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The 10 Stages of Building A Home

Architect with construction plan

Portrait of Filipino architect examining construction plan

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The 10 Stages of Building A Home

To build or not to build – it’s not even a question. Building a home of your own is one of the most rewarding projects in any lifetime. To create a home and a space that is uniquely yours is special. However, very much like Rome, it won’t be built in a day.

The process of constructing a home is broken up into what has become a semi formal, industry standard set of milestones. This article is an invitation to those contemplating building, to become familiar with these now well-established milestones.

For the homeowner, these stages offer a visual reference of progress relative to a schedule. As with any complex undertaking, dividing the process into digestible chunks makes it easier to understand and remain in touch with each step.

The list below presents each of the milestones with a brief explanation of what to expect during each step. Familiarity with these terms and building stages now, will make things easier when it comes time to discuss the build with your chosen builder. Before we get into the milestones, we’ll start with a brief word about finance for a new build.

new home in construction

A Note About Finance

Before we detail the milestones, let’s assume for the sake of this article, that you already have the finance. Understanding the complexities of financing a new build demands its own article. New build finance applications are a little more nuanced relative to financing the purchase of an existing home. There are new-build specifics that can’t easily be explained in a short article such as this.

Relative to the chronology below, the finance stage sits early in the timeline. Ideally, you will have an idea of your budget and the access to the finance you need to cover your budget, including a reasonable contingency. A meeting with your financier may follow directly behind your decision to build.

Finance is unlikely to be granted until your bank has reviewed all the designs, reviewed the builder, and understood the payment schedule demanded by your chosen builder.

Traditionally, payment for a new build is staged. This is usually a formal arrangement between you, the builder, and your bank. Each of the milestones listed below will require a percentage payment once the milestone is complete. For most project homes, these arrangements are pretty generic and straight forward.

For unique custom homes, the payment stages may differ to that of a project home, and the bank may have a much greater interest in assessing milestone completion before releasing funds to pay the builder.

As stated earlier, this isn’t the article for a deep dive into new home finance. Nonetheless, the information above hopefully sees you a little more informed.

Finance aside, let’s get into the milestones of building your new home.

Architect with construction plan

1. The Decision to Build

The decision to build is often overlooked as a distinct stage of the building process. It shouldn’t be. It’s this moment that launches what will be for many, a truly salient moment amongst a lifetime of watershed events.

When we commit to building a home, there is a fusion of dreams and excitement. This is important. It’s this fusion that will energise us through a very testing adventure, replete with drama, thrills, terror, and immeasurable joy. It’s one of the more significant decisions you will make in your life, and many will experience an emotional rollercoaster.

This is to be expected and is an integral part of the building journey. Creating a home from the ground up is one of life’s crowning moments and major achievements. Things of greatness don’t come easily. But the rewards are profound, with a new home being a legacy that will last for many generations.

2. Procuring the Land

The land and its surrounding environs will determine much of what you will experience over a build. A family constructing a project home on a flat block in a new subdivision are, more often than not, shielded from many a potential drama. However, those building on a remote, radically sloping parcel of land in the middle of nowhere, invite a much greater potential for building challenges. These challenges may well test your courage. In these cases, only seamless planning, and/or a money tree, will mitigate increased moments of anxiety.

The land you choose speaks to the lifestyle you choose. Importantly, it will also speak commandingly to the architects and designers. It is the architects and designers, and the builder for that matter, who are tasked with creating a perfect marriage between your lifestyle, tastes, and the aesthetic and practical demands of the land you have selected.

From a modest cottage to the grandest edifice, we have a responsibility to the land on which we will build. A new build may blend with or transform a piece of land. Either way, should the structure we envisage not achieve harmony with the environs, we face diminishing the very nature of the land that attracted us in the first place. It is important that we select land that will facilitate an aesthetic union between the structure and its backdrop. It must also sit comfortably with how we wish to live.

