I inherited a piece of land and want to build a house on it. Nothing fancy: one floor, 2-3 rooms.

Since I don't really have the money :D to build it "in one go", I'm going to build it over a longer period of time, bit by bit.

Also, I want to build it myself as much as I can, in weekends, vacations etc.

So my question is: What do you need to know to build yourself a house. What is it that you can do and what you should let experts handle?

  • 1
    Stay tuned to the blog, there's a post coming later this week that includes the parts we contract out with our local Habitat for Humanity chapter.
    – BMitch
    Nov 8, 2011 at 19:16
  • Building a house yourself on weekends isn't really a viable plan. I think that's really where you need to start. Plan, plan, plan, plan. Then ask specific questions as you run into them in the planning stage.
    – DA01
    Nov 8, 2011 at 21:15
  • 1
    I used to build daily for years- your plan will fail- I have seen it fail over and over- you cannot build in free time. If any body says that they are in-experienced.For me to build a single standing 1 level house took 3 months(7am to 21pm)everyday inc Sundays[from mud to sold] Your work will deteriorate and become unsuitable in small stages. Loads of building regulations require certain parts to be built within months of each other- other wise its just an illegal build and wont be covered by insurance if surveyed. And it costs twice as much to build slower too- take my advice-get a loan + pro
    – Piotr Kula
    Nov 9, 2011 at 15:32
  • How set are you on a conventional house, with conventional features? How big?
    – Jay Bazuzi
    Nov 9, 2011 at 20:41
  • Hopefully your land isn't encumbered by POAs, historical districts, sensitive habitats, restrictive zoning, incorrigible neighbors, stickler AHJs... Jul 11, 2017 at 0:56

2 Answers 2


There is a lot to know. Shortest answer: you should let experts handle anything you're not sure of.

You need to comply with local building codes (This also means you need to know what those are. Inspectors don't accept ignorance as an excuse.)

The design needs to be approved by an architect or structural engineer. There are strict requirements on footings, beams, etc, that you must follow, or you simply cannot use the structure. If you do not comply with building codes and inspection requirements, the property can be condemned and in extreme cases, demolished (with the expense assessed against the property).

Once you start, you more or less need to make it weather tight. While the foundation is open (eg, a hole in the ground - whether it has the actual foundation itself built yet or not) it's going to fill up with water, which is not a great thing to have happen. Once you start building the wooden structure parts, you pretty much have to build the whole thing to be water tight. You don't want the wood to be exposed to water for long, and since interior floors are not designed for that, water tends to pool on them (which is how you get rot and mold).

Basically the first bit consists of:

  • foundation
  • framing
  • house wrap
  • roofing
  • windows/exterior doors

Once the structure is up, weather tight, and in compliance with building codes, you can now slow down and go at your own pace. You need to get appropriate permits (check your local permits department) for all the work as needed (hvac, plumbing, electrical).

There are a lot of aspects to construction, and you need to plan most of them in advance before starting anything. (eg: You need to know where plumbing and hvac is being routed before you do any framing)

Major interior considerations:

  • plumbing (supply, hot water heater, waste, vents, and fixtures)
  • electrical
  • phone/cable
  • insulation (and vapor barrier)
  • hvac (furnace, vents, exhaust)
  • drywall
  • interior doors
  • cabinets (kitchen, bath)
  • painting
  • flooring
  • trim

(Marked as community, since the question is extremely broad)

  • +1 for building it to be water tight quickly. It's much cheaper to save your money until you can build it all at once rather than doing a piece at a time and having to replace parts that get water damaged.
    – BMitch
    Nov 8, 2011 at 19:14
  • To go with the water tightness quickly, one model to look at is post and beam construction. It's perhaps one of the faster ways to get a roof supported before. (though obviously beam construction isn't necessarily a one person job)
    – DA01
    Nov 8, 2011 at 22:25

There's an excellent project starting up on kickstarter called the Global Village Construction Set which I read here. They are basically trying to open source hardware so that you can mix and match pieces to build construction machines. The wiki explains a lot of what they have already developed -- my favorite is the Compressed Earth Block Press which creates bricks from soil.


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