The process - questions

autumn.4August 30, 2012

Similar to dreambuilder - new to the prospect of building but didn't want to highjack their thread. Have land purchased - need to get the current home ready and then we'll start the process. Hoping Spring of 2014 but if we are really aggressive maybe next fall. On the other hand - if the house is too $$$ then it may be longer if we feel its worth it to wait and save more. Ugh - hoping what we want is not completely out of our reach.

I looked up architects in our local phone book today and didn't find a single one - no listings whatsoever. I am not sure what to make of that. ???

On to my questions:

How does it typically work -

You find a floor plan you like and then buy it and have an architect tweak it


You find a floor plan you like and bring it to an architect and they draft it to your specifications from scratch? If it's not identical I wouldn't think that would be copyright infringement?

At what point is it best to post on here for help? I have one that we both really like - needs the least amount of changes but there are many 'missing' dimensions on the plan.

When exactly should you start with an architect? How many months before build? Does it normally take a year to get things settled or a matter of months? I understand it depends on how much you change your mind but in general.

Is it within an architects scope to give you any sort of feeling on the cost of what you are looking for or is that out of their realm? So then you'd quote and if it's too high you'd go back to the architect and start modifying and then requote? I am assuming they would have ideas on how to lessen the cost? Less corners - fewer changes in roof lines, etc?

As far as exterior vs. floor plan. If you find something you like just how much can you change the exterior design elements to get what you are looking for aesthetically? I am thinking if you are NOT having a cathedral ceiling changing roof lines would be an easier thing to do? Is that way off base?

I apologize if these are extremely elementary - this is likely the first and last time we will build and I have no experience with it - except what I've learned on here. :)

Thank you so much for any input you can offer!

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I started with the land. I found my architect through visiting a beautiful neighborhood and asking the building who designed the homes.

My architect charge for heated sq ft. Not porches or decks. He charged half for unfinished spaces like basements. I sent him a plat of the lot, inspiration pics and details of what I wanted. He came up it a plan that incorporated EVERY detail I requested and stayed at the sq ft that we requested. It was amazing!

Before going to him looking at house plans was almost a job. I searched the earth for plans and did not find one I liked. So when I approached the architect I knew the pieces of severl plans and pics that I liked but had no idea how to put them together in an original and functional way.

He got me the first draft in 4 days! It was near perfect. I tweaked some things for budget, because I had already engaged a builder who looked at the plans and would tell me if they were in my budget and would fit the lot. It took me about a month to finalize designs and get bids in from contractors. We used the builder who helped me with the lot since he had built in the neighborhood before and knew the lot well.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 9:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I wouldn't pull an architect out of the phonebook. Can any of your friends or acquaintances recommend one they've used? If not, can they recommend a good contractor -- or three? You can call the contractors and explain that you are in the early stages of a build and ask for architect recommendations. Contractors have a very pragmatic approach to architects and will like those who design homes that are not a nightmare to build -- not the only approach, but a good place to start.

Once you have a few architect names, call them and talk to them. They can tell you how long it usually takes to go from ideas to finished plans. (Note, if a contractor tells you, "You don't need an architect. I can sketch up something and have my draftsman draw it up," run the other way screaming, unless that contractor is also an architect or has one on staff.)

Have you read any books on designing a home? Sarah Susanka's books on the Not-So-Big homes are very readable and bring up good points, although I personally think she stubbed her toe a time or two. Also, her homes are probably higher cost-per-square foot than most of us would like to pay. There are also many other books out there that can help you clarify what you want and identify what you need to consider. You should study several of them before you commit even a rough idea to paper -- probably even before you call an architect, although a good architect can walk you through much of this ... but at an hourly rate!

Even if you find a plan you like, you should have an architect look at it. It might not work for your home site or the building conditions in your area. For example, a home with a basement will not work in most of Florida, unless you like indoor swimming pools -- the water table is simply too high.

Finally, a shameless plug: Yestermorrow Design-Build School in Vermont runs courses for people on how to design their home, as well as a wonderful selection of other courses. Some are weekend courses, some are one or two weeks. They have accommodations at the school and there are many B&Bs nearby. Vermont is beautiful. Consider it!

Here is a link that might be useful: Yestermorrow site

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 9:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Also look up architects on design websites like Southern Living. You can browse the plans and if you like the style of a particular ones you could call the architects and inquire about fees. They are not all super high priced.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 9:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I bought the book Designing Your Perfect House by William Hirsch. It does a good job explaining the process architects use when designing a house. Well, maybe all architects don't use the exact process he describes in the book, but it was very similar to what we went through with our architect.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 10:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't know why an architect would advertise in a phone book; who uses a phone book anymore? Google "architect" and your zip code. Then look at their websites and check their client references.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 10:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Renovator8 - I guess they don't, but sometimes I do! ;) Although I did google also and only a couple showed up - with an expanded search area. Looks like I'll need to expand to the largest neighboring city. Would you consider it a bad thing then if they showed up but didn't have a website? I'm thinking they should in this day and age (especially if they are not in the printed phone book).

