Announcement: Welcome ! to Steps to Building Your Own House

I decided to create this blog to document and provide useful information to anyone who has decided to head down the path that I did, and  build your home. This will be a true, real life, hopefully day to day as it transpires update, as I skate threw the maize of contracting this house on my own.

Build your home, New Home Under Construction

Build your home, — (


Before we start I would like to give thanks to my cousin Allan who was instrumental over the years in nudging me towards this decision and who is presently active on a daily basis in helping me on the crucial day to day details .

I would like to also thank my wife JoAnne for realizing that we could do this together and thank her for having given her blessing to this endeavor as well as her organizational skills and help in the decisions that we have made  and will be making along the way.

Last, but not least thank you Guy and Gladice ( My Father & Mother in law ) for all the help and for having opened their home to us as we build this dream home of ours.

So here we go, follow along and I do hope this inspires you to get out and just do it !


Pierre Kitts

Percolation Test – Why is it important

Percolation testing

Soil Testing

Soil Testing—MdAgDept (

Percolation  test commonly know as a perc test, is conducted in the area of land that you will be installing your leaching field for your septic system. If you are part of the 30% of households that require a septic system instead of being connected directly to a public sewage system this will form a part of the testing that you will be required to do prior to building your own home. This test is best left to a professional who for a fee, will also submit a septic design and plans for your home installation. This is usually  approved by your municipally and required prior to building any new home..

How the Perc test is conducted

The consultant usually makes 4 to 5 holes of 3 to 4inches in diameter and 4 feet deep from the height of the septic field installation and saturates the holes with water then fills them to a pre determined height and measures the absorption of the water into the soil. The rate of absorption, as well as a visual of the quality of the soil will determine if your land is suitable for a septic system. If your land is not suitable not all is lost. New high efficiency septic systems available today can be used for installation where the water table is too high or the soil is just not suitable. One is called Bionest. We installed it for our new home construction. It is more expensive then a typical septic system, however we felt better knowing that the effluent was of a higher and cleaner quality.

Determining the size of the sewage system

The daily amount of sewage waste that a household generates is calculated by the type and size of residence. Usually by total square footage on average per room and the number of  appliances that use water that are installed like washer, dishwasher, water softener, garbage disposal, humidifier in a furnace.

Type I: The total floor area of the residence divided by the number of bedrooms is more than 800 sq. ft. per bedroom, or more than two of the following water-use appliances are installed—automatic washer, dishwasher, water softener, garbage disposal, jaccuzi or humidifier in furnace.
Type II: The total floor area of the residence divided by the number of bedrooms is more than 500 sq. ft. per bedroom, and no more than two of the water-use appliances are installed.
Type III: The total floor area of residence divided by the number of bedrooms is less than 500 sq. ft. per bedroom, and no more than two of the water-use appliances are installed.
Type IV: No toilet wastes flow into sewage treatment system

How Sanitary Sewer Sytems Work

Sanitary sewer systems

Or otherwise called septic systems, accumulates all of the used  waist water  in a home and redirects it to a septic tank in which a primary separation of this waist becomes scum, sludge and effluent. The effluent is then sent out to the drainage field of your property were it is discharged  and the effluent then slowly seeps through the gravel in the septic field.

There are times whereby either the soil drains too quickly or the water table is to high and a secondary system is required. A secondary system is much more efficient and the effluent that comes out is basically clear water at that point.

Sanitary Sewer Sytems, Bionest septic system

In order to determine the quality of your soil you must get a percolation test done, usually in the neighborhood of $300 to $400 dollars. This percolation test determines the soil texture and can as well determine if you have a high water table, which would then entail that your excavator be informed and, with the help of your home designer, come  up with an elevation plan that would limit the depth of the excavation, and therefore, limit the depth of the foundation as compared to the water table beneath.

In our area high water tables have been an issue, and taking a walk through the neighborhood reveals who has done their homework, and who has not, as you see sump pumps working day and night evacuating water from around their foundations via french drains. Not a great resale value I might add.

