Home Building Process: Beginner's Guide to Building a House

Home Building Process: Beginner's Guide to Building a House

This is for informational purposes - always check with your permitted authority or regulatory body first.

Taking an empty lot and turning it into a home is a complex process. It involves numerous steps that must be executed properly in order for the entire process to work. To complicate things further, each step usually has several steps within it. 

Despite this complexity, you should understand how a home is built if you want to build one yourself. Doing so allows you to know what you are getting into and what to expect and can even help guide you to making the right decisions along the way. 

This guide will cover the steps of building a house. It will start with the bare lot and end with a completed home. Keep reading to follow along with this journey. 

Related: What Are The Steps To Renovating A House?

1. Site Preparation and Foundation

A solid home starts with a good plan and a good foundation. These things are literally at the very base of the home itself and, thus, are important for everything that comes after. 

Preparing the Site Legally

Most of the time, building a home doesn't start with the sound of hammers swinging and the sight of shovels breaking dirt. The process starts long before then and doesn't even involve construction. Instead, it involves dealing with legal issues. 

One important element of this involves dealing with permits. A builder will need to apply for permits when doing almost any kind of work on a property. This is done to ensure that what is done holds up to legal standards. 

Preparing the Site Physically

Once everything is good to go on the legal end of things, the property itself can be prepared. Usually, this starts by leveling the site. 

This typically includes removing anything in the way of the building. It also could include digging into the ground to make room for the foundation and the septic system. 

Building the Foundation

A building's foundation starts as a series of wood frames. Then, footings are installed using a sturdy construction of concrete and rebar. All of this is laid, poured, built, and then left to cure for a period of time. 

Around this step in the process, other issues are taken care of. If the home has a basement, its walls will be constructed. Plus, the waterproofing and plumbing are integrated into the building. 

First Inspection

After everything else is done, the first inspection can take place. This inspection will involve a government worker visiting the property and examining the foundation. It ensures that everything is done properly and that the foundation is ready for the rest of the process. 

How Long Does This Step Take? 

This initial step in the house-building process is typically one of the longest. This is because it takes a lot of time to dig the home's foundation. Then, it takes even more time for the foundation to set. Add in all of the other work that is necessary, and it becomes clear why this is a lengthy step. 

Because of all of this, this step can last well over a month. This can vary based on the builder's capabilities and the type of foundation you go with. 

2. Framing

If you've ever passed by a building that looks more like a series of pillars and slats than an actual building, you've seen a house in the framing phase. At this point, the building's core, upon which most other features will rely, is created. 

The Frame Goes Up

The framing process starts by creating the system for the floor, the walls, and the roof. In most cases, this involves setting up a series of boards where these things eventually go. 

Sheathing Goes On

The frame is then covered, in some areas, with sheathing. The sheathing is designed to protect water from outside elements, like rain. However, it is also designed to allow water that has made its way inside to escape. 

This sheathing goes on the pieces of the frame that face the outside. So, in most cases, it covers the exterior walls and the home's roof. 

At this point, the windows and exterior doors are also put in. 

How Long Does This Step Take? 

This is another one of the longest steps in the home-building process. This is because it involves a lot of physical labor that often cannot be done all at once. This is especially true in multi-story homes, where all work on the second floor can only be started once the first floor is complete. 

Because of this, it can take a month or two to finish this step. The biggest factor influencing this range is the size and complexity of the house. Smaller, less-complex homes will take less time to build than their large, complex counterparts. 

3. The Home's Systems are Installed

A home isn't just a series of boards and construction materials. It needs power, water, and other comforts in order to be practical. 

The Systems

Most homes will have a multitude of systems that need to be installed. These include pipes, water lines, sewer lines, electrical wiring, ductwork, vents, and more. These systems also have features that will also need to be installed. These include things like electrical outlets, showers, other electrical receptacles, and more. All of this is installed at this stage in the process. 

Additional Inspections

At this point in the process, there is more going on with the house. So, there is more that needs to be inspected. 

Specifically, the framing, the plumbing, and the electrical system will need to be inspected. This will happen in a similar way to the first inspection. 

How Long Does This Step Take? 

Actually installing all of the home's systems can take a few weeks. However, the inspections on top of this can add more time to this step. To avoid this, these inspections should be scheduled in advance. 

4. The House is Insulated

Any home seeking to provide the residents with protection from the elements will need to be insulated. Insulation keeps in heat or cold while keeping out the opposite. Effective insulation can be the difference between a low and a high energy bill. 

