by Olesia Chikunova, ADU Specialist.
Are you looking to add a second house to your California backyard? Building a home from the ground up is exciting but overwhelming. From building permits and inspections to plumbing and architecture, there are many details to consider as part of the new construction process.
You may be surprised to learn that a new home construction checklist for an ADU is the same as one for any newly built home. The only difference is that you do not have to purchase land. Otherwise, it is still a brand-new house. You do not need a real estate agent, but you may need a construction manager or project manager to get you smoothly to the finish line.
It is an exciting time for many homeowners. Still, the new home construction process is complicated and involves many steps and a lot of players: city officials, consultants, architectural designers, engineers, general contractors, and subcontractors.
That’s why we’ve put together this checklist for building a successful new home in California – ensuring that all paperwork and regulations are taken care of so you can rest easy knowing your project is proceeding smoothly. Keep reading for tips on everything from navigating state codes, energy-efficiency measures, and understanding zoning laws in California to the final walkthrough and move-in date.
Before construction can begin, you need to create a budget for the project. Allocate funds for materials, contractor fees, permits and inspections, engineering costs, and any additional costs associated with building a new home in California. Working with an experienced ADU builder or ADU consultant helps provide an accurate assessment of what your new build will cost overall. Ask about the costs of adding utility lines to the new house. Typical budget lines for ADU projects include:
Each item can quickly become the most expensive part of your home-building project.
In ADUs, every line item in the budget matters. Having an ADU consultant or home builder walk with you around your current house and check specific details that impact the budget is a good idea. If there are any items on your home inspection checklist that were left unattended, now is a good time to discuss them with a professional.
For ADU, your building site is most likely in your backyard. However, in some cases, a front yard may be a better option – and it is possible in California if there is no space in the backyard.
There are several factors to consider when selecting an ideal spot – from cost and size to zoning regulations and topography.
Look for someone with extensive experience building custom homes in California who understands local zoning laws and engineering regulations. Do not underestimate the importance of years of experience. Many a homeowner got carried away by a beautiful website and then regretted not doing due diligence. Many new homeowners learn from us about easements and HOA memberships.
Also, ask for references from past clients and check their license status through the State Contractors Licensing Board.
With the location confirmed, it’s time to start designing the floor plan of your new home. Whether you’re starting from scratch or want to modify an existing blueprint, ensure that all measurements and requirements are up to code and aesthetically pleasing. This is also the time to check with your HOA if you need their approval.
Once you’ve selected a floor plan and secured approval from the Homeowners Association, it’s time to hire an engineer to run structural calculations, confirm framing details, and design a foundation. The engineer will need to understand the specifics of your project – such as soil composition, grade levels, and drainage – to determine if any special accommodations are required.
Suppose there is any potential for geotech hazards. In that case, a geotech engineer may be needed before the structural engineer can do his job. The type of foundation is mainly driven by soil composition. While concrete slabs remain the most popular option, there are other foundation types that may be a better fit for your building site.
With the site plan, architectural and structural drawings, you are now ready to submit for necessary permits. Getting a permit may take longer than building your ADU, this is why permit expediters exist.
Before construction can begin, you’ll need to secure financing from a bank or other lender. Construction loans can be expensive and complicated, so shopping around for the best interest rates and reading all the fine print before signing on the dotted line is essential.
When evaluating potential lenders, remember to factor in additional costs, such as closing fees and loan origination points.
Once you’ve determined your budget and submitted a thorough plan for the permit, it’s time to select your general contractor. Consider local contractors who are familiar with building codes in California and can provide an accurate estimate of labor and material costs.
Check Water Meter
To ensure the water supply is reliable and properly measured, your water meter must be sufficient to supply water to both houses.
Check Power Supply
Before construction starts, ensure the meter size is sufficient for two homes – it often takes a power company longer to execute a panel upgrade than for a builder to complete a new custom home. Make sure your panel is up to current codes. We often see power meter too close to gas meter spaced too close, and this requires relocating one to make current requirements of 3 feet clearance. Learn if you need to upgrade the panel.
Check Sewer Line
Suppose you do not know the state of your sewer line. In that case, ordering a video inspection is highly recommended to ensure you do not get a nasty surprise in the middle of construction.
Suppose your new home is not connected to a municipal sewer system. In that case, you will need to hire a contractor to upgrade your existing or install a new septic tank and drain field.
Install Temporary Restroom Facilities
To ensure the health and safety of your workers, install temporary restroom facilities on site. This is necessary for any project and makes another line item in your budget.
Clear the Site
Before construction begins, clear the site of any debris or obstructions and create a clear access path for the crew. Often some demolition is required, another line item often forgotten in the excitement of new home design.
Once you’ve determined the layout and size of your windows, it’s time to order them. Look for models that are Energy Star certified to ensure optimal efficiency – that will be specified in your energy efficiency report (a.k.a. Title 24). After the disruptions to supply chains in 2020, the windows still have the longest lead time.
Order Exterior Doors
Once the slab is in place, it’s time to order your exterior doors. Look for models that are both durable and energy efficient. Check your plans, as there may be requirements for them to be fire-rated.
Order Plumbing fixtures
While the faucet will be installed at the last minute, the shower valves will hide behind the drywall. Your plumber will need it the first day he arrives at the job site after the frame is up. He will also need to know the type of the toilet and the type of the faucets. Check your plans – there will be gallons per minute requirements.
