Sam Novak, 74, a former Washington area builder who had turned to property management in recent years, died yesterday at his home in Silver Spring. He suffered from a heart ailment.

For the past 10 years, he had been involved in apartment house management with the J.B. Shapiro company. From 1951 until the mid-1960s, Mr. Novak and the late David A. Sills were partners in Regent Construction Co.

The film had built the Montgomery Junior College Library and the Montgomery County Detention Center. It also built more than 500 homes, 12 apartment houses and elementary schools in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs.

Mr. Novak was born in Poland and was brought to this country as an infant. The family settled in Chicago, where he later became a registered architect for a construction firm. His list of design credits included theaters, apartments and commercial buildings.

He came to Washington in 1935 to work with his brother, the late Mitchell Novak. They developed "several thousand apartment units along Connecticut Avenue. It was almost like a cow pasture when we started," he recalled in later years.

Mr. Novak was a member of the Men's Club of the Jewish Home for Retarded Children and B'nai Israel Congregation.

He is survived by his wife, Florence, of the home; a son, Martin, and a daughter, Enid Nimetz, both of Silver Spring; a sister, Sophie Blair, of Bal Harbour, Fla.; a brother, Sol, of Hollywood, Fla., and five grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy may be in the form of contributions to the Pioneer Women Council in Silver Spring.