Footer and Foundation

The governing authority approved and issued your building permit, and you can actually begin the first physical phase of construction on your new home…the footer. A licensed surveyor sets the corners of the home for the footer excavation. The surveyor uses the site plan prepared prior to the issuance of permits to accurately position the home on the lot. The excavation of trenches for the footing to the proper depth and width occurs at this point, as well as the installation of steel rebar. A codes inspection occurs and upon approval, concrete is poured to the proper depth. Employing the services of a soils engineer may be required in some areas, but we highly recommend having soils checked by an engineer always. The footer and foundation insure the stability of your new home. Width and depth of a footer depends on the type of structure.

Footer with Rebar

The next step requires the return of the surveyor to pin the corners of the house on the footer for the accurate placement of the foundation walls. You may use concrete block for a crawlspace foundation, or poured concrete walls for a basement foundation. An engineer will design the concrete walls for strength and stability, and a company that specializes in the erection of poured concrete walls follows the engineer’s design. Designate the placement of openings for services to enter the home at this time.

Following the erection of the foundation walls, installation of the sill plate occurs and a codes inspector performs a foundation inspection to insure that all work adheres to codes regulations. Following the passing of the foundation inspection, framing lumber and the framer begin building your new home.

Poured Concrete Walls

The framing stage is very exciting because you will actually begin to see your new home evolving, and we will offer insights into framing next.

If you have any specific questions regarding the footer and foundation phase, please contact me.

Major Phases of Construction – Permitting

Your lot/land has been purchased, your construction loan is in place, and while you have been completing pre-construction selections, your builder has been readying documentation for the application of permits required in the jurisdiction you are building in. If you are building in an unincorporated area, the permitting process may take several weeks…especially if you will be utilizing a septic system for waste disposal.

A surveyor becomes an integral part of the process at this point. A site plan must be prepared showing the location of the soils areas for a septic system and your new home.

Building Permit

The following information refers to county permitting in an area that I am very familiar with…Williamson County, Tennessee. Before you ever present your home plans to the Planning and Codes Department, you will have to have your septic permit issued by the Environmental Department. The Environmental Departments approves and permits septic systems after reviewing your site plan, home plans, percolation test results, specifications for oversized tubs, and physical identification of soils areas. This step alone may take several weeks, so be prepared for this phase of permitting to take time.

Your builder will probably apply for a land disturbance permit prior to the issuance of the building permit, so the site preparation may go forward. Activities may include removing top soil from the building envelope (taking care not to disturb soils in the cordoned off soils area for your septic system), installing a construction driveway, erecting temporary electric service, and accessing water for use during construction. If city water is available, the purchase of a water tap fee occurs at this time.


Following the issuance of the septic permit, and the issuance of a zoning certificate, your builder will submit plans with a permit application to the Planning and Codes Department.  This department reviews building plans for approval prior to the issuance of the building permit. This process may take weeks, and depends on the work load of the department personnel.

Upon procurement of the appropriate permits, you are ready to start the next major phase of construction – the Footer and Foundation – a critically important part of any building or structure. The next article will examine this phase of construction.

If you are thinking about building a new home, contact me…from concept through completion, one point of contact, one point of management…one home at a time.

Pre-Construction…Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

While you will not be able to start the actual construction of your new home until the governing authority has issued all permits and all necessary fees are paid, this is an excellent time to start finalizing your selections for your new home. Exploration of the phases of construction are coming soon, but this article explores how decisions made prior to the actual start of construction can save you money. The old saying that “time is money” absolutely applies to new construction. If production comes to a standstill because your builder needs a selection finalized, and you are paying interest on a construction loan, your costs start climbing.

window-590824_1280The first selection you will want to address is windows and exterior doors. The specifications sheet provided by your builder will include the brand and type of window specified for your home, and if you want to make a change there is usually a six week lead time from time ordered to delivery for windows and exterior doors.  The framing phase in new construction has to allow and accommodate the proper size and location of your windows and doors.

