Steps to Building a Home

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Home Building

Building your own home is an often exciting, sometimes exhausting experience. It’s also a perfect chance to have a home that’s designed the way you want it to look. But whether you’re hiring a general contractor or doing most of the work yourself, it takes a lot of forethought and planning. The sites highlighted in this Web guide can help you find inspiration to create the home of your dreams and get much-needed help to ensure you don’t miss one of the many details that accompany this endeavor.

Steps to Building a Home

Home building may seem like a complicated process—and it is—but we’ve found some detailed sites on the Internet that explain quite a bit of what you need to know. Whether you’re looking to learn more about how homes are built so that you can eventually construct your home yourself, or you just want to know what your contractor will be up to, the following Web sites can get you started.

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  • Many Web sites, such as those from companies that specialize in custom-built homes, provide an overview of their building process. If you’re going this route, check the site of the company from which you are purchasing a home.
  • Trade associations exist for many of the occupations that make up the construction industry, such as electricians, contractors, masons and more. If you want to research construction information on a trade association Web site, look for a “consumers” section, which will likely have the most relevant content you need.
  • There’s some overlap between home building and remodeling, meaning that remodeling Web sites might be helpful to you as well. Our findingDulcinea Home Remodeling Web Guide recommends several useful resources.

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The Cost of Building a Home

The cost of building a home depends on a multitude of factors, including what type of home you want, how lavish you want the home to be, the contractor you use, and even interest rates on any financing you may require to build your home. The sites in this section offer cost calculators, show you how to set up and follow a home-building budget, and provide valuable information about obtaining loans to pay for your project.

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  • Remember that any cost calculators you use on the Web can provide only general estimates of what you might pay to build your home. Labor costs vary from contractor to contractor, and materials prices vary from state to state (or store to store). Many calculators rely on averages to develop their estimates.
  • If you require a loan to build your new home, your personal credit plays an important role in the financing you receive. For more information about understanding your credit, and how to improve it if need be, see our findingDulcinea Credit Web Guide.

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Choosing a Construction Site and House Style

One of the earliest steps in building a new home is deciding what type of home you want and where to build it. With an abundance of home styles and locations to choose from, the options may feel overwhelming but the Web sites we’ve found can help you make some decisions.

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  • In the book “Inside the Not So Big House”, you’ll find tips for creating a well-designed home with all the elements you’ve always desired. The focus here is on the quality of your home rather than its size.
  • If you’ve ordered a custom-built home, the Web site of the company you’ve purchased the home from may also contain advice about finding the right home site for the type of home you want.
  • Choosing a location for your new home can be about a lot more than finding a suitable building site. For Web sites that can help you select a good community or neighborhood, see the “Deciding Where to Move” section of the findingDulcinea Homes Web Guide.

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Building Codes, Building Permits and Variances

Part of building your new home is making sure you’ve got your bases covered in terms of having building permits and other necessary paperwork in place for your project. If you’re not sure what you need, these Web sites can help.

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  • Building requirements and codes vary from state to state and often among counties and even cities. You can typically find much, if not all, of the information you need at the building department section of your state or city Web site. (You might even be able to apply for permits online.) The Web address for your state is http://www.state.[two-letter postal code].us.
  • Use the Web as a starting point, but be aware that it’s also wise to consult personally with the building or housing department where you live before you start construction.

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Architects and Blueprints

If you’ve got ideas about designing your own home and need help translating them into reality, an architect may be able to help you with this process. Or in many cases, you can browse blueprints online for free and purchase one that you like. Whatever route you choose, getting online help with your home design is just a few clicks away.

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  • If you’re researching individual architects, check their Web sites for pictures of past projects to get an idea of work they’ve done and whether it suits your tastes. Better yet, try to visit a home designed by the architect you’re considering.
  • If you’re having trouble visualizing the layout of your home from a floor plan, ask your architect to draw the rooms in perspective. An axonometric drawing (a three-dimensional rendering drawn from above) may also be helpful.

