How Long Should Building a House Take?

By: Becky Striepe  | 

What's the Holdup?

raining on a construction site
Bad weather is a common reason for construction delays on home builds. Dan Reynolds Photography/Getty Images

You'll inevitably run into issues while building a home. Nothing is perfect. So what are the most likely problems? Weather is probably the biggest factor that can delay construction, especially at the beginning of the job, before the roof is complete. For example, roof tiles need at least a few hours to dry, so you won't want them installed if there's a chance it will rain soon. Once you have the walls and roof finished, bad weather isn't as much of a concern.

The materials you choose and the number of workers on-site can also impact your construction timeline. A tile roof takes longer to install than an asphalt one, and if you have four workers, the job goes faster than if you have two.


You also need to consider the state of the lot. Demolishing an existing structure adds some time, but the condition of your lot is more important. If your contractor discovers bad soil when they break ground, they will need to dig and fill in the lot or use a special foundation to account for expansive soil [source: Pacific Crest Inspections].

One holdup that can be out of your contractor's hands is permitting. Sure, if your contractor makes a mistake and the city inspector catches it, that's on the contractor. But sometimes the city gets backed up, and your contractor has to wait for an inspection before work can continue.

How can you tell if your contractor is giving you a reasonable time estimate? We spoke to Rick Bunzel, principal inspector at Pacific Crest Inspections in Anacortes, Washington, in 2012. He told us the key is having a good relationship with your general contractor, because the boss knows what all the subcontractors are doing. Each task in home building is interrelated, and your general contractor has to organize that team and all of their time frames, since each step happens in a sequence. For example, a delay in roughing out the plumbing or electrical system can push back hanging the drywall.

Bunzel recommends using the "reasonable person approach." If something feels like it's taking too long, ask your contractor about it. There could be a good reason, but you won't know unless you ask. It's important to be involved, visit the job site, look and ask questions, and make sure that your contractor is on the job watching what the subs are doing.

Look at tour relationship with that general contractor like a marriage. You may not always agree. But you want to stick with it.

Related Articles
  • Bunzel, Rick. Principal Inspector at Pacific Crest Inspections. Personal interview. April 16, 2012.
  • HomeBuildingSmart. "New Home Construction Timeline." (April 16, 2012)
  • Pacific Crest Inspections. "A Home Construction Timeline." (April 16, 2012)
  • Pacific Crest Inspections. "Expansive Soil." (April 24, 2012)
  • U.S. Census Bureau. "Survey of Construction" 2020. (Dec. 17, 2021)