Using a do it yourself home building checklist to build your own home, can save you a lot of money. It also requires a lot of knowledge and understanding of construction. It is possible for almost any family of able bodied people to learn to build a home, and the skills you develop will be applicable to many future projects as well.
There are a few tasks that your family will have to hire professionals to complete. You will need help with grading, installing the well and septic system, pouring the footings, and other concrete work, simply because of the need for heavy and expensive equipment. You will also need a licensed electrician to do the electrical work in order to comply with the laws in most states. You may also need help with the plumbing, and building a fireplace. These jobs usually require the expertise of a professional, or at least someone with a good bit of experience.
o Clear the Lot – Tree and stump removal. Talk with your grading professional to find out how much of this he can do, and how much you’ll need to do yourself. How much would you save by doing more yourself?
o Grading and/or Excavation – Home building is much easier if the land under the home is perfectly level. We know from looking at historic homes however that machine grading is not absolutely necessary. If you plan to have a basement, excavation of the soil that is now in your future basement, will have to be dug out and removed. While it might be theoretically possible to dig a basement with a shovel, it’s more work than most people would want to tackle. It is much more sensible to hire someone with heavy equipment to dig your basement.
o Well – Hire a well drilling company to drill your well.
o Septic – Hire a septic tank company to install a septic system.
o Drive way Prep – While the grading company is there, have them level your driveway. It will be easiest to do this now.
o Dig Footings – This can be done by hand, or with rented equipment, but it is much, much easier to get the grading company to do it.
o Build the wooden Forms for pouring the footings – This is a do-it-yourself project if you are up to it. Be sure you do this by the specifications for your area though. Research it extensively and ask your building inspector, and your concrete company for any advice they may have on doing this.
o Pour Driveway or Gravel and get the Gravel for the Footings – It may involve different types of gravel but it’s easier to get the same company to do this, at approximately the same time.
o Pour Footings – You will need rebar, gravel, and a concrete truck. Alternately you could use your own cement mixer. It takes longer and while you might save on doing it this way, it could also lead to a costly mistake. The footings are the single most important part of your home. I’d recommend paying a tiny bit extra to have this professionally done.
o Pour the Driveway – While you are getting your footings poured it’s a great time to have your driveway poured if you plan on a concrete driveway.
o Burying and Running pipe from the Well and Septic to Home – Use a rented ditch witch or other pipe burying equipment to run a trench between your home and the well, and also between your well and the home. Use the appropriate pipes for each job.
o Rough Plumbing – Pipe will need to be laid under the home, before the foundation is completed. If you are doing a slab foundation, avoid running pipe under the concrete as much as possible. This is more of a house plan issue but avoid having your toilet in the center of the home. It’s a good general rule to keep the plumbing on one exterior wall of your home.
o Rough Electrical – You will need your electrician to do the rough electrical at this phase of construction.
o Lay Foundation or Pour Slab – Personally I’d get an expert to do this. It’s not that expensive. However, if you want to do this, I’d recommend using insulated concrete forms. It would be easier, and offer more insulation. Concrete block and brick are more traditional. Check your local building codes before making your decision.
o Sill Plate and Joists – For a crawl space or basement foundation, you will need to build a sill plate and a network of joists. Then you will cover this with plywood.
o Wall Framing – Whether using traditional framing, log walls, or some form of insulated concrete, the best way to learn about this is to read about it extensively, get a book on carpentry and watch all the YouTube videos you can find on the subject.
o Upper Sill Plate – build just like floor plate and joist but overhead. This can be heavy work. Be sure to have enough help on hand to do this correctly. Two people is a minimum, but four or five will make light work of this.
o Either Frame Attic with Rafters, or Use Roof Trusses – Depending on the size of your home you may need a crane for this. It is certainly easier with a crane, but with the same larger crew you used for the upper sill plate, you can probably get those trusses onto the roof. If you choose to frame your attic the old fashioned way, it’s just a matter of doing more framing.
o Sheath the Roof – Cover the rafters or trusses with three quarter inch plywood, to create the surface of the roof.
o Apply Roofing Felt – Apply roll roofing over the plywood.
