How Long Does it Take to Build a Custom Home?

Building a custom home is a dream for many, but it’s a journey that requires patience and careful planning. Unlike production homes, which can be completed in just a few months, custom homes involve a more intricate process. According to some studies conducted a few years ago, the average time to design a single-family home is around seven months. However, several factors can extend this timeline.

From the design’s complexity to the site’s layout and the time of year construction begins, each element is crucial in determining how long the construction will take. In residential architecture, for instance, some custom home’s design can be finished in less than a year, while others may require more than two years. Understanding these variables can help future homeowners set realistic expectations and prepare for a longer, rewarding building process.

Understanding the Timeline of Building a Custom Home

Proper planning can make creating a custom home one of life’s most rewarding experiences. Grasping the timeline of a build is crucial. It allows you to budget, make design decisions, and avoid delays so the construction company has everything needed on time. Timeline expectations for a custom home vary widely based on complex factors. Some of the most complicated and bespoke homes exceed these timelines. 

Key Phases of Construction

  1. Design Phase
    Developing house plans takes 5 to 16 months. You’ll work with your architect to finalize the construction drawing set during the design phase. This phase includes site evaluation, creating preliminary sketches, and detailed architectural plans.
  2. Permitting Phase
    After finalizing the design, securing the necessary permits typically takes about 1 to 4 months. Local building codes, the number of projects under review, and regulations influence this duration.
  3. Site Preparation and Foundation
    Depending on the time of year, weather, and soil conditions, preparing the site and laying the formwork for the foundation, pouring, and cure time can take 1 to 4 months. Some jurisdictions have grading moratoriums during certain times of the year to prevent excessive erosion and flooded foundations. 
  4. Framing, Roofing, and Exterior Work
    Constructing the framing, installing the roof system, and completing exterior finishes can span 2 to 6 months. This phase includes framing walls with windows and doors, creating floors, adding sheathing, and putting on the roof.
  5. Installing Mechanical Systems
    Plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems engineers install over 1 to 4 months. Coordination between various subcontractors is crucial to transition between trades smoothly and avoid delays and callbacks.
  6. Interior Finishes
    This phase lasts 2 to 6 months and consists of drywall, flooring, base, cabinetry,  countertops, paint, trim, shades, and kitchen and bath tile. Material availability and prompt selections can impact this timeline.
  7. Final Inspections and Walkthrough
    The final stage involves inspections and walkthroughs, ensuring everything meets code requirements. The team ensures every detail is remembered by creating a final list of items, called the punch list. The building receives final approval with a certificate of occupancy (C of O) for the new structure. This stage can take 1 to 2 months.

Factors Influencing the Construction Timeline

  1. Design Complexity
    Custom homes with intricate designs and larger structures take longer to build. Complex architectural features, unique layouts, and special materials extend the build time.
  2. Material Availability
    High-quality materials can face shipping delays. Adhering to the project schedule for material selections and selecting potential alternatives can reduce waiting times.
  3. Weather Conditions
    Weather impacts construction schedules. Rain, snow, and extreme temperatures can halt progress, especially during site preparation and framing.
  4. Change Orders
    Alterations to the original design, known as change orders, can cause significant delays, but they are an expected part of the process. Each change, addition, or subtraction of work necessitates new documentation, adjustments, and additional approvals.
  5. Labor Availability
    Labor shortages in the construction industry can extend timelines and increase prices. Skilled labor is essential for timely, high-quality project completion.
  6. Local Building Codes
    Adhering to local building codes may slow the process, but they are the framework that keeps all structures safe. Completing specific jurisdiction requirements can take extra time.

Understanding these phases and variables helps set realistic expectations for building a custom home. While delays are expected, proper planning and clear communication with your builder minimize impact.

Planning and Pre-Construction Stage

Purchasing Land and Securing Permits

Buying land is the first step in the custom home-building process. Choosing a location that fits the homeowner’s lifestyle and budget is crucial. Factors like proximity to schools, work, and amenities often influence this decision. Checking for zoning laws and neighborhood covenants ensures no restrictions on building a custom home.

Securing permits is another essential step. The permitting process varies by location. It can take up to 4 months in larger cities like San Diego, while Dallas might only take about seven weeks for initial reviews. Knowing the expected timeframe helps align the construction schedule and avoid delays.

