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  Building a New Home

  The total project cost to build your new house plan will be broken up into four or five stages and payments or draws, which you or your bank will pay before each new phase begins. According to your contract you may be required to make up the difference if these costs run over budget. 


Keep materials and equipment secure from theft at all times. This is a big problem world wide in home building; even the home builders and subcontractors might be tempted to take valuable materials and tools home, as well as the many thieves that are looking for unsecured job sites. A common practice among scrupulous home builders is to double bill their clients; Make sure you keep an itemized list of all invoices and check regularly.

   You should never be billed for tools, unless you have a previous agreement, which entitles you to the tool after the job is completed. You will be billed for any equipment rental, but not for equipment purchase.

   There are many decisions you will be required to make along the way besides the design and style of your house plan, such as flooring materials, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures and hardware, cabinets styles and materials, interior doors, exterior doors, and trim detail, paint color and, or wallpaper patterns. It is wise to do your homework and make these decisions in advance, so as not to hold up the home building process.


 There are several home building methods and systems to choose from, and chances are, your home builder will have a preference. The area in which you are home building might require one or the other for reasons such as, high wind or extreme weather conditions, availability of materials and even termites. Some of these home building systems are much higher in cost than the standard method, which is wood framed construction, or you might prefer metal framing. A few of the more popular methods are insulated foam blocks filled with concrete or foam core panels for super energy savings. The walls and roof may be premanufactured and delivered to the site after the foundation is prepared.


  There are several types of house plans including; one story  house plans, meaning the heated space is at grade level; two or three story house plans, meaning the levels are stacked neatly over the other; earth berm house plans, meaning the homes are built into the grade and possible below grade; but the most expensive are the split level house plans, meaning the floor levels may be raised or lowered in a specific area, but not necessarily beneath or above another level; and house plans that are called story and a half, meaning the second floor level in built into the attic or roof. A half story requires a steep roof slope and requires additional structural consideration.

   What’s a roof pitch? This is the slope of your roof line. There are flat roofs and then there are roofs that are too step to walk on, which is popular in some of the more traditional styles, such as Victorian or Tudor. The standard slopes are 4/12; 6/12; and 12/12; what does this mean? This tells the framer just how to find a degree of a roof line. For example, a 4/12 pitch is found by measuring up vertically 4’ for every 12’on a horizontal run.


  A set of specifications will be provided along with the cost estimate of price to home build. These specifications are a part of your contract, showing a break down of materials that will be used in the construction of your home, along with established allowances for flooring, lighting fixtures, landscaping and wallpaper. Take some time to determine if these allowances are generous enough to actually cover the cost; these are the items that you will typically end up paying more for because the allowance was too small. These allowances can be negotiated, but greatly affect the over all cost of your project.

   Those of you getting a construction load from a bank or financial institution will have added security. The bank will make certain that your building specifications and builder’s contract are in order, to protect their investment; they know what they need to see in writing. Some banks may require references from the home builder as an added measure.  

For those of you that would like to get an idea of their project cost before seeing a builder; here is a link to an estimating program. Keep in mind that these cost are very approximate.  http://www.building-cost.net/livarea.asp

   If your house plan is going to be wood framed; the rough frame carpenters will either stick frame the floor and roof system, meaning they will erect the framework board by board, or they will set premanufactured walls and trusses, meaning the walls or the floor and roof members are not constructed on site. Floor and roof trusses are typically framed out of 2”x 4” lumber and pre-engineered using a web design, allowing greater distances to be spanned.

   The standard size of an interior framed wall is 2”x 4” with no insulation unless needed for sound. The standard size for exterior wall is 2”x 6.” The reason for this additional thickness is not for extra strength but for an increased insulation value. A 2”x 4” wall offers a value of R11; 2”x 6” offers a value of R18, which reduces energy loss considerably. Some types of building systems offer as much as R24 in the walls and R36 in the roof. These higher R values may be wasted in some parts of the country, according to extreme weather conditions. Chose what is right for your home building according to your location and your overall budget.

Lien waivers should be required by your builder, and signed by all of the suppliers and subcontractors; Legal documentation verifying the work has been completed and payment received in full.

   When it comes time to select and choose particular items for your new house plan, such as cabinet hardware, lighting fixtures, plumbing fixtures and hardware, door and window styles, typically, your home builder will give you a catalogue to choose from. These catalogues are provided by the home builder’s supplier and quite limited with its selection of brands and styles, and usually overpriced. Don’t be bullied into choosing from these items; feel free to price shop and purchase online where there pricing is much more competitive. Remember, this is your home being built; your project; Take control; Visit the job site as often as possible and check for accuracy in design and material placement. The sooner you catch an error the better.

