Please comment on my floor plan

pittkolNovember 17, 2012

Building our first house and I designed this floor plan. The upstairs will have 3 bed rooms and a Recreation/Craft room. Great room will not be two stories. Kitchen will be vaulted with wood beams and a glass wall at the dinning room over looking a valley. I think the first floor is 2,700 sq. ft so it's getting bigger than I planned. Where can I reduce space.



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I think space is less important than a complicated footprint and roofline.

Floorplanner really doesn't work very well to plan out floorplans. Maybe a room or two, but tons of stuff is off by default, and you need to research the dimensions of everything it puts in. For example, your stairs are way too narrow and probably too sort, your kitchen counters don't look wide enough, etc. Make sure to check wall thicknesses, and make sure youre doing your measurements to the interior of the walls... You're definitely not now, which means you're overestimating all of your dimensions, and several all already pretty limited. Make sure you research the minimum space required for certain things, such as the single stall garage, the walk in pantry, and toilet room. These all look too small, once you correct the dimensions.

I think you've got to fix some of these issues before you can look to improve the rest of your plan. But while you're at it, try to make the exterior walls line up better so you have less corners.

If you're building this size of house, with expensive interior details such as wood beams, you might consider whether it's worth it to hire an architect to make this general plan a workable reality. I'm at the tail end of this process... I started with floorplanner, and then got lots of help from lots of people, then hired a local drafter, continued making tons of changes, and it has been an incredibly time cosuming. We are building a very modest house on a tiny budget, so I had no choice. Ultimately, you will have a better product, and you could still take pride in coming up with the overall idea. Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 8:17PM
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If you're looking to cut square footage, I'd focus on reworking the area around the stairs. It looks like a big empty area to me, and that's in addition to the foyer. I'd also consider omitting either the sunroom or the keeping room, because they're very similar sized rooms with very similar purposes. The last thing I'd try to change to make the floorplan more efficient would be to think about how to reduce the length of the hallway from the garages. It's probably 120 sq.ft.

I wouldn't like having a doorway in the middle of my kitchen work triangle-- I'd definitely recommend you take your kitchen layout to the kitchen forum for feedback. My other thought is that your laundry room is a LONG walk from the bedrooms. I'd be tempted to find space for it closer to the master bedroom/the staircase.

Despite my criticisms, I like your plan overall. Good luck with it.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 8:33PM
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There is a ton of wasted space in unneeded traffic paths, and not enough in the critical spaces that you will have a lot of traffic. The kitchen is unworkable, with downright dangerous locations of things and with traffic paths right through the hot zone. It's also going to be incredibly dark.

There is also a lot of valuable wall space (and floor space) wasted on areas that see very little living. Remember that windows are valuable resources, so plan your space around those places that can have windows in two directions first, and then windows on one wall second. In no case should a bathroom or storage area have a more desirable location than a kitchen or even a bedroom. Analyze the functions that a space need to perform. Can those functions be combined in order to cut square footage? Do you really need a dedicated laundry, pantry, mud room, hallway, and more hallway? A seating space here, and here, and here? Why? Eating space here and here and here? Why? Create spaces that are multi purpose and that can expand for the couple of times a year that you need more seating or more dining.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 10:59AM
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This strikes me more as a graphic wishlist rather than a floorplan. It doesn't all work together, and the sizes (i.e., cabinets and staircase) are unrealistic.

I suggest that you go to the library and pick up some books on basic homebuilding. That'll prepare you to move forward with this project. Many of these books give you little exercises that'll help you define what you want in your home.

Some sore thumbs that stick out:

- I assume you're trying to cut the square footage to stay in budget (though other reasons do exist). If so, you need to pay attention to some other basics, which can make as much (or more) difference in the total cost.

- Every bump-out and jog in the exterior is EXPENSIVE. Start with a simple rectangle and work from there, expanding only when necessary. This can possibly save you more money than reducing the overall square footage.

- Simiarly, inside you want to build long, straight walls. The most realistic wall you have inside is the one at the top of the office /garage. Long, straight walls are cheap to build; they're also stronger and provide support for your upper levels.

- Try to plan your rooms in 4' increments. Standard building materials are sized in 4' increments; thus, rooms that use that dimension are less expensive: No waste of materials, and workers move faster if they're not stopping to measure and cut.

