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Anyone Draft Their Own Plans??

Posted by Awnmyown (My Page) on
Mon, Jun 10, 13 at 8:17

Wondering if anyone else around here was crazy enough to design and draft their own house plans/blue prints??

I just cleared the permit office last week, after designing my own floorplan, drafting my complete blueprints in AutoCAD and then taking them to my engineer for spec'ing and stamping (needed an engineer to determine building loads, beam and support sizes, etc.).

Having never drafted or really done autoCAD since I was 8 or so, it took 6 months to get the plans ready for the engineer, and about 6 weeks for the engineer to make all of his edits, spec'ing and modifications.

House plans were appraised by a professional appraiser and received "Very Good" on the floor layout!

And they say you have to hire a pro for everything ; ) Anyone else this crazy???


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Anyone Draft Their Own Plans??

My dad drew his on a piece of paper. Roughly 3000 sq feet, they are doing the finishing work now (floors, trim, tiling bathrooms, etc). So far so good. He only had a couple of issues, but an engineer helped him through those.


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RE: Anyone Draft Their Own Plans??

Not only did we engineer the plans ourselves, but we also handled building our home ourselves as well. We were able to build a home much stronger structurally than any architect or builder would have. We hope to never see the wind load that is designed into it.

By doing all this ourselves we got the quality we wanted, a layout that works beautifully for us, and were able to make changes along the way without being ripped off with change orders.

I even went so far as to reherse using electrical switches and outlets before putting them in, and how I wanted the doors to open. We ended up putting in pocket doors and love them.

We've walked in model homes where the bathroom light switches were behind doors that open into the room, and doors that swung into toilets and sinks. A friend of ours has a closet door that swings into where their clothes are hanging. Our last home had a garage door (a heavy fire door) that swung into my clothes dryer.

Bottom line is that you care more about the home you end up with way more than anyone else does. It was stressful at times along the way, and took longer to build than we had hoped. However, we have been in our home for a year now and love it. I would not change a thing.


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RE: Anyone Draft Their Own Plans??

Let's be realistic; you will not be able to do as good a job as an experienced design professional. Even a design professional would do a better job now than on their first project.

The mistakes I see from first time designers are often more serious than poor switch locations and relying on a contractor or building inspector to correct mistakes or fill in missing information can often lead to serious deficiencies with no recourse.

So, the important questions that need to be answered are: what is your level of design and drafting skill right now and what level of design and construction quality/control do you want?

In my experience, the answers to these questions vary greatly from homeowner to homeowner so it is difficult to give useful general advice without detailed answers.


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Let's be realistic: Residential home design is not that difficult and a motivated owner may well create a better custom plan than some random architect.

To answer the thread title:
I designed my home by myself without the help of a designer or architect (I knew exactly what I wanted). I created all "blueprints" to obtain a building permit as well as the electrical plan, the plumbing plan and the mechanical plan. I hired a structural engineer to design construction details (rebar schedule, cantilever design, walls, roof, floors) - it's a 2 story concrete structure + basement and prescriptive design wasn't possible.
I/We also built the whole structure (2 guys) DIY, except for finishing the concrete floors.


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I designed my own house in Sketch-Up, and am building it now, more or less single-handed. Our local building department will accept just about anything above crayon on construction paper. As a matter of fact, you don't submit the plans until it is done.

While I admire the work of talented designers and architects, I've been in plenty of professionally designed (and built) homes that were absolute disasters. Hiring a good architect simply wasn't in the budget, and I'll live with the consequences. Like Sandy808, our house is way over-engineered and built. I'm a tool and die maker, so I'm better than most at building things.


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We found a basic plan online, and modified it extensively for our needs ourselves. Then we met with our builder's architect and he drew it up for us, and made some subtle but important changes (putting egress windows in the right places, fixing bathroom layouts, etc...)

Our home doesn't have a lot of details-- it's a big box, really. But I love the layout, and that it has lots of light.

The "hire an architect and spend 6 months going back and forth talking about plans" model wasn't in the budget for us, and most of the architects we could find seemed to assume people had the budget for 4000 sq. ft. home, and if they could give them everything they needed in 3000, there would be lots left over for fun details. That's not us.