How exactly a home is insulated will depend on the home, the builder, and even the climate and location of the home. There are a wide variety of insulation types out there, and different types are used in different jobs. Despite this, the most common types of insulation include fiberglass, cellulose, and foam. 

No matter what insulation is chosen, it will be installed into the home's exterior walls and attic. It will also usually be included in the walls, floors, or ceilings that separate any insulated portions of the home from any uninsulated portions of the home. This can happen, for example, if a crawl space is not insulated yet shares a wall with one of the home's rooms. 

How Long Does This Step Take? 

This is one of the shorter steps in the process. It can be finished in as little as a week. However, it can also go longer, with two weeks being common as well. 

Again, this is heavily dependent on the home itself. A smaller, less-complex home will take less time than the alternative. However, it also depends on the type of insulation that is used. 

5. Drywall, Fixtures, and Finishes

At this point in the process, the house is starting to look less like a construction project and more like a home. 


This will be even more true once the drywall is hung. Drywall is what starts turning the empty shell of a residence into something more home-like. It covers up the boards and effectively turns them into regular walls. 

Once the drywall is hung, it is given a primer paint coat. More paint will go on later, but at this point, primer is necessary. 

External Finishes

While the inside of the house starts coming together with drywall, the outside will start coming together with a few external finishes. These include things like siding, brick, and stone. Elements like these will give the outside of the house a complete look. 

They also play a massive part in determining the overall feel of the house's exterior. A brick house has a very different appeal from a house with siding. Understanding this and knowing what you want is critical in this step in the process. 

How Long Does This Step Take? 

In a small home, this step might only take a few days. However, it will take longer in larger homes, with a few weeks being a possibility. 

6. Interior Trim and Exterior Fixtures

Now that the home is coming together, some smaller touches are necessary. There are still some big projects to be done, but small details can be more of a focus. 

Interior Trim

Many interior elements, both decorative and functional, are installed at this point. This includes things like interior doors, door casings, moldings, baseboards, balusters, and more. 

This step also includes some painting. The walls themselves are painted for a final time, or they are wallpapered. Meanwhile, if the decorative elements are going to be painted, they will also be painted at this point.

Painting equipment next to a ladder

Exterior Features

Meanwhile, on the outside, some features are put in as well. The biggest of these is the driveway, typically an asphalt driveway. This may have been poured earlier in the process. However, many builders choose to wait until this point so that the driveway isn't damaged by any of the other heavy pieces of machinery entering and exiting the property. 

If a patio or other large piece of hardscape is desired, it will be placed at this stage too. While this will involve a different process than what was used for the driveway, it is even more fragile and, thus, needs to be done at this late point. 

Most walkways will also be placed at this time. This is typically true if the walkway is made from a more intense material. However, if the walkway is just something simple, such as walkways constructed from a few stone pavers, it can go in when other landscaping details are taken care of. 

How Long Does This Step Take? 

This is another one of the longer steps. This is because many of the steps at this point rely on waiting a period of time before doing anything. For example, painting a home requires the paint to finish drying, while laying a driveway will require the asphalt to set. 

This makes this step last, on average, between one to two months. 

7. Flooring and Countertops on The Inside and Grading on the Outside

This is one of the later steps in the process. As such, some of the more delicate pieces of the house are placed within it. Meanwhile, the outside gets some final attention. 

Flooring and Countertops

Flooring and countertops, especially certain types, are quite delicate. Because of this, they are usually saved until this point in the process, when heavy equipment and fixtures will no longer be dragged through the house. This prevents the flooring from being scratched and the countertops from being chipped or even shattered. 

Exterior Grading

With the driveway and other major hardscape features done, there will not be much left to do outside. So at this point, exterior grading can happen. 

This grading will finalize what the land around the house will be like. This is important from practical and aesthetic purposes. 

From a practical standpoint, the exterior grading helps make the area functional. The grading is a critical part of a yard's drainage. Slopes will be placed to allow water to run where it needs to go and, if planned properly, areas where water will pool unnecessarily will be eliminated. 

From an aesthetic standpoint, the exterior grading is the foundation for future landscaping. It will help make flower beds or other areas of vegetation possible. Because of this, it is helpful to have an idea of what the landscape will look like before this gets started. 

How Long Does This Step Take? 

If properly executed, this step shouldn't take too long. Flooring and grading can both be finished in a few days. Meanwhile, installing countertops doesn't take long at all. 

With this in mind, you should budget a few days for this step. 