- As someone else said, pay attention to the roofline. A hipped roof, a double roofline, or a roofline with dormers is MUCH more expensive than a simple roofline.

- Move your plumbing so that it's "back to back" -- pipes traversing the width of your house are expensive, and they provide more opportunities for leaks or other troubles to appear in future years. When you plan your upper level, try to "stack" your plumbing for efficiency. Note, too that having all your plumbing close together means that your hot water heater can "deliver" faster to each location.

- A staight staircase is only 50% the square footage of a turned staircase.

- You're wasting lots of space in hallways. For example, elminate the garage hallway altogether. Instead, plan an entry room that'll have pantry space on the left, laundry on the right . . . this multi-tasking hallway requires less square footage than your all-over-the-map plan and will be cheaper. Similarly, the confusing little hallway into the master bedroom should just disappear altogether.

- Standard kitchen cabinets are 24" deep. Also in your kitchen, you need the door to open in a corner rather than interrupting your run of cabinets. Every door in your kitchen is counterspace lost, another reason to consider the pantry/laundry/garage entry mentioned above.
- Your office and master bedroom are square. Both of these rooms would be improved by becoming rectangles; these rooms need wall space (for desks, for beds and dressers). You need enough empty space in these rooms for people to move freely, but the excess you've planned doesn't benefit you in any way.

- A fireplace behind the sofa?

- A three-car garage is less expensive than this two-garage plan because you'll have less material in the exterior walls. Also, driveways are expensive. I can't see entrances to these garages -- will they be serviced by the same driveway?

- The half-bath is odd, and it is causing you to add all that wasted space as you approach the great room. In a first house, especially when you're trying to limit square footage, a more practical approach is to put two doors on the master bath so that guests can use that without going through your bedroom.

- Finally, I don't think you have a handle on the "level" of house you're building. On the one hand, you're trying to cut down on the square footage; on the other hand, you're incorporating MANY luxury items -- walk-in shower, dual walk-in closets, double fireplace, vaulted ceilings, exposed wooden beams, sunroom, walk-in pantry, dedicated office, keeping room, extra garage. These are things to which people "move up" after they've had a couple houses and have built equity and wealth. I didn't have a single one of these things in my first house. Unless you could describe your build as "luxury" and your budget as "high", you're going to have to cut out some things. This really shouldn't be hard: Much of what you have could become multi-purpose. The office could double as your craft/rec room. Or the keeping room could become a sunroom. As I said in the beginning, I see this as a wishlist.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 2:11PM
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Thanks for all the comments! Let me clarify a couple items. This is not our first house but the first time we ever built a house. Our budget is around $550,000 without the lot. We met with an architect and this layout was only a rough first draft. Not much thought went into Kithen layout or cabinet dimensions.

I agree with some of the wasted space comments especially the hall way to the garage and around the stairs. The hallway to the master bedroom was my attempt at hiding the bedroom, maybe a bookcase door would work better. The far wall on the kitchen by the dinning room table will be a two story wall of window so it shouldn't be too dark.

I know everyone has their own unique tastes and way of living but their has to be a 4 bedroom plan with master on the main in this price point that should suit 90% of everyone wants and needs! WHAT IS THE PERFECT PLAN?? Builders should be able to tell me want I want and what works but everytime I say that everyone thinks I'm crazy. Steve Jobs should be what I wanted when he created the ipad and I would like to create the perfect 4 bedroom house in the medium to high price ranges. One that is efficient to build and is layed out efficiently with the features people utilize the most.

If someone has a great 4 bedroom plan that they feel is close to perfect, PLEASE SHARE!

Thanks, sorry for the rant!

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 5:22PM
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There is no PERFECT house plan. The reason we do custom houses is to get the perfect plan for our household - not your household, not the household down the street. You are not going to suit 90% of the people. There are some issues that even those of us on GW are split 50/50.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 5:35PM
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Here's a plan I think is similar to what you've got but with less wasted space, IMO. You could turn the 2nd main level bedroom into a mudroom and attach the garage there, and then put a 3rd bedroom upstairs instead of the 2-level living room.