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I designed my own plan decades ago when I was in my twenties, then had someone draft it up for me. It was 2000 square feet, with future 700 square feet in the attic. We even acted as our own contractor, but my uncle was a contractor and I knew he would help, if needed.

Meantime, a friend had an architect design her very large house - 5000 square feet. It was awful. She felt like she had to walk the length of a football field just to check on her baby in the nursery...then waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back to the kitchen and laundry room to get work done. It was a gorgeous home with absolutely no consideration for the lifestyle of the occupants. And my pet peeve - a master toilet that was farther away from the "sleepers" than the hall bathroom. Boy, is that a pet peeve of mine!

They downsized to a 3500 square foot house, but did their own floor plan before taking it to a different architect. (And the exterior is truly one of the most beautiful homes in my hometown.)

Not all designers and architects are worth their paychecks, imo. :)

This post was edited by bird_lover6 on Tue, Jun 11, 13 at 10:02


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RE: Anyone Draft Their Own Plans??

Our log home manufacturer has plans online. We found a plan that we liked and modified it. We expanded the outside, although we kept the same basic structure. But we really changed the inside - I love our house plan! It's innovative and will be incredibly useful! The log home designer created the construction drawings from our plan. Because this was all done out of state, we hired a local structural engineer to tweak the plans so they meet local codes.

Incidentally, we chose the plans, modified them, etc using the internet and email. We never met with a designer at all. My dh, who is a mechanical engineer, drew our plans on Visio.

Our county building department loved our plans - and our county has a rather demanding plan department.

I think an architect can be nice but not necessary. Innovative ideas in the building process can be helpful - it isn't always necessary to do things the way they have always been done.


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Yes, I'm doing my own plan, design, blueprints and will be doing my own GC'ing.

Work in progress, we're hoping to sell our current home this year and start construction next spring.

Current rendering:
http://www.zakko.org/images/newfrontelevation.PNG

Latest uploaded plans (not totally up to date with the render)
http://www.zakko.org/images/

I've got roof plans, site plans, wall sections etc as well. I have no formal training, but have done a lot of reading, picked up a 'Residential Drafting and Design' textbook, and found a helpful local draftsman who I hired on an hourly rate to help review my work.

This post was edited by ZGAnderson on Tue, Jun 11, 13 at 12:36


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RE: Anyone Draft Their Own Plans??

Hehe! Love all the inspiring stories of people who have taken on the challenge of designing and drafting their own homes! I know we have one stickler in the mix, but overall it sounds like everyone is having success! Love hearing that people are able to get *exactly* what they want through the self-draft process.

I have to add, I've also found (being my own GC, laborer, and all around construction crew), that I have a VERY clear understanding of every component of my house BECAUSE I've drawn, redrawn, defended, explained, critiqued and discussed it over and over again before it was ready for the Permit office. Self-drafters know where every sewer line runs, where every light switch will be, why something is double bulk-headed, and all the nitty gritty details that someone buying a plan or hiring an architect/drafter might be missing out on.


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RE: Anyone Draft Their Own Plans??

Kudos to you Awnmyown. You knew what you wanted and you did it. Congratulations and enjoy!


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The history of America (and perhaps Canada) is for individuals to clear their land, build their home, raise their family and defend their property from roving bands of marauders. It's a great historical tradition.

But the fact is that most such folks may build 1-2 homes in their lifetime, while design professionals design and build many hundreds of houses. So there's little question about the comparative competency and experience between an individual designing their own home and an architect or other design professional's design.

One simply doesn't know what one doesn't know. Sure it's possible to hire an engineer to ensure the structural elements are properly designed, but there's a lot more to a home than structure alone.

Let's face it, there's little comparison between someone doing something once and someone doing the same thing hundreds of times and being educated, trained, licensed and experienced in doing it.

That said, it's good to hear that posters here are happy with their owner-designed homes. That's a very good thing.


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Okay. There's more to a home than structure alone. Of course. But having read about people who have done all or a major part of the design work, what precisely would you say that we are missing? Sure, a design professional may have years, perhaps decades of experience with design, but what improvements would they bring to the average home?

You sound a bit condescending here, my friend. I just don't see how the "experience" and training that a design professional brings to a project are so much more valuable than a homeowner who knows what s/he wants and how to put those ideas in a set of plans.


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The flip side to that ^^^ is that is a bit condescending to professionals that you think you can do the job as good as they can. It just depends on what side you are standing on so to speak.


