Building Your Dream Home: Concept and Design
You’ve decided to build your own home. That’s a huge project and sometimes it can be a daunting one. Well, we’re here to help. This article is all about the first step in building a home. From site analysis to helping you decide what you need in a home, we’ve got you covered.
Site Analysis is the first stage in any major construction project. Even if you are building something small you have to know where you want to build it and how suitable the land is to build it there. This is vitally important when you are building a house.
Climate is an important element to look into with site analysis. Does it rain a lot here? Is this area prone to wild fires? Prone to flooding? Heavy snowfall? Climate determines not only what kind of home you can build, but also how your home will react or be affected by the elements.
If you live in an area that has a lot of snowfall, you don’t want a home that has a flat roof. If you live in an area prone to flooding, you need to have a foundation to match.
Orientation is another consideration when you are looking into building a home. Orientation is how your home will be placed on the lot. It’s not just about having the front of the home having street access.
Its 9:00 in the morning on your day off. Miraculously your phone hasn’t rung and you are having the best dream ever. Then that super bright, insistent ray of solar morning glory comes through the east facing window. Now no matter how hard you try, you can’t get back to that perfect snooze.
If the orientation had been taken into consideration, they might not have put the window there. The planner would have taken that demanding radiation into account and may have placed the window on the opposite wall instead.
Orientation of your home is important. It’s not just halting errant beams of sunlight. It also helps determine what size home you can build. You can’t build a really large home on a ½ acre plot. Well you could, but it’s not very practical. A planner or home designer can help you figure out what size home you can build there. They can also help you figure out how the home should be placed on the lot.
A site survey is critical to this stage of building a home. This will help you determine if there are any obstacles to building there. Some of those could be potentially hazardous land forms, trees where you plan to build, and buildings encroaching on your lot.
A survey also helps you determine where your property line is. When my husband and I bought our home, we had the property surveyed. The western edge of our property line runs through what appears to be an empty lot. Our neighbors, who have lived there for a very long time, assumed the property line was further east. So they renovated their house and added a new set of rooms. Now they are less than 3 feet from that property line.
If they had had a site survey done prior to construction, they could have changed their plans. It is always best to have the exact dimensions of the lot you are working with prior to contacting a designer.
A site survey will also tell you about any major changes in elevation and if your lot is in a hazardous location such as an area prone to flooding or wildfires. It is well worth the nominal fee associated with it.
Soil type may seem to be an odd thing to concern yourself about, but it does come into play. If the type of soil is naturally unstable, such as sand or clay, you need special reinforcement under the foundation.
Without footings in unstable soil, foundations can sink or crack. (A footing is kind of like a shoe for a post. They're usually made out of concrete and reinforced with rebar. They go into the ground under where the support posts would be.) This makes the home vulnerable to damage. A cracked foundation can lead to uneven floors, cracks in the walls and even plumbing issues.
Here in Arkansas we get a lot of rain. And considering that most of this area used to be a boscoyo filled swamp, that water has nowhere to go.
My husband and I both grew up in one of the more flood prone regions of the state. So when we went house hunting we moved to a higher elevation. Our home sits, literally, on top of a small hill. When it rains, the water shoots past our house and downhill to a creek in the woods behind us.
When you are building a home, this is something to keep in mind. It rains and that rain has to go somewhere. This stage is perfect for putting in plans for water drainage like ditches and French drains.
Access and Transport
If you’re building in a town, you won’t have as much to worry about here. A site analysis will easily show you how you are going to access your home from a road or street. Your main concern in town is going to be parking. Now is the time to plan your garage or driveway. You definitely want it to be easily accessible from both the house and the street.
If you are planning to build out of town, it gets a little more complicated. If the lot you have chosen doesn’t have easy access to a road, you’re going to have to put one in. That requires a whole different set of plans and permits.
If the property that you’re going to have to build your road on is owned by someone else, you have to get an easement from them. An easement means you can use the land without having ownership rights to it. Once you have the access to your property sorted, you can worry about your garage or driveway.
This is another minor decision when you are building your home in town. Before you too far into the building process you should check with the local utility companies to see if you can be added to the grid. In town, that may be as simple as letting the company know you will need new services.
Out of town may not be a possibility. The utility company may have to run wires or pipe. In the case of water, you may not be able to get it because the addition of a new system may cause too much of a drop in water pressure. In that case, you may need to put in a well and you should plan accordingly.
In our case, we have access to the water company and the water they provide, but not to the city’s sewer system. That is another thing to take into consideration. It’s a fact of life and it has to go somewhere. For those of us unable to take advantage of a utility company, this is when you start planning on installing a septic system.
All of these services should be researched prior to any planning. If you have to put in a well or septic system, you should plan the home accordingly.
While power and water are essential, you may want natural gas to heat your home or to cook with. For this you’ll need to see if it is available in the area that you are building. A good alternative is propane which can be stored in a tank and run into your home via pipes.
One thing that the modern family enjoys is television and internet. And now you’re probably wondering why I’m bringing that up. If you are building in town you will probably have a variety of providers to choose from, but in the rural areas it may be different.
My husband and I love our internet and TV. We were devastated to learn that where we bought our house is in a digital dead zone. A quarter of a mile to the east of us and you have a local TV and internet provider. A half mile to the west of us and you have a national TV and internet provider. Either would be fine. We have satellite TV and internet and, honest to God, it hasn’t changed much since 1995.
Schools and Neighborhood
You might ask me why we moved to the digital dead zone. Location, location, location. We moved to a nice quiet neighborhood with a big yard and a good school district.
That’s the last thing to consider, especially if you have or plan on having a family. How are the schools? What are the property values like in the area? Are they going up or falling? How does the neighborhood look? Give it a discerning eye before you move on with the process.
What Do You Need in a Home?
Now that we’ve got the site analyzed, it’s time to decide what you need in a home. Remember, you can only build as large as the lot will accommodate. We don’t have TARDIS on earth, yet. Planning for your home takes 3 easy steps.
- Examine your current home and lifestyle.
While that sounds pretty self-explanatory, let’s go into some details with it. How large is your family? For example, my husband and I have 2 kids. That means we have to have at least 3 bedrooms. Those kids are both girls. That means 2 bathrooms. (I’m not fighting for mirror space.) We don’t eat out much and I cook a lot, so our kitchen is designed for functionality over entertaining. I always have a ton of laundry to do, so our laundry room is large.
That’s just an example, but it gives you an idea of what we knew was needed in a house. You should sit down and think about the same kinds of things. Once you know what you need, you can start looking at plans or having a custom plan made.
- Decide what you want
Now that you know what you need, let’s think about what you want. Maybe your current home takes care of all your needs but you dream of having a media room. Maybe, like me, you have enough bedrooms, but one more would be great. Deciding what you want can be a pitfall. Be mindful of your budget and the constraints from the size of the lot.
- Deciding your budget
When you are looking at building a house, you are making an investment in your future. This kind of thing can’t just be boiled down to dollars and cents. This is your dream home.
That being said, your dream home does have a budget attached to it. Be mindful of it while you are getting process going and always leave room for bumps in the road. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from TV remodel shoes, there’s always an extra expense you didn’t plan on.
Once you have your lot location settled, your utility situation sorted and know what you want in a house plan, now you go talk to a home designer. That’s what we help with.
With over 1,800 designs for you to choose from, the option to customize any of those designs and the ability to create a new custom home, House Plans Plus has you covered. We are always happy to help you build that dream home.