Custom Home Building Checklist: 6 Often Overlooked Details

Posted by Jamie Kline on Mar 21, 2024 8:15:00 AM
Jamie Kline

building a custom home

Imagine the blueprints for the room you’re sitting in right now. 

There’s the layout. Dimensions. Materials. Utilities. Door and window placements. 

Even in just one room, the details of the space can get pretty overwhelming quickly. 

Now imagine what the blueprints for the rest of the building you’re in look like. 

Suffice it to say, when designing a custom home, there are a lot of custom home details to go over and think about. And with any major project, there are always some details that don’t always get the attention they deserve. 

What are they? 

We’ve created this custom home building checklist for 6 details we often see future homeowners overlook. 

Building a Custom Home Checklist | 6 Small, Yet Important Considerations You Shouldn’t Overlook

One of the worst things that we hate to hear is a Barden homeowner say after some time living in their custom home “I wish I would have thought about that during design …” 

Obviously, that means some detail (usually small)  was missed or not given its due. And making a correction or fix might not be possible. 

In truth, it would take years to outline every single custom home detail to account for when custom home building. For the purpose of this guide, we’ve compiled the most common 6 small, yet important details that are often overlooked into an easy-to-follow custom home building checklist:

  1. Lot selection
  2. Utility configuration
  3. Building methods /building partner selection
  4. Homeowner responsibility
  5. Aesthetic choice importance
  6. Legal details

1. Lot Selection

Lot selection is the first step when building a custom home, and homeowners know it’s one of the most important decisions about their project. But, unfortunately, sometimes future custom homeowners overlook important details of the lot that are key for building on it:

  • Utility hookups: While it is possible to hook utilities up to almost any lot, there are some lots that are more feasible than others. It’s also important to remember that utility considerations and lot selection do go beyond simply an “Is it possible?” Opting for a lot where utility installation is easier can help save money during the building process. If you’re between a couple of lots, it’s a good idea to pull in a contractor and ask for a consultation about the ease of installing utilities on the lot, and understand any impediments.

  • Sewage: When thinking about sewage systems, it’s important to pull in an expert as well. This is especially important if you a building on a hill or steep grade. Many homeowners make the mistake of assuming that because they are building close to other homes or in a suburban area that sewage will be easy and do not give it a second thought. Avoid the headache (and cost) of finding out halfway through your build that your sewer system will not work as planned by consulting with a contractor early on.

  • Solid Ground: There are several tests that can be done to verify that the ground you are building on is solid. Commonly, a core sample is done to test and ensure that  building is wise on the lot. Again, bringing in an expert early is key. You don’t want to make the mistake of purchasing a lot, only to find out a massive sinkhole is preventing you from building your dream home there.

  • Drainage: It’s important to have a grasp on how groundwater and rainwater will flow, pool, or drain around your foundation -- and the property as a whole. Implementing infrastructure to ensure proper drainage can be costly, so opting for a lot that has natural drainage is often a good choice, and hiring the right pros to advise you for this task is necessary. A perfectly drained lot often isn't an option but is not a project killer with the right people.

  • Logistics: Is the lot you want on a narrow road? Is the road paved? Is the road steep? These are all considerations to think about, as it will be your responsibility to ensure that all of the materials needed for building are able to be delivered to your lot. This includes any number of costs from purchasing gravel to ensure a truck can get through a muddy road for deliveries, to adjusting the method of delivery.

  • Orientation: Your home’s placement on the build site affects various aspects of living space enjoyment, such as exposure to natural light, wind direction, and views. Proper orientation can enhance morning sunlight in bedrooms, reduce glare during sunset, and leverage natural cooling breezes, thus impacting energy efficiency and comfort. Additionally, considering views ensures the home's windows showcase the most beautiful parts of the surroundings, maximizing the aesthetic and emotional value of the location. 

The truth is  if you find the lot of your dreams, but it’s going to be a headache and money suck before you even move in, it might be worth looking into other lots that are more conducive for building your home.

2. Utility Configuration

While it’s important to consider the utility requirements while you’re in the process of selecting your lot, the considerations do not end there.