Order Exterior Cladding
Stucco is easy – all you need to select is the color. However, if you are thinking of accents – wood or stone – they need to be chosen before the engineer starts his work and ordered as soon as the work on the foundation begins. Select materials that complement your design aesthetic and meet local regulations or codes. This point is particularly relevant to those building in Wild Urban Interface (WUI) zones.
The next step is to purchase all the necessary appliances for your new home – from refrigerators to dishwashers and everything in between. Make sure to compare prices and select models that are energy efficient, paying attention to the width your designer had incorporated in the drawings.
Order kitchen cabinets
A cabinet maker can help you select the perfect cabinets for your new home. This is an important step as it will affect your kitchen’s aesthetic and functionality. The cabinet maker will need to know what appliances you are considering and the sink size.
Frame forms for the foundation
Some cities require a surveyor to confirm the correct location of the future foundation. They also sometimes require a geotech engineer to oversee the foundation work. Both are additional costs that you need to be aware of upfront.
Foundation forms inspection occurs after grading, forming, and steel placement are completed; trenches are cleaned out before pouring any concrete.
Once all the necessary materials have been ordered, it’s time to start framing your new home. This is a critical step in ensuring the structural integrity of the entire structure.
Windows and Exterior Doors
Now that the framing has been completed, it’s time to install windows and doors. Not only do these elements provide light and ventilation, but they also create a welcoming atmosphere.
Installing a roof system is essential for protecting your home from the elements. Make sure to select materials that are durable and energy-efficient.
Roof Sheathing inspection will be called after all roof sheathing and flashings have been installed before putting on any roofing materials. Rafters, trusses, blocking, strapping, etc., will also be checked during this inspection.
Electrical Wiring and Plumbing
Electrical conduits and wiring are to be installed. At this point, your electrician needs to know what appliances you are ordering to know what breaker size he needs to prepare for.
All plumbing will be tested by filling it with water, inspected, and approved before it is covered with finish materials. All shower fixtures have specific valves, so your plumber needs to know what model you have bought.
Shower pan inspection is made after the pan is framed and hot-mopped or other approved shower pan lining material has been installed.
All electrical wiring must be inspected and approved before any wiring is covered up.
All flues, vents, heating ducts, and chimneys must be inspected and approved after installation and before they are covered up.
Siding or Stucco, and Exterior Paint
Once all the major construction is complete, it’s time to paint the exterior of your new home. This will add a cosmetic touch and help protect against weathering and wear and tear.
Proper insulation is essential for keeping your home comfortable and lowering energy bills. Make sure to select materials that are both durable and efficient.
The sheets of drywall go up first and get nailed to the studs. Then, a city inspection follows to confirm the job has been performed correctly – before any taping. Any gaps or cracks exceeding 1/4 inch must be filled before calling for this inspection.
After a successful inspection, the crew will work several days on the seams. The better they do this job, the better your walls will look once painted.
Once the drywall is up, it’s time to paint your new home’s interior. This adds a permanent touch of color that will last for years.
Interior Trim & Doors
Installing the interior trim and doors will give your home a finished appearance. Remember to buy the door handles!
Cabinets and Countertops
Your cabinetry should meet both aesthetic and functional needs. Remember to include pulls (avoid knobs for long-term comfort). Once the cabinets have been installed, it’s time to install the countertops. Make sure to select materials that are both durable and stylish.
A tile setter should be hired to install all ceramic or marble tiles properly. This adds a custom touch to your new home and can increase its value.
An electrician should be hired to complete the wiring and ensure all your new home’s electrical systems are up to code. This is the time for light fixtures and light switches.
An experienced plumber should also be hired to ensure all the plumbing is up to code.
The HVAC contractor should be called back to install the air handlers and ensure your home’s heating and cooling systems work correctly.
Once the walls, ceilings, and floors have been finished, it’s time to install the flooring. Make sure to select materials that are both durable and stylish.
Mirror & Glass Install
Installing mirrors and glass can add a touch of sophistication to your new home.
Install Toilet Accessories
These finishing touches will make your new home ready for living.
Final Clean of Your New Home
Before the homeowners can move in, all the construction debris must be cleaned up.
Final Home Inspection
Before move-in day, a City (or County) building inspector will check out your new home. This step will help ensure everything is up to code and safe for the homeowners. This final inspection is often a substitute for the occupancy permit.
The builder should walk through the new home with the homeowner one last time to ensure everything is in order. Take a good look around. A new construction walkthrough is a must for any last-minute cosmetic issues.
Remember to ask your builder about any warranties they offer on their work. If something needs to be fixed after construction has been completed, it’s good to know that you are covered by a warranty.
Now that you know what goes into building a new home, you can take the proper steps and ensure your home is constructed correctly. With these tips in mind, you can be confident that you will have a beautiful and safe place.
Remember to consult with professionals throughout the process for peace of mind and research different materials to know what works best for your new house. This way, you can rest assured that you have made the right decisions and that your new house will be a place of lasting joy.
Would you like to avoid surprises during construction?
Our $900 backyard consultation leaves you with understanding what will need to be done to make your ADU happen and an estimate on how much your ADU may cost. Check our calendar to schedule our visit.
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