Home Building 101½

Permanently Under Construction

Self-design/self-build – phase I

An exhaustive review of 22 home plans revealed that none fit my lot, my personality or my budget. So I chose to design and build my own home. I learned that lot size, layout, and utilities locations are all critical plans’ factors. I recommend a minimum of six sets of plans. They get worn, torn, spilled-on and lost. See your local code enforcement office for minimum requirements and all permits.

Plans and permits in hand, you can hire a general contractor (G.C.) to oversee everything, or be your own G.C. I recommend hiring a G.C. Acting as the G.C. for my project led to regrets. But I enjoyed the hands-on part of the project, which kept us under budget.


Foundation stability: load requirements, soil stability and being as close to perfectly square as possible are critical. I used a transit, string-plumb bob and tape measure to level and square the foundation. I participated in the concrete pour of the foundation, 7½ yards. The 32 inch block crawl space was completed under contract within three days.


My first mistake was made on the exterior walls. I used 2″X4″ studs on sixteen inch centers. This configuration barely has the structural strength for a two story home and not enough R-value insulating capacity for anything north of Atlanta, GA. I contracted the framing which included installation of all exterior doors and windows. My framing contractor fell ill and progress languished for two months. I needed a contingency.

Plumbing, Electrical and Interior

With assistance from my brother, we finished the plumbing and electrical rough-in within a month, part-time after work. My regret in this area is using ½ inch water supply plumbing throughout the house. I recommend ¾ inch minimum for better water volume especially in showers. The electrical inspector laughed because we soldered all electrical connections. He said the house had the lowest probability of an electrical fire of any that he had inspected. I hired an HVAC installer for the central heating and cooling. I took his recommendation for two HVAC systems, one for each story of the house. They have worked beautifully for 21 years.

My brother and I completed the interior work, one year’s worth, except for dry-wall “mudding.” My wife and her sister painted.

Phase II, III, IV ……………..

Energy efficient replacement windows were installed. Re-configuration of the pantry, laundry and bathrooms continues.

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