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DIY New Home Construction | The Complete Process

A diary of constructing an economical house with 
a low VOC interior


Site preparation:

I know I said I wouldn't be posting much but today I am held up by a sleety-snowy rain storm...
Yup, that's Newfoundland for ya, difficult to even define the weather. 

Last November I started gathering price quotes for building a new home. I drafted the plans, read the CMHC building code guide and referenced it often.

I had already interviewed and spoken with several sub contractors and booked the excavation, foundation and framing laborers for April.

We also set up accounts with building supply stores and looked for no payment/no interest options.

It is also important to secure a line of credit and/or builders mortgage.

Liability/Fire/theft & vandalism insurance is very important and should be purchased prior to any construction.

I ordered all windows doors and the roof trusses and have been shopping around for cabinets/fixtures & flooring.

Before you can carry out construction you must get an approval from the town/city, included in the approval is a list of criteria which must be met before a permit is granted.

-A surveyor must submit elevations of the land, a new survey and a detailed plot plan showing the proposed location of the house to ensure all setbacks (distances from the road & neighboring properties) are met.
-You must submit building plans which conform to building code.
-A Site inspection must be done.
(criteria may be different in other towns/cities)

Our lot is irregular shaped and the home is a Georgian style so it has a simple rectangle foot print. I ended up having to hire 2 different surveyors before the plot was accepted by the town. I learned to use the plotting section in my Chief Architect and the town was happy with my plot but could only accept it from a certified surveyor. We were held up for several days but finally received the approval of the plot plan.

The Building inspector made some notes on the blueprint, gave us the elevation of our house (how deep to dig your hole depending on the height required above the road for the top of your concrete foundation), and we paid the fees and got or little yellow slip - Permit Granted - Woohoo!

Wait...The city told us we need an engineer to ensure the back-fill on our lot is suitable for a foundation.

So off to digging a hole and building a foundation just became more complicated. Worst case senerio the engineer tells me we will have to dig out all the fill and back fill with rolled in blasted rock about 170 cubic meters...ouch!! But the fill had been undisturbed on the lot for more than 12 years so there was a small possibility it could be fine.

After a hectic day of calling around preparing for the worst, my excavator calls with good & bad news...Good news I don't have to dig to china and refill with expensive rock...good news - I hit solid ground a 4' deep...Bad news solid ground has bedrock and needs to be busted. Well that's not so bad, a busting out a bit of rock is a lot less expensive than the alternative.

Finally the important papers are in hand...Plans, Approval, Survey, Plot plan, Permit & Engineers certificate. Other Important papers are the contracts with subs, insurance certificate and account info.

So I am sitting here waiting for the next step, hole dug, footings and foundation booked for Monday and the week to follow but it is raining cats, dogs and even white bunnies outside.
It's time to get the kitchen ordered, many cabinet suppliers can take 5 weeks or more to get your cabinets ready, so while I wait for better weather and keep my fingers crossed, I'll be touching base with cabinet shops.


All in a day....or two

The past few days have been hectic, the rain poured down and made it difficult to get things done as far as construction. The surveyor, the footing formers and the excavator needed to be on site together to ensure the footings are placed properly. Trying to line everyone up to be on site at the same time has proven to be a little difficult.

My surveyor ended up being out of town and the other workers were waiting an hour and had to leave. Today though, everything went much more smoothly. Our surveyor was still late but the guys pouring the footings and the excavator were very patient.

I placed my order for all the materials needed on site for tomorrow when the foundation formers arrive. Sill plate, lumber for framing windows & doors, anchor bolts, sonotube, foundation coating, weeping tile and the like.

Stone should be slung on Friday and myself DH will install the weeping tile and the sonotube on the weekend.

I had the time to visit with the custom cabinet builders and see some of their beautiful designs. I have decided to go with an antique white with maple glaze cabinet and a weathered black island. I'm still deciding on which color of counter top but I am leaning towards the butter rum granite.

So all in all things turned out pretty good especially since I have been doing all of this while dealing with an ubber sore gingival abscess...ouch.