It's not a perfect plan either, but there might be some ideas here for your house. :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Prairie house plan

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 7:09PM
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I vote for crazy too.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 10:28PM
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You think I'm crazy now, check out my other recent post and you will either start to understand what I'm trying to accomplish or think I totally nuts. Link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Home building process broken

    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 11:01PM
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Respectfully, the problem isn't that you're crazy. Everyone here is working on developing the perfect house plan. Some people begin with a house plan and make adjustments, while others start from scratch. However, I haven't seen two that come out identical in the end; thus, while I understand your quest for "perfect", you're not going to find agreement on this or any other board.

You won't even get "perfect" for yourself (much less yourself and your spouse). Building a house is an exercise in compromise. No matter how many wonderful ideas, no matter how many opinions and how many drawings you go through, you will always end up sacraficing something. Here's an example: I want plenty of natural sunlight streaming into my kitchen. However, after much discussion and professional help, the bottom line is that the house is going to face east. That means my kitchen will face west, and it will be hit by the afternoon sun, making my kitchen into an oven. So I can either scrap my whole houseplan (which I do not want to do) or add a covered porch over the back portion of the house. I really don't want to add a porch, but it does solve my kitchen problem, it will serve the pool area well, and it's the best solution. The point: I'm not getting "perfect" in this situation. To keep the house plan I like, I'm making a compromise on one item in the kitchen.

You're going to end up making compromises in numerous ways as you build. It's just the nature of the beast. To borrow your analogy from your referenced thread, you may end up with the "ipad of houses"; that is, you may end up with the best product in your category, price point, etc.

The real problem, as I see it -- and I mean this in the nicest possible way -- isn't crazy so much as lazy. You've not done your homework. If you want something other than a cookie cutter house, you have to make that happen yourself. You need to do some reading on home building, and you need to start searching plans yourself. No one else knows your opinions, tastes, and preferences, so no one else can do this for you. The builder is going to tell you how he typically builds master bedrooms; he isn't going to reach into your mind and pull out your ideal master bedroom. When he tells you, "No, we don't do it that way", ask WHY he doesn't do it that way. It may be that your concept is unworkable, or it may be that it's just not cost-effective.

As you do some reading, you're going to find lots of questions that'll help you refine your ideas and pinpoint what matters to you. More importantly, you'll develop your ideas into terms that you can communicate to other people. Having a picture in your head is great, but if you cannot accurately project that picture to your builder and your architect, you're all going to be frustrated.

I also suggest that you start collecting pictures of things you like. You're not all that strong with verbal communications (typical engineer -- I'm married to one, so I know), so photographs might help get your idea across to the builder and architect.

Also, you've not given us any idea of what kind of house you plan to build -- these are the basics that you're either ignoring or aren't communicating to us. Is it to be an old South-type house, a house with a European flair, a ranch? What does it need to do for you? Do you have children? Do you need it to function for you and your spouse . . . but then expand once a month for weekend guests? It's impossible to know what kind of advice go give without knowing what you need the house to do. To give an analogy, it's like asking what kind of dishes you should buy -- without telling us whether you need something durable for kids, something lightweight because you can't lift heavy stoneware, or something inexpensive.

Once you have a plan (or a couple plans) that you think you like, come back and post them. With a "starting place" to work from, people can give you ideas on how to improve and how to proceed.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 9:46AM
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I completely agree with everything mrspete just posted. And it's not that this plan is horrible, it's just not possible to tell you how to fix it because it's all wrong. You may have the rooms where you want them, but nothing in this plan is to scale. Ex: your stairs are about two feet wide, that would be incredibly uncomfortable. I suggest you use a different program to make your plan, or look at some stock plans that you can tweak a bit.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 10:02AM
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MrsPete, I really do appreciate your comments and the time you took trying to help me out. My problem is not so much about being lazy as it is about commitment phobia and that's why I came to this sight seeking advise. I'm afraid that I'm going to spend over a half million dollar base on a design I came up with instead one that has already been tried and tested.

I have comed through thousands of plans and like parts but never the whole thing so I tried to take all the things I think will worked together and came out with the basic layout above. I guess I really start to doubt the plan and become more insecure when I hear the negitve feedback but I think it is important I spend the time now to work it all out. So thanks again for the help.

