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How Long Does it Take to Build a House and What Affects the Speed?

If you're about to start building your dream home we bet you have lots of questions, including 'how long does it take to build a home?' At Fortress Home we have a very thorough planning process and like to be honest and open with all our clients about the timescales for their construction. This means we commit to milestones we can achieve and always meet our deadlines. Here we offer you some advice on how to reduce the construction time and let you know what factors can influence the speed of build.

How fast can you build a house?

While people are interested in the average build time for a new home the question they usually want to know the answer to is 'how fast can you build a house?' The answer to this depends on many factors.

The average time to build a single-family home is seven months, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but this can vary from as little as three months to well over a year, or even longer for particularly complex and large custom homes.


With factors like weather, materials, and worker availability having a major impact on the timeframe to build a house more specifics are needed to give a precise answer to how long it will take for your exact house.

Because many of these factors are location-specific (especially the climate), the answer to the question 'how long does it take to build a new home?' will vary a lot from state to state. For example, in the Southern region, it takes on average 5.9 months to build a new house, while in the Northeast that average figure leaps to a hefty 10.7 months.

What factors impact the housebuilding speed?

Weather and topography

Before the build even starts the topography, or land your plot is on can cause delays. If there are large rocks or underground water sources that weren't previously known about they can increase the amount of time needed to prepare the land before construction can even begin.

Remote building sites also have access issues and getting materials and workers to the site may take longer than usual.

The weather can also have a major impact on certain steps in the process. The foundations need dry weather to set and temperature and humidity can increase the amount of time it takes for your foundation to be ready. The framing and roof need to be erected during dry weather as well, to avoid damaging the materials and getting water into the site. But fortunately, once the roof is on and sealed weather becomes less of a factor.

Contractor or owner-builder

Another major factor that will decide the speed of the build early on in the process is whether you decided to build the house yourself or if you work with a dependable contractor. The average build times are:

  • Contractor-built for sale home - 6 months

  • Contractor-built custom home - 9 months

  • Owner-built home - 12 months

The increase in time for owner-built homes is likely due to a combination of inexperience, lack of subcontractor contacts, and uncertainty about the planning and inspection process.

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Permits and inspections

Before you can even begin to build you need a building permit, and all your plans must be to code, in order to receive this. Custom build plans or plans drawn up by an architect who doesn't know the local building codes can all lead to delays in getting your plans approved.

During the build, your house will be subject to several inspections and if you fail any of them the problems will need to be rectified before construction can move onto the next stage.

These delays can be avoided by working with a local contractor, like Fortress Home in Chicago, who works alongside local architects and understands the planning approval process, making obtaining permits a straightforward process. They also understand what is required to pass inspections, so failing any is very unlikely.

Subcontractor expertise and availability

If you are starting the construction process at the time of year with the best weather, you won't be alone. This means there can be high demand for skilled and experienced workers, which can lead to delays. And one delay in a contractor's availability can have a knock-on delay further down the line when one job relies on another already being completed.

The experience and knowledge of the contractors working on the actual construction will have a great bearing on the speed of work. If they are new to the trade it is very likely they will take longer, especially when faced with problems or unusual situations on the building site.

Working with a general contractor who directly employs a team of skilled workers, like Fortress HOme, can be a great solution to this problem. They will have full visibility and awareness of where all their team is scheduled at any time so can be careful to avoid any overlaps and delays in the home construction process.


House style and size

The larger the new house, the longer it will take to build but the type of house can also play a major role in the time it takes to build:

  • Prefab homes are generally the quickest to construct, once planning approval has been obtained, as the parts arrive on the site, ready to assemble.
  • Custom homes usually take a lot longer to build for a variety of reasons, including the fact the plans may take longer to approve, especially if they are being refined. If they use non-standard doors and windows these may need to be custom ordered, and depending on the supplier and the shipper, this can lead to substantial delays in the building process.

What can you do to speed up the building process?

When wondering 'how long does it take to build a house?' many people want tips on speeding up the process, so here are a few pieces of advice

Work with a reliable contractor who makes a thorough plan

Working with a thorough and dependable general contractor can speed up the home building process considerably. They will be able to make sure your plans are to code, your permits are issued on time and all inspections, including the final inspection, run smoothly. They should also have access to a reliable network of contractors and ready access to all the required building materials.

At Fortress Home we have a very thorough planning process, giving you meticulous budgets and schedules so you'll really understand the construction project process. We also employ a team of experts who are on hand to build your house, when needed.

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Stick to your plan

If you are building a custom home, or even just customizing the interior, changes to your plan can lead to major delays. Depending on the complexity of the changes, the updated plans may need to be approved and new materials may need to be purchased.

So sticking to your plan can help manage the time it takes to build a house.

Have the money ready

You will be paying for the home building project in stages, and your contractor should give you a payment plan. Make sure you have any loans or financing in place before the payments are due. If you don't have the money ready the timeframe for building a house may be subject to delay, as the contractor won't be able to pay for the required materials or workers.

Be flexible and decisive

No matter how well you plan there will always be unexpected circumstances when constructing a new house. Maybe the tiles you've chosen for the bathroom are suddenly out of stock. If you can choose and agree on a substitute design in a timely fashion this will prevent any additional delays. But if you can't decide on a new design, or insist on waiting for the original tiles to come back into stock you might cause big delays.

Choose a non-custom house

If you choose a design the builders have built previously they will be quicker and more efficient than if they're dealing with a brand new design.

If you have to have a custom layout make sure you have standard sizes for all the windows and doors to avoid the delays that come with ordering custom units.


Build at the right time of year

This is a tricky balancing act, as you want to ensure you build when the weather is good to avoid delays due to rain, but you also want to make sure there are sufficient subcontractors available for your build. Working with general contractors like Fortress Home can mitigate any worker shortages, as they have their own team ready to go, letting you build in those favorable summer months.

Frequently asked questions

How long does it realistically take to build a house?

If you're wondering 'how long to build a new house?' you can see that there are many factors that go into the house building process. However, on average in the US it takes around 7 months to build a house. Especially if you're not living in a Northeastern state and take our advice above then you should be able to stick to a reasonable schedule and meet the main milestones for your build, on time.

Can you build a house in 3 months?

When asking the question 'how long does it take to build a house?' you might have heard that 3 months is possible. If you already have the building plans and permit in place, you're building a small standard or prefab house, and the weather is in your favor, three months might be possible. But we don't recommend counting on it.

How long does it take to build a house in 2021?

While we don't have any new figures for how long to build a house in 2021 we can tell you that there have been some holdups in building material supplies. These include lumber shortages, as lumber mills had to close down for social-distancing reasons, and with other materials that come from overseas, due to pandemic-related shipping delays. Depending on the materials required to build a house this could increase the average build time, but will not affect every project.

If you work with general contractors who are aware of the situation they will be well placed to mitigate any delays and suggest either alternative materials or plan extra time into your schedule.

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