Home Building Guide for DIY’ers
One of the new trends emerging is building a home DIY style to save money. With inflation jacking up the cost of home building materials, it can be quite expensive to build a home through a traditional builder. This has led many people to decide to take it upon themselves to learn how to build a home and to do it themselves to save substantial money on new construction costs.
In this complete guide on home building, I’ll share the step by step process to building a home where you contribute throughout the process to save some money. This comes from personal experience building a home myself as a DIYer.
Why Build Your Own Home?
You’ll Save Money
The goal is to save lots of money by controlling costs of labor, materials, and saving on the builder profit.
Going through a home building company, you’ll be forced to use their people for the labor which means you’ll be forced to pay really high labor rates compared to what tradesmen charged in previous years.
By going the DIY route, you can shop around getting multiple bids from contractors to make sure you’re getting a good deal on the labor pricing and saving money.
Be cautious about going with the cheapest contractor. Really vet them well to make sure they are qualified and will do good work. You get what you pay for in the end.
The Home Can Get Built Faster
When building your own home, you may be able to get it built faster since you’re coordinating the workers scheduling as well as doing work yourself to fill gaps and keep things moving along.
If you’re doing a lot of the work yourself, you’ll be able to get things done quicker than waiting on someone else to arrive. If one of the contractors can’t make it to the job sight for several weeks due to their busy schedule with other jobs, this can hold up the home build.
Shortage of tradesmen is one of the common challenges right now in the new construction industry. Homes are taking longer to get built due to schedule conflicts with contractors as well as a shortage of materials taking too long to arrive at the job site.
Windows, for example, take 4-6 months to arrive once the order is placed. Garage doors are also lagging behind, taking several weeks and to arrive after placing an order. This can hold up a home build as well.
You’ll Learn A Lot and May Enjoy The Challenge
One reason I chose to build my own home was to learn and challenge myself. I needed something to keep me busy on the side while work was slow and construction I also found fascinating, learning how things work and are put together. It’s a creative process that engages your brain and you may find you enjoy the challenges of building a home and building things inside the home.
For example, I learned how to build cabinets, how to build trayed ceilings, how to build a movie theatre room, and many more fun DIY projects during the construction process.
This helped me add many cool features to the home that you’d consider “upgrades” or luxury features and I did it at a cheap cost since they were DIY projects.
The Home Building Steps
#1: Site Planning & Permits
The first step to building a new construction home is planning the home entirely as well as the site planning for the land the home will be built upon.
The first step will be picking out your floor plan and then meeting with an architect to draw up the plans and blueprints. This process can take a month as the architect will be busy with many clients but also it takes them some time to create the floor plan in their CAD program.
Once you get the plans drawn up, next you’ll lay out the home on the land and decide where you want the home to sit. Keep in mind the setback minimums that the home must sit from the property lines based on local building cost in your area.
Submit all of your plans, documents, etc. to the Building Department along with the correct Building Permit applications and fees. This process could take a few weeks or a few months depending on how quickly the Building Department reviews your plans and approves them.
Once you get Permits to build the home, you can proceed forward with scheduling the surveyor to stake the property.
Next, the surveyor company will come out and mark off the outline of the home using stakes in the ground. This step is known as staking.
You’ll need to contact a couple different surveyors in your area to get bids for how much they charge to do the surveying as well as their current availability so you can get on the schedule as soon as possible.
Meet the surveyor out at the property to learn how this process works and get any questions answered.
Once the home is staked, the excavator will come out and dig the hole in the ground for the basement. They’ll use a detailed process of measuring to make sure they dig down the correct distance in different areas of the land so that things are level since the land may have some slope or “grade” to it.
Watch to make sure they don’t over-dig, which is the process of digging too deep and then having to replace the soil back in the hole where they over-dug.
This replaced soil needs to be compacted back down really well to combat “settling of soil” over time which could damage the foundation and basement cement sitting on top of it. Movement of soil can create holes and air pockets underneath the cement, leading to cracking.
Undisturbed soil is ideal for the concrete footings to sit on since it’s already settled, compacted and a solid hard surface for cement to sit on.
#4: Cement Footings
Next, the concrete company will arrive to pour the footings.
Footings are a wide section of cement that the foundation walls will sit on top of, giving the foundation walls something solid to sit on, rather than dirt which could move over time.
Footings must be poured below the frost line, which is the point where dirt doesn’t freeze. Your local building code will have that information for how far below ground the footers need poured to ensure they are below the frost line.
#5: Plumber Lays the Drain Pipes
Before pouring the cement floor, the plumber will need to come out first to layout the pipes and drains, digging trenches under the ground for the pipes to move water and waste outside the home.
