How To Use a Home Builder Guide

Okay, you've decided that it's time to build a new home.  You've purchased the land, you have some ideas for your house -- now what?  A good place to start is by reading your local community's Home Builder Guide.  For some small towns, this could be just a brief pamphlet, while for larger or planned communities, it could be as long as one hundred pages.  Regardless, all Home Builder Guides should answer these basic questions:

  1. How do I obtain a construction permit?  Most Home Builder Guides will tell you the specific steps involved in obtaining a construction permit, as well as when it is necessary.  It should also tell you how much the permit will cost.  If you are just remodeling your home, a permit may not be required.  If you are in doubt, check with the department that issued the Home Builder Guide, or your city clerk's office.
  2. Is an inspection required?  Your local guide should tell you specifically when an inspection is required for any building project.  Your city may require an inspection for foundations, plumbing, electrical systems, framing, insulation, heating/cooling systems and roofs.  Some cities may require an inspection by the fire department, also, before the final inspection is complete.  It's very important to schedule the proper inspections in order to avoid long delays in the building process. 
  3. Do I need to file a building plan?  Some communities will require a complete building plan to be filed and reviewed before they will issue a construction permit.  A building plan is basically a blueprint of every aspect of your project, including interiors, exterior, site details and elevation.  Your building guide should tell you whether or not a building plan is required, and if so, exactly what the requirements are.
  4. What are the zoning codes in my area?  One of the most important functions of a Home Builder Guide is to give you details on the zoning requirements in your area.  Some zoning requirements are fairly standard, such as how far a garage must be set back from the road, and how much of your lot may be covered by a building.  Other codes depend on where you live.  For example, in areas which pride themselves on retaining their heritage, you may be held to very strict standards regarding how your house looks on the outside and how it is to be built.

Although most Home Builder Guides will provide a lot of detail, they are not a substitute for professional advice.  An architect, engineer or general contractor will be necessary to guide you through the actual process of obtaining permits, scheduling inspections and meeting zoning codes in your area. 


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