Design and Architectural Planning

Designing and planning the home involves collaborating with an architect. During the schematic design phase, homeowners share their vision and preferences. It’s essential to review the designs periodically and have them reworked to ensure satisfaction with the layout and aesthetics.

Initial designs are more flexible and cost-effective to change. After finalizing the designs, getting approvals from neighborhood design review boards might be necessary. Understanding the architect’s fee structure is crucial to planning the budget accurately. Some architects charge per square foot as a percentage of the project cost or a flat fee. 

Completing the design and planning phase typically takes about five to sixteen months, with plenty of room for revisions and adjustments. Homeowners and architects work closely to balance aspirations with practical considerations, keeping in mind that this aligns with the project timeline.

Partner with SRI Architect to give your project a strong foundation. They offer a full range of architectural services that cover the entire design process, from the initial idea to implementing eco-friendly solutions.

Construction Phase

Laying the Foundation and Framing

The foundation and framing phase marks a significant start of the construction after the site is mobilized and initial grading is complete. For the first 1-6 weeks of concrete work, workers will lay the concrete footings, ensuring the foundation is solid and ready for the home’s weight. Once the footings are sufficiently curred, constructing the concrete foundation and walls takes over. This process usually involves pouring a concrete slab or building a raised foundation using concrete blocks.

After the foundation sets, framing begins. Using wood or metal studs and beams, contractors will erect the home’s skeleton. This includes the walls, floors, and roof structure. The framers will cover the structure with sheathing to protect it from weather. On average, framing takes about 12 weeks, but this is highly varried based on size. During this time, the home starts to take its definitive shape, and you can see the design come to life.

Roofing, Plumbing, and Electrical Works

Once the framing is complete, the focus shifts to roofing, plumbing, and electrical systems. Roofers will install the roofing materials, which can take 2-8 weeks, depending on weather conditions and roof complexity. Proper roofing and weather barriers ensure the home is protected from the elements, making the interior work easier.

Plumbing and electrical installations follow. Plumbers lay out water supply and drainage pipes, and electricians wire the house for power outlets, lighting, and appliances. Ductwork or radiant tubing is wound throughout the home.  These systems must be precisely installed to avoid future problems. The installation of major systems can take roughly 4-12 weeks. Building inspectors will have periodic inspections during this phase to ensure compliance with local codes and regulations.

Interior and Exterior Finishing

When the core, shell and major systems in place, the next steps are interior and exterior finishes. This phase includes installing siding, trim, soffit and decrative elements. The siding protects the house’s weather barrier, while windows and doors contribute to its aesthetic and functionality. Exterior finishes usually take about 2-6 weeks.

Inside the house, contractors will install drywall, flooring, cabinetry, countertops, base and casement trim. , Furnishing, paintings, window dressings and other decorative touches will follow. Interior finishing tends to be more time-consuming, around 8-12 weeks, as it includes many detailed tasks. These steps bring the home to completion and make it ready for occupancy.

Timeframes may vary due to material availability, labor shortages, and weather conditions. Communicating regularly with your builder is vital to monitor progress and address potential delays.

Factors Affecting the Construction Timeline

Customization and Design Complexity

Customization levels and design intricacies significantly impact the construction timeline. Completely custom homes, built from scratch with unique plans, typically take longer. Design phases alone can take up to two years if multiple revisions are necessary. Complex features like intricate architectural steel details, custom ballistic capabilities, and unique layouts extend the construction period. In contrast, semi-custom homes, using pre-designed plans with a few modifications, often take about 13 months to complete.

Regulatory and Permit Delays

Acquiring necessary permits and adhering to local regulations can introduce delays. The pre-construction process, including obtaining permits, selecting builders, and finalizing designs, can take up to a year. Permit delays are expected due to routine inspections and additional documentation requirements. Local authorities may take weeks or months to approve plans, slowing the build process.

Environmental and Geographic Conditions

The site’s environmental and geographic conditions also affect the timeline. Building on a slope, such as a hillside, complicates construction and can causes delays. Geographic location can also hinder the availability and delivery of materials, influencing timelines. Weather conditions, such as heavy rain or extreme temperatures, further impact the schedule by halting or slowing down specific construction activities.

