Architects and Designers
You can also engage or commission an architect to custom design your home.
Architects usually carry a supply of stock floorplans and elevations that you are able to select from. These will usually require adjustment to comply with local codes and conditions. The architect will be able to make changes to an existing plan for far less than doing an entire custom home design from scratch.
A CAD Designer or Draftsman may be hired to draw up your plans. This is more affordable than going directly to an architect. If there isn't a great deal of engineering work to be done, a CAD designer will be able to put together a very nice floorplan for you.
You may choose from a designer's stock plans. Again, it is easier for the designer to make MINOR adjustments to an existing plan than to draw a completely new plan.
There are also many catalogue and online plans services where you may purchase complete stock blueprints or customize existing floorplans to suit your needs.
There is the option to combine several of these methods. One home that we built several years ago was a combination of our own home design, using home design software, CAD Designer drawings and an architect's engineering work. The engineering was necessary to clarify some of our beams and our foundation pier layout.
Each of these methods works. The particular method or methods you choose will depend on the time, effort and expense you are willing to give to completing your home design.
This particular method is one we have used many times with much success. This is focused on the goal of designing your own home with the final blueprints being completed by professionals.
First, visit a variety of model homes over several weekends. Take note of those characteristics you like AND those you dislike in a model home design. For instance, many builders have done away with laundry rooms and simply have a laundry closet in the hall. Some people prefer this because it helps maximize space for other uses. I despise it because I want a laundry room that I can work in.
If you find a specific model that you like very much, ask for a copy of the floorplan and elevations. These are always available at model homes. This will only serve as a guide because it cannot be used as a working drawing. However, it does simplify the designer's job if they have a basic plan to go with. He can then adjust it to meet your needs. This should save you money.
Don't feel locked into a single plan either. You may discover that you are very fond of the elevation of a model home but don't care for the layout at all. Keep the elevation theme. A designer is able to incorporate elements of the elevation style with any floorplan.
You may like the kitchen layout from one house, the master from another, the Jack and Jill bathroom from another. Mix and match to find your perfect home design. As much as possible, reduce hallways in your design. Hallways tend to be wasted space and take away from the overall value per square foot.
Search the floorplan catalogues and websites. These are great resources and may even be where you purchase you blueprints. There are fantastic floorplans on these sites and many will even customize existing plans for you or design a completely custom plan.
In general, purchasing your blueprints here, may be less expensive than going with an Architect or CAD designer. However, you will most likely have to make changes to meet local requirements such as soil conditions or codes.
The Final Design and Blueprints
You may use an Architect or a CAD designer to finish your final floorplan and working drawings. What's the difference? Well, an architect is required to be very well educated in construction design. Architects are educated to a level similar to a lawyer or doctor. They have a strong engineering background and are able to add artistic elements into your home design that a CAD designer, in most cases, cannot. However, the architect is far more expensive than the CAD designer.
If you are building a 5,000 square foot, hillside mansion with cantilevered patio's and all kinds of engineering issues, definately go with the architect. Otherwise, consider using the CAD designer. You will save thousands of dollars.
Permit Ready Plans
Include conditions for "permit- ready" plans in your contract. It is also good to have additional specifications listed. Below are some examples of specs you may need or desire on your working drawings:
Roofing Specs to encompass material, style, color, performance and warranty
Brand and performance requirements of HVAC
Hardware detail for plumbing fixtures
Floor covering detail
Trim Carpentry Details- style of doors, baseboards, casings, crown moulding, etc
Garage Door Specifications including opener
Appliance Brand and performance
Drywall Texture style
Stucco Texture style
Faux Stone applications and style
Energy efficient framing techniques
Environmentally friendly materials (engineered wood)
Energy efficient insulation and sealing
...and so on. These items can be input into the plans from the onset if those decisions have already been made. The more decisions you make early on, the less stress and confusion at the end.
Home Design Ideas
As you are looking at models and developing an overall concept of what you want in a home, start drawing up ideas of your own. You can do this with a scale and draft paper or there are also simple, inexpensive, home design software geared towards owner builders and do-it-yourselfers. These programs can be used to design your own home or at least achieve a fairly detailed preliminary floorplan. The owner builder can then take the initial floorplan or floorplan ideas to the Architect or CAD designer.
Remember to check into the Design catalogues at the bookstore or hardware store and peruse the online floorplan sites. This is often the least stressful and most inexpensive way to go.