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6 Steps To Design Your Own House

Updated on March 3, 2014
One of my recent projects
One of my recent projects | Source

Where To Begin

While there are several facets to designing and building a new home we are going to break this process down to the top six main topics.

There can be much conversation on whether to select a building site or plan design first in the process but for this discussion I am going to encourage you to focus on site selection first.

My reasoning for this is that the only way to focus on a plan first is to enlist the help of an architect or residential designer like myself. Sounds like I'm shooting myself in the foot but the fact is that more people are turning to online access for their new home plans and so it would be wrong to assume that everyone will enlist personal help like we offer to local clients.

Many books I've read including one I will encourage you to own before you begin this process in earnest will encourage selecting a team of architect, builder, and interior designer before beginning this process. The idea here is to get their expert input in the process of site selection. Fact is that not everyone can afford to pay for this help.

So we are going to move forward assuming that you will be acting as your own General Contractor or at least taking responsibility to bring the right people together.

I Recommend Owning This Book

Site Selection

The reason I think you should prioritize site selection ahead of plan design is because the site you select may create restrictions on the plan options you can choose. You may have to stay within an certain building width or minimum size to meet building requirements of your lot. You might even need to choose a plan based on the contour of your lot.

The process of site selection involves choosing the exact location where you want to build your new home. You will want to take into account topics like school district, fire and police protection, access to work and shopping, as well as any other aspect that will affect your day to day lifestyle.

It is also important to make sure that if you are selecting a home site in a developed area, that your home style choices (ei: exterior finishes and estimated home value) will fit in with the surrounding homes.

When searching for your building site it is always a good idea to come up with a few choices to give yourself some options in both lot cost and plan design options.


Plan Design

When it comes to plan design it is important to have a clear idea of your needs first and your wants separately. Many people get bogged down when their wants exceed their budget.

If you will not be working with an architect or residential designer in person then I recommend that you check out the many plan options offered on the internet. I love the ease of search options offered by ePlans. Today you will find many advance search options for your new plan search. You will also find that services like ePlans offers a simple estimate option to have them customize any plan to your exact needs. As a designer I don't encourage that you buy any stock plan if it is not drawn to exactly how you plan to build. This would only lead to costly mistakes in the future.

My Review of Plan Selection Process

Building Budget

We are going to assume that you have already established a maximum budget for your project and that you have arranged preliminary financing if that will be a requirement of your project.

That said, I am amazed at how many people want to try and guess the cost to build their home based on an average cost per square foot. That would be kind of like buying a new car by the pound. Is a chevy the same price per pound as a cadillac? We all know the answer to that question and the cost to build your new home will be just as unique.

This is another reason why I like the help ePlans offers home shoppers. They have an option on each plan to buy a very inexpensive home cost estimate for that exact plan based on your location and finish material expectations. You can even compare how the costs will change if you were to use different exterior finishes like stone or interior material like granite counter tops.

In the end your final building budget will be established by putting together a well organized group of accurate bids or estimates from every facet of the home building process.

Your Building Team

Your building team will be comprised of a General Contractor and all of their subs if you choose to go that route. In this case you will direct all contacts during the entire process through you GC or thier agent.

If you choose to act as your own General Contractor then the interactions change dramatically. I always explain this difference with concern that people must understand the role they are about to assume.

As the GC you will be responsible to handle all interactions between the governing bodies overseeing proper permits and code enforcement as well as the following list of outside sources and sub contractors as they pertain to your project.


* Banker

* Appraiser

* Attorney

* Plan Provider

* Surveyor

* Utility Locator Service

* Excavator

* Concrete Contractor

* Plumbing Contactor

* Electrical Contractor

* Framing Contractor

* HVAC Contractor

* 3rd Party Inspectors

* Construction Material Supplier

* Flooring and Tile Source

* Flooring and Tile Installers

* Roofing Contractor

* Siding and Soffit Contractor

* Gutter Contractor

* Drywall Contractor

* Painting Contractor

* Kitchen Designer and Suppier

* Finish Carpenters

* Masonry Contractor

* Landscape Contractor

Your list may be shorter if you self perform any of these important tasks or you may hire one company to perform multiple tasks. The point I'm trying to make clear is that being the GC of your new home can be nearly a full time job.

Product Selection

The initial process of product selection is intimidating to most people and that is once again why I am going to recommend that you invest in the book I featured above by Susan Lang. At least take a moment to use the "Look Inside" feature of that book.

Even as a designer I personally own this book in both print and Kindle eBook for the simple reason that I have never found a source that does a better job of organizing the hundreds of choices you will make in this process.

You will either be making selections for every aspect and product used in your new home or you will put your trust someone else to make these choices for you to live with.

I recommend having control of these choices and in effect maintain control of how your money is being spent.

Estimates and Contracts

I have intentionally put estimates and contracts at the end of the design process list because it is my belief after 35 years in this business that if you have organized everything listed before this point then you will have the details in place to get the most accurate building cost bids or estimates possible.

You will also stand the best chance of moving forward on your new home without the fear of costly surprises.

I hope you have found this information helpful. I welcome your questions on the home building process as comments below and offer more on the home building process here.

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