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What Should I Know About Building a New House?

It’s the ultimate American dream, and it may be the biggest financial investment you ever make. For the first time, you’re not renting or buying someone else’s idea of what a home should be. It’s your turn. Building a new house is an exciting time, but it can also be nerve wracking and frustrating as you balance design, budget and building codes. A good building plan is flexible enough to accommodate unforeseen construction and design changes, but firm enough to make sure you get the home you want at a price you can afford. 

Balancing Expectations with Cost
If you’re like most people, you have a home-building budget. Before you start interviewing contractors, talk to your lender about a construction loan and a subsequent mortgage. Based upon your income, your credit history and your current bills, your banker will give you an idea of how much money you can spend. 

Location, Location, Location
A real estate broker will tell you that a desirable location is essential in the sale of a home, so it’s also a factor when you’re shopping for a lot on which to build your house. Talk to a real estate agent about the cost and desirability of various subdivisions. Before buying a lot, find out if the subdivision has its own building codes (covenants), if there is a homeowners association (HOA), and whether you will bear an additional tax burden that supports the cost of the development.

You have a couple of choices in home design. You can purchase a ready-made set of blueprints or you can consult an architect or a home designer about drawing a home plan to suit your specific needs. Hiring a designer is an additional expense, but you may save money in the end by including only the elements you want in the design. 

Interviews and Estimates
The contractor you hire will work closely with you during the construction process, so it’s imperative that you develop a good working relationship. If you already have a builder, great, if you don’t, visit with new homeowners about their building experience and ask for contractor recommendations.
Solicit estimates from three or more contractors, and compare them carefully. The lowest estimate may not be the best one. The quality of materials and the type of construction process used, can affect the cost. (Reference 2)

Expect the Unexpected
No matter how detailed your plan, things change. Your contractor may be unable to locate a desired fixture or material, the cost of the materials may go up substantially, or local building codes may require structural or mechanical changes to the plan. Never tell your contractor to “Go ahead and do it.” Instead, fill out a Change Form that details the extent of the change and the cost for making the alteration. 

Protecting your Investment
Once your new home is livable, you can take out homeowners insurance, but until then, you still need to safeguard your investment. A builder’s risk insurance policy is essential for protecting your financial investment in the case of fire, theft or other damage during the building process.

Helpful References:

How Can I Add Insulation Behind My Existing Drywall?

With the high cost of heating and cooling your home, it pays to ensure that your walls are well insulated and energy efficient. Unfortunately, older homes and poorly constructed homes may have inadequate insulation in the walls. In addition, some older types of insulation settle and compress with age, leaving gaps in the walls that reduce your homes thermal resistance, or R-value. The best time to insulate the walls is before the drywall is in place, but you can still add insulation to existing walls later if you need additional insulation.

Insulation Options
You have a couple of choices for insulating existing walls. The first is to remove the drywall and install new insulation bats in the stud spaces before installing new drywall panels and taping them out. Unfortunately, that’s not always feasible for homeowners who are living in the home. The other option is to blow in fiber or cellulose insulation behind the existing drywall. A contractor usually performs this task, and you may continue living in the home.

The Process
In order to add insulation behind existing drywall, the contractor must gain access to every stud space on the exterior wall. The contractor drills one or two holes on the exterior of the home at the top of each stud space and blows cellulose fibers into the space. The fibers filter downward and fill the space, adding insulating value. After he’s done, the contractor will plug the holes to match the exterior siding on your home. If your home has masonry siding, your contractor may blow in the insulation from inside the home.

Although blowing insulation into stud spaces adds to your home’s energy efficiency, it’s not a perfect solution. As the insulation filters downward, wiring, gas lines and outlet boxes can block the insulation, creating voids and gaps that reduce the wall’s overall R-value. 

Additional Solutions
New energy efficient replacement windows, or storm windows, can reduce heat transfer through exterior walls. Re-siding an older home with foam-backed siding is another option. Even small steps, like adding new weather stripping to doors and caulking gaps between in exterior siding will reduce drafts and increase energy efficiency.