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Buying home plans vs. hiring a building designer

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drawing home plans by hand

When building a house, there’s one important decision you have to make: should you hire a building designer or simply buy home plans online? These plans will guide home builders in all stages of construction, so it’s vital that you get plans that fit your needs while also meeting local building codes.

In this article, we’ll help you understand the pros and cons of buying house plans online versus hiring a building designer. We’ll also discuss what house plans are, how they are used, and what you should consider when looking at plans.

engineer drawing home plans

What are house plans?

House plans refer to all the construction drawings that will be used by the builder. These include the floor plan, the electrical and plumbing layout, the foundation and framing measurements, and the materials needed. The techniques and installation methods to be used should also be written.

Some people may refer to these documents as “blueprints.” This term was based on what construction plans looked like in the past. Printed on chemically treated paper, they would have white lines on a dark blue background. However, most plans used today are printed on white paper with black or blue lettering.

What’s included in home plans?

Home plans include various types of documents that describe how the house will be built. Here are some of the files included:

Construction floor plan

A floor plan is an overhead sketch of everything that’s going to be covered during the construction. 

Usually drawn on a 1:100 scale, it includes the location of fixtures, electrical boxes, and built-in furniture. The exact dimensions of each room and the placement of columns should be clearly indicated. 

These days, 3D floor plans are also becoming increasingly popular. These 3D drawings or models give owners a more detailed view of what their future property will look like.

construction floor plans

Site plan

This shows the position of the house as it relates to the property’s boundaries, the slope of the land, and the surrounding buildings. It also shows the location of driveways, fences, retaining walls, and more. The site’s natural features, such as existing trees and landscaping, are also included.

Foundation plan

The foundation plan shows a horizontal view of the house’s footings or foundation walls. It displays the beams, girders, columns, and openings, together with the dimensions of the structure.

construction foundation plan

Electrical layout

These drawings show the location of outlets and electric lines. It also shows which switches connect to the lighting fixtures.

Plumbing layout

These show where plumbing fixtures and fittings are located. Details on piping are also included.

construction plumbing layout

Internal and external elevations

These are sketches that show each external elevation in the property. Here, the building designer indicates the height of the walls, ridges, exterior finishes, and roof pitches. Window, door, and exterior trim details are also included.

internal and external construction elevations

Understanding home plans

Learning how to read floor plans is crucial if you’re planning to build a home. This will let you see if the house suits you and your family’s needs and preferences.

Home plans typically include a set of symbols that represent the following:

  • Interior and exterior walls
  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Staircases
  • Cabinets
  • Appliances
  • Plumbing fixtures
  • HVAC and electrical details
  • Materials

What to consider when choosing home plans

Before choosing a house plan or consulting an architect, it’s good to have a rough idea of what you’re looking for in a home. Here are some of the factors you should consider when choosing a house plan:

  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Bedroom and bathroom sizes
  • Preferred finishes, window sizes, and custom features
  • Must-haves (e.g., laundry area, storage space, spacious kitchen, 2-car garage)
  • Nice-to-haves (e.g., mancave, she-shed, finished basement)
  • Outdoor living spaces (e.g., patios, sunrooms)
  • Preferred architectural style or home design (Colonial, Queenslander, Modern, or Contemporary)

Should you buy home plans online?

Buying house construction plans online may seem like the cheap, quick, and easy way to build a house. Going through the gallery of available plans can also be a fun experience.

However, buying stock home plans online can sometimes make it harder for you to complete the construction process smoothly because it can lead to the following issues:

Inappropriate lot specifications

Stock home plans are premade, so there’s no guarantee that they will fit the size and shape of your lot. You might like the layout or look of a floor plan, but if it doesn’t fit your space, then there’s no way to build it.

Moreover, stock plans don’t include a site plan. Even if you buy stock plans online, you will still need a professional to create a site plan for your future house.

Little room for customisation

Floor plans from the Internet are not tailored to your needs and preferences, so there’s a chance you might not find one with the exact home design you like. If ever you want a bigger balcony, a more spacious closet, or even wider hallways, you’d need to seek the help of a professional to make modifications.

In some cases, the money you saved by buying the plans can be offset by the money you’re paying for the customisations.

Not following local building codes

One of the most common issues with purchasing plans online is that they may not meet the latest building codes. The property may not follow setback guidelines, the stairs may not have sufficient clearance, and the rooms may also lack disability access. Aside from these, the plan may not adhere to local HOA or historic district design standards.