Exterior finishes include masonry, siding, roofing, and cornice colors and styles, and may include shutters, rails, concrete finish, and landscape elements. Refer to your specifications sheet for the type of masonry and roofing products included on your home. Cornice color should be selected keeping your masonry and roofing selections in mind. The use of an interior designer might prove helpful at this time and throughout the process. Some builders may designate allowances for some or all of these elements.

Interior finishes usually include the selection of lighting fixtures, plumbing fixtures, appliances, cabinet style and color,chandelier-267811_1280 countertops, hardwood, carpet, tile, paint colors. Allowances for these elements vary by unit. For instance, an allowance for tile commonly denotes a square foot price, and fixtures often have a total dollars allowed. Finalizing one element is often dependent on the finalization of another. For instance, the plumber needs to know where the kitchen sink will be for the placement of the water supply lines and drains, making the kitchen cabinet layout critical to the start of the plumbing rough in. Appliance selections are required for the production of cabinetry to begin.

Coordination of human resources, materials, and interdependencies that exist to construct a new home in a timely manner, in the capable hands of an experienced builder, will save a homeowner money and stress. Building in a controlled environment is impossible, and natural occurrences will influence the amount of time it takes to build a new home; but a skilled builder will keep production flowing smoothly and seamlessly.  A comprehensive list of selections can be found on my website under the link “What To Expect -> The Home Building Process”, as well as a production chart.

My promise to my clients – “From concept through completion, one point of contact, one point of management, one home at a time”. Contact me if you are thinking about building a new home now or in the near future.

You Found Your Lot/Land…Now It’s Time to Find Your Builder!

In prior blog posts I have touched on finding the right builder for you, but now we’re going to get down to specifics. All builders are NOT the same! There are builders who specialize in commercial and industrial products, and there are tract builders…sometimes referred to as cookie-cutter builders because everything they build is exactly the same, over and over again. The following is a list of questions designed to help you interview a “custom” builder who will work with you to customize your plan and build a one-of-a-kind home for you.


  • Are you licensed and insured?
  • How many homes have you built, and where did you build them?
  • Do you have letters of reference from homeowners?
  • Do you have a model home, and if not, can you arrange for us to tour a home you built?
  • What standards do you use in your price quotes, and will you supply a comprehensive specification list?
  • Do you utilize allowances and can we select finishes?
  • Do you offer a warranty, and may we have a copy of it if you do?
  • Do you have plans for us to select from, or can we supply our own plan?
  • How do you handle changes and/or upgrades?

The following questions are very important, and I cannot adequately stress how important the answers are to these questions!

  • Will you, Mr. Builder, be directly supervising the construction of our new home, or do you utilize representatives (Project Managers)?
  • How often will you be physically present on our construction site?
  • What is your preferred form of communication?

If your Builder is personally on-site and supervising the construction of your new home, it is far more likely that your home will stay on schedule and on budget! Weekly meetings on site to go over progress and upcoming tasks to be completed will keep expectations clear for you and your Builder.

If you take the time to visit the construction site, make your selections in a timely manner, and communicate with each other, you will be very happy with your new home.


Consider Purchasing a Tract of Land

The time may come when you decide you would rather have your own tract of land to build your dream home on. Subdivision lifestyle may not fulfill your wants and/or needs. If a tract of land is what you want, there are several things to consider as you search.

gate-155112_1280Once again, it is always a good idea to have a realtor to represent you, and the right realtor will possess valuable and worthwhile knowledge to help you. A realtor can search the multiple listing service in your area to locate properties listed for sale, and he/she also has access to tax records if you want to approach landowners about purchasing property not listed for sale. Many properties experience a transfer in ownership without ever reaching the multiple listing services.

When you locate a property and decide to make an offer to purchase it, your realtor will help guide you through some very important considerations.

  • If you are attempting to purchase a property that will utilize a septic system, make your offer contingent on a percolation test that will support the number of bedrooms you will have in your new home.
  • If you suspect an abundant amount of rock exists in the area, consider engaging the services of a soils engineer to guide you, and by all means, make your offer contingent on an acceptable report from an engineer of your choice.
  • Confirm the property is not located in a flood zone.
  • Check for the availability of other utility services, i.e. water, gas, electricity.
  • Obtain any easements from adjoining property owners to insure your home will have the necessary utility services.
  • Ask the current owner for a copy of the most recent survey and explore the land, keeping an eye open for a suitable place to construct your new home.
  • Do check the zoning restrictions with the governing agency.
  • A visit to the Tax Assessor’s office will provide information on taxes and any restrictions that may have been placed on the property by prior owners.

