Constructing a dream home is a huge milestone in every individual’s life. This landmark event is a product of years of planning. It is important to have some basic knowledge about the various residential home building stages before embarking on the same. In this article we have tried to cover the Building Construction process from start to finish.
Before flagging off the Home Building Process it is imperative to visualize your dream home. This involves putting your ideas together about the kind of home that you require. The first thing that you need to do is to draw up a list of wants and do not wants. Enhance your knowledge about homes by going through lifestyle magazines, visiting show homes, speaking to builders as well as talking to your friends and family regarding their experiences with various house layouts, flooring, insulation etc. Research about the various home styles, the kind of building materials, related installations, and their costs. Most importantly have a detailed understanding of your finances and decide your budget. Once you zero in on the kind of home that you want, connect with a Designer or a Builder to get an understanding regarding the approximate cost of the project. You also need to factor in the land, whether you own it, or you need to identify the same first. This comprehensive guide on residential home building stages aims to provide the reader with basic information on all aspects on the dream home construction process.
- Understand any restrictions pertaining to the use of the property. Which zone is the land located in? What are the covenants applicable to the land? Based on the zone there will be restrictions on the kind of building that can be built, its design, height, and size. Covenants will determine the look and style of the building, what building materials and colours can be used, whether pets can be had as well as the location of sheds, fences, and garages.
- Slope, Soil and Orientation of the property: Building on a slope can mean additional costs related to the Foundation. Similarly, the density and other attributes of the soil will also impact the type of Foundation that needs to be constructed. Soil contamination is another aspect which needs to be checked. The orientation of the property will determine how you can place the house to make use of the sun.
- Facilities available within walking distance: shops, schools, hospitals, doctors, supermarkets, etc.
- Land Title and Easements: It is very important to do due diligence related to the Land Title and the Easements.
You can order for a Land Information Memorandum from your Council which will give most of the above information. It is also important to consult your lawyer before making any offer to purchase the land.
Organizing Resource Consents and Building Consents
Once the land is identified the next step is to research the land. What consents or permits are required before you can start with the construction of your house? To understand your land better you should talk to your council.
Resource Consents can vary from those related to Soil, Land, Water, Road Access, Electrical Connections, etc. It would be particularly helpful to buy the Project Information Memorandum (PIM) from the council for a small fee. The PIM will give relevant information about the land like the presence of hazardous contaminants, natural hazards, heritage features of any existing buildings, storm water drains on the land or surrounding it, any development contribution fee, etc as well as the specific requirements for Resource Consents.
For more information on PIM application visit https://www.building.govt.nz/building-officials/guides-for-building-officials/project-information-memoranda/#jumpto-application-for-a-pim.
While applying for the PIM you would need to submit preliminary design plans including site plan, floor plan, elevation design, etc. Comprehensive Technical Drawings will be required later when you are applying for Building Consent.
This would also be the right time to start working towards identifying the parties who would be involved in constructing your home. Your choices can be
- Architect / Designer / Draftsperson
- Licensed Building Practitioners
- ‘Design and Build’ Solution Providers
In case you have decided to go with two separate vendors you will need to keep in mind that they work well together, etc. We strongly suggest that you should opt for a “Design and Build” Company since you will not have the time or expertise to manage a whole construction project by yourself.
The next step would be to finalize your design. This is an extremely crucial step since your design will determine your budget. Once you have the initial plan go at it from all possible angles
- Are you using the space, right?
- Have you provisioned all rooms properly?
- Is the kitchen the right size?
- Will the lighting be good?
- Have you planned for a deck or patio? (Even if you are not planning to construct it immediately, it is always better to make provisions for the same at the design stage itself.)
- What kind of building materials would you want to use?
Your design plan will be the basis for your Building Consent Application. Once you receive a Building Consent for the same, any alteration will require you to talk to the council again, pay up additional costs and wait till the Council gives a revised consent. This will mean further delays. Hence be very clear in your mind regarding the design.
All Building work done in New Zealand should comply with the Building code.
The Building Performance website (https://www.building.govt.nz/) has detailed write-ups on what kind of Building Work requires consent and what all are exempt. A summary of the same is mentioned below, however we strongly recommend that you go through the website in detail
- The following type of work require Building Consent.
- Structural Work
- Plumbing and Drainage
- Building relocation
- Installing a fireplace or AC
- Walls higher than 1.5 metres
- Decks that are 1.5 metres above the ground level
- https://worksafe.govt.nz/topic-and-industry/building-and-construction/Works that do not require Building Consent include General Repair and Maintenance of Existing building parts, Small Single Story Building not exceeding 10 Square meters in floor area like sheds and temporary structures like tents.
Generally, the responsibility to obtain the Resource Consent as well as the Building Consent lies with the homeowner but there are a few ‘Design & Build” companies that take up this responsibility.
