You are serious about building a new home and going through the steps to find the house design that works for you. Perhaps you have found yourself looking online or through plan books, and like many people, found plans that are appealing “but” you would like to make some changes or tweaks. Do I order the plans online or from a plan book? Shall I use a designer to draw my plans? Or perhaps you have a very good understanding of your new house design and able to do some drawing yourself and then have a designer finish the plans for you?

We at Pacific Homes commonly hear these concerns from our customers, so hopefully we can answer some of these questions and provide some insight.

One of the first things to keep in mind is to make sure that the building lot fits the house plan. We all have the design that we like or that looks nice, but sometimes that beautiful house plan does not work or fit on your building lot. It is very important to have the building lot in place with the idea that it can work with your desired house design, and then you can start working on it.

Whether your new home will be built on rural or city property, there are many factors to consider when designing your home. One example, is if a septic system is required. Septic system sizes are dependent on the house size and number of bathrooms a home requires. If you have a large family and require multiple bathrooms, it will be important to determine this prior to drawing the plans. Other considerations include municipal zoning, property line setbacks, height restrictions, covenants on title, and soil conditions that may make you require a Geotechnical Engineer, including sloped bank inspections. For some rural properties, you can have a secondary building but it must fit within square foot sizes and height allowances. Perhaps there are covenants on title or restrictions on the property like the style of home and what building materials are required. This also may include the minimum number of roof planes, exclusion of vinyl siding, etc. Finally, orientation of the home in relation to the sun and taking advantage of a great view can have a significant impact on your house design decisions.

So, your property is owned and registered, and you know most of the conditions, now the plans. As previously mentioned, you have some options. It has been mentioned to me many times, “I like the plan online but it needs tweaking.” You can engage the online company that designed the plans and have them tweak the plans for you, but keep in mind, since some of these online plans are generic, the plan provider will need to ensure that the plans will work to the local building codes.

For example, British Columbia building codes require energy provisions, with many building jurisdictions wanting the plans to show these details. Depending on the area of the province that you’re building, details of foundations, exterior walls and attic areas can be quite different such as Northern BC vs. the Lower Mainland/Vancouver Island region. Similarly, seismic zone requirements differ in British Columbia as well.  In the Lower Mainland, Gulf Islands, and mid to southern Vancouver Island, seismic details can be required on your building plans. It is important to make sure that you can have these details, if needed, incorporated into your plans before buying online or from a plan book. This will save on extra building costs and loss of time during your building process. As well, any changes to a generic online plan will result in extra charges that might end up costing you the same as hiring a personal designer/architect.

Commonly done is engaging a design firm that knows the local building codes and can draft what is required, as well as the exact style of home that you wish. Many home owners will start the drawing process with a designer by using a preliminary or generic online design and then make the necessary changes to personalize your house plan.

If you wish to use your design skills and have a good idea of what you want in the way of a floor plan, you can try your initial design using free online drawing tools like the following https://floorplanner.com/.

You can then send the initial sketch to a designer for finalized plans.

Another recommendation is to allow yourself “time” or “take the time” when dealing with plan designs. With extra time, this gives you the chance to make changes and work with the designer to get the plan correct the first time, so that no surprises come up and, “oh darn,” thoughts when the house is being built and an issue arises that could potentially have been addressed at the plan stage. I have often said, come back to the plans at the preliminary stage two or three times to review. Review once, make some notes, then perhaps come back a day or so later with a fresh set of eyes and make more notes. After this process, then send your changes back to the designer for updating.

Pacific Homes does offer design services and is a tool that many of our customers take advantage of. The main comment that I have heard over the years from our customers is, “if I am using Pacific Homes for my package it makes sense for them to design and build the pre-fabricated package for me.” Another customer advantage for having Pacific Homes draft your plans, is having the ability to cost option items as you proceed through the design. For example, if you want a certain size deck with overhangs but want to know what the cost will be, this can be done quickly by Pacific Homes, and then give you the flexibility to make the deck decision to omit or keep at the plan drawing stage.

Feel free to contact Pacific Homes for any questions on our design services.

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