Spike's Calculators

Steps Involved in Building a House

Footings & Foundations

If you haven't already done so you must soon choose the type of doors, windows, garage doors, siding or stucco, trim, brick, furnace, fireplace, cabinets, bathtub & shower.

Concrete Volume Calculators: Footings, Foundations, Slabs and More

9. Engineering

Building engineers use their knowledge of engineering principles, materials science, and construction techniques to create safe, efficient, and sustainable structures. They work closely with architects to develop building plans and specifications, including structural designs, heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), plumbing, and electrical systems. Building engineers are also responsible for ensuring that buildings comply with local and national building codes and regulations, and they may work with government agencies to obtain necessary permits and approvals. Building engineers use specialized software and tools to simulate building performance, evaluate energy efficiency, and optimize building systems to reduce costs and improve sustainability. Building engineering requires a combination of technical, analytical, and creative skills and an understanding of building materials and construction methods.

  • When building on a slope you may want an engineer to determine what it takes to keep your house in place. For example, foundation walls may require additional steel, or you may have to use a stronger type of concrete. Using an Engineer might seem a bit costly at times, but it will keep everything in the proper conditions and you may just end up with one of the happier houses in the neighborhood.
  • Any basement that has (backfilled) foundation walls higher than 7'-8' needs engineering.

10. Excavating


Excavating a building lot typically involves removing soil and other materials from the construction site to create a level surface for the foundation. This process may require heavy machinery like bulldozers, backhoes, and excavators to dig trenches and remove debris. The goal is to create a solid and stable foundation for the building while ensuring proper drainage and support. Excavation work must be done carefully to avoid damage to existing structures and utilities and to minimize disruption to the surrounding environment. Once the excavation is complete, the site can be prepared for the next construction phase.

Optional: Surveying

Building lot surveying is a type of surveying that focuses on measuring and mapping out the boundaries and features of a specific building lot. This type of surveying is typically conducted before constructing a new building to ensure that the lot is suitable for construction and to determine the best placement for the building. Building lot surveyors use specialized equipment to gather precise measurements and data to create maps and plans for the construction project. They must also ensure the lot complies with local and national building codes and regulations. Building lot surveying requires a strong understanding of geometry, physics, and mapping software and excellent communication and problem-solving skills to work effectively with clients and other professionals involved in the construction project.

  • You may want to dig the service hookups at this time. Ask the Plumber and Electrician about this.
  • The plumber will do the Storm, Sanitary Sewer, and Water Connections. These will have to be inspected by a City Inspector, and the Water Company will want to see the water connection.
  • The electrician will lay pipes for Cable, BC Tel, and any electrical connections. The wires and cables will be pulled through by the respective Utilities at a later time.
  • The connection can be dug at a later time if necessary.

11. Sand & Gravel

Sand, Gravel, and Pit-Run are used in construction projects as base materials for concrete, roadways, foundations, and landscaping. Sand is a fine, granular material often used to create a smooth surface for construction projects. Gravel is a coarser material often used for drainage, landscaping, and as a base material for roads and foundations. Pit run is raw, unprocessed materials excavated from a pit or quarry, including soil, sand, gravel, or rocks. Pit-run materials can be less expensive than processed materials but may require additional processing or blending to achieve the desired project's desired quality. It is essential to source these materials from reputable suppliers and ensure they meet local and national building codes and regulations before using them in construction projects.

  • All slabs should have a minimum of 6" of gravel fill under it.
  • In certain conditions, you will have to bring in some fill. Either to raise the level of dirt or because of unstable dirt. This layer (usually pit run) will have to be compacted and leveled. Do not be cheap with this; make sure you do a good job. Compacting equipment can be rented from a rental company. Just make sure that you get the proper size equipment for the job.

12. Foundation


The foundation of a building is one of the most critical elements of construction. It supports the structure's weight and distributes it evenly to the ground. The foundation is typically made of concrete or masonry and is designed to withstand the loads imposed by the building and the surrounding soil conditions. Several types of foundations, including slab-on-grade, crawl space, and basement foundations, vary in cost, complexity, and suitability for different types of buildings and soil conditions. The foundation must be designed to meet local and national building codes and regulations and pass required inspections to ensure it is safe and structurally sound. A solid foundation is essential for the long-term durability and safety of any building.

