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Okay, this is a long list, so don’t let it scare you. After all, a house is a huge undertaking, but it is manageable if you stay focussed and organized. I’ll give you the list that we use, but you can also pick up a comprehensive list from your bank. (You may have to fill this form out, anyway, for approval of a Builder’s Loan.) Just ask the manager for an information package for Building Loans, and it should be in there. Right, let’s get started!

1. Purchase Land You will need to find a B.Y.O.B. Lot (Bring Your Own Builder) in order to build the house yourself, or to bring in an Independent Builder. Choose the size of lot according to the type and size of house you want and/or can afford. Find out about any Building Commitments (size, style, time frame for building) and Architectural Controls that may affect you.
2. Draft House Plans You can design your own house, but remember to have an Architect or Draftsman draw up the final Blueprints. It takes a skilled eye to see any potential mistakes, or to offer suggestions for how you can maximize your space. There are some excellent sources on-line and in magazines where you can purchase full sets of Blueprints for a fraction of the cost of having them drawn up from scratch. If you've had a great idea for a house in your head, by all means spend the money and have them drawn up properly - it'll be worth it in the long run. If you fall in love with our house as you watch the progression of it, you can always buy our plans, or another version of our house!

3. Survey If your land is an in-town lot, it may come with a Survey. Hire a local Surveyor if you have to do your own land. Your Draftsman/Architect may need information from it for the final prints, and you will probably require information from the survey (and subsequent Stake Out of the House) to complete the Permitting Forms.

4. Permits Permits are the keys to open the project. You must check with the local authorities to make sure that you are allowed to build your house the way you want. There may be rules that you weren't aware of, and you or your Architect may have to present your ideas to a council before you can get started. This is more likely to happen if you are building in an historical district. Give yourself two to six weeks for processing for a regular house. Don't get too hung up on the forms - if you find it difficult to get through them, meet with the Permitting Officer to get a better understanding of exactly what you need to complete the forms properly. Permits aren't cheap, so be prepared to open yo' wallet! (Squeeeeak!)

5. Gas and Power Just estimate the costs. This can be expensive, depending on how remote you are. Many acreage lots will have these services to the property line, which will save you a fair bit of time and money.

6. Septic &/or Well Only for land outside of town! You will have to provide information of the amount of water (gallons/minute) in order to get a mortgage, and to see how comfortable your life will be. Water can be trucked in, but that's quite a large expense (ongoing if your well is that dry). Most properties have already been drilled so the seller can prove that there is enough water to sustain the house. Often the Excavator will handle the Septic System, too, so it's worth checking into this.

7. Excavation Go local, if you can. You'll save on 'travelling costs' and the Excavator will be familiar with the area. (Type and density of soil, lay of the land, local codes, etc.)

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8. Foundation Get a complete quote on this, rather than breaking it into sections. It's always better to have one contractor doing a complete job than having three guys do a bit at a time. You won't save any money, delays are inevitable, and one guy can always say that any problem is the fault of one of the other guys… I think you can see my point! There are some interesting products out there for foundations (and the whole structure). You would have to weigh out the differences in cost, efficiency, resale, etc. to make a decision that is right for you.

9. Building Materials This is a biggie, so break this one down into sections. Now here's a great idea -- you can take your Blueprints into Home Depot, and they 'll do a complete Take-Off on your House. They might have a small charge since they have to pay their Employees who do this job, but it's nominal, and definitely worth it to see how much your house will cost.

Framing Package - Sometimes it's cheaper to get your Frame, Floor System, and Trusses separately. The potential drawback is that they might not show up on the job site at the same time, as they would with 'one stop shopping'. Also, one guy can blame the other guy if there is a shortfall somewhere. (Always an issue!) You don't want your Framer to leave the job or sit around waiting for some royal screw-up to be resolved. Follow any personal leads you get, and do some searching on your own. We got a great deal on the whole package at Big Dog Lumber in Calgary (Alberta, Canada). One of the key factors in choosing this company was the service - they have on-site engineers and very well informed sales people, which makes dealing with any potential problems much easier.

