Elevation Critique/Suggestions

kfhlMarch 8, 2012

I would appreciate any ideas/suggestions you may have to improve the front elevation of our home.

We already have our permit and are just starting land clearing etc., so we can't really make any changes that effect the interior too much, but I'm just not that happy with the front elevation.

The house is on 5 1/2 acres in an equestrian neighborhood. We plan to paint it white with black shutters (maybe dark green). The roof will be charcoal grey.10' bearing height for 1st floor and 9' for second floor.

I don't hate it, but I don't love it either. I would love to hear your thoughts on ways to improve it.


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This is a very similar looking house. Will you be doing a porch and railing?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 2:40PM
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Those shingles are quite oversized :) Is the front porch going to be that low? Usually it is s bit raised. Looks like a few of the issues are drafting ones.
Can we see the floor plan?
I need to see the placement of the column under the gable (unless it is recessed but there is something that does not look right.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 2:46PM
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aa62579 - we will have a porch with columns, but we are trying to skip the railing - I just hate cleaning them.

marthaelena - I think you are right about the drafting issues and that may be part of my problem. The shingles will not be oversized. They are typical architectural asphault shingles. Here are the floor plans. The 2nd story does not show the walk-in attic space above the garage.
Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 3:28PM
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If you have 3 risers at the porch, by code, you will need railings.
Showing the raised porch and railing will make a difference,
The little gable on the second floor needs more definition, maybe a trim or you can make it similar to aa62579's picture.
All your windows look the same. Perhaps you can try a different window at second floor gable and garage gable. I think the garage gable window is too big. The 2 garage windows are too wide, you need a bit of space between them. Can your drafting person make the adjustments? You need a sketch to make sure it will look right.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 4:08PM
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The roof looks really high in the center section compared to the wall height on the 2nd floor. I like the proportions of the home in the picture that aa62579 posted; compared to that similar house, your elevation looks top heavy. I'd rather have a less steep / lower roof and more height on the wall, with taller windows.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 5:08PM
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marthaelena - thanks so much for your observations. I completely agree about the garage windows now that you mentioned it. How could I not see that before? I will have to look at what will work.
I am not sure sure how many risers we will really have - will have to check with DH.

I have always been unhappy with the little gable upstairs, but never sure what to do with it. I will show DH the picture from aa62579 and look for more pics with different trim options. I am also going to try and find more options for exterior window trim.
Thanks. I am starting to feel much better now that I have some direction.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 5:14PM
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Doesn't the code vary by location on at what height you should have a railing? If the rise is 7", that would just be 21" above grade. I thought in most cases it was 30" or 4 risers unless it was a local change.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 5:20PM
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I checked and our code requires railings over 24", it does not matter how many risers there are. I guess it does vary by location.

chicagoans - I see what you mean. I know some changes have been made to the roof pitch, but I'm not sure if they are reflected in this rendering. I will find out and see what my options are.
The pitch change would change the proportions, but I don't see how it would change the wall height. The bearing height is 9' and these are the tallest windows that would fit without creating dormers. I think they are wider than the windows in the picture from aa62579 - maybe?
Do you think adding a trim detail to the top would make them look better?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 7:22PM
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kfhl, that's a really neat plan. I love the way your master suit has both privacy and cross ventilation. You're on a good path. I'll take a stab at what I notice about your elevation.

I'm no architect, but it looks to me like the roof over the porch is trying to line up with the roof on the right hand (garage) section and that is throwing everythiing off. Can you just have a shed roof on the porch and let it start at the floor joists for the second floor and slope down from there? As it is now, the porch roof is too high and that makes the windows on the second floor squatty.

In general, the windows are too squatty for a farm house. They should be taller than they are wide. In the photo posted above, there are two windows where you only have one.

Also, I would lose the demi-gable on the second floor. It serves no purpose and cheapens the look of the house. I would also eliminate the shutters on the upper window of the gable end and lose the little rooflet, opting for a clean gable end as depicted in the photo above.

I would also at least double the size of the porch columns. For a 9 ft. ceiling, I would do an 8x8, for a 10 ft. ceiling, a 10x10 column would be more proportional.

I don't know if any of that is helpful or even going in the direction you want to take your house, but I wish you luck with it.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 8:09PM
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Yes, code varies by location. Not just that, in some rural areas you will not get city inspections while building.

There was no way for me to know what your porch slab elevation/height is, it's not shown on elevation or plans so I was talking in general. Keep in mind that if there is ever an accident, it could get complicated.

If you do not want a railing, You can play a little with the grading/landscape in order to have less steps.
It also looks like you will not have a step up from porch to your foyer, that just means your columns will be about 7" taller (if you do have the step up). All these details are not shown accurately and they can change the overall appeal of a home.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 8:19PM
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buckheadhillbilly - Thanks so much for your observations. They are very helpful. I am not entirely sure of our direction, I just know I'm not happy with where we are and that I need to figure it out. By the way, I am a big fan of your elevation. I printed it out for my DH last night:)

Your comments and those from marthaelena, aa627579, and chicagoans will help me do that. That's why I love the GW.

