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12 Clear Steps to Building a House

So you've been thinking about building your dream home for years but where to start? While it might seem very complicated, there are clear stages of building a house from the first plans and permits, all the way through construction, up to the final walkthrough. Here at Fortress Home, we've been helping families around Chicago build their perfect custom homes for over 20 years, guiding them painlessly through the stages of building a house and helping them to realize their dreams.

Your ultimate house building guide

Let's look at the process from the first ideas to move-in day. This step by step guide to building a house below may differ slightly based on your location and the type of home you're building but it should give you a general idea of the required steps to building a house.

What sort of house do you want?

Before you take the first steps to building a house you need to decide what sort of house you really want.

There are various types of new homes available, including:

  1. Tract homes, which are usually a standard design and layout, with very little chance to customize;
  2. Speculative homes, which are more customizable than tract homes but are still going to look very similar to all the other houses in a neighborhood;
  3. Custom homes are the best option if you're looking for the house of your dreams as you can customize absolutely everything.

Plans and permits steps to building a house

Now you've decided on the type of house you want but how to start building a house? If you've decided that you want a custom home then the first step in building a house is to develop your plans and blueprints or buy pre-designed plans from your developer.

At Fortress Home we're experts in custom home design and building so can help you with designing your dream home if you don't already have a completed set of plans.


Let your imagination soar as you work with an architect to put your ideas down on paper. The architect should have local knowledge of building codes so they can ensure all plans are to code. Your contractor will come up with a budget estimate at this stage, to ensure your dreams are achievable.

Once you have blueprints and a lot to build on your building permit can be applied for, allowing the hard physical work to begin.

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Preparing the site

Hopefully, your lot is cleared and ready to be built on. If not, the first step to building a house will be to get a team to clear the building site, demolish any existing structures, and clear away plants and debris.

Expect to see some bulldozers and dump trucks on your site at this stage. Depending on the type of land you're building the builders will need to ensure proper drainage, so your new construction doesn't end up in a swamp. Your builders will stake out the shape of the house and dig trenches ready for the foundation.

Foundations - the essential steps to building a house

The first steps to building a home, once the ground is ready, is to pour the foundation or put in a basement. This may involve concrete blocks or poured foundations and is vital to the structural integrity of your home. The type and depth of the foundations will depend on the type of soil and structure you're building, but all foundations need to be waterproof.

During this stage of building a house, the underground plumbing will be installed and connected to the city sewer system. At the end of this stage, you will have a flat concrete area in the shape and size of your house. As the concrete takes some time to dry and cure, depending on the weather, you may have to wait a little while before the next stage of construction gets underway.

Getting this step right is essential to giving you a solid, long-lasting house.

Framing

The next phases of building a house involve the framing or shell of the house. This is the first point where you'll really begin to see your new home appear as the framers begin construction. The workers will create the skeleton of your house, usually using lumber and steel, building the walls, ceilings, floors, and roof trusses. This frame will be covered with plywood or board giving rough walls, but this will soon be covered up.

At Fortress Home we use the highest quality materials at all stages, including ensuring the structure has a proper reinforcement system, which means we can guarantee you'll have a solid and durable home.


Roofing

Once the framing is completed you want to ensure the next steps building a house make it watertight and safe from the elements. Putting on the roof will go a long way to keeping your new home dry. So the roofers will install your choice of roof systems.

External windows and doors

The next steps to building a house also ensure it's safe from the elements, as your exterior doors and windows will be fitted. At this point, you'll see some of the design elements you've chosen start to appear, in the design of your windows and doors.

Electrical, plumbing and HVAC

While the roof, windows, and doors are installed our experienced team of plumbers and electricians will be busy running wires and pipes through the walls, ceilings, and floors. Ductwork and vents will also be put in for your HVAC system, ensuring you're cool in summer and warm in winter.

At Fortress Home we ensure your HVAC system is high-efficiency, keeping you comfortable year-round while keeping your utility bills down.