Calculate the amount of concrete that you will need for your foundation: Imperial: Concrete Calculator; Metric: Concrete Calculator

  • Do not try to save money by ordering all the building materials at this time. You will be the one that will have to move it when it gets in the way. Lumber yards will split the materials up into two or three (or as many as you like) packages.

13. Plumbing, Heating and Electrical

Plumbing, heating, and electrical systems are critical components of any building. Plumbing systems provide water supply and drainage, while heating systems regulate temperature and provide hot water.

Electrical systems provide power, lighting, appliances, and other electrical devices. Building engineers work closely with architects and contractors to design and install these systems to meet the building's needs while complying with local and national building codes and regulations. They must also ensure these systems are safe, efficient, and durable. Routine maintenance and repairs are essential to keep these systems functioning properly and avoid costly repairs or replacements in the future.

  • Example: For a Legal Suite, the Electrician may have to lay a cable inside the concrete.
  • Try not to get too frustrated when waiting for any of these people. Some of the block-outs are for their convenience. If they don't want to do them at this time they can dig them out later (but would you want to be the one digging? HaHa). Things happen, be nice.

14. Footings Inspection

A footing inspection is a crucial part of the construction process, ensuring the building's foundation is safe and structurally sound. During a footing inspection, a building inspector examines the footings, which are the concrete structures that support the foundation walls and distribute the weight of the building to the soil. The inspector checks the footings' depth, width, and thickness to ensure they meet the building code requirements and are appropriate for the soil conditions. They also inspect the reinforcement bars or rebar, which help strengthen the concrete and ensure it can handle the load. A successful footing inspection is necessary before any further construction can proceed.

  • Some framers will pour the concrete for the footings first and then the foundation, while others will prefer to pour the concrete for the footings and the foundations at the same time.

16. Strip Foundation

stripping the foundation

Stripping the forms of a foundation refers to removing the temporary forms or moulds used to shape the concrete or masonry foundation after it has cured. Builders and contractors use wood, metal, or plastic forms to create the desired shape and size of the foundation. The forms are typically left in place until the foundation has cured sufficiently to support the weight of the building above it. Once the concrete or masonry has cured, the forms are removed to reveal the finished foundation's shape. Stripping the forms is an important step in the construction process. It allows builders to inspect the foundation for defects or issues before proceeding with the next construction phase.

  • Try to place the stripped materials in a place where they are out of the way and will stay straight and clean.

17. Damp Proofing

damp proofing

Dampproofing is a process used to prevent moisture from entering a building's interior. This is particularly important in areas with high humidity or heavy rainfall, where moisture can cause structural damage, mould growth, and health hazards. Damp proofing can be done during construction or as a retrofit to existing buildings. Standard dampproofing methods include using waterproof membranes, sealants, and coatings and improving ventilation and drainage systems. Dampproofing is essential to protect a building's structural integrity, improve indoor air quality, and prevent health problems associated with mould and mildew.

Dampproofing and waterproofing are two different methods of preventing water damage to buildings. Dampproofing is a process of applying a coating or material to the exterior walls of a building to prevent moisture from passing through. It is designed to resist the passage of moisture in the absence of hydrostatic pressure. On the other hand, waterproofing is applying a layer of waterproof material to the exterior or interior surface to prevent water from penetrating the surface. It is designed to resist the passage of water even under hydrostatic pressure. So, while dampproofing is suitable for areas not prone to flooding or standing water, waterproofing is required in areas prone to heavy rainfall, floods, or water accumulation.

  • It can be messy. Just lean against a sprayed wall.

18. Drain Tile

putting drain around the foundation

Drain tile, or French drain, is commonly used in construction projects. It is designed to remove excess water from the soil and prevent water from pooling around the foundation of a building. Drain tile consists of a perforated pipe installed in a trench filled with gravel or other porous material. The pipe is then covered with additional gravel and soil to create a drainage channel. The pipe collects excess water from the soil and channels it away from the building's foundation, preventing water damage and other issues. Drain tile is essential to any construction project, particularly in areas with high water tables or heavy rainfall. It must be appropriately installed and meet local and national building codes and regulations to ensure it is effective and safe.

