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A Beginner’s Guide to the Homebuilding Process

Posted: November 16, 2017 at 11:49 am by: NewHomesGuide

You’ve finalized your contract with a builder, permits have been obtained, the ground’s thawed (or dried out), and you’re ready to officially begin construction on your new home.

The process that awaits you is truly special – an emotional sequence that is hard to put in words, but is undeniably a memory you’ll preserve for years to come. Watching your home take shape is such a unique transformation, especially as a first-time home buyer.

Use this article as an overview of what to expect as you embark on what is likely an unfamiliar process. You’ll find a succession of the major milestones, individual tasks within each phase, and what you’ll want to take note of as you visit your home during the full extent of construction.

Phase 1. Foundations


Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects


  • Clearing – rocks, trees (where applicable), and debris are removed from the site
  • Excavation – trenches and/or hole(s) dug for walls and footings
  • Footings – base supports for perimeter and bearing walls are installed
  • Utilities – rough-in connections for plumbing and electricity are marked
  • Slab – floor is poured over level ground with holes for utility connections
  • Formwork – wood/metal panel molds are fitted in place and lined with rebar skeleton
  • Pouring – formwork is filled completely with concrete to create walls
  • Curing – concrete hardens in place
  • Waterproofing – formwork is removed from walls and membrane is applied to exposed concrete
  • Backfill – holes surrounding perimeter of foundation are filled with dirt level to existing grade

What you should look for:

  • Walk the perimeter of the house while formwork is in place and before concrete is poured – does the “footprint” match the basement/foundation plan?
  • Does the height of the formwork match the ceiling height in the drawings?
  • Can you identify where basement level plumbing fixtures and sump-pump are located?
  • Are there ledges/shelves to support masonry where required?

Phase 2. Rough Framing


Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects


  • Floor, Wall, and Roof Systems – wood joists, studs, rafters, and trusses are installed (typically in this order)
  • Steel – metal columns and beams replace temporary supports and are set in place under heaviest framing loads
  • Sheathing – plywood panels are nailed and screwed into place along the exterior side of the walls and roof
  • Air & Moisture Protection – house wrap and tape is applied above sheathing to prevent exterior infiltration
  • Openings – windows and doors are installed

What you should look for:

  • Walk the house with the floor plans in hand and use them as a map – can you identify each room?
  • Before they’re installed, are window and door openings framed in their proper sizes and locations?
  • Is there additional wood framing (blocking) where you’ll be hanging heavy objects or mounting fixtures (like towel bars, handrails, and TVs) to the walls?
  • Does the house wrap and tape overlap the edges of the window and door openings to create a tight seal?
  • Are your eaves (underside of the roof edges) sloped or flat per your design?
  • Are box/tray ceilings framed in the designated rooms?

Phase 3. Trades

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects


  • Plumbing – pipes to supply water, remove waste, and ventilate fixtures are installed
  • HVAC – ductwork for heating and air conditioning is run through the floors, ceilings, and walls
  • Electrical – receptacles for outlets, switches, and fixtures are located; then, wiring is run from the breaker panel to/between these items

What you should look for:

  • Before wiring is installed, have you walked the house to confirm that switch and outlet locations work with your furniture and living preferences?
  • Are light fixtures installed symmetrically within common rooms and spaces and in alignment with each other?
  • Do dryer and fireplace vents terminate (exit the house) in low-visibility locations?
  • Where ductwork can’t be hidden in the framing, can bulkheads (framing around the ductwork) be tied into ceiling treatments?
  • Can you confirm that pipe rough-ins correctly correspond to your sink locations (especially in kitchen islands)?

Phase 4. Insulation

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects


  • Insulation: Batt sheets, blown cellulose (pictured), rigid boards, and/or liquid foam are installed along the exterior envelope – between wall studs, edge of attic or roof, underside of exposed floors, and along basement foundations

What you should look for:

  • Is the insulation applied tight against the framing, limiting the number of “cracks” for heat to pass through?
  • Is your ductwork in the attic properly insulated to reduce seasonal temperature impact and improve performance?

