Contractor and Home Owner "To Do" List
Setting the Stage
Please note: this article describes buildings made of wood as commonly done in the United States. Other types of houses, such as brick-and-mortar homes with reinforced concrete roofs common in many parts of the world are not covered. 22.214.171.124 (discuss) 19:48, 1 February 2012 (UTC)
Grading and Site Preparation
The site you are building on should be flat, with no lumps or hillocks. to level, you could hire a bulldozer and go over the land with the blade close to the ground to remove all lumps or hillocks. If the plot is on a severe incline then lay stilts out so that you can lay out a floor level on top of them. At times ground filling has to be done to raise ground to the required level.
Terra-planing & Foundation Construction
Foundation Construction is an integral part of home building. It is what the whole house rests on. A firm foundation is a must, so do not use sand. In most construction, concrete is used as foundation. It is laid into a trench up to 3 or 4 feet deep, and provides a very solid foundation for whatever building material used. There are many different types of foundations.
The most typical foundation is made up of a footing which is the portion of the steel reinforced concrete that bears on the undisturbed soil. Footings are typically 12" 16" up to 36" inches wide by 10" to 12" deep depending on the soil on which they are bearing.
A foundation wall is general applied over the footing to above grade. Foundation walls are typically 8" wide and terminate 8' above the finished grade. like column footing , pile, raft etc. these are used as per condition of soil. Waterproofing, dam-proofing and drainage are typically applied at the exterior of the foundation and footing. This is particularly important when building in wet soils.
The foundation is the most critical part of any structure. The structural failures due to faulty workmanship or to an insufficient thickness of the walls are rare in comparison with those due to defective foundations. When it is necessary, as so frequently it is at the present day, to erect gigantic edifices—as high buildings or long-span bridges—on weak and treacherous soils, the highest constructive skill is required to supplement the weakness of the natural foundation by such artificial preparations as will enable it to sustain the load with safety.
Natural Foundations. The soils comprised under this head may be divided into two classes. (1) Those whose stability is not affected by water, and which are firm enough to support the structure, such as rock, compact gravels, and hard clay, and (2) soils which are firm enough to support the weight of the structure, but whose stability is affected by water, such as loose gravels., sand, clay and loam.
Foundations on Rock. To prepare a rock foundation, all that is generally necessary is to cut away the loose and decayed portions and to dress the surface so exposed to a plane as nearly perpendicular to the direction of the pressure as practicable; or, if the rock forms an inclined plane, to cut a series of plane surfaces, like those of steps, for the walls to rest upon. If there are any fissures in the rock they should be filled with concrete.
Foundations on Gravel, Etc. In dealing with soils of this kind usually nothing more is required than to cover them with a layer of concrete of width and depth sufficient to distribute the weight properly.
Foundations on Sand. Sand is almost incompressible so long as it is not allowed to spread out laterally, but as it has no cohesion, and acts like a fluid when exposed to running water, it must be treated with great caution.
Foundations on Clay. Clay is much affected by the action of water, and hence the ground should be well drained before the work is begun, and the trenches so arranged that water does not remain in them. In general, the less a soil of this kind is exposed to the action of the air, and the sooner it is protected from exposure, the letter for the work. The top of the footings must be carried below the frost line to prevent heaving, and for the same reason the outside face of the wall should be built with a slight batter and perfectly smooth. The frost line attains a depth of six feet in some of the northern states.
The tearing power of clay and loamy soils may be greatly increased: (1) By increasing the depth. (2) By drainage. This may be accomplished by a covering of gravel or sand, the thickness depending upon the plasticity of the soil, and by surrounding the foundation walls with a tile drain. If springs are encountered the water may be excluded by sheet pilings, puddling or plugging the spring with concrete. (3) By consolidating the soil. This may te done by driving short piles Hose together, or by driving piles, then withdrawing them air filling the space immediately with damp sand well rammed. If the soil is very loose and wet, sand will not be effective, and concrete will be found more satisfactory.