MrsPete, your first post was exactly the type of feedback I want and you are sort of correct when you say it's more of a graphical wish list. Most of it is drawn to scale even down to the exact measurement of our furniture we will be bring with us. The stairs are right from the program and look to be three foot wide so I should widen them but that really doesn't make much of a difference to the layout and flow of the house. And I didn't spend much time worrying about the dimension of the kitchen cabinet but the one long set should extend all the way to the two sided fireplace.

I view most fireplaces as decorations and hate the TV above the fireplace look I see in so many houses. They usually are more in the way then anything but I thought it would LOOK nice there. Would put a more functional fireplace in the sunroom.

You mentioned that it looks like I have expensive bump-outs but I did try to start with a basic rectangle if you look at it and the architect agreed with that.

You make a great point with designing in 4' increments especially since I also want to put in warm board heated floors which are mad 4x4. More $$$. So I'm trying to cut sq ft in exchange for some of the luxury upgrades, that's why no formal dinning room. Is all this possible at $550,000?

I would like to find a way to eliminate the long hallway and maybe move the power room. I'll work on those tweaks with the architect.

Thanks again.

Does anyone ever sale their personal plans anywhere on the web?
If so where?

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 12:33PM
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You should be aware that a main level master is an expensive luxury too-- foundations are expensive, and it also costs you natural light in your main living areas. Why do you want it? If your concern is being able to stay in the house when you are no longer able to climb stairs, planning a space that could hold an elevator *should you need it* might make a lot more sense economically than absorbing the full cost of a main level master now.

I don't know how old you are, but I feel confident I've got a solid 20 years of stair climbing ahead of me, and if we are still in our next house AND my knees have gone AND the market hasn't come up with a better solution, I'd much rather add an elevator at that point than pay extra for an awkward floor plan for 20 years just in case.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 1:28PM
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Since you're interested in seeing people's plans on here (which I think is a good instinct, as the plans on this forum are often extremely good), here are links to recent threads for two great 2500 sf+, two-story houseplans, which are also very efficient envelope-wise:

Amtrucker22's floorplan
sarah_ch's floorplan

I agree wholeheartedly with zone4newby about the main floor master. For the next 10-15 years or so, I want to me next to my little ones, and I want their bedrooms on the second floor for efficiency and noise reasons. When our little ones move out, if it is too much of a pain to walk upstairs, that would be a great time to downsize to a smaller ranch.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 3:29PM
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Here's the thing: You said the specifics I threw out in my first post were helpful. How'd I know those things? I did my homework. I read multiple books on the basics of house building, design, aging in place, energy efficiency. I frequented boards like these. I visited open houses. So I know stuff.

That sounded very self-important, and I didn't mean it to, but here's my point: When we started this process, my husband and I didn't know what we wanted. Didn't know at all. But the more we read and studied, the more we learned -- more about the big, overall important things, more about the small details. When we began, we liked all sorts of houses; after we looked at 1000+ floor plans and read the pros/cons of various things: We decided pretty quickly that although we like Spanish style homes, they wouldn't look good on our land . . . it took us a long time to decide we didn't want a formal dining room . . . and finally we singled out the Cape Cod as the best option for us. We like the size of a typical Cape, the look works for our 40 acres, and it seems very "us". We have ZERO commitment phobia on that topic because of our research. I could say the same thing about a dozen other topics from electric vs. gas ranges to saltwater vs. freshwater pools. A number of our choices aren't those that're most popular, but I feel secure that we're making the right choices.

Incidentally, we've been working on this project for about two years. We have our land and our exact site, but we won't begin building for at least another two years. Of course, in our case, that's affected by an outside influence: We don't want to begin this big project until our youngest child is out of high school, and that's -- you guessed it -- two more years.

I do understand where you're coming from when you say that you feel like you're somewhat "risking" half a million dollars on a plan that isn't "tried and true". Here's what I think is the bottom line: Tried and true became tried and true for one of two reasons:

1. It works. People want certain things because they are convenient; for example, people like garages to be near kitchens. Bedrooms and bathrooms tend to be located away from the hub of the house, down a quiet hallway. It's just a logical traffic flow.
2. It's cheap. Builders do certain things to cut down on costs, and people just accept them or don't recognize that a better option existed. These are the things you want to search out and elminate.

The key is that you need to pick a tried-and-true houseplan that gives you most of what you want . . . that is, the things in category #1. And then you need to alter the things that can be improved.