Phase 5. Exterior Finishes

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects


  • Masonry – brick, block, and stonearetypically installed first to account for grout curing/settling and reduce staging area required on site
  • Trim – installed first when used with siding to create clean seams between materials
  • Siding – vinyl, wood, or composite planks/shakes installed in vertical and/or horizontal orientation
  • Roofing – shingles, metal panels, or membrane applied over weatherproofing barrier with coping/flashing at edges to prevent water infiltration
  • Exterior Paint/Stain – applied to non-factory finished materials

What you should look for:

  • Do your finish colors match the selections you’ve made with your builder?
  • If the option is available – have you “tested” your trim/accent color(s) against the primary finish of the house? (A mock-up panel can be a great tool to visualize these beforehand)
  • Is the trim installed in the correct orientation, with the proper overhangs/layering of pieces, and consistently around all similar openings?
  • Do horizontal bands align with projections (bays, sills, and cantilevers)?
  • Are soffit and ridge vents properly installed in your roof?
  • Are standing seams on metal roofs oriented to allow water to flow where directed?
  • Do your downspouts align with corners or other inconspicuous locations?

Phase 6. Drywall & Interior Trim

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects


  • Sheet hanging – drywall is applied to the framing with holes cut for fixtures, receptacles, and switches
  • Taping – seams between drywall sheets are taped to create flat, continuous, and consistent surface
  • Edging – vinyl or metal angles are installed at corners and edges of openings for straight lines
  • Compound – “mud” is applied overtop of tape and screws/nails for smooth appearance
  • Trim – interior doors, window/door casing, baseboards, crown molding, wainscoting, and stair balusters are installed
  • Primer Coat – base layer of paint is applied, covering tape and compound

What you should look for:

  • Are screws or nails used to fix the drywall sheets to the framing? (Tip: screws are much more resilient and resistant to “popping” out of the framing)
  • Has compound also been applied to trim pieces to cover nail marks?
  • Do door swing directions match your plans and/or make sense with circulation flows?

Phase 7. Flooring

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects


  • Underlayment – padding is placed below the finish material
  • Setting – Floor boards and tile are positioned on the floor and fixed into place
  • Grout – Spacers (pictured) are placed between tile intersections to create even seams, which are then filled with a binding compound
  • Molding – “shoe” mold is applied between edge of hardwood flooring and baseboards to cover any uneven boards
  • Carpet – installed last to prevent stains/deterioration from foot traffic

What you should look for:

  • Are hardwood floors oriented in the preferred direction?
  • Is the tile positioned to minimize partial pieces and align with cabinetry, fixtures, and wall edges?
  • Are temporary coverings installed to preserve the quality of finished materials?
  • Where material transitions occur, is there finished edging or trim between them? Does the color of this product correspond to your floor materials?

Phase 8. Cabinetry & Specialties

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects


  • Cabinets & vanities – kitchen and bathroom cabinetry are installed
  • Shelving – field-fabricated built-ins and shelving systems for closets are installed
  • Countertops – pre-fabricated counters are set into place with backsplash above
  • Specialties – towel bars, mirrors, shower enclosures, outlet/switch covers, HVAC registers are installed
  • Plumbing fixtures – toilets and sinks are set into positionand connected to supply/drain lines
  • Finishes – final paint and wall surfaces are applied

What you should look for:

  • Are countertop seams spaced evenly or located discreetly?
  • If your cabinets do not sit directly below the ceiling, how are the tops treated? Do they have trim applied directly to the cabinet or is a bulkhead framed above?
  • Are there filler panels installed between operable doors and walls to allow adequate dimension to swing open?

Phase 9. Grading & Landscaping

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects


  • Grading – ground is leveled and smoothed into final position by repositioning dirt/earth
  • Driveways & lead walks – asphalt and concrete are laid into place
  • Landscaping – plantings, topsoil, gravel, and sod are all installed

What you should look for:

  • Does the ground slope away from the house around the entire footprint, so water drains properly?
  • Have splash blocks or drain inlets been installed below downspouts?
  • Do you have guardrails where the ground surface is more than 3’-0” below the edges of decks, porches, stoops, and patios?
  • Are there wells provided where grade intersects with basement window openings?
  • If you have steep grade alongside a driveway or lead walk, is it acknowledged with a barrier (such as stones or plantings) along the edge?
  • Can you ensure driveways and lead walks have not been damaged by equipment or disturbed by construction?

