How to Build a House

The aspiration of building a custom home is nothing new. Most people want to own a home that meets their specific needs and aesthetics at some time in their lives. However, building a house is a tough job. As exciting as it is to give shape to this dream, it is a lengthy process that requires heavy financial and emotional investment. It is also common to feel overwhelmed by all the process’s complexities.

The good thing about building a home in California is that most of them are constructed using standardized building processes because of uniform building codes applicable across cities/counties. These guidelines also allow building a reliable house.

By hiring a professional, you trust and an easy-to-understand guide on how to build a house by your side, you will have a manageable project that will deliver you your dream home.

How to Find a Location to Build Your House?

Finding the right lot at the right location is of utmost importance. The chosen lot will not just meet your needs but will also retain value in the future. Many factors make the location of your property desirable, such as the personal taste of the homeowner, proximity to work, other essentials such as school and shopping complexes, available options for recreation,  the cost of acquiring that land, and the marketability of the property.

Setting a Budget:

If you do not have a planned budget, it is easy to go overboard with umpteen financing options. It is advisable to start with setting a budget that you are comfortable investing in constructing your house. This budget will help segment the available options and zero down on the right property.

As investments in properties are long-term and can’t be converted into liquid cash easily, it is essential to consider their long-term utility and match it with your financial capability.

Key factors you should consider while finalizing a budget:

  • The number of bedrooms and bathrooms in the new house
  • The size of the house in square feet
  • The location of the house
  • Functions and features catering to the various needs of the family

Consulting a realtor or agent to walk you through the process

A realtor is a valuable resource when looking at properties to purchase. They typically have first-hand knowledge of available lots and have a fair idea of the lots that may soon become available. It is in your best interest to engage an experienced realtor/ real estate agent who understands the issues associated with the building, planning, and zoning of the lot. A real estate agent can also help you with negotiation and transaction management.

Finding an area and doing the necessary studies

Start with narrowing down on smaller locales on the basis of a few aspects such as proximity to conveniences, proximity to workplace, proximity to schools, taxes, neighborhood, and its safety, etc.

A real estate feasibility study will enable a complete analysis of the land and will include inputs from the engineering team, an architect, a contractor, and a city planner and will entail thorough investigation on different aspects such as:

  • The technical aspect will help determine whether the site’s terrain and topography, environmental factors, zoning restrictions, soil composition, and current infrastructure will support a feasible project. Alternatively, you may also ask the seller for a copy of a geotechnical investigation report if completed.
  • The economic aspect of determining the cost, benefits, and viability associated with the project.
  • Legal aspects such as compliance with the proposed project’s terms with zoning laws, data protection acts, etc.
  • The operational aspect explores if your hired contractor is well equipped to take on this project, such as other projects in the pipeline, financial resources and debt profile, the current staffing and supply-chain capacity, and technical capabilities.
  • The scheduling aspect estimates the amount of time required to complete the project.

How to Plan to Build a House?

Consulting an Architect for Guidance with the House Plan

The right architect/architectural designer understands your lifestyle and sense of aesthetics comes with a rich experience and has sufficient local knowledge to handle different municipalities and planning departments. The team can save you thousands of dollars and months of permitting time by bringing their experience on navigating the reviewing jurisdiction’s requirements and must be involved at various stages of your house building project.

Depending on your needs, an architect can either modify a stock plan to fit your needs or create a whole new plan by giving shape to your ideas. They can design your home specifically for the selected property to optimize access, visibility, scenic views, and energy efficiency.

Getting a Detailed House Plan

A house is a complex structure made of different systems, and the house plan includes multiple drawings. The plans begin with a set of preliminary designs, which includes:

  • Floor Plans showing the location of each room, placement of doors and windows, and location of other amenities.
  • Site Plan showing the position of the house and other buildings such as the garage or ADU.
  • Elevations showing the exterior appearance of the home from all sides.

These preliminary plans are shared with the county for approval before further developments. Once the county approves, this becomes the base for the architect and the engineer to create working plans with explicit instructions on building the house. Working drawings include the below documents drawn in equal scale and compliance with Title 24 of The California Green Building Standards Code (CalGreen):

  • Architectural plans including floor plan, site plan, ceiling plans, landscape plans, irrigation plans, elevations, schedules of materials, and details.
  • Structural plans to define the construction specifications of a residential house such as foundation plans, framing plans, cross-sections, dimensions, materials, installation methods, layouts, and techniques.
  • Site plans including civil plans, landscaping plans.
  • Electrical plans showcasing the visual representation and circuit and electrical systems descriptions, including power lines, outlets, switches, lighting plans, and other essential equipment such as generators, solar panels, etc.
  • The plumbing plan includes details on the plumbing system’s design for a project, such as location, isometrics, line sizes, fixture location, storage tank capacities, drain locations and routing, and hot-water-heater capacities and locations.
  • Mechanical plans describing the sizing, HVAC components, and placement and routing of ductwork.