These pipes will take the waste either to the street for city sewer lots, or to the septic tank for lots that have a septic system installed.
#6: Foundation Walls
After the footings are poured and have cured, the concrete crew will come back and build the forms that will hold the cement to create the foundation walls. The height of these forms will depend on the height of your basement.
The cement truck will arrive on site to pour cement between the forms, filling them up to the top. Once the walls are poured, they’ll let them sit for a few weeks to cure properly. This process gives strength to the concrete.
Costs will depend on the water to cement materials ratio, known as slump. Concrete is stronger with less water, but this may cost more.
I won’t go too much into “Slump” here, but talk with the contractors about PSI, concrete strength, concrete slump, and the differences in cost depending on which concrete mix ratio you choose.
#7: Basement Floor
After the walls have cured for a few weeks, the crew will come back to remove the forms from the walls. They’ll bring a concrete truck in and start pouring the basement floor.
If you aren’t building a home on top of a basement, then this step would be pouring the slab floor for the home instead.
Make sure that any needed drainage tile system is installed on the inside of the foundation walls prior to the floor being poured.
#8: Drainage Tile & Waterproofing
Next, the contractors will need to install a drainage system around the outside of the foundation walls on the ground level to make sure the basement floor stays dry and doesn’t have water intrusion issues.
The basement will also need waterproofing, which is usually a black colored spray that gets applied from the ground up on the outside foundation wall. It acts as a moisture barrier to protect the cement from water intrusion since moist dirt will be pressing against the cement walls in the ground at all times.
#9: Backfilling and Grading
The home should be ready for the excavator to come back and backfill dirt in so that it gets put back around the exterior walls of the home, hiding the basement underground.
Excavator will make sure to fill the dirt up to a certain point on the wall height but leaving some of the foundation wall sticking out above the ground. This is to ensure water stays away from the wood framing that will sit on top of the cement foundation walls.
The excavator might do some initial grading of the land to ensure drainage of water away from the home. The excavator should also grade the driveway to get it ready for cement pour. More final grading will be done at the end of construction as one of the last steps before landscaping.
Now that the basement is in the ground, the framing crew can arrive to start building the wood frame of the home as well as the roof.
They’ll start by building the flooring system that will lay on top of the foundation walls, spanning across the open hole. These flooring joists run in different lengths and may require a support beam in the basement, depending on the span of the basement from wall to wall across.
Once the flooring joists are laid, the framers can put down OSB sheathing 4×8 boards to create the subfloor surface to walk on.
Next, they’ll start building the walls and standing them up into place.
Once all exterior and interior walls have been built, the framers may begin building the second story if it’s a two story home. They’ll place flooring joists across the home, supported by the interior and exterior walls underneath. Then sheath it with plywood OSB boards to create a subfloor. Then erect second story walls on top of the subfloor.
Lastly, the roofing trusses will be lifted by machine and placed on top of the exterior walls to create the roofing system.
Once the roof framing is complete, the trusses will get sheathed with OSB roofing boards to create a solid surface for the roofing crew to install shingles or whatever roofing material you select.
During the framing process, the framers will build the walls with holes for the windows and doors. During the sheathing process, they’ll make sure to cut out the windows leaving holes in your house.
You may want to come back and screw up some boards to cover these holes temporarily until the windows arrive to prevent water from getting inside the home from rain storms or snow storms.
Framers will use a house wrap around the sheathing, and typically they’ll leave windows covered by this house wrap. But in most cases, the house wrap tears opening up the hole again, and thus screwing up some boards should be best to cover the window holes temporarily.
#11: Window & Door Installation
Once windows and doors arrive, they can be installed. The window company may also be the installer as part of an all-in-one process.
The windows and doors get set into place, screwed into the framing to hold them firm, and then flashing, insulation foam, and other materials are added around the windows and doors to help secure them from rain water and air leakage.
#12: Rough Ins
As soon as the home is secured by installing windows and doors, the HVAC, Plumber, and Electrician can enter the home and begin rough ins.
This is the process of getting all the heating and cooling equipment, ductwork, and wiring done for the furnace / AC systems. The plumber will usually come next, cutting holes in the flooring and studs to run piping for water supply lines as well as drainage piping. The water heater will get installed. Ice maker boxes, washer dryer boxes, and other water lines like for the fridge will get run as well.
The electrician will come last to connect power to the home and wire the house.
An inspection will be performed before insulation and drywalling will be allowed. Ensure proper permits are pulled for doing the rough ins by these contractors. Other wise you could face fines if electrical and plumbing permits aren’t pulled and work was done without them.
Some states allow for the home owner to do this work themselves and not require permits to be pulled so check with your local building department depending on who is doing the work and how the process will go.
