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Stages of Home Construction: From Lot Preparation to Final Inspection
New Construction Homes by Natasha Lingle
Stages of Home Construction: From Lot Preparation to Final Inspection
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As a buyer of new home, you don’t need to know all of the details involved in home construction, but a general knowledge, however, of what should take place during each phase, will help you monitor progress and spot potential problems. Although methods and materials may differ among the builders, the following overview covers common stages of home construction.
❶ Lot Preparation
- Lot walk: The buyer, sales representative, and construction superintendent walk the lot to discuss home placement and identify features, such as trees, to remove or save.
- Lot scrape and grade: Any structure and vegetation that will not be part of the finished site is removed. The lot is leveled by excavation or packed soil fill.
- Form set: Wooden batter boards are placed to outline the footprint of the home.
- Pest control treatment: If needed, the soil is treated for pest prevention.
- Septic and well excavation: If needed, bringing in heavy excavation equipment at this stage minimizes site damage.
- Utility set: A temporary water meter and utility pole are installed to provide water and electricity needed for construction.
- Construction waste management: Receptacles large enough to hold construction waste are placed on the site.
❷ Slab, Crawlspace, or Basement
Climate determines the underpinnings of home construction. The depth of frost line determines whether to construct the home on a slab or excavate a basement or crawlspace. If the underpinnings of the home do not reach below the frost line, the structure is exposed to serious hazards as water freezes and expands in the soil. If the soil under the basement, crawlspace, or poured slab freezes and expands, the resulting cracks and upheavals can cause serious structural damage to the home. For this reason, homes constructed in cold climates require excavation of a basement in order to reach below the frost line. Majority of homes in Northern Virginia in such towns as Falls Church, Great Falls, McLean, and Vienna have basements.
Homes in mild climates can be constructed over a crawlspace, which is a short basement. Extension of the basement or crawlspace walls above the soil line forms the foundation that supports the frame and flooring.
In warm climates that experience superficial frosts, a home can be constructed on a poured slab, which is faster and less expensive than constructing a basement. Cement piers may be integrated into the slab to support the framing and floor beams.
Excavation and finishing of a basement has pros and cons. A basement provides room and easy access for mechanicals, electrical conduit, and piping. Plus, it can expand living space, particularly walk-out basements for homes built into inclines. On the other hand, excavation and construction add costs. Potential damage from basement flooding is a major, and sometime chronic, problem for homes in storm-prone areas.
Construction of Crawlspace or Basement
- Excavation: Excavation must be below the frost line, but not lower than the water table.
- Footings: Poured concrete footings spread the weight of the structure from the foundation into surrounding soil. Interior footings support load-bearing walls.
- Sub-slab systems: Plumbing lines are laid that will eventually be covered by a poured slab floor.
- Drainage and sump pump: A run of perforated drainage piping embedded in gravel along the perimeter moves water away from the foundation. A sump pump may be installed.
- Walls: Foundation walls are constructed by pouring concrete between sets of forms. Embedded anchor bolts will be used to secure the framing to the foundation.
- Flooring: For basement construction, a concrete floor is poured between the foundation walls. In crawlspace construction, a moisture-vapor barrier or liner covers the walls and exposed earth floor.
- Waterproofing and backfill: A waterproofing or dampproofing seal is applied to the exterior below-surface foundation walls. Soil backfill is pushed into trenches around the exterior. Backfill stabilizes below-surface foundation walls.
- Materials delivery: Framing materials – including trusses, cornices and panels – are delivered to the job site. Delivery coincides with the framing contractor’s anticipated start date to minimize exposure to the weather.
- Flooring: Flooring trusses and framing (to which the walls will be attached) are set in place. Once the floor framing is complete, it’s covered with plywood or oriented strand board (OSB).
- Stand walls: Walls, staircases, windows, doors and fireplaces are framed in.
- Tub delivery: Delivery of items, such as bathtubs, that require additional framing, or are so large, that installation might become a problem after the walls and doors are in place, will occur at this stage.
- Roof: Support trusses and framing for the roof are installed. Covering the roof with plywood or OSB, increases rigidity. Additional materials, such as water retardant layer and shingles, complete the roof.
- Frame detail: When the structure is up, framers do detail framing, such as for bathtubs and utility closets, plus the addition of any cornices or blocking.
