Hiring a stock plan Architect (i.e. WIllaim Poole, John Tee, etc.

61tinkerbellSeptember 2, 2010

I found a stock plan out of Southern Living that I have been modifying, by John Tee. Has anyone else used John Tee, William Poole, Don Gardner etc.. to modify a plan?

I have built a Don Gardner home, but didn't need to modify it except for some interior framing which our builder was able to easier do. The price quote I received is only a bit higher than a local drafting company. However, the local firm makes me nervous as we are building a more "southern" style, and not a typical FL home. Thoughts..??

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These companies are usually not in the business of proving architectural services for an individual project in a particular location so just be aware that you will probably be hiring the services of a draftsperson who might or might not work under the supervision of the original designer.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 2:19PM
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macv, so you mean when I call the architect's phone number, it's just his/her hired draftsperson? If so.. do you think it is still a decent way to go, rather than have a local draftperson modify the plan? They are in a different state than I am, however, they are able to get all plans ready to meet my county's requirements (including the engineer's seal for Miami-Dade hurricane codes)

I know I have been chatting with a person who "work's" at the architect's number... and I'm alright with that as long as the plan stays true to the architect's original.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 5:05PM
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From your description it appears the company is offering in-house architectural and engineering services. Not all of them do that.

Everything depends on the skill and motivation of the people involved and that's impossible for me to know.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 5:39PM
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macv, no.. I think your right on this! I planning on using a plan from John Tee, and johntee.com has a website - it LOOKS like it is his, and it has a toll free number. I just looked up who owns the website and it is someone in Minnesota..? (he's in GA) okay, no big deal, maybe he has a friend running the site. However, I just looked at where the person "from his office" email is coming from and that is coming from New Jersey! I found John Tee's local GA number, which I'll call and ask for details on this.

William Poole (who I also had some interest in, lists his local, NC phone number... so I think plans come from his office, under him.

Question, what about buying the CAD files and having a local person modify it? My plans are fairly simply, the CAD files should have all the details included right? I mainly want to make sure I get architectural details - like window sills and molding, which builders here don't use much!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 6:11PM
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Someone on the forum recently complained so bitterly about an independent designer hired through one of the plan mill architects that the entire thread was removed by the moderator.

I have no direct experience with any these companies or with independent designers but I doubt you will get window details from any of them simply because I have found that there are few people who actually know how to detail a house much less willing to put that information in design documents.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 7:58PM
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hey Tinker-
macv is the pro. Listen!
I can share some experience here. On our multi-year journey to building our house we found a stock plan that really appealed to us. It was loaded with beautiful details. We investigated what was going to be furnished w/ the stock plan and learned that we would not receive the details for 90% of the architectural elements.

When we finally selected and closed on the lot we decided to use an elevation and elements from our favorite local house instead of the stock plan house. We approached the builder, toured some of the homes he has built, and took his advice to hire the same architect. We provided our own conceptual floor plan. The architect and builder work together so often that many of the details that would have been spelled out on the plan were notations of elements that the architect knew this builder could execute in the field.

I know you have built lots of other homes in the past, so my advice may be trivial, but I hope it helps.

BTW- in our municipality the plans must be sealed by a Florida architect or Florida PE. We also have to have a managing engineer for the project. Is it the same for you? If so, that may also help you decide the local vs remote design issue.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 9:06AM
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tinker, if you have computer skills, I would suggest purchasing a software program that looks like something you can work with. Getting stamped blueprints isn't all that difficult. There is an engineer in Lake City that we can go to. You can also purchase the Florida code books so that you can make sure your prints comply.

We wasted $2,000 on an architect that supposidly was an expert in Florida Cracker style homes, and he gave us nothing but modern, bumped out, convoluted stuff. And then it was "oh, I misunderstood" ands if I modify anything it will be another $1,500 please, (we had gaven him a huge folder of pictures, and detailed written wants and needs. He had also been to our property and seen the house site). We promptly ended that relationship.

Then, we thought we would try someone that works with two log home companies. He was $500, and THAT was a complete joke. I posted one of the plans on the smaller house forums, and not one person there liked it, or could even work with it to help modify it. Again, we gave very detailed written things we wanted, both via e-mail and in person. (He, too, had seen the property and house site). He then spat out three more versions of the same plan that went from bad to worse, after more very detailed e-mails, and called his obligation filled. The rooms were not even in the specified quadrants of the floor plan. He will not even respond to our e-mails at this point, and all our e-mails were professional and polite.