Our table was slightly high so we opted, should I say had to use a high efficiency sanitary sewer system called Bionest. It works great and forced us to look at the height and placement of the foundation so that we did not  hit the water table and then have an issue with having to constantly evacuate water with a sump pump.

The effluent is so clear and odorless with the Bionest that  you can drink it.



Plumbing Basics In New Construction

Plumbing Basics

As you progress through the initial phases of the plumbing basics of any new construction. Plumbing in new construction  is one major section that is best left to a professional. Which is exactly what I did, however, I was very interested in the newer technologies that where being introduced like Pex or cross-linked polyetheline which is a semi flexible material that has taken the plumbing world by storm.

Pex Plumbing

It is totally inert and imparts no taste to the water. It’s flexibility greatly reduces the number of joints in the system (increasing its life span) lowering costs and improving flow. To add to that I really marveled at a newer concept of using a plumbing manifold system to balance out the various pressure on fixtures and reducing the time for hot water to flow to any particular fixture or bathroom. Another added benefit is that its very quiet in operation, and is freeze proof(within reason).

How To Build A Home

DIY Plumbing New Construction

This turns out to help somewhat reduce heating bills and helping you become a bit greener ecologically on plumbing any new home construction. The method of installation is very simple. A Pex crimping tool can be purchased or even rented ($10/day) at your local tool rental spot, crimps purchased at any local hardware store of the proper size, and you simply crimp them on. It’s that simple and  efficient.

plumbing new construction home, Pexcrimpingtool

My cousin and I installed the Pex all over this new home construction using very little joints, which could really be seen with the available pressure in the line and the ability to take a shower and have someone else flush a toilet at the same time, without seeing any fluctuation in pressure, this do to the manifold. Usually the master bedroom as in our case is at the far end of the house, and it really does not take long to get the hot water going in the morning, specially a frosty one in the middle of winter.

With the cost of copper increasing every day, the ease of installation, specially for DIY, and the benefits of equalizing pressure, faster hot water delivery, and a zero lead option, no wonder a lot more of these manablock manifold systems are being installed in the plumbing of new home construction.

Will You Save Money When You Build a Property on Your Own?

If you want to build a property on your own, you may be thinking that this idea holds several key benefits. First, you will be able to ensure that all craftsmanship is superior and put your own time and care into your new home. Second, you will be able to design every detail of the home just as you envision it. Third, the home will save you money when compared to buying a pre-made pre-owned home. But is this really the case? Will you actually save money when you build a property on your own?

You should be aware that in many cases, people have been able to save a tremendous amount of money when doing the bulk of the work themselves. Many times, the labor costs of a home can inflate the actual cost tremendously, and if you can do much of the labor yourself, there is a lot of savings in this. However, you should plan and budget for those projects in your plan that you are not comfortable doing on your own. For instance, many people will outsource pouring a concrete slab foundation or running the electricity through the house because these are important, skilled, and often difficult tasks to complete. If you make mistakes in these areas, the effects can be really costly. Also, pay attention to the timeline of the project. The more time you are working on building this house, the less time you are working at your job. This also adds to the total cost of the project.

If you are thinking that you want to build a property on your own, you usually can save money when you do the bulk of the work yourself. However, if you don’t plan properly or attempt to do projects you are not good or effective at, you may end up costing yourself more money in the long run.


3 Cost-Reducing Tips for Building a House

Few things in life are as challenging as getting your first house built. Be careful, though: the project does not come cheap. Costs that do not seem like much in the beginning can quickly add up. Here are three cost-saving tips for building a house to help you stretch your dollar.


1. Hire the Builder Directly – Do you know that you can save anywhere from 3 to 7% of the contract value if you hire the builder yourself? Of course, to save that much, you will need to visit the site regularly. Make sure you hire an honest and reliable contractor. Get your builder to work to a price, and make sure your drawings are clear and your specifications comprehensive. That way, there is little doubt what is expected, and when.

