The Building Process: A to Z


Although there are many details to building a home, here is a general outline to help you understand the process.

Lot Selection

Lot selection is probably the most important aspect of building a home. You can always change the way a house looks but there is only so much you can do with the land. We suggest that you hire an agent who understands the area and the land purchase process. Call us for realtor recommendations.

Consider the location carefully especially its proximity to commuter roads, shopping and schools. Look at the lay of the land.

Features such as steep drop-offs, rock outcroppings, drainage problems or poor access roads may increase costs. Find out if utilities such as gas, electricity, sewer and water are available, especially if you are buying a lot in a country setting, and how much it will cost to access them. In many rural settings, well and septic may need to be installed.

Consider in general terms the structure you would like to build, including square footage, number of floors, number and types of rooms, architectural style, as well as any specific features you want, such as a walkout basement, pool or large deck. Depending on the size and design of your home, a particular lot may or may not work.

Investigate what the future holds for neighboring properties. Will other houses be built? How many? Are they zoned for residential or could commercial buildings be put in? Is there a possibility of additional buildings or roads being added in the future? How will your view be impacted? Are there areas where you will be restricted as to what you can build – easements, restrictions (i.e., flood plains, steep slopes)? Once you find a lot you like ask the owner for a survey and any pertinent documents they may have including well and septic info. All Northern Virginia jurisdictions have websites that you can check for information on topography and building restrictions.

The county government has created a New Homebuyer Info Guide to help potential homebuyers navigate the process of purchasing a home or property in Loudoun County.  Check it out for more information on a wide variety of topics.

We will be happy to look at the lot with you and provide suggestions once you find a property you are interested in and have approved financing. Contact us and we will assist you with all of this and help you structure any agreements to your advantage.

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Financing a home should be the first step in the building process for anybody. Financing a custom home is very different from financing an existing home or tract home. You will need to deal with a bank that is experienced in construction loans.  We’ll be happy to assemble a package for you.   Be sure to ask them how much experience they have in this area. Call us for recommendations.

Even before you start looking at property, it is important to determine how much house you can buy. Get pre-qualified so you know how much you can spend and for what amount you need to make the construction loan.

There are different types of loans:

  • A construction-only loan, which basically lends you the money during the construction period and must be refinanced at the end of the construction cycle.
  • A construction-to-perm loan, which is a construction loan for a fixed period of time that transfers to a permanent loan for 15-, 20-, or 30-year loan at an agreed-upon rate. This is the most common.

Tell your lender what your exact plans are for building a home. Let them know whether you own the land, don’t have land yet, or are buying the new home and land as a package. Let them see the house plans when you get them. Also, talk to us and let us know where you stand with the loan process. Working together with the lender and builder can make things much easier. We will assemble a package for you with home plans, detailed specifications, and construction and draw schedules.

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Home Plans

One of the most fun and creative aspects of building your own home is coming up with a design that works especially for you. Make a listing of your family’s requirements: how many bedrooms you need, how large the rooms should be, what floor plan you want in your kitchen, if you want a formal living room and dining room, and so forth.

Look around at houses you like in your area. Take note of details you like on houses you see; for example, you may not like your neighbor’s entire house, but you love the porch. Read home design magazines for ideas. Read books on home design as well as those with collections of plans. Look at home plans online. Fairhaven Homes has several plans readily available. If they don’t suit your needs feel free to peruse other home plans sites. Some that we suggest are listed to the right.

Ordering plans online is a great way to get started. Many of these home plan designers will even customize their plans to your needs. However, keep in mind that most of the plans you buy will still need to be engineered and certified by a local professional. Every county in Northern Virginia will require some sort of architectural approval and plan review and many plans were not designed to meet local standards.

Bring your thoughts and ideas to an architect so he or she can draw up building plans. The architect can also catch any problems or suggest changes. If you need help finding an architect, we will be happy to help you after we meet to review your needs.

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Sticks and Bricks

Your loans and plans are approved, so it’s time to break ground. Fairhaven coordinates all of the subcontractors and material required. We begin by clearing your house site of any trees or obstructions, taking care to save and protect as many trees as possible. The basement is excavated, footings are poured and the walls are formed and poured. As the walls cure, the foundation is sealed and the drainage systems for ground water and plumbing are installed. The process to install your foundation will take about 30 days.

Many people consider the framing stage to be the most exciting. When the framing crew finishes the first floor deck, you will finally be able to take your first walk around your new house. It is an exciting moment. The framing carpenters generally take three to six weeks depending on the size and complexity of your home. You will be able to watch the basic structure take shape very quickly. Your home will suddenly have walls, a roof, and windows. Once the roof is on, we “dry-in” the building by installing the windows and papering the roof.

As the individual trades converge on your house, things will appear to slow down considerably. In reality, a lot more work is actually being done on your house during the rough-in stage. It just isn’t as dramatic as the previous construction stages. During the next six weeks, dozens of people will be installing the inner workings and options of your house as well as scores of back-ups and blocking for things yet to be installed.

This may not be the most exciting time, but it is very important that everything and everybody be properly coordinated. Taking the time to get things right at the rough-in stage saves lots of aggravation later on.

Meanwhile, your masonry work and shingles have been completed and we’re ready for county inspections (which take about a week). Then it’s time to insulate and drywall. Hanging the drywall goes quickly, and now the rooms take on their definition. Drywall finishing takes about 10 days–then comes the trim work and finishing details.

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Finishing Details

This is where the house takes on your personality. As soon as the drywall is finished and sanded, it’s time to start your interior trim work – interior doors are installed, windows are trimmed, base moldings are put in, and crown molding and custom details are installed in selected rooms. Once the trim carpenter is finished, the painter caulks and putties all the trim work and puts on the prime coat of paint. Then the drywall contractor returns for the first of three quality checks. The second coat of paint and enamel is applied.

Now all of the finish and mechanical trades return to install bath and kitchen cabinets, plumbing and electrical fixtures, hardwood floors, and all other finishing details. Then the house is locked tight while the hardwood floors are sanded and finished. Next, the appliances are delivered and the carpet installed. The finish crew does a final paint and drywall touch-up. Meanwhile, your yard is fine-graded, sidewalks and driveways installed, landscaping completed and final inspections for home occupancy finished.

The home is ready for you to walk through one week before you move in to ensure that everything is to your liking.

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