Building a new Home: from foundation to frame

Anyone out there?

We’re back from a three-week trip to California and Chicago and slowly getting back in the swing of things.  And in the overload of KID Shorts ideas  (sorry, hope you’re not sick of shorts.  There’s more still to come….) well some of you have asked, “What’s happening with your new house??”

Excellent question!
We’re still building one!  You can read my first post about it Here and my second post about it Here.

When we last talked it looked like this (a big ole frame ready for a big ole pile of concrete):

At least that’s how I thought it worked.
Call me naive.
In fact, this whole custom-home-building thing has been a series of naive assumptions and learning as we go.  But that’s all part of the fun.

So, my thought was:  build a wood frame, pour in the concrete, let it set, take off the wood frame…and then start building a house.
I’m sure some foundations are built like that.  Every builder and every situation is different.  But because our foundation would be so tall, they did it in series of steps and layers, with most of the foundation being filled with: Dirt!

The kids loved that.
New playground.
Even now (WITH a frame on the house) they still love to play out in the dirt in front of the house.  They’ve created different names for every part of the dirt yard, with different lands for their rock and stick toys, and when it’s time to leave they’re always bummed (and super dirty).
Watching them create fun—out of nothing—makes me and Casey happier than they’ll know.

So.  Here’s how the foundation went….

First they filled sandbags, and sandbags, and more bags with dirt.  Then they stacked the bags around the perimeter of the foundation, building a wall, and leaving a gap between the frame and the bags.   Then they filled the center of the foundation 1/2 way up, with dirt,

they placed rebar along the wall of the empty perimeter,

and then poured concrete around the entire perimeter.
So I guess our foundation is like an M&M….A concrete candy coating, with yummy dirt inside.

That was phase 1.

The next day they filled the rest of the foundation to the top with….wait for it….more dirt!

Bored yet?
A staring contest will liven things up.

And maybe an appearance by Clara (who is super difficult to have at the property since all she wants to do is run off the 8 foot foundation edge)

Well, after pouring all that dirt, they partitioned it off to make room for pipes and other stuff.
(other stuff = naive things I still don’t know about)

And the kids really loved this grid phase.  They were like mice in a maze, carefully walking between the sections and jumping whenever possible.

Then finally, finally, one day, after plumbing inspections and weather complications…..a bazillion concrete trucks showed up!

And they poured the heck out of that dirt.
One yummy M&M coming up.

Clara took a break from her jazzercise class to join the festivities.

And seriously, I never thought I’d enjoy watching this process so much.

Have you ever watched the big elephant-snout-concrete-hose-thingy before?  It’s really cool!  And it’s amazing how quickly the guys work to smooth it out and spread it around.

And well.  There you go.
The next day we had a poured and dried foundation:

It seemed like months and months to get to this point.
But then just like that, they started framing!

On day 1, they framed tons of the first floor.

And soon after…..we had two floors.

with stairs!

And see-thru ceilings.

Why can’t homes always stay this open and airy?  Imagine the photography possibilities.

I suppose a roof has it’s advantages.
And at the end of the day, you can always escape the roof and enjoy the beautiful view from the back deck.

Ah.  This totally makes it all worth it.

And there you have it.
More info than you ever thought I could blog about re: Foundations.
I promise the future posts will have prettier things, like white trim and gray stucco options.  But today we’ll enjoy the nerdy elements.  And I also promise to update the house stuff more frequently!  Because things are happening, and not happening.  It’s a funny process.

Have a great weekend!

  1. love… amazing and congratulations again! What a beautiful property! i love watching homes get framed to (even those that aren’t my own 🙂 )

  2. 3) Jen

    So pretty, I would love to build a house one day. Up up in Northern Mi, something about the air up there. Preferably Tawas City Mi, we have a cabin there and we absolutely love it.

  3. Wow wow wow! Very exciting! It’ll be a dream house! I’m an architect, I can tell you it! Keep on sharing the progress, I like it! 😉
    Have a great w-end!

