Most home buyers have a lot of questions about the construction of their home: How long will it take to build? What happens when? What does each step involve? When can we visit the site and see our home in progress? When do we have to make final decisions about cabinets, fixtures, flooring, and so on? When do building inspections take place? Will we have a chance to inspect it ourselves before we take possession?
Here is an outline of the typical construction process today, based in a single-family home. Bear in mind that this is a generalized description—your home builder may use a different approach. For multi-family buildings and larger condominiums, a different construction process is most often involved, and you should ask about construction timing specific to that development.
The process and schedule will also be affected by the size and style of the house; the lot; the construction techniques used; the amount of customization required; the number of municipal inspections; whether the home is located in a large development; availability of labour, and many other factors. Ask your builder to explain the process for your home.
Phase One: Pre-construction
Before any construction begins, plans for your home are developed, finalized and submitted to the municipal building permit office for review. Permits may be required for all or some of the following work: building, electrical, plumbing, septic system and sewer connection.
Prior to this, a number of site tests may be conducted to examine the water table, the soil and the bearing capacity of the ground and to conduct environmental tests. With this information, final engineering adjustments can be made to the plans.
Phase Two: Foundation
Your house is staked out and the land is prepared. Often, the topsoil is removed and piled elsewhere for later use. Excavation is done, and the footings (concrete slabs to support the foundation walls) are formed and poured. Water, electricity, telephone and cable services may be brought in at this time.
The foundation walls are erected (may use poured concrete in temporary wooden forms or permanent insulated blocks, concrete blocks or preserved wood, for instance). The foundation may be insulated and damp-proofed. Drainage is installed to keep ground moisture away from the house. A municipal inspection of the foundation may be conducted before the outside perimeter is backfilled.
At this time, the builder may ask you to begin making your selections—deciding on flooring, tiles, cabinets and so on. While it will be weeks before these items are installed, they must be ordered early to prevent delays later.
Phase Three: Framing
Exterior walls, interior partitions and the roof are assembled. This usually means erecting a framing skeleton and applying exterior sheeting, or another framing technique may be used.
Once the house is fully framed, windows and doors are installed. The builder’s aim is to get to “lock-up” where it is closed as quickly as possible to protect the structure from the elements.
The basement floor is installed. Electrical and plumbing services are roughed in, and ducting for heating, cooling and ventilation is put in place.
At this time, your municipality will probably require a structural inspection to ensure that the home meets all building code requirements. Electrical and plumbing inspections will likely be conducted as well.
Phase Four: Interior and exterior work
For the next several weeks, a great deal of work will happen inside and out, much of it at the same time.
The exterior walls and the roof are insulated, and a vapour barrier is applied. Another municipal inspection may take place to ensure this work has been done properly before the drywall is installed. Heating and cooling systems are installed, including fireplaces.
Walls and ceilings are painted, flooring is laid, and kitchen and bathroom cabinets are installed. Plumbing and electrical fixtures are put in, trim is applied, and interior doors are hung.
Siding is applied on the outside, along with eavestroughing, and porches and decks are installed. Final lot grading is done, and the driveway and walkways are put in.
Several additional municipal inspections may occur—for instance, after completion of the interior to check stairs, handrails and other health and safety-related items, and/or after final grading outside. Plumbing and electrical work will probably require a final inspection.
During this period, your builder will stay in regular contact with you, to update you on progress and to meet deadlines for selecting finishes and other decisions you may need to make.
Phase Five: From near-completion to hand-over
At this point, your builder and crew are busy completing the final touches and cleaning up. You will be asked to do a walk-through of your home with the builder. Any last-minute touch-ups will be done. On the date of possession, you will be handed the keys–the home is now yours!