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.
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.
- 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.
For an overview of home building …
Peter Brown Construction’s
“Construction Dictionary” introduces a lot of basic construction terminology to help you understand your contractor or figure out your do-it-yourself project.
divides home building into construction phases (research, preconstruction, site work, foundations, framing, rough-ins, and interior and exterior finishes). Navigate this fairly lengthy page using the links on the right to jump to a particular stage of construction.
For construction timeframe estimates …
, part of LendingTree, explains the general timeframe for building a house and what to expect as you see construction progress from month to month.
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.
- 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.
For help crunching numbers …
is part of The Wall Street Journal Network. Read this particular article to find a general price range for building a home, tips on the use of cost-estimating calculators, and a little advice regarding profit margins for contractors and the price cushion you should maintain for your overall building costs.
offers an extremely helpful explanation of “finished square feet” and “constructed square feet,” an important distinction for anyone hiring a contractor. If you’re wondering whether to go with a finished or an unfinished basement, for example, this site can help you see what effects this decision could have on the construction costs for your home.
has a calculator that helps you determine your approximate building costs. Answer a few questions about the details of your home, such as the number of corners it will have, the type of heating system you want to include, and where you’re building the home, and the site generates cost estimates for materials, labor and equipment.
offers some pointers about properly estimating the costs of home building before breaking ground. Also find tips to keep spending in check along the way.
For financing information …
explains what a home construction loan is, how one works and the interest rates to expect for this type of loan. Follow the helpful hyperlinks in the article to connect to explanations of some of the various terms you might encounter as you research this type of loan.
HSH Home Plans
features a “Construction Loan Primer” that discusses the importance of obtaining the right financing for a home build. This article is slightly different than the others we’ve recommended in that it contains some helpful side notes (highlighted in tan) about construction loans that may give you an edge in choosing the financing that will be most beneficial to you.
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.
- 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.
For help choosing a building site …
is part of the Move.com network. Look for helpful advice about choosing a home site
, including some of the most important factors to consider. Also see the great checklist
page; find or design the home of your dreams by making a handy list of your personal specifications to draw from.
provides a list of factors to keep in mind when choosing a home site, including property taxes, zoning requirements and limitations, and the availability of public utilities.
The Ohio Department of Health
offers a short PDF article that focuses on assessing how you would deal with household wastewater at a particular home site.
provides suggestions for the type of home site you should choose if you are looking to incorporate “green” elements into your new home.
To review home styles …
explains the history and various aspects of several types of housing styles, including Queen Anne, Mediterranean, and “Classic Box.” Expect to find basic illustrations rather than full-color photographs of each style of home. The site is hosted by a California real estate agency and thus the information is geared toward local readers, but many of the house styles described can be found all over the United States.
Jamaica Plain Real Estate
reviews the elements of many popular housing styles seen in New England (and many other parts of the country), such as Cape Cod, ranch, and federal styles. Color photographs show examples of each architectural style.
has a photo album that shows the construction process for a few different types of homes. Though a majority of the photos show a particular home in an unfinished state, there are still one or two finished pictures that can give you a good idea of what a particular home style looks like.
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.
- 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.
For information about building codes and building permits …
The International Code Council
explains the need for building permits and the general process that must be followed as you apply for a permit. This page is in PDF format.
For information about variances …
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.
- 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.
For help finding and hiring an architect …
The American Institute of Architects
has an architect finder that works by simply entering your zip code into the search tool. Click on the individual architect or architectural firm’s name to check for an AIA designation. Also find an explanation of what architects do and how one might be able to help you with your project. Interested in green building? AIA members are working toward making the buildings they design carbon neutral by 2030.
For blueprints online …
features an extensive list of home design styles and blueprints. Accompanying each plan is a short description of some of the prominent characteristics of each home style. Purchase a plan directly from the site and request modifications for an additional fee.
is a directory of home building information. This section offers blueprints and illustrations for sale for many home styles, including A-frames, contemporary designs, multifamily homes, waterfront homes and more.
discusses the advantages of using stock home plans when you’re building a home, and explains the necessary steps to modifying a plan.
Original Home Plans
has a free interactive design tool that customizes a colonial or Cape Cod house plan. Start with a basic house plan and embellish it by modifying windows, adding a deck or altering the size of a garage. The customizing option is easy to use and clearly illustrates how any changes you make will look. You can also purchase plans from this site.
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.
- 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.
For advice on hiring a contractor …
features an article from the TV show “Hometime.” This article discusses the difference between a general contractor and a subcontractor, how to collect bids and check references, and what you should know before you sign a contract.
