The Small Home, Big Decisions series follows Jennifer and her husband, Tyler, as they build a self-reliant homestead on a piece of country property in northeastern Kansas. The series will delve into questions that arise during their building process and the decisions they make along the way. The posts are a work in progress, written as their home-building adventure unfolds.
Tyler and I found a basic passive solar house plan online and made some modifications to make it our own. In order to get final approval for our mortgage, the bank requires a set of house plans, complete with an estimate on how much the house will cost to construct, and proof of our contractor’s certification. We had several options at this point, ranging from trying to find other plans online that we could pay a fee to use, to hiring a passive solar architect to draw up final, customized plans. Our builder suggested that we have the plans drawn by a designer at the lumber company we would likely be working with. If we paid to have our plans drawn by the lumber company and then we purchased our lumber from that company, the cost for the final plans would be taken off the cost of the lumber. In essence, the plans would be almost free. Because we already had a basic house plan in mind, we decided we didn’t need to hire a specialized architect, and that hiring a designer at the lumber company sounded like a smart move.
We met with John Roe at McCray Lumber in Topeka, Kan., and brought him a print out of our online plan, discussed the modifications we were hoping for, and gave him a general idea of what our goals for the house were. We had already met and discussed these details with Jeff Wooster (our contractor), so we were all on the same page. We were asked to make our best guess at a few items, which would be needed to provide an estimate for the total lumber cost, including which style of windows, doors and siding we would want. (I’ll give some more details on these decisions in a later post, but, basically, we guessed this first time. We know what we want now, and have adjusted our plans.)
A couple of weeks later, I went to pick up the preliminary plans. Oh, man, it was so exciting! I forced about 20 different people (whose interest in the topic was debatable) to look at them and listen to me explain what was going where, and what this would look like, and how this room would be laid out — you get the idea. You can see an initial drawing of how the front of the house, which will face north, will likely look. This was a super-fun, super-cool step — we could finally envision our future home!
Having preliminary plans drawn was not required (you could save money by just having a final version drawn up), but we’re so glad we decided to do it. Now, we are using the preliminaries to get an estimate for the total cost of building the house, and will base our next steps off of how that number comes back. At some point, we will go back to have the final plans drawn after we’ve listed out the changes we would like (either because of preference or expense). Those final plans will guide Jeff and his subcontractors as they construct our home.
Preliminary house plans drawn by John Roe, Designer/Plan Services Specialist with McCray Lumber in Topeka, Kan. Plans and images are copyrighted and owned by McCray Lumber; not available for reuse.
Next in the series: Land Survey Plat Update: How We Worked with a Planning Department and 2 County Commissions
Previously in the series: Who Will Be Our House Builder: Should We Hire a Contractor or Build Ourselves?
Jennifer Kongs is the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can connect directly with Jennifer and Tyler by leaving a comment below!