2. Be Your Own Contractor – Contractors typically charge a mark-up of 10 to 20% on costs, for their services. The good thing about contractors is that they take care of running the site and resolving the problems that come up. They also take responsibility for materials, labor, and workmanship quality. If you’re working on a tight budget, however, you can take on the role yourself. Just be sure that you’re up to the task. Getting subcontractors to turn up when you need them to can be quite tough.

3. Pay in Cash – Credit is good, but cash is king especially in these tough times when money is hard to come by. By offering to pay in cash, you can easily find suppliers willing to give you higher discounts and builders or tradesmen willing to lower the price of their services. Be careful to back the arrangements you make with paperwork, however—you never know when you’ll need proof!

These are only a few tips to get you started. Don’t hesitate to look for more cost-reducing tips for building a house. Talk to friends who have experience in the matter, and ask for help from relatives who are handy with tools. Good luck!


How Much Per Square Foot to Build a House: Cost-Saving Measures

If you have made an estimate for how much per square foot it will cost to build a house in your area and have found that cost to be too high for your budget, there are some things you can still do. The last thing you want is to get started building your dream home only to run into the issue of having inadequate funds to complete the project, so getting a close estimate up front is a great first step. But when that first step doesn’t yield the results you want, what can you do to cut costs? Here are some ideas:


  1. Redesign – If you haven’t yet started on the construction, you can absolutely go back to the drawing board. Sometimes simply tweaking a few design elements can yield a great amount of savings, such as removing a few features, moving features to a different location, and so forth.

  1. Contract Services – If you are balking at the high cost of contract services that you will need for your home, consider getting only the basics done and then finishing contract projects yourself. You can also try to barter services with these professionals as well.

  1. Location – Sometimes the location of the property presents a cost challenge. You may have found the perfect plot of land to build, but if it is far from utilities, contract professionals, and so forth, it can really add a lot to your budget.

It is great that you are taking time up front to estimate how much per square foot it will cost to build a house. Proper planning is one of the most important things you can do for success. However, if that cost estimate isn’t quite what you were hoping and planning for, consider some of these strategies for bringing down that cost to an affordable level.

How To Install PVC Windows

Choosing the right window

How to Install PVC windows is part of the final process of inclosing your home while under construction. The obvious benefits were discussed in my previous post roof quotes. Now I guess we should start with  how to choose the right windows. I have a bit of an advantage over most people. I worked for a window manufacturer for a few years and the best part was that the manufacturer was based in Germany. As most of you probably know, German products are usually of great quality and this goes for this window manufacturer as well. Schuco systems is a leader in the process of manufacturing windows, curtain wall and facades in Europe and exports around the world.

Based upon my experience there are a few things to look out for in how to choose & How to Install a window, without getting too technical overall for the price, vinyl windows have several advantages. The frame of the window is a great thermal barrier ( its slow to transmit the cold or warmth outside to the interior of the house ) it weathers well over time, and is easy to maintain. The clincher is that its priced very competitively. The thermal glass is another area to look into. Today Low E Argon filled glass is well worth it, specially when combined with an efficient frame. You see ,if the frame is not thermally efficient it will degrade the overall R value of the window. Most manufacturers will provide certain test results, which you should ask for, of which one is the R value of the window. But they will only usually state the R value center of glass. To be exact you must take into consideration the impact of the frame and get the total R value of the whole window including frame.

What to look for in a good window

Here are a few things most manufacturers test their windows for that will help you on your quest on How to Install a window.

  • Air-tightness
  • Water-tightness
  • Wind load resistance
  • Ease of operation
  • Resistance to forced entry
  • Condensation resistance
  • Screen strength

Finding a good manufacturer not an agent

As I mentioned vinyl windows provide the best bang for the buck. The key is finding a good manufacturer. Now I was blessed to be in a house that had vinyl windows in it that I knew performed well in winter for condensation as well as ease of use. It just happened that the manufacturers name was on them. So I gave them a call. They were a true manufacturer. I had called a few in the area but after visiting, found that they were just installers who represented manufacturers. You want to deal with a manufacturer direct who has no objections dealing  with you as a general contractor. My cousin and I could install them easily. Just as a note the installer reps rates for the window quote were about 25% higher then what we received from the manufacturer direct.