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What matters here? The pride of the professionals or a homeowner saving some time and money *and* winding up with a house that they like and that appraises well?

The reality is - professionals will always be needed. Some people don't have the inclination to do their own design. Or they'd just rather hire it done. The same idea is true with other professions - you can hire a trained, educated photographer, for instance, or let an amateur do the same shoot. Both will be good; some people will be very happy with the work done by the amateur. Forget pride - isn't this about what makes the customer happy?


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RE: Anyone Draft Their Own Plans??

We could not...NOT find plans that had a wrap around porch, a vaulted section, master on first floor with the master bath and laundry/mud room off kitchen. My parents designed and built their own house 17 years ago. Knowing that 32' was as wide as we were wiling to go due to beam spans and cost, as well as knowing that we did want a basic squared shape for roof and footer/basement costs we were able to design our plans in a computer program. We took our plans to a local lumberyard where they converted our plans into a CAD program. They verified all of our beams and spans (not anything major). We are currently running our own plumbing and electrical (Dad is an electrical engineer) and are saving a TON! We are DIYers on everything. Have laid hardwood, refinished hardwood, re-plumbed our old farmhouse, drywalled, build decks, put up siding etc.
I don't think a designer would have considered everything that we did. I visually thought about every view, everywhere (I mean every window/counter/stool/furniture/workspace). How the doors would align through the kitchen/laundry from where I would stand at the kitchen sink. Where our kitchen table would be and how the lights would be symetrical with the ones over the kitchen island. I aligned the plumbing walls and took into consideration where the plumbing would be centralized - because we were to do it ourselves. Little things that I could have told someone else to figure out, but it would have taken months longer than the months it took me pouring over the plans myself. I do think there are people who are willing and knowledgable enough to create wonderful plans. I also believe there are trained professionals creating headaches.
Just my two cents.

Jen


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I second what Jen said :)

I designed and laid out my plan, my dad, who has 35+ years in the business, made it buildable. We had 3 drafts and are very happy with the final. It fits us & our life. It's over 1600 feet off the road at the back of our farm field and I plan on keeling over in this house. If it doesn't kill me first.

Ha...


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RE: Anyone Draft Their Own Plans??

But Jen - you couldn't find plans that fit your needs/wants, so *that* is why you should hire a *professional* to tell you what you want and then draw plans that will fit! ;-) (j/k)

But honestly - we had specific goals in mind with our house; a "professional" would probably not have done as good of a job putting our plans on paper as we did! Not to mention - the design process was fun! At one point my dh, who was doing the actual drawing, placed a chocolate cooky on the virtual kitchen counter (he was hungry) and placed laundry hampers in the virtual laundry room - they were empty (thanks!).

Our house may not be an architectural masterpiece, but it is simple in design and will be precisely what we want. We couldn't ask for more.


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RE: Anyone Draft Their Own Plans??

In a thread where homeowners describe how good they feel about what they have personally designed, it makes no sense at all to talk about the greater knowledge, experience and competency that architects and other design professionals bring to the design process.

Congratulations to all these homeowners who have done their own thing and are enjoying it.


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"home owners visualize everything...something an archy wouldn't visualize"....

Sure, they may pull it off and get something they like. But how do they know what they missed? How do they know if it could have been slightly more efficient, not just flow, but construction-wise, cost, energy, etc. How can one claim its just as good if not better if they have never compared it to anything? Obviously money is always a driving factor. Interestingly enough I have seen enough plans posted on here owner designed that could have been tweaked or better designed by a professional and saved enough in square-footage costs and efficiencies to pay the arch fees.

Its good people have had success. I will go ahead and say now, I designed my own house, modeled it, ran energy models on it and cost payoffs, rendering, and am now building it myself. But then again, its what I do. On the other hand, I have design professionals in my office that I would not recommend to anyone to hire them.

Point is, its great people can design and pull off a home. People save money everywhere. Fixing their own car, for example. I do everything I can to avoid bring our cars to a shop. But then again, I do not go on forums saying I can fix cars better than mechanics. The trade off is my time. It applies to every story above. How many months and months did people spend on their home designs? Now compare that to a good professional. Obviously some people have had bad experiences with architects. Negatives are always the most vocal. Just as I have had bad experiences with _______________(insert ANY profession).

