Congratulations on deciding to build your own custom home!
Now comes the fun part -- diving headfirst into all the elements to make your next home a reality such as coming up with a floor plan that meets all your needs to finding the perfect spot if you already haven’t.
Before you take your first steps into custom home building, you may be wondering about one of the most common questions we get: When is the best time to start home construction?
The answer probably isn’t what you think.
Let’s unpack that question.
Which Season is Right for Custom Home Building?
To get right to it, there is no right season or right time for custom home building. The truth of the matter is custom home construction can happen when there are sunny skies and balmy breezes to the middle of winter when there’s a foot of snow on the ground.
But this probably isn’t what you’ve heard from contractors. Or, it might go against conventional thinking -- how often do you see a construction crew working outside in mid-January?
To hear some builders tell it, there’s really only one time of year that’s best for constructing a custom home: the warmer months.
They’ll insist on only working during the traditional construction season (which starts in mid-April and runs until the first snowfall).
The impact of weather. There is some truth in that assessment for stick building. But overall, weather concerns aren’t enough to hold off on a project altogether.
For stick building, weather conditions are an important consideration than with panelized or modular construction. The framing process for a stick built home is slow. Wooden boards and beams are left exposed to the elements, sometimes for months. In the cold or rainy seasons, prolonged exposure to harsh weather conditions is damaging.
With panelized and modular construction, framing isn’t an issue whatsoever. In both methods, all elements of a custom home are made in a factory and arrive on-site ready to be put together. A panelized home can be made weather-tight in as little as three days.
Starting a project later in the construction season or in the middle of winter may be a concern for builders with their ability to actually complete work.
When taking on a project in the autumn, they’re worried about running into the first snowfall -- there’s no guarantee of how far they’ll get on a project. And once the snow does arrive, it might seem nearly impossible to complete critical prep work, such as:
- Clearing/grading the site
- Installing a foundation
- Putting in utilities
The fact is outside of an active blizzard, you can complete site prep work during the winter, and yes, that does mean pouring a concrete foundation when there’s snow on the ground. And with the right equipment, clearing/grading a site or installing utilities isn’t that much more difficult than it would be during the warmer months.
When Should You Start Thinking About Your Custom Home Building Project?
The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll be moving into your new home. In other words, without an actual limit by the weather, there’s no time like the present, as the process of building a custom home may take over a year.
A custom home building project starts with finding a lot, negotiating a purchase price, and working out the financing. You then have to meet with the architect who will be designing your custom home and obtain the necessary building permits from the local municipality. And all of that before construction even begins!
Of course, if you partner with a panelized builder, you save time and money by streamlining the process and not having to worry about separate architect considerations. It still, on average, takes 3-5 months to build on-site -- so it’s important to get the ball rolling as soon as possible if you have a timeline you’d like to move in by.
You can take a lot of the guesswork out of the building process by having more components engineered and assembled in a controlled environment with a trusted builder, where outside factors are not a consideration.
Matching Building Method With Your Timeline
Before you can narrow down the “when to start” question, it can be helpful to figure out how quickly you’re looking to move into your next home. Each of the most popular construction methods -- stick building, modular, and panelized -- have different timelines.
- Stick Build: A team of construction workers descends on your building lot, supplies are delivered, and your custom home is assembled from the ground up. With a stick build, you have to be concerned about weather factors, labor availability factors, and possible cost overruns. On average, construction takes between 7-13 months if everything goes smoothly
- Modular Build: In this method, entire pieces are constructed in a factory environment, and then shipped to the building lot for final assembly. This is more of an assembly line process that does not allow for as much customization as a stick built home or a panel built home. If you have all your ducks in a row -- lot selected, limited customization, appropriate paperwork -- modular building takes between 7-10 months. It takes far longer if you still need to work through much of the planning process with your builder.
- Panel Built: With this home construction method, wooden walls and roof trusses are assembled in a factory and then shipped to the job site in segments. Houses are totally customized and engineered efficiently. The panelized construction process takes, on average, around 12 months to complete. We’ve seen it happen in as little as 5 months with some ambitious clients.
Resource: Want to learn more about exactly what the panelized custom home construction timeline looks like? Download our Custom Home Building Checklist:
Custom Home Building All Year Long With Panelized Construction
Bottom Line: Planning ahead is the most important. By being prepared, you’re able to move quickly and avoid delays or price increases from spikes in material costs.
Panelized building is an efficient process for creating the home of your dreams no matter the time of year.
Our Panelized Construction Method Sets Us Apart
Learn more about who we are:
This piece was originally published in 2019 and was updated to reflect current industry trends.