For most of us, building a home is a once-in-a-lifetime endeavor. Consequently, the right home plan is crucial. You probably have some sketchy notions of the type of design you want to build. Plenty of major options await — two-story versus one-story, traditional rather than contemporary, an outdoor porch or maybe a sunroom. However, putting those ideas together and considering the hundreds of other details that will make your home perfect can be daunting. Here are some of the basic elements you need to ponder to help you make wise decisions as you search.
One way to help define what you would like to have in your new home is to list the pluses and minuses of homes you've lived in before. You already know what you liked about those houses, so put it down on paper to help sort out your criteria and come to some conclusions.
Then, consider the major elements you would like in your new home: the style, the number of stories, the total area of livable space (square footage), the number of bedrooms and baths, and the number and types of gathering spaces (for example, separate formal and informal areas or one multipurpose living space). Try to predict your future needs as well. Perhaps right now your kids are still at home, so a two-story home may seem like the most practical use of space. But if they'll be going off on their own soon, you may regret having to climb stairs (particularly as you grow older) to get to the master suite.
In addition, there are dozens of smaller factors that can greatly impact how your home suits your lifestyle.
You'll also want to choose a plan that suits the area in which you're planning to build. No matter how much that Southwestern Pueblo-style home appeals to you, it just won't fit comfortably into a seaside setting in the Northwest. Investigate some of the homes around your proposed building site. Are they mostly one or two stories? Do they tend toward one style more than another — farmhouses, Colonials, ranches, or some eclectic mix? And what about the actual building site? Does it have a serious slope and therefore lend itself well to a hillside residence? Or perhaps the lot is narrow and will be best served with a home that has a smaller width. You need to consider both the size and shape of the lot and any necessary easements.
Selecting a roof type is also a major decision. While flat roofs are fine in warm, mild climates, they simply won't hold up in snow country. In many areas, there are specific roofing codes to accommodate snow loads and high winds. If you suspect this may be the case in your building area, familiarize yourself with the code before you choose a plan.
You also will need to learn about foundation choices. Some plans are designed with a specific foundation (basement, crawlspace, slab, or pier) but may be converted by a qualified professional to suit your needs.
Remember that the facade, shown in the rendering of the home plan, may be flexible. Today's siding materials often make it possible to choose a home plan showing horizontal wood siding that can be built with brick siding.
Finally, get acquainted with some basics on reading floor plans so you can understand the home completely. It may even be a good idea to buy a set of study plans (a single set of the full working drawings) for a design you are considering, so that you can check out the home in greater detail. The floor plans should show all floors for the home, including a finished basement if it is part of the design. Rooms should be clearly defined as bedrooms, bathrooms, living areas, utility areas, and bonus spaces. Closets, cabinets and other built-ins, windows and doors (interior and exterior), stairways, and other pertinent features should be distinctly marked. The plan's overall width and depth (at its widest and deepest points) should be indicated somewhere near the floor plans. If there are symbols you don't understand, call an ePlans customer representative at 1-800-528-8070 and ask them to explain.