   Landscaping is typically a part of the budget that your home builder establishes for you, with a standard allowance according to the amount of your project, however this home building budget is never enough to do the things you want. The last item on the home builder’s list, your home building budget could easily be exhausted when it comes to play. In most cases top soil will need to be brought in and bladed to create a proper base if there is ever to be any hope of grass. The grade or soil up next to your exterior walls should be bladed so that it slopes away from the house. It is also important not to create water problems for your neighbors, so the building site’s drainage should be taken into careful consideration.  


   Some of you might choose to contract, manage, or build your own house plan; some from start to finish and some of you may choose just to sub out the finish work or maybe even do some of this work yourself.  Some banks might frown on this idea, and some have strict policies against it, but if you can prove you have a good understanding of the process, and even some experience that you can lean on, you’ll have an increased chance at getting their approval. They might insist that you hire a project manager, or hire your architect to do site inspections.

In some states, the home builder must be licensed, but typically there is an exclusion provided for the homeowner building for their own purposes, and not for resale.

  Here is a link to a good forum that is used by the do it yourselfers; ask questions and give answers: http://www.city-data.com/forum/florida/68205-questions-about-building-your-own-house.html

   If you are going to try building your own house plan, learn everything you can about residential construction; research new techniques and materials.  One drawback is; the individual doesn’t have the connections to the subcontractors, and these subs know that you are building one house plan only, where the builder may build one house plan after another keeping the sub busy year round. Your project will not be on his priority list.

   It’s possible that the subcontractor may take advantage of your lack of knowledge, but I have seen little evidence of this in the field. Most of these crews work hard to protect their reputations, and can be depended on.

   When creating a home building schedule, you have to make sure that you coordinate with many different people routinely during each week of your project. If you are contracting the project yourself, try not to hold to as tight a schedule as a professional builder would. Give yourself and the sub-contractors plenty of room for scheduling. If they have obligations with their regular builders you’ll get left out in the cold so to speak. Every time you schedule one subcontractor, call all the others on your list and ask them how this affects their portion of the job. This will help you head off problems at the pass.

The following is a home building schedule for the typical residential project.

  1. Home building permit
  2. Temporary liability home builder's insurance
  3. Utilities  (request for service and temporary utility pole)
  4. Excavation 
  5. Plumbing   (three to four phases through out construction)
  6. Electrical   (three to four phases through out construction)
  7. Heat & Air   (three to four phases through out construction)
  8. Waste container and management
  9. Concrete walls (concrete block or poured) and flatwork
  10. Termite spray
  11. Gravel fill and minor exaction
  12. Concrete pad (if applicable)
  13. Lower level frame work (if applicable)
  14. 1st floor trusses / decking
  15. Main level frame work
  16. Roof framing and decking
  17. Exterior Columns and base
  18. Heavy equipment (crane, backhoe, tractor)
  19. Insulation
  20. Exterior doors and windows
  21. Sheathing, siding, sofit and fascia
  22. Exterior window and door trim
  23. Sheetrock, tape, mud and float
  24. Interior doors, cabinets and trim
  25. Counter tops, appliances
  26. Cabinet and door hardware
  27. Plumbing fixtures
  28. Interior paint or stain
  29. Exterior paint or stain
  30. Interior finish flooring
  31. Drive, sidewalks and patios (flatwork)
  32. landscaping (top soil, minor excavation, vegetation

Encourage your home builder to keep the site clean, and remind everyone to be safe when you take visitors to the site.

   Software Like Microsoft Project Professional will help you keep things on track, a steep learning curve if you’re not familiar with “Office” but other wise right clicking will get you every where you need to go and the price of the software is relatively cheap compare to what you can save with it.

Once your project is complete; you’ll have a chance to go over every detail with your home builder; after you have moved in, you might notice a few things that don’t function properly, such as a light switch or a faucet for example. Your home builder might be clear of the contract if you’ve paid the last draw, but he or she will be interested in using you as a reference, so chances are they will return for minor repairs.
   Don’t feel obligated to show your home for your builder’s other prospective clients; only if you don’t mind and it is convenient. Phone calls and visits of these kinds are considered a courtesy and should be limited to the first two years after the home is completed unless you are exceptionally generous with your time.  Discuss this with your home builder before starting the job.  



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