Richard Montgomery: 23 construction steps to build a new house | Homes and lifestyle

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: 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 step order, here are the actual steps.

Start stage

» Locate the home site. Choose from three locations. Click here for advice on how to choose a builder.

» Design the house to fit the terrain. Designing the house first can limit your choice of site.

» Clear the ground and excavate the foundation. Make sure your final level will direct water flow away from the house.

» Pour footings and basement walls. Precision is a necessary element here. The basement must be sufficient to support the weight of the house.

» Insulate the foundation. Insulation reduces energy costs. Include a drain and a sump at the base. Water is the eternal enemy.

» Backfill with appropriate soil for host site. A poured foundation or a concrete block, depending on the type of soil.

” Utilities. Hookups for sewer and water as well as electric and natural gas. A rural lot requires a drilled well.

Intermediate phase

The wooden sill plate bolts the house to its foundation. The bolts are driven into the wet concrete as they pour the wall.

The floor plate is a truss system designed to support the 250 ton weight of a 2,500 square foot ranch house.

» The subfloor is a half-inch or three-quarter-inch plywood sheathing attached to the truss system and exterior base walls.

» 2 x 4 inch studs frame the interior walls. Plumber, electrician and HVAC workers need components working according to plans.

» The roof truss system consists of waterproof sheets, tar paper and thick tar and asphalt shingles that cover the roof.

» Exterior walls are covered with a waterproof coating, then completed with brick, stone or various types and colors of coating.

» Windows are factory built, shipped to the site and installed by the builder. The windows complete the protection of the house.

» Insulation is installed between studs.

» Sheetrock is typically screwed into studs as it provides a strong bond to permanently secure heavy material.

Plaster, of several varieties, encapsulates plasterboard.

Finishing phase

» Painting is complete when the plaster is dry. Now is where the planning and decor start to show.

» Raw flooring sets the elevation base for cabinets, future doors and trim.

Today, cabinets are factory-built and delivered pre-finished. There are many choices of style and finishes.

» Finished trim is milled and pre-finished at the factories and installed by finish carpenters.

The light fixtures and finished floors are the final tasks inside. Installers want homeowners to be the first to set foot on it.

Landscaping is often the conclusion of construction. Many variables, including weather conditions, can affect the planting of grasses, shrubs and trees.

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: Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands of Dollars When Buying or Selling a Home. It advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Click here to ask him a question on, or follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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