Building: Start to Finish

Construction Flow

Note- Building: Start to Finish became a featured portion of our newsletter in 2011 and was subsequently picked up by Skagit Publishing for the Skagit Valley Herald. Over several months and seven installments, the article series expanded on each of the sections listed on this page. You can view the text in full here: Building Start to Finish (Complete Series)

When starting your project, wouldn’t it be nice to have a general idea of where it starts and where it finishes?The flow chart below will help you with a general road map of typical construction projects. Depending on your specific structure, you may see variations, such as masonry work or design-build steps added. An explanation of each topic follows the flowchart and our office would be happy to answer any other questions.

  1. Plans, Financing and Selecting a Contractor: These three steps form the foundation of your project, namely what are you building, who will build it, and how will you pay for it? Often the contractor you select will help guide you through the other two, but completion of all three is necessary to proceed.
  2. Permits and Insurance: Most projects will require permits, sometimes from a variety of sources including cities, states and various agencies. Failure to obtain necessary permits may result in delay of the project, halting (or demolition) of the project, or fines. Ensuring that insurance is carried by necessary parties protects both you and the contractor.
  3. Site Preparation: Based on the layout of your site, your contractor will likely have to implement drainage to building code, then excavate or otherwise prepare the site for your new building. Other parts of site preparation may include laying utilities, arranging for power, water, and sanitation, constructing temporary storage facilities and removal of vegetation. At this point, you’ll begin introducing utilities and inspections. See the end of this page for an explanation of each.
  4. Foundation: Most structures are built on a concrete foundation. Your contractor will construct a form from wood, panels, or foam. A skeleton of rebar or mesh will be laid into the forms to increase the tensile strength of the foundation. Additionally, utilities and miscellaneous items such as in-floor heating may be placed in the forms. Finally, your contractor will fill the forms with cement, allow it to cure, then remove the forms for a finished foundation.
  5. Framing: Wood-construction buildings will then be “framed up,” creating a skeleton for the final structure. Metal buildings will have a similar steel frame, while masonry structures will be built brick by brick. This frame will allow the contractor to add windows and metal exterior doors (wooden doors will often be added later).
  6. Roofing, Siding and HVAC: Your contractor will next put some skin on your structure in the form of siding and a roof. During or after this project, an HVAC company will install heating, ventilation and/or air conditioning.
  7. Interior: With a roof and sides to protect your investment, your contractor will begin to insulate and finish the interior of your structure. You’ll see sheetrock, paint, lighting, trim, flooring, and a variety of other factors that make your building much more comfortable.
  8. Exterior Paint: Your building is almost complete! Unless you have a pre-finished siding, your contractor will paint the exterior of your structure.
  9. Landscaping: Landscaping ranges from simple site cleanup and gravel to turf, shrubs and trees. Landscaping both increases the aesthetic nature of your building and makes it more accessible.
  10. Punch List: Most contractors will walk you through the final building and create a “punch list.” The punch list addresses parts of construction that are not of sufficient quality or were not constructed according to plans. It may also include items which you decide to change, resulting in a “change order” (see below).
  11. Finished Project: Your building is finished! With a good contractor and proper maintenance, your investment should grow and be enjoyable for years yet to come! Note: most contractors specify that your building will be “broom clean.” Prior to occupancy, you may prefer to arrange or have your contractor arrange for a professional cleaning.
  12. Warranty Period: Some contractors will provide a warranty on their craftsmanship. If you discover items of poor construction during this period, the contractor will fix or replace it free of charge. Materials and appliances are typically not covered by a contractor’s warranty but usually have a separate warranty from the manufacturer or distributor, which may or may not include labor.

Utilities, such as water, power, sewage, and communications, are often implemented in various stages throughout the building process. Water, for example, will require piping to be run from the well or municipal water system to the structure. Additional piping will be cast into the foundation and then extended up through the framing. Finally, your toilets, sinks and appliances will be installed during the interior portion of construction.

Inspections will be carried out at most stages of the building process by government officials, usually the same ones who require permits. Inspections may include structural, building code, utilities, HVAC, electrical, etc. A final inspection will be conducted when your project is complete.

Change Orders are how contractors communicate changes in price and/or schedule to you. Change orders typically come about in one of two ways:

  1. You decide to change, add or remove part of the original design;
  2. Issues arise beyond the reasonable ability of the contractor to foresee. Change orders may also arise if you choose options beyond the range of an allowance. Your contractor should present change orders to you in writing, including an estimate of the increase or decrease in time and money.

New to Construction?

How do you effectively communicate to ensure that your project is built the way you want it, is finished within your time table, and comes in within the set budget? Choosing the right contractor is a large part of that!

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