Windows and Doors -- Really shop around for these, since the costs vary greatly. If you don't have access to wholesale prices (often only available to Contractors), you can take your prints to a home hardware store (Home Depot will provide a comprehensive quote for the whole house, excluding the foundation, for a moderate fee), or you can go directly to the Window Supply Company. Tell them that you're building a house and you'd like a quote. Most of the companies will be happy to give you a quote, which should be free. Also, choose wisely when you're buying windows - decide whether the cost of anything above 'Builder's Grade' (which in no way means crappy!) is cheaper than adding the proper Air Conditioning or Heating requirements for the house. Talk to your Mechanical Contractor before you spend an extra $15,000.00 on windows that will lower the temperature by one or two degrees, guaranteed. That usually translates into taking your house from 105 degrees waaay down to 103 degrees. Or, you could spend the extra money to put in Air Conditioning and then it'll be a cool 72 degrees! Personal choice. One thing that we have just discovered is that you can choose to have your window sills in vinyl, instead of wood, at no additional expense. Saves a lot of labor, painting, and upkeep. Something to think about!

Roof -- Check with the Architectural Controls (if there are any) to make sure that your choice is in keeping with the controls. Also, there's a huge difference in cost in roofing materials. Check into them all to see what you like that fits your budget.

Siding - Stucco, Vinyl Siding, Wooden Siding, Stone work or Brick. Again, check your Architectural Controls and yo' wallet! Also keep in mind the time required to build it. There are some pretty cool man-made products out there, now, that are worth investigating. Just make sure you can use them in your neighbourhood.

Decks - These can be included in your Framing Package, unless you're going to wait for a while to add your decking.

Trusses - Check around for the best price. Having them pre-made is often easier. Hire a Crane to lift these to the roof. You'll save the money in labor and time. We got our Trusses as part of the complete Framing Package.

10. Framing This is another aspect where the costs can vary tremendously. Be extra nice to your Framer - they're hard to find and in big demand. Just a little reminder that if you take an attitude that you are miles above a Tradesman because you're paying, don't be surprised if you're short one Framer! (That goes for all the Trades…) Compare prices, but go with word of mouth and local, whenever possible. If the Framer is a little more expensive, but he comes with rave reviews, hire him - the peace of mind is worth the few extra dollars.

11. Electrical Electrical costs may be higher than you thought, so consult a real electrician to get an accurate quote. You'd be surprised how many wannabe electricians there are out there! You'll need your complete Blueprints to get a good quote. Many Electricians will wait until they can do a walk though of your house after it's at the Lock Up Stage, so the quote will be more accurate.

12. Plumbing Man, there are some gorgeous tubs out there these days! You can ask your Mechanical Contractor or Plumber for some pamphlets of some of the really incredible stuff they have that you may not find in a regular store. There’s an amazing array of sinks(!) out there, too, not to mention cool shower heads. You can make your search easier by shopping on-line to see what will suit your home and wallet. Visit designer showrooms, too, to check out what’s ‘new and improved’. You can always describe the style to your contractor, and they can usually find a reasonably priced alternative for a similar look.

13. Heating & Air Conditioning This is close to home for us, since Dwight (my husband, for those readers who skipped the intro!) is primarily a Heating and Air Conditioning man - mostly Commercial. Also Plumbing, Renovations, and Home Building! A relatively new type of heating is In-Floor Radiant Heat. It's a very effective method of heating a lower level and any tiled areas. One thing to keep in mind when you are putting in Radiant Heat and Hard Wood Floors is that you will also need a Humidifier, or you run the risk of your floors getting too dry (this is particularly important in dry climates). Have your Mechanical Contractor go over your plans to let you know your best options to adequately heat and/or cool your house. Also, the location of the furnace room may not be where your Architect drew it in. If a Design change is necessary, earlier is better than later! A crazy design with no thought to the heating can cost you a bundle!

14. Drywall and Insulation The costs on Drywall can vary considerably. Remember that the taping and sanding aspect of the Drywalling process is key in getting a really good finish. This is not an area to try on your own - hire out on this one! You may want to hang the drywall yourself, but be aware that it is a huge job (especially the ceiling) and probably best left to a professional. When we're considering whether to do a job ourselves or hire it out, we always look at the end costs - if hiring out adds 2 or 3 thousand to the total house price, and the Mortgage rates are low (anything under 6%), we do the math and decide which is more important -- $20 a month or back-breaking, painstaking work. Usually we are better off to stick to the jobs that we already are really skilled at and hire out the rest to get the job done. Keep in mind that struggling to get one job done yourself at the expense of moving quickly through the building process will cost you way more than hiring the appropriate skilled labour.