  • Rules concerning drainage depend on soil conditions or type of house. In most slab on grade situations (where the concrete floor is above grade level) you might be able to eliminate drain tile. But it never hurts to install it.
  • This work is usually done by you, with good wheelbarrows, shovels and lots of friends.
  • The top of the Drain Tile should be placed even with the footing/foundation joint.
  • In some municipalities with storm sewers, you will not be allowed to hook your downpipes into the perimeter drain. The same goes if you have a drain installed in a well-window. You will have to put in a second line and drain it into a gravel pit.
  • Make sure this job is done properly; it may just prevent you from getting a swimming pool in your basement.

19. Drain Tile Inspection

The inspector from City Hall.

20. Sewer & Water Hook-Ups

Sewer and water hookups are essential for any building that relies on a public sewer and water system. Building engineers work with local utility providers to determine these hookups' locations and requirements. The process involves connecting the building's plumbing system to the public sewer and water lines through pipes and valves. The sewer system removes wastewater from the building and transports it to a treatment facility, while the water system provides a clean and safe water supply for the building's occupants. Building engineers must ensure these hookups comply with local and national building codes and regulations to prevent contamination and ensure public health and safety.

  • In case this wasn't done during the excavation.
  • Note: the gas company will install their own hookups to the gas meter.

21. Backfilling & Grading

building a house - compacting

Backfilling and grading are essential in the construction process, which involves filling the area around the foundation and levelling the ground. Backfilling is refilling the excavation around the foundation with soil or other materials to create a stable surface. This helps to prevent soil erosion, stabilize the foundation, and provide proper drainage. Grading involves levelling and smoothing the ground around the foundation to create a uniform surface. This is important for ensuring proper drainage from the building and preventing water from pooling near the foundation, which can cause structural damage. Both backfilling and grading must be done carefully to avoid damaging the foundation or surrounding structures and to comply with local and national building codes and regulations.

Note: Again, although at times overlooked, a well-prepared foundation for your house and driveway will be one of your best investments. As a builder, you will be the one responsible for this. If you are not capable or willing to take this responsibility, hire an engineer or you may want to consider getting a General Contractor involved. Again it may cost a bit; I for one would not fool around with this part. In any case, use common sense and ask when in doubt.

  • Use good material for inside the foundation, garage, driveway, and sidewalks. Do not skimp on the compacting of these areas.
  • Steel will help with strengthening and keeping things in place. But due to settling, you will most likely end up with some cracks in your slab or garage floor with time. Most of the cracks can be fixed.

22. Slab or Skim Coat

A concrete slab is a horizontal structural element, typically reinforced concrete, used to support the weight of a building or other structure. It is commonly used for foundations, floors, and roofs. The thickness and strength of the slab depend on the load it will support and the soil conditions at the construction site. To ensure the strength and durability of the slab, it is essential to use high-quality materials and follow proper construction techniques.

A crawlspace skim coat refers to a thin layer of material, usually made of concrete or mortar, that is applied to the surface of a crawlspace to create a smooth and level finish. A crawlspace is a shallow, unfinished space beneath a building typically used for storage and access to utilities. A crawlspace skim coat can help prevent moisture and pests from entering the crawlspace and improve the overall appearance.

Calculate the amount of concrete needed for your slab:

Imperial: Concrete Calculator for Slabs;    Metric: Concrete Calculator for Slabs

Poly to seal against Radon Gas  Concrete slab
  • Slab or Skim Coat: consists of a layer of gravel, poly (which must be sealed against Radon Gas), and then a layer of concrete.
  • A skim coat can be finished by yourself. But for a slab, hire a professional concrete finisher. Note: It is possible, except for a tight crawl space that the concrete work can be done after the framing is completed. The only difference is that you may get away with using a pump most of the time at this stage, not very likely at a later time.
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