Steps to Building A House

1. Prepare site and pour foundation: Site preparation and foundation work can be  performed by the same Contractor, but this may not be so with a wooded house. Using a backhoe, bulldozer or other excavating equipment, the Contractor clears the site of rocks, debris and trees for the house and, if applicable, the septic system. The contractor levels the site, puts up wooden forms to serve as a template for the foundation and digs the holes and trenches. Footings (structures where the house connects with the earth that supports it) are installed. If your home is going to have a well, it will be dug at this point. If the home has a complete basement, the hole is excavated, the footings are formed and poured, and the foundation walls are formed and poured. If it’s slab-on-grade, the footings are excavated, formed and poured; the area between them is leveled and fitted with utility runs such as plumbing drains and electrical conduit; and then the concrete slab is poured. Once concrete is poured into the holes and trenches, it will need time to cure (defined as providing adequate moisture, temperature, and time to allow the concrete to achieve the desired properties for its intended use). During this period, there will be no activity on the construction site. After the concrete is cured, the Contractor applies a waterproofing membrane to the foundation walls; installs drains, sewer and water taps and any plumbing that needs to go into the first-floor slab or basement floor; and back fills excavated dirt into the hole around the foundation wall.

2. Rough framing Wood Framing or Concrete Blocks: The floor structures, walls and roof systems are completed (known as the shell or skeleton of the house). Plywood sheathing (sheathing is the board or panel material used in floor, wall and roof assemblies in construction. The most basic function of sheathing, in any application, is to form a surface onto which other materials can be applied). is applied to the exterior walls and roof and windows and exterior doors are installed. The sheathing is then covered with a protective barrier called a house wrap (a synthetic material used to protect buildings); it prevents water from penetrating the structure, at the same time allowing water vapor to escape. This reduces the chance of mold and the wood rotting. Concrete Masonry Units (CMUs) are cement blocks made from a mold in a factory. I also purchased some molds to make my own blocks. Usually a residential exterior wall made from CMUs measures 8″ x 8″ x 16″ and is 80 % hollow. The CMUs are laid on top of the slab in a connecting staggered method and the wall is raised to its desired height. Mortar (mortar is a workable paste used to bind building blocks such as stones, bricks, and concrete masonry units together, fill and seal the irregular gaps between them) holds each block in place. Once the CMU wall is constructed, some of the hollow block cells are filled with concrete in the cells that hold upward rebar. The top of the wall consists of a “poured in place” concrete lintel that ties everything together. Places like Florida and the Caribbean have a combination of both wood frame and concrete block homes. The structures are usually built to withstand 120 mph winds. People usually choose CMU because they think they will be safer in a hurricane. Exterior walls in a CMU home are more durable than a wood frame home, but because a CMU house might have some exterior walls still standing after a hurricane, doesn’t mean the house couldn’t lose a roof, windows or doors, making it a loss. To learn more about avoiding sadness due to hurricane visit (https://www.barbadostoday.bb/2017/09/29/avoiding-foreseen-national-misery/). If a “Category 4” hurricane (winds over 131 mph) is about to hit, people should evacuate and let the home insurance do what it is designed to do.

Pros and Cons about Concrete/Cement Block (CMU) vs Wood Frame

Engineered Wood Frame

  1. Meets building code requirements just like CMU homes
  2. More energy efficient due to having deep wall cavities for various types of insulation
  3. Allows for better flexibility in design for several wall heights, angles, curves and other details at an affordable level.
  4. Improved moisture protection due to improvements in house wrapping products.

 

Concrete Block (CMU)

  1. Good sound proofing
  2. Strong Resistance during a hurricane
  3. A “simple box” one-story home should be less expensive that wood frame. (Not always the case)
  4. CMU has a better fire proof resistance but remember the roof is a wood frame.
  5. Better protection from termites. Most Contractors now provide termite treatment that fend off termites and provide insurance bonds if termites strike.
  6. CMU is not as energy efficient as a wood home
  7. Dampness in certain areas of the walls can occur
  8. Possible higher cost on large, luxury homes since a more complicated design aspects.
  9. Block size dimension is larger that a 2 x 4 or 2 x 6 thus stealing a some inches from a room on an exterior wall area.
  10. Difficult to install mechanical rough-ins and other MEP’S retro-fitting piping and wiring. (MEPS stand for Mechanical-also known as HVAC, Electrical and Plumbing).