Artificial Foundations. When the ground in its natural state is too soft to bear the weight of the proposed structure, recourse must be had to artificial means of support, and, in doing this, whatever mode of construction is adopted, the principle must always be that of extending the bearing surface as much as possible.
Foundations on Mud, silt, marshy or compressible soils are generally formed in one of three ways: (1) By driving piles in which the footings are supported. (2) By spreading the footings either by-layers of timber, steel beams, or concrete, or a combination of either. (3) By sinking caissons of iron or steel, excavating the soil from the interior, and filling with concrete.
The Framing begins with the anchoring of the studs to the concrete foundation. Walls are constructed of Wood Studs typical 16" on center - framing studs come in 2 x 4, 2 x 6, 2 x 8, 2 x10 and lengths of 6,8,10,12 feet and longer. Floor/Ceiling joists are typically an engineered lumber product, as are the Roof Trusses, both ordered to size. Sheer Walls are constructed by sheathing the stud walls with plywood on one or both sides - used primarily in earthquake regions. Exterior walls are sheathed with plywood or oriented strand board and usually a Owens Corning Rigid Insulation Product.
Masonry structures are those built of stone, or of stone-like (petrous) materials, leading to confusion since at times this activity is also referred to as Stone Masonry. The enduring character of masonry structures, the relative simplicity of the processes involved, the pleasing outlines usually obtained, together with the almost universal availability of the materials and the consequent moderate cost, render masonry construction one of the most important of the builder's activities. It is often used in creating the building foundations, walls, linings.
Footing courses are the bottom courses in masonry; they are generally built to extend beyond the face of the wall and to cover a greater area than the base of the regular wall. Footing courses distribute the weight of a structure over a great area, thus diminishing liability of settlement and increasing stability. Always use the largest stones in the footing courses; they should be laid upon their natural beds and well bonded into the wall so as to avoid the possibility of shearing off that portion of the footing course which projects beyond the face of the wall; also care should be observed, to keep all joints in this projecting portion of the footing courses, especially in brickwork, as far as possible back of face of wall. Stones used in footing courses should be at least eight inches thick and two or three feet on other dimensions. Footing courses should extend, at the bottom, at least twelve inches beyond the face of the wall.
Usage: sticking stone and brick together
Fat limes (that is, limes which are pure, as opposed to hydraulic, water transferring limes which are burnt from limestone containing some clay) should not be used for mortar; they are slow-setting, and there is a liability for some of the mortar, where there is not a free access of air to assist the setting, remaining soft for some considerable period, often months, thus causing unequal settlement and possibly failure. Grey stone lime is feebly hydraulic, and makes a good mortar for ordinary work. It however, decays under the influence of the weather. It should never be used in foundation work, or where exposed to wet. Lias lime is hydraulic, that is, it will set firm under water. It should be used in all good class work.
Ordinary lime mortar may have its strength considerably enhanced by the addition of a small proportion of Portland cement.
Roman cement is rarely used for mortar, but is useful in some cases on account of the rapidity with which it sets, usually becoming hard about fifteen minutes after mixing. It is useful in tidal work and embankments, and constructions under water. It has about one-third of the strength of Portland cement, by which it is now almost entirely supplanted.
Selenitic cement or lime, invented by Major-General H. V. D. Scott (1822-1883), is lias lime, to which a small proportion of plaster of Paris has been added with the object of suppressing the action of slaking and inducing quicker setting. If carefully mixed in accordance with the instructions issued by the manufacturers, it will take a much larger proportion of sand than ordinary lime.
Lime should be slaked before being made into mortar. The lime is measured out, deposited in a heap on a wooden " bank " or platform, and after being well watered is covered with the correct proportion of sand. This retains the heat and moisture necessary to thorough slaking; the time required for this operation depends on the variety of the lime, but usually it is from a few hours to one and a half days. If the mixing is to be done by hand the materials must be screened to remove any unslaked lumps of lime. The occurrence of these may be prevented by grinding the lime shortly before use. The mass should then be well "larried", i.e. mixed together with the aid of a long-handled rake called the "tarry." Lime mortar should be tempered for at least two days, roughly covered up with sacks or other material. Before being used it must be again turned over and well mixed together.
