How to read house plans (part 1) - The Construction Set

How to read house plans (part 2) - Elevations drawings

Where to Begin?

Where to Start and What to Do, When You Want to Build a New Home

by Bruce Arant

Building your dream home. You’ve thought about it, talked about it -- and yes, dreamed about it, but the time never seemed right to actually do it…until now.

So, now what? Where do you even start? How do you go about building a home that has only existed in your imagination? Such was the dilemma of Brian and Jill. For years, they had tossed around the idea of building a new home, but for one reason or another, had set their dream aside for “another day.” Now, with two growing children, their current home was quickly becoming more than cozy and they knew it was time to build a home that would better suit their current and future needs.

Not sure of where to begin, they started asking around and were soon referred to Advanced House Plans. As Jill tells it, “We walked into the Advanced House Plans office, excited to actually be taking a real step toward building a home, but we didn’t have a clue what we were doing. We didn’t even know what kinds questions to ask.”

Asking the Right Questions

The couple was soon relieved to learn they didn’t need to know what questions to ask. Advanced House Plans owners Tom Clark and Jason Diederich had more questions for the couple than Brian and Jill could have imagined. “I was blown away” says Brian. “They sat with us for about an hour and really honed in on who we are as individuals and as a family. They asked us tons of questions about how we live our day-to-day lives in our current house and how we would like to live in our new house. I’d never even thought about most of it. It was really helpful.”

That insightful conversation was sparked by a carefully constructed questionnaire that Advanced House Plans has developed for use with all their clients. Compiled throughout their years of experience, it covers every imaginable aspect of a homeowner’s foreseeable needs, in addition to what they might simply want in a new home. By thoroughly assessing the reality of a client’s situation, the designers can more effectively create a home design that “fits perfectly,” both in terms of the architectural layout and budget. “Many of our clients come in knowing what they want, but not knowing what it will actually cost to build,” say the designers. “By taking time to ask the right questions, we can help clients prioritize which design features are most important to them – and how that all works within their budget."

Doing the Research

With the initial questions asked and answered, Advanced House Plans began the process of creating a preliminary design for the couple’s new home. As part of that process, Brian and Jill were asked more questions still and also began receiving guidance from the designers regarding building materials and products. With years in the field, the designers have seen first-hand, how homebuilding products and materials perform (or don’t perform) over time. As a result, they specify certain items within their designs to ensure the best possible investment for their clients. “We only specify materials and products that we have researched,” says Clark. “We spend time on job sites, talk with builders and subcontractors and even go to the manufacturers’ factories. We research multiple manufacturers and distributors for every type of item we specify. Some make the cut, some don’t. We look for years-worth of performance history and pay a lot of attention to the service aspects of these companies.”

Many of the couple’s questions had to do with choosing a homebuilder. Advanced House Plans doesn’t recommend specific builders, but as Diederich puts it, “We encourage clients to do their homework on the builders they’re considering – what products and materials they use, the workmanship of their subs, etc. I can tell you this, a builder who uses higher-quality products, materials and subs will usually be a better choice in the long run. People often make the mistake of focusing on a builder’s price, but they should really look at the long-term expense of repairs due to inferior products, materials and/or workmanship, not to mention the effects on resale value. If people come to us already having a builder, that’s absolutely fine. But ideally, we would recommend that they talk with us before choosing a builder, just so we can give them insights that will help them make the very best choice.”

Designing for You

For Brian and Jill, it was a thrill to see their ideas come to life. “We were ecstatic,” says Jill. “We were able to actually see the home we had been dreaming about for so long.” Jill was referring to Advanced House Plans’ ability to help clients visualize their new home while still in the design stage. As the designers explain, “We offer 3-D design technology that allows people to get an understanding of how the interior and exterior of the home will look when it’s built. By viewing it this way in the design phase, the client has the opportunity to see things they might want to change before the home is built – which results in a home that is much better suited to them.

Although the couple chose to have Advanced House Plans design a true custom home design (from “a blank sheet of paper”), they also had the option of choosing one of the company’s many “stock” designs. “Many clients opt to go to our website for one of our stock plans,” say the designers. We have over 100 designs available in huge variety of sizes and styles. People often find one that fits them perfectly, or almost perfectly. We can modify any of our stock home plans to customize them however the client chooses. It’s an option that offers a lot of value for the dollar, because clients still get a well-designed plan without paying for a true custom.”

“Value,” was a key aspect of Brian and Jill’s experience with Advanced House Plans. “We both felt that Advanced House Plans had our best interest in mind,” says Brian. “We’ve got an amazing design that’s not like everyone else’s in the neighborhood. To me, that’s valuable, because we won’t be trying to sell a ‘look-alike house’ someday, if we decide to move.” And it was with that last word, “move,” that Jill’s elbow somehow found one of Brian’s ribs. It’s probably safe to say that Brian and Jill won’t be leaving their new dream home anytime soon…if ever.


 Design Ideas:

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