The type of window is also a key. Typically crank systems coupled with an awning window is great for water, wind and security resistance versus the much cheaper and therefore poorer performing sliding window systems out there. So that is what we went for. Low E argon filled vinyl awning type windows. The basement windows were an awning type that swung from the top and opened outwards and had two latches on either side for security. Once ordered they took 3 weeks to be delivered on site, another issue to consider seriously while choosing & installing home windows. Do not get caught during the busy season and have your windows arrive late on site. The security and comfort of the site depends on the right choice and installation of  these windows in a timely manner.

So provide the plans to the manufacturer and he will prepare a quote on your windows. Our manufacturer provided all of the fire/security doors i.e. Garage to house as well as the garage doors and openers as well. One key aspect is to correctly determine the right depth of the window. Take into consideration the type of siding your are going to be using and correct for different types of siding. At times some people will use a higher grade of siding in the front of the house then on the side or the back. Another consideration is the width of the gyp rock you are using. We went with 5/8″ most go with 1/2″. This all impacts on how to choose & install home windows.

Installing and thermally sealing a window

How to Install a window you will need 2 people. It took my cousin and I two days to install all the windows in our house and  it went very well. A great link I found that truly explains the process  in detail  is How to Install a window. The process we used was to cut small blocks of wood and then shim the window, screw the window in and determine if all was plumbing and square. The final test is to make the window function. If it cranks well and is not bowed out, its fine. We finally used a low expanding foam insulator around the perimeter of the window to ensure that the window is well sealed.

A word about the low expansion foam. If you are going to be insulating the perimeter of all of the windows in the house use the following Dow Chemical 20 OZ Pro Wind/Dr foam as well as the Pro 13 dispensing gun and the Great Stuff Pro tool cleaner.

The dispensing gun simply screws on top of the dispensing foam cylinder which makes it a lot easier. Word of caution, be meticulous and take your time as you screw the cylinder on being careful to NOT strip the unit. There is a screw on the back of the dispenser as well, close it once finished and use the Pro tool cleaner once the day is done. If you have any questions I would love to hear from you, just use the comment below.

Roof Quotes – How to get the best price on your new roof !

Now that the roof trusses are up and the plywood is on, time to get  roof quotes so that we can now put on the shingles. Its very important to get the roof quotes prepared as soon as possible, in order to get the roof done as quickly as you can. Enclosing your home with the windows installed and the shingles on will create a more livable environment for the workers, specially in the depths of winter. So how do we go about getting roof quotes? first off, get some recommendations, look up your the local building directory, or do what I did. I found the local building association, and found their complete list of trades on their website, organized by trade. So I just started calling. I wanted at least 5 roof quotes to compare.  I got a great price on a 40 year asphalts shingle on sale from my building supplier, so all that I wanted was the roofer to install. I would supply the ice shield, paper, aluminum for the valleys and shingles.

In order to be able to compare one roof quote to another and to ensure that your are not going to be out done by an unscrupulous roofer, or a roofing sales person that just over calculates the dimensions of your roof and therefore the amount of work required to install your shingles, you need to be able to speak the same language as do all roofing contractors do. They all like to simplify things, and talk in terms of roofing squares. Roof quotes are usually done by roofing squares. A roof square is 100 square feet or an area of 10 feet by 10 feet square which would equal 1 square.

Simple right..well not yet. You have to determine the total square feet of your roof. In order to do this, you have to first determine its pitch in order to adjust the total linear square footage you will be calculating with its overhang to ensure you get acurate roof quotes

Determining Roof Pitch.