Roman cement mortars must be mixed as required on account of its quick-setting properties. Fresh Roman cement mixtures must be made several times a day, as near as possible to the place of using.
Cement mortars should never be worked up after setting has taken place. Care should be taken to obtain the proper consistency, which is a stiff paste. If the mortar be too thick, extra labor is involved in its use, and much time wasted. If it be so thin as to run easily from the trowel, a longer time is taken in setting, and the wall is liable to settle; also there is danger that the lime or cement will be killed by the excess of water, or at least have its binding power affected.
It is not advisable to carry out work when the temperature is below freezing point, but in urgent cases bricklaying may be successfully done by using unslaked lime mortar. The mortar must be prepared in small quantities immediately before being used, so that binding action takes place before it cools. When the wall is left at night time the top course should be covered up to prevent the penetration of rain into the work, which would then be destroyed by the action of frost. Bricks used during frosty weather should be quite dry, and those that have been exposed to rain or frost should never be employed. It is generally agreed, that from a practical point of view, bricklaying should not be carried on at temperatures lower than 14° to 9° F, for as the thermometer falls the expense of building is greatly increased, owing to a larger proportion of lime being required.
For grey lime mortar the usual proportion is one part of lime to two or three parts of sand; lias lime mortar is mixed in similar proportions, except for work below ground, when equal quantities of lime and sand should be used. Portland cement mortar is usually in the proportions of one to three, or five, of sand ; good results arc obtained with lime mortar fortified with cement as follows:—one part slaked lime, one part Portland cement, and seven parts sand. Roman cement mortar should consist of one or one and a half parts of cement to one part of sand. Selenitic lime mortar is usually in the proportions of one to four or five, and must be mixed in a particular manner, the lime being first pround in water in the mortar-mill, and the sand gradually added. Blue or black mortar contains equal parts of foundry ashes and lime; but is improved by the addition of a proportion of cement. For setting fire-bricks fire-clay is always used. Pargetting for rendering inside chimney flues is made of one part of lime with three parts of cow dung free from straw or litter. No efficient substitute has been found for this mixture, which should be used fresh. A mortar that has found approval for tall chimney shafts is composed by grinding in a mortar-mill one part of blue lias lime with one part each of sand and foundry ashes. I n the external walls of the Albert Hall the mortar used was one part Portland cement, one part grey Burham lime and six parts pit sand. The lime was slaked twenty-four hours, and after being mixed with the sand for ten minutes the cement was added and the whole ground for one minute; the stuff was prepared in quantities only sufficient for immediate use. The by-laws dated 1891, made by the London County Council under section 16 of the Metropolis Management and Building Acts Amendment Act 18781 require the proportions of lime mortar to be one to three of sand or grit, and for cement mortar one to four. Clean soft water only should be used for the purpose of making mortar.
Adobe, clay and straw bricks - hand-formed
Adobe, ado' bee, a word of Spanish origin, applies to unburnt, sun-dried bricks used in the arid regions of Mexico and the Southwest United States, and also to the peculiar clayey soil from which they are made. When moist, the soil is very plastic and can be molded into any shape, but when dry, adobe is almost unbreakable. This characteristic was recognized by the aborigines at an early date, and they not only made bowls, pitchers and other vessels from it, but shaped the muddy clay into bricks, which they laid out to dry in the sun. Adobe houses are common in Mexico and Arizona, even to-day. As they are cheap and easy to construct, they are used chiefly by the Mexicans and Indians, but many white people, who could afford other building material, prefer them because they are always cool, even in the hottest weather.
The process of making adobe bricks is simple. The wet adobe is shaped into bricks of various sizes, which are then baked by exposing them to the sun for ten days or two weeks. During this time they are turned every day. Bricks made in the same way were used by the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, and were made by the children of Israel during their enslavement in Egypt.
