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House Plans: Big 3 things to get right

When looking at house plans online or talking to a house designer or builder, there are a few key things to look for to find the best house plan for you and your family. These principles apply to every house plan, no matter the size or price range.

The biggest problem with reviewing house plans is that you can't really tell what the house will look like until you build it. At that point, it's too late to discover the plan doesn't really work for you or that some basic design principles have been overlooked.

Here are the top three things to think about when looking at house plans.

1. What's going to be visible from the front entry?

This one is really subtle, but I've seen it done wrong in so many house plans. I've even seen this done poorly in million-dollar homes.

When you look at a floor plan on paper, draw a straight line from the entryway (or from any point in the family room) to the openings of hallways or rooms that are in the line of sight. Can you draw a straight line, without intersecting a wall, that connects to a toilet? To a bedroom where you'd put the bed? If you can, then you'll be able to see a toilet or bed right when you walk into the house. You don't want your guests to see a toilet as their first impression.

2. Traffic flow and furniture placement.

Most people like what is commonly called an "open concept" house plan. I do, too. The problem with looking at such plans on paper (or online) is you can't really tell how traffic will flow from one room to another until you put furniture in the rooms.

Think about the open concept

A seemingly large room will get much, much smaller when you end up pushing the couch three feet into the room to create a walkway behind it. You basically built a hallway in your living room, which means you lose some of that space.

To figure this out before you commit to a particular house plan, print the plan and use some known dimension (like the width of a garage door, usually 16 feet for two cars and 8 feet for a single car) to create scaled sketches of your furniture. Then draw the furniture into the plan.

You can even sketch the furniture on blank paper and cut out the pieces to arrange them on your floor plan. Figure out whether you can arrange the furniture without having to create walkways that effectively turn your open concept into broken up rooms.

3. Unrealistic room dimensions.

Without a true sense of scale, it can be difficult or impossible to figure out if the room sizes in a house plan are too big, too small, or just right. Rooms that end up too small are the most common problem.

For example

I once built a home for a family who had fallen in love with a particular house plan. The key element for them was the dining room, as they hosted family gatherings several times a year. They had beautiful and functional dining room furniture that they loved. On close examination of the house plans, we discovered that the dining room was about two feet too narrow to comfortably accommodate the furniture and guests.

After some redesign work, we managed to expand the dining room enough to make it work without breaking their budget. In retrospect, it would probably have been better for them to have a house plan designed from scratch. If the plan you're looking at doesn't have dimensions, you can use the method described in number two above to get a feel for the actual room sizes.

These are only a few elements to consider when finding a house plan, so if you want more information on the topic, download the free guide on how to get the right floor plan. In this guide, you'll get insider secrets on how to:

  • -Get the most of what you want for your money;
  • -Avoid expensive (but hidden) mistakes (lessons I learned the hard way as a builder);
  • -Find the house plan designer that will work for your dream, not push his own "work of art".

3 Steps to the Perfect Floor Plan

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