They all seem like they will be great....until they cash your check.

My husband is an engineer so he is comfortable with computers. We purchased Chief Architect, which he says is not a simple software to work with, and are in the process of drawing up our own floor plan and blueprints. We are going to be the owner/builder, so our floorplan can be somewhat vague, and we will tweak it as we build. I'm sure there are other softwares out there that are more user friendly. You may be able to do your floor plan and find someone competent to do the blueprints from that.

Long story short....we wasted $2,500, lost 10 months of time that could have been spent actually building the home, and would never, and I mean never, consider hiring someone again.

Oh, and we haven't spoken to one person yet that didn't have to resort to doing their own plans. Stock plans aren't that good either. The stock plans do stupid things with doors, closets, and in many cases, lack of storage.

I wish you luck. Don't be discouraged by what I've said here. My aim is to help you not waste large amounts of money. The money we wasted would have bought a beautiful set of french doors.


    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 9:51AM
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pamelah, thank you, your reply has been helpful! Even though we have build many times before, they all were (except one) builder models. It was easy to just bump out a room here and change the kitchen layout... the one not builder home we built was a stock plan of Don Gardner's, which we just did little modifications to. I still have those plans and looked at them tonight, they don't show any interior elements at all as far as moldings (just like Macv indicated) It does show a lot of details of the exterior. On our Don Gardner home, we knew exactly what we wanted with trim details and my husband actually could have done it himself, but we wanted to finish in a timely manner and running his own business, it wasn't an option. The trim details DID come out perfectly, so maybe I won't worry so much about that!

Sandy, thanks for posting, your information and story may just have just helped me save a bunch of money that could possible be a big mistake! At least, I know I need to investigate things a bit more before plopping down the $3000 deposit! I DID already draw our floor plan in the Chief Architect program, the cheap one, not the pro version, but I can't and don't to try how to add the 2nd floor or roof, but I do know exactly the lower level layout, including all dimensions and such.. but need an expert to make sure it all works. (2nd floor will only be a bonus room and unfinished storage).

Macv, if your still reading this, what is your opinion of buying stock plans and having someone modify them? Can a draftsmen do just as well as an architect? I guess, answering my own question, it depends on the designer, right? Any hairdresser can cut hair, but they don't all do it well..

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 9:15PM
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Hey Tinker~~
I do have an advantage (or sometimes disadvantage, because he often tells me "that just won't work) of having a husband who is an architect and contractor as well....design and build. From hearing him tell others about plans...most architects have no idea of the cost...they draw pictures. If you have a good sketch, an architect should be able to draw exactly what you want...and tell you the approximate costs....so I'd look for one that can do this if you can find one.
GOOD LUCK in your build....I'll be watching.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 12:07PM
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My wife and I found a plan from Garrell Associates online that we liked, it was actually at one of the big online sites like houseplans.com, but we saw the Garrell watermark and then went directly to them.

We talked with a staff member in Atlanta about the changes, but a draftsman in India did the changes. Copying the plan into Paint allowed me to mock up our changes and send them back so they had a better idea of what we wanted to do than just words. I even copied and pasted from some other houses.

I think it worked out well. We hired a local structural engineer to do those plans.


    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 8:42AM
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"Can a draftsmen do just as well as an architect?"

I have spent 40 years correcting the mistakes of drafters so I guess I would have to say the above proposition would be the case only for an unusually uninformed and poorly motivated architect and an unusually well informed and highly motivated drafter. That's hypothetically possible but very rare in my experience. Also, a talented drafter would usually be promoted to a higher level of responsibility within a few years so anyone whose role is still limited to drafting is unlikely to know enough about designing and detailing to work without close supervision.

To subsidize my income when I went into private practice, I reviewed construction documents for my former employer and other firms. It became a bit of a contest between me and the project managers. I rarely reviewed a sheet that didn't contain an error. I bet one principal that I could find an error on every sheet of an 85 sheet construction set and I won that bet.

