8 Steps to Building a Custom Home

Custom home constructions are exciting for the architect and homeowners because we collaborate to bring your dream home to life. You have the freedom to decide on your home’s design, layout, finishes, and more, creating a haven tailored to your lifestyle and personal preferences.

There are endless possibilities and benefits with custom home projects! We only have to follow some steps to reach move-in day.

Here are eight steps to building a custom home.

1. Visualizing Your Dream Home

Before the custom home-building process starts, ask yourself, “What does my dream home look like?”

What is something (are somethings) you always wanted in a house? This includes design ideas from the smallest interior home details to its exterior and the property’s landscape.

You do not have to have everything plotted out before meeting with an architect, but having a decent idea of what you’re looking for will help create a budget and estimate the project’s time frame.

2. Budget

To keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed when you sit down to budget, answer the following questions one at a time and use that information to plan your next steps:

  • What is the average cost of a custom residence? Do you plan to build in a location where service and material costs sit below or above that average?
  • How much do you want to spend? Is this number realistic for your family and goals for the custom home?
  • Can that financially feasible budget complete a project that meets your needs and expectations?
  • Does the comparable housing in your ideal neighborhood align with your budget?

If you can responsibly budget for your project, your next step is to secure financing for your budget. Speak with your financial advisor or lender to confirm you can secure financing (e.g., a construction loan) for the budget you have in mind.

For more information on architect and custom home costs, please view How Much Does an Architect Cost?

3. Project Time Frame

Is now a good time for your custom construction?

Custom homes tend to be larger and more complex than production homes, resulting in design and construction time frames that may be larger than expected.

Generally, your project can take 6 – 12 months or longer, depending on the property’s geographic location, the home’s square footage, and design-specific details.

Believe it or not, the most time-consuming element of the custom-home building process is all the design and technical work that precedes the construction, including:

  • Property Design and Finalization
  • Interior Design Selections
  • Technical Documentation (vital for obtaining a building permit)

For more information on design and technical architectural elements, please view our three-part Working with an Architect series.

4. Property Selection

Find and purchase your property. The property’s geographic location significantly impacts how an architect constructs a design that checks all your boxes while addressing local guidelines, jurisdictions, and the surrounding natural environment.

Questions to consider include:

  • Is there an existing structure on the property?
  • Does the community come with a Homeowners Association (HOA)? Are there guidelines regarding home size, placement on the lot, and exterior aesthetic choices?
  • Which possible setbacks, variances, and environmental regulations apply to your property?
  • Have you worked with the local jurisdiction or a professional surveyor to identify easements or peculiarities?
  • Do you want to build a green, passive, or sustainable home?

Are you interested in a green, passive, or sustainable home? Please view the following resources:

5. Preparing For Your Architect

You should have some preliminary information to share during your first meeting with your architect, helping the design process start on the right foot.

If you find yourself struggling to form an informational list, the following questions may offer an easy place to start:

  • How big do you want your home to be? How many stories?
  • What types of rooms do you need?
  • What aspects of your lifestyle must the design prioritize? What does the layout look like?
  • What are your aesthetic preferences?
  • Do you want special features?
    • Fireplaces,
    • Heated Floors,
    • Solar Panels,
    •  Etc.

6. Finding Your Architect & Preparing For Construction

The design process commences once you select your architect, share your vision, read the fine print, and sign the architect’s contract. You will continue to play an involved role in your home’s design development until you have approved the final design.

At this point, the architect will compile the project’s technical documentation necessary for obtaining a building permit.

During this period, the homeowner must fulfill essential responsibilities that must be resolved before breaking ground on the construction site.

Your homeowner responsibilities include:

Builder’s Risk Insurance

Obtaining builder’s risk insurance is nonnegotiable for anyone with a financial interest in the construction process, such as:

  • Property Owners,
  • Lenders,
  • Architects,
  • General Contractors, and
  • Subcontractors.

