Author Topic: Designing/Building a house  (Read 5130 times)

WSUCoug1994

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Designing/Building a house
« on: July 05, 2016, 04:16:57 PM »
After looking at a lot of houses for a couple of years, my wife and I are thinking about building our own home.  We are moving from a HCOL to a LCOL (relatively speaking) area which will enable us to get more value for the dollar. We don't have any interest in building a McMansion or anything but we do want a sizable piece of land (2+ acres) because we essentially want to grow our own food, raise some animals, etc.  We will not be actually building the house ourselves as we will be hiring an architect, contractor, etc.

I am not looking for advice on IF we should do this - more looking for advice from other people who have experience building a home.  I am hoping to learn from the "scar tissue" of others that have already been down this road.  We are excited about the opportunity to make it green and efficient and cost effective while allowing us to design exactly what we want.

Anyone in the MMM Universe built their house?  If so what have you learned that you are willing to share?

Thank you in advance for taking the time to share.

Spork

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2016, 04:33:07 PM »
This comes up relatively often.   Here's one of my replies:

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/might-build-a-house-what-would-you-do-yourself-to-save-money/msg227588/#msg227588

Also... if you're looking at drawing up plans... you might consider a local drafting service over an architect.  An architect WILL give you more detailed drawings, often down to exact details of interior moldings, etc.  A good draftsman can get you really close for a lot less money.  In our case, the local home builders association puts on a "home tour" once or twice a year.  We attended 3 or 4 of these in a row.  We made note of the things we liked about specific houses, who drew the plans, who built them, etc.  It turns out almost every house we liked was drawn by the same lady -- even though they were built by different builders.

Systems101

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2016, 09:06:04 PM »
I've owned two new homes, watched them both be built from the foundation up. 

Are you looking for features people wished they had put in and finishing considerations?  Lessons learned from dealing with a contractor?  both?

Altons Bobs

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2016, 12:26:08 AM »
We built 2 new homes, second being the one we're currently living in. We hired a custom home builder this time around, they were the general contractor managing the whole crew. They could do whatever we asked, and when we changed our minds in the middle of the build, like wanting them to tear stuff up and redo, that cost money, so you have to figure in the extra costs for you changing your mind. :-D We also went to a lot of different model homes to get ideas for our build. But at the end, there were still things that we'd like to have but it was too late in the game to change unless we wanted to fork over $$ to change which we didn't want to. Things didn't always go smoothly during the process, but at the end, the homes turned out fine. Don't have too high of an expectation that everything would go smoothly, and there may be arguments during the process.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2016, 06:21:34 AM »
but we do want a sizable piece of land (2+ acres) because we essentially want to grow our own food, raise some animals, etc.
Thank you in advance for taking the time to share.
Zoning - what are the rules for animals?  Find out before you buy the land.  I am in farm country, on an acre, and I can have 3 pets.   That is it.  So if I want chickens I can have 2 (I already have a dog to make 3) and I would need to clear it with my neighbours in case of noise.  People down the street on a farm?  I can hear their rooster - but they have the acreage.  More animal rules - I heard of a sheep farm in my Township that had to get a variance on the pets rule - they needed guard dogs as well as herding dogs, because there are lots of coyotes around here, but the bylaws counted all dogs as pets.
Also watch your municipal boundaries - my street changes from one township to another halfway along its length.  Different mail delivery, different garbage pickup, different bylaws.   In some areas the boundary is the middle of the street.

thd7t

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2016, 06:31:19 AM »
This comes up relatively often.   Here's one of my replies:

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/might-build-a-house-what-would-you-do-yourself-to-save-money/msg227588/#msg227588

Also... if you're looking at drawing up plans... you might consider a local drafting service over an architect.  An architect WILL give you more detailed drawings, often down to exact details of interior moldings, etc.  A good draftsman can get you really close for a lot less money.  In our case, the local home builders association puts on a "home tour" once or twice a year.  We attended 3 or 4 of these in a row.  We made note of the things we liked about specific houses, who drew the plans, who built them, etc.  It turns out almost every house we liked was drawn by the same lady -- even though they were built by different builders.
Good architects have a lot of benefits that drafters don't. They are involved throughout construction to hold the contractor's feet to the fire on schedule, cost, and quality. Drafters hand over drawings and are done.

Architects also do a lot more design beyond moldings and details. They study construction types and communicate with builders to ensure efficiency (cost, space, and operation).