15. Ceilings Most new homes have a stippled ceiling. You can paint your ceiling, but check your costs carefully - it may cost less in the long run to stipple, since the ceiling would have to be perfectly smooth for paint, and that would take a lot of extra labour. Have a look through different Show Homes in the area to see the variety of textured ceilings that they have, today. There are some other cool products out there for a particularly decorative ceiling - these can be costly, after you've added in the labour for a product that is tricky to install, but if you're interested in something really unique, shop the net and local home stores to see what they carry.

16. Painting If you think you will probably sell your house within 5 years of the build, it’s a safe bet to go with fairly neutral colours. The next buyer may not loooove purple as much as you do, so keep re-sale in mind. If this is your Dream Home, go mad, but don’t let choosing paint colours drive you (or yo’ spouse!) mad! If you and your significant other are battling over colour to the point that it is holding up the building process (happens more often than you might think!), then go neutral until you’re in the house. You can get a better feel for the colours once you’re already in, and you can always just decorate heavily in your chosen colour to see how you like it. Do not ask everyone and their dog which shade of beige you should use… for one, dogs are colour-blind, and generally crappy decorators, and two, your friends will start screening your calls. Ha,ha,ha! Holding up a house over a colour that should have been chosen well in advance is just crazy. Also, don’t let your painter or decorator (even if it is the dog!) bully you into something that you hate or just don’t want. It’s your house, you decide. If you’re really stuck, you can take pictures of the house to a paint store and have them run them through their cool new computer program, then you can see what your rooms would really look like in advance.

17. Cabinets and Countertops You'll find no shortage of beautiful Cabinetry. Check your local home hardware stores as well as the specialty Cabinet Companies. Compare their prices and availability before you make your final choice. You may get a lower or comparable price from an independent company, but the 'delivery time' may be insane - if you have to wait for ages for the cabinetry, the rest of the work in the kitchen and bathrooms will be put on hold while you wait. (Are you catching on to how expensive it is to wait?! Do everything in your power to make sure the project flows along at a steady rate.) There are many types of Countertops available, now. Granite and Marble are lovely, but can cost you a small fortune. You may want to consider using a tile of the same material to create your unique countertops. You'll want to experiment with it, first, to make sure it's what you want. (Use ¾ plywood as a base, then tile the area - it's very pretty and economical!) Again, have a look around to see what's new and exciting in the world of countertops, and check all the standard Arborite countertops - there are some gorgeous ones out there, and they are quite inexpensive.

18. Trim This includes all your baseboards, interior doors, floor vents, etc. When you're choosing your baseboard, keep in mind the size of the rooms - if a really 6" baseboard is going to make the room look ridiculous, then go with a 3 ½", instead. If you're not sure, buy a couple of different pieces and take them to the house to see them 'in practice'. There are some cool corner pieces that will allow you to do straight cuts when you're installing the baseboard - this can save you a lot of time and they look really nice, too. When you're deciding on Interior Doors, a nice door can really affect the total look of the house. For areas of the house that may benefit from more light, check into French doors. They have an appeal of their own, and there's a huge selection to choose from, now.

19. Lighting Some of the best prices I have found are from local home hardware stores. They have an excellent selection and the item you want will actually be available. Shop around, though, as usual. Remember that if you find the same item somewhere else for a better price, many of these stores will give you another 10% off --not bad, eh?! Choose lighting that is in keeping with the style of the home, too. If the whole house is Victorian, then it may not look all that stunning with a modernist light right in the middle, but it'll be your house, so get whatever you like! Recessed Pot Lights are really nice and relatively inexpensive, if you have a large area to light.

20. Fireplace If you're thinking of adding in a fireplace or two (maybe more!), ask your Mechanical Contractor where they can easily go if you haven't finished your House Plans, or check with him to see if the fireplace can indeed go where the Architect drew it. Sometime the cost will exceed the need to have it in a specific location, when you could install it for much less in a different location. Fireplaces have changed a lot in the last couple of decades. Many new homes are built with Gas Fireplaces, as opposed to Wood Burning Fireplaces. It's a personal choice, just keep in mind the dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from the combustion burning process, and the cost of wood. (not to mention the space and work involved in stacking the lumber!) You can sometimes find used fireplaces in your local Bargain Paper under Building Supplies. Shop around the many specialty stores to check for style and price. There are many types of mantels and fireplace surrounds to choose from - you can create a unique mantel by visiting your local lumber store and choosing the Crown Moulding that matches your kitchen, or you can buy one ready-made. If you have a young child in the house, you may want to consider having an extra fireplace screen for added safety, since the glass on a gas fireplace stays hot when the pilot light is on. By the way, you can turn off the pilot light if you're not going to be using the fireplace for a considerable length of time (like during those 110 degree summers!).