The art of making bricks dates from very early times, and was practiced by all the civilized nations of antiquity. Brick-making formed the chief occupation of the Israelites during their bondage in Egypt, but in this case the bricks were probably sun-dried only. These bricks were made of a mixture of day and chopped straw or reeds, worked into a stiff paste with water. The day was the river mud from the banks of the Nile, and as this had not sufficient cohesion in itself, the chopped straw (or reeds) was added as a binding material. The addition of such substances increases the plasticity of wet clay, especially if the mixture is allowed to stand for some days before use; so that the action of the chopped straw was twofold; a fact possibly known to the Egyptians. These sun-dried bricks, or "adobes", are still made, as of old, on the banks of the Nile by the following method — a shallow pit or bed is prepared, into which are thrown the mud, chopped straw and water in suitable proportions, and the whole mass is tramped on until it is thoroughly mixed and of the proper consistence. This mixture is removed in lumps and shaped into bricks, in molds or by hand, the bricks being simply sun-dried.
Brick veneer on wood frame walls
When applied over wood frame walls, a weather-resistive-barrier is critical to protect the wood framing from water damage. Masonry is not waterproof.
Mansard, Shed, Hip, Gamble, Saltbox and Gable can be covered in Asphalt and Wood Shingle, Terracotta Tiles, Slate Tiles, Copper Sheeting and Metal Standing Seam the most common roofing materials.
Based on geometry roofs can be classified as sloped, pitched or flat. The "pitch" of the roof is dependent on geographic location - Higher pitched roofs are typically found in cold climates but also in wet climates.
Straw and thatch
Depending on the architectural style the Gutter, Downspouts and Collector Box's may be exposed or built with the roofs eaves and walls.
Plumbing is a trade that supports a wide variety of services found in modern buildings and urban areas. At a basic level though, it is the craft that serves to provide clean, drinkable water to homes and businesses and conducts contaminated water away from them. To learn the theory and skill needed to construct and maintain the plumbing systems for large commercial buildings, install boilers, and other complex jobs, plumbers often receive years of training. However, the plumbing systems that bring hot and cold water to household fixtures (sinks, bathtubs, water closets, ...) and carry waste water away from them can be designed, built, and maintained by anyone who is willing to do careful research, invest in tools and practice, and proceed patiently and carefully with the work. It should be noted that as contracted labor only a certified professional should do plumbing in houses and commercial buildings due to the risk involved in maintaining water and sewer. The certification provides a level of guarantee about the capabilities of the professional and in some locations guarantees an insurance covering errors and damages.
Installation of Hot/Cold Supply and Waste Lines, Shower and Tub Valves, Hot Water Heater, Water Purifier/Softener and Fire Suppression System
Many local, regional, and national governments enact regulations that apply to the way buildings are constructed. These regulations are put in place to protect citizens from dangerous conditions. The regulations that apply to a trade such as plumbing are called "codes." Codes exist for general building, electrical work, plumbing, and other aspects of construction. Governments may write their own codes or use codes developed by outside authorities.
In many cases, the regulations are developed as a result of lessons learned through accidents and injuries. As trade experts analyze the flaws in a building that cause or contribute to fires, poisoning, falls, or other mishaps, they add rules to the relevant codes to reduce the chance of recurrence.
Plumbing codes are often associated with inspections. An inspection is done by a trade expert, designated by a government body, who checks work being done to a building to make sure that it is done according to the code. Some government bodies do not inspect work being done. There is a minimum standards code regulated by the U.S. government called the BOCA code. The only places that do not regulate and inspect plumbing are doing so illegally and should probably be avoided as the potential for drinking water contamination is extremely high. Many states have their own code but it can only be more stringent than the BOCA code, not less. One historical figure who gave momentum to the use of building codes in the United States was the early American Benjamin Franklin.