Phase 10. Final Walkthrough

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects

Photo Credit: W.C. Ralston Architects


  • Builder Orientation & Inspection: tour the home with your builder to review warranties, maintenance requirements, and operational explanations of the “inner-workings”

What you should look for:

  • Can you identify any visible damages caused by construction, touch-ups required for blemishes in paint or floors, and fixtures not operating properly?
  • Do you understand how your fixtures, utilities, and systems function?
  • Have you set a schedule for a future walkthrough within the time limits of your warranty to address any repairs that materialize after you move in?

As the homeowner, you possess more responsibility for the duration of construction than you may think. In addition to having a familiarity of the sequence of events during the build, it will serve you well to have a solid comprehension of the design prior to breaking ground. It’s vital that you understand what you’re getting – the translation from drawing to reality can be abstract, so ask questions if you’re unsure what a specific annotation means or what a detail will look like when built. Minimizing changes in the field is the best way to avoid delays (as well as additional costs). Establish a communication system with your builder to get regularly scheduled status updates and walkthroughs together. By staying involved throughout the process, you’ll be in tune with latest progress and understand the implications of factors out of your direct control (i.e. inspections, weather, material deliveries, availability of contractors, etc.).

Adhering to these strategies will make your building experience smoother and even more fulfilling. You should enjoy the process just as you will enjoy your new home!

Article courtesy of Evan Stoddard, an architect wtih W.C. Ralston Architects in Virginia.

Moving to a New Area? The Relo Guide Can Help Put Your Mind at Ease.

Posted: April 14, 2017 at 2:38 pm by: NewHomesGuide

The Relo GuideIt’s perfectly normal to feel nervous or excited — or both — about moving to a completely new area. Fortunately, New Homes Guide is here to put your mind at ease by helping you learn more about the place you’ll soon be calling home.

Inside the pages of The Relo Guide, a free supplement we offer in addition to our magazine, you’ll find everything you need to know about all of the most sought-after areas surrounding our nation’s capital.

Everything from schools, day care services, utility companies, moving services, recreational activities, entertainment venues, shopping and dining locations, and much more is covered to help you get acquainted with where you want to live — making you more confident about your move as a whole.

The Relo Guide also includes profiles for dozens of the area’s top homebuilders and planned communities to help you choose the perfect neighborhood to call home. And if you’re ready to move sooner rather than later, you’ll also find hundreds of listings for Move-In-Now Homes that are already built and ready for you to make your own right now.

Moving to a new home is always an exciting time, and we’re here to help make your transition to a new area easier and more enjoyable every step of the way. So don’t forget to order your free copy of The Relo Guide today.

Move-In-Now Homes: All the Benefits of Buying New, Without the Wait

Posted: August 12, 2016 at 11:30 am by: NewHomesGuide

New Homes Guide

A brand new home, with all the features, options and upgrades you’ve ever wanted, without having to wait for it to be built — it’s all possible with a Move-In-Now home from one of the area’s finest homebuilders.

Although many home shoppers look for homes in the spring and early summer months, homebuilders are continuing to offer some of the best values in the housing market, so it’s easy to find incredible incentives and fantastic built-in features in Move-In-Now homes right now.

If you’re looking for the speed of settling on a resale with all of the upgrades and features of a new home, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for among the numerous Move-In-Now opportunities in new home communities in our region. And they’re so easy to find when you start your search with New Homes Guide.

For homebuyers, it’s the best of both worlds. You get all the benefits of owning a brand new home, such as a stylish design, a contemporary floorplan and a great community to call home, and you don’t have to wait for construction, so you can move much sooner.

Ready to discover the perfect Move-In-Now home? Here’s how you find it:

1. Visit

2. Enter your desired location in the search bar. Filter results by home type, price range and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you’re looking for.

3. Check the “Yes” box beneath “Move-In-Now” and click “Find Homes”


4. On the next page, select a community that interests you

5. Scroll down to “Move In Now” and find the perfect new home that’s waiting for you right now

There are so many great homes and communities to choose from on And if you get started now, you’ll have plenty of time to find the one that suits you and be settled into your dream home in no time. And don’t forget, you can find even more Move-In-Now opportunities in the latest issue of New Homes Guide.