One of the most important things to consider is the timing of your scheduled utility hook-ups. Oftentimes, we see homeowners neglect to coordinate utility set-up and hook-up far enough in advance. This can cause delays in the build, as there are several processes that are dependent on utility installation to be accomplished.

For example, when building in the Northeast, it’s important that heat is in place to help speed along the process of the drywall setting. Without the utilities being connected prior to the beginning of the drywall process to enable heat flow through the structure, it is impossible to move forward with drywall and the following stages.

It’s best practice for homeowners to coordinate with their utility installation contractor and their general contractor to ensure there is no downtime in the project. Thinking about utilities early and often helps limit any delays down the line.

3. Building Method / Building Partner Selection

When choosing a home building method to complete your custom home, you want to make sure that the method of choice coincides with the amount of customization you want in your home.

While there are many ways to build a custom home, the three most common are:

  • Stick Building: The traditional construction method where workers build the home's structure on-site from lumber, allowing for high customization but requiring more construction time.
  • Modular Construction: Homes are manufactured in sections at a factory, then transported and assembled on-site, offering faster construction and cost efficiency with some design limitations.
  • Panelized Construction: Prefabricated wall and roof panels are produced off-site and shipped to the construction site for assembly, combining the benefits of modular construction with more design flexibility.

No matter what method you choose, your building partner’s capabilities are in line with your final goals for your home. This means thinking about the little things and inquiring about them early, to guarantee they’re within their skill-set.

This can include anything from basement creation to the logistics of adding a garage to the lot. Never assume that all home builders are equal -- always ask if their capabilities are in line with your goals.

It’s also important to inquire about your home building partner’s relationship with their subcontractors including questions such as:

  • How long have you been working with this crew? 
  • Who is your subcontractor for this particular process?
  •  How long have they been a subcontractor of your organization?

Asking these important questions early on prevents any surprises arising down the line, and helps you decide on a home building partner with integrity.

4. Homeowner Responsibility

When opting for Barden panelized home construction, you have the ability to get involved with the process as much or as little as you’d like.

This ranges everywhere from homeowners becoming their own General Contractor on the project, to choosing a General Contractor to handle it for them.

Becoming your own General Contractor or even just getting involved in your home building process is a great way to have the experience of making not just a custom home, but your dream home. However, there are some things to keep in mind before embarking on the journey. Including:

No matter how involved you choose to be in the project, open the lines of communication early so you understand the full scope of your role.

5. Aesthetic Choice Importance

When drafting the plans for your home, make sure you are as positive as possible on the features that you are planning on integrating into your home.

Too often we see projects delayed because of something that seems like a minor aesthetic detail, but can actually greatly slow down the build. This includes choices like the colors of your shutters or outdoor trim, or even the internal configuration of the walls in the home.

Take a little extra time while drafting your home to make sure that everything is perfect. By doing so, you’re saving countless time and money while the project is underway.

6. Legal Details

And finally on our custom home building checklist … 

Some homeowners never need to worry about this aspect of custom home building, but for others this becomes a major impediment to getting the process completed as quickly as they would like.

Legal items to consider include:

  • Property lines
  • Zoning considerations
  • Build requirements / guidelines
  • Code compliance

Similar to the other items we’ve discussed, it’s important to bring in an expert early. Contact your surveyor prior to purchasing your lot to ensure there are no encroachments onto your property, as this can become a liability when the build begins.

Additionally, talk to an expert about the legal considerations associated with the area in which you’re building. Each town, city, and neighborhood has different requirements that can be confusing and complicated to understand. But, it’s important to ensure your build is in compliance with all of the above items before breaking ground.

Custom Home Building Checklist: Crossing Your “T’s” & Dotting YOur “I’s”

The #1 recommendation that we can give to prospective custom homeowners is to get in touch with a home building partner that you trust as soon as possible, and ask questions as frequently as possible.

For more information on the process of custom home building, check out our guide to answer questions about home building methods, financing, the step-by-step process, and more.


Custom Home Building Guide: Panelized Home Construction & Building the Barden Way - Learn More

This piece was originally published in 2019 and was updated to reflect current industry trends and insights. 


Topics: Behind the Scenes, Exterior Design, Interior Design, Process, Site Prep, Home Customization

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