Once you receive the Resource Consent and the Building Consent you are all set to start the Construction Process. But wait a minute?
- Have you signed all the Contracts yet? If not, this is as good a time to finalize all the vendors who are going to work with you on this project and formalize legal contracts so that the expectations are laid out in black and white. The written contract should include details of guarantees, payment schedules, and timelines.
- Have you insured yourself for the duration of the project? If not talk to your Insurer and your Bank immediately. Your Builder will also need to have professional indemnity insurance so that they can pay for repairs in case of any problem due to the construction or design.
- Ensure there is a Health and Safety Plan in place from day one of the construction. Refer to WorkSafe’s Safer construction website for details. (https://worksafe.govt.nz/topic-and-industry/building-and-construction/)
The Construction Process – Stages of Building a House
Once the Building Consent is received, Construction can be started. The same needs to be notified to the Council as well. The Building Consent is valid for 12 months and the construction needs to be started within this period. It is also required to finish the project within 2 years of the project start date.
The major milestones in the Residential Home Building Stages (Home Construction Process) are as mentioned below. The same needs to be read keeping in mind that the processes need not get implemented strictly in the same order. Some of these can be done simultaneously and will also depend on the availability of raw materials. (During the Construction process you will need to organise Inspections from the Council as per the schedule spelled out in the Building Consent. To read on the same go to ‘Council Inspections for a Building Project’.)
- Excavation & Foundation
The construction crew first levels the project site. Using a bulldozer, the crew clears the site of rocks, debris, trees, and other impediments. Once this is done the excavation process is started using a backhoe. This is followed by preparing the Footings and pouring the concrete.
Once the concrete gets cured, underground drainage and plumbing get installed. The concrete slabs will get prepared and poured at this point.
Depending on the type of soil and slope following are the 4 major types of foundations used in New Zealand. Some of these have further variations.
- Piles – deep or shallow’ Piled foundations are suited for sloping surfaces.
- Slabs – suitable for areas considered ‘good ground’.
- Rafts – suitable for areas considered ‘soft ground’
- Footings – pad footings, strip footings or combined footings
The Excavation and Foundation process generally takes between 4 – 6 weeks depending upon the soil type, depth of the dig, and the type of foundation (full slab or basement) that is to be erected. Among all the residential home building stages the Excavation and Foundation are the most important since any errors at this point will destabilize your entire construction.
- Framing & Roofing
Once the foundation gets ready, we move on to the stage where the customer gets to see the bare skeletal stage of the house. Yes, we are speaking about giving shape to the house by installing the frames. Depending on the structure of the house this will involve ground floor framing, structural steelwork, mid-floor framing, first-floor framing, truss framing followed by roofing. The walls, the floor, and the roof frames get erected and are covered in a sheathing.
- Plywood is the preferred choice of sheathing for most New Zealand Builders.
- Other choices could include OSB (Oriented Strand Board) or Thermo ply.
- Plywood Sheathing is comparatively more expensive than OSB or Thermo ply but works way better in New Zealand climatic conditions.
- The sheathing in turn gets covered with a protective barrier called House Wrap which acts as a protection against any water seepage and allows water vapor to pass to the exterior. House Wraps also acts as an air barrier and helps in reducing heating and cooling costs by acting as an additional layer of insulation.
Windows and Doors also get installed during the Framing stage. The Framing and Roofing stage might extend up-to 5 – 6 weeks.
- Exterior Cladding (once Framing and Roofing is Completed)
The next step in residential home building stages is Exterior Cladding. The exterior cladding (siding) along with the roof is the first line of defence against the sun, rain as well as wind. It also adds to the attractiveness of the building.
- Bricks, Stone, Plaster, Steel, Aluminium, Plywood, Glass reinforced Concrete Boards, Vinyl (PVC), Fibre Cement, Timber Weatherboards, etc are some of the materials that are used for Exterior Cladding.
- Steel and Plywood are among the cheapest options for Exterior Cladding.
- Vinyl, Fibre Cement (Cement reinforced with cellulose fibres) and Timber Weatherboards are among the more expensive options.
- Timber Weatherboards have traditionally been the most preferred option for New Zealand homes. The lifetime of these vary from 25 – 40 years depending on the type of wood.
- Recently Fibre Cement has become very popular due to its better lifespan (50 years).
- Aluminium Cladding is also very popular due to its design suitability.
- Brick cladding is also a much sought after, but it hurts usable space.
The choice of cladding materials should be made depending on the kind of look that you want your home to have as well as the cost, durability, insulation performance, and sustainability. Exterior Cladding will take up to around 7 days depending on the kind of material used. Brick Cladding takes the longest.
