House plans - Not a do-it-yourself item

    Emily came to us with a house plan she created herself. It had everything she had been dreaming about, and now she just needed to find a builder who could build it within her budget. We weren't the first builder she had interviewed, and we weren't the last.

    I think she kept shopping around because she hadn't yet found a builder who could build it within her budget. In her mind, she was committed to this house plan and wasn't going to stop until she got the answer she wanted to hear. Unfortunately, we gave her the same answer she had heard many times: this house plan is outside your budget.

    Several months later, Emily returned. She had come to realize that the house plan she had created couldn't be built in its current form within her budget. But by working with a professional house plan designer, Emily was able to craft a house plan that would not only satisfy her wants and needs, but also fit within her budget.

    What went wrong on her original plan to design it herself? Emily figured that since there are many inexpensive house design software programs out there, it must be pretty easy to draw your own house plan. But having the right tool is only part of the equation.

    House plan considerations

    There are lots of considerations when designing a house plan: traffic flow, room dimensions, door swings, sight lines, ceiling heights, etc.

    Constraints you may not consider

    There are also constraints to laying out the perimeter that are hard to manage without some experience visualizing the outcome. In particular, there's the layout and shape of the roof. If you aren't careful with the layout of the walls, you can end up with roof planes that intersect in a horizontal valley (called a "dead valley") that will cause the roof to leak. Or you can end up with parts of the house that can't be covered with a conventional roof because of how the sections intersect. It can end up requiring multiple roof slopes, which can quickly look really weird and cost a lot of money.

    There are certain design principles to follow that make the house cost-efficient to build. The more times the perimeter of the house turns a corner, the more complex the walls, foundation, and roof systems become. Every turn of a corner creates waste, which increases the cost without adding any value.

    Think about it

    For example, think about a square that's ten square feet. Now, think about the same square with a notch cut out of every corner. Expand the square so that it's ten square feet again, and you have two squares of the same size, but one has four corners while the other has twelve. If you were going to put a roof over that one with twelve corners, do you think it would be more difficult to do and more expensive? Absolutely!

    Bottom line? Designing a house is just like anything else—it takes practice and experience to get good at it. Unless you want to be your own guinea pig, it's best to let a professional design your custom home.

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