How To Build a House – A Simple Guide

How To Build a House - A Simple Planning & House Construction Guide

For most people, planning to build your own house can be an exciting adventure.  

And if done right, the journey should be very fulfilling in the end.

The reality however is that most people jump right into a building project without first learning or doing a thorough research about the critical elements involved in the home building process.

One thing is certain though, building a house involves many resources and time consuming processes.

But as complex as it may look, the overall process of building your own house can present many opportunities and even a chance to learn something new.

And it's a fact that the home building process can be simplified by following a tried and tested sequence, from that first idea, right up until you move into your new, freshly painted house.

But before we delve into the nut and bolts of home building, you may want to find out if the process is even worth your time.

For this reason, let us look at the basic questions that many people have in trying to ascertain whether the home building route is viable or not.

 How Much Does it Cost To Build a House?

In 2022, an average 3 bedroom house in a suburban area will set you back at least about R1 750 000.00 (roughly about $250 000.00 in the US).

 Even at that price, you may want to consider saving another 15 - 20% of the cost to cover for any eventuality that may arise during construction.

The above costs will obviously not include the price you will be paying for the land.

Well, as they say, different strokes for different folks...

The decision whether to build your own house or buy an existing house will rely partly on WHAT IS AFFORDABLE TO YOU. 

As you would imagine, there are many factors that could affect building costs. And as such, the cost to build a house will then vary from area to area.  

Some of these factors may include the supply and demand for labour and material in your area and your taste in the final finishes. 

Below we will also discuss in more detail the decision making processes needed to build a house.

The Home Building Process at a Glance

Now that we have covered the basic question of “What and how much..” Let us now delve deeper into  the entire planning and decision-making processes to build your own house.

The planning stage is the uppermost stage in the home building exercise. 

This is the initial stage that will set the ball rolling for the more labour intensive stages in the project.

For this stage you will need to undertake numerous planning and administrative activities that will lay the basis of a hassle free construction process ahead.  

Here is a typical planning diagram to guide you past the planning stages of your project:

house plans with pictures architect architectural design house designs home design floorplanner room design building design architecture drawing simple house design floor design 4 bedroom house plans architectural plans modern house design small house design design your own house house plan drawing free house plans house plans south africa house sbe architects blueprints modern floor plan designer blue valley golf estate southern living house plans floorplanner architectural design house plans design your own house home plans waterfall estate midrand, Professionals Dynamic Residential & Commercial Archid Architect, Architect, Architecture & Design, House plans south africa

Professionals Dynamic Residential & Commercial Archid Architect

Planning Stage

 Now that we have the overall picture of the processes involved in building a house, let us first, relook at the decision-making process in more detail.   

We will also discuss some of the processes listed in this diagram in more detail.

  • The Decision to Build
    Firstly, as a prospective homeowner, you must carefully evaluate your financial and lifestyle situation. 

 Perhaps you may feel that your family is growing beyond the confines of the current home.

Or in the case of a prospective first time homeowner, it could be a simple matter of needing shelter and a basic home to call your own.

Whatever the reason, you need to ensure that your final decision is also right for your pocket.  

To do this you will need to establish the general cost estimates of buying land and the prevailing cost to build a house. 

To accomplish this you may need to pay a visit to several offices of local estate agents who operate in the areas that you wish to build your dream home.  

Most estate agents will show you a list of vacant land properties that are up for sale for you to build a house on.

This will give you a clear idea of the type of properties and the price options that are available in the market. 

Thereafter you will also have to talk to a few builders to determine the general building costs for the type of house you wish to build.  

Once you’ve obtained this information you can now begin to look carefully at all other factors to determine whether it is a viable and worthwhile proposition for you and your family to build a house.

  • Work out the Finances
    Once you are satisfied that your finances are in good shape or that your credit will afford you to build, you will now need to approach the banks.

Here you will establish the bank’s mortgage requirements and their interest rate structure, basically the cost of financing your new venture. 

Most banks will even give a pre-approval of the loan amount that you qualify for.  

Most people may be tempted to accept the interest rates charged by the first bank to approve your mortgage or loan application. 

It is however prudent to negotiate the interest rate that you are charged on your building loan.  

Most banks will consider lowering the interest rates depending on individual circumstances.

  • Buying Vacant Land to Build a House


     For most people, buying land and building a house are possibly the largest investment that they’ll make in their lifetime.

It is therefore essential that you do your homework properly when choosing a plot of land to build a house.

As indicated above, estate agents will assist you in the search for a vacant piece of land. 

It is also at this stage that you could obtain preliminary services of an architect.

The architect could also advise you on the feasibility in relation to costs and other technical issues affecting each potential plot of land.

Once you have identified a suitable piece of land, the estate agent will then guide you in the process of securing and transferring ownership of the land to you.  .

  • Hiring an Architect or Draughtsman

    Once the property has been transferred to you, you will now need to obtain the full services of an architect or draughtsman.  

The architect will be tasked with transforming your ideas and dreams for the new house into a set of building plans that will be used to build your dream home. 

Just bear in mind that your bank will also need copies of the floor plans and up to 3 quotes from building contractors prior to approving your building loan.

Working with an architect to design and develop construction drawings can be an exciting undertaking.  

Your architect will assist you to ensure that the house design suits your personal needs and budget.  

He/she will also ensure that the house will suit your plot and the existing site conditions. 