3. Complete rough plumbing, electrical and HVAC: Once the house shell is complete, the siding and roofing can be installed. Concurrently, the electrical and plumbing contractors begin installing pipes and wires through the interior walls, ceilings and floors. Sewer lines and vents, as well as water supply lines for each fixture, are installed. Bathtubs and shower/tub units are put in place because there’s more room to navigate large, heavy objects. Ductwork is installed for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system (probably not needed for Barbados), and possibly the furnace (No furnace will be needed in Barbados). HVAC vent pipes are installed through the roof and insulation is installed in the floors (If you require Central Air), walls and ceilings. After the roofing goes on, the house is considered “dried in.” This is when the shell of the home is protected from the elements. An electrician then installs receptacles for outlets, lights and switches and runs wires from the breaker panel to each receptacle. Wiring for telephones, cable TV and music systems is included in this work. Note that HVAC ducts and plumbing are usually installed before wiring, because it’s easier to run wires around pipes and ducts than vice versa. Ductwork is installed for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, and possibly the furnace. HVAC vent pipes are installed through the roof and insulation is installed in the floors, walls and ceilings. After the roofing goes on, the house is considered “dried in”.

4. Finish interior with trims, install exterior such as driveways and walkways: Interior doors, door casings, window sills, moldings, stair balusters (A baluster also called spindle or stair stick is a moulded shaft, square or of lathe-turned form, cut from a rectangular or square plank, one of various forms of spindle in woodwork) and other decorative trim are installed, along with cabinets, vanities and fireplace mantels and surrounds. Walls get a finish coat of paint and are wallpapered where applicable.

Generally, exterior driveways, walkways and patios are formed at this stage. Many builders prefer to wait until the end of the project before pouring the driveway because heavy equipment (such as a delivery truck) can damage concrete. But some builders pour the driveway as soon as the foundation is completed so that when homeowners visit the construction site, they won’t get their shoes full of mud.

5. Install flooring and countertops; complete exterior grading (grading is the work of ensuring a level base, or one with a specified slope):  Tiles, and any other type of flooring are installed as well as countertops. Exterior finish grading is completed to ensure proper drainage away from the home and prepare the yard for landscaping.

6. Finish mechanical trims (Probably not needed in the Caribbean unless you want central air); install bathroom fixtures : Light fixtures, outlets and switches are installed and the electrical panel is completed. HVAC equipment is installed and registers completed. Sinks, toilets and faucets are put in place.

7. Install interior items such as shower doors and finish flooring; finish exterior landscaping: Mirrors, shower doors and carpeting (usually don’t see much in Barbados) are installed and final cleanup takes place. Trees, shrubs and grass are planted and other exterior landscaping completed.

8. Final walkthrough: Your builder/contractor will walk you through your new house to get you familiar with its features and the standard operation of the different systems and components and explain your responsibilities for maintenance and upkeep, as well as warranty coverage and procedures. This is often referred to as commissioning. It is an opportunity to identify things that need to be addressed or adjusted, so be focused and vigilant. Study everything possible such as the surfaces of countertops, fixtures, floors and walls for possible damage. Disputes arise because the homeowner may discover a scratch in a countertop after move-in and there’s no way to prove whether it was caused by the Contractor or the homeowner.

Inspections (Note Inspections will take place during several of the above reference steps): Your new house will be inspected at different times during construction. In addition to required inspections for code compliance, your Contractor may conduct quality checks at critical points in the process. The reason is to identify as many problems and potential as possible before construction is completed, though all issues may not be visible or caught until you have lived in the home for a certain  time period.
Most potential homeowners are interested in tracking the progress of their new homes – whether that be via email from the contractor, site visits or phone calls. Before you head to the site, speak to your Contractor about visiting the site and inspections. If your presence is not required, it will be an opportunity to learn more about what is behind the walls of your new house and how things works. If you are thinking about hiring your own inspector for additional review of the home, communicate with your Contractor before or early on during construction.

For safety as well as logistical reasons, Contractors discourage clients from unannounced visits at the construction site. If you would like to pay a visit, be sure to coordinate it in advance. Usually your Contractor should conduct regular walkthroughs to update you on the progress of the work.

The ability to Work with the Contractor who will build your new house is very important and should be considered prior to choosing the Contractor.