Editor’s Note: Richard “Monty” Montgomery writes a real estate advice column for Creators Syndicate. He is the author of “Money from Home: An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He advocates for industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice.
Dear Monty: We decided to build a new house. We haven’t seen any existing homes that we like enough to own. What are the concrete steps in the construction process?
Monty’s Response: Assuming a full poured concrete basement and a 2,500 square foot ranch house, with no comment on cost, financing, timing, or builder variances in the order of the steps, here are the actual steps.
THE BEGINNING PHASE
1. Locate the home site. Choose from three sites. Here are some tips for choosing a builder.
2. Design the house according to the terrain. Designing the house first can limit your choice of site.
3. Clear the ground and excavate the foundation. Make sure your final level will direct water flow away from the house.
4. Pour footings and basement walls. Precision is a necessary element here. The basement must be sufficient to support the weight of the house.
5. Insulate the foundation. Insulation reduces energy costs. Include a drain and a sump at the base. Water is the eternal enemy.
6. Backfill with soil suitable for the host site. A poured foundation or a concrete block, depending on the type of soil.
7. Utilities. Hookups for sewer and water as well as electricity and natural gas. A rural lot requires a drilled well.
THE INTERMEDIATE PHASE
8. The wooden sill plate bolts the house to its foundation. The bolts are driven into the wet concrete as they pour the wall.
9. The floor plate is a truss system designed to support the 250 ton weight of a 2500 square foot ranch house.
10. The subfloor is a half-inch or three-quarter-inch plywood sheathing attached to the truss system and exterior base walls.
11. 2 x 4 inch studs frame the interior walls. Plumber, electrician and HVAC workers need components working according to plans.
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12. The roof truss system consists of waterproof sheets, tar paper and thick tar and asphalt shingles that cover the roof.
13. Exterior walls are covered with a waterproof coating, then completed with brick, stone or various types and colors of facing.
14. Windows are factory fabricated, shipped to the site and installed by the builder. The windows complete the protection of the house.
15. Insulation is installed between studs.
16. Sheetrock is usually screwed into studs as it provides a strong bond to secure heavy material permanently.
17. Plaster, of several varieties, encapsulates plasterboard.
THE FINISHING PHASE
18. Painting is complete when the plaster is dry. Now is where the planning and decor start to show.
19. The rough flooring defines the elevation base for cabinets, future doors and trim.
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20. Today, cabinets are factory-built and delivered pre-finished. There are many choices of style and finishes.
21. Finished trim is milled and pre-finished in factories and installed by finish carpenters.
22. Light fixtures and finished floors are the final tasks inside. Installers want homeowners to be the first to set foot on it.
23. Landscaping is often the end of the construction. Many variables, including weather conditions, can affect the planting of grasses, shrubs and trees.
A MOVING TARGET
Building a house can be a fun and rewarding experience for many. It can also be a nightmare for others. Careful planning, time and strong consultants are essential.
Richard Montgomery is the author of “Money from Home: An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home.” He advocates for industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty.
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