Foundation, weeping tile & coating

I'm going to keep this post short 
but I just have to say that it feels good to finally see a structure in place after all of the planning, surveying, and paperwork. 

 Today the tie rods were removed and sealed, the weeping tile 
was laid and the foundation coating went on.

Here are a few pics of the progress:

Materials are ordered for framers to start on Monday morning, I'll be meeting them there along with the stone slinger bright and early. After that we'll be placing the window wells and sonotubes with bigfoots and have the inspector in for the back fill inspection by Tuesday/Wednesday.


It's been a busy week, the house is framed up, windows and doors are in cabinets are ordered, Flooring and colors are chosen and if it wasn't for another rainy day in Newfoundland I would have had the roof shingled so that's on tomorrows agenda.

I had a big fright today when the town wrongly advised me that there was no service stub on my property...what does that mean....well big big bucks! But after a few hours of phone calls and maybe a few tears they called letting me know they had made a mistake and had found the stub...Now for the water permit then the plumber can do his thing.

Anyway here are the colors and textures for the house....Dh did a great job of picking out replica light fixtures, black hardware and handle sets for the doors and the tiles. He even picked out the flooring.

Alabaster Maple Cabinets
Glazed chocolate Island
Pecan Flooring
Caramel Ceramic Tile
French Vanilla Walls
Mystique Moonlight Counter

Sound yummy? Like a romantic cafe...Good enough to eat (in).. :) All I'll need is a cup of tea.



Just another quick post. The siding was going up and the white clapboard style looks fresh and stately. The black shutters arrived but there is not a lot of siding progress due to this terrible weather. Yesterday it was raining...well snowing. That's the type of mixed up weather we have here. Needless to say, not a great day for guys to be on scaffolding. Hopefully we will have the forcasted sun for next week.

The town will be hooking up water on Monday so it looks like we should have service on Tuesday which means we can continue on with the plumber and electrician. So I'm a few weeks behind but things are still going well.

We purchased the bathroom hardware today. The main bath has a 1 pc family tub unit, the master suite will have a tub with a ceramic tile surround for a more serene ambiance, both will have ceramic tile floors. The two bathroom sets I have purchased are to the to decide which set for what bathroom....


Taking Shape

Things are finally moving ahead, with a few days of nice weather a lot can get done. Siding is almost complete and looking very much like my rendering don't you think? ...

Second inspection is next week then on to insulation, drywall, plaster & paint.

I can't wait to get into the landscaping.

The fantastic neighbors, the view, the wide lot, the great walking trail boarding the property and I am just in love with the kitchen I have chosen.


Looking Good

Inspection is scheduled for today on the plumbing, electrical & framing. Concrete floor will be poured by this weekend. The siding experts did a great job on the siding and shutters and will be back to install the door surround. The electricians worked fast and efficient and were very pleasant to deal with. There have been a few sub contractors that are harder to work with but all in all things are going well.

I have a beautiful door surround with the keystone and dentil molding for the cross-head.

The sunset over the bay is stunning.



Just 5 years ago when I built my first home finding safer materials was quite a task. Voc's, chemicals, Green and Natural were words I would throw at building supply stores only to get a blank look. I am amazed at how far the green industry has grown since that time.

I called Rona on Saturday to order my insulation I asked if they had formaldehyde-free insulation and to my surprise, they are now offering it in all their stores along with many other safer products such as low/zero voc paints and formaldehyde free moldings and trims. Even more exciting is that their stores are no longer selling chemical pesticides and are going scent-free..Cool!

The insulation being installed is the
Product Information Center
tel 1.800.654.3103

Another safer product to add to the house.


Drywall Installation

It's been about 70-ish days since we broke ground and the drywall was installed yesterday. Plastering is taking place today and DH is home building the plank stairs. We still have a ways to go. Wednesday is grading of the site so then we can work on the decks and landscaping. The outside hasn't changed much. I can't wait to see the front pillars cased, the stoop installed and the door painted - egg yolk yellow. Off to do some browsing around for finishing touches. 20c in a mask today may not be fun....we'll see.


