How to Build a House

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How to Build a House

Edited by MA, BR, Tom Viren, Jack Herrick and 45 others Pin It Article Edit Discuss Build a House

Home is what is most needed in one's existence, and can range from being as simple as an animal skin tent or shelter of branches and leaves, to a multi-story palace with dozens of bedrooms, bathrooms, and other special spaces. Building even a basic house is beyond the usual scope of a wikiHow article, but here are some general guidelines, and a basic list of steps involved in constructing a house.

Edit Steps

1 Select a location for your house. There are many areas to consider, but here are some things you should look at:

Climate. Special considerations must be made for building in flood, hurricane, intense heat, frigid cold, and other extreme weather and climatic conditions. Ground stability. Houses built on shifting sand, mucky soil, or other unstable earth will likely fail over a short period of time unless they are built on special foundations or pilings. Availability of utilities. If you intend to have electric power, potable water, telephone, and other conveniences, make sure these utility providers offer them at your location. Community infrastructure. If you plan to raise children, make sure good quality schools are available. Check to see if you are in a police jurisdiction to protect you from crime, look at the distance you will have to travel to acquire basic commodities, and whether medical help is nearby.

Available building materials. Homes can be built from rough lumber (or even logs), compressed earth blocks, or modern materials like aluminum, glass, and vinyl. Find out what is available in your area, and what the cost will be. 2 Select the property on which you are going to build and purchase it. This may be a tremendous hurdle, depending on the cost, and your available funds. Building a house is an expensive process, but purchasing suitable property is also a major investment. 3 Design your home. Architects and engineers have special training and years of experience in designing houses, and are necessary for most building and zoning jurisdiction code requirements, but even if you contract their services, ultimately, the house you build will be built for you, so you should be involved closely in the design process. Here are some things to think about in the design stage of the project: Number of bedrooms. For a family home where the possibility of additions exists, remember it is simpler to add a room during initial construction than to remodel or build an addition later. If you only need 2 bedrooms at present, an extra room might be used for an office, storage, or even left unfinished and unfurnished until such time as it is needed. Number of bathrooms. In practical terms, one bathroom can suffice in almost any circumstances, but if the house is for multiple people, two makes life much easier. Having two or more bathrooms will also increase the resale value in the convenience minded home buyer's mind. Utility area(s). For family life, having a laundry room, and possibly even a garage can be a real help in managing day to day chores. Kitchen. Although there may appear to be a trend to depend more on prepackaged, take out, or fast food for meals, many people are rediscovering the joy of cooking, and nothing contributes more to this enjoyable pass-time, hobby, and necessary activity than having a spacious, well designed kitchen. Special function rooms. Consider if your lifestyle requires rooms suitable for special functions, such as formal dining, office space, a library, or a nursery. 4 Have the property surveyed and the footprint of the house located. Have the property surveyed and the footprint of the house located. Have the property surveyed and the footprint of the house located. This is not absolutely necessary, especially if you are building on a large parcel of land, but if there is any doubt about the property lines, have this done to assure you are not encroaching on a neighbor's property, or into the municipality's Building Setbacks when you build. Give a little thought in positioning your home on these things:

View, in relationship to the land. If you are building a home with large windows in a living room, consider facing these toward the most appealing view. Windows and how they light the interior. Kitchens may benefit the most from exterior light, so think about what time a ray of sunshine in the kitchen will offer the best results. Late afternoon may be cooking and dish washing time, so it may be best to orient the kitchen towards the west to take advantage. Larger windows on the south face of your house will also help heat the house through solar gain in colder climates. Water Drainage. Be aware of how surface water (rain, snow melt, drainage from seasonal springs) moves across the building site. It is critical to keep water away from your home, especially in colder climates because of freezing, but also to keep a basement dry and to lessen the chance that you will have damp wood. This is an invite to many insects, like termites - in any climate. Simple swales (shallow, sculpted ditches - often grassy) will go a long way to controlling surface water drainage. Accessing your home. On large parcels, especially, you will need to ascertain the route for a usable driveway if you depend on a car for transportation. Look at any low area that would become impassable in winter mud or heavy summer rain, how installing driveway will effect the landscape, and whether a driveway will be in conflict with underground utilities. Pay particular attention to the way surface water will drain off the property. Every effort should be made so that water drains off and away from the driveway. This may require the placement of culverts (pipes) under the driveway to avoid puddling along its sides. 5 Acquire permits for construction. A building permit is a basic requirement in many areas, particularly for permanent construction, and you may also need the following to comply with local codes and zoning requirements: A septic tank permit. An electrical permit. A plumbing permit. A mechanical (HVAC, or air conditioning) permit. You may also find you are required to apply for and receive an environmental and/or impact permit. (Having the house location marked prior to obtaining your permits will help to work details out in the environmental permitting process). 6 Decide how much of the actual construction you will do yourself. Building a house involves several specific trades, or crafts, and to ensure quality work, it is usually better to have trained craftsmen