Hiring a good architect can save money in a number of ways, if you take a longer view than just getting drawings. They also will probably give you something more crafted to your situation.

going2ER

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2016, 08:59:46 AM »
We are in the beginning processes of building. We have an idea of what we want and someone suggested to us to look at the size of the rooms where we currently live and the estimated size of the rooms on the rough plans, will that 6 foot smaller bedroom really be a usuable space or is it too small? Do we need 15 feet of bathroom space? Is a 4 foot enterance way too small? It may look good on paper, but look at the rooms around you for comparison and see if they are realistic.

Dusty Dog Ranch

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2016, 08:39:20 PM »
We built recently on raw land (there was a well and a driveway, that's it). House is 925 sq ft, passive solar, off the electrical grid. We had a contractor do the shell and we finished it out, with the help of specialists: plumber, drywall finish carpentry, consulting electrician ( I did the majority of the wiring work).

We had noodled on all sorts of designs for years, and finally had an a-hah! moment when looking at a house built by one of the contractors we were considering, and it all fell into place. We essentially designed the interior, but had the plans done by a designer who specializes in passive solar so that we would get the right overhangs, mass:glass ratios, etc. He in turn consulted an engineer to double check the snow load info and soil bearing characteristics.

Because we did it bit by bit, we wound up discovering some things that we needed to change, which was some extra work on our part. Example: the designer had 3' between the counter and the island, but when we were in the unfinished space, we realized we wanted more room. Since the hole for the island stove hood was already in the roof, we had to get creative with some ducting and framing, but we are so glad we changed it.

We had contractor issues, unfortunately. Do you have a dog? Trust the dog's opinion! Ours never liked this guy, and she turned out to be right. Ask them how they will handle problems and changes, and then ask their references how they handled them. Ours whined and then blamed us. :-(

If you have specific questions about materials, passive solar, etc, feel free to message me.

Metric Mouse

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2016, 02:01:16 AM »
Visit the site as often as you can. It's amazing what contractors will do, and just decide not to tell you. "Umm.. why are the stairs like this?" 'Oh, the floor joists were off by a bit, so we had to adjust. It'll be fine.'  "Umm...no, it won't - do it this way".  'But we always put the sump pump here.' etc. etc. Keep an eye on them.

And good luck! It's so much more stressful than can be told, but amazing to have your dream home in the end.

newton

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2016, 05:49:49 AM »
Following - I'm in the same boat.  About to build. 

soccerluvof4

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2016, 06:00:32 AM »
I have built several houses in which I actually was the general and by the 7th or 8th house swung my own hammer. What everyone wants in a house is different and no matter how much thought or time you put into it there will be change and something you wish you would of done. The things I for sure know I would always do if I was going to build was 1) build a ranch and have a full walkout. 2) Build what you can afford to build with quality materials in the foundation, walls, windows and mechanics. Really investigate the water table if it applies as to many people just look at the land as think water wont be an issue. Good Luck , i found it to be a lot of fun and away to really be creative.

thd7t

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2016, 06:04:55 AM »
Visit the site as often as you can. It's amazing what contractors will do, and just decide not to tell you. "Umm.. why are the stairs like this?" 'Oh, the floor joists were off by a bit, so we had to adjust. It'll be fine.'  "Umm...no, it won't - do it this way".  'But we always put the sump pump here.' etc. etc. Keep an eye on them.

And good luck! It's so much more stressful than can be told, but amazing to have your dream home in the end.
This and the discussion of spaces that aren't big/small enough are also excellent arguments for an architect. Most people are inexperienced in building (even avid DIY folks). Having an expert in your corner protects you more than you can protect yourself. You don't necessarily know whether a contractor's "fix" is acceptable.

NV Teacher

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #12 on: July 07, 2016, 06:32:01 AM »
If this is the home you intend to spend the rest of your days in consider what your needs will be as an elderly person.  Will you be able to get in and out of the tub?  Can you get a wheelchair or walker through the door or across the floors?  How wide and deep are the steps and do you have hand rails?  Lots to consider.

bacchi

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #13 on: July 07, 2016, 08:35:50 AM »
Be nice to your city/county inspector and she'll be nice to you.