  4. Wow! looks great! Me and my husband have fixed up, lived in, and sold 8 homes in the 14 years we have been married. And had 4 kids in 5 years! It is a lot of work! Good luck!:)

  5. 6) Heather

    Awesome! I have space-envy. =D

  6. woooow! woooooo! Wooow!
    Thats so cool and interesting so see that!
    Liebe Grüsse

  7. My dad is a contractor and built houses for a living (now he does more remodel work) but as a kid we would go and visit the sites that he would be working on and we would love to play in the dirt and framed houses… it got a little dicy when we had to go to the bathroom. 🙂 Seeing these pictures remind me of being a little girl on my dad’s construction sites!

  8. 9) Carina

    Guau! Que rapido! Exitos en la construccion y felicitaciones a toda la familia!!

  9. Looking at the pics of Lucy and Owen makes me remember when my parents built our house and how much fun it was to visit during all the construction stages. I can’t wait to see more pictures!

    Just out of curiosity, why is the foundation so high?

  10. wauw that looks amazing! do you have a spare guest room planned in that gigantic house that you rent out to fellow bloggers on holiday 🙂

  11. 12) Susan

    Oh gosh Dana, that is sooooo cool. I love watching a home come together. Your sweet family will make wonderful memories there. Thanks for sharing the journey.

  12. 13) k

    What a view! The house is so big; I’m jealous!

  13. I totally chuckled through this whole post! It made me want to be 7 years old again, running through my parent’s first little house as it was being built. I don’t think my imagination has ever been that alive since. I’m so excited for you on the progress! Yay!

  14. Great post! we are considering a custom build and I know I’ll be in over my head! Was there a site that you were able to pick your floorplan from? I love the looks of it (from what I can tell)

  15. I was just thinking about how your house was going! great update. And yes, construction is quite an interesting thing, I love taking pictures of it. I don’t have a clue how the crews put stuff together, but they do work hard!

  16. 17) HeatherM

    So much fun. I love all your pictures. It brings back memories of our custom home we built eighteen months ago. It’s amazing all the stuff that goes into building a home. I took pictures from the same location throughout the process. I love looking through them and seeing our home grow. 🙂

    Good Luck and Enjoy the Process!!

  17. The view from your back porch is very nice. Can’t wait to see the final house. It looks like the kids are having fun watching the progress too.

  18. 19) Tanya B

    I actually really enjoyed this post. I thought foundations were laid the same way you first described … who knew??

  19. 20) iHeartQuilting

    Yay, house pictures. I’ll live vicariously through you. Looks like things are going well. I’m jealous of those views!

  20. 21) Naomi

    By the way, I will never get tired of your shorts pattern! I have three fabrics already cut to make more for my kids. Yeah!

  21. Great post! Thank you for letting us be part of all this… Personally, I find this very exciting, so maybe I’m a nerd ;). I’m looking forward to reading more about the house progress!

  22. 23) Jamie

    Since you’re becoming an expert, it’s actually “concrete.” Cement is just the binder and gets mixed with aggregate (and sometimes other things) to make concrete. Sorry, the engineer in me couldn’t resist…

    • 24) Amy

      oh thank you Jamie, I’m not the only engineer who cringes at “cement” 😉

  23. Oh so great, Dana!! Love seeing it all come together – my parents “built” our house when I was in middle school and framing was my favorite stage. Although…ours happened in the middle of winter and there were snow drifts inside the house! 🙂

  24. 26) Bree

    Wow it’s so interesting seeing how foundations are laid in America. It’s quite different over here in NZ but perhaps our soil is much more unstable as we seem to need much deeper piles in most places and our concrete foundations use metal mesh reinforcements under the concrete before pouring. SO interesting. I love the nerdy details 🙂

  25. 27) Heather

    Jamie, I was going to say the same thing! A good way to remember it is ‘cement is to concrete what flour is to cake’.