Low Roof Pitch/SlopeThis type of roof would have at least a 3:12 pitch, which means that a roof rises 3 feet for every 12 feet of its base horizontal length. This type of roof is considered to be “walkable”, and easy for performing a roof installation.Note, for our purposes, low pitch roof will not be greater than 5:12 slope/steepness of the roof.Approx. average roof multiplier: anywhere from 1.15 to 1.25 times the number of ground squares low pitch roof
Medium Roof Pitch/SlopeThe roof of this type would fall within 6:12 – 9:12 roofing slope range. Medium sloped roofs require special equipment such as roofing jacks, and planks in order to be able to perform the roofing installation. Because roofs with intermediate pitch / average slope roofs are considered to be non walkable, as they represent a higher degree of complexity, therefore they are more expensive to install.Approximate roofing multiplier: anywhere between 1.25 to 1.4 depending on the steepness of the roof’s slope, and how complicated / cut up the roof in question is. The greater the number of dormers, valleys, and endwalls, the more cut up/complex our roof is. Medium pitch slope roof
High/Steep Roof Pitch/SlopeRoofs in this category have a slope that is greater than 9 inches of rise for every foot of horizantal roof’s run.Approximate roofing multiplier can range from 1.41 for a simple gable roof up to 1.7 for a high slopped and cut up roof. In some cases, roofing multiplier can be even greater. Perhaps, you could use a 1.5 multiplier value to calculate the surface of a high and slight to moderate cut-up roof.The high slopped roof is, perhaps, the most difficult and dangerous roofing surface to work on. You may expect to pay a higher price for this type of roof per square of installation. Any roof, and especially steep roofs require the use of a special protections and fall arrest equipment. high pitch roof/steep roof

My roof is 8:12 pitch it rises 8 inches for every foot. Its multiplier will be 1.35.

So if you have a home that has several irregular shapes just simplify them down to basic squares, rectangles or triangles and add up their individual square footage for starters for your roof quotes. For a simplified version lets take a home that is 50 feet by 40 feet which would include the roof overhang, and therefore be 2000 square feet which would be 2000/100= 20 squares.  Due to the pitch we can then multiply it by the pitch difficulty of 1.35= 27 squares. Now we are talking. By doing a little more research we can even find out  on various sites like the various prices to get an idea of what your roof quote might come in at.

Well here is  my new roof as they finish the final touches. Hope this helps you gather  great roof quotes on your future project, let me know how it all went. If you have any questions please drop me a comment.
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Roof Rafters & Trusses – Order them Early

Roof Rafters & Trusses might seem very complicated but remember you are contracting your own home not building it out of scratch. From your detailed plans you can ask you local building supply store, from whom you have elected to do business with and order all of your supplies and negotiated a discount to provide a price for your roof rafters and trusses. They are manufactured by firms that specialize in their construction and have software that calculates the varying loads and stress’s that are applied in different regions of the nation.

That is exactly was I did. First went to our building supply store with a copy of all of my roof rafters & trusses design as well as the flooring joist and any supporting structures made out of LVL. Laminated Veneer Lumber is a high-strength engineered wood product made from veneers bonded together under heat and pressure. It is used for permanent structural applications including beams and rafters.

The total order is a nice one for any firm, and they will negotiate, so use some leverage by providing and disclosing their competitions rate. I received two other quotes by going direct to manufacturers as well.

The end result was that I split the job up in the end. Roof rafters & trusses to one and the floor joist and LVL to another. We ordered the roof rafters & trusses well ahead of the start of excavation some 3 weeks if I recall, as can be seen by this photo they arrived on time. Our rough carpentry crew installed the roof rafters and trusses and it when well to a degree, some of them were slightly off in measurement but as my foreman stated this usually happens, some adjustments are normal.


Typically some portions of the roof is assembled on the ground like gables. Its just easier this way. A crane or lift is used to lift the trusses in place as well as any pre assembled gables.

Once the roof rafters & trusses are installed and supported its time to reinforce the roof by installing the sheeting. 5/8 th will the thickness you will require.

There are 3 different types of sheeting  OSB ,plywood, and pressure treated plywood. OSB being cheaper, and pressure treated plywood being the best. Your budget and the type of weather you encounter on a year round basis will dictate what you will use. I opted for the best, that being PT plywood.



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