Express Your Style and Accentuate the Beauty of Your Home This Holiday Season

Posted: December 3, 2015 at 11:17 am by: NewHomesGuide

‘Tis the season for holiday decorating, and we’ve got some great ideas to emphasize the natural beauty of your house and set a festive mood both inside and outside your home.


Holiday Decorating Begins at the Front Door

The front door is the first thing people will notice when they visit your home this holiday season. Start spreading holiday cheer right away, so guests will feel festive as soon as they reach your home. Go beyond the standard green wreath or garland and make bold choices that really express your style.

Set the Mood with the Perfect Holiday Party Decor

All great holiday parties include decor that represents the host’s style and brings out the beauty of the home. Whether you opt for handmade decorations or adorn your home with bold accents for an unforgettable get-together, these ideas will get you started.

Bring the Outdoors Inside for Natural, Inspired Holiday Decorating

Whether you are thinking of wreaths, garlands, flower arrangements or centerpieces, natural-styled winter accents are a hot trend in holiday decorating. Showcase every beautiful inch of your home’s interior with elegant holiday touches inspired by nature.

If you’re still looking for the perfect place to call home, our latest issue of New Homes Guide might have exactly what you’re looking for. Reserve your FREE copy today, and don’t forget to get more interior design inspiration by adding our free Interiors supplement to your order. Happy holidays!


Collect Your Free Gift Card Just for Shopping with New Homes Guide

Posted: October 23, 2015 at 11:00 am by: NewHomesGuide

23OctIt doesn’t cost a dime to use New Homes Guide, but it can pay off in so many ways.

When you join our New Homes Guide Rewards program, you’ll get a free $200 gift card once you’ve purchased your new home. And you can get a free $50 gift card just for shopping at any four new home communities.

Redeeming your rewards is a simple process. You’ll choose a gift card from among two dozen of the region’s most popular restaurants, home stores and retail outlets. It’s a small token of our appreciation for using New Homes Guide to assist in your search.

We take care of our Realtor friends, too. If you’re using an agent, remind them that they can get their own $50 gift card for bringing clients to visit four new home communities.

We’re glad you’ve chosen to include New Homes Guide in your search process. Make the most of it. Sign up today and start collecting your New Homes Guide Rewards!

Move-In-Now Homes Give You the Benefits of New, Without the Wait

Posted: October 9, 2015 at 11:00 am by: NewHomesGuide

Summer is over and cooler weather is coming, but if you’re a savvy home shopper, the good news is that the new homes market is just heating up.


If you want to find the best deals, consider the many Move-In-Now opportunities in new home communities in Northern Virginia, Maryland, D.C., Pennsylvania and West Virginia. They’re so easy to find when you start your search with

Many home shoppers tend to hibernate during the cooler months, but homebuilders still want to finish the year strong. So it’s common to find great prices, great incentives and great features in already built Move-In-Now Homes.

For buyers, it’s the best of both worlds. You get all the benefits of buying a new home—the latest styles, the most modern floorplans and brand new everything—and you can make your move faster because you don’t have to wait for construction.

So those are the perks. Here’s how you find the hidden gems:

1. Start at

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 12.53.05 PM

2. Enter your desired location in the search bar. Select home type, price range and number of beds and baths

3. Click the “Yes” box beneath “Move-In-Now and click “Find Homes”

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 1.18.52 PM

4. On the next page, click on a community that interests you

5. Scroll down to “Models and Floorplans” and select the “Immediate Delivery Homes” tab

6. Find the new home that’s waiting for you.

There’s a great selection to choose from. And if you get started now, you’ll have plenty of time to shop around, visit your favorites, choose the one and be settled into your dream home before the holidays are here.


Plan Your Move to a Planned Community with Our New FREE Supplement

Posted: September 11, 2015 at 11:00 am by: NewHomesGuide

11SepYou’ve heard of “all-inclusive resorts.” Now think “all-inclusive new homes.” That’s the lifestyle you can expect with a planned community.

When builders and developers team up to create an entire neighborhood, or even a small town, buyers win. On top of the flexibility you get in home styles and prices, planned communities often feature incredible amenities to go along with your beautiful new home, including sports courts and fields, nature trails, pools, green space, clubhouses and more.