I don't doubt people had success and are happy. However what was the trade offs? Not everyone has that option.

And this is why I don't do residential. There is too much personal attachment and emotion involved, as their should be. Everyone can be a home designer.....


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RE: Anyone Draft Their Own Plans??

Yes, yes, and yes. I agree.
If we didn't want a very simplistic plan we wouldn't have trusted ourselves to draw a plan. (Spans, roof design, etc) Architects and designers bring awesome ideas to the table. Our table wasn't very big... Lol.
It's funny you mention not working with residential... My husband will not sell to residential. It's a whole different world than commercial building.
Bottom line... We are happy with it.

Jen


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RE: Anyone Draft Their Own Plans??

As George Carlin once said, "Somewhere in the world is the world's worst doctor. The scary part is is that someone has an appointment with him tomorrow!" That's true of any profession.


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I'm on my third design and build as owner/builder. The first I built on an island with no bridges off the coast of west FL. I did all the drawings then by hand. The second I finished in 2003 and used Turbocad only because I had a free copy. That house, (we live in now) is near Disney World. My third and we hope to pour the slab this Sept is in the Blue Ridges Mountains of NC. I did the drawings again with Turbocad. The first house I didn't need an architect but the pilings had to be signed off by a PE. Second house an architect had to sign them off, my good friend did it for free thank goodness. The one in NC needs only my signature and to pay for the permit to build. In every case the trusses were signed off by a PE. I'll try to put a video of the first build and a photo of the second. This will be my last, getting to old. My wife says that I better hire a helping hand because it's getting to much for her.

Here is a link that might be useful: First house build


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I agree with lzerac. It's great that people have had success deigning their own homes. But to say they did it better than an a professional is a bit of a stretch. Sure, they did it and are happy with it and did not see the value of hiring a professional. Good for them but that does not discount the value of a professional. We all decide what where to spend our money based on what we value.

We hired an architect for the deisgn and floorplan. But then we felt like we had spent enough and did not have professional help for the actual build and in the selection of materials. We are very happy with the results but it was very stressful and I wonder what the results would be if we had had help from the architect or interior designer. I not regret one penny that I spent on the architect.


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RE: Anyone Draft Their Own Plans??

I disagree with those who say you can't build as good as a professional or an architect as I have worked with many and had to constantly fix and remind them of their mistakes. The first thing a person has to do is to decide to take on the home building project as a fun task not work. It should be an enjoyable and exciting experience. Second is to become educated in every part of design and actual building if you plan on being the builder. To us, each design and build was an adventure in our life. Rather than sit down and read a sports mag, I sat and read the building codes, and enjoyed the education. This is something one may do once in a lifetime, maybe more. So far in each home I designed and built I spent at least two years preparing, it's not something you will do overnight! The excitement grows as you learn more and get closer to the start date. (Yesterday was a milestone for us for example. We bought the first items for our new home build. 63 "J" bolts and washers). We came home and celebrated. As I said, this is an adventure in ones life and it has to be fun but also it has to be right. I have a library of videos and stills of people pouring concrete, DWV pipe layout, form boards, etc, all part of education but had fun gathering the information. It takes lots of work but work can be fun. Plus if you get good at what you are trying, it can be better.

Stepping off my soap box now. I drive my wife crazy as if I see a building or a house, even a multimillion one and I think the design is poor, I explain to her why It's like that, ok, ok shut up now she says. Maybe I'm to involved in house building but I love it. My house is not officially up for sale but I always have it somewhere where someone might see it and make an offer. The link below is my ad, find me something an architect would have added that I missed. We have been in it for ten years and I haven't found a thing.

BTW, just to make it a little harder for us, the first house was on an island with no bridges to it. Everything in the house we carried there by boat. Second house was a three hour drive from the first plus the boat ride. Third house is 600 miles from where we live now and it will be built in spurts running back and forth to NC from FL. Takes a lot more planning. If you want to design or build, I say do it and you can make it better. JMO.

Here is a link that might be useful: house sale


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Jrldh, please tell me you have a blog or something! The more I hear about your house the more interested I get!


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RE: Anyone Draft Their Own Plans??

But what defines how "good" a house or interior design is? I know that there are architectural principles and design philosophies, and many of those are frequently broken by the professionals.