- Insulation (can be done parallel to Exterior Cladding)
Among all Residential Home Building Stages, Insulation is the one that is a key contributor to the comfort of the dwellers. Thermal Insulation was made compulsory for all New Zealand Homes through legislation in the late 1970s. The energy efficiency requirements are set out in the Building Code. Proper Insulation is essential to reduce heating and cooling costs as well as comfort. Insulating materials are chosen for their higher resistance to conductive heat flow or in other words, thermal resistance, or R-value. The higher the R-value the better will be the Insulation.
- Insulation materials include fiberglass, polyester, cotton, polystyrene, wool, cellulose, spray foam, etc.
- The most common insulation in New Zealand is fiberglass insulation.
- Wool Insulation as well as Cotton Insulation both are generally more expensive compared to fiberglass.
- Spray Foam insulation while also expensive offers a much higher performance compared to the other types of insulation mentioned herein.
While comparing different brands of insulation you should compare per square meter costs. Go for higher R-value materials even if the price is slightly on the higher side. This would seem slightly costlier but will add to your comfort in the longer run.
The right time to start with Insulation is once the framing is completed. Insulation can take anywhere from 4 – 5 days depending on the type of insulation. Spray Foam Insulation generally gets completed in 3-4 hours.
- Rough Plumbing & Electrical Work (can be started immediately after Framing and Roofing)
This is also the time when basic work can be started on plumbing, electrical, and gas connections (if required). This includes running pipes and wires through interior walls, ceilings and floors, sewages, and drains, water supply lines for fixtures, Bathtubs, Shower units, etc. Ductwork for heating, ventilation, and ACs are also installed simultaneously.
Once the roofing is completed the electrical wiring and receptacles can also be installed.
Kiwis traditionally have preferred electric stoves in their kitchens. But the large Asian population that has settled in New Zealand tend to go with LPG for their cooking requirements. Keeping in mind the electricity consumption it might be prudent to connect your water heating systems also to LPG.
If you have decided to go with LPG, you would need to make space provisions for the gas bottles and the gas appliances. Getting an LPG connection involves working with an energy retailer and a licensed gasfitter.
This stage generally takes anywhere from 2 – 3 weeks.
- Drywall Installation & Interior Finishes (can be started once Insulation is completed)
Drywall Installation (normally gypsum boards) can also be carried out simultaneously. The sheets are fastened to the frames using nails, screws, adhesives, etc. In rooms where the humidity levels could be higher like for example, the kitchen or the laundry room or even the baths cement boards can be used instead of gypsum boards. Drywall Installation usually gets completed in two or three days.
Depending upon the fire resistance qualities there are different types of gypsum boards – Type X and Type C. The usual sizes of panels used for drywall in New Zealand are 1200 x 2400 mm, 1200 x 4800 mm and 1200 x 6000 mm and the thickness would be 10 mm, 13 mm, or 16 mm.
Interior Finishes including corners, cupboards, painting, or wallpapers are also done at this stage.
Exterior Walkways & Driveways are done either at this stage or just before handing over.
This stage generally takes 3 – 4 weeks.
- Flooring, Countertop Installations, and Exterior Grading (can be started once Drywall Installation is completed)
Now it is time to start with the Flooring (Tiling or Wood Flooring), installing countertops and Exterior Grading. Flooring must be done as per the function and style of each room.
- You can choose from Tiles (Ceramic or Porcelain), Vinyl, Hardwood, Engineered Flooring, Laminates, Carpets, Bamboo Flooring, etc.
- If your rooms are of moderate size it is suggested to go for light colours for the flooring so that the rooms can appear bright and bigger.
- Ceramic or Porcelain Tiles, Vinyl, and Laminate are water-resistant and can be used in any of your rooms including the bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms.
- Engineered Flooring, Hardwood, and Carpets should be used in your living rooms, lounges, or bedrooms as per your choice.
Flooring generally takes about 2 weeks to complete.
There is a wide variety of Countertops available to be used in the kitchen and bathrooms.
- The materials vary from Marble Stone, Wooden Engineered Quartz, Granite, Solid Surface (Corian), Limestone, Soapstone, Laminates, Concrete, and the like.
- The most sought after countertops in New Zealand depending on the budget are Quartz Granite and Laminate.
- Marble countertops are always in vogue but are expensive.
Exterior Grading refers to the level of the ground around the house to ensure proper drainage of stormwater. This is very important from the perspective of maintenance since excessive water logging near the foundation can be detrimental.
This stage generally takes 2 – 3 weeks.
- Complete Electrical & Plumbing Work (Switch Fittings and Light Fixtures, bathroom fittings etc); Home Automation (once the Windows and Doors gets fixed or the House gets into lock mode; Generally done simultaneous to Flooring)
Light Fixtures, Sockets, and Switches, etc can be installed at this stage. You can go for the normal rocker switches or touch panel switches if you want a modern look for your switchboards. This would be the right time to install Home Automation (Smart Home).