Is this possible at $550,000? I have no idea. That's like asking whether you can go out to dinner for $50. Too many variables. I'd suggest you visit homes for sale in your area and see whether something of a similar square footage is available in that price range.

For what it's worth, I completely disagree with the concept of a downstairs master being overly expensive. Of course, I live in an area where land is cheap and frost lines don't require deep, expensive foundations. As a result, we don't tend to build "up" as much as other areas of the country, nor do we build basements. The point: Your results may vary.

A household elevator is extremely expensive; you should look into the cost before you make a decision. If you think it's a reasonable choice for you in the future, it would be wise to "stack" two closets in a spot that'd be reasonable for an elevator in the future. I strongly suspect it'd be cheaper to move to a smaller, one-story house rather than build an elevator; however, if you wait 'til you need help getting up the stairs, you're going to have trouble physically moving. And I don't want to be forced out of my house.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 9:58AM
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As has been frequently discussed on this forum there are essentially two efficient house configurations: 1) a two story house that has less foundation/basement as well as less roof but requires a stairway and 2) a one story house that has no stair but must be carefully designed to avoid excessive corridors.

However, there is little efficiency in a two story house with a one story wing. This configuration has the disadvantages of the other two configurations. Why you would set space efficiency as your primary goal and choose an inefficient house configuration is puzzling.

You have also eliminated important spaces in order to increase efficiency and lower cost but the resulting plan is a house that exceeds your gross area goal and puts you over your budget in the schematic design phase.

What you need to do is start at the beginning of the design process and work forward instead of at the end and work backward. The beginning should not involve a computer but it must involve a specific site. It begins with a site diagram showing the access to the site by foot and by car, the location of the major views, the arc of the sun in winter and summer, predominant winds, any flood zones, well or town water locations, septic or town sewer locations, privacy issues, and zoning restrictions. To deal with these issues after the house is designed usually requires redesigning the house or living with some easily avoided mistakes. There are too many of these houses already built so don't build another one.

The next step is to make a list of spaces and their rough areas. Draw them to scale on paper, cut them out and move them around on the site plan. Then start drawing some of the more successful diagrams and adding the proper connections and transitions but NOT ON THE COMPUTER. The computer is for communicating your completed ideas to others; it is not for communicating with yourself. You want to stay inside your own head until the design starts to work. When you start thinking about the width of a door take a walk or read a magazine; one of my teachers once told me he liked to read architectural magazines upside down to recharge his imagination. As your mentor Steve Jobs said, "stay foolish".

Go to the computer when you need to prove the design works but try not to lose sight of the established space relationships while adding real dimensions to cabinets and closets.

As for the overall configuration, the best for efficiency is a story and a half using some clever tricks to create second story spaces that look like cross-gables and dormers. That reduces the attic space and looks more interesting than a box.

So go find a site and show us some photos or a google map link and a site plan with all the issues noted with a bold marker.

Leave the sandwich at home and come to the banquet hungry and foolish.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 10:00AM
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Pitkol, this is a good personal effort for a floor plan, but it must be said that this is not a plan that an experienced design professional would produce. You can dig in your engineering heels and stick to it, but you would be much better served by going to an experienced architect with a list of important criteria and let her/him do what they do best for people. And for you!

You have repeatedly stated in this thread and your other one how focused you are on the process of designing and building a house. You want a more rational, organized and predictable process--nothing wrong with that! But today's process is what it is. If you want something more predictable, why don't you consider factory-built housing? Just be sure you have a local contractor that knows how to build the properly dimensioned site-built foundation before the factory units arrive. And then you will need a builder familiar with erecting factory-built units. After that, someone needs to finish the unit and complete the site work! No matter how one looks at it, residential construction is a complex, multi-trade endeavor that is much more challenging and complex than it appears on the surface.

Perhaps you should relax about the process and focus more on the finished solution--a house that incorporates your needs, some of your desires and responds to all of the other influences such as site, climate, budget, etc. At the end of the day, it's not the process that really matters, it's the finished result. Years from now you will not really remember much about the process, but you will be living in the final result. Perhaps you should focus on getting a satisfactory end result, and turn the process over to an architect who know only too well how to get you there. Only a thought, not trying to start a war over which profession is best...after all, they are all best at what they do!

Good luck with your project!

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 6:46PM
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