DIY Home Construction: Step Three: Making Plans and Figuring Out What You Want

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This is what you should get with your house plans whether you get them from a magazine or catalog, hire a draftsman, or work with an architect:

There will be a foundation plan, a floor plan, exterior elevations, cabinet elevations, cornice and rake details, a cross-section, an electrical plan, a frame plan, a door and window schedule, and a foundation plan.

It would be best if you didn’t count on getting everything listed here. Before hiring a draftsman/designer or architect, you should double-check the deliverables you anticipate and write them into the contract.

The Groundwork Strategy

The first thing you’ll need is the basic structure drawn up. Your house plan must depict a basement if one is to be built. Your plan must incorporate a crawl area if one is to be built. Your layout must depict a slab if the structure is to be erected on top of a flat, concrete foundation.

Many floor plans feature a beam running through the middle of an unfinished basement. The first-floor flooring system would be installed on top of the beam. Typically, steel or wood is used for this beam. A continuous steel beam could be installed the length of the house if finances are not an issue. If this beam were sufficiently large, you wouldn’t need any other columns or posts to hold up your house. Your basement would resemble a vast open roller skating rink. The cost of this beam may be substantial. To support a smaller, more cost-effective beam, columns or posts must be installed beneath it. More posts will be required if the beam width is reduced. Therefore, the beam’s width depends on how many posts you can accommodate.

A structural engineer can only tell you the optimal beam size for the desired post spacing. Consult a structural engineer instead of hiring an architect to remove a post or support wall from your property. Most architects will hire a structural engineer as a subcontractor for this work. You can also ask a structural expert if the beam is the right size.

As a builder, I envision completing the basement rather than a beam with supporting posts. In the long run, I hope to have a space dedicated to hobbies like gaming and woodworking. So, I proceeded with my plan and constructed the basement’s walls. These walls will now serve as structural supports. We will construct the first story’s floor system on these bearing walls.

You should do this for two reasons. To begin, I can construct those load-bearing walls for much less than putting a beam between the posts would cost. Another issue is that a potential buyer may look at all these walls and rooms and tell his wife, “Goodnight, Martha; for another nickel and a couple of trips to the local supply house, we can have all this finished space for free!” It won’t cost you a nickel but will help you sell your house.

Your home’s “lower or terrace level” is where you should focus your design efforts. Build in a space designated as the “mechanical” room. Your water heater and HVAC system will be home in this mechanical room. If only one HVAC unit serves the entire house, the room should be as close to the middle of the building as possible. If you have a large house with separate zones for heating and cooling, try to place the room in the middle of the zone.

The steps and porches of many houses are unsteady since they were built on filled dirt. The steps and porch will eventually become detached from the house as the fill soil settles. The solution is to install T-walls or brackets under your porch and steps to stop this from happening. When we begin laying the groundwork, we may talk more about this. Please indicate where these T-walls or brackets will be placed on the floor plan.

b. Layout(s)

It is imperative that the following be included in the layout(s):

The size of your rooms, to begin with.
ii. All windows and doors’ number, size, and placement.
The number and placement of bathrooms, including the size and accessibility of bathtubs.
iv. Position of the Heater’s Vent Pipe

A gas furnace can be installed in a basement or crawl space. The exhaust from a gas furnace is typically vented through a pipe that runs from the appliance to the home’s upper levels and then out the roof. The common term for this is a “vent pipe.” On the floor plan, indicate where the exhaust fans are located. The HVAC contractor showing up on the job after the house has been framed and asking, “Well, where do you want us to put the vent pipe?” is an issue that can be avoided if this pipe is depicted in our designs. Now you’re saying things like, “What vent pipe?” Then you’ll need to sacrifice some cabinet space or a walk-in closet to install this vent. This vent pipe can be installed discretely so it won’t be in the way.

the breadth of the hallway

Doors require a certain amount of clearance when installed in a hallway. Casing refers to the trim that frames a door or window. Wide door and window casings are something that many people want and are willing to pay for. Check that the door casing will fit through the hallway’s width. You can see where the 4-inch casing was reduced to a 2-inch casing because several houses’ hallway was too narrow. Make sure there is enough space between the door or window and the corner to accommodate the wide casing wherever possible. The floor layout should be used to verify these details.

Plumbing partition wall

2X4 boards, typically 3.5 inches wide, are used to build most residential walls. The plumber must run a horizontal pipe in the wall behind the kitchen sink and the bathroom vanities. This pipe may be as thick as three inches. Cutting a 3-inch pipe through a 3-and-a-half-inch wall will compromise the wall’s integrity. Put up a plumbing wall of 5 1/2-inch-thick 2×6 planks there and nowhere else. Your plumber can preemptively reveal the location of these larger pipes. Add these longer walls to the floor plan.