At this stage you may also learn a few technical details about your designs, 

You will do well to check for any details that may affect the long term comfort of the dream home you are planning to build.

As an example you may want to know the following:  

Does the house fit within the site boundaries? Are the windows facing the correct direction of the sunlight? What are the zoning and statutory requirements that are applicable where my site is located? 

Visiting your local municipal offices and finding out their requirements could also assist you and your architect in this regard.

  • Securing the Finance
    Before the loan can be approved, banks will subject an applicant to a rigorous process.  

 Banks will scrutinize, amongst others, the credit worthiness of the applicant. 

Most banks will also attach stringent conditions to ensure that the house construction process delivers the planned buildings within the specification and costs.

For this, banks will go as far as to request that any prospective builder is registered with a national builder’s regulating institution such as the National Home Builder Registration Council (NHBRC). 

As mentioned before, banks will want you to submit your proposed house plans together with a few quotes from prospective builders so as to determine the risk profile on your building loan. 

In addition to the requirements mentioned above, most bank will generally require the following items from you:

  • A building loan application form
  • Supporting documents such as:
    • Your proof of address
    • Your proof of Identity
    • Your proof of income (for you and your spouse)
    • Your current bank statements

The bank will then evaluate your application and either reject or approve it.  

If your application is approved, then construction work can now begin.  

But prior to that, you will first need to obtain approval of the building plan by the municipality.

  • Municipal Plan Submission and approval

Here are some typical requirements when submitting building plans/floor plans to your Municipality in order to build a house:

  • A copy of your Title Deeds – obtainable from either your attorneys/conveyancers who handled the transfer of your property or the financial institution which has granted the mortgage bond over the property.
  • Application Forms provided by the local authority, filled and signed by yourself and your architect.
  • Where structural work such as concrete slabs or special foundations is contemplated, an appointment certificate completed and signed by a registered professional engineer.
  • A fire installation drawing (normally for public or commercial buildings) – check with the fire department of your local authority.
  • A copy of an approved Site Development Plan (SDP) - if applicable.
  • A full set of house plans coloured and scaled according to the building code applicable to your local authority.
  • A rational design proposal by a professional engineer for fire installations or specialized electrical and mechanical systems.
  • Applicable building plan scrutiny fees.  These can be charged at a rate per area of the dwelling or as a flat fee.  NB. Building line fees can vary considerably from local authority to the next.
  • An architectural compliance certificate/form signed by both yourself and the architect or draughtsman who prepared your house plans.
  • Appointing a Builder to start construction

Appointing a reliable and experienced builder is vital to the success of any home building project. 

Where an architect is appointed, you will be safely guided by him along this process.  

The architect will first advise you on various types of contract agreements.  

Together with the contract agreement, the architect will also compile other documents (ie. Schedules, specification, etc) which will form part of the tender/bidding paperwork.

Builders will then submit their bids to the architect based on the bid documents provided by the architect.  

The architect will thereafter brief the homeowner on the bids received and advice thereof.  

Once a suitable builder has been identified the architect will coordinate the signing of the contract between yourselves and the builder.  

The builder will now have to get the ball rolling to initiate the construction works on site.

How to Build a House - The Construction Stage

A Typical House Construction Schedule

  1. Apply for municipal service connections - water, electricity and sewerage.
  2. Site clearance – cut trees, level the ground, etc
  3. Site establishment - site huts, temporary toilets, site access, etc.
  4. Setting out – measuring and pegging the proposed building perimeter and prepare for foundation excavations.
  5. Foundation Excavations
  6. Inspections – by structural engineer and building inspector.
  7. Pour concrete in foundations
  8. Foundation wall – up to min. 200mm above natural ground level.
  9. Backfilling – compacting hardcore fill and ant treating under slab
  10. Damproofing under slabs – damp proof course and membrane
  11. Electrical conduits - All the pvc tubes that will convey the electrical cables, etc.
  12. Surface Bed - Pouring floor concrete slab
  13. Superstructure Walls – building external and internal walls
  14. Roof trusses - A system of wooden planks that will carry the roof covering 
  15. Inspections – structural engineer and building inspector
  16. Roof covering - Roof tiles, corrugated iron sheets, etc.
  17. Beamfillingfilling between walls and roof covering
  18. Plumbing -  All the plumbing pipes
  19. Inspections – Municipal building inspector
  20. Electrical conduiting - The actual electrical cables, wall plugs, light switches, etc.
  21. Plastering - Cement plaster is applied to exposed brick walls
  22. Windows and doors
  23. Glazing
  24. Ceilings
  25. Floor screed
  26. Kitchen cabinets
  27. Bathroom fixtures
  28. Electrical plugs and switches
  29. Painting
  30. Flooring
  31. Paving
  32. Boundary walls and fencing
  33. Landscaping
  34. Completion and handover to new homeowner
  35. Move in

In this article we have shown you the steps on how to build a house, from the decision-making stage through the planning and onto the nuts and bolts of homebuilding.

There could be some information left out in this article such as the building regulations, zoning and townplanning requirements but we trust that this guide is sufficient enough to help you edge forward to your dream to build your own house.

Other Resources: Find House Plans for Existing House | Make Small House Look Bigger | Property Investment | Refinance Mortgage After Divorce | How to Read House Plans | 25 Best Architects of All Time | Zaha Hadid’s Top 10 Buildings | Solar Energy Advantages and Disadvantages | 13 Ways to Save Electricity | How to Design Your Own House