How Long Does It Take to Build a Single-Family Home?
Looking at the latest data from the US Census Bureau (2018), the average completion time for a single-family home is almost 8 months, including 30 days from authorization (permitting) to start and 6.7 months from start to completion of the construction. It should be noted, however, that there are differences in the build time depending upon geographic region, housing type, and the construction process. The timeline could also be impacted by the current real estate market because if it's a busy market, the process could take a bit longer.
Taking a closer look at single-family houses completed in 2018, those houses that were built for sale took the shortest amount of time at 5.9 months from receiving permits to completion. Houses built by owners took the longest amount of time at 11. 4 months. Single-family homes built by hired contractors fell in the middle at 8.4 months from permitting to completion. For all single-family homes (including those built for rent), the average amount of time it took from obtaining permits to completion was 6.7 months in 2018 – an almost 12% increase over 2013.
The vast majority of single-family homes began construction within one month of obtaining permits. Those homes built on owners’ land either by hired contractors or by the owner took 1.1 and 1.3 months, respectively, to start after permitting authorization.
The data from the US Census, Characteristics of New Housing, also shows the average time from permitting/authorization to completion differs by region across the United States. The Northeast had the longest time at 10.2 months, followed by the Midwest at 8.3 months, and the West at 8.0 months. The South had the fastest authorization to completion time in the country at 7.1 months in 2018.
The average days from building permit to start of construction of a single-family home also varied across the country by region. The South had the longest duration from permit/authorization to start at 33 days, while the Midwest had the shortest average duration at 24 days.
Constructing Your New Home — A Week-by-Week Timeline
As you close the chapter on the first phase of building your home – working with a realtor to acquire your property/lot; purchasing dream house plans; getting permits and licenses in place; hiring a contractor – get ready for the fun and exciting adventure of the actual construction of your home.
The adventure of building from the ground up will take you from this rendering (top) of a 4-bedroom country home to the delightful “finished” product shown at bottom (Plan 120-2176).
What comes next? Will it be a home “swift” home – or a prolonged process before you see your new home fill that property? From ground-breaking to moving in, here is a home building timeline of the typical steps by week – and the amount of time necessary – in building your home. Below is a listing of each step, and we will go into more detail following the list:
Other factors, such as weather conditions, could cause delays in the process and extend the timeline. When these events happen, it's important to keep the line of communication open with your builder, so you know how long the events have set you back.
Week 1: Groundbreaking/Site Excavation/Footings
Just think of all the images of groundbreaking events you’ve seen - but, this time, this exciting moment belongs to you. Watch as your contractor maps the layout of the home on your property, and his team gets ready to level the site to ensure proper drainage and clear out debris, rocks, and trees. The first step in building your home is now underway.
The first phase in building your home: site excavation – excavators and/or bulldozers and other heavy equipment arrive to level the land and clear trees and debris (photo by Luke Besley on Unsplash).
The home’s foundation sits on its footings - the concrete base that is the lowest part of the home. Footings carry the weight of the entire structure and are usually set about four feet below the frost line to protect your home from soil moisture.
Week 2-3: Foundation
With the footings all set and inspected, it’s time to pour the concrete on the foundation – which can be a full basement, a slab, or crawl space. Since this is the backbone of the home, it is crucial that it stay dry and free of cracks. In addition, there should be anchor bolts that tie the framing structure into the foundation.
Time frame? Including the wait for it to dry and another inspection, the process may take two weeks.
Once the concrete is set and completely dry, the next step is building the framework or the “skeleton” of your house, which will be based on your chosen floor plan. The exterior walls are the first to be framed, followed by the floors and roof rafters. “Sheathing” is then applied to the walls and roof. Next, it’s covered with a protective barrier known as a house wrap, which prevents liquid water from infiltrating the structure while allowing water vapor to escape. An inspection comes at the completion of initial framing – making sure the job has been done properly.
Unroll the canvas as the rough structure of a 1-story home materializes – with the completion of framing (photo: Public Domain).