I've seen some very amazing homes that have been designed by homeowners with a vision and the ability to get that vision on paper or computer software.

Why is it necessary to comment that a design professional could have made a home design "better"? This isn't a competitive thing or an ego thing. If the homeowner is happy and the house is structurally solid, that is all that should matter.


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"But what defines how "good" a house or interior design is?" I live in an area where all the homes are custom built and a few by the owners. The builders who built here have models that look the same but are well out of our area.

A builder built a spec house next to me and he raved about his house design and although it was a spec house said it would sell in weeks. The house is 2000 approx sqft and four bed rooms. One of the bed rooms is about the size of my walk-in closet, to me bad design. They built a room (to me a porch) which has two sides all glass sliders and faces the southwest. This area is considered part of the 2000 sqft and is air conditioned, about 340 sqft. The folks who live in the house don't use the space because it is to hot in the summer and much of the time to cold in the winter. Although we are on a hill overlooking a lake, (yes hills in FL) the builder put in small windows with high sills blocking any nice views. The house has a typical hip roof and a run of the mill every day Florida design. Yes, he did have problems selling it.

In my opinion this is a bad design inside and out. The people living in the house have learned to dislike it and now wish they had not bought it. Some people might like a house like that but it could have been much nicer at no extra cost.

I also always put in the thought of "when it comes time to sell". Don't design in odd things people might not want. I think one of the best things to do is to visit new model homes to get ideas, it worked for me.


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Everyone here is talking basically generalities, of course there are people who have are not professionals and have design beautiful homes, and there are professionals who have built crap. And the opposite is true, however I would be willing to bet the number of non professionals who have designed complete crap that could not actually be built is at least 100,000 x higher and that really is the point, there will no one winning this argument.


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I don't think there is anything to argue about unless it's a question of non professionals being crazy! In the original post it stated, "Wondering if anyone else around here was crazy enough to design and draft their own house plans/blue prints?? "

What I am trying to point out is that this is not a "crazy" idea. I encourage people and have for years to do things for themselves especially taking on a house design project. It takes almost nothing to start by doodling on a sheet of paper to adding a simple CAD program to your computer. You can Google anything from codes to forums with "how to's" to learn. Spend a week or a month playing with ideas and see where it goes. There is so much self satisfaction in creating something that you can build and live in as well as it can be very rewarding money wise. It's not crazy, it's an adventure.

After building my first house and living in it for 20+ years I thought I was done building. I was resigned to buying a condo in Central FL and prepared to sit around being retired. However in the back of my mind I had a picture of a house I wanted to build. Doodling did me in, it then went to the CAD on the computer and I got sucked in again. In 2002 we poured the slab and then had to wait almost a year for our island house to sell for the $$$$(Caught up in 911 real-estate bust). I started back in March of 2003 and finished (CO'ed) Oct 2003. (Never failed one inspection) See the slide show in the link. Now I'm no spring chicken and figured it was my last house. Well the bug bit me again and at 74 this year I have designed and started to build again. I can't imagine someone especially if they are younger not wanting to at least try to design their home. Oh, my wife says I'm crazy!

Here is a link that might be useful: Second build


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I agree that a high end full service architect would certainly have done a better job than we did. However, my experience in hiring design professionals is that at the lower end of the market (where I tend to shop) designers want to increase their efficiency by essentially matching clients to a pre-existing solution that only needs fine tuning, or they ignore the client's wishes all together and recommend what they would want for themselves. When I tried to hire an interior decorator, I told her I was looking for ways to add color to our home, and her recommendation was to paint all the walls beige and make everything else an earth tone. She completely ignored what I said I wanted and pushed me towards what everyone here does. This kind of experience make me reluctant to hire out design tasks.

I feel fairly certain that if we'd decided to spend $10k on an architect, we would have been pushed to have a main floor master, and the house tucked behind the garage, and a massive stone fireplace. I understand lots of people want these things, but it's not what we want, and I don't want to have to argue with anyone about it.


