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Being An Owner Builder
The Contracting Process
The Parts of Your Home
Planning Your New Home
Funding Your Project
Developing Your Budget
Your Building Lot
Plans And Specifications
Cost Estimate
Construction Schedule
The Home Building Sequence
building an energy efficient home
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Your House Design Plan

designing their homeNow it's time to construct your house design plan. In order to build a home you must have a set of Plans and Specifications.

These will be used by the suppliers and subcontractors to tell what the home will look like, what's in it, how big it is, and how it goes together, and by the banker to determine how much money to lend you to build the home.

By now you have finalized your budget and selected your lot. It's time to pull out all those sketches and pictures you have been saving and start seriously developing your house design plan.

This is starting to get fun!

By now you probably have a pretty good idea what you want your new home to look like. You've been dreaming about this for a long time. Right? Now it's time to stop dreaming and get all your great ideas down on paper . . . or into a computer!

We probably need to distinguish here between plans and planning. The plans are actually a set of scaled drawings of various aspects of the home (the floor plan, construction details, etc.). You may also think of them as home floor plans, working drawings, or blueprints.

Planning, on the other hand, is the process of making decisions about the design and construction of the home - not only what it's going to look like and what is going to be in it, but also who is going to do the actual construction, how it will be financed, and so forth.

Let's start
by examining the elements that will be included in your house design plan.   Later we'll talk about how to get your custom home plans prepared, how much they should cost, etc. The material presented on this web site is not intended to teach you how to design a home or construct a set of "working drawings", but rather to make you familiar with these elements so that you can deal effectively with your architect or designer.

The Plans

So let's look at what is in the house design plan or home blueprints. Every set of custom home plans will include the following elements:

· The Foundation Plan

· The Floor Plan

· The Elevations

· The Site Plan

· Other Construction Details

The Foundation Plan
The foundation plan shows the shape and dimensions of the foundation for your home. It is used in laying out and constructing the footings and foundations. It will show the outside foundation walls as well as the location of any piers and interior columns.

If a slab floor is to be poured, the foundation plan will often indicate the location of plumbing fixtures so that the plumber can get the pipes in the right place.

example  floor planThe Floor Plan
The Floor Plan shows what rooms (spaces) are present in your house design plan, their size, and their relationship (which room is next to which).

This is where you will decide how many bedrooms. How big are they? How many baths?

Are the bedrooms grouped together on the second floor, or is the master bedroom separated from the rest?

Where are the doors and windows? What are their sizes?


The Elevations
The Elevations of your home are the drawings in your house design plan that show how it will look from the outside. Typically, there are four views . . . the front, rear, left, and right sides.

The predominant features of the Elevations are overall shape (one or two story, split level, etc.); roof style, pitch, and color; type of siding or veneer; window and door location, size, and style; porches; and trim details.

house design plan elevations

The Site Plan
The site plan shows your lot drawn to scale, how the home sits on the lot, and all of the major outdoor features like:

· Walks and Drives

· Decks and Patios

· Swimming Pool

· Fences and Retaining Walls

· Well, Septic Tank, and Drain Field Location

Other Construction Details
In addition to the elements outlined above, various other construction details are often included in the house design plan to aid in cost estimating and construction.

You may find details on stairs, doors and windows, cabinets, and a host of other things. One important detail that is almost always included is a section through one of the outside walls.

The Specifications

The specifications are a written description of everything that is not convenient or necessary to show graphically in the plans - like the make and model number of your new appliances, the make and sizes of your windows, and the types of doors you'll use.

Whatever you don't show in the plans must be spelled out in the specifications. With your help, your architect or designer will write up the specifications for your new home. Make sure they do, your banker will require these documents, and the construction will be difficult without them.


Getting Your House Design
Plans Drawn Up

One way to go about getting the plans and specifications you need to build your home is to hire an architect to draw them up for you. Or you may get them from a residential design and drafting service. Finally, you could do them yourself.  

Many architects do not do house design plans unless it is a very large house. Some architects do, however specialize in residential design. A less expensive alternative to using an architect is to find a residential designer or plan service. Almost all large towns have one or more of these.

In most states, a person does not have to be a registered architect to do residential design within certain limits (number of stories and, in some cases, total cost of construction).

Many people order stock plans by mail or over the Internet. Particularly popular are small house plans and country houseplans. One of the advantages of using one of these plan services is that their plans usually include a list of materials.

This can be a useful starting point for your materials takeoff. We say "starting point" because you'll probably want to make some changes in what materials are used.

Punch! Professional Home DesignDoing Your Own house design Plans
Some people draw up their own plans. Unless you are specifically trained in residential design, you will probably not be totally successful in doing this. That is, your drawings will probably have to be redone by a draftsman to include all of the details needed to actually construct the home.

You may, however, find it more difficult than you had anticipated. There are a lot of dimensions and relationships that are critical. If you don't know what they are, you may end up with a design that really doesn't work.

A better alternative would be to explore some of the house plan software that is readily available. These programs will give you a professional looking set of plans, and will often calculate the materials you will need. You may find them limited if you have local conditions, which dictate construction techniques not included in the program.

Plan Certification
If you plan to use FHA or VA financing, your house design plans will have to be certified by an architect or engineer. Many municipalities also have this requirement. This is to assure them that your plans meet the building codes and all other minimum requirements they have set for residential construction.

How Much and How Many
Stock house design plans from a plan service will cost you under $1,000. Specifications that come with a stock plan are probably not going to fit your needs, so you'll have to rework them. Custom plans from a plan service are often billed per square foot of heated space (excluding garages, porches, etc.).

The rate will depend on where you live and the talent/reputation of the designer. You pay for what you get! Having a registered architect prepare your plans and specifications is usually the most expensive route.

Typically, architects charge 10% of the cost of construction for the design, but this could vary greatly. You'll have to get a quote.

Five sets of plans should be sufficient for construction. You'll want one set put away for safekeeping and one set for yourself. The other three sets will bounce between whatever suppliers and subcontractors are currently working on the job.

Make sure they all understand that the plans are to be returned when their portion is completed. You may need additional sets for the bank, FHA or VA, and the building official who issues your building permit.

These requirements vary from place to place, so you'll have to do some checking to see what your needs are here.


Moving Along

Well, you're really gettin' after it now! Got your budget. Got your lot. Got your plans.

Time to see how close you came to the budget. It's time for the dreaded Cost Estimate. Click here.


For additional insight into developing your Plans and Specifications,
see Lesson Four of our online course
Successful Home Contracting

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