How Long Does it Take to Build a House?
There are several factors to take into account when it comes to building houses. It’s a known fact that new construction’s build time is slow. But besides the anticipated wait, unforeseen circumstances can delay the construction time of your new house indefinitely.
Excluding the pre-building phase bureaucracies, the average completion time to build a house in 2021 was seven months, according to U.S Census Bureau.
This number has been consistent throughout decades, only disrupted recently by the inevitable pandemic events which caused severe construction material shortages.
Shortages aside, stick with us as we break down the time estimates and the construction process involved in building a house below, from the very beginning stages to the very end.
Buying the Land vs the House Blueprint – which one comes first?
Although there is no mandatory order that must be followed, it’s recommended to buy the land first and then design the project.
Buying the land first will allow you to collect the information needed to design the house plan with local law restrictions in mind. This can save you the time you would spend finding the “perfect piece of land” for your previously designed dream house.
You’ll be making a safe bet by buying the land first, making sure no important considerations potentially catching you off guard are left behind, such as:
How big to make the project
Orientation of the house and the placement of its rooms based on sun exposure
True on-costs instead of estimates
Privacy judgment calls
A proper preview of the finished project
The Different House Construction Types
Owner Built (average time: 12 months)
It’s possible for the owner to build the house if he or she has the knowledge to do so. However, building a house is not an easy feat even for seasoned professionals. The owner must have the time to devote not only to build the house alone, but to gather materials and deal with legal affairs too.
Building houses often takes longer than expected due to unpredictable factors. in addition, the lack of manpower in owner-built houses and time spent gathering construction materials easily sets the build time around the 12-month mark.
Contractor Built (seven months on average)
Because building a house is not a task for the typical average joe, the most common way to have a new house built in a timely manner is to hire a general contractor (the manager of the project) and subcontractors, each for a different stage of the building process.
This is the fastest and the most expensive way to have a house built, simply due to the specialized manpower readily available at any building stage, keeping the project rolling in smooth sailing mode.
Built for Sale (approximately 6 months)
Houses built for sale are built in batches, this means the blueprint has been used many times before.
Since this “formula” has been used many times before and has proven to work countless times, there are little to no surprises that can arise during the building process.
The building time for these batch houses is typically 6 months or under.
Location and Weather Conditions
Extreme weather conditions can delay construction for quite some time and contractors are aware of this, good contractors will advise the owner to choose construction materials suited to local weather demands.
Most house foundations are made of wood, rain can damage the foundation by causing the wood to bloat and bend if not allowed to dry properly.
Snow is also considered when building a house, snowfall accumulation on the roof can become too heavy and cause the roof to collapse. Building codes in areas with regular snowfall demand houses designed to withstand the weight of snow.
Extreme heat in summer months will cause a house to age quicker, wood components are likely to dry out and crack faster. Extreme cold on the other hand is likely to weaken concrete parts of the house and take longer to finish drywall painting jobs.
Average House Construction Time by Region
In the northeast, summers are warm, humid, and wet. Winters are very cold and snowy. The average time to build a house in the northeast is 11 months.
The midwest region is subject to extremely cold air coming from the north and warm air coming from the gulf of Mexico, resulting in a wide range of temperature and precipitation extremes. The average time to build a house in the midwest is 8 months.
In the south, summers tend to be hot and humid either during the day or night, and winters are mild. However, this region is vast and temperatures may vary from one area to another. The average time to build a house in the south is approximately 6 months.
West is for the most part cold and semi-arid in upper western parts, whereas in the southwest the climate tends to be hot and semi-arid. The average time it takes to build a house in the west is 7 months.
What are the Steps Involved in Building a House?
1. Pre-construction process and legal steps (up to 4 months)
Purchasing land can be a process of a few days if you’re paying cash or take close to a month if you’re trying to secure financing.
After securing the land, you may want to hire an architect and a general contractor. General contractors are important to oversee the entire project from start to finish when dealing with contractor-built houses.
Have your architect work together with the general contractor to design the house plans (you can skip the general contractor if you plan to build the house yourself).
Depending on the complexity of the project you wish to produce, this step may take a few hours or days, or drag itself into several months.
Alternatively, if you don’t care for personalized work and want a shortcut to having your house ready asap, you can skip the architect and buy pre-drawn or stock house plans. Although these plans usually meet the Building Code’s official requirements, it’s important to note that local laws may often render these obsolete. It’s crucial to get the pre-construction steps right to save yourself from legal issues down the road.
Once you’re past the part of land ownership and have your house plans ready, the next step is to apply for a building permit for the construction project.
Although you can get it yourself, letting the contractor building your house handle it is easier. A trusted contractor will have experience with the process and be ready to handle any inspection issues that may arise.
You can expect the permit to be approved in a time span of 4 to 8 weeks.