If you’re interested in finding the perfect new home in a place like this, The Planned Community Lifestyle, a supplement to New Homes Guide, will help get you there.

Available both in print and online formats, this supplement features up-to-date information about the features, benefits, pricing and amenities that come with living in a planned community. You’ll be able to see the best planned communities in the area, and you’ll be able to dig deeper into the details of the communities that interest you.

Stay connected with New Homes Guide by ordering your free subscription today! Plus, add on supplements such as The Planned Community Lifestyle and The Relo Guide to make your home search even easier.

Military Homebuyers and Understanding the VA Loan

Posted: August 28, 2015 at 11:00 am by: NewHomesGuide

The Washington, D.C. metro area is home to many active-duty military personnel and veterans from all service branches. As an expert in the Mid-Atlantic region’s new homes market, we know that the needs of military families are unique and constantly evolving; however, just because military families may be on the move regularly, it does not mean that homeownership is out of the question. In fact, there are many benefits to homeownership as a military service member and some of the best loans are reserved for those who serve or have served our country.


What is a VA Loan?
A VA loan is a unique type of home loan that is guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The program was created to offer special long-term financing to eligible veterans. The program carries many benefits, including:

  • Allows veterans to qualify for loans that exceed traditional conforming loans
  • No down payment required on home purchases
  • Choose either fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage
  • Lower closing costs
  • No monthly mortgage insurance payment required

To find out if you are eligible for a VA loan, check with the Department of Veterans Affairs.


Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) & Military Tax Benefits
Active members of the military assigned to duty in the United States but not living in government housing may be eligible for the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), an entitlement that compensates members for the cost of housing. BAH funds are paid monthly and are not taxable.

Factors that determine amount of BAH:

  • Rank or pay grade
  • Location in the United States
  • Whether or not you have dependents

Factors that do not affect amount of BAH:

  • Amount of rent paid
  • Number of dependents

The Defense Travel Office has a handy tool for estimating your BAH.

Once you become a homeowner, you may be able to deduct 100% of your mortgage interest. Check to learn how.


Active-Duty Members
Active members of the military who face an imminent Permanent Change of Station (PCS) stand to benefit from a number of measures designed to ease the cost of their move, including:

  • Reimbursement of lodging and meal expenses
  • Transportation allowance
  • Free transport of your belongings, with the weight allowance determined by pay grade
  • Permission to travel to your new area to search for a home

Visit Military OneSource to find more information on benefits for active-duty members on the move.


Why Everyone Should Evaluate Schools Before Choosing a New Home

Posted: July 30, 2015 at 11:30 am by: NewHomesGuide

You might be looking for a new home in a better school district. Or it might not be an issue for your family.

Either way, schools should play a big part in any homebuying decision. These days, parents and children aren’t the only ones who may feel the lasting effects of a school’s reputation. Your home’s value may feel it, too.

Before making a major investment in a new home, take a look at these great resources available to help home shoppers with or without children.

On and, you can search and compare school ratings, stats and much more. Even if school districts are not important to you right now, they may be important later or be a critical factor for the family that moves in after you.

For those of you who rely heavily on a school’s reputation when it comes down to a home buying decision, Project Appleseed has good advice on how to evaluate and choose a school based on child, family and school characteristics. The website can help you find information on individual schools and gives recommendations from the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

Here are NAESP’s questions to ask when choosing a school:

  • Have you read the school district’s annual report?
  • What is the school’s discipline policy?
  • What services are available at the school?
  • What is the school’s safety policy?
  • Is there an active parent organization?

When searching for your new home, be sure to ask homebuilders and your Realtor for information on the reputation of schools in and around your areas of interest. Both can be great resources when making a home purchasing decision.



Find a New Home and Make a Quick Move in Virginia

Posted: March 12, 2015 at 8:16 am by: NewHomesGuide

Looking for all the benefits of a new home, but the timely convenience of a resale home?

You’re looking for a new Move-In-Now Home and spring may just be the best time to find it in all the best parts of Virginia.

With the first hint of warm weather, homebuilders start offering great prices and great incentives on new quick delivery homes. Many even hold special sales events to mark the occasion. From Northern Virginia to Richmond and beyond, can help you find the best new Move-In-Now Homes on the market.

Get a head start here and beat the spring crowds.


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