Drainage and Venting
The drain should be at least 1 1/2" and should enter a pipe, sized by local plumbing codes, before exiting the structure to septic tank or sewer system. The ptrap of a lavatory or drinking fountain may be 1 1/4", no horizontal waste pipe under 1 1/2" should ever be installed and should in no case carry a fixture load beyond the size of a double lavatory OR a bathtub, but not both. A 2" pipe is needed for a kitchen sink or shower unit.
Most states require at least one 3" vent through the roof, this is usually the vent serving the bathroom fixtures. Other vents may usually penetrate the roof at 2". Local codes influence the height of the pipe through the roof usually 12" to 24", depending on how far north you are located.
How the septic tank system works - A typical septic system, consists of an underground tank, a distribution line and a soil absorption drainage field. Waste water leaves the home through an underground pipe connected to the septic tank. Baffles in the septic tank slow the flow of the incoming waste water and prevent sewage from flowing directly through the tank. Heavier solids settle to the bottom and accumulate as sludge.
The septic tank system is a natural sewage treatment and disposal system. By natural we mean that it relies on bacteria to digest and clean the waste water. Septic systems are biological systems and must have bacteria to work. The bacteria in the septic tank literally eat & digest the solids in the tank turning them into liquids and gases.
Raw household waste water will quickly clog all but the most porous gravel formations. A septic tank is a watertight chamber, which conditions the waste water to reduce clogging so that it may be more readily absorbed into the soil. The septic tank separates the settable and floatable solids, promotes the growth of anaerobic bacteria necessary to decompose the solids, and provides storage for the resulting sludge and scum.
Constructing a septic tank system:
- Septic tanks should be located where they will not cause contamination of any well, spring or any other source of water supply.
- The septic tank should not be located closer than 10 feet from any building. The tank should not be located in swampy areas, or in areas subject to flooding.
- Slopes greater than 25 percent will cause considerable difficulty in construction, and may slide once they become saturated with effluent.
- There must be no permanent cover placed over the septic tank or lateral lines.
HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning)
Furnace/Air Conditioner Unit Installation, Supply/Return Air Ducts, Exhaust Ducts, Radiant Floor Systems, Air Purifier/Humidity Systems and Vacuum Systems.
Water as a Heat Transporter
Water and Heat in Practice
Water Flow in Pipes
Pumped Water Flow in Piping Systems
Elements of Heat Transfer
Practical Aspects of Heat Transfer
System Design Basic
An important document to read is the IEE Wiring Regulations (or equivalent).
Installation of Transformers, Service Panels, Switches, Outlets, GFI Outlets, Jboxs, Recessed Light Fixtures, Exhaust Fans, Fire/Security Horns and Emergency Lighting
installation of wiring for Security Camera/Alarm, Telephone/Intercom/Internet Communications, Audio/Video Components, LV Light Fixtures and Home Automation Controllers
Exterior Wall Surfaces
Materials as Stucco, Brick, Stone, Wood Clapboard and Shingle are all cladding products. Modern wood frame construction requires the installation of a weather-resistive-barrier (WRB) under the cladding. The WRB provides the primary function of protecting the structure from water.
Exterior Cast Stone
Door/Window Surrounds, Eaves, Balconies, Columns/Pilasters and Steps/Coping
Installation of Exterior Windows, Doors, Roof Hatch and Skylights requires weather proofing be at its best.
Door & Window Hardware
Installation of Door Hinges, Knobs/Lever, Cremone/Lock, Thresholds and Window Locks/Cranks "Taqi". Although older houses may still contain single glazed wooden framed windows and doors; modern house usually have a steel or aluminum reinforced uPVC framed double glazed system. These window systems are fixed to the preformed concrete ope by use of usually a galvanized steel fixing bracket which clips to the frame of the window or door and is fix back to reveal.
The window will sit either on the upstand of a pre-cast concrete cill or onto a PVC of aluminum PPC cill. A silicone sealant or expandable foam can be used to weather the window or door once in place.
Doors may have to be sunk a few millimeters in order to achieve the correct height of threshold depending on building regulations governing the use of the door.
