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The House plan Building Site...

If you haven’t already acquired a building site; you will need to do so in order to have a site orientation done, or you might enjoy doing it yourself. You’ll need a plat of your property to get started, and if your site has a sloped grade, it would be wise to obtain a topographical map.

   I never walked a building site I didn’t like. Every piece of property offers the potential for a wonderful home to grow; and if you know what its weaknesses are, you can design around them. Some properties have more weaknesses than others and in my opinion this creates an exciting challenge; these are the house plans that seem to end up with the most character.

  • Orientating the new plan to the building site

   A good custom house plan starts with a building site orientation; which in general is a study of the building site’s vegetation, grade elevation, sound, wind, solar, point of view and last but not least, drive up view. If all of these items are taken into consideration, the custom house plan you build will be comfortable from sun up to sun down, all year round. It will look and feel like it belongs, as if it grew there naturally.


   Vegetation that grows on your building site can be a plus or a negative. If your property has trees that you hope to save and build around, it might be wise to have the trees located on the plat if they are within the building parameter. If they inhibit too much valuable space they might have to be removed or relocated. It’s true that relocating trees and shrubs on the site can be an added expense, but keep in mind that removing trees and hauling them off is almost two thirds of this cost. If the tree is of a species you like and in good health, consider this option.

   The vegetation on your site offers a great deal of information about the soil conditions of your property. If the terrain has not been graded or changed in the recent past, there should be plenty of natural vegetation which typically have root systems much like the foundation of a house. If the soil is strong enough to support trees, shrubs and a variety of grasses or weeds, it will likewise support the foundation of your home.

   If the vegetation is naturally sparse, there is a possibility that your grade could be of a clay or sandy base which may require special reinforcement, and it’s possible that stone and rock could lie beneath the surface which may require heavy equipment or maybe even blasting. Cedar trees commonly grow in rocky soil conditions where other species of trees cannot. Typically a builder will know before hand if any of these conditions pose a threat to your project.


   If there are no other projects in the immediate area that you are building in, it would be wise to have the soil tested for strength by a certified engineer. You could be building in an area where a soil test is required. This is relatively common and affordable too, but more than likely there are several homes near your building site and your realtor or developer will already have this information.

   Any vegetation you want to save will need to be clearly marked and the contractor informed, so that he can inform the crews building your home; even then there is some risk involved if too close to the action.


    Grade elevations (sea level) are called out on the topographical map and shown as lines; As the numbers recede the elevation is dropping; For example, if the lines are cut horizontally across the page, and the numbers at the back of the lot are higher than the numbers at the front, then the grade is sloping from the rear to the front on the site. If the lines are cut vertically across the page, the slope is running from side to side.

   It takes a little time, but the more you study it, the more you will understand. These numbers are important for the architect. Retaining walls, foundation wall heights and footing depths can be determined and included into the estimate before hand. Existing grade, or (E.G.) means the grade elevation as it is naturally before construction begins. Finish grade, or (F.G.) is the elevation of the grade after construction or top soil has been added or removed.

   Sound can be most pleasant or disturbing; a house plan can be designed to eliminate or reduce the sounds of traffic or noisy neighbors. If you are building in a tight area where the homes are clustered close together, this can be an issue. If you are building on a sizable property where there are no neighbors within a close proximity then you might consider encouraging some pleasant sounds of nature. Where there are trees or shrubs there will be birds singing and squirrels chirping. The sounds of a playground or park are quite pleasant to most of us, but the sounds of Jimmy’s motorcycle revving, or Bob’s hammering is not. 

   Wind is lovely when it is a southern summer breeze; which we invite into our bedrooms and our living areas with pleasure, but during the cold and rainy seasons the northern winds can greatly increase utility bills and chill us to the bone as we are searching for our house key; The goal is to create sheltered areas for entrances and sheltered views exposed to the north. These exposures vary according to geographical location.

   Solar plays a powerful role in the comfort of our homes. As the sun comes up in the east its gentle light starts our day, and is a welcome friend. The morning sun is most desired in the kitchen and the breakfast room. By mid day the sun is high over our heads; cranking up the heat higher and higher until it finally begins to set, sometimes offering a spectacular show on the horizon.

   Shield your entrances and large amounts of glass facing west for less fading of interior room fabrics and lower utility bills, not to mention the glare on the TV. Through out the seasons the position of the earth changes significantly, rotating closer to the sun in the summer and farther in the winter. If your building site is located in an extreme weather area, then it is wise to give careful attention to the solar exposure your site receives. Passive solar should be incorporated in the design of every home being built today. This means that the every measure has been taken to conserve energy, from window location to adequate insulation in our exterior walls. Today there are several affordable products that offer energy savings and environmental safety.

   Point of View is the view of the world that your building site offers, hopefully a scenic one. If your building site doesn’t have a point of view, then you should create one such as a water feature or a special garden. You can do this is a couple of areas in your yard front and back, maybe a side yard too. Consider a garden wall with vining roses or ivy and some special lighting for night time viewing.

   Maybe your home building site has a panoramic mountain view or the skyline of a big city. Either way, your budget, the solar exposure and your taste will determine how much glass to incorporate to include your point of view. If there is a wonderful view from your site, there’s possibility it will face towards a less than desirable exposure, but the view will not be compromised if your glass is tinted, tempered, double or even triple insulated. Your site might have a view you hope to hide, such as the children’s messy play area, or the neighbors clutter behind their garage. This can be accomplished by using privacy fencing or walls, and (or) landscaping, or eliminating any viewing glass on that particular side of the house.

    Drive up view is very important, not just for resale value, but how your home makes you, your family and friends feel as it first comes in to the visual field. Some of us wish to remain anonymous and prefer to keep a low profile, while others enjoy having guests over quite often and want to look warm and receptive to all. The entrance to a home says a lot about it occupants; some mysterious or serious by nature, some outgoing or even gregarious, and some are very dignified with a sense of propriety. One thing we all have in common, is the hope that our house plan will be special.

   The plat or topographical map (topo) needs to be printed out at a reasonable size. The original drawing is typically drawn at twenty feet equals one inch, but it could be as much as two hundred feet equaling an inch, or even more depending on the size of the building site, so for example, if your plat is scaled at twenty feet equals one inch, and your lot was one hundred foot long, it would scale at only five inches, a good reason to have it printed out at a larger size before creating the room pattern. In this case, you can create your own scale.

   A room pattern can be created with the information collected from the site orientation, and your design criteria. This is typically done using a series of circles or ovals, even though most houses end up squared off, these circles offer much more freedom in design. You can draw these circles free handed or it may be simpler to use paper cut outs, but either way, keep the circles sized according to the room sizes you desire.

Some examples of standard house plan room sizes are; minimum 2 car garage is 20’x 20;’ minimum 3 car garage is 36’x 20;’ minimum full bath is 5’x 8;’ minimum bedroom is 8’x 8;’ minimum laundry room is 5’x 6;’ minimum width hallway is 3;’ It is not necessary to include mechanical closets or closets of any kind in the room pattern. This pattern may be very basic and without detail.

















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