DIY home Building
Building a house takes many things– tools, patience, several cases of beer, and most importantly, a plan. In the last couple of years I’ve worked with a number of tradesmen and contractors, and even though I only threatened to bury one of them in the backyard once, I still recommend that anyone undertaking a project like this has an understanding of what it really means to build a house from the ground up, just in case…
Since I’m just finishing up (and moving out of) the first house I was intimately involved in building from the ground up, it seemed like an appropriate time to put together a high-level overview of the different stages of the building process. It’s not a compressive step-by-step plan, but for anyone trying to wrap their head around some of the basics of the building process, this is a great place to start.
Before You Build
It’s easy to think the building process starts with things like foundations and walls — hey, I get as excited as anyone about digging a bigass hole in the ground– but the truth is that almost as much work goes into the “pre-building” stages as actually nailing things together. Here are the things to know about it.
- Know the zoning of the land, topography, and the location of the corners of the property to determine setbacks and buildable areas.
- For country folk, make sure you’re clear for a well and septic, while city dwellers will need to make sure they have access to public utilities.
- If there’s an existing house on the property, make sure you know where the current utilities are located– trust me, the sound of a punctured gas line is something nobody ever wants to hear.
- Once the house plans are done, the exterior walls need to be staked to prepare for excavation.
More information on building plans and getting permits (you’ll definitely need one of those) can be found here.
The actual “building” portion of the project starts with the foundation, and all foundations will require some excavation. This means heavy equipment, big piles of dirt, and one very awesome hole in the ground. This should probably only be attempted by professionals using an excavator or backhoe.
The footings are the foundation of the foundation. They are the lowest part of the structure and carry the entire load of the house.
- Footings are always located below the frost line, approximately 4′ deep.
- Most common problems relating to footings & foundations are caused by poor soil conditions or disturbed soil. (If soil is disturbed, always remove and fill with additional concrete.)
- In areas that get plenty of rainfall–hello Southern Michigan–footings should have drain tile installed to remove water from around the foundation.
The foundation sits on top of the footings and carries the support for the actual building structure. This is where everything can go right or wrong as far as your entire house being level and plumb.
- Common types of foundations include full basements, crawl spaces, and slabs.
- Foundations are most commonly constructed out of poured walls or concrete block.
- Any part of a foundation that is below-grade should be sealed with a waterproofing agent.
- All foundations should include anchor bolts that will tie the framing structure into the foundation.
- After the foundation is finished, cured, and waterproofed, the area around it should be backfilled.