Tips to Expedite Your Custom Home Project

Efficient Decision-Making and Planning

Making decisions quickly and planning effectively speed up your custom home project. Decide on design elements, materials, and finishes early to avoid last-minute changes that cause delays and add expense. Create a detailed project schedule with your builder to keep the project on track. If you provide clear instructions, it helps prevent misunderstandings and keeps things moving smoothly.

Choosing the Right Construction Partners

Selecting skilled and reliable partners is essential. Choose an experienced architect and a reputable builder. Verify their previous work to ensure they meet your standards. Good partners have efficient processes and maintain schedules rigorously. The quality oversight results in fewer delays and provides quality work.

Managing Construction Timelines Actively

Actively be engadged with the construction timeline helps keep the project on schedule. Regularly communicate with your builder to monitor progress, in regular Owner, Architect and Contractor, OAC, meetings. Address any issues promptly to prevent minor problems from becoming significant setbacks. Using technology to track milestones and deadlines makes it easier to stay informed and make necessary adjustments quickly.


Building a custom home is a complex journey that requires careful planning and effective communication. Homeowners can better navigate potential delays by understanding the phases and factors that influence timelines. Efficient decision-making and early planning are crucial to keeping the project on track. Choosing reliable construction partners and actively managing timelines can make a significant difference. Utilizing technology to track progress and make prompt adjustments ensures smoother execution. Clear instructions and regular communication with skilled partners are essential for preventing delays and providing quality work in custom home projects.



Emily Warren, AIA, NCARB

Emily is celebrated for her insightful commentary and technical expertise. As a licensed architect with over a decade of professional experience, Emily boasts a rich background that spans high-end design, historic documentation, and sustainable development. She honed her skills with the National Park Service’s Historic Documentation Programs, mastering complex projects completed to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.

Emily’s work is distinguished by meticulous attention to detail and a passion for advancing architectural knowledge. Her leadership and teaching capabilities, demonstrated by her guidance of interns and management of multimillion-dollar projects, underscore her commitment to fostering growth and excellence within the architectural community. Emily’s compelling narratives and technical prowess make her an invaluable voice in the field as she continues to inspire readers with her dedication and vision.

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Charlotte R. DeChant



As a young artist, Charlotte tailored her pre-architecture undergraduate degree at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, and completed her Master of Architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver. With her fresh eyes, she is an observer, analyst and critic of our processes, and her imagination inspires and contributes to our creativity. Of the partners, Charlotte’s willingness to raise the children fostered Doug’s ability to focus upon the practice.

She is a lifelong resident of Colorado, skied Vail in the early years as a child and remains an excellent bump skier (if the sun is shining). She was an original teammate of the Vail Breakaways, Vail’s first women’s hockey team. Charlotte’s vision includes an amazing gift for seeing, rescuing, restoring and placing cast-off furniture and other elements, giving the pieces valuable, renewed lives.

Douglas M. DeChant

Founding Partner/Principal


Architecture is more than a profession for Doug, our principal designer; it is a calling, understood since childhood. While a modernist at heart, his work reflects the necessary context of each setting and the voice of each client. He trained in the program of modernist and former Bauhaus Director Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, at Illinois Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in Chicago. After working throughout the nation and overseas, Doug settled in Vail in 1985, where he met his wife, Charlotte. Together they founded the practice in 1989 and have enjoyed raising four amazing children.

Doug’s service has included the Eagle County, Colorado, Planning Commission; the faculty of the Byron Fellowship, an annual sustainable communities conference; panelist at the Summit for Creativity in La Jolla sponsored by The Design Futures Council; participation in local design review boards; youth sports coaching; and various lay-leadership positions in his church. In 2004, he conceived ‘Benevolent Architecture’, a proprietary service offering low-cost or no-cost architecture and consulting to worthy ministries and non-profits.  In 2005, Doug began to develop an intimate, artistic retreat and conference venue, Wellspring Ranch, LLC, relocating and restoring several historic Colorado structures upon a remarkable property outside of Buena Vista, Colorado.

