Why does it take so long to build a house?

They build houses in just a few days on television. Of course everything is pre-staged and non-traditional methods are used, but why does it take 6 to 18 months in real life?

December 12, 2007 – Why does it take so long to build a house?
They build houses in just a few days on television. Of course everything is pre-staged and non-traditional methods are used, but why does it take 6 to 18 months in real life?
Home construction is not a simple task. Most have no idea how many steps and how many different skills or trades are required. Building codes, materials used, construction methods, weather, and architectural styles vary from region to region, but this article’s message is fundamentally valid anywhere. My reference is Palm Coast, in Flagler County, on Florida’s northeast coast between Daytona Beach and St. Augustine. Here, we don’t dig big holes for basements. Due to the flat terrain and high water table, we would have to call them indoor swimming pools so homes are built “at grade,” on concrete slabs. We also don’t have to bury our utilities under three feet of earth to protect them from freezing or frost heaving.
In Flagler County, nearly all of the homes are built by builders that predominately use subcontractors. Subcontractors are not employees of the builder, but work under the builder’s supervision. At the end of the article is a list of tasks required in the construction of most basic homes. It’s a daunting list and the addition of extras such as a swimming pool increase the complexity.
Here’s is how things work. The builder schedules the subs and the arrival of materials to the site based on a master schedule. Most of the building tasks are performed sequentially. That is framing must be finished before rough electrical which, in turn, must precede drywall installation. The schedule includes some “hard stops” for inspections. Work cannot proceed until an inspection has passed. A failed inspection means rework. Often, the sub must be rescheduled to perform the rework. Meanwhile, the next sub in the schedule has to be delayed, and then rescheduled after a satisfactory inspection. But what if the next sub accepted another job to fill in the time lost? It may be several days before the next sub or a substitute can be found to continue. To make matters worse, the inspector must be rescheduled for a re-inspection once the fix is done. This is one reason we see a flurry of activity for several days and then nothing for a period of time.
Some say that the subcontractor’s motto is “We don’t have time to do it right but we always have time to do it again.” Any mistake in construction, change order requested by the customer, problem weather, material shortage, wrong material delivered, failure to show up for work (Daytona’s Bike Week, Speed Week, and other events always slow progress.) start a chain reaction. Time lost is seldom made up.
Review the construction steps below in light of what I’ve said. You will appreciate the saying “It took longer than I thought it would but then, I knew it would.”
This list was compiled with the help of Seagate Homes, a Palm Coast, Flagler County, Florida builder.
Prior to commencing construction:
  • Prepare preliminary drafting package.
  • Meet with buyer to select carpet, tile, etc.
  • Final draft of plans prepared.
  • Obtain electrical and truss engineering plans.
  • Prepare permitting package.
  • Plans approved by building department and permits received.
Site preparation:
  • If the lot needs fill, it should be done 12” at a time, with density (or compaction) tests done at each step.
  • Grade lot.
  • All service (water, sewer, electrical) entry locations need to be located and marked.
Commence construction:
  • Deliver portable toilet – nothing starts till Johnny on the spot is in place.
  • Form board survey – to site the exact location on the lot.
  • Place form boards and dig footing trench and place rebar.
  • Install rough plumbing (in this area, supply and waste plumbing runs below the slab to and from the point of service).
  • Termite treatment.
Inspection: rough plumbing.
  • Pour slab.
  • Lay cement block and install lintels (the long reinforced concrete over windows and doors).
Inspection: Lintels and reinforcing rods
  • Pump lintels to fill vertical columns and top row of block.
  • Roofing trusses installed.
  • Install roof plywood (sheathing).
Inspection: Roof sheathing.
  • Framing.
  • Window installation.
  • Set bathtub.
  • Rough HVAC installation.
  • Rough electrical installation plus phone, cable, and speaker wiring.
  • Tile or shingle roof.
Inspection: Framing (or “all rough”).
  • Batt insulation installation.
  • Install soffit and fascia.
Inspection: Insulation.
  • Hang drywall.
  • Spray drywall with texture material.
  • Apply exterior stucco.
  • Paint interior.
  • Overhead door installation.
  • Paint exterior.
  • Complete final grading.
  • Install tiles.
  • Install cabinets in kitchen and bath.
  • Complete interior trim.
  • Pour driveway.
Inspection: Driveway.
  • Sod installation.
  • Install all bath and kitchen countertops.
  • HVAC trim (covers etc.).
  • Plumbing trim (faucets, commodes, etc.).
  • Electrical trim (cover plates).
  • Final survey.
Inspection: Early power (before electrical power can be turned on).
  • Blow insulation in attic.
  • Install mirrors and shelving.
Inspection: Final engineering.
  • Install carpet.
Inspection: Final building department inspection – Certificate of Occupancy (CO).
  • Walk through with buyer.
1 reply
  1. S chirco
    S chirco says:

    Takes long to build a house

    Granted everthing has to be submitted to the City of Palm Coast. Their is were the problems begin and end. They are slow , ehy want to prevent overbuildng. and this is the only city to budget over $100,000 for innspection rejections. Something smells in the kitchen Mr kelton and Commissioners.

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply