Unfortunately we have no English translation for this post. Click here for the original Dutch version.
How long does it take to build a house? That’s a question that we usually get during a first meeting with future clients. Can we build in 6 weeks? Or 8 weeks? Or half a year? We wrote a previous post which was, first and foremost, about the budgetting process. The budgetting is very important. Without a budget you can’t run a project, so your budget really is the starting point for your project. No budget, no house!
But once you have your budget set, then how do you proceed and come to an actual build? That is what we want to discuss here. The actual steps vary by country, here we will focus on The Netherlands.
In The Netherlands, before you actually apply for the building permit (“omgevingsvergunning”), most municipalities allow you to have a pre-consult (“vooroverleg”). The reason is that the cost of getting a building permit is quite high, so before you even try, most municipalities allow you to get a pre-consult, with only one purpose: do we have a serious chance to obtain a building permit for a house that looks approximately like this. So you compile a document with some basic drawings and some photos or artist impressions and you ask the municipality: “shall we give it a try, or should we not even bother?” Pre-consult will cost you max 500 euro, in some municipalities it is free.
How long does this phase take? That depends on many factors, but for now let’s say two months.
If the result of the pre-consult is positive, you go for step 2: applying for the building permit (“omgevingsvergunning”). This is a bit more work. No, wait, this is a lot more work, really a lot. Because now you need to compile a serious set of documentation about your project, with, a.o.:
- technical drawings with footprints, cuts at 1200 mm, foundation drawings, facades, details
- strength calculation for the foundation
- strength calculation for the house in accordance with EuroCode 5, possibly EuroCode 8 and taking into account snow loads wind loads
- energy performance calculation (EPC)
- environmental performance calculation (MPG)
- sound calculation
- ecological impact report
- ventilation plan
- heating plan
- fire safety plan
- and the list goes on and on …
Some of the above documents are always required, others are optional. But in any case, most future house owners will be unable to create these documents themselves, these documents are very technical by nature and you will need a specific engineering background. Forget about doing this yourself.
Compiling this set of documents takes time. We usually do it in 14 to 18 weeks, but sometimes it takes even more. After the the set of documents is ready, the municipality needs some time to take a look, in our experience that’s another 12 weeks, but it depends on the municipality.
As soon the municipality has approved your building permit, you would like to start building right away. But no: you have to wait another 6 weeks. The municipality publishes it’s decision to grant the building permit, and now your neighbors can object during a period of 6 weeks. Assuming none of the neighbors objects, only after 6 weeks will you be allowed to start.
Production of a house in our factories usually takes somewhere between 4 and 9 weeks. Transport to the building site takes 1 week. The time between start production and arrival of the first truck on the building site can be used for the construction of the foundation.
Assembly of a wooden house takes somewhere between 5 and 9 weeks, depending on the type of construction (log or panel), depending on the size of the house, and depending on the weather. About the weather: cold temperatures usually are not a problem for us, but wind can be a problem if we have more than 5 Beaufort and we have to lift panels, and what we really do not like is rain. But normally we should say: 5 to 9 weeks.
Finishing means installing electricity, plumbing, kitchen, bathroom, toilet, finished floor, sometimes stucco. Finishing a house can take anywhere between 4 weeks and 20 weeks, it all depends on your requirements.
Now Let’s Add It All Up
- 8 weeks pre-consult
- 14-18 plus 12 weeks building permit
- 6 weeks objections period
- 5-10 weeks production and transport
- 5-9 weeks assembly
- 4-20 weeks finishing
Total: 37 weeks minimum. But the minimum is when all goes smooth, and more realistically you will be looking at a year for the full procedure, or more.
Building a wooden house usually is associated with men on building sites working with drills and diggers and cranes that make lots of noise. But actually the drilling and the digging is only the last step in a long process, and all the other steps require drills nor diggers.
We are being asked regularly if we sell kit homes. For a kit home we would deliver one or more trucks or containers with building materials, a clear manual, and off you go. Like an IKEA-house.
No, we don’t deliver kit homes.
The Sears Catalog Home
But why not? Building a house is not rocket science. In the USA the Sears company has been delivering the Sears Catalog Home for years. Those were not garden sheds, those were full size houses for permanent living.
Lately many of our posts were about mud, mud and more mud. Building houses in the polder in The Netherlands sometimes is a muddy affair. But today one of our colleagues took a photo without any mud. Pointed her iPhone slightly upwards, and bingo, nice shot.
This is a house we are currently building in Oosterwold. We’re almost ready here, we will show some more photos soon.
Design: architect Edward van der Drift.
And we checked our archive and here is another shot from the same house. And the same iPhone. But different sky.
We build wooden houses in many countries. Every country has it’s own exceptions, rules and peculiarities. This time let’s talk about the Netherlands.
We are quite busy building houses in the Netherlands at the moment. Many areas in this country are reclaimed land areas: originally North Sea, but then the Dutch build dikes, pump out the water and build houses on the sea bed. In such areas top layer of ground is very soft and if you build on a regular foundation, your house will sink into the mud.
For this reason, the Dutch have developed a special technique to build foundations in those reclaimed land areas. It is called “paalfundering”. First comes a specialist engineer who does ground tests. They check how deep is the solid ground. If you are lucky it will be at approximately 8-12 meters deep, but in some areas it might be up to 30 meters deep.
Safety is an important topic in the construction industry. In The Netherlands alone, 42 workers died on construction sites during the first six months of 2016. That makes the construction industry one of the more dangerous places to work. Most fatalities occur when workers drop from heights or operate heavy machinery.
Contact via phone or internet is nice, but before we actually build a house we need to sit around the table with our clients. So we get in the car regularly, and we make our trips through France, at this moment an important market. We call it our Tour de France. Two weeks in a row on the péage, on the D321, and when we run out of luck our TomTom send us into some dirt road. But recently it resulted in a few more projects, see the map.
This is a simple question: how do you build a new house? The answer is the slightly less simple. Do you ask for a quote with your local contractor, and if so, based on what? Is that going to be based on a sketch, or are you going to hire an architect? And what instructions do you give to the architect? Do you give him a budget, or do you give me a list of requirements. So what is actually the best way to build a house?
The answer is: there is no best way. Everybody does it his own way. We can only explain here how it works if you work with us.
We produce our houses in Lithuania, just East of Poland. East-Europe. And that raises a few concerns. Are these people to be trusted? What about the quality? Do they deliver on time?
We understand you concerns. Here are some answers.
Can we trust them?
Lithuania is on the Baltic coast, and has been a supplier of wood for ages. In the 17th century the Lithuanians had a permanent supply chain between Klaipeda and German, Dutch and English shipyards. The Dutch even developed a special type of ship for this trade, the “fluitschip“.
What was special about the fluitschip? Well, the Dutch had to pay toll in the Øresund between Denmark and Sweden. And they paid a lot of toll, actually two thirds of Danish state income was toll money. The height of the toll depended on the width of the upper deck of the ship. The Dutch, cheapskates as they are, developed the fluitschip such that it had a very wide belly and at the same time a very narrow upper deck. Yep, lots of freight, and little toll, that’s how we roll…