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Building a House From the Ground Up - your complete guide

Building your dream home may seem like a massive undertaking but if you work with an expert general contractor, like Fortress Home, Chicago, we'll make the project painless for you. We outline our process for building a house from start to finish and give you an idea of the questions you'll need to think about before we start work on your perfect house.

Points for you to consider when building a house from the ground up

Once you've made the decision to build your own house you need to take several key things into consideration. When you're planning to build a house before you find an architect or a general contractor you should make some decisions and get your finances in order.

Budgeting and finances

Before the home building process begins it's very important to have a clear budget in mind. This should be arrived at in two ways - firstly what you can afford and secondly what the overall cost of will be for your home's construction. You should also ensure you have a contingency fund with extra cash for any unexpected occurrences, which are very likely to occur.

Unless you are independently wealthy it's likely you'll need to look into home construction loans to help you build your own home.

A construction loan is a loan specifically to pay for the home building process and usually requires you to have building plans in place and have found your general contractor.


Planning

If you're wondering how to plan to build a house you should first put together a list of non-negotiables and desirable features for your new custom home. It's always best to split the list this way, so you know where you can save money and where you can't.

In your planning stage you should consider:

  • Your ideal floor plan
  • Desired square footage
  • Outdoor space
  • Style of home and materials
  • Lighting and natural lighting
  • Essential features

You should involve everyone who will be living in the new house during this stage and you can get inspiration from many places:

  • Walking through your current home discussing what you love about it and what you want to change is a great place to start.
  • Search online or read architectural and home magazines.
  • Talk to a local real estate agent about what features are currently popular for homes in your area.

Our basics of building a house

Once you have completed the initial process in building a house you can start looking for the best general contractor to work with, and if you don't already have house plans, look for an architect. After you have found your house builders you can move on to the next stages to building a house.

What goes into building a house will vary somewhat depending on the type of house you're planning and who is building it but there are also a lot of overlaps. As experienced home builders we want to share with you our procedure to build a house so you understand what's going on every step of the way.

Project development

At Fortress Home, we offer a complete service that includes helping you assess land and find the right plot for your property, sharing our extensive knowledge of Chicago and its residential neighborhoods with you. We will also assist you with getting the right plans for your new home.

During this stage we will also work up thorough budgets for every step of the project, so you'll understand exactly what you need to spend to build your new home. We can advise on where you can save money and where costs should not be cut.

We will go over important factors to do with zoning and planning laws and ensure your plans meet the local government building codes. Your building permit application will be prepared and submitted for you and once that's approved we're ready to start work on the building site.

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Site preparation

The first steps in your home construction are to clear and level the plot and put in high-quality foundations and a waterproof concrete slab, ensuring your custom home has the best footing possible.

Our experienced team understands the geology of the area and knows how important the foundation is when building a house from the ground up.

The basic structure

Once the foundation is in place the first batch of building materials will be delivered to the building site and the framing and basic structure will be erected.

We are experts in wood frame, masonry, and steel structures, depending on your specific project design. All our construction work uses the best quality building materials and we ensure that your new home is fully reinforced, ready to stand the test of time.

During this stage the floor and roof trusses will be installed, exterior walls will be completed and your rough plumbing, wiring, and ductwork for the HVAC will be put in place.

By the end of this step, your new home will be watertight, using the most waterproof materials available, ready for Chicago's rain and snow.

Windows and doors

The next step is to complete the internal framing and install high-quality external windows and doors.

At this point, you'll get a feel for what your new home will feel like when finished, although it might seem rather dark, without the finished decor, and scaffold still up.

Insulation

With cold winters and hot summers, good-quality insulation is vital.

At Fortress Home we prefer to use closed-cell foam insulation which as well as moderating temperature changes is also great for soundproofing.


Using this type of insulation is also great for the energy efficiency of your new home and will keep utility bills to a minimum.

Power, water, and HVAC

Before the interior walls and flooring can go up we first need to finish connecting up the plumbing, wiring, and HVAC system. Our team of expert plumbers and electricians will connect up your new home and ensure everything is completed safely and up to code.