The land and its location poses several practical considerations. Here are a few of them:

  • Access to supplies and labour. Often logistically complicated on remote builds
  • Soil qualities. The soil quality on which you build (the foundations) will often determine what you can build, as well as the price to build it
  • You may need to clear land of trees and heavy undergrowth. There may also be existing caveats on what you’re allowed to clear
  • Sloping blocks present greater building complications. The greater the slope, the more complicated the build.
  • Are you building to take in a view? Is it possible that that view may be built out in the future?
  • Are you building in a heavily wooded or forested area? Are you prepared to design for bushfire mitigation?

Important Note

If the land you have purchased or are planning to purchase does not come with a geotechnical assessment, it would be wise to have the land assessed before moving forward. This is because the quality of the soils on which you will build will strongly advise what types of structures you can build, as well as its cost. If you want a flat, single story home built on a concrete slab, then there is little point in purchasing a piece of land that will not support such a construction.

3. Selecting Architect or Builder

It’s important to keep in mind that this stage could be separated. Often an architect will be chosen before the builder, sometimes the builder is selected first. In many cases, you may have already selected the builder and/or architect before you have procured the land. These steps are pretty flexible in terms of the timeline.

This is usually a research driven project, where you look for a builder and design team with a successful track record in the style of home you want. This includes local experience, a track record in the size of the project you are undertaking, and experience in the land type on which you are building.

If you’re searching for a builder from scratch, with little idea, it’s best not to be in a hurry. The process can be quite long, and will also depend on how far you search and how rigorously you assess potential building teams.

Some people will already have strong convictions about a builder and design team, as they have followed and appreciate their work, or have it on great advice. This can certainly expedite the process. However, even if you have an appreciation of certain operators, it’s still very important to do your due diligence and assess the chosen, or short listed building teams.

Keep in mind, many building companies have a portfolio of home designs that can be tweaked to suit your lifestyle. They also have design teams in house to cater for those looking for a unique design.

Once you have selected your builder and the project is a go, expect to have to pay a 5% deposit. Should you choose an independent architect for an original design, you will likely have to pay the design fees upfront. There will be further site visit, consultation, and oversight fees throughout the project. These fees are usually revealed prior to engagement. Most architects will be able to provide an indication of a total bill. Redesigns mid build will likely attract a substantial fee.

4. Site Clearing and Preparation Stage

This is when your block is prepared for construction. Trees are cleared, rubbish and existing structures are cleared. Geotechnical inspections, (if not already) will be completed at this point.

From the geotechnical data, the land will be shaped in preparation for commencing foundational work. This may include redirecting natural water courses and land stabilisation. Following the clearing stage, the builders will, for all intent and purpose, be ready to begin construction.

Keep in mind, different locations present different demands. On a subdivision, site prep usually requires relatively minimal work. However, severely sloping sites, unsuitable or difficult soils, heavy vegetation, and existing water courses can present significant demands.

In fact, for many builds on tricky sites, the excavation, site remediation, clearing and preparation may be a significant portion of the construction budget. In these cases, there will usually be a substantial up-front payment, much greater than the initial deposit.

At this stage you may see the builders begin to set up their staging site. You can expect plant equipment and materials to arrive, ready for deployment.

5. Slab / Base / Footings

Depending on the design of your home, this may or may not appear to be a substantial moment. For pier homes, there may not be a great deal to see but some unremarkable footings. Piers won’t be installed until the footings have completely cured.

For slab-based designs, this is when the footings are dug, and slabs are formed and poured. Any services that are concealed within the slab, such as plumbing and electrical, will also be completed.

Stormwater management and infrastructure will often be installed at this point, as will termite barriers and moisture protection.

At this stage, the site may well be connected to city utilities such as sewer, water and electrical. Keep in mind there won’t be any electricity at this stage, unless of course your builder organised temporary supply and had the electricians construct a temporary meter box. The builder will often organise a power supply quickly to avoid the need for generators.

For slab based homes there will now be a delay of a week while the slab cures to a point where it will support frames and workers. A slab can take up to a month to cure 100%. Depending on the type of construction equipment, materials used, and loads expected on a new slab, builders may wait a week or so to start erecting the frames.

As a rule of thumb, this stage will require a payment of up to 10% of the total construction.

