Custom Home

The Budget

Choosing a Builder

The Lot

Architectural Design

Windows and Doors

Interior Design

Foundations

Framing

Air Conditioning

Electrical

Plumbing

Pre-wire

Cabinetry

Brick and Stone

Insulation

Sheetrock

Flooring

Appliances

Paint and Wall Coverings

Lighting

ESI Phone System

Feedback

Q&A

Say What?

Architectural Design

Designing the floor plan for your house is one of the most exciting steps in building a custom home. It can also be one of the most time consuming. Again I recommend looking at 25-50, or even 100 homes before you start. Doing so will help you understand which features you want in your new home.

Finding an architect whom you like can be a challenge. I think your best bet is to get some recommendations from your builder. Then you will need to look at some of the architect's designs. Find out if there are any homes near completion which you can explore.

It will take several months to design a custom home, so make sure that you have a good personality match with your architect.

There are many issues to discuss before you start the design of the house:

Single or multiple stories?

  • Do you want a single-story home or multiple stories?
  • Do you want the master suite downstairs or up?
  • Do you want a guest suite downstairs or up? This is especially important if you are considering elder care in the future.
  • If it is a two-story home, do you want to plan ahead for an elevator? They are not that expensive and are very useful if you will be caring for elderly parents. Basically, you build a couple of large closets upstairs and downstairs that can be converted later to an elevator shaft and equipment room.
  • If the bedrooms are upstairs, consdier placing your laundry room upstairs also. It will save you from having to haul laundry up and down the stairs.

Game room

  • Does your game room need to be large enough for a billiard table?
  • Consider a plant shelf with electrical and cable outlets for a sports bar look with TVs.
  • Don't neglect storage for a game room. If it will start out as a children's game room, where will toys be stored?
  • Is there a bathroom that is accessible to the game room? A powder bath near the game room will prevent your guests from having to go through a bedroom to get to the bathroom. It will also give the residents a private bath.

Master suite

  • A built-in ironing board in the master closet is useful if you iron your clothes just-in-time. If you iron them out of the dryer, put it in the laundry room. Or live life on the edge and do both!
  • Make sure your master closet is called a "Changing Room" on the plans. This will allow you to have a return vent for your climate control system. The uniform code prevents you from having return vents in any closet.
  • I like having two entrances to the master suite. One for the bedroom and one for the changing room and bath. This allows you access to changing room and bath without going through the bedroom.
  • Design your master changing room with multiple clothes dressers inside. If all of your clothes are in the changing room (and not in the bedroom), then you can dress or put away laundry without disturbing the sleep of your spouse.
  • Three-way mirrors and benches are popular in master closets.

Laundry room

  • Unless noise will be a problem, consider having your laundry room attached to the master changing room (master closet).
  • Whirlpool and Kenmore have stackable, full-size washers and dryers. I like having one washer and two dryers because you spend most of your time waiting on the dryer, not the washer.
  • A built-in ironing board in the laundry room is a great space saver.
  • Leave space for drying racks and/or laundry sorting bins.
  • If you will spend time sorting clothes or ironing in the laundry room, consider adding a ceiling fan to make the room more comfortable. Also consider either a second or larger exhaust fan to suck the heat out.
  • If your laundry room is going to be near the kitchen, consider space for a freezer. You will want a dedicated electrical circuit. You may want a water supply if it will have an ice maker.
  • A rug or mat in the laundry room can help prevent shin splints or back pain if your spend a lot of time standing in your laundry room.
  • A large sink with a sprayer is helpful when you need to pre-treat clothing.
  • Many people like to have a second laundry room upstairs. If your children's rooms are upstairs, it prevents having to haul laundry up and down the stairs. However, it does mean that you will have to go upstairs to do their laundry.