Just a few pics...

Dining Area

Mudroom to Kitchen

Landing Second Floor

Second Bedroom



DH spent the day working on the front deck while I picked around shaping up for the landscaping...there are so many rocks. I have decided not to pave the driveway but instead I will be using granite pea stone for most of the landscaping.

The painting is under way and the kitchen is scheduled to be installed on Thursday.

I can't believe how nice and quiet the road is, just the sound of birds and the smells of food cooking. The neighbors are amazing, the lady across the street brought us delicious home made soup for lunch and even brought a bowl for the painter. Good neighbors like these are hard to find.

Too tired to type much tonight, gonna just veg and watch a movie. 

Here is the most recent pic.


Sunset Inspiration
Color Choices

Here are the final color choices...The Rona Collections Velvet zero voc paint will be going on tomorrow...

I was inspired by the beautiful sunset view over the ocean at the property so I thought it would be fitting for fresh air and sunset/ocean colors throughout the house. I wanted it to feel light, open, fresh & airy.

The ceilings and trims will be delicate white 581-1.

Shortly after I decided on the colors I found this shower hook at Sears on-line which had the exact color combination this verified my choices and that they would compliment each other.



We are pushing for a finish, the finish carpenters are meticulous and the flooring is looking good. I Love the Yolk yellow on the front door, combined with the architectural surround & hand made wood posts, it really adds grandeur to the home.

DH's many hours of labor has paid off and the hand crafted plank stairs, finished with pure earth mineral pigments, they have turned out beautiful. Can't wait to see them installed.

Still some finish work to be done, landscaping and a final cleaning with Dr.Bronners...Almost there :)

Sneak peek at kitchen components:

Hand crafted solid plank treads for stairs:

Floor laid but still dusty:


Occupancy permit granted!

It's been a while since I posted. Hopefully I will have more time to post recipes and other green blogs in the coming months. I am taking a little holiday now to do some berry picking and thus far have picked over 100 cups and counting of the antioxidant rich little blueberries.

It's been 4 months almost to the day since we broke ground on our new eco-home and we have been granted our occupancy permit. The inspector found no deficiencies and the permit is in the mail. So it's official...The house is ready to be occupied.

When I take on a project, I look at every detail.

I have to say, it was not without challenge after challenge. I found it very difficult to find anyone who takes pride in their work and If I ever build again, I doubt I would hire very many of the people who worked on this house. In the end the work was done to my liking but having to keep an extremely close eye on everyone is difficult. The project took a month longer than I anticipated as workers were often slow and many disappeared for days. Some thought a full day's work was not showing up until 10 or 11 am then leaving again at 3 or 4pm and not without a lunch break.

Okay so all ranting aside, the house is beautiful. It is situated at the end of a quiet safe established street in CBS. Close to schools, shopping, churches and the marina, the neighbors are a rare find, simply wonderful caring people.

The location is only Only 15 minutes to downtown St. John's via the highway.

We can watch the sail boats glide by from the second story! This home is located on a wide lot 159' frontage and boasts full southern exposure, enjoy the sunset on our patio every evening.

This home was carefully built with quality and care throughout, the main floor has gorgeous custom made kitchen cabinets with a stunning center island to accent the kitchen and dining area. Bright modern colors all painted in zero voc paint and crown molding throughout. A custom hand crafted solid wood staircase with oak handrail was stained by me using only earth pigments from Lee valley.

I just love the large fireplace which accents the living room decked out in dentil moldings.

The hard floor surfaces including ceramic tile throughout makes it easy to clean and reduced dust and allergens- No carpets anywhere!

The main floor has a spacious front foyer, laundry with half bath, plus a bonus mud room. Upstairs the master bedroom has a spacious walk-in closet and full ensuite bathroom with a fully tiled tub. I love closets and this house has loads of closet space! There is the potential for an apartment with electrical and plumbing roughed in in basement.

It will be toasty in winter with R52(in attic) formaldehyde free JM insulation!

Our property is backing on a green belt and trail which runs for miles. Lots of room to build a dream garage on the over sized lot!


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