    I haven’t seen foundations like that before, do the sandbags remain in place? I know Texas has a lot of expansive soils and I don’t have a lot of experience with that. This has piqued my curiosity.

    I can’t wait to see things come together. The dirt work always seems to drag on, but now you will be amazed at how quickly things change!

    • 28) Amy


      I don’t quite get it either… I was wondering if you were building on clay or what exactly is the reason for such a tall foundation with no basement?

      Another vocabulary thought: SOIL (or maybe even SAND) is what they’re putting against the concrete in the foundation. DIRT is the stuff on your clothes and shoes… or soil out of place. Engineering nerds 😉

  26. 29) katie

    That was the way i felt when we where building our foundation but we are doing most of it our selves so it is a lot more work then just watching but you can always see how far you have come from when you started. so excited for you guys.

  27. 30) Hannah Sockwell

    That’s awesome that you were able to get so many pics of the process! Exciting times!!! I love the view! 🙂

  28. 31) RaeLyn

    We just built our home and have been “in” for about 6 weeks. I think the 1+ years it took to build were some of the hardest of my life. It’s pretty amazing though, You’re going to love it!

  29. Good to see your posts in my in-box again!!! You must be so excited seeing your house start to take shape. When we built our old home we were out there 3-4 times a week taking photos! So looking forward to seeing it all happen… 😀

  30. 33) dannyscotland

    I actually think the whole process, even the foundation, is really interesting. And if you don’t have a good foundation, you don’t have a good house. So I’m glad they got that right.

    I’ve never seen concrete poured like that but we did get to watch them repave our road. That was kind of cool too.

  31. 34) Cammie

    This is fascinating! Why couldn’t they dig the foundation? Is the water table too high? I’m from Utah where you must dig a hole, so I love seeing this done so differently.
    This post was awesome!

  32. this is so fun! thanks for the update and all the photos!

  33. this is so fun! and what a lovely backdrop all around the house! all that green is beautiful. have a happy weekend and i hope getting back in the swing of things is smooth!

  34. It’s happening!!! It’s so exciting to watch the progress. And I had NO IDEA dirt was even involved in the foundation! …enlightening. And what an awesome view. So beautiful!

  35. 38) Marianne Franks (Bennett)

    Hey Dana, so fun that you get to build. I just bought the house across the street and I’m dying to know your paint colors. I want the best gray? Are you doing any gray? Can’t wait to see everything all done.

  36. Wow! What a lot of space and what a great wooden frame. Houses take yonks to build in UK with blocks and bricks and we’re so short of space here we would have to move to the middle of nowhere to get that a plot that huge! I want to live in America!! Good luck with the rest x

  37. 40) Libby

    Who would have thought building a foundation could be so interesting?! I enjoyed that immensely! Thanks for the taking the time to share it with us.

  38. That was great! I knew none of that. Looks like the kids are having a ball. Its so great because they will remember a lot of that

  39. I’m an architect living in Portugal and I’m amazed how different your construction process is from the one I’m used to.
    The wood frames are absolutely beautiful. wouldn’t they be a perfect background for a photo shot?
    Good luck on your new home!

  40. Dana, I was just thinking about your house the other day! So I’m happy to read an update. Seems like (on our house anyway) it took forever to get to the foundation stage, then like you say it was framed so fast, then slowed down again, then all of a sudden the outside was done and inside work went fast for a bit and then when we got to the finishing details (which is where we are now) it takes forever to actually FINISH!!! 🙂 All the trim work and minor details that are not so minor! Anyway your house is looking awesome and will be so lovely. (And your kids are precious!) ~ Dori ~

  41. 44) Megan

    Looking good! I’m from Iowa so it’s bizarre that you don’t have a basement 🙂 and I love framed up houses, I usually can’t resist and go tour the new ones in the neighborhood at that stage and try to picture the layout.

  42. 45) jodie

    hi Dana, your house is going to be massive! I love the houses in America they are so different from the ones here in oz. cant wait for the walls and windows, and the roof!

