Getting your ideas on paper can get overwhelming. We’ve been there – like just got on the other side of this -been there. With our recent experience, we hope that in sharing our tips we can help you navigate the drafting process as efficiently as possible.
Whether you’ve thought of your home for years and years or you’re just starting to think about the design and function of the home, we’re here to get you in the right mindset to tackle this very important step.
Set aside a few hours for the initial sit down of going through this process. Know that you’ll likely want to re-visit your initial sketches throughout the next week or two to see if there’s anything you want to add or change. It really helped us to use a white board – so if you have one handy, we highly recommend this. So much better than having to go through several pieces of paper.
Let’s Get Started:
- First, be sure that you know all of your set backs needed (relevant for HOA communities) so that you can fully understand what portion of your lot is buildable space.
- For example, in our community we have specific guidelines for how far back the home needs to be from the street as well as how far in on the sides and how far from the back lot line.
- Second, use a whiteboard and draw your lot lines to the best of your ability. Next, walk through the general functionality of the home. Meaning – starting from the garage going into the home – how do you want it to flow. Do a general layout of what the rooms can be like. Make sure to do this with your partner.
- Questions to ask yourself:
- ranch or multi-level home? (ours is a two story home)
- # of garage stalls? (ours will have three stalls with the middle one extending for a large truck)
- Do you want a first floor master or second floor master? (ours is a first floor master suite)
- What do you want to be the site line of the home? (ours is the sink to the fireplace – with an open concept kitchen and living room)
- How many bedrooms are desired?/ Will kids share a room? (we will have 4 “true” bedrooms, our master, a nursery, and then two kids bedrooms that will be shared in the future
- Would you like to have other rooms in your home? (ours will have a shop added on to the garage, a bonus room above the garage, a media room, 2 study spaces, a play room and a jack and jill reading nook)
- Do you want a formal dining space or not? (we chose to have one as we plan to host a lot and want to have space to accommodate friends with larger families)
- How many laundry rooms/spaces? ours will have a downstairs laundry room and an upstairs laundry space. We plan to have a large family and are planning ahead. The second floor laundry won’t have the appliances until we have kiddos but we’re thinking ahead for when we know we’d be frustrated lugging the laundry all the way down by the garage.
- How many Bathrooms will be needed?
- Do you want a front porch/back porch/outdoor kitchen?
- What would you like your backyard to have (we’re looking to add a hot tub and maybe a future pool so we considered the sizes of these items when planning)
- Questions to ask yourself:
- Third, understand there are different types of foundations and figure out what you would like (examples: crawl space, basement, slab)
- Fourth, try to find an existing floor plan that is close enough to your sketched blue print. Now I know if you are building a custom home you’re probably wondering why you would want to find an existing floor plan. Isn’t that “not custom” if it already exists? And the thing is your house is going to be custom because you’re likely not going to keep everything the exact same (unless you really like the one you find – then good for you). Honestly, it’s meant to be a template. You’re likely still going to scratch off many things but this really helped us save SO much time. It not only gives you approximate measurements but it also assists you in articulating your wants to your builder + architect.
- How we completed this step:
- We had our whiteboard near with our initial plans
- We used the website: houseplansandmore.com to search for a plan that aligned with our wants
- To Find it we plugged in our specific wants into their search items (min square feet, number of stories, bedrooms, max square feet, bathrooms, and architectural style)
- We Printed their plan and cross off names of rooms and adjusted some things and then I put a blank white piece of paper over the plans that had tons of markings to redraw an adjusted floor plan off of the original. This was much easier to read and as tedious as this step seems it was really helpful.
- We then had the original link to the floor plan and our drawing to give to the builder. (Kristin also made a design powerpoint to help them understand the vibes/feel for the house… but more on that later).
- How we completed this step:
- Fifth, with every interaction with your builder and architect make sure you leave conversations with action steps for them and yourselves and tentative due dates. Even if the date needs to be extended at least you have a date to check in, stay accountable, and be on top of the process.
- Sixth, When they send you revisions, print them off and draw right on the paper copy, take a picture of the edits you make (notes app allows you to scan) and send them back to the builder/architect promptly so that they can continue to work on your project.
- Seventh, Use pinterest and instagram to get inspiration then go out and find products that you’d like. Google slides has become our best friend to visually keep our ideas in one place. We use google sheets for our pricing (more on that later) but this will keep you feeling organized and the more organized you are in this process the better.
- Eighth, Start to think about exterior elevation (exterior look of the home). This typically comes after you’ve worked with the builder and architect on the floorplan and you come to agreement on the rooms/dimensions. But if you can get this part envisioned early it can help move you along in the process. Pictures can be really helpful to use to explain your thoughts. Be sure when you use pictures though that you make sure you mark what on the picture you want them to focus in on. You may like parts of the picture but others you don’t – so be specific. They want it to be custom for you which means that you have to be as clear as possible with what you want. We chose to have a brick skirt for our crawl space elevation, and used siding and board and batten. We had to change some things with our exterior when we had our jack and jill space plumbed for a bathroom to adjust the windows to be smaller.
- Ninth, lighting will also be a part of the drafting process. This comes after the exterior elevation typically and allows for you to make decisions on where you want lights for your home. Look over this carefully and take some time. We adjusted to add a few more lights to our front porch and a few more ceiling fans. Your plans at this point may look a little more complex but it’s getting exciting at this point and you’re almost to your final plans!
- Tenth, don’t be afraid to change something that you’ve already thought that you decided on in the planning process. This is your future home. It’s best to make changes early so while you may not want to inconvenience anyone remember you’re paying for this home and it’s easier to do it on the front end. Sometimes you also don’t notice something you want to change until you get the plans back and can see it visually so really take time when you go over the edits they make.
- BONUS: Keep a google folder with every revision (etc.) so that you have them for your records. You can also choose to print them and keep them in a binder but we like to keep track of where we started and where we ended up!
Overall our drafting process has been about a month and a half. Some people spend many many months on this process so please don’t assume our situation as your own. If you’ve talked for a long time about what you’re wanting in a home then, this process may run as smoothly as ours did but it may be something that you want to take a few months to really design. For us, our initial builder meeting was March 3rd, we closed on our lot April 1st, and now we’re writing this mid April, having sent off our final edits April 16th. We’re on to our next steps and can’t wait to share more about what we’re learning in this process in hopes to help others navigate the unknowns.
What was the most helpful tip above?
Have additional suggestions? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.