Read: Why is Floor Plan important for the Project?

Submitting the House Plan and Getting the Necessary Building Permit

Once the plan is final, a permit application needs to be submitted by you, your contractor, or your architect. Usually, this process takes months as other approvals based on zoning and land use regulations will also be required. Several committees, including your neighbors, can get involved in the approval process. The plans may also go through several check cycles from the building department and may require design revisions before the final go-ahead.

Also Read: Complete Guide to Obtaining Building Permit

Estimating the Total Cost of Building Your New Custom Home

Before finalizing the financing method, estimating the total cost of constructing your new custom home is essential. Multiple factors impact the cost, such as the size and shape of the house, area and location of the construction, topography, and remoteness of the site, quality of material used and finishes, and additional installations required such as a pool.

Know, How to reduce the cost of building a Home in California?

How much will it cost to build a house?

Below are key costs to consider when planning your own custom home:

Cost of the lot: While estimating the cost, consider the average cost of similar lots, the shape of the lot, cost of lot preparations before construction, kind of infrastructure needed vis-a-vis the infrastructure available.

Cost for lot prep, if any: Making the lot development-ready may attract additional expenses such as utility fees for lots not connected to services like gas, water, etc. If the lot isn’t leveled or requires tearing down existing structures, these may also attract costs.

Cost of home designs or floor plans: Various costs are associated with the home’s design and other construction drawings depending on the professional hired and the customization required.

Cost of Permits: The permit cost to build a house may range from $500-$2000 based on a flat rate, per square foot, or construction value and may approximately take two weeks to obtain final approval and issue.

Cost of house building: All costs from creating a structure to finishing the interior will form a part of the cost of house building. While, these will not include the cost of furnishings.

Cost of finishes, materials, and appliances: Another significant component of the house build budget is the cost of finishes, materials, and appliances such as kitchen cabinets, bathtubs, finishes, and other furnishings such as rugs, windows, furniture, etc.

Cost of landscaping: Any specialized landscaping and foundation plantings will require you to work with a landscaping company adding to the cost to be considered in your home financial planning.

Each home will have a unique cost depending on a homeowner’s requirements. Still, typical components of general home building cost will comprise plans, foundation, floor structure, wall framing, roof, appliances, key systems used such as plumbing, electricity, HVAC, finishes and fixtures, building permits, and regulations.

Read: How to reduce the cost of building a home in California?

Applying for a Home Construction Loan (If Needed)

To finance the various stages of home building, you can borrow money from an institution in the form of a construction loan – a short-term loan, a tenure of 12-18 months. The application and approval process is more complex than traditional loans due to the absence of a finished house. The lender will most likely want to inspect your architectural plans, estimated construction timeline, budget, and review your financial standing before approving you for financing. Once approved, the amount will be made available to your builder in installments at various stages of construction.

How to Prepare for your Home Building?

Now that the permits are in place, budgets finalized, and the finances sorted, it is time to start building your home.

Getting bids for a general contractor to oversee the construction

Once the architectural, MEP, and structural drawings are completed, your design team will issue a bid package including a set of drawings used to solicit bids from General Contractors. The bid documents should avoid ambiguity for realistic pricing and include precise and detailed information with measurements and material specifications.

The bidding process aims to avail a fair bid based on your design intent, and this will require the bidder to price the same things and include all the correct parameters.

Also Read: 5 Things to Consider Before Hiring a Contractor

Selecting the right contract

When evaluating the bids, ensure that each bid meets the various requirements of your project, such as:

  • Scope: All aspects of the project are well evaluated and included in the final bid. Comparison with competitor bids will help you shortlist the best-suited general contractor.
  • Materials: Ensure all materials have been included while computing the quotation.
  • Prices: The bids will include an itemized breakdown of material and labor costs and the contractor’s overhead and fee.
  • Permits: Bids should include Permit fees. In case they aren’t, request the contractor for a revision.
  • Validity: the quote provided should be valid through the construction process. If the validity expires before that, confirm the same with the contractor.

Once you have established a preferred contractor, close it with a final discussion, revision, if required, and confirmation on every aspect.

Working with the building team to decide upon a construction schedule

For a complex process like home building, time is of the essence, and extended time may cause inconvenience and cost additional money.

Work with your building team to finalize the construction schedule considering the following factors:

  • The plans’ requirements
  • Subcontractors’ availability
  • Supply availability
  • Weather
  • Permit expiration dates
  • Construction loan timeline

Meeting deadlines are essential, but acknowledge that unexpected changes in any of the above factors may affect the schedule. At that point, the building team should work towards making up for lost time without sacrificing the quality of the house.