Thank you for the book tips!

gaonmymind - sounds like you had an incredibly smooth experience! I am hoping to get better visuals at the fall parade of homes coming up. That will be helpful for visuals I think. I have started a small collection of pics.

Chibimimi-I'd love to travel to Vermont - but I don't see that happening any time soon. I bet its gorgeous in the fall!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 11:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Annie Deighnaugh

To me the first question is, do you need an architect? If you can find a ready made plan that is close to what you want with only a few tweaks (like changing the size of a closet or moving a doorway down a few feet, then a good builder/contractor can make those changes for you. (That is of course different from what Chibimimi suggests which is true if you need to make significant changes to the plan and especially if any of those changes entail structural elements or will in any way alter the exterior facade.)

You need an architect when you have special or unusual needs or requirements or you want to build a home that doesn't exist yet. For example, our architect is currently working on a home that has wet lands on 3 sides, has very specific wind load requirements, and is constrained to a remodel built on the same footprint as the old home. A very unique circumstance.

We went with him as our house didn't exist yet anywhere. Even at that we went through 7 years and 6 architects before we got to where we wanted to be. We were incredibly fussy and had a number of constraints given the lot, house size, the budget and the desire to build green. We made looking at homes and house plans and designing our own floor plans our "hobby" for a long while....others played golf or went to baseball games....we designed floor plans!

So it is difficult to judge how long a process will take and what your needs are. If you choose to go with an architect, interview carefully to make sure you get the architect that meets your needs and your budget. We didn't go with the guys who insisted that custom cutters were required for all their custom designed trim work in the house ($$$), or the guy who told me HE was going to design me a beautiful home and I WILL like it! I needed to be intimately involved in the design process and needed someone who would work with me and bend when necessary and push back when I was out of my tree. A true collaborative effort.

The time to get involved with the folks here is always...I'm always amazed and stunned at the knowledge, talent and generosity of the people here who are willing to give of their thoughts and themselves.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 8:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Annie-thanks for that! I think we will likely only need minor tweaks. We don't really have any unique or special circumstances per the property. The lot is wooded but besides basic set backs nothing we need to avoid (besides killing too many more trees since we like the privacy).

Your home is gorgeous - I have seen it on many occasions while searching on here for different things. That was a huge time investment - which paid off because it turned out how you envisioned but I think I'd have lost my patience after 7 years! It is very easy to spend HOURS looking through plans but I want to get it right since this will likely be the one and only. I have already learned some regarding house placement and orientation with the sun for solar gain - etc. from Alexhouse and pbx2.

I am going to check with a couple more people I know who have built. One used who her builder suggested for modifications so no name that she can remember. We will be doing the GCing and having my brother-in-law frame it/shingle, windows/doors (he does more inside work these days but has and does still occasionally build). All of the inside stuff we will either do ourselves (insulation, paint, wood flooring, tile, trim) or contract out (drywall/plumbing/electrical).

I think I'll gather my desires with the current plan that is very close to fitting our wants and our lot and give it a whirl on here. It's amazing to me how much great information you can get on here and what improvements can be made. I am sure with all of the talented and creative people on here they will help me see what at 1st or 100th glance I cannot! :)

Thank you.


    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 2:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Annie Deighnaugh

Thanks for the kind words and best of luck to you. Most important is to enjoy the process. I'll be interested to see how the plan and the process develops.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 4:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If the relationship is more important to you than the project, then I would say skip using friends and family. It is inevitable that conflicts will develop. You need to have a written contract with the relationship and expectations (and compensation) spelled out just as much as you would with a stranger. Even more so, perhaps because you may have expectations that you wouldn't with an arms distance contractor. Some of the most acrimonious situation that develop do so between former friends and family when the project starts to go south.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 4:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Live-wire - yes I told dh exactly that and have thought about it long and hard. It will be a PAID job not a favor and I expect it to be scheduled as such and not as a fill in here and there when there's downtime. I just figure might as well give the money to family than a stranger.

FIL built their house when dh and his siblings were young, bil built 2 houses of his own, sil also built (with dh and bil's help, etc) and now I guess it's just 'our turn', lol! It's sort of in the genes - but not so on my side. I can paint and lay tile well though. Dh is knowledgeable and skilled enough that I feel comfortable with it.

The other things we'd sub out are not relatives but those we've used in the past for things with good results.

Thank you for your words of warning though - I will be adamant that it is a quoted and scheduled job.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 7:25PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
building a simple modern farm house on a budget
I am planning to build a simple modern looking farmhouse...
New Home Build - please take a look
Hi all! My husband and I have been working with an...
Raised basement
For a level lot, a basement is usually underground....
Please critique plan.
Please critique plan. Thank you!
It's March 2015: How is your build progressing?
Zorro-anyone can start one. :) Link to It's February...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™