The Stairs to the Crypt

The size and placement of any retractable attic stairs should be displayed. You can get into the attic by lowering these steps. They will develop as expected. We have put these in narrow corridors only to find out later that we couldn’t have opened them. I had no choice but to go out and buy a set of attic steps that slid rather than unfolded into the roof void. These steps are ten times more expensive than standard pull-down models. Verify that there is sufficient space for your attic stairs on the floor layout.

Garage Doors (viii)

Many garages only allow access in and out via the house or by raising the garage door. I prefer not to walk inside the house or open the garage door only to get in or out of the garage. The floor plan should also reflect this.

Garage doors are typically 8 feet wide for single doors and 16 feet wide for double doors, depending on the builder. The cost difference between a 9-foot and an 18-foot garage door is slight, so I advise you to go with the more comprehensive option. That way, you can relax when you drive in and out of the garage; you won’t need to be as precise. Having two smaller doors rather than one large one is preferable because 16- and 18-foot doors sag over time. If your garage door is just 7 feet tall, you may want to think about upgrading to an 8-foot door. Considering the lofty nature of larger SUVs, it’s clear that this is the case.

Things of a Various Nature

Include the dimensions and placement of all bathroom vanities, skylights, laundry chutes, and dumbwaiters. Consider the price of a home elevator if you’re going to shell out cash for a dumbwaiter. The home elevator is a better long-term investment than the cheaper dumbwaiter.

c. External facades

The external elevations of your home, from front to back, as well as correct and left, should be depicted in your plans. The elevations depict the exterior of your home and the materials that will be utilized to construct it.

d. Dimensions of Cupboards

A common practice amongst builders is not to include cabinet elevations. Cabinet elevations are a must if you want to dispel any lingering doubts. By “cabinets,” I mean freestanding and built-in pieces, such as those seen in the kitchen and bathroom.

Cabinet elevations are typically included in catalog plans. A draftsperson or architect you employ can add them in for you. A professional kitchen and bath designer, often known as a CKD (Certified Kitchen Designer), is an option if you have the financial means. Visit the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s website to learn more about kitchen and bathroom design and to locate a certified kitchen designer (CKD) in your region.

e. Breakdowns

A “cross-section” or “section” of your house is what you’d see if you were able to cut it in half and then draw the resulting piece. The majority of houses require one room. Plans should include at least one section that specifies the size of framing material to be used in the construction of the house.

The builder and the workmen may need to see a piece of any uncommon features, such as a balcony overhanging a living room, to understand how they are built and supported. Twenty pages of sections may be needed to explain to the builder and the workers how the home’s guts are made and supported in an ultra-modern home with many curving walls and overhangs.

If your house has two stories, inform your draftsman or architect that you want a “stairwell” cut across the middle. The typical issue of not having enough headroom to go up and down the stairs can be avoided by creating a section through the stairwell.

Adding height between the first and second floors results in more steps, so you’ll need more horizontal space in the stairwell to accommodate this change. If you change, like raising the ceiling from 8 feet to 9 or 10 feet, redraw the section to reflect this change.

f. Cornice and rake embellishment

Roof edges are the cornice and rake. These topics will be expanded upon in subsequent lessons. Include a section or detail on the design and construction of the cornice and rake. The cornice and rake can be constructed in an infinite variety of styles, with the primary determinant being the homeowner’s budget. It causes much confusion if you don’t have a part or detail of this area.

Technical Drafts

The placement of lights, switches, and electrical outlets is frequently included in building designs, whether for a home, business, or factory. Tubs, toilets, sinks, water heaters, outdoor faucets, and HVAC systems are all typically marked on the blueprints.

Mechanical drawings are commonly used in commercial and industrial construction to display the dimensions of plumbing pipes and heating and air ducts. Drawings that include the dimensions and placement of plumbing pipes and HVAC ducts are unusual in homebuilding. Like in commercial construction, the designer or architect of a large, high-end residence may work with a mechanical engineer to plan these features. If you’re curious about the dimensions and placement of these pipes, have your heating and air subcontractor and plumber draw you out a diagram.

Plan for the Roof and Structure

A framing and roof plan is essential if your home’s a complex design or roof. It demonstrates how this space should be built and helps determine how much each item will be required.

A Timetable for Doors and Windows i

A door and window schedule compiles relevant data, such as door and window sizes and types, into a single document.

Easily understood house plans are suggested. When I read a series of illustrations, my mind automatically transports me from the front entrance into the corridor. Sometimes, in my mind, I’ll enter a bedroom and check out the door and window placement. If you stare at the illustrations for a while, you should be able to figure out what’s going on.

Atlanta, Georgia, is home to the NIHB, founded by Tom Harrison. He attended Georgia Tech and grew up in Atlanta.

His entire “How to Build Your Own Home” course, plus much more, is now available for FREE at

Read also: How To Grow A Real Estate Wholesaler.