Purchasing Builder’s Insurance to Avoid Liability

A builder’s insurance covers the policyholder against loss or damage to buildings during construction in case of a storm, fire, storm, wind, fungus or contamination, theft, vandalism, or collision with vehicles. Typically, the insurance also extends to the construction materials and documents and data and temporary structures.

Depending on the construction contract, the owner or the general contractor may purchase the insurance. The purchaser will be the primary insured, and the other party and subcontractors will be listed as additional insured.

How to Start the Construction Process?

Laying the Foundation of Your New Home

Your home’s safety and efficiency are dependent on how strong the foundation is and is best designed by a structural engineer. This process may take anywhere between 1-4 weeks, depending on the complex house layout. At this stage, footings are installed to outline the floor plan of the house, concrete is poured in each section, holes are knocked through the concrete for municipal utility connections to be put in place, and waterproofing is done.

Read: Top 5 Reasons Foundations are Damaged

Putting up the frame for your home’s internal structure

Framing helps define the vertical framework, which creates the basic rectangular outline of the walls. At this stage, the carpenter builds timber wall skeletons and outlines and lays tracks for the roof, floor, doors, and windows. Once the wooden frames are up, they are secured firmly using metal strapping, which is crucial as this skeleton will support the roof framing.

Build out the floor, walls, and roof

Floor timber is lined across all areas with a wall during the framing stage, and a basic timber frame will be erected for roof slating. A flat roof will also need waterproofing at a substrate level. Oriented Strand Boards (OSB) will also be installed into the timber gaps as a basic wall covering, which will help close the house from weather, thereby providing a true backbone for the walls, both external and internal.

Facts to check:

Pre-assembled walls must be International Code Council(ICC)-listed and in compliance with ICC’s quality control requirements. A copy of the third-party evaluation report on the wall assembly should be provided to the authorized inspector. Each wall assembly must at least be stamped with

1) the third-party evaluation report number

2) the name and address of the manufacturer.

Integrating the Rough Plumbing, Electrical & HVAC Systems

Once the framing is complete, it is time to add the mechanical elements such as plumbing, HVAC, and electrical systems. At this stage, only the groundwork, such as laying down cable wires, is undertaken. While installing an HVAC system, we must have all our information ready. Alongside, it would help if you also planned and pre-ordered for – Permanent electrical fixtures besides the temporary ones required across the house construction stages, Phone lines, TV lines, Internet wiring, plumbing and sewerage, and any security systems to be installed.

Before installation, A permit is required to ensure appliances are safe and comply with the county requirements. This process may take around 9-10 weeks as there is no single permit that covers all MEP work and will be required to be obtained separately. Alternatively, a single residential Building Combination Permit can be applied for and would include the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing.

Installing Insulation Within the Framing

Insulation is one of the most critical components in determining your home’s energy efficiency and needs to be installed between the wall framing before drywalls are erected. This is an investment that would protect your house against leaks and bring down your power costs.

Completing the Remaining Interior Details

Your general contractor will now work on the remaining details such as the outside walls, painting, the roof, and the driveway and install lighting to brighten up everything. If your plans include building an attached deck or a pool, it is also finished at this stage. It is also time to start securing the drywall. Sheetrock (Drywall) will directly be attached to the timber framework and become a part of the interior wall. Once in place, the walls will only require aesthetic additions and fixture areas such as the doors and windows. The drywall seams are taped, primed, and panels are textured (if desired), preparing them for painting later.

Installing the Flooring & Countertops

It is time for the flooring. By flooring, we mean sourcing, sanding, and finishing any hardwood and includes installing any vinyl, stone, or ceramic tiles for patios, bathrooms, kitchens, etc. By now, permanent utilities, work surfaces, cabinets, countertops would have been sourced. These are expensive decisions but can be of great value when invested in good quality and unique designs.

Before the project is ready for final inspection, a punch list highlighting the work that has not been completed is created. With mutual agreement, key stakeholders can edit the list, including the contractor and project owner.

The punch list often includes the below items:

  • Incorrect installations such as cabinets, flooring
  • Mechanical issues concerning ductwork, thermostats, and appliances
  • Interior or exterior issues
  • Any damages such as defective drywall, crack in the driveway
  • Any items in the contract which remain unaddressed

Your Home

After the house construction is completed, your duties are mostly restricted to inspections, furnishing interiors, and finalizing payments or loans. To enjoy a safe and as good as new home even in the long term, you should also look into ongoing maintenance and catch early signs of any issues across roofs and gutters, basement, plumbing, wall cracks, window, and door frames.

At Design Everest, our fully licensed and insured team of structural engineers, MEP engineers and architects are ready to help you remove whichever wall you need. We have the experience and expertise needed to finish your project on time and under budget. Contact us today for a consultation and a free quote.

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