complete newbie here--choosing between 3 houseplans

cloudyskiesAugust 18, 2013

We put our home up for sale never imagining it would sell in just 2 days! There's nothing on the market suitable for us to buy but we did find 12 acres that had everything we were looking for (high speed cable internet, no restrictions on horses & 4wheelers, barn)...except a house!

So we made a spur of the moment decision to build! We've never done this before and are clueless. At first we were going to go with Schumacher Homes but then a highly recommended builder had a client change their minds so he's available now to start building for us next month. Now we just need to decide on a plan and I would love some input on our current top 3...and just input in general :)

I homeschool our 4 kids, ages 7-14. Hubby works from home. Kids play violin and piano. We are outdoorsy, into gardening and horses and 4H market animals. I love pretty wooden staircases, porches, fireplaces and farmhouses (simple midwest-style, not cape cods or busy-looking victorians). I like lots of natural light and the ability to open windows & let breeze come through. My parents live out of state and visit a lot so our main level needs to be wheelchair friendly to make things accessible for my dad.

Must haves:
-4 bedrooms or 3 bedrooms + office
-would prefer to stay under 2000sf plus a finished basement (our lot will support doing a walkout but we're not sure we want to--there's plenty of flat area to build on as well)
-200k max budget that includes a detached 2-car garage (we're able to get major discounts on windows/ext doors, trim, cabinets, and metal roofing through family connections)
-Simple farmhouse style that suits our rural OH location

Possibility #1 "Family Jewel" from Archway Press

The simplicity of this floor plan really appeals to me. To lower costs I wonder if the bumpouts/bays could be removed/straightened so it's just a simple L-shaped farmhouse? Possibly rearrange the kitchen to perhaps be a G-shape open to the dining room (no closets or hutch there). I like that every bathroom has a window and the laundry/mudroom is right off the back entrance (short walk to hang clothes out on the line--this would also be our "drop zone" entrance from the detached garage)

Possibility #2 "Field of Dreams"

I have read through all the garden web posts on this house and looked at all the beautiful pics. I'd move the screen porch to be off the dining room. I like the idea of the mudroom being down a few steps but my dad must have level access to the bathroom. Could that powder room be put somewhere else on the main level and then have a washer and dryer off the mudroom instead? Having that library/office on the main level is a big plus (can double as a guest room so my parents don't have to sleep in the living room).

Possibility #3 "The New Economy Home"

I like the entryway/staircase and kitchen in this house and how affordable it sounds (150k?). I would probably add a wraparound porch. 3 1/2 baths seems excessive to me (I hate cleaning bathrooms) so perhaps we'd do away with the main level full bath (using the adaptable suite as an office)...but maybe I'll regret that decision when I'm older and don't want to do stairs? Or we could put the office upstairs and only have 1 full bath up there, using the adaptable suite as the master. And I'd prefer a main level laundry/mudroom off the back entrance. I can't figure out a good spot for a fireplace in this living room...seems like you have to use their suggested furniture arrangement to make the living room work.

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You describe a lot of special needs for your family living. This is the time to take your time, get all the major decisions made in proper order and then work through the many detail decisions in order to document your drawings and specifications.

I'm sure you feel pressure to move on quickly, but the old adage, "haste makes waste" is all too true at this point in your home design process. Everything thing you do and every decision you make will come back and revisit you again and again as you work your way through the process necessary to design and build your next home.

You need an experienced architect or design professional to help guide and help with the right decisions at the right time. Do your best to eliminate "spur of the moment" decisions, especially since you are "clueless".

Good luck on your project.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 3:16PM
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Definitely choose a floor plan that has a study/bedroom on the first floor with a full bath (handicap accessible shower) and grab rails. I don't like cleaning bathrooms either (LOL) but a powder room off the mudroom might be a good idea, especially in the country! We have horses and you'll need an easy clean up area :)

Where do you home school the kids? Do you need a school room? That might be a good reason to go with daylight basement. Otherwise, maybe a large formal dining room that has double doors (pocket doors) to the kitchen? That would give you an area to oversee the kids and still use it as a large dining room, when kids are older and come back to visit with the grandkids!

I really like your desire for simplicity and lots of windows/breezes. A screened porch would be very nice! Don't forget you'll need space in the winter, too...would a glass porch with screens be a possibility? Maybe use it as a seating area in the summer, but have glass and bring plants in, for the winter? I would so love to have a place to start garden seedlings. Then, when you plant everything, put in the screens and make it a seating area, again. Best of luck with your wonderful new home!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 5:08PM
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I guess I'm worried about costs and delay associated with hiring an architect...this is why we're leaning toward the stock plans. I think we'd rather put up with a less than perfect home than spend thousands on an architect. But you're right, it's probably worth checking into. Maybe they're not as expensive as I'm thinking.

Honestly, the "clueless" factor is what makes Schumacher Homes really appealing--choices are limited! (and the fact that they can have it done in 5 months). But everyone keeps telling us we'll be happier if we go with the custom builder so that's what we're leaning toward.