Can't wait to sit down with my DH and work on this!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 8:57PM
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Agree completely with buckhead. I would lose the point in the middle completely. I would alter your window sizes both upstairs and down. We have a different style house but the first rendition was a white farmhouse with a porch across the front :). No way that would have passed our architectural review board :). I can't remember exactly how big our windows are upstairs but we have 9' ceilings upstairs and they are a nice size for the height of the room. They are much taller than yours and narrower too I bet. . .

FYI - our porch columns are 12". I was worried they would be too big but they look just right. P.S. This is not an accurate picture of the color ;) Just had to say that!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 8:44AM
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I should have mentioned that overall I really like the plan. Homes with big front porches have always appealed to me; they look welcoming and friendly and have great curb appeal IMO.

This wasn't part of your question, but I noticed that to get to the Mbath from the M bedroom you have to walk past the doorway from the hall. You might want to play with that layout a bit to move the pocket door to the Mbath further up the wall (across from the linen closet), just in case someone leaves that hall door open and you need to walk from the shower to your closet.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 10:43AM
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athensmomof3 - Thanks for your comments. I discussed it with DH last night and we are back to the drawing board to hopefully make some nice improvements. It is helpful to see your windows with a 9' bearing height.

chicagoans - thanks again for taking the time to help. I really appreciate it. I have been so focused on the interior (to the detriment of the exterior)that I did notice the master bath door issue and it will be resolved in the field. Good catch - it's those little things that will drive you crazy once you are in the house.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 11:10AM
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I think this house has a similar shape, but a different look than your design.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 12:50PM
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A few more idea for inspiration.

Parts of this one are very similar to your drawing.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 1:34PM
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aa62579 - Thanks for posting those pics. I have admired the last one for a few years now. I think it was on the cover of one of the many plan books we looked at for inspiration. I will post our new front elevation when we have something. You have all given me some great input - thanks!

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 3:20PM
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@kfhl- I have liked this farmhouse look for a while. (I think it came from a GW member, but I can't remember!) I think the windows and the gable on the wing add a lot of character and interest to the facade. And if you keep the gable in the middle, you could pull it out a couple of feet (just like in the pic) to give it some purpose.

Can't tell if I like the mini gables or not....still trying to decide that one! :)

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 11:15PM
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a possibility ...

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 6:37PM
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Another observation: Do you want the mullioned windows? I have had them up until a few years ago and have opted for full view. I like the unobstructed view out my windows. That could give you a different look too.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2012 at 7:07PM
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Summerfield - Wow! I love it. Sorry it took me awhile to reply, but we are out-of-town this weekend and when I looked at it yesterday the pictures did not come up. I love the center window on the 2nd floor! It looks great and it gives me more light for the stairwell and foyer. I also really like the way you trimmed out all of the windows and the garage. I had already talked to my DH about Buckheadhillbilly's suggestions about the porch roof, etc. and it is great to see what it should look like.
Can you let me know what size the windows are upstairs? and above the garage?
Thanks so much for taking the time to help me. I really enjoy checking out all of the floorplans etc. that you help people with.
My DH will be meeting with the truss designer this week to make the roof changes and then we will be on our way to a much more attractive home.
Thanks to everyone for your help.

stillwaters - thanks for taking a look and offering an idea as well. We have mullioned windows now and I have never really thought about how they effect the view. I guess there is always something new to consider.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 2:34PM
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The images posted above by SummerfieldDesigns are great.

My impressions are this:
The roof pitches appear to vary too much. For example, the pitch appears to be too steep over the main body of the house on the second floor. The top of the garage roof and the top of the roof at the master suite align, meaning the roof pitch is shallower at the master suite since it's a wider portion of the house. I would like to see a side & back elevation to see how you're dealing with the roofs.

Is there a room over the garage? If not, I would consider a gable vent there or at least a smaller window. This would add variation and interest.

I agree that the windows are too wide.

All of the windows need to have trim shown around them. As does the main entry, which needs to be dressed up more. The front door & entry side lites should also have divided lites. I would even do a transom window there. You really need to flesh out some trim details if you haven't - as these will have a huge impact on the look of your home.

If you want to do shutters, that's fine. But be sure to do them correctly (your's appear to be, but just note that shutters should cover the entire window when closed. Some of the example photos above show shutters on windows where the windows are clearly wider then the shutters.) And even though the shutters will most likely be just decorative, put them on hardware so it at least looks like they are functional.

