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Building Basics

If you are considering building a new home rather than buying one, it is important to familiarize yourself with the basic steps of new home construction and the roles of the many professionals you will work with along the way. Please note that many of steps of construction may overlap by a few days or a few weeks depending on the construction schedule.

Choosing a General Contractor

With the beginning phases of building, there is no particular order when it comes to choosing a builder, a home design and lot, but many will argue, there are huge benefits to choosing a builder or general contractor first, so we will begin there. The builder or general contractor is the person who oversees the actual construction of the home. This is the person you will be in contact with most often throughout construction, so it is important that you hire a person you communicate well with and feel comfortable discussing all of your thoughts and ideas with. Start by interviewing builders that have been recommended by friends or associates who have recently built a new home. Talk to referrals and visit jobsites where you can check out each builder’s work. Remember, the builder is the person you will put all your faith in to build your new home. And, by choosing your builder or general contractor first, you will gain the benefits of his or her assistance and valuable opinions when it comes to selecting a lot, choosing home plans and even hiring an architect to assist you with any minor changes you might desire.

Choosing a Lot For Your New Home

Now it is time to choose a lot. Take time to consider, the neighborhood, municipality, city and surrounding areas of any lot you consider. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of the neighborhood and not just pay attention to the good qualities of the lot. If you are sure the neighborhood is right for you and your family, invite the builder to look at the lot and evaluate it. Ask for his or her opinions about the appropriateness of the lot and what he or she sees as pros and cons. Generally, the builder can quickly identify any potential problems preventing you from buying a lot that will not satisfy your needs, create issues with construction or cause difficulties in the future.

Choose a Home Plan 

Your next step is to choose a home plan. When it comes to pre-drawn plans, there are thousands of choices for home plans in a multitude of sizes and styles designed with just the basics or the latest amenities. Browsing stock plans on line can be fun and exciting allowing you to search by a preferred square footage, one story or two, the number a bedrooms, the type of foundation your prefer or require and so on. There are many benefits to choosing and building with a pre-drawn stock plan. These home plans are very inexpensive as opposed to a custom drawn blueprint, they have already been built proving their quality in design and construction and they can be modified to suit your family’s specific needs.

Consult an Architect 

After selecting a stock home plan, it may be necessary to consult and work with a local residential designer or architect. Your builder will know if this is necessary and will be able to suggest a professional for you to work with. Even though the pre-drawn plans you purchased are ready to be built as-is, you might want to make a few minor changes to the floor plan or exterior to accommodate specific needs. The designer or architect will be able to make these changes for you. Also, many municipalities require that the plans are brought up to local building codes and certified before construction begins. This will require the expertise of an architect as well.

How to Obtain Financing 

Construction cannot begin without adequate financing, so your next step is to obtain a construction loan. Necessary funds can be obtained by taking out a mortgage. Often buyers will need a construction-to-permanent loan in order to fund the construction of their new home. By working with a mortgage broker or lender, you can obtain a construction loan. In most cases, the construction loan funds the actual construction of the new home and then automatically converts to a permanent loan. These types of loans are very attractive because most often, you will only have to pay closing costs and legal fees one time saving you money. Be aware that the lending company may require a copy of the blueprints and building specifications, appropriate building permits and a licensed and bonded contractor before they consider approving you for your construction/permanent loan. Investigate all financing options before making your final selection for a lending company.

Preparing Your New Home Site 

Site preparation is the next step. In this phase of the home building process, it is necessary to have a soils test done to determine the composition of the soil and the drainage of the building site. A survey will be needed to determine property lines, easements and setbacks. When these things have been established, it is time to start the actual construction phase of your new home.