Garage

  • I saw a home with an air-conditioned room and a cement floor off of the garage. It was a nice work room with climate control.
  • Garage space is not that expensive. Consider an extra-large garage so that you can get in and out of cars, especially large ones, with ease. In my first home, every time I got in or out of the car, I got some kind of smudge on the front of my pants.
  • I like extra-wide and tall garage doors so that entering or exiting the garage is easier. It does not cost that much more to get insulated garage doors. They are sturdier and more energy efficient. It can help prevent freezing problems during the winter.
  • Click to Enlarge.We have a door from the garage to the back porch. It has a screen door because we installed a special ventilation system that allows us to draw the hot air from the cars out of the garage during the winter. At a spot in the roof where the roof line is very close to the garage ceiling, we installed an attic roof power vent. It is switched near the screen door. We then built a duct from the power vent to the ceiling of the garage and put a grill over it. This allows us to open the screen, turn on the power vent, and suck all of the hot air out of the garage.
  • We put a faucet with hot/cold water outside the garage and over the driveway. The valve was just like the kind in a bathroom so that you could get warm water. This is handy for car washing in the winter. I recommend putting it over cement drive so that to use it you don't have to walk on grass which can get muddy. The plumber is going to need to order special faucets so that the stems are long enough to reach through the brick. Normally, they just go through sheetrock and tile.
  • Click to Enlarge
  • Leave room in your garage for a freezer, central vacuum system, whole-house water filtration system, water heaters, etc. Make sure you have the electrical/plumbing you need for any of these items.
  • Consider windows on your garage door. They provide light during the day and if you place them high enough, there shouldn't be any privacy issues.

Media room or home theater

  • Consider whether your thing is audio or video or both. Personally, the picture is the most important thing to me. I enjoy good sounding speakers, but I would prefer to spend my money on what I will see.
  • Most media rooms that I have seen are too small for the size screen. If you want a jumbo-sized on-the-wall screen, make sure the room is large enough that the seating is the right distance from the screen. If you don't get the distance right to the screen, then the picture resolution will look wrong. You will also have a problem with eye scan movement. You will have a hard time following the action. It can even make you dizzy. If you don't believe me, go sit right in front of a large TV and try watching it for 30 minutes or go to a movie theater and sit on the front row.
  • Many media rooms have more than one level of seating. Ours has a lower level for a love seat. We are considering a love seat recliner. The upper level has bar seating. This is useful for eating a pizza or snacks during the movie.
  • Most audio/video equipment can now be controlled through a remote remote control device. You point the remote control at the screen, and it can control the equipment regardless of where it is located. It will be part of your pre-wire for the room. This allows you to locate all of the video equipment at the back of the room. If you put it at the front of the room, then you will get to look at a bunch of blinking lights while the movie is going.
  • A media room can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 for the equipment. It seems like most of the ones I have seen cost around $25,000. We decided to build the room and then add the equipment a few years later when we can afford it.

Interesting designs or features

  • Our home has 10 foot ceilings downstairs in most rooms. It has 8 foot doors. This gives it quite a grand appearance. Upstairs, most of the ceilings are 9 foot and the doors are 6'8".
  • Higher ceilings give you the opportunity to have rooms at multiple levels. Many finer homes have steps up or down into different rooms. This makes for an interesting design. It also makes things more difficult as you get older and less mobile.
  • I have also seen homes where a room had an 8 foot ceiling. It can give a dining or living room a much more cozy and "the old-country" look.

Windows

  • Although we have an entire page on windows, they bear mentioning here also. If you are going with wood windows, you'll want to pick them out before you complete the architectural design so that they can be specified in the plans. Wooden windows are in different sizes than aluminum windows.
  • If your designer wants eyebrow arches on windows, consider using rectangular windows and faking the arch with brick or stone. Arched wood windows can be very expensive.

Wall thickness

This is when you need to decide whether you want your wall thickness to be 4 or 6 inches or more. If you make your exterior walls 6 inches thick, then you can have more insulation.

This section of our website is still under construction. Pardon the mess.

This is somewhat of an insider joke. Quality web design does not allow for "Under Construction" pages. I just included it because this part of the site is dealing with building a custom home.

 

Home Plans Online

Find some plans online at PlanHouse.

 

Discussions

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This is also the best place to get your questions answered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Copyright 2002-2013 James G. Lewis All rights reserved.