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Finding and Hiring a Contractor

Many people may help you build your home, but you’ll likely have one general contractor overseeing the project. Get the right person for the job by using the Web sites below for help finding, screening and hiring a contractor.

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  • Associations exist for professionals engaged in the many aspects of home construction, including masons, electricians, roofers and more. The Web sites of such associations may help you find certified professionals in your area that perform the type of work you require. B4UBuild.com has a directory of many of these associations.
  • Industry and trade association Web sites will most likely have some self-promotional material. Try to stay objective as you browse through site content. Ultimately, your goal is to find the professionals that can best meet your needs and wants during the construction of your home.
  • When trying to narrow down your list of potential contractors, check for those contractors online to see if they have Web sites with photos of work they’ve done. Seeing some of their work may help you make your decision.

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Do-It-Yourself Home Building

For someone with the necessary knowledge and technical skills, building your own home can be a rewarding and financially advantageous move. With a little research, you’ll become more confident in your abilities to build a home yourself, learn how to handle unfamiliar aspects of home building, and know when to seek the help of qualified professionals.

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  • How to Plan, Contract and Build Your Own Home” walks the committed do-it-yourselfer through the basic aspects of home building. Find information about selecting the right home site, how to design your home for the best traffic patterns, and important considerations about the types of products you use in your home. Another must-read is “Tips & Traps When Building Your Home,” which helps prospective home builders determine whether they have enough know-how to act as their own general contractor and much more.
  • Remember that, even when building your home yourself, you’ll still be bound by building code requirements that apply to the area in which you live. ReedFirstSource.com has a handy search function for finding pertinent building codes where you live and contact information in case you have questions.
  • If you want to buy home building supplies online, some home improvement Web sites such as Lowe’s and The Home Depot have this option. Generally you’ll find product descriptions and warranty information as well.

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Sustainable Home Building

Sustainable home building incorporates a lot more than the use of “green” building materials. Because heating and cooling are among the biggest energy drains of any home, energy-efficient design can be as important in making a home more energy efficient as buying green products. Use this section to learn the principles of green living and get familiar with green elements to include in the design and construction of your home.

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  • Your direct impact on the environment (including your home and the energy it uses) is called your “ecological footprint.”
  • Benefit from green incentive programs. Check the Web site of your local utility company as well as your state’s Web site to see the tax credits or rebates available for your green investments. (Your power company’s Web site can also be a good source for tips on saving energy.)

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Home Inspections, Walkthroughs and Homeowner’s Insurance

When construction on your home is complete, a few more steps must take place before move-in day. Use the Web sites in this section to learn about final walkthroughs, homeowner’s insurance and more.

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  • When construction on your home is complete, many of the processes you started months (or years) ago will conclude. For example, an inspector may come and take a final look at your home to ensure you have complied with all stipulations set forth in your building permit. Your lender may also have some final requirements that you must ensure are fulfilled. See the “The Cost of Building a Home” and the “Building Codes, Building Permits and Variances” sections of this Web guide for more information about these steps in the process.
  • You may be required to obtain a certificate of occupancy from the building authority where you live. Simply put, a certificate of occupancy verifies that a home is suitable to be inhabited and meets building codes.
  • Moving into your new home can be the most satisfying step in the entire process but it, too, needs to be done properly. The findingDulcinea Moving Web Guide identifies the Web’s best resources for hiring movers, finding packing materials, notifying the necessary parties of your change of address and much more.

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Home Building Message Boards

Sometimes the best source of advice for a project as large as a home build is other people who are going through the same process. Message boards where people in your situation ask and answer a variety of questions about almost every aspect of this process can be helpful resources. We’ve included our favorites here.

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  • Though using an online message board can be a helpful source of information as you build your new home, remember that a great deal of the advice you find might not be from real experts. Generally, anyone can post on such a forum, so you’ll want to double-check anything someone tells you against another trusted resource, whether it’s a contractor or one of the other sources listed in this guide.
  • Some message boards are moderated by construction professionals or people with expertise in a particular area. Finding a moderated board can increase the reliability of the information you receive.

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