An architect or GC that is on good terms with the city/county goes a long way in this area.

newton

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2016, 07:18:36 PM »
This comes up relatively often.   Here's one of my replies:

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/might-build-a-house-what-would-you-do-yourself-to-save-money/msg227588/#msg227588

Also... if you're looking at drawing up plans... you might consider a local drafting service over an architect.  An architect WILL give you more detailed drawings, often down to exact details of interior moldings, etc.  A good draftsman can get you really close for a lot less money.  In our case, the local home builders association puts on a "home tour" once or twice a year.  We attended 3 or 4 of these in a row.  We made note of the things we liked about specific houses, who drew the plans, who built them, etc.  It turns out almost every house we liked was drawn by the same lady -- even though they were built by different builders.
Good architects have a lot of benefits that drafters don't. They are involved throughout construction to hold the contractor's feet to the fire on schedule, cost, and quality. Drafters hand over drawings and are done.

Architects also do a lot more design beyond moldings and details. They study construction types and communicate with builders to ensure efficiency (cost, space, and operation).

Hiring a good architect can save money in a number of ways, if you take a longer view than just getting drawings. They also will probably give you something more crafted to your situation.

What is an average price for an architect and a drafter?

Spork

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #15 on: July 09, 2016, 06:48:01 AM »
This comes up relatively often.   Here's one of my replies:

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/might-build-a-house-what-would-you-do-yourself-to-save-money/msg227588/#msg227588

Also... if you're looking at drawing up plans... you might consider a local drafting service over an architect.  An architect WILL give you more detailed drawings, often down to exact details of interior moldings, etc.  A good draftsman can get you really close for a lot less money.  In our case, the local home builders association puts on a "home tour" once or twice a year.  We attended 3 or 4 of these in a row.  We made note of the things we liked about specific houses, who drew the plans, who built them, etc.  It turns out almost every house we liked was drawn by the same lady -- even though they were built by different builders.
Good architects have a lot of benefits that drafters don't. They are involved throughout construction to hold the contractor's feet to the fire on schedule, cost, and quality. Drafters hand over drawings and are done.

Architects also do a lot more design beyond moldings and details. They study construction types and communicate with builders to ensure efficiency (cost, space, and operation).

Hiring a good architect can save money in a number of ways, if you take a longer view than just getting drawings. They also will probably give you something more crafted to your situation.

What is an average price for an architect and a drafter?

I believe for our draftperson we paid about $1500.  She drew it until we liked it.  Unlimited changes/updates.  Lots of sitting and talking about what we wanted, what we liked in the drawings, what we didn't like, etc.

newton

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #16 on: July 09, 2016, 07:44:35 AM »
This comes up relatively often.   Here's one of my replies:

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/might-build-a-house-what-would-you-do-yourself-to-save-money/msg227588/#msg227588

Also... if you're looking at drawing up plans... you might consider a local drafting service over an architect.  An architect WILL give you more detailed drawings, often down to exact details of interior moldings, etc.  A good draftsman can get you really close for a lot less money.  In our case, the local home builders association puts on a "home tour" once or twice a year.  We attended 3 or 4 of these in a row.  We made note of the things we liked about specific houses, who drew the plans, who built them, etc.  It turns out almost every house we liked was drawn by the same lady -- even though they were built by different builders.
Good architects have a lot of benefits that drafters don't. They are involved throughout construction to hold the contractor's feet to the fire on schedule, cost, and quality. Drafters hand over drawings and are done.

Architects also do a lot more design beyond moldings and details. They study construction types and communicate with builders to ensure efficiency (cost, space, and operation).

Hiring a good architect can save money in a number of ways, if you take a longer view than just getting drawings. They also will probably give you something more crafted to your situation.

What is an average price for an architect and a drafter?

I believe for our draftperson we paid about $1500.  She drew it until we liked it.  Unlimited changes/updates.  Lots of sitting and talking about what we wanted, what we liked in the drawings, what we didn't like, etc.
Thanks.  I was thinking of ordering some plans off the internet.  Most would be right around $1000.  May be worth it to spend the extra to ensure we get exactly what we want. 

Green_Thing

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #17 on: July 12, 2016, 12:54:10 AM »
+1 for an architect. Think of them as your home design whisperer. They should be able to help you achieve the function that's exactly right for you, with more beauty and efficiency than what you will get from an off the shelf set of plans. If you want to live here for a long time, eventually you may change or replace many parts of the house. What's the hardest part to change? The overall design. Skipping the architect is not the best option.

2Cent

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #18 on: July 12, 2016, 02:27:07 AM »
You can already get a good idea of what you want by using free software to draw your house. I found that floorplanner.com was really easy to use. It saves time to explain things to the architect if you already have some drawings yourself and it is actually quite advanced with a 3D view. I found doing the drawing in my own time took of some pressure for me to just make some different versions and sleep on it, only to make new changes the next day and the next. With an architect its a bill every time, so you are pressured to make a decision.