I'm ok with the high gable, but don't like the round gable vent. What about a half round vent, that's pretty common in colonial homes. I would also carry the horizontal trim line across it. I would also look at lowering the pitch of this gable. If you don't want to carry the horizontal trim across, then a Palladian window would be more appropriate.

Consider dropping the porch eave slightly to add interest.

If you have a raised porch, it's appropriate to have a railing.

Can bedroom #2 & 3 have windows added to the side elevations?

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 11:53AM
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fotomatt - Thanks for your observations. My DH is meeting with the truss designer later this week to work out all of the roof issues - hopefully.

The area above the garage is a large walkin storage space. It will be drywalled. We really wanted the natural light of the window, but we will make it smaller to add variation.

Note taken about front door and shutters. I do not like the look of tiny decorative shutters on large windows.

We have added a window to bedroom 2, but we can't fit one it bedroom 3 - The floor plans posted are not current - sorry about that.

I'm not sure what you mean by dropping the porch eave - would you mind explaining?

Here is the back elevation and one side.
Thanks again.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 9:14AM
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Then the window is ok above the garage, just scale it down.

You know, you don't even really need shutters at all unless you particularly like the look. Most colonial homes didn't have them.

What I was talking about on the porch eave, I meant that since you have 10-ft ceilings, your porch roof edge could be dropped a foot. This would break up the roof line and add a bit of variation. It's not that big of a deal, just something to look at. You may find it's better how it is.

Now that I see the side elevations, the roof pitches look good. I think what was throwing me off was that because your house is deeper than a traditional 4-square or colonial, it is pushing the ridge line higher than you would be used to seeing on a straight on elevation, giving the appearance of a steeper pitched roof. But don't worry, you may notice that in an elevation drawing, but in person seeing it with perspective, it won't have the same effect. Does that make sense?

Bedroom #2 being the larger room was the one that needed an additional window the most.

I'm a little curious about the dormers shown on the back elevation. They are a bit odd, not really dormers but rather projected alcoves. A dormer usually either sets on top of a roof plane, or is part of the wall and roof plane above. Your dormers are part of the roof at the first floor AND part of the roof at the second floor AND are projected away from the exterior wall. The 3 dormers are also very close together. This is visually distracting, as well as it creates 2 "funnels" for water, pushing a large volume of water into a narrow space.

The dormers appear pretty wide, over 5-ft it appears, so they could be narrowed (especially if you're also narrowing the windows). This would create more space between them.
But I would rather just create one large shed dormer to encompass the area that you show the 3 dormers now. It would also be much easier and cheaper to build. Do an image search on google for shed dormer if you don't know what that is. Doing a shed dormer would also give you the added width in a more functional form for those rooms.

Just curious, what are the dots that appear in the walls of the floor plans?

Another comment on the floor plan - you show a lot of pocket doors. Our experience with pocket doors is that they tend to stay in the open position most of the time. People just find them a hassle to operate. They are generally more expensive to install. If you don't get really good hardware, you'll regret it. I only use pocket doors where it's an inconvenience to have a swing door. And I generally try to avoid that situation when designing a space. If you do use them, be sure to specify a good pull that is easy to grip. I've seen a lot that are rounded over, and they're difficult to grip and pull.

At the laundry room, it looks like those are the old fashioned style washer & dryer. Those types of units are 2-ft x 2-ft in plan. But these new front load washer & dryers come in much larger footprints, so you should verify that you have enough room for those - even if you don't have them yet. For example, mine is 27-in wide x 34-in deep.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 10:48AM
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fotomatt - Thanks again for taking the time to review our plans. The floor plans posted are a little out-of-date - so some issues have already been addressed. Sorry.

You are right about the washer/dryer shown on the plans. I have decided to stack them as there just isn't enough room for the other things I need otherwise.

My DH has been working really late and I have not had the chance to discuss the dormer issue with him yet. Thanks for pointing out some of the possible issues w/water and cost.
We have a number of pocket doors in our current home and we like them. Some of them we will keep closed, but others will remain open most of the time - such as the laundry door, the door to the toilet in the master bath etc. It's just nice to close them off when the need arises.

The dots indicate filled cells on the first floor w/tie ins and hurricane ties on the second. We live in Florida and the code requirements are strict here. We considered ICF or block all the way up, but ended up with block on the first floor and wood framing on the second.

I will be sure to post pics so you can see how it all turns out.
Thanks again for your help.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 2:18PM
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This is a clearly a Colonial Revival house so it should have classical detailing like Summerfield's drawing and the trim should be white but the body of the house should definitely not be white.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 8:31PM
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Thanks Renovator8 - I was hoping that you would chime in.

My DH met with the truss/lumber guy today and it seems we are on track. It looks like most issues were easily solved and we will end up conventionally framing the front porch. Now we just need to finalize those new window sizes and trim details.

And then decide on a color... Any suggestions?

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 3:39PM
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