So, I would say that there is nothing wrong with using a drafter if a more experienced person will be reviewing the drawing set through the design process and before it goes to a builder. Relying on a builder to provide design quality control is, in my experience, unwise unless you have a substantial contingency in your budget and are pretty flexible about the final costs and details. The pay now or pay later rule is rarely more apt than in the design and construction of buildings.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 10:51AM
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phoggie, you're such a sweetie, and I adore all your confidence in me.. hope I don't let you down! Lucky you that you have an architect hubby... hope my plans will work, but I should find out soon!

Macv & Brian, thank you both for replying.. so much to think about! We are meeting with a Drafting/Design firm tomorrow, they have 18 years experience and work with all the large building firms in our area. Over the phone, I am assured that a local architect reviews all plans and the plans are submitted to an engineering firm for finals.

I do think that I will stay local, as in FL our codes are so tough, I'm afraid of having a firm out of state who has all my $$$ ..

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 11:44AM
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Not that it means much but John Tee and Don Gardner are architects; William Poole is not.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 11:47AM
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I'm interested in how things turned out for you and your house. Are you done building?

Back in 2002, I started looking for plans for our present home. Thousands of views later, nothing met our wants list. I mean nothing. So, I, too, liked the looks of Tee's and Poole's designs the best. Where they fail, imho, is their room sizes and not enough closets; which seem to be typical mistakes from most designers.

It took a year and a half for my dh and I to settle on a plan; two months to draw it up; 14 mos. to build.

The finishing techniques can always be added to a home after a home is constructed, if it must happen that way. What's important is that you get good bones: great framing, radiant barrier & foam insulation, good windows, ample room sizes, wider halls and doorways, smooth ceilings, and great flow in a kitchen with a terrific size island... and lots of lower drawers in kitchens instead of cabinets. What can't fit in a drawer, use a pantry or upper cabinet.

I bought a few home designer CAD 3D programs and went at it. I built exactly what I imagined our home to be and more. I am self taught and very good using the programs. My bro suggested a local draftsman who could never get the roof like we wanted. He wasn't as good as I was! Truly. My design is smarter than what we have seen anywhere. Features in my home are usually found in $1M+ dollar properties. I know: I am a REALTOR®. I'm going to find out how much smarter this design is real soon because I am going to sell this home. So, we shall see what happens.

We recently bought a waterfront lot in a small gated community here in NE Florida; and are going to build another 'retirement' home ... not quite as big as this one. I am going to draw up plans myself. We love the layout in this home, but it's two story. Going to *try* to keep it on one level... I really like the idea of having a couple of rooms 'upstairs'. DH said we'll have to put in an elevator if I did a second storey. We need to think of re-sell, too. ;)

Last time, I found a local drafts-woman in Virginia, where we were living before we built in Florida. The draftswoman was terrific. She found out local Florida specs and incorporated to met building guidelines.

Once in Florida, we hired an engineer to do 'the engineering' calcs, electrical, etc. There was very little tweaking or changes in our plans... and this is a complicated home with a cut-up roof. DH and I acted as GC because we had the money to build this home ourselves. There's over 6,000sf under roof and we built 4 blocks high, so it took a bit to build. We also did a lot of the grunt work while building. I don't know if we saved a whole lot of money, but we go it done. This time.... I *want* to hire someone to build... in theory. Yet, since I'm a control freak... we might end up doing it ourselves again. We'll just have to 'see' if we'll have the money to build -Vs- getting a CP loan.

My brother's a builder and lives next door. He built a Donald Gardner plan about the same time we were building. Our homes compliment each others.

A few years ago, someone built across the street from us because they like our homes; and built a similar style. We don't live in a neighborhood per se... but we've started something. Later on, three other similar styled homes have gone in on our road and all complimenting what we built: a quality home on about 1 1/2 acres. It looks terrific. Theirs look terrific. I just hate to sell this house... but we think we want waterfront property and lifestyle. (We got tired of hauling our boat to a ramp.) Another person built a 'Florida' style home and it just doesn't have the character that ours have... or the other new similar homes. I think people around here are wanting traditional, yet updated styles. I hate stucco and it's just everywhere in 'NE Florida' neighborhoods. Ours is a standout.

Looking for a good draftsman in NE Florida if you know of someone. I will be extremely specific in my specs.

Again, would love to see your house.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 6:45PM
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sherilynn , after 6 months and 2 drafters.. we never completed the plans, found an existing home we love ... an historic home full of charm, with we restored, and have been living in the past 2 years. Good luck on your new home!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 7:57AM
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