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Questions & Answers
Is there a difference in cost between building with a stock plan verses using a custom plan?
No. The cost per square foot should be about the same, for the same general quality and equivalent materials. However, sometimes custom home designs have special features ordered by the owner that are not in a typical stock plan, and that can increase the cost, but you are getting more for your money.
Should you build your own home or buying a pre-built home?
If you build your own home instead of buying a pre-built home, you will most likely save money and definitely get the home that you really want. In fact, when acting as your own general contractor, you should save a considerable amount of money, but it will take work and effort on your part. Before making this decision, it is a good idea to research the subject and to talk to people who have built their own homes.
What are the pros and cons of building your own home versus buying a pre-built home?
When building your own home, you pick out your own floor plan, cabinets, finish materials, colors, doors, windows, and all the details that match your personal tastes. You can modify the interior or exterior design of a stock plan to suit your needs. The finished product is your own custom design, matching your personality, needs, and desires. When buying a pre-built home, you're buying what's already there.
How do you do your own general contracting?
Ask lots of questions, and do a lot of reading. Study everything you can on the subject, from books to magazines to videos. Talk to your friends and acquaintances who have had experience with building. If you have a friend or family member who is involved in the building trades, ask for advice. If you hire a general contractor to do the framing and foundation work, see if he would be willing to assist you supervise the remainder of the job as a hourly consultant.
Are kitchen and bathroom details included in stock plans?
Kitchen and bathroom areas show the general space configuration, but not the details of individual cabinetry. However, most custom cabinet shops will provide detailed design services at no fee if they are going to build your cabinets. If you want to go “all out” with your kitchen and bath design, you may want to involve the services of a kitchen/bath Interior Design Specialist.
What should I do if I want to make changes to the plans?
You, the owner, or the builder can create small changes, such as making a window larger or adding a closet. However, major changes, such as moving walls, should be done by the designer to ensure that the foundation, roof, and load-bearing walls are not affected. Sometimes just moving a window a few feet, which might seem very simple, can affect the structural integrity of a building. If in doubt, check with the designer.
What are some ways to cut costs while I'm building?
You can do some of the work yourself, if that is practical and agreeable to your builder. Sometimes just doing your own site cleanup work can save you a significant amount of on-the-job labor. Also you can look for lower cost fixtures and finish material (interior and exterior) such as sidings, paint, sinks, and tubs. Almost sixty percent of a home's cost is in the finish materials, hardware, and appliances. Careful selection of cost-effective materials can save you a lot of money. Ask your builder for help on this, as he is probably up-to-date on the latest products. Also, check out building and design magazines for information on new and reasonably priced products.
How can exterior looks and finishes be modified without changing the floor plan?
Roofs can be modified to include new vaults and dormers. Siding can be changed from horizontal to vertical or to shake and from aluminum to wood. As long as nothing structural is affected (i.e., load bearing walls), you can make almost any exterior change you want.
Tell me about the plan sheets that I will receive.
The plan sheets are 24" by 36" and usually quarter inch scale, depending on the size of the house. There are at least six full sheets to a set, and often up to eight or nine sheets, depending on the complexity of the house. The plan sheets are very detailed and the plans are easy to read.
Can you recommend any reading materials about home building?
Yes, there are a number of good building magazines available, and many good books. Check your local building supply dealers. They should have extensive libraries of books available. They also have a number of construction and building training videos, which can be of great use. Even if you are not pounding the nails yourself, knowing what needs to be done by the sub-contractors is very useful.
What are insulated concrete forms (ICF's)?
Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) Systems are hollow blocks, panels, or planks made of rigid foam that are fit together and filled with rebar and concrete. They form the structure and insulation of a building's exterior walls (and some interior walls as desired). ICF's are growing rapidly in popularity because they are cost competitive with standard frame construction, easy to learn to use, and they deliver a high quality product that is energy efficient, virtually soundproof, fire resistant, and extremely durable. For more information on ICF's, go to our links page and choose a manufacturer under concrete.
Where are some other sites I can investigate?
For more building sites, please visit our links page.