6. Framing

The framing stage will require you to pay around 15% of the construction total. So long as weather and delays don’t get in the way, this is when you will really start to see things develop. The framing stage will see all interior and exterior frames constructed. Now you’ll see platoons of workers busily toiling away all over the structure. Electricians and plumbers will also be onsite laying pipes, conduit, and cables. By now, you are beginning to see the shape of your dream home.

This can be a very frustrating period if the weather is unkind. Without a roof, all work is subject to the weather. Rain can slam the brakes on any construction, and it is by far the most common reason for construction delays.

Once wall frames are complete, the roof frames are added. With roof frames in place, there will always be a level of urgency to have it clad. With a roof, there’s now a strong level of weather protection. That’s why the completion of the roof is a critical moment. Construction can now push on regardless of the weather.

Exterior coverings are fixed in place, as are the doors and windows. With the house partially shut off from the weather, the goal now is to protect the interior from all potential weather ingress.

With the rain shut out, plasters can now start sheeting walls if secreted plumbing and electricals are completed. The sooner the plasterers have applied finishing coats, the sooner the painters can join the team.

7. Lock Up

An exciting time in your building journey, the Lock up stage is when the structure has been made weatherproof, the ceilings are in and plaster is on the walls. Structural integrity has been established and the property can be secured with locks.

This stage is more of a classic major milestone than a construction period. Think of it as the first major goal of construction. Once lock up is achieved, the lion’s share of the interior fix can commence.

You will dish out an additional 35% as lock up is completed.

8. Fix

During the fix stage, you will begin to see an empty shell transform into a functional living space. Plumbers, electricians and ‘finishing carpenters’ will be doing their thing.

The wall sheeting and plastering team have already been on site for a while. They’ve been working ever since the interior was protected from weather.

Waterproof teams have installed the waterproofing in the bathrooms and they are closely followed by the tilers, getting the ceramics completed. Shelves, wardrobes, skirts, architrave and reveals will also be installed during fix . Fix is likely to attract a payment of 25% of the total build cost. By now, you are starting to see a liveable home.

9. Final Build or Practical Completion

By now, the finance is dwindling, but your home is all but finished. Expect a 10% payment come final build. In many respects, it may look like there’s a lot of finishing touches to be completed, and there may be a fair bit of mess.

Painters will be working hard on the final push, trying to keep out of the way of carpet layers and tilers.The tilers will be working on final decorative work.

Now electricians and plumbers are installing tap hardware, appliances such as ovens, hot water systems and air conditioners. You will see the installation of power points and light switches as well as the standard lighting.

Any floor coverings not completed in the fix will be completed now. Feature lighting and other decorative features will now be installed.

Depending on security, more expensive fittings such as chandeliers and other featured lighting or technological features may be installed.

With all of this completed, a major clean up follows. Often undertaken by professional cleaners, they will prepare the home for presentation.

Some floor coverings and other features such as ornate balustrades may still have protective coverings on them. They will be removed to be made ready for presentation and handover.

10. Final Inspection and Handover

It’s at this time the owners have a practical completion inspection with the builder. It’s now that you have to temper your excitement (difficult as it will be) and go over every room, fitting, and fixture with a fine tooth comb.

If all is in order, you can sign off and the builders can hand over the keys. There may be a list of things to tidy up, minor repairs, etc. The sign off will be contingent on these remaining jobs being completed by an agreed date.

Residential home construction, frame wooden house outdoor

Final Notes on Building a Home

For several months and even longer, you will witness an amazing dance of skills, logistics and construction materials. Management and planning will ensure the home you dreamed of is the house in which you will stand.

You’re creating a forever space and an investment. But most of all, you’re creating a home especially for you. There’s little doubt you will face an emotional rollercoaster but once completed you can relax on your deck and contemplate the forthcoming landscaping and the pool.

Just as life is punctuated by stages, so is the construction of a new home. At times during construction, you might want to click your fingers for an instant completion. But in truth, it is the journey through each of the building stages that cements your deep connection to a living space that is now wholly yours.