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NCframer
again, glad you have had success several times. And I will agree with you 100% on the contractor built spec homes and even custom homes. Then again, I would never group them into a class of professional designers and architects. The spec homes going up around me are as you describe...bad design. Bad layouts, some spaces are bloated when others are cramped (such as a 10x12 master bedroom closet and 9x10 kids bedrooms?!) Windows that have no value in terms of views, daylighting, or energy efficiency. Generic finishes that are had from big box stores. Code min. construction techniques. The home is much larger than the layout and an elevation. This is where a good design professional can come into play and many times home owners lack severly in knowledge.

Then again your point is what I made. You have devoted years of preplanning and research. That is an important point for people to realize. Its what you want to spend your time and money on. some people just dont have years to research and learn.


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This thread has gotten far off topic.

Modifying the plans of a predesigned house, paying the original designer to draw the construction documents and paying an engineer to "tweak" the structure should not be considered "designing your own house". It's just one of many ways to use the skills and experience of others to design a house just as hiring an architect or a design-builder would be.

If a homeowner hired an architect, the same process would occur but an architect would start by discussing the owner's needs and the kinds of houses they liked instead of using a predesigned stock plan.

The primary advantage of designing a house with an architect (other than saving you a lot of work) is that it is a collaborative process (or at least it should be). In the end, it should be difficult to remember who suggested a particular design element or relationship. Most of my clients believe I helped them to design their house and I am pleased to hear it.

I believe that of all the services an architect provides, the most important one is the integration of all of the design ideas from all sources with all of the limitations of the climate, site, budget and codes. If, when you are finished, you think it was easy, you probably didn't accomplish that goal.

But the OP asked if anyone had designed and drafted their own house plans and that is another matter.

I just asked a former client if I could bring a new client to see their house and this is her response:

"good sign that they were impressed - because you did such a fabulous job."

This post was edited by Renovator8 on Sat, Jul 20, 13 at 9:21


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Renovator8, that is a GORGEOUS kitchen. So inviting!


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Renovator8, a very warm and friendly kitchen. I love the choice of lighting over the island. May I ask, did you design the light fixture?


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As I said all my designwork is a collaborative process so I'm not sure how the fixtures evolved but they were custom fabricated by an Arts & Crafts craftsman as we're the cabinets.


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Renovator8 - That kitchen is absolutely timeless.

In the end, a house is a place that provides shelter. You certainly won't win any design awards but if you're happy with what you've achieved then I suppose it's a success.

On the other hand, what about your future? Is it going to satisfy you later in life as well?

My parents designed and built there retirement home. It took eight years and they were very content with what they achieved. It was built to withstand any number of natural disasters, and even though the design was extremely simplistic due to budget and lack of design knowledge, it was a very warm, cheery and inviting home.

Then my dad died and mom couldn't care for the property anymore. She had to sell but no one wanted to buy a house that looked "homemade." No one cared about the 2x6 framing or the energy efficient features. It just wasn't something the market wanted and she had to sell for a song.


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Sorry about your dad. A well designed house is the cheapest insurance policy you can buy.

I am old enough to have several of my clients die and I was pleased to be able to help the surviving spouses through a difficult time. I redesigned one house when the spouse remarried, redesigned another when the spouse retired, and am now redesigning one for the new owner. I guess you could say I come with the house. Another client who is only 29 has become dependent on a wheelchair since I designed a 3 family apartment building for him and I am now designing an apartment for him at no fee.

I was recently asked how I can help people here if I am a busy successful architect. The answer is that I am old enough to do what I want and help whomever I want and I don't need much sleep. However, the anti architect contingent is once again multiplying so I may need to take another break from the GW.

The wind is coming up and the temperature is dropping so I need to go cover the boat.


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We paid 7.5K to have an Architect / Design firm rework some Google Sketch Up drawings I had been working on for 4 months.

I'm guessing it saved us 50K+ in the home. Why? Because he asked us about how we live, what we do, pets, kids, our current home, etc. He then cut out rooms that we would have NEVER used and put that living space in places that we never thought of.

I paid for their expertise and it was worth it for me. They also wrote a specification bid package that I was then able to take to 3 different builders and have them quote on - the swing was 105K+ between them. EVERYTHING was spelled out on the front end of the deal so that we could get an honest bid on the job.

Would we have done it again - YES. In fact I would have started sooner to have more time to work with them - The entire process took 2 month.


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RE: Anyone Draft Their Own Plans??

That's what I meant by the collaborative design process; great things can result from face to face meetings with the architect or designer when all parties can contribute.


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