- Home Automation lends convenience as well as savings on electricity consumption.
- You can opt for retrofit wireless Home Automation solutions or go for wired solutions.
- Retrofit Home Automation has the advantage that you can carry it with you when you are shifting houses.
- You can opt for Full Home Automation (All Switch Panels, Garages, Heating Systems, AC etc) or Partial (only specific rooms or circuits).
Modular Kitchens, Sinks, toilet, Shower panels, cubicles, faucets, etc will also be put in place at this stage.
Modular Kitchens are synonymous with convenience and functionality but at the same time lending a touch of style to the Kitchen. Most ladies ten to spend a lot of time on the designs and fittings of Modular Kitchens. You can choose from layouts like Straight, Gallery, L Shaped, U Shaped, Parallel and Island. A typical Modular Kitchen will come with multiple storage areas like Wall Units, Wooden cabinets, Countertops, , chimney, built in oven, dishwasher, and sinks. When selecting Modular Kitchen Units special care should be given to choose materials that are water resistant and boiling waterproof. Most Marine plywood varieties and Stainless Steel will meet the criteria.
Kitchen Sinks can be chosen from various styles like Undermount, Top mount, Single or Double Kitchen Sinks.
Special attention needs to be paid to the bathroom fittings. Shower panels can come in Tile, Acrylic, or Glass. Faucets and Shower heads come in a wide variety. Water efficiency, your requirements and style should be the parameters for choosing these. Most Asians prefer to have handheld bidet sprays installed near their toilets. You need to be careful not to go overboard on your budget when it comes to bath fittings.
The time taken to complete all the activities mentioned in this stage would be a maximum of one week.
- Install Mirrors, Bathtubs, Shower Doors, Finish Flooring, Exterior Landscaping (Further to completion of Plumbing & Electrical Work)
We have now entered the final stage of your Home Construction. At this point the builder will be installing the shower doors as well as complete the Flooring.
It is always better to have Shower Doors installed to prevent water spillage.
Shower Doors come in many varieties like Frameless Shower Doors, Frameless Shower Enclosures, Bi-Fold Shower Doors, and Curved Glass Shower Doors. The type of Shower Door you install should be dependent on the size of the bathroom.
Landscaping also will happen at this stage. The three areas that you need to plan for is your front yard, backyard, and side yard. Lighting is one of the most major factors in Landscape design. It makes colours and textures vibrant. You could plant trees and shrubs with coloured foliage in an east west line to take advantage of the hues created by the rising or setting sun.
Your landscaping can come alive based on any of the below designs – English Garden Style, Oriental Landscape, Woodland Landscape, Formal Landscape, Informal Landscape, Butterfly Gardens, Xeriscape Gardens, or Organic Gardens.
This stage will get completed in one to two weeks.
- Handing Over the Keys
The Builder is now ready to hand over the keys. You should demand an inspection of the home along with your builder to ensure everything is in place. This is also the stage where the Home Construction Papers need to be presented to the Council for getting the Code of Compliance issued.
Usually, all the residential home building stages mentioned above take around 24 weeks to get completed.
Council Inspections for a Building Project
Once you flag off the constructions it is your responsibility as a property owner to ensure that the council inspections take place as per the schedule set in the Building Consent. A missed council inspection can lead to major fines and sometimes might result in demolishing and restarting work on completed portions of the project. This could also result in non-issuance of the Code of Compliance.
Your vendor might include organising Inspections as part of their workflow. Still it is always in the best interests of the property owner to keep a track of the same.
Inspections for residential buildings will be listed out in detail in the Building Consent and could include
- Immediately after Excavation, prior to pouring concrete into the Footings
- Post Framing, Before House Wrap
- Post Exterior Cladding
- Prior to Interior Cladding
- Drainage Testing
- Final Building Inspection, Also Drainage & Plumbing
In case any work fails the inspection, all areas of non-compliance need to get rectified and another inspection needs to get arranged as per the suggested time frame.
Always get your gas and electrical work done by a licensed professional and keep a detailed record of the same. Once the work gets completed file the signed energy certificate provided by the vendor for future presentation to the council. All project documentation including the above certificate will need to be presented to the Council for final sign off.
Building your own Home can be a quite daunting process. In fact, the number of hours that you need to dedicate to just bring your dream home project from an idea to the construction stage and then to its completion is huge. But once you go through the process and complete your home construction and start dwelling, the feeling is incomparable. We wish all a happy experience Building your Home and hope that this guide towards residential home building stages serves as a Home Building Process guide for all New Zealanders.
Read our blog on Important Do’s and Dont’s while Building your Dream Home.