Related: 15 Exterior Home Remodeling and Renovation Ideas

8. Mechanical Trim and Bathroom Fixtures

This step includes more of the finishing touches that will go on to complete the house. This means that different elements of mechanical trim are put in, and bathroom fixtures are installed. 

Mechanical Trim

The biggest element to be installed here relates to the functioning of the home's electrical system. Light fixtures are installed in rooms, and switches are installed and connected to them. Outlets are also put in, and the electrical panel is finished. 

Meanwhile, HVAC elements and equipment are also put in place. This includes things like the thermostat and registers. 

Bathroom Fixtures

While larger bathroom fixtures were put in earlier in the process, smaller ones are put in at this point. This includes things like sinks, faucets, toilets, and bidets. These are directly hooked into the water and sewer systems. 

How Long Does This Step Take? 

While this step mostly includes small things, these start to add up. To finish everything, it may take a few weeks to complete this step. 

9. Decorative Elements, Finalizing Flooring, and Landscaping

This is essentially one of the final phases of the building process where construction and installation actually take place. Once again, this mostly involves putting the finishing touches on things that were already started. However, it also can include a few bigger projects. 

More Bathroom Features

At this point, the bathrooms in the home are nearly complete. However, now, mirrors are installed. They are also installed in any other locations where mirrors are wanted. In addition, shower doors are put on in any bathrooms that need them. 


Non-carpet flooring was installed earlier in the process, so now, the carpet is put in. Saving it until this point prevents any dirt or debris from being tracked through the house and on the carpet. This is important because cleaning a carpet, especially one with stains, is not a process you want to do repeatedly. 

Once this is done, the flooring is finalized, and all of it is cleaned. 


Outside of the house, landscaping starts. Depending on the house, this could be a relatively easy part of the process or the start of a whole new project

In either case, a few things are always done. Large plants like trees and shrubs are planted. Meanwhile, the yard is seeded with grass. Even if nothing else takes place, these things will provide the basis for a landscape and will make the house look nice. 

From there, landscaping can get more intense. Flowerbeds can be constructed and filled with whatever is desired. Decorative features can also be placed. In these more intense situations, a site plan or other helpful tool can be of great use. 

How Long Does This Step Take? 

Putting in bathroom features and carpeting should only take a week. Neither of these is a complex or lengthy process. 

Landscaping can take a week or more as well. However, this will obviously vary dramatically depending on the complexity of the landscape. A complex landscape can take much longer, to the point where it will actually drag on after the rest of the home's construction is complete. 

10. Final Walkthrough

Now that everything is complete, all that is left to do is take a final walkthrough. This involved the building walking the homeowner through the house. This is done to introduce owners to the property and potentially spot any issues. 

Introducing the House

Owners need to be introduced to the home because there may be things about it that they didn't understand at first. The builder will explain what is inside and outside the home and how everything works. They will also explain things the owner should do to keep the house running smoothly. 

While being introduced to a home, paying attention and being involved is important. Ask questions if you don't understand something and feel free to ask the builder to clarify something to make sure you do understand it. In addition, take notes if possible. Doing so will allow you to access specific information later and is a way to remind yourself about what was discussed.

Woman giving house tour to a happy family

Looking for Problems

On this walkthrough, the owner should also be on the lookout for any issues. It is possible that something went wrong with the building process, was damaged, or was done that the owner simply doesn't like. This is the time to point out and talk about these issues with the builder. 

In some cases, they will be able to fix the issue easily. They may not have realized that something was out of place, or they may have misunderstood the owner's instructions. If this is the case, they will often go out of their way to fix the issue as quickly as possible. 

This entire step in the process is important because it is necessary to catch any issues before move-in. This allows the owner to prove that the problem was caused by the builder, not themself. For example, imagine a situation where one of the hardwood floors has a large scratch on it. If the owner brings it up during the walkthrough, the builder immediately realizes it was their fault and, therefore, should fix it. However, if they wait to bring it up at some point after they move in, the builder has no proof that the owner didn't cause the problem and, thus, is less likely to fix it for them. 

How Long Does This Step Take? 

The final walkthrough shouldn't take too long. In general, it can take around a week. 

However, this depends on how much work still needs to be done. If many things need to be addressed, the process will take longer than if the house is ready to go. 

Building a House for Beginners

Building a house takes a lot of work and some serious understanding to complete. However, with this step-by-step guide, you now have a tool to tell you exactly what to expect. With this in hand, you're ready to start building your own house!

Related: 10 Home Addition Ideas to Add Square Footage

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  • Ryan Crownholm