If the plans don’t meet these parameters, you will still require the assistance of a building designer or a draftsman to make modifications. In some cases, the plans may also require approval from a structural engineer.

Home plans are not drawn according to your budget

Since pre-drawn plans are not made according to your budget, there may be some parts of the house that will be too costly to build. For example, the plan may have very steep roof pitches, which can drive up the costs. Or, there may be some finishes or fixtures that make the house expensive to complete.

In comparison, hiring a building designer or a draftsman will help you ensure that building costs will stay within your budget. They will choose appropriate materials and simplify architectural elements, if necessary.

Incomplete home plans

As discussed previously, there are several documents that should be included in a house’s construction plan. If you’re buying stock plans online, there’s a possibility that some of the information your builder needs may not be available. For example, the construction drawing may lack details about the materials or measurements.

Moreover, if you’re purchasing construction plans from the Internet, they may not have all the information necessary for you to obtain council approval. This may delay the start of construction and cause additional stress for you and your family. If the plans get rejected, you’ll need to start again from scratch.

At Superdraft, we can connect you with professionals who are familiar with your local council and can help you ensure that the approval process goes smoothly.

Incorrect orientation

Before drawing up house construction plans, a building designer should also take note of the direction of the sun. That way, they can tell where to place rooms, windows, porches, or sunrooms. Since stock plans are premade, the orientation may not be suitable for your lot.

building designer explaining home plans

How much does it cost to buy home plans online?

Online floor plans can cost from $50 to $3000* or more. In comparison, hiring a building designer may charge $3,000 to $15,000*, depending on the size and complexity of the house you would like to build. 

Disclaimer: These prices are only ballpark figures; each professional will have his or her own rates.

Usually, sellers will offer packages that range from “single build” to “unlimited build.” Some sellers will send five to eight copies of these plans, which will usually be enough for the builder, the local council, and the bank financing the construction.

Some websites also give you the option to purchase CAD files for an additional price. If you intend on making major modifications to the plan, using this file may be easier for you or your building designer. They can use the soft copy to add, erase, or modify plans.

Who draws home plans?

Architects and building designers are equally qualified to produce construction drawings, though architects hold a formal licence and typically undergo more intensive training. 

In some cases, you may also choose to hire a draftsman to produce the plans for you. This may help you save a little money during the planning phase. Stock plans are also made by architectural firms, though they’re not tailor-made to a specific client.

At Superdraft, we highly recommend that you hire a professional to draw your plans before construction. That way, you can be assured that the plans are made according to your preferred home design and that they meet local building codes.

Who owns home plans?

Construction drawings belong to the builder or building designer responsible for creating them. So, be sure you have the proper copyright license to use building plans before starting construction. 

Note that some plans also include a one-time use license. This means that you cannot sell the plans or give them away for someone else to use. Similarly, a buyer is not allowed to create photocopies or reproduce drawings or plans without the designer’s written consent.

How do you get original house plans?

If you bought an existing home, there’s a chance that you might not have a copy of the original plans. Try asking your selling agent if they have a copy. 

Aside from that, try contacting your local council. They should have a copy of the plans in their archives when they approved the building for construction. If you own a renowned heritage property, your state library may have a copy of the plans.

What should you do with home plans after construction?

Once your home building or renovation project is over, don’t throw your home plans away. There are still important uses for these documents, such as the following:

Reference for home design

A property’s floor plan will give interior designers detailed information on the property’s dimensions and layout. This makes it easier for them to plan furniture placements.

Information for real estate agents

If ever you plan to sell your home in the future, real estate agents can use the floor plans to market your home. They can show the floor plan to potential buyers and pique their interest.

Guide for future renovation projects

Several years down the road, you might need these documents as references for future renovation projects. It will help give builders a concrete idea of what the house is made of, what its dimensions are, and more.

Connect with a skilled building designer now

Home plans contain all the information necessary to complete the build, including the floor plan and the materials and methods to be used. To ensure that the construction process goes smoothly, it’s good to have a skilled building designer or draftsman produce the construction drawings for you. Purchasing stock plans online can lead to several issues, including having a plan that does not meet local building codes. 

At Superdraft, we can help you with the following:

  • Match you with a reliable building designer, draftsman, or engineer 
  • Visualise  your home design using 3D technology
  • Get free quotes for your home renovation or building project
  • Provide end-to-end project coordination and management

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