He is a member of the American Institute of Architects, certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, and has been licensed in numerous states, including Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Indiana, Georgia and Pennsylvania. He finds balance in guitar, sculpture, hiking, snowshoeing, golf and crafting various elements of his retreat venue. 

Tom Bashford


Tom, one of our most valued, gifted leaders, passed away unexpectedly in March 2017. Together with his joyful spirit and hilarious dry wit, he enhanced our studio with a wealth of design and management experience. Tom will never be replaced. He was the type of person, father, leader, and mentor to which we all aspire, and the fruit of his efforts will live on, in his son, in us, and in our projects.

Pam, Peraya Mongkolwongrojn


Peraya, Pam, is originally from Bangkok, Thailand, where she first became interested in Architecture from the rich spatial environment.  She explored Canada before moving to the States to pursue her passion for architecture. Pam went to the University of Arizona to earn a Bachelor of Architecture professional degree. During school, she energized a passion for the arts and drawing. 

In her free time, Pam enjoys exploring the great outdoors, hiking through Colorado’s scenic landscapes, and finding inspiration for her designs in nature. With a keen eye for detail and a creative approach to problem-solving, Pam has been involved in many of our custom residential homes. Her passion for the arts and drawing has influenced her design style, which incorporates elements of beauty and functionality. Pam’s commitment to excellence and her love for architecture make her a dedicated professional who strives to make a difference through her work.

As she continues to grow and learn in her field, Pam remains devoted to creating innovative spaces that enrich people’s lives and leave a positive legacy for future generations.

Brett Lehr

Project Manager

Brett is a designer with a unique blend of expertise, holding an undergraduate degree in Media Arts from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and an M.Arch degree from the University of Nebraska. His diverse educational background has ignited a passion for utilizing realistic virtual environments to enhance the efficiency, enjoyment, and overall success of architectural design processes.

Beyond his professional pursuits, Brett finds joy in a variety of hobbies, including snow skiing, biking, fly fishing, golf, and hiking. Embracing the scenic wonders of the Vail Valley, he has found the perfect lifestyle fit, drawing creative inspiration from the surrounding natural beauty.

Laurie Baggott


Our studio is fortunate to have Laurie bring her considerable experience in business and finance to our daily operations. Among her many administrative responsibilities, she manages accounting, payroll and invoicing for us. When not busy here or as a private chef, she avidly hikes in our beautiful summers and snowshoes in the winter.

Patricia Marcine


Earning her Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Houston in 2016 was just the beginning. From there, Trish headed to Europe, to study at the Graz University of Technology in Austria and work at the Aedes Architekturforum. Then she determined it was time to return to the Rocky Mountains. We became beneficiaries of her delightful, collaborative spirit when she joined our studio in early 2018. Her savvy technical support and inspired design voice enhance each project, while her design comprehension and growth demonstrate that she has a future with much to offer the profession. As a lifelong artist, Trish’s search for a practical art form and meaningful profession has been fulfilled by custom residential architecture, where “…not a day truly feels like work.”

Trish grew up in Northern New Jersey, playing club and varsity soccer, enjoying ski club with friends, and learning to snowboard at a young age. As a teen, she competed in various equestrian events, highlighted by working for Frank and Mary Chapot to train Olympic-level show jumpers. Eventually, faster hobbies were necessary, and Trish became a driving instructor for the SCCA and track-day rider on her CBR600RR. She’s also been an enthusiastic racer on our company’s ‘ski team’. When a new project surfaces, she’s pleased to slow down enough to collaborate with the team.

Emily Warren


Emily joined us from the DC area, lured by the mountains, our core values and our creative environment. She earned a Master of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Architecture degrees from SUNY Buffalo’s School of Architecture & Planning, with a minor in Earth System Science.

Through her wonderfully infectious spirit, Emily eagerly contributes diverse knowledge and experience, having worked on historic National Park Service documentation, and urban high-density residential projects facing strict constraints. She is a productive and dedicated team player who thrives through learning and contributing to the growth of others. Her detail, project management and organizational skills are exceptional. Emily is licensed in Maryland, and nationally accredited by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

Emily is passionate about youth empowerment, with considerable experience teaching and mentoring in schools and camps. She’s an ardent weightlifter, hiker and nature enthusiast, embracing the Vail Valley’s active, outdoor lifestyle.