  43. 46) Saunja

    So exciting!!! 🙂

  44. It’s starting to come alive! I love the home building process. Thanks for sharing. We’re looking forward to doing the same in a couple of years.

  45. It looks amazing! I love seeing how much Lucy and Owen are enjoying the process. It reminds me of my parents’ extension and running around on it with my sister when I was 10! It’s fun to follow your progress 🙂

  46. 49) evababedesigns

    Wow Dana! I hope you get to build a dream space for your sewing studio as well. I would love a space similar to lilblueboo’s studio. I can’t seem to find the page of her studio; however, here’s a link to her site:‎

  47. that view!!! omg, that view!!! color me jealous.

  48. 51) Tanya

    That is how a foundation is always done! THere are different speculations depending on the style of home that you are building, but it is always done footing, walls floor. Are you building the house yourselves or having it built for you? It is definately an experience!

  49. 52) Diane

    So exciting!! It sounds like you live close enough to where you are building to stop by and see it regularly. That would be really fun to be able to see the progress each day. I love seeing all the fun stuff you pin for your house and I can’t wait to see it all come together! Congrats again!!

  50. 53) Heidi

    Yes! Please update more often about the house, I’ve been very curious and it’s always so amazing to see a house ‘rise up off the ground.’

  51. 54) AmyJ

    Hi, just wondering why you don’t have a basement?

  52. 55) Abbigail

    Did your builder use hurricane straps? Not sure what the real name is, they lock the frame together basically as I understand. We’re in tornado territory, a F4/5 one took the house out. Rebuilt using the straps. F3 tornado shattered window glass, but no structure damage. F4 straight line winds stripped shingles, F3 straight line winds took a 100+ year old oak into the deck. Outbuildings and neighbors were smashed every time. Thus, why I always recommend the use, and would love to have them as a requirement for new builds or remodeling.

    But, same here – the boys (both the under 18 year old versions and hubby, my FIL and my dad) loved playing in the dirt. Can’t say I found it more interesting that seeing walls, but oh well. Made it easy to buy paint colors I liked, DH told me to get whatever … Ace brand Sleek Siamese, sigh, I still love it.

    How’s the railing debate? We have some composite decking, railings were powder coated something, now we have cable running horizontally. But, with a toddler, I’d not use that as it’s a fall hazard. Neighbor has panels that are removable frames with a mesh. He removes them, cleans them, the spray paints the whole deal. Brushing anything on railings is evil.

  53. 56) starjumper

    we’re in the midst of building a house right now too… we’re just in the stage where the trades are trying to pass their inspections so they can close in the walls. but here in western canada it’s pretty standard to have a basement in the foundation, so ours look very different than yours!

    we’re also building a custom home and it was pretty scary to commit to a floorplan that no one has ever seen before – that you can’t walk through yet. as the framing came up we were so excited to see that we made the right decisions when we were agonizing over wall and door placement… so far it’s perfect! 😀

    • 57) Dana

      exciting! And congrats on taking a gamble, in a way! I know what you mean about not really knowing what it’s going to look like. This whole process has been that way for us. But I guess that’s what makes it exciting 🙂
      good luck with the finish outs!

  54. How exciting, Dana! I have to admit, the planning and design of a custom home is fun. But as soon as the ‘digging in the dirt’ part begins, as an interior designer, I can honestly say that the entire progression of the construction process is really amazing to watch (my background is in interior architecture, but I also like to watch the foundation be poured and the structural framing going up). I actually just came across your blog for the first time today (via, and am so glad I did! I’m sure your dream home will be fantabulous! Thanks for sharing your adventure! Enjoy! 🙂

  55. Pretty! This has been a really wonderful article.
    Thank you for providing this information.

  56. 61) Luke Yancey

    The foundation of your house looks amazing. My parents built a house in high school and I was also confused about how it would be done. I was surprised to see dirt everywhere, and like your kids, my siblings and I had a blast playing in it. Thanks for the nostalgic read!

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