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The Process Of Building A Home

Dozens of people are involved in the orchestrated effort to build a new home. The stages described below, which can take the better part of a year, is the progression for a typical "stick built"-or wood-framed-home.

Modular and manufactured homes follow a similar process, except that many of the steps are completed in a warehouse.

Foundation and Site Work

Before the home is built, the site must be cleared and graded. Once this is done, trenches for the foundation are dug. Most foundations are built of poured concrete, although pre-cast concrete panels are gaining in popularity because of their added strength and speed of installation.


Once the foundation is set, the floor, walls, stairs and roof are built. The frame is the shell of the home that provides the shape of the structure. The conventional approach is to build the home from individual pieces of lumber, called stick-built construction. Alternatives to the stick-built approach include concrete, steel, adobe, and straw bale, in addition to panelized homes and modular homes.

Exterior Finishes

This stage finishes the outside of the home and protects the inside from the elements. From the outside, at least, your home looks almost done. When selecting your façade and roof covering, consider the maintenance costs and requirements, and how long the product will last. Remember that the cheapest product out of the box will not necessarily be the least expensive long term.

Mechanical Rough-Ins

Once the interior of the house is properly protected from the elements, the plumbing, electricity, water heating, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning ( HVAC) systems are installed. PATH recommends many options for these systems that offer improved performance, better warranties, and lower utility bills.

Insulation and Air Sealing

This step ensures your home will stay comfortable in even the most extreme temperatures. First, a professional will air seal your home. A rushed air sealing job leaves leaks that account for those uncomfortable hot and cold spots in a house. A side effect: uncomfortably large energy bills. Some practitioners cut corners on air sealing, so it's worth your while to learn more about it and be vigilant at this stage of construction.

Insulation is then added to the exterior walls and the roof-although some products will air seal and insulate in one step. The quality of insulation material can make a big difference in energy bills, too, so do your homework.

Interior Finishes

Once everything behind the walls is complete, the flooring, drywall, tiles and cabinetry are installed, and the home is painted. This is the longest phase, for good reason. Unlike the mechanical rough-in step, subcontractors in the interior finish steps usually cannot do work at the same time.

For health reasons, especially if you have young children, select finishes and products that do not off-gas. You can avoid the smelly stuff by selecting low-VOC ("volatile organic compounds") products. At this stage, you can select a wide range of other environmentally responsible materials; if you're so inclined, look for recycled products.


This step can occur any time after the exterior finishes are complete, but it's usually done concurrently with interior finishes. When landscaping, select native plants that do not require much water, and make sure that there are plenty of trees to act as a wind-break and to shade the home in the summer. Also consider using pervious surfaces for your walkway and driveway to allow rainwater to filter directly into the soil. These options will help reduce the need to water your lawn.


A final walk-through before the closing is the time to ensure that everything is completed to your liking. If you see any problems that need to be addressed-these are usually aesthetic-have them fixed before you sign the final paperwork. The builder will also explain how your home operates, so listen closely, and ask lots of questions.

Content updated on 8/7/2006

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