#13: Siding and Roofing
Once windows are installed, the siding crew can install the siding to give the home a more finished look. The roof will also get installed over the OSB sheathing, helping further secure the home’s interior from water intrusion.
Now the exterior of the home is pretty much complete.
The masonry crew may need to arrive to finish final siding work if the home will have a combination of siding and masonry.
After the home passes inspections for HVAC, Plumbing, and Electrical, it will be allowed to proceed forward with insulation.
Check with your local building department for what R-Value will be required for exterior wall insulation as well as attic/roof insulation.
There are different types of insulation such as batts, spray foam, and cellulose. Some work better than others for air sealing to prevent air leakage in the home.
R value is important for how well the home is insulated to retain heat in the cold weather and retain cool air in the hot summer.
Insulation is fairly cheap for the material itself, so consider upgrading to a higher R value to get more energy cost savings long term if you plan to stay in the home awhile.
After all of the insulation has been installed, the walls are ready to be closed up by installing the drywall boards to the wood studs.
Drywall panels are 4×8 and come in different thicknesses. Standard for walls is 1/2 inch drywall and standard for ceilings in 5/8 inch thick drywall. Check with your local building codes to make sure you go with the correct thickness for your home’s walls and ceilings.
Fire rated drywall will also be required in some areas of the home. It is usually a 5/8 inch thick drywall but it’s a special Fire Rated drywall panel that needs purchased and installed.
After all drywall is hung, the crew will tape and mud the seams to give the wall a smooth looking finish. Sanding will happen last, creating a huge dust mess in the home.
Make sure in the contract the drywall crew is responsible for sweeping and cleaning up their dust mess prior to exiting the jobsite.
After drywall, the home is ready to get spray painted.
You could save some money by doing the painting yourself. Painting contractors usually charge thousands of dollars for painting the home.
Rollers are inexpensive to purchase as well as trim brushes. A gallon of primer paint may range from $10-$15 and final coat paint can range from $25 to $40 per gallon.
A paint sprayer device may help speed up the process since you have a lot of house to paint. These can be found at your local Home Depot or Lowes for a few hundred dollars.
Make sure to put a primer sealer paint onto the drywall first before the topcoat paint. Otherwise the drywall will just suck the paint up and cost you more money since the topcoat paint is more expensive than the primer sealer paint.
By priming the walls first with a primer sealer paint, it also helps the overall finish look quality improve. You won’t see noticeable defects in the wall and the finish will look consistent, not patchy as compared to a home that skips the primer and applies the topcoat paint only.
#17: Trim Work
Once painting is done, the trim carpenter will arrive to install the floor boards, window trim, and door trim. These trim pieces should be painted ahead of time before installing. It’s easier to spray them with paint outside in the open air and not have to worry about getting trim color on the newly painted walls which may be a different color.
Flooring is one of the last steps in the new construction home building timeline. It’s best to wait on flooring until the end to avoid it getting damaged from all the foot traffic going through the home. It also makes sense to install flooring once all painting is done to avoid any damaged flooring from paint spills and messes.
Protective cardboard can be installed overtop of the flooring and seams taped to hold the protective covering in place. This will keep the floors clean and help prevent damage while finishing touches are made to the home.
#19: Interior Finishes
Nearing the end of construction, you’ll now have many interior finishes to complete.
These can include:
- Installation of cabinets (kitchen and bathrooms)
- Installation of countertops
- Installation of light fixtures
- Installation of plumbing fixtures
- Showers tiled
- Floors tiled
- Backsplash tiled
- Cabinet hardware / handles
#20: Move In
Once the home is complete, you’ll have final inspections done to close out your building permits with the local building department.
This also will be the time that final closing occurs with the builder and/or lender to finalize the loan on the home as a new mortgage.
During the build, a new construction loan is used with interest only payments until it’s adjusted at the end to become a normal 30 year mortgage based on the final outstanding loan balance. If not all funds are used during construction, they get applied towards the principal balance to help reduce the overall loan amount.
As the home passes final inspections a certificate of occupancy will be issued. This allows you to officially move into your new home.
Congrats, you’ve made it through this entire guide on how to build your own home, step by step. Each of the steps were shortened to keep this guide a reasonable length.
Follow our blog for more detailed articles and tutorial videos on each step of the home building timeline.
I’ll be sharing updates of my own home I’m building as well as costs and finishes I chose for the design/style of my home. Check out my tools list as well for all of the tools used to DIY different aspects of my home build.
Disclaimer: This is an educational blog post only. Please seek professional guidance, attorneys, etc. to make sure you follow all structural, engineering, and building codes. This blog will not be liable for any incorrect home construction.
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