How long does it take to build a house? What happens and when? A construction overview and timeline--BYHYU 013
In today’s episode we’ll go over the sequence and timeline of the major steps of building a home, so you get some idea of what to expect from the overall construction process. This is a general overview and we’ll go into more detail of the major phases of construction in future episodes. But today’s show is a broad outline of building a house.
I think its important to have an understanding of the overall project early in the planning phase, because when you know what to expect, you will know what to plan for. And, like I’ve said this before, knowing what to expect takes away the fear to the unknown and decreasing the fear to the unknown, decreases the stress associated with any process, including building a house. So you are super smart, to educate yourself and prepare BEFORE construction, so that building your home will be more enjoyable.
Before we get into the mini lesson, let’s define “Backfill,” our pro term for today.
Backfill. Backfill is a noun and a verb. Backfill, the noun, is the soil, stone or other natural material that is used to replace or “fill back in” any unwanted empty spaces after a hole or trench has been dug. As a verb, backfill is similarly defined as the return of soil and other materials to a hole.
Backfill is often used around foundation walls. After dirt is removed so that foundation walls can be built, the displaced soil and stone often serve as backfill. That soil set back in place and compacted around the newly constructed foundation wall. Backfilling around the foundation wall should only be done only after the foundation has had time to cure.
Backfill adds strength and support to the foundation, so if there is not enough soil on site to backfill or if the soil is not ideal because it contains too much clay or organic material, you can have backfill material brought to the building site. Organic materials such as top soil, tree roots and stumps, scraps of wood will decompose over time and cause excess settlement.
So today’s pro term is backfill, the soil and stone used to fill in a hole or trench. Now let’s get to the mini lesson:
Today’ we’ll cover what happens DURING construction. But remember, there are lots of things that need to take place BEFORE construction begins. These Pre-construction activities include buying a house plan or having one designed, budgeting and acquiring financing, getting a materials list and doing cost estimates (your suppliers and subcontractors can help you with that), and finding a builder. Or if you are going act as your own builder or general contractor, you’ll need to check references and get bids from subcontractors plus interview and get references for a project manager or site supervisor, if you plan to use one.
In addition, you’ll obviously need to choose and purchase a lot for your new home, which we have discussed in episode 8. And in episode 9, we talked about Building Permits, which you will, of course, need before you proceed (Hey, that rhymed).
In addition to all those things, if you acting as a owner builder,You’ll need to call the utility companies in your area and arrange for temporary utilities before construction begins. That includes water and electric power (temporary electric power is sometimes called temporary saw service). You’ll also need to call a port-a-potty company and have toilet facilities delivered to the job site. And in most regions, a dumpster is required be on-site during the construction process.
Finally, if you are acting a your own general contractor, you should obtain insurance coverage for the project. Alright, Pop Quiz, what are the two types of insurance policies that owner builders should obtain before starting construction? We talked about that in episode 2 called “You could save money…lots of money, but should you build your own home?” Can you name those two types of insurance policies?
1. Builders risk insurance, also called "course of construction" insurance: it covers loss or damage to the house under construction, as well as loss or damage of any of the construction materials and equipment.
2. General Liability Insurance: it safeguards you against lawsuits over accidents, injuries, and illnesses that occur on the job site.
How’s you do on the pop quiz? Hopefully you remembered at least one of the two answers. You’ll notice that I review and repeat quite a bit of information. And that’s on purpose. I don’t just want to introduce you to concepts, I want to help you actually LEARN them, so you become truly educated consumers. And a good way to learn information is to hear it repeatedly.
Now back to the today’s lesson… How long it takes to build a house will vary depending on what where your home will be located, how skilled and available your subcontractors are and perhaps, most importantly how large and detailed your house plan is.
According to the 2014 Survey of Construction (SOC) from the US Census Bureau, single-family homes built by hired general contractors took an average 8 months to go from permit to completion, and about 6 months of that time was actual construction. Houses built by owner builders required, 11.5 months. So realize that it may take you a few weeks or a few months longer to build your home as an owner builder. My hope, though, is that this podcast and other resources will narrow that difference in construction time by helping us become better prepared and extremely organized before we start building.
Information from that 2014 US Census report , the average home built in the US is just under 2500 square feet. Based on that average sized home, here are the steps of constructing a home and the time required for each step. But keep in mind, you may have to double or triple the time noted for each step if you have a larger home, a more complex house design or more detailed finishes.
1. Staking the House and Site Preparation. This averages 1 day to 1 week.
During this phase,a surveyor determines where your house should be situated on the lot. Stakes with flags are then driven into the ground to mark the footprint of the house. The stakes will be used by the excavation and foundation subcontractors to guide their work.
Workers will excavate, or dig and remove dirt, and level the lot according to the house placement. The excavation crew clears the site of rocks, debris and trees in the way of the future home.