In total, from the initial process of purchasing the land and having the house plans finished, up to the point of obtaining permits, you can count on an average time period of 3 to 4 months.
2. Clearing the construction site and laying the foundation (average time of 1 month)
Clearing the land and getting it ready to build your new house is the first step to take.
Depending on where the construction site is located and what was its previous use, clearing the land can take anywhere between a few hours to a couple of weeks.
For reference, flat land previously used for simple purposes such as pasture will take less time and effort to clear than rocky land filled with boulders and trees.
If you’re on the lookout to hire excavating and clearing services, it’s advisable not to play cheap, working with experienced companies with full-range excavating machinery will drastically reduce the time required to clear the land and move on to the next step.
Unpredictable factors such as contaminated soil or water found while digging are real problems that can potentially delay the construction time. These problems will require expensive and time-consuming solutions in order to be properly addressed more often than not.
Once site work is done and digging has been addressed, it’s time to take on actual construction.
Laying the foundation is the very first construction step, plumbing lines may be laid before or after the foundation is finished depending on which type of foundation you choose.
There are 5 main foundation types, the one you’ll want to build will obviously be dependent on your budget but this is not the only factor to consider, it’s essential to choose the right one for your house’s design, the soil and moisture conditions, climate, and geographical location.
The 5 most common foundation types are the following:
Concrete slab foundation
Pear and beam foundation
Laying the foundation of a house will take approximately 2 to 4 weeks, depending on which type of foundation you want to build.
Concrete foundations require a period of 28-60 days to fully cure and reach full strength. However, most builders will begin framing at around 50-75% strength, around seven days into the curing process.
3. Rough Framing and Sheathing (between 1 to 3 weeks)
A team of three qualified professionals will be able to frame the entire structure of a 2000 square feet house in 1 week.
The very same team of professionals could take somewhere close to a month to build a 4000 square feet house, depending on the complexity of the project.
Custom-designed houses with uncommon stylish options such as arches or multileveled ceilings will significantly delay the process.
The type of framing you choose is also important. Although metal framing isn’t used much in residential construction and qualified professionals working with this kind of frame are scarce, it’s still an option among many, one that will likely delay the construction time.
The next step after framing and before the siding is sheathing, a covering applied over the house’s frame structure, important to air seal your house and to fortify the structure against the forces of nature. The most common materials used for sheathing are either OSB or Plywood, most builders will cover the sheathed parts with house wrap.
4. Roofing, Siding, HVAC, Rough Plumbing, and Wiring (between 1 to 2 months)
Some roof components will be easier to install without the siding. In most cases, you’ll have the roof installed first.
Siding (or exterior walls) will come right after the roof is installed, it’ll be your house’s first line of defense against the elements. Siding is typically installed directly over sheathed walls.
Once the outer layer is complete, the HVAC system, and plumbing pipes installation are the next steps. Although not obvious at first, HVAC systems and plumbing are connected to a certain degree. HVAC components produce water which requires plumbing to drain it.
By the time major systems, sewer lines, and general plumbing are done, the electrician will start drilling several spots into the frame to install receptacles for lights, outlets, switches, and run the wires from the breaker panel to these receptacles.
5. Insulation, Drywall, and Flooring (1 to 4 weeks)
Installing insulation shouldn’t take long, a team of qualified professionals can insulate an average-sized house in just a few hours.
Out of all the different types of insulation, fiberglass and spray foam are the most used and also the fastest to be installed.
Like insulation, drywall (or interior walls) is fairly easy to install. Completion time will depend on how many workers you have taking care of the job, on average, 1 week is enough for an experienced crew to drywall an entire house.
Most floorings are also easy to install and don’t borrow much time from the building process. Hardwood flooring shouldn’t take longer than 1-3 days to be installed by proper professionals.
6. Interior finishes and Exterior finishes (1 to 2 months)
This is the final stage where the “small details” are addressed, such as:
- Exterior painting
Regarding the exterior finishes, patios, walkways, and driveways are formed during this stage.
7. Final Inspection
Some municipalities require a final inspection to check if the building is safe to be lived in. An official will conduct this inspection and if the building passes, the Department will issue a certificate of occupancy, an official document confirming the work complies with the applicable laws.
No one may legally occupy a building before this document is issued, after the building passes inspection, the certificate will typically be received within a week.
8. Final Walkthrough
A final walk-through, an inspection conducted by yourself. The last chance to mention any problems you find and bring them to your general contractor’s attention before you take ownership of the house.
The Bottom Line
Even though building a house takes seven months on average, complex projects will require enough manpower to be finished in a short time frame.
If the goal is to take on a one-man project and not necessarily to have a house that will last a lifetime, there are several options available that don’t require as much time to be built (a modular home perhaps).
Besides manpower, it’s important to build according to local law guidelines as several inspections will occur throughout the different building phases and the last thing you want is to waste time undoing wrong deeds.