Doing Thorough Planning and Research Will Save You Time and Money in the End
Planning a house building project can be a daunting task. You’re probably starting off on your home building adventure after looking through dozens of books, magazines, and websites on home building. During your break times at work, a few moments before bed, or even while “seeing a man about a horse”, you’ve been found to be thumbing through house plan books, day dreaming of your future home.
Reading and contemplating home building ideas and floor plans is just the tip of the iceberg in thoroughly planning a house. There are volumes of information your should gather and process in the beginning phases. Asking questions of everybody from building inspectors to veteran DIY home builders will be your most valuable tool.
Hopefully you’ll have your land first, or at least at the same time, before you get too far into the dreaming process. Taking your time to contemplate a good fit between your future building site and your likely floor plan will be rewarded with a synergistic design flow. If you’re intending to plunk down an average-looking box of a house on any old piece of land then you’ll probably end up soured by your experience of house building months or years down the line.
Zoning & Land Use
Your planning and research process should include visiting your city or county building office early in the process (here’s the page for Village of Sherwood Building & Planning, where I built my house). There you’ll find basic information on building codes, covenants, and setbacks. Is there a minimum or maximum square footage they’ll allow you to build? Do you have to have a basement, or is a concrete slab ok? Maybe soil conditions prohibit the full basement option (too much clay, bedrock too close to the surface, etc.). Can you even get a building permit for this year? Your township may only issue a small number of permits each year.
Is it an historical district with restriction on architectural style, materials, and colors? Townships generally don’t want people to build starkly contrasting house designs from the established and original homes in the area. Having restrictions on design features like this might necessitate getting an architect more involved than you’d like; this will add to your cost. Actually, sticking with the common vernacular style of the neighborhood is in your best interest anyway. The resale value of your house will be brought down to the common value of homes in the area, no matter how much money you put into extra architectural details.
The “Personality” of Your Land
In planning a house you also need to take into considerations the idiosyncrasies of your land. If you have your land and you have the luxury to wait at least a year before building consider yourself lucky. This will give you time to visit your site, maybe even camp there, to get a feel for the natural elements around you (your future house, actually).
You might discover something unique that you really don’t want to destroy when building. Like a vernal pool that plays host to myriad spring peepers in the spring. Or the dropping of leaves in the fall might reveal a hawk’s nest you would not otherwise have known was there in the thick of summer. Noticing where snow drifts accumulate might give you a clue to the worst possible place to put a driveway.
Our Experience of Planning a House