If you have the heart of a pioneer and decide a small parcel of land fits your lifestyle, you may decide to step into the role of landowner.  Your next step may entail hiring an architect to design your new home or hiring a general contractor with plans available for you to choose from.  One of the greatest advantages of custom building is the control you will have over the selection of products used to construct your new home.

Our next article will offer some points to help you decide which general contractor you want to hire to build your new home.

Congratulations! You Found A Neighborhood You Love!

Your realtor has helped you locate a neighborhood or subdivision that you would love to live in, and there are lots ready for a new home! Now you have questions about the process, right? If you found your preferred neighborhood with the help of a realtor, you have a true advocate to help guide you through the process…and there can be a multitude of variations from one neighborhood to the next.

houses-336436_1280Many developers have preferred builders to better control the quality and style of home built in the neighborhood. Most of the neighborhoods you look at will have this type of situation. If there are multiple lots available, the on-site realtor will be able to setup appointments for you to meet the builders and discuss your wants and needs in a new home…an interview per se. Personalities vary and if you are custom building, you will want a builder you are comfortable with, who communicates well with you during the process. Depending on the size of the home you are building, it might take over a year to build your home. By all means, check references and test communication response before you make a final decision.

There are other variables to consider, too. Be sure and get a copy of the Codes, Covenants and Restrictions for the neighborhood, and inquire about the Homeowners’ Association. If you like what you see in the neighborhood, it is probably because of the CCR’s. Well-designed guidelines help protect your investment. How much are the monthly association fees? Are residents paying their fees on time and is the Homeowners’ Association properly funded? Delinquencies can disrupt the association’s good standing for mortgage financing.

It is always a good idea to confirm the school districts, especially if you have a preference for the schools your children may be attending. While you are doing so, check into additional amenities available in the area – shopping, medical facilities, and entertainment options. It goes without saying, that if you can bring your own builder, I would love to have the opportunity to work you!

Not totally convinced the subdivision fits your needs?  Coming soon…building on your own land!

So You Think You Want to Custom Build…

Let’s be honest. We are coming out of a recession that put a huge strain on the housing industry, and several consequences of that downturn are still affecting the housing market today. In very simple economic terms, following an interruption in the cycle of money, it takes time to prime the line…beginning with the availability of developed lots to build homes on.


Development of raw land by a qualified developer takes time and effort.  A parcel of land must be identified for its suitability for development, go through the purchase process which includes a period of due diligence to ascertain whether or not local authorities and government agencies will allow the type of development being pursued, as well as investigation and planning with surveyors, engineers, and local utility companies.  In most cases, all of this occurs before the actual purchase of the property.  Since many developers partner with a bank to finance a development project, exploration and securing of financing for the development occur during the due diligence period as well. The entire process may take months or years, depending on the municipality involved.

Many people are finding that they are willing to consider selling their current home to purchase a new home more suitable to their lifestyle only to find that the availability of lots to build their new home on is exceedingly limited.  Now what do you do?  At this point in time, selling your current home won’t be the problem.  Other people are looking for homes that are not available as well, so chances are that your home will be embraced by the market and sell pretty quickly, potentially leaving you homeless!

The most readily available solution in today’s market is for you to purchase a small piece of property yourself, and hire a qualified Custom Home Builder to help you build your new home.  More on the steps involved in this option to follow at a later date.

Winna Denning Featured in The Tennessean

Winna was featured in the Williamson AM Real Estate section of The Tennessean on February 6, 2004, which highlighted her feminine touch and attention to detail as a builder of custom homes while working as a contractor for McLeod Custom Home Builders.

CLICK HERE to read the full article.

Williamson AM Article - The Feminine Advantage

1 2