A fundamental principle in building. It the means by which the interior environment can be made thermally comfortable. Insulation works by limiting the loss of heat from a relatively warm environment to a relatively cold environment. This is achieved in a number of ways:
Limiting Convection (air) heat loss. Most forms of insulation (such as polystyrene and fiberglass) contain cellular structures that trap air. This trapped air acts as a barrier to the passage of air through the insulating material.
Limiting Radiation heat loss Insulating materials are generally good at limiting radiated heat by reflecting it in the same way that a mirror reflects light. Shiny metals such as aluminum are good at reflecting heat, and this material is often used as a backing for insulated panels.
Interior Wall Surfaces
Drywall, Plaster, Wood Panel and Tile/Stone/Brick are typical selections.
Interior Wall/Ceiling Finishes
Primed, Painted, Stained, Wallpaper, Faux Finishes and Venetian Plasters
Floor Coverings (Carpet/Area Rugs), Window Coverings (Drapes/Shades and Sun Control: Window Tint)
Wall Paneling, Coffered Ceiling, Decorative Beams, BaseBoard, Door/Window Casing, Applied Wall Molding, Crown/Cornice Moldings, Columns/Pilasters Overdoor, Staircase Balustrades/Hand Rail and Fireplace Mantels
Wood Plank, Strip and Parquet, Decorative Inlays/Boarders and Staircase Risers/Treads
Stone & Tile
Ceramic/Terracotta, Terrazo, Concrete, Mosaics and Inlays Floors, Bathroom Walls/Showers/Tub Decks, Fireplace Mantels/Surrounds/Hearths, Countertops/Backsplash, Staircase Risers/Risers, Columns/Pedestals and Exterior Terrace/Walks/Paths/Drives
Wrought Iron Railings, Doors/Windows, Pedestrian/Auto Gates, Fences and Grilles. Copper Awnings, Chimney Caps and Hoods
Built In Bookcases/Desks, Powder Room Pullmans, Bathroom & Kitchen Cabinetry, Pantry/Linen Shelving and Closetry
Decorative Grilles/Diffusers and Controller Trims.
Installation of Fixtures (Bidet/Toilet), Trims of Faucet/Drain Fittings, Connect Tub/Sink Drains and Volume Tests
Materials and Tools
Sink mount kitchen faucet installation tools:
- Basin wrench
- Plumbers tape
- Adjustable wrench
- Plumber's putty
- Copper tube cutter
- Needle-nose pliers
- 1/2" faucet supply hoses (2)
- Philips and flathead screw drivers
Replacement kitchen faucet:
- Check that appropriate contents have been supplied--compare to contents on box.
Wall mount Kitchen Faucet tools will include similar to above and a pipe wrench plus threaded pipes, possible requirements like pipe extractor, hammer and chisel to modify the wall.
Switch/Outlet Covers, Recessed Lighting Trims, Installation of Decorative Light Fixtures (Chandeliers/Sconce/Lanterns)
Kitchen Refrigerator/Freezer, Range, Ovens, Hoods, Dishwasher, Ice makers, Wine Coolers. Laundry Washer and Dryers
Installation of Jambs for Pocket/French/BiFold type doors.
Decorative Leaded and Etched Glass Window/Doors, Shower and Tub Doors/Enclosures and Wall Mirror used in house. False wall and beam used gypsum board. Supporting system e.g steel channel for installation gypsum board.
Swimming Pool, Spa, Fountains and Reflecting Pools
Walls, Terraces, Walks, Stairs, Curbs and Driveways
Gazebo, Cabana, Canvas Awnings and BBQ/Cooking Areas
Lawn, Trees, Shrubs, Flowers and Potted Plants
Path/Walk, Stair, Plant/Tree, Water Features and Security
- Independent Builder: Designing & Building a House Your Own Way by Sam Clark, Real Goods Independent Living Books
- Do-It-Yourself Housebuilding: The Complete Handbook by George Nash
- IEE Wiring Regulations
- UK Building Regulations, NBS for Department for Communities and Local Government, Crown Copyright 2008