New Home Construction

Note: This article was written back in 2011 using houses being built by Ansari Homes as examples. Ansari is still building great homes in the Heights. I have a whole series of posts on the Home Buying Process if you are debating whether to buy or build.

This article is a part of a series on the Home Buying Process.
I’ve always said that home builders have to be ADHD to juggle all the steps involved in building a house. For Houston Heights home building, the process is even more complex because of the demanding nature of Heights homebuyers (period look, pier and beam foundations, detailed trim, and quality construction in general).

The photo shown here was taken during the “paint stage” of a new construction home by Ansari Homes. So what does “paint stage” mean? It means the building process has been going on for several months as an ugly construction site. It is now magically becoming a recognizable house. Certainly not finished, but getting very close. The heavy construction is done and the site can even be cleaned up! The photo below shows what it looks like in progress.

New Home Construction

Paint-Stage of a Houston Heights home. Trim is done; priming and painting has just started.

Here are some of the steps involved in new construction:

  • Plans, survey, replat, City approval & permits. This is the first hair-pulling stage.
  • Site Prep: demo old structures, grade lot
  • Drill piers & pour garage slab. Most homes in the Heights use pier & beam construction, as opposed to slab foundation.
  • Rains begin and bog everything down for weeks. February is a horrible month for site work in Houston. It rains, and rains, and rains 🙁
  • Install main sewer, water lines
  • Foundation, framing, sub floors, stairs. This part goes quickly. The first two months, little happens, then poof…in a week, the whole house is framed! 🙂
  • OSB cladding, roof decking
  • Roofing ·
  • Dried-in: Windows and construction doors are installed. At this stage the interior is protected and the inside work can begin 🙂
  • Siding (Typically Hardiplank in the Heights)
  • Rough electrical & plumbing
  • Sheetrock. At this point you can get a feel for layout & room sizes. Before this you are just seeing a forest of upright 2×4 framing members. It’s a rare person who can judge a house at this point
  • Install rough hardwoods. Assuming solid oak planks, or reclaimed floors, laid, but not sanded
  • Trim, cabinetry, built-ins. Now the house really takes shape. You can truly get a good feel for the house. This is critical in the Height new construction because richly detailed trim is desired in most homes that have a historical feel
  • Trim and floor guys break at least one windowpane. Replacement ordered 🙁
  • Painting. Exterior paint is mostly complete; at least the first coat.
  • Paint Stage: Interior priming, sanding, painting begins and lasts ~ 2weeks

So, that’s the worst part, or at least the most time-consuming part. The final part of construction is covered in New Home Construction-Part 2.

I always tell people that “Everyone should build or remodel a house once” and once is normally enough.

Nearing Completion

Now that I’ve covered the rough parts: from planning and permits though framing, drying-in (the building is now weather tight and interior work can start) up to trim work and painting. From here on out, the house nears completion. Every step is a transformation, and work moves fast. This article covers the rest of the process.

  • Final entry steps installed (Wood or brick), Construction fences come down and real fencing goes up, landscaping is put in. It now looks like a house, not a construction site 🙂
  • New homes inthe Heights

    My previous post showed this same dining room when being primed. First coat of color now going on. Reclaimed oak floors not yet sanded/finished.

    Interior is primed & painted. Lacquer is used on trim because it can be sanded to extremely smooth finish

  • Realtor can start showing house
  • Tile work begins
  • Floors are sanded, stained & sealed. Floor guys splass stain on walls 🙁  Floors are then covered to protect
  • Final paint coat on interior; splashed floor stain is painted over
  • Granite counter tops installed
  • Final exterior doors installed
  • Plumbing fixtures, electrical fixtures installed.· Appliances may be installed now, or may wait until under contract. Construction sites are prime targets for thieves 🙁
  • Painters come back and touch up what plumbers and electricians banged up · Final floor coat may be done at this stage, or may wait until house is under contract
  • Final City inspection is done to get occupancy permit · Builder does walk through and creates punch list for last remaining items/corrections
  • The house sparkles; people ooh and ahh; everyone feels good 🙂
  • Tons of people come to see during open houses (even under construction).
  • House goes under contract
  • New Home Construction in the Heights

    Kitchen takes shape as granite, tile, paint all get done together.

    One last inspection by the buyer’s inspector. Two inevitable results: 1. Damned, how did we miss those items? 2. How could that stupid inspector come up with that wacky requirement? Either way, things are fixed; people are happy again 🙂 ·

  • The builder starts looking for the perfect lot to build on again 🙂

I didn’t mention: City inspectors come out multiple times during this process, not just at the end. (At foundation, framing, plumbing, electrical, final inspection, etc.) and tell you to do things you’ve never heard of. Things that the plumber, electrician, did wrong or fogot to do. They stick Red Tags on window for items needing correction; Green Tags for those okay.

The builder reviews all these tags review with these subcontractors, straighten it out and get inspector back out. Hopefully you get the same inspector and not one who finds something different.

In defense of inspectors, some builders and subcontractors would take shortcuts if not held accountable. And…if the builder is sharp and has integrity (i.e. he does what he is supposed to) inspectors are easy to get along with. Lie or try to cover up though and the builder’s life can be hell.

Time frame: One of the difficulties in home building are the inherent, can’t-be-avoided, delays. When it rains during site prep (not if, but when) it may take a week to dry out to re-start work. If the electrician is delayed for 2-3 days, the sheetrock crew may have moved on to their next job, so they can’t come back for a week. This 10-day delay now stretches out more because the trim guys have also moved on to another site. They don’t earn money sitting around waiting, so they don’t wait.

So, expect delays, give everyone a break. They all (mostly) want to do a good job, and be hired again.

I love working with Heights builders. They have to be good to compete in this market, and they have to know the competion. They generally take advice well and want to make a house that they are proud of and the buyer will love. July 2013 Note: The home pictured here is by Ansari Builders. Ansari still continues to build great houses in the Heights

One last note: You see that there are more 🙂 than 🙁    This is good. This is what makes the whole process fun!