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Building Your Dream Home:

Basic Information Resources

by Sheri Wallace

Copyright 1999 Sheri Wallace. All rights reserved.

Our home is probably the largest investment most of us will ever make. Deciding on the style, furnishings and contractor can be stressful and intense, and rob you of the fun of finally getting exactly what you want. (Well, maybe not exactly what you want, unless you're Bill Gates, but at least what you can afford.) One way to keep your stress to a minimum is to conduct a good portion of your research online.

The best place to start your quest for information is the National Association of Home Builders. There you can search for member builders in your area, read their guides to remodeling and building, as well as get a credit report and mortgage information. This is a must-visit site for anyone beginning the building process.

Home Designs Plus.comcontains thousands of plans and designs by professional home designers. You can search for plans or designs by a variety of methods, and view both drawings of the finished house as well as floor plans. Complete sets of working plans may be ordered by email. They also feature advice for remodeling, and sources of materials in your area. also features computer software that assists in the building process. There are several applicable programs, one of them offering over 5,000 plans on CD-ROM for just under $25.

The Home Building Manual online offers a complete construction checklist for $49.95. You receive complete chronological instructions, labor and material budgets, and pre-construction steps. In addition, you can view sample pages online. They also offer OSHA guidelines and instruction on your safety program, as well as home inspection information. If you're building your own home and don't have a general contractor, be sure to get a copy of your local OSHA and safety requirements. OSHA requires that all construction sites are safely maintained; this includes requiring you to police your subcontractors.

Make sure that all of your subcontractors are licensed and insured. Get copies of their insurance certificates before allowing them on your job site. This is very important, as it could protect you from unwanted liability. Before you consider hiring an unlicensed or uninsured contractor because of a lower bid, remember that if one of their employees is killed or injured on your job site, you will probably be held liable. Using a contractor who is unlicensed also may make it impossible to collect for faulty workmanship, especially through the local licensing agency, which often offers your only effective recourse. Consider taking out a personal liability policy for the construction period.

When researching your general or subcontractors, ask them if they belong to the local contractors or subcontractors association. Membership in this type of organization can indicate a business with staying power and professionalism. Often these organizations have a system in place for owners to check complaints and problems with member contractors; it is important that you do this. A good example of a local organization is the Florida Home Builders Association. They offer online information on awards, workman's compensation and much more. (Visit the National Association of Home Builders site for a listing of California builders.) Contact your local Registrar of Contractors to obtain a copy of the building codes and check on complaints for any contractors before you hire them.

Have you given any thought to adding handicapped accessibility to your home? According to Concrete Change, it would cost only $200 to make each new construction home handicapped-accessible. This is something to think about; you never know when an accident could force your spouse into a wheelchair for a few months, or when you could become a caregiver for an elderly parent. If you need to convert your current house for handicapped accessibility, Concrete Change offers a full range of products.

When picking out accessories for your home it is important to check price and availability in your local area. Often local showrooms don't have all the options in inventory, and it can be hard to find the perfect brass faucet for your bathroom, or match the blue in the vinyl to a carpet color. provides a home building and home improvement industry directory. They have over 3,000 links to companies who provide products or services to the construction industry. If you're looking for a specific item, email the manufacturer and see who carries it locally, or search on carpets and view samples online.

Perhaps you want to build a straw bale house, or a vacation cabin. Books and software for general and specialty building projects can be researched at, which also includes searches for gardening, remodeling, and design and building. This is a great place to check before you head to the bookstore. If you're dreaming of a log cabin, check theLog and Cedar Home Information Bureau. It's a non-profit organization that provides information on log homes, cedar homes and log cabins. They accept no advertising from log cabin producers, and are really the "Consumer Reports" of the log home industry. Check out their rating system of log and cedar home builders before deciding on your builder!

The Simple Guide to Buying and Building Your Homecontains information on new home maintenance, selecting a neighborhood, finding financing, and power options. Here you'll also find a complete final checklist plus moving tips.

Beware of scams and false or misleading claims as you search the Internet. If an ad or claim seems to good to be true, it probably is. Reputable manufacturers and contractors should be happy to provide additional information and references. If you feel pressured to buy something before you fully understand why you need it, don't buy.

Get all of your contracts in writing before the work begins. Your bank may require specific paperwork from your subcontractors, so be sure to check on this before you get started. Know your rights. Check your local area to see where you can complain if your rights are violated, and find out what to do if you receive shoddy workmanship. Understand the process you will go through, and what you can expect to happen. Owners often don't realize the level of protection they have, if they will only educate themselves.

Understand the lien process in your state. Your contractor(s) may be able to place a lien on your property if they're not paid, even if you didn't hire them directly. Example: You hire a general contractor to build your house, and he arranges all the contracts with the vendors. However, he doesn't pay the swimming pool contractor. If the swimming pool contractor did his paperwork correctly, he may be able to attach a lien to your house until he is paid, even if you already paid your general contractor for the swimming pool. This is why working with reliable contractors who have provided you with several references is so important.

Finally, enjoy the process. You will be moving into a new house, and will have the office you always dreamed of, or the kids may all be getting their own rooms. Building or remodeling a home does not have to be uncomfortable. Research before you start the project will pay off in the relaxed, timely completion of your new home.

Sheri Wallace is a stay-at-home, work-at-home, mom who enjoys writing, crafts and sewing, and lives with her husband and basset hound in Tucson, Arizona. Their new house will be ready in a couple of weeks, and they can hardly wait!



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