Construction Permits

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), your architect (or design professional must “create a signed and sealed set of plans before submitting an application for a building permit. The details of every project should be reviewed to ensure they meet your local building codes and regulations.”

While your architect provides significant support during the permit application and approval process, you may want to familiarize yourself with the following:

  • Application Details and Fees
  • Permit Review Process
  • Obtaining Your Building Permit

Please view the FEMA Acquire a Building Permit homeowners checklist for more information.


Maintain close communication with your architect and financial advisor (or lender) to ensure you are fulfilling the architecture firm’s payment agreement (defined in the contract) and that your construction loan covers the intended dollar amount for the project’s various costs.

Once all parties complete the necessary prerequisites, construction begins!

7. Build

A ranging list of phases comprises the outline for a ground-up-home construction project. Typically, these phases exist in one of two main groups:

  • Pre-Rough Ins Inspection
  • Post-Rough Ins Inspection

Inspections will occur throughout the construction phases. Such inspections address:

  • Excavation,
  • Foundation,
  • Framing,
  • Rough-Ins,
  • Insulation,
  • Drywall, and
  • Final.

Construction Phases: Pre-Rough Ins

Pre-rough ins inspection phases include:

  • Staking – Engineers stake out your home’s outline and footprint.
  • Excavation (Site Prep) – Leveling the lot, clearing trees, and removing debris.
  • Foundation – Laying the home’s foundation, the structure the house will sit on.
  • Framing – Installing decking, roof trusses, and walls and creating the spaces for windows and exterior doors.
  • Mechanical Rough-Ins – Installing electrical lines, fireplace, gas, HVAC, media wiring, and plumbing.
    • If the home has a basement, rough-in may be completed before framing.
  • Dry Roofing (Dry-In) – Applying the dry roof beneath your shingles, protecting your home from the natural elements (e.g., rain).
    • Dry-in installation commonly applies to the entirety of the house, including the walls, windows, and doors, in conjunction with the roof.

Construction Phases: Post-Rough Ins

Post-rough ins inspection phases include:

  • Basic Exterior Finishes – Framing is complete, and builders install the basic exterior finishes, such as roofing shingles, windows, and attic vents.
  • Insulation – Insulating the home only begins once the rough-ins are completed and inspected.
  • Drywall – Building up interior ceilings and walls, offering a satisfying interior visual for the homeowner.
  • Siding – Installing the homeowner’s selection of exterior siding or stucco.
  • Final Exterior Finishes – Applying exterior paint, installing stone veneer and tile, and metal roofing.
  • Landscaping – Creating driveways and other client-specific landscaping designs.
  • Interior Finishes – Painting interior walls and installing elements like cabinetry, countertops, flooring, plumbing fixtures, showers, and more.
  • Final Fittings & Fixtures – Installing interior finishing touches, for example:
    • Bathtubs/Showers,
    • Toilets,
    • Refrigerators/Freezers,
    • Washers/Dryers,
    • Furniture/Décor,
    • Doorbells, and
    • Electrical Outlets/Switches.

8. Close

Once the builders complete the construction phases, you will walk through the project with your architect to determine if every element of the property’s design aligns with the architect’s design and meets your expectations.

If aspects of the design are not completed or must be redone, the architect creates a “punch list” and will continue to visit the property until the contractor has resolved every item on that punch list.

When every item on the punch list is resolved, the contractor commences a thorough cleanup of the property, making it move-in ready.

Now, the only thing left is to get your keys so you can move into your custom home and enjoy the home of your dreams!

Mitchell Wall Architecture & Design Knows “There’s No Place Like Home”

At Mitchell Wall Architecture & Design, we live to transform our clients’ dreams of warm, welcoming, and beautiful properties into a reality with luxury custom-built homes.

You call the shots as we collaborate to get you everything you have always wanted while ensuring the design meets every code and regulation and keeping the project on track to be completed within the timeline that works for you.

This is your sign to start planning your custom home! To find the answers to your questions and to schedule your first meeting with your future architect, please reach out at https://mitchellwall.com/contact/.

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