Thank you!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 5:12PM
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Bridget Helm

i think the living rooms are too small for your family. we have 4 kids and i wouldn't recommend a den smaller than 19x19 for such a large family. the den in the third plan had a good sized den until I noticed that the dining table had to be in the den. that kitchen was waaaaay too small too.

could you swing 9,000 for a home planner or architect that is willing to do just the basics?? it's well worth it.

i know a few people who chose from plans that the builder had, but their families are much smaller than yours and mine. the larger your family the more i feel like the house needs to be tailor drawn for you, ya know?

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 5:23PM
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Yeah, maybe hiring an architect would save us money in the long run...we will definitely think more about that. We've done additions and remodeling but never built totally from scratch. We've had more practice at "fixing" known problems than creating something from a blank slate. Maybe that's why I'm more comfortable tweaking stock plans than coming up with something original?

I should've explained that we plan to have a tv room/den in the basement--that's where the tv, xbox, toys, games and desktop computer will be. The main level living room will be for quieter activities like reading, talking and enjoying the fireplace.

Also, a powder room has always been sufficient for my parents' visits so having a full bath on the main level isn't a necessity...just thinking it might come in handy later on for us as we get older. But we're only in our mid-30s so it'll be awhile, I hope, before stairs become an issue :-)

I think part of my issue is that the house we just sold is a 5000sf victorian on 45 acres with 5 br, 3 1/2 ba and a huge open kitchen (it seemed like it took 15 minutes just to wipe down all the counters!)...there were areas in that house we rarely used and we had to hire a cleaning lady to take the edge off the housework (we still did plenty ourselves!) We're wanting to downsize but maybe I'm going to extremes the other way.

I had a dedicated schoolroom in our former house but we really preferred to do school wherever we fancied--in front of the fireplace or in the basement tv room usually. The school room ended up being used just as storage for all our books & school supplies. Dedicating an entire room to this was overkill. A large cabinet or hutch will suffice.

Love the screened/4 season porch idea. The rental we're living in now has one and it's very pleasant. The back of our 12 acres is private with woods and a creek so to have a screened or 4 season back porch would be awesome.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 7:03PM
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Just be glad you didn't choose Schumacher!!!! Please don't be tempted to rethink that decision.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 8:49PM
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Have you asked your builder if he has any plans that might meet your needs?

That would likely be the fastest, cheapest path, because your builder would have experience building it.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 8:52PM
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would prefer to stay under 2000sf plus a finished basement (our lot will support doing a walkout but we're not sure we want to--there's plenty of flat area to build on as well)
-200k max budget that includes a detached 2-car garage (we're able to get major discounts on windows/ext doors, trim, cabinets, and metal roofing through family connections)

Where are you building that you envision building this for $100 sq ft?

What has your builder said about letting you supply those type of items? How will it impact his fees and warrantees?

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 10:58PM
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Lurker here, but does your 200k have to include septic (we needed a mound so a little more expensive), well, driveway (ours was 500' so maybe longer than yours would be), or running electric to the house? The only reason I ask is because we just started our build in the country (MN), and these things alone are costing us just about 30K.

Just something to keep in mind, because those were costs we could not get around, so we ended up changing our house plans to fit our budget.

Also, to give you some perspective (also again we are in MN), we have a smaller house about 1500 square feet, and we are right now at about $170 per square foot (including the above 30K). We do not have fancy fixtures, solid surface countertops, or those things.

I guess I just can't imagine those houses only costing 200k to build... But again maybe I'm completely wrong.

This post was edited by MrsHunter on Mon, Aug 19, 13 at 8:56

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 8:46AM
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I am looking to build something similar in a farmhouse design,4 bedroom and would like to stay under 2200,it's hard to find one I like,field if dreams is not big enough,the only plan we have found that is close to what we like on the exterior is 2800,your asking for a lot in a little space.
I'm in ne Oklahoma and its about 90-105 sf for a nice home(not a mansion) not including lot,drive,running electric etc.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 8:55AM
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so perhaps we'd do away with the main level full bath (using the adaptable suite as an office)...but maybe I'll regret that decision when I'm older and don't want to do stairs

Or next year when someone breaks a leg ... having an accessible bed/bath suite for those occasions is important.

Sit back and decide what are your MUST haves, and what are "LOVES" that you don't really need.

Mentally spend a year with the plan ... does it handle the mud season well? Does it help or hinder gardens and chickens? Can it handle Thanksgiving?

Mentally grow the children: if it's perfect for them now, how about in 5 years?

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 9:14AM
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I would definitely include a shower on the first floor. If you don't think you need one and would really prefer a powder room, maybe think about incorporating a shower in your mudroom. You can use it to wash kids, dogs, etc. and it doesn't have to look perfect all the time...but it will be there if you need it :)

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 12:42PM
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Lori (loribug26_gw) Wagerman_Walker

I second Lavender's post!

