What's The Biggest Home Building Mistake?

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What's The Biggest Mistake A Builder Can Make With Your Home?


A Custom Home has thousands of pieces and parts that include hundreds of decisions but some decisions can be more critical than others. Setting the height of the foundation is one that will present the biggest problems.

Establishing the finished floor elevation of the slab. This is an issue that comes up early in the building process but one of the most important. It is often said, if the foundation of a home is wrong, everything after that is a waisted effort.

The worst mistake is setting the elevation or the height of the finished floor too low. Then why don’t Builders just error on setting the elevation too high? Well, it’s a balance between of the cost involved of raising the elevation vs. setting it too low. It has to be calculated carefully.

Other times, in Planned Communities the finished floor elevation is set by the developer, passed to the County Building Department and finally to the Builder constructing your home. Sometimes, that elevation is incorrect and it’s up to an experienced Builder to figure that out.

Often, the elevation provided is the pad elevation or the dirt level before the foundation is constructed, rather than the finished floor of the slab. It’s up to the Home Builder to catch this.

On parcels outside Planned Communities, it’s up to the Builder to hire a “Site Engineer” to design a “grading plan” that sets the finished floor elevation. Setting the slab elevation is an art, a balance between many variables.


Probably the most frustrating part of this issue, it can be entirely avoided, just by spending another $1,000. In Central Florida, that's about the cost of adding another 8" Block to the foundation and back filling it with dirt. Really? With all the potential costs associated with building a home, spending another $1,000 to avoid all kinds of issues is just plain dumb. Set the house higher than you need to!


Have an awesome day!







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Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Oh yes, water intrusion can do a number on your home.  Of course here, most have basements, and some aren't properly sealed.

Mar 23, 2017 04:24 AM #3
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA,

I can see how this would be very important! Thanks for alerting us!  It is good to share with our clients

Mar 23, 2017 04:41 AM #4
Olga Simoncelli
Veritas Prime, LLC dba Veritas Prime Real Estate - New Fairfield, CT
CONSULTANT, Real Estate Services & Risk Management

Thank you for this simple tip that can avoid huge issues down the road.

Mar 23, 2017 04:45 AM #5
Muhammad Mushtaq
Weichert, Realtors® - SBA Group - Fall River, MA

An expert advice worth thousands and your post is a great example of that. Thanks for sharing the tip.

Mar 23, 2017 05:43 AM #6
Jeff Dowler
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude - Carlsbad

The problem I have heard and seen here is ground that is not compacted well, or that is settling, especially in hilly areas, resulting in cracked slabs.

Mar 23, 2017 07:20 AM #7
Margaret Goss
Baird & Warner Real Estate - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

I've learned something new today!  So much more goes into new construction than meets the eye.

Mar 23, 2017 07:27 AM #8
April Swenson
Coldwell Banker Ocean Shores Brokers - Ocean Shores, WA
CRS and Managing Broker - Ocean Shores Real Estate

I have to agree with Jeff. If the ground has not been left to settle properly, then settling and cracks and even sloping will occur.

Mar 23, 2017 10:03 AM #9
Michael McGuffie
Regal Classic Homes - Windermere, FL
Custom Home Building, Additions & Remodeling

All great comments. I was going to start with building your home on the right lot but wanted to pick someting that was comon to most building projects. Stable soil conditions is absolutely vital for any building project. If the soil is unstable the project is doomed 

Mar 23, 2017 10:32 AM #10
Dörte Engel
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Bowie, MD
ABC - Annapolis, Bowie, Crofton & rest of Maryland

Dear Michael,

There is something to be said for doing things right. An extra $1k in planning can save you all kinds of money down the road. Pays for itself over & over.

Mar 23, 2017 07:18 PM #11
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

That thousand dollars sounds like money well spent to me!

Mar 24, 2017 04:54 AM #12
Mick Michaud
Distinctly Texas Lifestyle Properties, LLC Office:682/498-3107 - Granbury, TX
Your Texas Lifestyle is Here!

As an ex builder, the foundation is important.  But it is far from the worst mistake you can make when building a house.  As a strictly custom builder and consultant,  the worst mistake is not getting the right professionals on your team BEFORE you start building.  Then the issue of foundations and such are completely avoided. 

Your point of spending a bit more at the front of the project to head off disasterous costs later is right on the money.  Peope trying to scrimp on construction costs almost always wind up overspending to correct poor selection or workmanship.

Mar 24, 2017 07:07 AM #13
Nick & Trudy Vandekar, 610-203-4543
Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 - Devon, PA
Tredyffrin Easttown Realtors, Philly Main Line

Good advice, height usually gives better views as well as protection from water intrusion as well.

Mar 24, 2017 07:44 AM #14
Sybil Campbell
Long and Foster REALTORS® 5234 Monticello Ave Williamsburg, Virginia - Williamsburg, VA
REALTOR® ABR, SFR, SRES Williamsburg, Virginia

This is good advice, I always say, "Err on the side of caution" Michael McGuffie.

Mar 24, 2017 08:05 AM #15
Jim Paulson
Progressive Realty (Boise Idaho) www.Progressive-Realty.info - Boise, ID

We have a lot of flooding here due to above average snow pack and above average temperatures creating fast melt off, so I bet many people are wishing their foundations were higher here as well.

Thanks for the free ebook!

Mar 24, 2017 08:47 AM #16
John Wiley
EXP Realty - Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL Real Estate GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

Great post on getting a home built at proper elevation.

Here is Southwest Florida, it can mean a difference in Flood Insurance costs.

Mar 24, 2017 09:01 AM #17
Stephen Turner
TriCorner Homes (TriCorner Realty) - York, PA

I agree it is better to be higher than lower. However, there is still an art to getting it just right (20"-24" above curb) or otherwise, your driveway could be too steep.

Mar 24, 2017 11:20 AM #18
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Good Morning Michael - when contracting a builder who would think of that one.  Thanks for the education.

Mar 25, 2017 04:27 AM #19
Nathan Gesner
American West Realty & Management - Cody, WY
Broker / Property Manager

Nice article, Michael. Home buyers would be wise to hire someone like you that is an expert in the field!

Mar 25, 2017 06:50 AM #20
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

Yep, foundation is critical in building anything.

Mar 25, 2017 04:26 PM #21
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

So true.  Simple processes can yield big results.  While showing homes this week we found several mistakes.  A builder didn't orient the house to take advantage of mountain views - serious mistake!  Great post!

Mar 31, 2017 08:25 AM #22
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Custom Home Building, Additions & Remodeling
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