21. Phone and Cable This applies primarily to out-of-town properties, but one thing we have found very functional is to put phone and cable outlets in every room. This is a fairly low cost when you do it at the building stage. You might also want to consider putting in two phone lines - it's waay cheaper at the beginning than it is to install another line years later.

22. Appliances There are so many choices out there, now! Who knew that appliances could be sooo exciting?! Ha, ha! I found an Upright Freezer - looks like a fridge - at Costco - they have really cool stuff, particularly good when you are doing a big project like a house, or just love chocolate! After you choose your appliances, make sure you get accurate measurements to give to your Cabinet Maker. If you are thinking in terms of re-sale and you are getting an 18 Cubic Foot Fridge for yourself, you might want to consider creating a 'faux' cupboard or decorative trim right beside the fridge so that if the next owner wants a larger fridge, there will be lots of room. One thing that we are putting in our next house is a double dishwasher. (No, not two husbands, that's not worth all the extra work! Ha,ha,ha!) Our Kitchen Island is 4 X 8 feet, so there will be a dishwasher on either side of the Island. There always seem to be too many dishes for one dishwasher, so if you happen to have the space, you might want to give that some consideration.

23. Garage If you have the room on your property and the space in your budget, give some serious thought to adding a Triple Car Garage. It will greatly add to the value of your home, and it may not add that much of a difference in the cost at the initial building stage. You can attach it at the Front, Back, or Side of the house, depending on the size of the lot and the Architectural Controls. You can also build a Detached Garage, which you can add later, if budget won’t allow for one at the time of the house build, or if that’s what you prefer. When you are looking at the design of the home, having the entry door from the garage as close to the kitchen as possible will make bringing in the groceries much easier! You can Drywall your Garage and heat it, too, if it’s what you would like and it’s in the budget. This is something that can be done after you’re in the home, too. If you plan to have Radiant Heat in the Garage Floor, do that at the same time that you have it installed in the house.

24. Driveway Initially, you'll have a gravel Driveway, but your Architectural Controls (if you are building in an area that has them) will probably specify what kind or driveway you can or must have. Ours will be paved, but many communities allow concrete, brick, or stone driveways. Cost is a huge factor in the choice, of course, so see what you're allowed to have and check out your options. Stamped Concrete is a very nice new product, and you could match it on the Exterior Front Entry, Pathways, and the Patio.

25. Landscaping Well, you’re all done your house and now you’re ready to landscape – one of my favourite bits! Evergreens always add a nice touch to every garden. I am toying with the idea of growing one or two types of flowers per Island. The general idea is to design the flower bed with one type of plant in the center and a contrasting plant as a border -- say, Petunias in the center, Allysum as the border. I’ve seen it done but have never been able to stop myself from adding a ton of other flowers to the mix! One great tip that I recently read about is to put a perimeter rim of landscaping rocks around the house – apparently, it will help to keep rodents from entering the house, something that will be very important if you are building in the country! You can also try planting groups of Daffodils – wee animals don’t like the smell (or taste, I’m guessing!) of the bulbs. One thing I have learned the hard way (the neighbourhood rabbits ate all my Spring bulbs, one year) is to use the ‘bulb baskets’ for planting groups of bulbs.

A band of decorative rocks or tile around the Islands in your garden will make it easier to mow the lawn. Trellis with some nice climbing vines can create a pleasant ‘privacy screen’ between your house and the neighbours, especially if you need the privacy for a Hot Tub or Deck. Carefully plan your Garden on paper, first, to see where everything will look good. Have a drive around town to see whose Garden you like, take photos, then use that as a jumping off point. You’ll have fun creating your own little paradise! As for grass, hiring out for the sod is a good idea, since there’s such an enormous amount of work in preparing the ground before you can even begin laying the sod (sounds like something to do with yo’ husband! Ha,ha,ha!). You can also look into ‘spray grass’. This is useful for a very large area that requires a nice coat of grass. If you’ve never tried the ‘Wild Flower Mix’, it’s the easiest and fastest way to get a gorgeous garden! Worth a try. Remember that if you are adding an irrigation system to the lawn, consult with your Mechanical Contractor at the beginning of the planning stages of the house to see where it should go. Home & Garden

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