the following:
- Baths and showers
- Ducts for HVAC systems
- Electric wiring and other features
- HVAC vents and piping
- Pipes and other types of wiring
- Sewer fixtures and related vents
- Water supply lines.
All of these, with the foundations, form the basic shell of a livable home. With this shell complete, it’s time for siding and a roof to get installed. Before that happens, however, you need to put some of those plumbing and electrical systems in place.
Unless you’re skilled at both electricals and plumbing, you will absolutely need to get a professional during this stage. Electricity is dangerous, we all know that, but plumbing also works with unsanitary water and high pressure, making it just as dangerous. Also, you’ll have trouble passing inspections if the work wasn’t done by a licensed professional who was qualified for the job. We have more details about the inspections process at the end of this guide.
With all of this work, you should be looking at a five-figure bill. This is probably the single largest expense that is associated with building your home. You’re paying for essential and technical work that most people can’t do, plus the people who did it need to get paid for their services rendered.
Paying electricians and plumbing tradesmen can take up nearly $10,000. If you throw in other wiring jobs and amenities, like an HVAC system for instance, then you’re looking at even more.
After everything has been completed, it needs rigorous inspections to make sure everything is above-board. If something is wrong, it will probably rear its ugly head later and result in very costly repairs. As we have mentioned already, we have more on inspections in a later section.
Install Insulation And Drywall
With the base of the house complete and some essentials added, it’s time to look at the exterior. More specifically, it’s time to look at the insulation and drywall that need to be put in place, along with the specific pipes and electricals that need to be worked into the wall.
Pipes & Electricals
The pipes that thread through the walls of our homes are just like the plumbing system itself, in that they need to be laid by a plumber. In fact, the pressure is highest when water is being pushed through a pipe, so there could be more danger or mess if you make a mistake. Any pipes are added and then covered up, so they’ll get added before the insulation and drywall are thrown on. Later, fixtures connected to pipes, like faucets, will also need to be added by the plumber.
The same can be said for the wiring that needs to go through a home. After the wiring has been added by a qualified electrician who knows what they are doing, the insulation and drywall can come in to secure the walls. Then, the electrician can come back and add superficial elements like light switches and other surface-facing electrical fittings.
With the house beginning to take shape, you need to add insulation and drywall. Insulation is very important as it regulates the temperature inside the home. Many know that insulation keeps the cold out but it also keeps the warmth in when you need it.
A well-insulated house will also be cooler on hot days since less heat makes its way inside. As a result, the home becomes more energy-efficient, so it saves you money and improves the sell value of the property.
Insulation is placed in the exterior walls only, then the ceiling. It is made from foam or fiberglass typically, though other materials are used to tackle the challenges of building in different climates. There are even wools made from stone that provide the home with the protection it needs, from both the temperature conditions but also critters too.
Its price varies a lot because of the different insulation materials and strategies out there. Fortunately, newer homes are cheaper for insulation services because adding them to an in-construction house is a breeze.
Then comes the drywall, which is fitted onto the frame you currently have. It is taped to the frame walls and glued/taped at the seams so the imperfections between boards of drywall are not visible. The drywall is given a lick of primer paint and then left to dry. It is primarily used for interior walls that don’t need the thickness or the protection that the exterior walls of the property have.
This whole process can take two weeks, give or take a few days.
Completing Interior And Exterior Walkways
Now that the house looks more like a house, it’s time to make it look homely. To do this, you need to install the following:
- Interior doors
- Door casings
- Stair banister
- Other decorative trims
All of these transform blank drywall into something more homely and lived-in. You’re building a home, not a warehouse or office block, and that means it should have most of these trimmings. It’s also an opportunity to express your style since you can get many of the items in that list in different styles.
Along with these interior trims and their finishes, you should also turn your attention to the exterior walkways of your home. By now, the site is probably a mess. Now is where you clean that up and install any paths, patios, or driveways that need to get installed. Remember that curb value is very important for real estate agents and timid house buyers. If you ever plan on selling your home, even in the distant future, you need to have a great curbside profile that invites people in.
Installing exterior fixtures isn’t easy, it can take months – much longer than any interior changes. It can cost more, though it depends on what you’re adding to the curbside view of your house.
If you have hopes of landscaping, wait until your house is done first. While similar, you can always get landscapers out to work on your home from the outside after you’ve finished building it.
This typically happens toward the end of a build because it involves pouring a lot of concrete. Concrete can get damaged by heavy machinery, so they need to have done their job and left the site before large walkways are poured.
Painting Walls And Installing Flooring
Next is the flooring, then a lick of colored paint.
Flooring varies wildly from home to home. No two places have the same flooring setup, not to mention that houses have multiple types of flooring depending on the room. It’s unusual to have carpet in a bathroom, for example, and tiles/stonework are preferred in kitchens.
