Getting Started: You Need
a House Plan
Is a House Plan?
A house plan is a series
of drawings that basically describes what you're going to be building and how to build it, and it consists of all the sheets
necessary to describe the house -- floor plans, elevations, sections, interior elevation details and the structural set.
A house plan will also
include details of the foundation, framing, roof, plumbing and electrical wiring.
Working with a reputable architect or design firm is a great way to secure a house plan because
it provides you with a ton of options.
What are Some of the House-Plan Options?
- An architect, if
you choose to hire one, will guide you through the entire design process for your home, and she or he will make sure your
dream home is built properly.
- There are several
other ways to secure a plan as well. Several ready-made plans can be found in books and online. After choosing one of these
plans an architect can assist in modifying the plans to suit your needs.
Note: When choosing or designing a house plan, it's important to keep any financial constraints in mind. You need
to think about your budget and what you can afford. Be sure to get feedback from the builder, even if it is a ballpark figure.
Financial Construction Tip: Don't make changes after construction starts, or at least keep them to a minimum or
the costs can skyrocket. Be sure to make changes in the plans "before" the building process begins.
- A great house plan
should take more than just a bunch of measurements and codes into consideration, it should also take your family's future
into consideration. For example, when you're designing your home or working with an architect, be sure to include features
that will allow you to stay in the home for years. This early stage is the best opportunity to do this. You can do things
early on for very little money that will save a bundle later on after the home is constructed.
- If you're planning
on having children, for another example, you can have plans that provide a den now that can be divided into bedrooms later.
- If you do plan
to design your own home you'll need experience in structural engineering and plan drafting.
What does "Up to Code" Mean?
You've probably heard this phrase many times in association with
building a home. Codes are the minimum standards that are required to build any home. And, unfortunately, most potential home
builders believe this means what is the least I can do to meet standards, when -- in fact -- it means just the opposite. Codes
are actually rules that tell the builders the best way to build your home.
Keep in mind that there are different codes for different parts of the country, which is why it's vital that if you hire an
architect, he or she is very familiar with the local home-building codes.
How to Hire An Architect
You want to
hire a trophy architect? Well, be prepared—they are the ones doing the interviewing, and then they’ll tell you
to wait in line.
So how to begin?
The following five cardinal rules will help get your foot (and house fantasies) in the door. To the extent that rapport is
established and a commission results, a few of these pointers will serve you well through the duration of construction.
- Know The Architecture
- Be Flexible
- Talk Money/Money Talks
- Get in line and Have Plan B
- Offer Transcendence
Building Inspectors and the Homebuilding Process
of the construction process would be
talking about the building inspectors. If you are not familiar with the construction process, see The Construction Process.
Building inspectors review many components of the home while it's being built to make sure local building codes are followed.
If building inspectors find a violation, they will halt construction until the problem is corrected and re-inspected. Once
a home successfully passes a building inspection, a notice is posted on the home site, signaling that construction can continue
When Do Building Inspections Occur?
occur at specific times in the construction process. These predetermined times are selected to give the building inspector
maximum access to the areas he or she needs to see.
The following chart shows building inspections
common in many regions of the country. Keep in mind that the building inspections required for your municipality may be slightly
What Can Stop
As the building
inspector reviews the home throughout construction, some typical problems that may cause him or her to halt construction include
soil conditions or cold weather during the "foundation" stage.
loads not properly transferred down to next lower level during the "framing" stage.
of proper ventilation in the cathedral ceiling during the "mechanicals" stage.
R-value of insulation in the walls or ceilings during the "insulation and air sealing" stage.
electrical outlets or switches during the "interior finish" stage.
exterior railings on porches or decks during the "pre-closing" stage.
to note that all of the items listed above are related directly to your health and safety.
are frequent throughout construction; however, the site supervisor is responsible for walking through each home daily to inspect
the quality of construction.
NINE WARNING SIGNS YOUR HOUSE IS IN TROUBLE:
Serious defects often present themselves in telltale ways. If you see one or more of the following problems
in your home, hire an engineer to investigate.
1. Deep cracks in the foundation or basement walls. They can be signs that the foundation was laid on a poorly compacted base or poorly graded
2. Sagging floors or leaning
walls. A shifting foundation or structural problems with support beams
could be to blame.
3. Windows and doors that never sit well in frames or close properly. House-framing problems may be at issue. If the beams, studs, and joists weren’t correctly
sized or assembled, the whole house may not hang together well.
4. Cracks in interior walls.
Wide cracks could signal a foundation problem. Generally, though,
fine cracks are cosmetic, the result of normal aging.
5. Water damage. Warning signs include
mold, rot, and insect infestation in exterior walls; staining, swelling and discoloration on interior walls; and a musty odor.
Possible causes: improperly installed roofing, no flashing around penetrations and joints, no moisture barrier in a climate that requires it,
lack of a drainage space behind brick or siding, poorly installed windows and doors, holes in siding, and trapped water-vapor
condensation from heating and air conditioning.
6. Flooding, sewer and drain backups, and switched hot and cold water. Flooding and backups may result from poorly graded land or faulty sewer and water-main connections.
Switched spigots may signal improperly installed plumbing.
7. Excessive heating or cooling
bills. Rooms that don’t get warm or cool enough can be another
signal that air ducts may be leaky or improperly connected.
8. Shorting or dead outlets. The electrical system may be installed incorrectly.
9. Lack of required permits.
This indicates that building authorities have not performed
the required inspections.
Why the problems? Many experts point to the country’s 10-year housing and real-estate
boom. The top 100 U.S. home builders together sold an estimated 1,000 new homes a day in 2002, or
one-third of all new-home sales.
That pace strained production. While home builders nurture the image of painstaking
traditional craftsmanship, most new homes today are produced as if on an assembly line. Building affordable homes means being
acutely aware of time and costs. Those builders that are public companies have the added pressure of shareholders to satisfy,
industry executives and former employees say. Builders are completing homes in 90 to 120 days. A decade ago, the range was
120 to 200 days, according to one industry study.