Designing Your Home and House Plan

Everybody has a dream. That dream might be big or little, fancy or plain, complicated or simple; it really doesn’t matter, because dreams are personal things. For many, building their custom home is the culmination of years of dreaming; creating the place that they will call home for the rest of their lives.

Before beginning to build your dream home, you need a plan. This plan has to contain all the information about what your home will look like, how it will be constructed, what materials will be used, even where things like your electrical outlets and light switches will be located. Your house plan will be needed to get your building permit, your construction loan, and bids from any sub-contractors you might use for your project.

In This Section, We’ll be Talking About:

  • Basic Home Types
  • Guidelines for Designing Your Home
  • Design Your Own Home, or Buy Existing Plans?
  • Getting the House Plans You Want
  • Designing your Home for Passive Solar
  • Architectural Drawings – the Key to Your Home Building Project
  • Reading a Blueprint
  • Hiring an Architect to do Your Plans

Before Drawing Your Plans

Before putting pencil to paper and actually drawing out your home’s floor plan, there are a number of decisions you need to make. Many of them are things you’ve probably already thought about, seen in other people’s homes or maybe even have collected information about. It’s a good idea to take all these ideas and put them in one place, in some sort of organized fashion. That way, when you actually start designing your home, you can be sure to address those issues. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How big a home do I want to build (what’s the square foot range)?
  • How many floors do I want to have?
  • What home style do I want?
  • How many rooms do I want?
  • How many bedrooms do I want?
  • Am I concerned about building “green?”
  • What “extras” do I want in my home?
  • What do I want to make sure I include for my family’s lifestyle?
  • What type of exterior do I want on my home?
  • What energy savings options do I want to include in my home?

The list of questions you can ask yourself while planning your home is literally endless. What I’m trying to get you to do here is be sure of what you want. If you’re not, look around, see what others have done. What do you like about their houses and what don’t you like? Remember, this is probably the only time in your life you’re going to build yourself a house, so you want to get it right.

Taking extra time at this point in the process will help make sure that you end up with the house that you want. At the same time, it will help you avoid wasting money in the building process. Any time you have to make changes mid-stream, it gets expensive. Even worse than that, there are those things that just can’t be changed once they’re done.

Drawing Your Preliminary Plan

Even if you are going to use an architect to make your final house plans and floor plans, you will want to do some preliminary drawings yourself. Take the time to draw and redraw your proposed house’s floor plan, looking to see how you can make things fit together, how big you can make the rooms, and where you can put things like closets and your HVAC unit. As much as possible, you want to make these sketches to scale, either 1/4” = 1 foot or 1/8” = 1 foot. If you don’t have any graph paper, get some, it makes it much easier to sketch out your floor plan.

Take a look online to see what house plans are already available. If you can find premade floor plans, it can save you money. Even if you can’t find anything you like, looking at both architectural drawings and new home floor plans may give you some ideas that you might want to integrate into your plans. Take a look at real estate and homebuilder web sites; many of them show not only floor plans of homes, but pictures of their most attractive features. You might find something that you would love to have in your home.

Obviously, the more accurately you can draw your house plans, the better. For that reason, you may want to consider using some Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) software to make your drawings. There are a number of CAD software packages which you can download for free online. Just do a search for “free CAD software download.”

How do Things Fit Together?

Many people have a little trouble visualizing how a particular home design will work out for them. Will the rooms be big enough? Will the furniture they have or the furniture that they want fit into the rooms? Is there going to be enough storage space? Here’s a couple of tricks to help you with that:

  • It can be very helpful to take a tape measure and measure the size of rooms you currently have in your house. No matter what, in your mind, you’ll end up comparing the new house to the one you’re living in, so start there. If you have a room that’s just not big enough, design it bigger; if you have something that works the way it is, you may want to consider designing in the same size room.
  • Furnish your rough floor plan. Most CAD drawing packages allow you to put furniture in the rooms on your floor plan. Even if you’re doing your sketch on paper, you can measure your furniture, cut out little rectangles to represent various pieces and fit it into the rooms. Be sure to leave a comfortable distance (at least 30”) to walk between things.
  • Don’t forget about storage space. How much stuff do you have stashed away in your basement, attic, garage, or even a rental storage space? Get a rough idea of how much space all that stuff needs and design someplace in your new house to put it all.

All in all, designing your home can be one of the most fun-filled parts of your home building project. This is where you can put your dreams on paper, and see how to make them into reality. Take your time to be sure you’ve got everything the way you want it, and most of all, have fun.

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