At this point, it is important to remember the importance of your builder’s role in the home building process. He or she will be responsible for every step of the construction process from now until the closing. Your builder is responsible for taking your set of blueprints and turning the two-dimensional drawings into a three-dimensional living space – your new home. Serving as the general contractor, the builder will oversee every part of construction and hire all the subcontractors necessary to finish your dream home such as plumbers, carpenters, masons and electricians. It is to your advantage to let the builder do all the hiring of the subcontractors. The builder has experience with all the subcontractors and has a network of capable and trusted craftsman who are on time, work efficiently and deliver desired results without mistakes or delays. By allowing the builder to hire all the subcontractors, you are protecting yourself. If something goes wrong during construction or after your home has been completed, your builder is responsible. It may seem logical to hire friends or family who are skilled in a particular trade (i.e. your brother owns a roofing business or your cousin is a painter) to help with the construction of your home, ultimately saving you money in labor costs. But, be aware. If something goes wrong, it may be hard to pinpoint the blame, and you may be the one paying to fix the problem. The builder will also have other important roles during construction like applying for all the necessary permits, ordering materials and scheduling inspections with the local building officials.

Clearing and Grading Your Lot 

Clearing and grading the land is the next step in the construction process. It may be necessary to clear the lot of underbrush and trees, or grade the lot making it suitable for the foundation. Once the lot is cleared, the foundation is laid according to the site conditions and your preferences.

Framing Your Home 

Now your home is ready to be framed. This simply means the skeleton of the home is built. Typically the exterior walls are built with 2x4 or 2x6 studs. However, other methods can be used such as concrete block or CMU. Roof framing is also included here. The roof can be framed conventionally using various sizes of lumber, which meet local building codes, or it can be framed with prefabricated trusses, which are the most efficient way to frame the roof.

Walls and Windows 

After the home is framed, it can be dried-in, meaning all of the exterior finishes are added protecting the interior from the outdoor elements. Doors and windows are installed in this phase as well. Be sure to choose the very best quality doors and windows you can afford. These items are critical for energy efficiency and security. Also, it is time to give the exterior of your home its identity. Exterior finishes and trim comes in a variety of styles and colors – brick, vinyl siding, stucco, etc. Roof covering is also available in an array of choices. Sometimes exterior finishes are easily interchangeable: A stock plan showing vinyl siding can probably be finished with wood siding to achieve a more rustic look if desired. Something to remember is some exterior finish materials may be dictated by the area where you live. For instance, if you are building in a warmer climate such as Florida or Southern California, it may be necessary to use clay tile for your roof instead of asphalt shingles. Consult with your builder when choosing exterior finishes and trim.

Once the shell of the home is complete, construction will move inside. Any interior walls that have not already been framed are framed at this time. This phase also includes installation of all the rough-ins for plumbing, electrical, and heating and cooling (HVAC). (The subcontractors will return to the jobsite at a later time to install the finished fixtures such as vent covers, switch places, towel bars and faucets in the bath, and lighting fixtures.) Insulation for the walls and the roof is added during this phase. Your builder will help you select the right type of insulation for the climate where you are building. Drywall is installed as well. After all of these items are tended to, you can move on to interior finish and trim.

The Finishing Touches 

Your new home will come to life with this phase of construction. An array of details comprises the interior finish and trim of a structure giving the rooms in your home their character and personality. This portion includes paint, carpet, flooring, trim, wallpaper, cabinets, fixtures, countertops, appliances and much more. Consider these items early on and make decisions about what you plan to have in your house. When the time comes to install fixtures and paint, you will be ready. Once you’ve made decisions about the interior finish, stick with what you’ve selected rather than changing your mind. This wastes time and money.

When construction is completely finished, the local building inspector will give a final inspection. If the home complies with all the local building codes, you will receive an occupancy permit from the county deeming the home structurally sound and habitable.

Finally, your builder will schedule a final walk-through with you. This is your opportunity to do a final inspection of the home. You and your builder will make a list of any problems that need to be corrected, fixed, adjusted or completed. Take your time, note any detail that doesn’t seem quite right. Think of the walk-through as your very own “quality assurance” review with the builder. After you’ve completed and gone over the list of adjustments with your builder, request a schedule of when you can expect each item to be fixed or corrected.

After the final walk-through you will close on your home loan, at which point the construction loan converts to a permanent loan, sign legal documents and receive the title to your new home. Now all you have left to do is move in and start enjoying your new dream home!

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