Building a new home can be a lengthy process filled with nervousness, excitement, and uncertainty. However, if you're working with a skilled wood framing contractor, the process doesn't have to be.
We believe the entire process should be seamless and pain-free, from the initial planning process to periodic inspections to the final handover. For over twenty years, we've worked with clients all across Western Massachusetts on residential wood framing home construction projects that range from 'tiny homes' to large, multi-million dollar mansions.
Still, with new home construction booming across Massachusetts and Connecticut, hundreds and thousands of first-time homeowners are going through the house construction process for the first time. With plenty of information available online but precious little that's above question, we thought it best to put down our tips borne from our experience.
What follows is a summarized version of the entire house construction process. If you were unsure of what the process was from start to finish, this article would guide you through the whole process, with a bonus checklist at the end. Download it and refer to it often so that during inspections or negotiations with your various contractors, you're always in the driving seat.
Site Prep and Foundation Pouring
Building a house requires a lot of coordination with local government bodies and agencies. The first stop for most homeowners is usually their town hall or building department, where they will need to fill out a permit application. The permit application process pertains to documents that request permission from the local government to begin construction on a specific property. It contains precise information about the homeowner, the contractor, the project, the proposed construction timeline and will also include aspects such as structural, plumbing, septic systems (if not connected to a sewer system), electrical and mechanical design, and also cover light and ventilation, egress, fire safety, sanitary equipment, and security. Local jurisdictions sometimes modify model codes to reflect particular requirements such as snow loads, strong winds, and seismic activity. Usually handled by the contractor or the architect, the actual construction work can begin once the permits are in place.
Why is this important?
The permitting process is essential because it ensures that your project complies with all local bylaws, regulations, and laws. It also provides a Building Inspector with a documented set of plans to follow during periodic inspections. Homeowners should always have a copy of their approved permits on-site during construction, as the Building Inspector will request them.
Before starting excavation for a new house, the subsurface conditions must be determined via test borings and/or by inspecting nearby homes. The nature of the soils, the presence of groundwater, and the bedrock depth are all essential factors in deciding what type of foundation to pour. In most cases, a foundation must be designed to support the weight of the building and earth pressure from frost or water.
If a house is built on expansive or swelling soils, specialized foundations and/or moisture-resistant materials may be required. It would be difficult to remove if a rock ledge was found at the chosen location. A high water table may need a design adjustment from a full basement to a crawl space or a concrete slab. If the area has been filled, the footings should always continue through undisturbed soil. Lastly, it's important to remember that any deviation from what is considered 'standard construction practices' will directly impact (read increase) the cost of the foundation and footings.
The next step in the site prep process is to ensure that access to the site is possible for equipment and delivery trucks. Provisions have been made for power, internet connectivity, water, raw material storage, and contractor comfort during the entire construction process.
Once all the permits and provisions are in order, the final step in this phase of the house construction process is finalising the plot plan and house placement. To achieve this, the architect or the contractor will submit a preliminary plot plan for approval and a building permit request. The zoning regulations of the specific state and area will specify certain rules, and the final plot plan created after the site survey will ensure that the house construction site complies with those regulations and will also show the outline of the house foundation, the driveway, the location of the septic system, and water well if necessary.
Up Next: Excavation and Footings