Cam Frey


Cam was introduced to Colorado’s rivers and mountains at an early age, returning annually from Michigan with his family to fly-fish and hike near the small mining town of Creede. His interest in design and architecture was ignited by his high school drafting teacher, who instilled a balanced approach to design through technology and craft. Cam received his BA from UNC, Chapel Hill, followed by a few years of medical research before heading West to earn his Master of Architecture from the University of Oregon. There he became interested in the interdisciplinary study of Biomimicry; an approach to solving design problems by looking to nature. Not coincidentally, this interest, the stunning landscapes, wildlife, and outdoor lifestyle led Cam back to Colorado in 2014. He joined us in 2017, quickly becoming a central piece of our culture and project management structure.

Cam serves on the Design Review Committee of the Arrowhead at Vail community, is a certified Biomimicry Specialist and licensed Architect in the state of Colorado.

His other pursuits include fly-fishing, skiing, hiking, and a good game of euchre…, and the list continues to grow. He is married to a wonderfully talented children’s book illustrator, and dotes on his young son.

Ben Marion


From an early age, Ben had a pen in hand and a curiosity for exploring both natural and built environments. Much of his adolescence was spent drawing what he observed, balanced with his passions for cross-country skiing the New England forests and playing soccer as far away as Europe. Like many of us, Ben arrived in Colorado as an adult, following a lifelong passion to further pursue the resort lifestyle. After graduating from the University of Colorado, he practiced with some of the finest architects and builders in the region, creating fine homes and other structures. His broad experience includes California mountain resort homes, as well as mixed-use and commercial structures, peppered with an interesting mix of furniture building and construction. In our studio, Ben is a strong design voice and outstanding project manager, leading by quiet example as he mentors our emerging leaders.

Ben remains passionate about skiing and soccer, coaching both youth sports locally. Travel remains in his blood as he and his family explore the west in their vintage 1967 camper.

Bert Willemse


Bert found a home away from home in the Vail Valley while exploring North America’s most beautiful landscapes on a post-graduation road trip…, from his hometown of Bellvale, New York to Wasilla, Alaska. He had completed his studies at SUNY Buffalo and apprenticed with two well-known firms in New York’s Hudson Valley area before joining our studio. As the son of a general contractor Bert gained practical construction knowledge with hands-on experience in the field. His many professional attributes are exceeded only by his wonderful, collaborative spirit.

Naturally, Bert is an active individual who embraces hiking, biking and skiing in our amazing Colorado mountains.

Adam H. Harrison

NCARB, LEED AP / Principal

After graduating from Illinois Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in 1994 and working as an intern for three years at Fujikawa Johnson and Associates in Chicago, Adam packed his van and toured America to determine where he might settle; he found Vail and Shepherd Resources in September of 1997. After growing from intern to project manager to associate, Adam began transitioning into ownership in 2017 and became a principal owner in early 2020. As a dedicated designer, Adam loves collaborating with his fellow architects and interns while managing a busy studio.

His priorities are rooted in sustainability, strong leadership skills, and staff mentoring to uphold the core values of the practice. He is licensed in Colorado, Michigan, and North Carolina and serves as the chairman of the Red Sky Ranch Design Review Board. Adam enjoys golf, mountain biking, skiing, music, and any activity involving his daughter Bellalee. Adam has been practicing for a quarter century and looks forward to designing and collaborating for another quarter century; the opportunity to doodle a quick sketch, with the future opportunity of walking through such a doodle fuels his creativity and passion for design.

Adam H. Harrison

NCARB, LEED AP / Principle

As a young artist, Charlotte tailored her pre-architecture undergraduate degree at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, and completed her Master of Architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver. With her fresh eyes, she is an observer, analyst and critic of our processes, and her imagination inspires and contributes to our creativity. Of the partners, Charlotte’s willingness to raise the children fostered Doug’s ability to focus upon the practice.

She is a lifelong resident of Colorado, skied Vail in the early years as a child and remains an excellent bump skier (if the sun is shining). She was an original teammate of the Vail Breakaways, Vail’s first women’s hockey team. Charlotte’s vision includes an amazing gift for seeing, rescuing, restoring and placing cast-off furniture and other elements, giving the pieces valuable, renewed lives.