Having a home built from the ground up can be an exciting and a rewarding experience. Home buyers have the opportunity to create homes that meet both their functional and aesthetic needs. Yet going through the home construction process can be a daunting experience. Gaining a clear understanding of this process can help home buyers alleviate some of the stress. According to New Home Source1), home buyers can expect their homes to be constructed in 10 steps.
Step 1: The site is prepared and the foundation is poured.
Generally, the same crew prepares the site and pours the foundation for the house. However, a heavily-wooded lot may require more specialized site preparation than this type of crew provides.
The crew uses a bulldozer and backhoe to remove debris, rocks, and trees. This ensures that the ground is level enough to construct a house and install a septic system if warranted. After they level the site, they install wooden forms that act as a template for pouring the foundation and dig trenches and holes. Then they form the footings2) by pouring concrete into the trenches and including rebar (steel rods) reinforcement. Footings support the foundation and prevent it from settling. They are particularly important for sites that have problematic soils.
For a home with a full basement, the hole is dug, footings are framed and poured, and foundation walls are framed and poured. For a slab-on-grade3) foundation, the footings are dug, framed, and poured. Next, the area between the footings is leveled and fitted with electrical chases, plumbing drains, and other utility runs and then the slab is poured. After the concrete is poured, it needs time to cure. No activity takes place at the construction site during the curing period.
Once the concrete is cured, the work crew puts a waterproofing membrane on the foundation walls. They also install the drains, sewer taps, and water taps as well as plumbing that should be installed in the basement floor or first-floor slab. In addition, they backfill (i.e., refill) the hole around the foundation wall with the excavated soil.
The first inspection takes place at this time. A municipal inspector ensures that the foundation is installed properly and that its components meet building codes. Depending on the type of foundation (basement, crawl space, or slab), the inspection may be repeated. After the foundation passes inspection, the builder will remove the forms and start coordinating the framing process.
Step 2: Rough framing is completed.
A house's frame4) keeps it from collapsing. Framing involves joining beams together to create the house's structure. The frame is usually constructed with wood because it is durable, easier to work with, and less expensive.
Rough framing involves constructing the floor, roof, and wall system (the skeleton). Oriented strand board sheathing or plywood is attached to the exterior walls and roof, and the exterior doors and windows are installed. The plywood or sheathing is covered with a house wrap. This protective barrier prevents water from permeating the structure and allows water vapor to escape, which decreases the risk of mold and wood rot.
Step 3: The electrical, HVAC, and rough plumbing systems are installed.
After the house's shell has been constructed, the roofing and siding are installed. The electrical and plumbing contractors also begin to run pipes and wires through the ceilings, floors, and interior walls. Vents, sewer lines, and water supply lines for fixtures are installed. Bathtubs or bathtub/shower combos are installed because there is a larger amount of space in which to maneuver large, heavy items.
Ductwork for the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system (and in some cases the furnace) is installed. HVAC vent pipes are installed via the roof and insulation is placed in the ceilings, floors, and walls.
Once the roof is attached, the house is considered to be dried in5). The electrician can then install the receptacles for the switches, outlets, and lights and run wires from the breaker panel to the receptacles. Running the wiring for cable TV, music systems, and telephones is part of this work.
At this point, the second, third, and fourth inspections for the rough framing and electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems are conducted. It is possible that only two inspections are performed for the framing and electrical/mechanical systems.
This step also involves delivering drywall to the construction site.
Step 4: Insulation is installed.
Insulation is placed in all exterior walls and floors located above crawl spaces or unfinished basements as well as in the attic. Insulation is important because it helps create a more consistent and comfortable indoor climate, and it improves energy efficiency. The insulation's R-value (or thermal performance) indicates how well it will withstand heat transfer. The most common types of insulation material for new homes are cellulose, fiberglass, and foam. Three of the most commonly used forms of insulation are listed below.
- Blanket insulation6), which is packaged as a roll or batt, is typically made of fiberglass but sometimes mineral (slag or rock) or other materials.
- Blown-in and loose-fill insulation7) is made of cellulose, fiberglass, or mineral-wool particles.
- Liquid foam insulation, which is typically composed of polyurethane, can be injected, poured, or sprayed into openings. It is more expensive than batt insulation, but it has double the R-value per inch. It can also fill very small spaces, which creates a stronger air barrier.
Step 5: Dry wall is installed; paint primer is applied to the walls; and installation of exterior finishes begins.
The drywall is hung and taped, which prevents the seams between the boards from showing. Drywall texturing8) (when applicable) is also completed. Then the paint primer is applied to the walls. At this time, a work crew begins installing exterior finishes like brick, siding, stone, and stucco.
Step 6: Interior installations are completed; interior trim is finished; and home construction process begins on walkways and driveways.
The construction crew installs the baseboards, door casings, interior doors, moldings, stair balusters, window sills, and other decorative trim. They also install cabinets, fireplace mantels, surrounds, and vanities. Walls receive a finish coat of paint and wall paper is applied (when applicable).
Exterior driveways, patios, and walkways are typically constructed during this stage. Many builders prefer to pour the driveway at the end of the home construction process because large vehicles like the truck that delivers the drywall can damage concrete. Some builders, however, pour the driveway immediately after the foundation is set. This makes sites more comfortable for home buyers to visit (e.g., they will not have to walk in mud).
Step 7: Countertops and hard-surface flooring are installed and exterior grading is completed.
Countertops as well as ceramic tile, vinyl, and wood flooring are installed. Exterior finish grading is also completed during this step to (a) ensure appropriate drainage of water from the home and (b) prepare the outdoor area for landscaping.
Step 8: Bathroom fixtures are installed and mechanical trims are finished.
The electrical contractor installs light fixtures, outlets, and switches, and completes the electrical panel. HVAC equipment including the registers9) is installed. Faucets, sinks, and toilets are also installed.
Step 9: Floor coverings, mirrors, and shower doors are installed and landscaping is completed.
Floor coverings10), mirrors, and shower doors are put into place. The final cleanup is completed to prepare the home for move-in. Landscaping is also completed, which may involve planting flowers, grass, shrubs, and trees and installing hardscapes11).
During this step, a building-code inspector performs the fifth and final inspection. If the house passes the inspection, he or she issues a certificate of occupancy. Any defects or problems detected during the inspection must be corrected. Then a follow-up inspection may be performed to ensure that the issues have been appropriately addressed.
Step 10: The final walk-through takes place.
During the last step of the home construction process, the builder conducts a final walk-through of the home with the owner. This allows the owner to get acquainted with its operation and features. The builder will also discuss the owner's responsibilities with regards to upkeep and maintenance and explain any warranties including coverage and procedures for making claims.
This process, which is also referred to as a pre-settlement walk-through, gives the homeowner a final opportunity to identify issues that need to be adjusted or corrected. The homeowner should, therefore, conduct a thorough examination of the house because the builder may not address any problems that are detected after the walk-through is completed. For example, discovering a gash in a countertop after move-in can lead to a dispute with the builder. The owner will not be able to prove if the damage occurred during the home construction process or move-in. If the builder refuses to correct the problem, the homeowner will likely feel wronged and may have to pay for the repair or replacement of the countertop.
From site preparation to the final walk-through, the home construction process involves many components, materials, and processes. Home buyers who understand this process will know what to expect during each phase of the home construction process and have the ability to better monitor the process.
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