The systems we use all promote energy efficiency and comfort, ensuring that your new home will be comfortable and cheap to run. This is a step where we discourage cutting any corners as you'll end up spending a lot more in the long run, with higher maintenance costs and utility bills.

Recommended reading

Custom homes on your lot!
If you currently own a lot, or need help finding one, Fortress Home is excited to offer comprehensive on-your-lot home building services. We have many ideal floor plans for building on your lot, don't worry - we can modify our standard plans or develop a fully custom plan just for you.
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Interior finish

At this point, your new home construction will really come to life, with the interior buzzing with work. This is an exciting stage with many things happening, often at once:

  • Everything will be meticulously cleaned.
  • Drywall will be hung and painted.
  • Floors and tiling will be laid.
  • Stair rails, baseboards, and cornice work will be completed.
  • Fittings like door handles, light fixtures, hooks, and rails will be installed.

Cabinetry and appliances

Our team of master carpenters will come in and build or install any kitchen and bathroom units and cabinets. Any other built-in furniture like closets and counters will be completed.

Sinks, faucets, bathtubs, and showers will also be plumbed in by our professional plumbers.

Once they are in place our electrician will install all your appliances, making sure they work perfectly.

The final touches

At this stage, your house is pretty much complete. We will give it a final thorough clean and quality control checks to make sure everything is completed as discussed.

If required there will be a final inspection by the local building official and then we will take you on a final walk-through of your new home.

This is your opportunity to check that everything has been completed as agreed, ensure that all the finishes are perfect, and make sure you know how everything works.


If there is anything that needs fixing or changing this is your chance to let us know, and to ensure you are 100% satisfied with your new home.

Frequently asked Questions

How much does it cost to build a house from the ground up?

So you want to build a house? One of the most common questions we hear is how much will it cost. This varies greatly by location and type of house, but the national average cost is around $280,000. However, prices in Chicago are generally much higher, as they are in most major urban areas. The average cost for building a house in Chicago is around $450,000, although this will vary by the area of the city you choose. So the actual range is from $205,000 to $740,000.

Is it cheaper to build a house from the ground up?

Currently in Chicago, the median price of buying a house is around $310,000 which is lower than the average price of buying a house. But this is not comparing like to like, as people earlier on the housing ladder usually buy cheaper homes and are less likely to build. So the houses being built are more often larger or custom homes.

The best way to decide if I need to build a house or buy one is to speak to a local realtor who will be able to apprise you of the local market.

What is the process of building a house from the ground up?

When learning how to build a house from start to finish here's our brief step by step guide:

  • Preparing the plans and permits
  • Buying land
  • Preparing the land for construction
  • Foundation work
  • Erecting the framing and roof and house wrap
  • Put in rough plumbing, wiring, and HVAC
  • Install insulation and complete drywalling
  • Interior fixtures, fittings, and decoration
  • Cabinetry, counters, and flooring
  • Final bathroom fixtures, interior fittings, and appliances
  • Final exterior construction and landscaping
  • Final inspection
 

It's important to note that some of these steps will take much longer than others and parts of one stage can overlap with others.

How long does it take to build a house from the ground up?

Depending on the complexity of your build, the location, and the weather construction times can vary greatly. Weather is a major factor, that can lead to many delays, especially when doing the initial groundwork, foundation, and framing. Custom houses with lots of custom units such as windows and doors can also suffer from delays due to suppliers and delivery companies.

However, on average if you work with a contractor the build time usually ranges from 6 - 9 months. For owner-builders and their first time building a house it's likely to take a lot longer, usually at least 12 months.

Why Fortress Home

With a 20 plus year legacy of building quality homes across Chicago, Fortress Home is a trusted partner for families across the city. As a family-run business, we like to believe that our family is working with your family to realize your new house dreams. With a focus on quality construction and a valued team of experienced plumbers, electricians, masons, and many more skilled experts we make the building process as smooth as possible. Contact us at +773-770-8607 or [email protected] for a free no-obligation consultation today.

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FORTRESS HOME

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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