We're in South/central Indiana...I started where you are, and wound up with right at 3000sf. We only have two kids.
Just by the time I got all the space in the areas I'm lacking now.

We're over your budget, and all that add on stuff they've mentioned, we've paid for out of pocket, or done ourselves. We farm 1200 acres, and dh's dad does dirt work too, so haven't paid a thing for equipment rental yet. Traded out some services for the stone hauling (but our drive is 1600+ ft long).

Luckily my horses & misc livestock are on an established piece with the barns, fence, pasture, etc. that borders our new property. So all of that expense isn't a factor at this point.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 2:31PM
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Lori (loribug26_gw) Wagerman_Walker

I should have also said that I really didn't want our house to be as big as it wound up, and yes I should totally have been able to get by with less than that. So you may very well be able to do with out the extra sf. I commend people who can do a smaller house well.

BUT I really wanted my Master on the main floor...b/c I plan on dying in this house. I'm almost 40, but years of horses & farm work hasn't been good on my knees.
I already don't want any more stairs than I have to deal with. :)

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 2:44PM
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Bridget Helm

some plans that i really liked to get ideas from for exterior elevations to give to the architect are by signature homes in birmingham, AL. they don't sell their plans online, but they provide them to a lot of neighborhood "communities" that are going up in the birmingham area. They have nice architectural details that many of the online plans lack.

you have to click on each neighborhood to see the plans they provide for that particular community. they show the floorplans too. some were lacking, but it's the exteriors that i found nice.

Here is a link that might be useful: signature homes

    Bookmark   August 19, 2013 at 3:45PM
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Thank you for the responses! You've all given me more to think about.

I guess maybe things are a bit cheaper here in the sticks? plus there's already a driveway most of the way (there's a barn on the property). Public water is available.

We are planning to use a Mennonite builder who is very flexible about us getting our own discounted materials. But even without that his prices seem to be competitive with Schumacher Homes--we priced out a single story 1800sf Schumacher home with attached garage & unfinished basement for 160k, not including site prep. A relative used him to build their home (it's a more expensive home than we want to build) and others have recommended him as well. He built a home nearby that's 2000sf, 1 1/2 stories, no garage, unfinished basement for 140k. We're going to go look at it later this week--who knows, maybe we'll like it and build the same thing? That would sure make things alot easier!

You've convinced me that a main level full bath is pretty important :) I guess we've lived the last 11 years without one so I don't know what I'm missing! I didn't think about the fact that there are many reasons besides old age that would make stairs an issue.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 10:55PM
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Cloudyskies, I have no advice to offer you on which one to choose. I just wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed looking at your three floor plans. I love looking at floor plans, and all three of these exhibit thoughtful, useable design. They caught my admiration.

I will side with those who point out that a full bath on the main floor can have a practical benefit. My own parents wished to stay in their long term home in later years after stairs became difficult. Since the house did not have a main floor full bath, it became necessary to build a bathroom and move the laundry room to the main floor for them to stay. You may not be the kind of people who want to stay permanently in your home. But if you are, you may want to think about it. And even if you are, you may decide that is something that can be done later.


    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 1:43PM
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So I think I can rule out plan #1 because we want to have a main level office/bedroom and full bath.

I'm worried plan #3 will feel too tight and perhaps look odd in the middle of 12 acres. I see a lot of houses that style in town and it looks great on a narrow lot but not sure it'll look good by itself in the middle of a field.

So the frontrunner is Field of Dreams but I'm worried it won't fit the budget. I found the Holly Ridge Farmhouse this week and I kind of like it too, even though it's a cape cod :)

I like the fact that it only has 2 full baths and a main level bedroom. We'd need to make an office in the finished basement for hubby and do I want the laundry in the basement? I don't like the totally open floorplan and the fact that it has no back entrance/mudroom but we can probably figure those things out.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 12:26PM
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I like this new one, too. If you want partial separation between the living room and dining/kitchen area, you could use pair of columns over built in book cases, taken from the tradition of the Craftsman house. That way you would have the room separation but keep line of sight and the feeling of flow, best of both philosophies. And you would have a convenient place to store your homeschooling books as well.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bookcase and column room divider - 2nd photo

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 5:12PM
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Wow, love the built-ins in that link!

I like how the Field of Dreams creates division with built-ins because otherwise it would be wide open as well.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 5:34PM
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Oh how I envy your situation. The land and space you are working with is just fabulous. I am a diy enthusiast and only dream of a project like this. Being from the UK our property is minuscule compared to this. Enjoy!

Here is a link that might be useful: Diy tips

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 6:25PM
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Hi guys,

I have heard a lot of bad reviews about the Schumacher homes, however, every time i go to look at the homes I love them. I really like the layout of the Heritage B home.

Has anyone ever thought about taking the blueprint of a Schumacher home and contacting a trusted local builder to execute the job? This way avoiding some of the hidden costs and loop holes that I've heard so much about?

If anyone has done this, or is thinking about doing this, or has any input on this topic at all, please let me know. Any information is greatly appreciated!


    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 8:36PM
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