Excavation for a well and/or the septic system, if you are using them, will also take place during this phase of construction.
2. Footing and foundation work. For the average house, this will take 2-3 weeks
Often, the same crew that does the site preparation also does the foundation work. The foundation work starts with the footing. The footing is the part of the house that sits on earth. It is the base of the foundation. All of the weight of the home rests on the footing. Once the footers are in place and have passed inspection, the foundation can be built.
The foundation of your home may be a full basement, or simply a slab. After the concrete foundation is poured, it will need time to cure, so during this period, there will be no activity on the construction site. Curing could take one to several weeks.
After the concrete is cured, the foundation is waterproofed. Then drains, sewer and water taps, and any plumbing that needs to go into the first-floor slab or basement floor is installed. Backfill material is put back into the hole around the foundation wall.
3. Framing-- 1-3 weeks
This is one of the most exciting step of the building process because when the floors and walls are “framed” and you can really visualize your home for the very first time. This called the shell or skeleton of the house. If you have a two or three story home, framing a stairwell can be done at this point also.
Plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) sheathing is applied to the exterior walls and roof. The sheathing is covered with house wrap which prevents rain and other water from infiltrating the structure, but the house wrap allows water vapor to escape. This decreases the chances of mold and wood rot.
After the framing is complete, it must be inspected.
4. Roof framing, fireplace and chimney installation-- 1-2 weeks
5. Windows, exterior door and garage door installation, siding, roof shingles and exterior trim--2-4 weeks
Its the framer that usually installs the windows and exterior doors.
Its also during this phase when your roofing material (whether that be shingles or a metal roof) and exterior finishes get applied, including brick, stucco, or siding.
Although some people wait until the end of the project to have the garage doors installed, you might want to do it at this phase, so you will have a good place to store construction materials and equipment. You can also install the homes exterior doors with locks for even more storage area and security.
6. Electrical, plumbing, and HVAC rough-ins--1-2 weeks
This work might actually overlaps with the previous step of installing windows, exterior finishes and trim
Pop Quiz: What’s a rough-in? Rough-in work is when pipes, ducts and wires are put in place, but final connections are not yet made. Its like the rough draft of plumbing, electric and HVAC work.
The HVAC sub is the first of the three “mechanical” subs to come to the job site (the mechanical systems are plumbing, electrical, HVAC). He will install the duct work for your HVAC system and possibly the furnace. The HVAC sub comes first because the equipment he puts into the house is the biggest and most inflexible.
The electrician usually does the last of the rough ins because it’s easier to run wires around pipes and ducts than vice versa.
Now its time for more building inspections. Rough framing, plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems are inspected to make sure they follow building codes. You will have one framing inspection plus 1 or 2 more separate inspections for plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems.
7. Insulation and Drywall are next and this takes 2 weeks, for the average house.
If you are getting your house rated for energy efficiency, like we talked about in episodes 11 and 12, the HERS rater will inspect after insulation is applied but before drywall is installed.
8. Finish work-- 2-8 weeks for the average house.
This includes finish mechanical, electrical and plumbing work. Your HVAC sub will install the air vent registers and get the furnace and air conditioning running properly.
The plumber will install sinks, toilets and faucets.
And the electrician will put in the switches, outlets, light fixtures, ceiling fans, and door bells. He will also hook up the appliances.
Other finish work includes Installing Cabinets, Countertops,Tile work, Glass Showers, Painting, Wallpaper, Floor Coverings, Interior doors, door casings, door and cabinet hardware, baseboards, window sills, moldings, stair balusters, vanities, mirrors, and the fireplace surrounds and mantels.
9. Final inspection for the certificate of occupancy, final clean up and landscaping. This is also when Punch list items are addressed (a punch list is a written checklist of usually minor tasks to be completed at the end of the project, such a drywall repair or paint touch ups. The final wood floor finish is one the last interior tasks done before move in. This phase takes, on average, 1 week.
Let’s see what you learned today. Here are a couple quiz questions from today’s mini lesson.
1.True or False. It takes about 6 months of construction for a general contractor for build a house of average size and detail.
That’s true. An “average” 2500 square foot home can be build by a general contractor in about 8 months, 6 months of which is actual construction. You may have to double or even triple the time if you have a large and complex home plan with lots of detail.
2. What subcontractor does the first rough-in work and why?
The HVAC subcontractor does the rough-in ductwork before the electricians and plumbers do their rough-ins because the HVAC equipment is the largest and most inflexible.
Ok, that’s all I have for you today. Hopefully, you have a little better understanding of the overall building process and the time each phase might take.
If you know someone is wants to build a house, in the near or distant future, you can share this information with them by texting or emailing them the link to this episode.
Remember, the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete and it’s subject to change, so it may not apply to your project. Always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.