The Federal Trade Commission
details some of the ways you can avoid getting scammed by a contractor and tells you a few facts you should know about paying for services rendered by a contractor.
The Better Business Bureau
is a nationally recognized organization that aims to help consumers conduct successful business transactions and be aware of any businesses that have a history of consumer complaints. Read this article to learn how to choose a contractor for your home build and how to engage in contract negotiations.
To find a contractor …
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)
has an interactive map for finding a local home builders’ association in your area. Choose your state on the map to find the association nearest you and get recommendations for a builder to help with your home.
The Associated General Contractors of America
contains a search tool for finding a general contractor in your area. Search by organization name, by location or by “Member Type” (specialty contractors, general contractors, and service and supply companies).
connects homeowners to prescreened home improvement contractors. Search for professionals by type of work and your zip code. The service is free and easy to use.
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.
- “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.
For project calculators …
has material calculators for drywall, concrete, roofing, lumber and more.
has project calculators to estimate the amount of materials you’ll need for your home, such as insulation, flooring or concrete.
For DIY tips …
is the Web site for the television show of the same name. The “do-it-yourself project help page” provides instructions on how to complete an array of projects, including framing your home, doing electrical work, installing plumbing and hanging drywall.
Ask the Builder
is written by a man with a few decades of construction experience. Find helpful advice and short video clips about do-it-yourself projects and finding the right product or tool for your job, as well as dealing with contractors or builders. Many of the article summaries provide helpful insight and even realistic advice about what jobs might be too difficult for you to tackle on your own.
has helpful drawings to go with many of its do-it-yourself articles. The site is quite busy but if you don’t mind the design, you’ll find lots of useful information.
offers illustrated guides to building, plumbing, mechanical and electrical codes. Also find books and other resources on home construction and renovation
to help keep your construction project up to code.
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.
- 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.)
To learn about green living …
is a nonprofit organization that hosts events to promote awareness of environmental issues, and partners with cities and communities to launch local initiatives. Access tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint, links to environmental news and information about living a green lifestyle. Also use the site to learn about organic and eco-friendly products, and find out where to buy them.
lets you scroll across an animated house as you play “Your Carbon Diet.” It’s a cute way to see how much energy you use and how much carbon you release yearly just using common household appliances. Note that you need a Shockwave plug-in installed on your computer to scroll through this simulated home.
For green design ideas and building materials …
Green Home Building
discusses an array of green elements to incorporate into your home. Find information about energy- and water-saving design features, and a section on green building materials like cordwood, straw bale and bamboo. Check the menu options on the left and right sides of the site to find the information.
explains some “earth friendly and resource efficient” building materials for use in a green home. The products here are recyclable, energy efficient and also help maintain the health of your home’s residents.
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.
- 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.
For final inspections and walkthroughs …
The National Association of Home Builders
explains what to check when performing a final walk-through on your new house once construction is finished. Though you might not fancy yourself a home inspector, this article can help you take a better final survey of your home once it’s complete.
National Inspection Services
gives a thorough review of things you should look for during a final walk-through of a new home. Although this information is geared toward home buyers, it can still be helpful as you look at your newly constructed home.
For information about homeowner’s insurance …
Homeowner’s Insurance Guide
introduces you to the basics and gives you helpful tips on how to choose the best provider. Read through this site to learn the importance of homeowner’s insurance.
Insurance Information Institute
demonstrates what you’ll find in a typical homeowner’s insurance policy. The main features are explained in layman’s terms, which is something you won’t find on the official documents. Make sure you understand your policy before you sign it, however. With this site’s help, you’ll be an expert.
J.D. Power and Associates
offers a comparison chart of major insurance companies. If you’re in the market for homeowner’s insurance, consulting this list can point you in the right direction.
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.
- 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.
has an extensive message board devoted to home building. Use the handy “Find” tool to find help with a particular topic. Drop by the section on interior home improvement
to have moderators with particular expertise answer your questions about home improvement projects. Read the posts without registering but sign up if you want to write a message of your own (it’s free).
is provided by iVillage. Find an impressive collection of forums, including this one specifically for people building a home. Complete the free registration to write your own messages.
is an online community of do-it-yourselfers who want to talk about their home repair projects. To get the full benefit, take advantage of the free registration
, which allows you to post messages and eliminates a majority of the ads you’d otherwise have to wade through. Although this message board is more about home repair, it may prove helpful with any problems that arise during your home build.
Most Recent Guides