There’s also vinyl and wooden flooring to consider too. What you choose is a matter of personal preference, of course, along with what you can afford and what you can feasibly install yourself if you haven’t got contractors working for you.
The drywall may have a primer coat on it but it’s not done yet. Now you need to paint over the walls inside the home again. Once again, we can’t tell you exactly what to do, since everybody prefers something different when decorating their home. This is the part where you can truly let your imagination run wild and decorate your home however you please.
If we have any advice, you should invest in a boilersuit and a roller, then get to work. Spray-painting tools can be great for exterior painting too, though you’ll want to take time to practice and make sure you have a good aim with one. You don’t want to accidentally give some rented construction equipment a new paint job.
You’ll need to get multiple colors too unless you’re planning on painting every room the exact same. If you want to go with the professional approach, create a color palette, a database of all the colors that you’re using in your home. This can make choosing paints easier and enable you to decorate your home in a way that makes sense while still expressing yourself.
When you do get round to painting, try to keep some spare. That way, you can do touch-ups and other small jobs that may come along when the construction job is done. It doesn’t take much to chip paint off of a wall, especially on a construction site, so keeping spare paint will save you time and money in the future. It can be a nightmare finding the exact same shade of color that you used three years ago.
There are many different inspections involved when you are building your own home. When going on this journey, you’ll need to make sure that you’re doing it right every step of the way. If not, you’re going to run into problems later. Many of them will need expensive repairs and some of them might even be dangerous.
In a typical construction, there can be as many as five separate inspections that your project must pass. Depending on where you are and what you’re building, you may need to jump through more or fewer hoops.
- The earliest inspection you can expect will review the foundation. After the concrete poured at the footing and foundation has cured, an inspector will be required to make sure it’s up to code. The project can’t continue until the foundations have passed the inspection.
- The second, third, and fourth inspections happen in close succession. First, you need a framing inspection for the skeleton that you have made of the home. This makes sure you’re following the blueprint and not overstepping your permissions, while also testing how strong and well-made it is.
- Next, an experienced plumber needs to survey the work that has been done. The inspector shouldn’t be the person who did the work in the first place – they are likely to be biased toward their own work.
- Likewise, then a qualified electrician needs to sign off on the work that has been done and test it for common issues. With those three inspections passed, insulation and drywall are added to the house’s skeleton.
- Finally, the big all-in-one inspection happens by somebody who works for a building code regulator. They have the power to issue a certificate that says the home is fit for human habitation, providing you with evidence that you are legally occupying the home at the same time.
If any defects are identified at this stage, follow-up inspections will probably be needed to find the root of the problem, fix it, then re-investigate the house to make sure all is in order.
For some houses built by experienced professionals, the last round of inspections can take a week! Don’t fret if there are defects, most are easily corrected if you got the basics correct.
If you worked with a contractor and haven’t had much input with the home, you will also be treated to a final walk-through. This is similar to where a real-estate agent walks the buyer through a home for sale, except you already own the place and you’re just getting to know the place.
This is typically an informal event, unlike the other inspections where everything needs to be perfect. It is, however, an inspection done by yourself where you should check everything works and bring up any concerns you have with your contractors.
If you built most of the house yourself, a walk-through is redundant since you’ll be painfully familiar with the build, its high points, and its low points. While the process of self-building can be long and arduous, it does guarantee that you get something that was built to your standards.
Hiring A Contractor
We suggest hiring a contractor, like G.H Clark, for any important aspect of the build which you are not confident in. If you are already a deck builder by trade, then completing that part of construction yourself makes sense. But if you have never attempted something of this magnitude before, hiring professionals can speed up the process and avoid costly mistakes.
Using G.H Clark Contractors as an example, the company can build fiberglass shingle roofs, flat roofs or metal roofs to match your style while still being functional. They can install vinyl, polymer shake or fiber cement slides to create beautiful country-style outward aesthetics.
They can install and replace windows with care, making custom designs if requested. And they can install energy efficient doors which help trap or release heat, lowering the cost of your energy bills. The list goes on!
Using a company like this can allow you to get the best deal while creating a home which matches your vision. You are in control and you get all the professional help you need.
Finishing Up And Conclusion
Those are the broad steps that are needed to build a house from scratch. As you can see, there are many logistical concerns before you even start, and even more waiting for you after you are finished!
It takes a lot of planning and dedication to build your own home, but it is rewarding too. You don’t just get to design your own space and use your favorite materials; you can also save some money by doing most of it yourself. Even with the most hardcore DIY builds, you’ll likely need a licensed plumber and electrician to install the dangerous systems that turn a house into a home.
Self-builds take months, during which you need to be prepared for hiccups and disruptions. Hopefully, this guide has given you valuable insight into how building a home works, so nothing should take you by surprise.