Sockets, light switches and electrical outlets will be connected and rough plumbing will be put in place in the bathrooms, kitchen and utility room, ready to connect your fittings.

At this point in the home building process, your utilities will be connected, which are exciting stages of building a home.

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Insulation

Here in Chicago good insulation is vital, to keep your energy bills down in those cold winter months and when building a house step by step you'll want to avoid cutting costs in this area. After the basic wiring and plumbing have been fitted the insulation can be installed. It should be placed in all exterior walls, basements, attics, roofs and crawl spaces.

Some common types of insulation include:

  • Fiberglass insulation comes in rolls, which fit in between joists and beams in the walls, ceilings and floors.
  • Foam spray insulation can be sprayed into cavities in difficult-to-reach places and can be used in both large and small areas. It can be used in existing walls as well as new walls.
  • Cellulose insulation is similar to foam spray insulation and is often blown or poured into cavities in the wall. This is particularly useful for hard-to-reach places.

At Fortress Home we use advanced insulation technologies to make sure your home is warm in winter, cool in summer and most of all, energy-efficient, keeping your utility bills low. This will help both your bank balance and the environment for many years to come.

Drywall and siding

Once the insulation has been installed it's time to cover the exterior walls with your siding of choice and the interior walls with drywall.

Drywall will be hung, covering all the interior walls and ceilings of the house, and fastened in place using nails or screws. Once it's in place it will be primed, ready for the first coat of paint, in your choice of colors.

Your choice of exterior siding will also be installed, for example:

  • Stone
  • Brick
  • Wood
  • Stucco

Interior finish steps to building a house

At this point in the order of building a house, you'll really see your vision come to fruition. Tradespeople, decorators, plumbers and electricians will be busy throughout your new home. This is a very exciting time in the home building process, especially if this is the first time you've built a new home.

Flooring

Your flooring will be laid, covering up the concrete or bare floorboards. This might include tiles, hardwood floors and carpets

Interior Trim

Once the flooring is in place workers will install your interior doors. The interior trim also includes things like window sills, baseboards, stair railings and balusters - things you don't usually think of but make a house look finished, neat and complete.

Decoration

Have you been dreaming of a feature wall, or a room papered to look like the jungle? At this point of building a house step by step, you'll get to see the painters and decorators coming through, ensuring each room looks beautiful.

Fitted units

At this point in the home building process carpenters will begin to build or assemble any fitted kitchen and bathroom units, vanities, or fitted wardrobes and countertops.

Interior fixtures and fittings

Light fixtures and fittings will be installed at this point in the build. Along with plumbing fixtures, which will go in, including sinks, showers, faucets, and bathtubs.

Appliances

Your appliances will also be installed at this stage in the construction process, with your oven, washing machine, fridge, freezer all being hooked up and ready to use.

Landscaping & exterior finishes

Don't forget the exterior of your house. These are often left until last, to avoid heavy equipment causing any damage. Landscaping and exterior finishes may include:

  • Pouring driveways
  • Laying footpaths
  • Building decking
  • Putting in pools or ponds
  • Completing the construction of a garage

Inspections

Throughout the construction steps for building a house, you will have had various inspections to ensure all the work is to code. These may include inspections of the foundations, framing, plumbing, electrical work and HVAC installation, and depending on your local government regulations, other construction stages of building a house.

A final inspection may be carried out by a city inspector as, depending on the local regulations, it may be required for a certificate of occupancy for your new residence.


As the new owner, you should also always have a final walk through with your contractor. During the final walkthrough, your contractor will go through the house with you in great detail, checking that everything is finished as it should be. They will also make sure you know how to use your HVAC and that you have all manuals and warranty documents for your new house. At the end of this walkthrough, you may have a list of things for the contractor's team to finish or fix before you make the final payment for your new custom home.

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Fortress Home combines the roles of a general contractor, a construction partner, and a construction manager. Our talented workforce helps us professionally manage all aspects of on-site construction.

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