- Mechanical installations: Framing is added for wiring, telephone, security, vents and HVAC system.
- Windows and doors: The windows and doors arrive in one shipment and are set in.
- House Wrap: The structure may be wrapped with weather resistant material like Tyvek® to prevent infiltration of rain and moisture and improve energy efficiency.
- Insulation: Local building codes set minimum standards for residential insulation. Exterior and interior walls, ceilings, and other specified areas are insulated with the R-value and thickness (in inches) detailed in the building specifications.
- Outlets and other openings: Outlets and other gaps are sealed.
- Masonry or siding: After insulation has been installed, the masonry or siding exterior can be added.
- Exterior doors and locks: Installation of doors and locks, including the garage door, secures the premises.
- Decks: Any exterior structure not done during the frame stage is added at this point.
- Driveway and patio pour: These components may be poured separately from the slab to minimize potential damage from heavy equipment on site.
- Drywall delivery: Drywall sheets are delivered after the structure is secure and weatherproof.
- Drywall installation: Dry wall sheets are nailed to the interior frame.
- Tape and float: Joints and seams are taped and covered so that the wall surface is smooth and seamless.
❼ Plumbing, Mechanicals, Trim, Floors
During this phase, subcontractors can work simultaneously as long as they are not in each other’s way or depend on someone else’s work.
- Cabinetry: Cabinets are built on-site or are brought in preassembled and installed.
- Tile and counters: Countertops and tile work are installed.
- Painting or wallpaper: Interior walls, doors, and trim are painted. Wall coverings are installed.
- Plumbing installation: Showers, bathtubs, water heater, sinks, and toilets are installed and connected to water sources and drainage.
- Appliances and mechanical installation: Mechanical systems, kitchen appliances, security systems, and HVAC are installed. Vents, registers, and thermostats are set and tested.
- Electrical trim: Outlet covers, lighting, ceiling fans, switches, and doorbells, are installed.
- Baseboards and floor covering: Any trim work, including baseboards, is completed. Specified floor coverings are installed.
❽ Finish Out
Finishing a new home and getting it ready for the buyer to move in happens in stages.
- First buyer walk-through: When the home is almost finished, the builder and buyer do a first walk-through to develop punch list of needed repairs and finish outs. This punch list is a checklist for the final walk-through.
- Final buyer walk-through: The buyer should use the builder’s punch list to make sure that all identified items are completed.
- Final cleaning: Carpets, windows, bathrooms, garage, and anything that is not in move-in condition are cleaned.
- New home orientation: Some builders offer an orientation session to familiarize the buyer with the home systems and functioning.
Landscaping can take place simultaneously with interior work. Builders avoid responsibility and expense of caring for the lawn, trees, and plantings by doing landscaping at the very last minute.
- Final lot grade: If needed, the lot is graded or soil added to level the ground and support the lawn and plantings.
- Plantings: Trees, grass, and other plantings are installed.
❿ Final Inspection and Certificate of Occupancy
When the competed project passes a final inspection, a certificate of occupancy is issued. The house must be approved for occupancy before utilities can be turned on. If the inspection turns up any deficiencies—red tags—the builder must make the corrections and schedule a follow-up.
If you are looking to purchase a new home, please feel free to email me, call or text (571) 455-0178.
AUTHOR: Natasha Lingle is a full time real estate agent serving Vienna VA and Northern Virginia communities. She is an Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR) and Certified New–Home Construction Buyer Representative. If you are planning to buy a finished new construction home or would like to build fully custom home, you can rely on her knowledge. As your new home buyer agent, she will guide you through the steps and processes of purchase, construction, and customization. In addition, she will:
• explain characteristics of new homes and highlight the differences between custom and spec constructions;
• evaluate pros and cons of purchasing a new home versus an existing home;
• help you understand new-home construction sales contract;
• and explain such nuances as “builder’s warranty”.
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Natasha Lingle is an energetic and personable real estate professional with a proven track record of success representing home buyers, sellers and investors throughout Northern Virginia. Natasha is known for her deep knowledge of the local market, tenacity, strong negotiating skills, honesty and integrity. Whether providing expert guidance to buyers or creating custom marketing plans for the sellers, Natasha delivers the highest level of customer service to all her clients.Learn More