o Shingle the Roof – Roofing is not complicated, but it can be hot and exhausting work. You will want to do this in the summer, so be sure to stay hydrated and take breaks every few hours.
o Sheath the Exterior – This is a simple task. Apply OSB plywood to the exterior of your home in four by eight sheets. It should match up with an 8 foot ceiling pretty well. Watch a few videos just to make sure you understand. Don’t forget to cut these boards to fit around the windows and doors before nailing it up.
o Build Chimneys and Fireplaces – Fireplaces and chimneys are by nature a fire hazard and the territory of experts. While the early pioneers built their own fireplaces, as the homes aged and mortar deteriorated, fireplaces were the leading cause of fires, and the reason for loosing many historic homes has been poorly constructed fireplaces.
o Hang Doors – Installing doors on your home is much easier if you purchase the type that comes with its own frame already. It is very simple actually. If however you have created your rough openings too small or too large it can get complex. Creating your own frames and even making your own decorative doors is also possible, and not all that difficult. It all depends on what you want.
o Install Windows – Install your windows according to the directions, and always make sure they fit the rough openings snugly. Be sure to calk around the openings well. Do all you can to eliminate and fill gaps between the windows and the home’s framing.
o Apply the Exterior Siding – In the case of a log home or insulated concrete this will not be necessary. For other applications, choose between timber clad which is a fancy way of saying clapboard, vinyl siding, stone or brick veneer. Clapboard is easy enough, and so is vinyl. You will need a brick layer or stone mason for the other choices, unless you wish to take a brick laying and masonry course at your local community college.
o Paint the Exterior if Applicable
o Install Insulation – If you are using traditional framing, be sure to hire someone to blow in closed cell insulation. Do not settle for the fiberglass kind.
o Electrical Wiring – You will need to coordinate your framing and insulation with your electrician and plumber.
o Plumbing to Bath Sink and Toilet Fixtures – You may need a plumber to do this, either because you aren’t comfortable doing it, or because it may be required by law in your state to use a licensed plumber. Plumbing is not really that difficult, especially with PEX pipe, but use your best judgment to determine if you are allowed to do this yourself, and if you are up to the job.
o Hang the Dry Wall – Hanging drywall is simple. Just put it up, and nail or screw it in place. You will have to cut the drywall to fit around windows and corners. Cover the seams and nail heads with drywall putty.
o Build Stairways – Hanging a simple stairway runner and then framing it in, in a basic way is fairly elementary. How this looks when you are finished depends largely on your skill level. If you are a bit lacking in skills and wood working equipment, keep it simple. Choose a sleek modern or rustic antique style to cover your lack of experience. Buy pre-cut runners and ready made banisters. Watch a few videos and you will be OK.
o Apply Floor Coverings – Floor coverings have different skill levels as well as grades. Vinyl floor tiles are easiest. Anyone can do that. It’s also important to note that most carpet outlets offer installation either free or at a very low price. If however you can get a deal on bargain carpet, without installation, it is possible to do it yourself. Don’t forget the padding and watch to learn how to use a carpet laying kick pad to lay carpet.
o Install Bath and Toilet Fixtures – It’s your choice whether to hire a plumber to do this or try it yourself, unless the local codes specify. If you do it yourself make sure it meets code and doesn’t leak.
o Interior Paint and Wall Paper – This is a very simple job, but if in doubt research it. In most rooms you will want to do this before you apply floor coverings, but it doesn’t really matter if you cover your floor with drop cloths.
o Cabinetry Installation – Buying stock cabinets from your local home improvement store can save you a bundle, especially if you buy on sale.
o Counter Top Installation – These too come in skill levels, and usually the more expensive the material the more difficult it is to install. Consider the cheaper ones.
o Install Sinks – This may or may not be your absolute last step, but it must be done in conjunction with counter top installation.
Building a home can be a daunting task for the do it yourselfer, be sure to learn as much as possible about each task. Some tasks simply do require a pro. For any task you will tackle assume you know nothing, and read all you can to learn the process. Be careful of online sources as well. Be sure to consider the source, and the location of the author before following their advice to the letter. Your local building codes are still the last word in construction. This do it yourself home building checklist is only the beginning. It will get you started, but it’s up to you to educate yourself on each task.