Fishindude

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #19 on: July 12, 2016, 05:42:24 AM »
As a long time builder, I would argue against using an architect if possible.
My experience is that most architects are ego freaks that simply want to build something that will improve their resume.   Further, most concentrate their efforts on the finished appearance and don't give enough thought to basic "constructability" and can run a budget through the roof.   They also take no responsibility or assume no liability for mistakes, cost over-runs, etc.
This is an unneeded layer of extra cost on a residential project.

The most successful home building projects I've seen are when the owner has a pretty good idea what he wants by finding some plans on line, looking at similar home, etc. then takes his ideas to a good general contractor, giving the contractor a little freedom to redesign to make things cost effective and easy to build.  And don't try to be your own general contractor, leave that to the professional, let him hire all of the sub trades, purchase all of the materials, etc.   You will have enough decisions to make without getting involved in all of that.

thd7t

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #20 on: July 12, 2016, 06:10:51 AM »
As a long time builder, I would argue against using an architect if possible.
My experience is that most architects are ego freaks that simply want to build something that will improve their resume.   Further, most concentrate their efforts on the finished appearance and don't give enough thought to basic "constructability" and can run a budget through the roof.   They also take no responsibility or assume no liability for mistakes, cost over-runs, etc.
This is an unneeded layer of extra cost on a residential project.

The most successful home building projects I've seen are when the owner has a pretty good idea what he wants by finding some plans on line, looking at similar home, etc. then takes his ideas to a good general contractor, giving the contractor a little freedom to redesign to make things cost effective and easy to build.  And don't try to be your own general contractor, leave that to the professional, let him hire all of the sub trades, purchase all of the materials, etc.   You will have enough decisions to make without getting involved in all of that.
Speaking from the pro-architect side, I would argue that a few extra-irritating individuals give architects a bad name with builders. However, that still doesn't usually translate to being trouble for the homeowner. Good architects work with builders during design. Of course, there are a lot of bad/lazy builders who don't take the time to really go through the drawings and then try to add change orders when they realize what they have signed on to.

Another advantage of the architect is that the drawings are part of the contract and the builder is obliged to complete the scope of the drawings.

I believe that the strongest option for good design and controlling cost is to find a good architect who has worked well with the builder the past. They will work together to avoid the conflicts that Fishindude and I have described, but will also act as checks on each other.

Kitsune

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Re: Designing/Building a house
« Reply #21 on: July 12, 2016, 08:10:15 AM »
We built and moved into our house a year ago. Lessons learned:

- PRICE IT OUT FIRST. Depending on location and market, it's sometimes significanly cheaper to buy than to build.
- Work with a contractor who has a good reputation and a small ego. Basically, if you want something done a certain way, you want someone who is a good craftsman and will give his opinion of what will be cheapest/most solid/most resistant, but YOU'RE the one who is going to live in your house, so you want someone who will do a good job on what YOU want without considering what THEY want. There are two congractors with great reputations near where we are. We chose the one with good email communication, easygoing, straightfoward, and no ego to speak of - he wants to do a good job and be satisfied with his work, basically. A neighbor dealt with his competitor, and is STILL arguing about how they want the finishing details. Someone easy and pleasant to work with totally counts.
- Assume you'll go over budget by 15-20%. For us, I'd planned it, so it was ok, but... about 5% was choices ("oh, we should put the nicer stairs into the basement now", or "we do actually want to wire ceiling lights into the basement ceiling, yes" - things that are cheaper when you build, so worth doing but not on the original estimate) and the other 10% was necessary and unpredictable ("Oh, look, we need significantly more drainage to make sure that we avoid foundation issues. 10K, you say?" and the like - things you really can't avoid or not spend without significant long-term consequences.) Make sure you have the financial leeway.
- Discuss ahead of time what you might want to do yourselves to save money. For example, we sawed the wood and are finishing up the deck-building right now (yeah, took a while) - saved 11K. We assembled an Ikea kitchen ourselves instead of buying materials+installation from the local stores - almost 12K savings. All of these things take a LOT of time and effort... but wind up saving almost 800$/day we put into it, which, IMO, is worth it for the bottom line. Adjust based on your interests and skills, obv, and discuss with your contractor so that the estimates are lowered as needed to account for your work.