perform the work. For the purpose of this article, we will simply continue in a step by step process assuming you are doing your work yourself. Here is a list of typical trades involved in home-building: Sitework. These are the people who will clear and grade the land. Foundation/slab includes form carpenters, laborers, and concrete finishers. Framers. Rough carpentry: frame up the walls, install the trusses (or stick-framed rafters), must be plumb (vertical) and squared. Weathering in: Sheathing, roofing, exterior doors and windows. Bricklayers (siding installers, wood, composite or vinyl). Electricians. Plumbers. Drywall hangers/finishers. Cabinet makers. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) installers. Insulators. Trim, finish carpenters. Painters. Flooring installers: Carpet, hardwood, tile. 7 Set up building lines. Set up building lines. Set up building lines. This means putting either batter boards or corner stakes at each corner of the house foundation to level and square up the foundation. Use a transit or building level to make sure the building lines are level and square, and check by measuring corner to corner, diagonally, to make sure the walls and corners are "square", for right angles. 8 Install your chosen type of floor. Install your chosen type of floor.

Install your chosen type of floor. See below for two common types, slab on grade or pier and beam/joist construction. Make sure you have installed plumbing rough ins so that they are accurately placed for waste and vent lines and possibly potable water supply before slab is poured. Slab on grade construction steps: Form up footing. Lay foundation with rebar (including concrete block if any). Install plumbing rough-in. Backfill, grade the subgrade, and compact. Pretreat for termites (if required or desirable). Install moisture barrier. Install reinforcing material in slab-floor (if required, either welded wire mesh or rebar). Place and finish concrete. For off grade (above grade) construction. Layout and install piers (or piling). Install floor joist framing system. Install subfloor/finish floor decking. 9 Frame the walls of your house. Frame the walls of your house. Frame the walls of your house. You will need to lay out the wall lines on the floor, beginning at one corner, marking your bottom plate (rat sill) to attach to anchor bolts (for slab on grade construction), and marking the location of doors, windows, and interior wall corners on the sill. Be sure to use special metal connectors/straps at the floor and tops of walls as required by code (for storm and earthquake proofing). Use tees at wall intersections, substantial headers for openings in load bearing walls, and allow space at each rough opening for the feature to be installed, aligned and shimmed there to be fit correctly (doors, windows, etc.). 10 Plumb the walls and brace them securely. Install sheathing if required, otherwise, use sheet metal straps to diagonally brace all exterior wall corners. Make sure all studs (vertical framing members,

usually 2 inch by 4 inch nominal lumber, graded standard or better) are securely nailed in place, straight and square to the wall line. 11 Lay out the marks for setting your roof trusses. Lay out the marks for setting your roof trusses. Lay out the marks for setting your roof trusses. You may optionally want to stick frame your roof, cutting and installing rafters and ceiling joists yourself (especially for useable attic space), but commonly prefabricated trusses are engineered with lighter, smaller lumber with much bracing, for maximum strength, but the prevalent bracing generally eliminates usable attic space because trusses use braced (trussed) 2x4 lumber instead of much heavier stick spanning lumber which must use 2x6, 2x8 and 2x10, etc. to span rooms (to be strong enough for attic floor spans), but trusses do speedup construction considerably. There are some trusses for attic with high-pitched roofs and dormers but they are quite different in design. 12 Set each truss in the correct location, usually on 24 inch centers (stick is usually 16 inch centers since it has much less bracing). Attach hurricane clips or other connectors to secure them, plumb the center of each truss, and temporarily support them with a rat run bracing near the peak. 13 Install gable diagonal bracing (for a roof with gable ends) to prevent the roof frame from racking/leaning when you install the roof decking. For a hip roof, install king rafters and hip rafters, being careful to keep the adjacent planes of the roof consistent and straight. 14 Nail a sub-facia board connecting the ends of each truss or rafter, and build any outlookers to support the gable overhang (flying rafter which is not sitting on the top plate) and gable facia boards, if used. 15 Deck the trusses or rafters with plywood, oriented strand lumber, or nominal lumber such as 1 by 6 inch, tongue and groove boards. In areas where high winds or snow-loading (accumulation) is possible, make sure the roof decking is secured and structurally able to withstand these severe forces and conditions. Use appropriate bracing and fasteners for this scope of work. 16 Use 15 or 30 pound roofing felt (tar paper) nailed with simplex nails, roofing tacks, or plastic capped felting tacks to secure it. Begin felting the decking at the lower edge, allowing it to hang over slightly, and overlap subsequent layers to keep water from getting under this moisture barrier.