Week 6-7: Mechanicals
Once the frame – or skeleton of the home - is finished, your home builder and his crew can start work on siding and roofing as well as wiring and plumbing in the new home. Expect to see wires, pipes, sewer lines, and vents running through the floor, walls, and ceilings as water heaters and the HVAC system are installed. More inspections will follow after the plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems are in place.
Week 7-8: Insulation/Drywall
At almost the midpoint of the building process, insulation is installed in walls. Next, the interior walls and ceilings are covered with drywall or plasterboard, then sanded and primed. The first coat of paint may also be applied at this time.
Week 9-11: Flooring/Trim/Paint
From here on, things will get more fun and exciting. Flooring is ready to be installed – you can choose between wood, ceramic, or vinyl. Carpeting comes at a later stage – but interior doors, cabinets, moldings, built-in shelves, and other pieces of carpentry are fitted into place. After the trim is put up, the second coat of paint is applied to the drywall.
A finished floor complete with the window trim, light fixtures, and switches (Plan # 142-1046).
Week 12-13: Exterior Facade
Contractors begin installing exterior finishes such as brick, stucco, stone, and siding. The outside of your home will begin to come to life.
Week 14: Fixtures/Appliances/Interior Finish
At this juncture, trade professionals (electricians, plumbers, subcontractors) will create a lot of traffic in and out of the house to install light fixtures, plugs, faucets, bathtubs, toilets, sinks, shower units, cabinets, countertops, and appliances. If you decide to have carpeting in the home, this is the time the carpet should be installed.
The hanging lights, cabinets, counters, and other appliances are shown at top (Plan #141-1297), and the stand-alone tub and vanity are shown at bottom (Plan #108-1789) fill the kitchen and bathroom, respectively.
Week 15: More Exterior Work-Driveways/Walkways/Doors
It’s recommended that homeowners wait until all the interior finishes and trim work are completed before installing driveways, walkways, and exterior doors – to avoid any potential damage when heavy furniture is hauled inside the house.
Week 16: Interior Clean Up
With fixtures and furniture all set inside the home, it’s time for a thorough clean up to get ready for “moving day.”
You’re almost there!
Week 17: Landscape Work
And now, it’s just the landscaping to think about! Walkways are framed by shrubs, trees, flowers, and grass to create an attractive and appealing facade. It’s important to work with the landscapers to design the yard you want. You can always add flowers, gardens, and trees at a later time, but now is a good time to get the foundational landscape pieces completed.
A beautifully-landscaped courtyard entry adds to the curb appeal of this 1-story, 3-bedroom European style house (Plan #135-1060).
Week 18: Inspection
An inspection by a building-code official is conducted to ascertain that everything is correct according to standard regulations. A certificate of occupancy is issued once the inspector determines that there are no errors or code violations.
Week 19: Walk-Through and Review
You’ve passed the final inspection – and now, your builder will give you a “tour” – otherwise called a “pre-settlement demonstration” - of your home – from top to bottom so that you can familiarize yourself with all the features and systems involved. Be your own “inspector” and carefully examine fixtures and appliances for any defects or damage.
Be sure you are comfortable – and satisfied – with everything in your new home before closing the deal. If you see any issues, now is the time to point them out and get them fixed by your contractor.
Week 20: Closing
This is it! The moment you’ve been waiting for all these months. Take your keys… and welcome to your new home!
Top: Worth the wait! A 2-story, 3-bedroom country home features this attractive vaulted covered porch – made more inviting by its clean and classic lines. Center:Open the doors and step into the foyer … and, take in the view – an open floor layout with a spacious Great Room. Bottom: Walk through the house and out the back door, where a wonderfully appointed covered rear patio awaits (all: Plan #108-1789).
Keep in mind that weather considerations – rain, extreme heat during the summer months; snow, extreme cold during the winter – and other last-minute, unexpected events may delay construction for a few days or weeks. Be prepared for this; communicate with your builder; stay calm and cool; and most of all, enjoy the ride!
Looking for more information about the home building process and the steps involved before home construction starts? Check out our Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Building Your Own Home. It can be downloaded here.
Footnote: The lead image in this article is an elegant 2-story, 3-bedroom Victorian-style house plan. For more on this home, view: (Plan # 131-1039)