17 Install the exterior siding and exterior features such as windows and doors. Many locations require some type of flashing to prevent water from penetrating the edge of these, but you may be able to seal them sufficiently with caulking if it is permitted and you are able. Your house is now dried/weathered in. 18 Install your final roof. You may choose painted sheet metal panels, rolled steel formed to lengths needed on site, or shingles, terra cotta tiles, or other materials, depending on your preference, costs, and products available at your location. Consider ridge vents, attic exhaust fans, vented dormers, and other architectural details which can increase the comfort of your house while decreasing cooling costs in hot climates. 19 Rough in electrical devices. Most likely, there will be electrical outlets, light fixtures, and special wiring required for large appliances like water heaters, stoves, and air conditioning. Install the main electrical panel box, and any sub-panels your design requires, and install wiring from these to each device. Commonly, #12 Romex cable is used for ordinary lighting and outlet circuits, and nail-in electrical boxes are attached to the wall studs, with the front edge protruding to allow for the finished wall material to be flush. 20 Install pipes for potable water, waste drains, and drain vents in walls. These can be capped off to trim out after the walls are finished, especially if the local codes require pressure testing before finishing may be done. 21 Install HVAC (air conditioning and heat) ductwork, air handlers, and refrigerant piping if required. Stub ductwork out for return air and supply air registers. Insulate ductwork if it is not pre-insulated, and seal all joints. Fasten ductwork as needed to prevent movement. 22 Insulate walls where it is required, warmer climates may use much less insulation. Depending on the climate, you will want to get location-specific guidelines for this area of work. Insulate the spaces between ceiling joists, also. Walls are usually insulated with a minimum R-value of 13, ceilings with a minimum of 19, but as much as 30, or even more for lowering fuel and utility usage. 23 Install your ceilings. Gypsum wall board (drywall or sheetrock) is a common material used for this application, but there are other products including accoustical ceiling tiles, beaded plywood paneling (to

simulate planking), and even natural wood lumber (probably thin outlaying panels) that are used for this application. 24 Install the bath tub, shower enclosure, and any other large plumbing fixtures which will interface with finished walls. Make sure plumbing rough-ins are correctly located, and pipes are protected and securely anchored. 25 Install the wall board or paneling on interior walls. Gypsum wall board (panels are jacked 3/8 inch above the floor to avoid moisture from mopping or spills, etc.), or wood or masonite paneling. There are many interior wall products available, so the installation process will depend on the material used. Apply finish to gypsum wall board, taping and skimming/floating all joints to an acceptable level of finish. Finish/texture any ceilings during this step if applicable. 26 Put up any trim you are using for baseboards, crown mouldings, and corners, and install your interior doors and jambs. If you are using natural wood trim and mouldings, you will want to paint the walls prior to this step. Prefinishing the trim before installing will make the final finish easier, but any nailholes will probably still need attention after installation. 27 Caulk, paint, and install wall coverings on any walls that require it. Most likely, you will want to prime wall board, then apply a finish coat. Use a paint roller where possible, cutting-in with brushes around appertanances and in corners. 28 Trim out the electrical devices, install lights and other fixtures, and install breakers in panel boxes if they were not pre-installed. 29 Install cabinets and other mill work. You will probably need at least basic kitchen storage cabinets and a bathroom vanity cabinet for a sink, other cabinets may include a bar, upper storage cabinets, and lower units with drawers for kitchen utensils and supplies. 30 Install plumbing fixtures, trim them out, and caulk and seal where needed. 31

Install flooring. Note that for carpet floors, base boards are installed prior to flooring, leaving 3/8 inch for the carpet to tuck underneath it. For hardwood or composite floors, this trim is installed after the floor is finished. 32 Install appliances, have the utilities turned on, and check details. 33 Decorate your house, and move in.

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Building codes require various inspections at different stages of construction, so they are not included in steps. Some basic inspections may include: Foundation inspection, prior to placing concrete footings Slab and plumbing rough-in, prior to placing concrete slab Framing inspection, after decking is installed on roof, prior to shingles or other roofing Electrical rough-in Plumbing rough-in (may include a pressure or leak test) Percolation testing, for permitting septic tanks and lines, especially strict near streams and bodies of water.

Mechanical rough-in (for ductwork installation) Final inspections on each scope of work Coordinate temporary electrical power with your local utility. Use a project plan such as to organize your thoughts and timelines

Edit Warnings

It's not going to be cheap! You may build in stages and add on were that planned and depending on what is allowed by permits and inspections. In cities and developments one is often not allowed to live in a mobile home or in a the garage; a small house built first could eventually become a garage if floors were so designed, or a 4 room house can become a 6 room house, by additions, attics can be finished years later, etc. Don't end up with a half finished house and nowhere to live and very little money. Plan your finances in advance.

Edit Things You'll Need

Land and materials The Proper Tools Skills in various trades or crafts The Home Building Project Plan (

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