How To Design Your Own House
Once you’ve decided to design your own house there is always an overwhelming temptation to go straight into it and put pen to paper.
But it is wise not to be that hasty with this process.
After all, figuring out how your floor plans will match to the exterior of your dream house will take a little while.
One thing is certain though: Designing your own house gives that feeling of satisfaction and fulfilment.
And if planned correctly, you could end up saving some money in the process.
However designing your own home without any knowledge of the necessary requirements and technical considerations can prove to be very costly.
It can also prove to be a complete disaster when your house plans are rejected by the planning department. Or even later on when construction costs escalate due to badly designed elements.
Things You Must Look Out For Before You Design Your Own House
Below are some of the necessary factors that you must keep in mind when deciding to design your own house.
- Formulate a vision of your dream house
- Planning and Zoning Requirements
- Site Conditions
- Design Form
- Energy Efficiency
- Construction materials
- Construction methods
Start By Formulating a Vision of Your Dream House
The truth is, before you can formulate a vision you should at least have a basic understanding of all the other items listed above.
Otherwise you may spend your time working on a grand floor plan of your dream house that will only be cast aside later when you face reality.
A vision must at least take into account what is possible. Taking off with a vision that won’t fly is pointless.
This means that before you decide on what the floor plans must look like you should at least have bought a site/plot of land.
You should have visited your local authority.
You should also try and find out how much you can afford in order to build your dream house.
Logic and feelings have to meet at some point.
Becoming Your Very Own Architect
The design of a house is the domain of architects and/designers. As such, going this route alone requires a very clear and sober mind.
For some people however, some things just look too simple to contemplate going it alone.
The reason for this is due to the greater satisfaction in having all your requirements catered for. And to build a house that is designed around your specific individual needs.
In other words, the benefit to design your own house, for many people, is too tempting to ignore.
This is all possible as long as you take measured steps into the process.
Designing Your Dream House Around Your Lifestyle
Other than knowing your family’s needs and lifestyle, you should also ensure, among others, that your new home will not cost you more to maintain.
This is why most people hire an architect after all.
Architects are trained to design dwellings that are self sufficient and more efficient to run in the long run.
For example, to achieve this you will need to do a thorough research in the technicalities of designing quality energy efficient homes.
In some countries or states there are already guidelines and standards for general home building.
So it will make sense to spend a little time going through these guidelines to learn about basic considerations for building sustainable homes. Bear in mind that this is also what architects deal with in their day to day functions.
It is also for this reason that we have compiled the list above.
So a safe bet would be to go through the list above and ensure that you have an understanding of each of the items listed.
Planning and Zoning Requirements
The process to design your own house is not done in isolation.
Every country or state has unique planning and zoning laws that govern every specific area of property development.
These laws stand between your design and the actual building work that is necessary to bring to life your dream house.
Most homeowners would usually appoint an architect to help them navigate around these laws and regulations.
If you want to design your own house without involving an architect then it makes sense to research and learn at least about the basics.
House Plan Submission Requirements by Municipalities
Remember also that in most countries or states only a registered person is permitted to prepare and submit building plans for approval.
So, this alone sets you in an isolated path where you either have to acquire such recognition and certification first. Or you may have to find a registered person to help you prepare your building plans for submission to a municipality or local authority.
In most cases the municipality would look at two aspects of your project.
Firstly, the town planning rights must be satisfied by every homeowner before their building plans can be approved.
This means your house plans must first satisfy various stipulations of the local town planning scheme in relation to the following items:
- Consent Use – the rights that your property is entitled to be used for as stipulated in the town planning scheme.
- Building Lines – The side space that must be observed around the boundary perimeter of your property. No building is permitted within this side space.
- Height Zoning – the limited height that all houses with similar Use zoning can go up to.
- Density – The number of residential houses or units that can be build in a specified area.
- Coverage – The ground area that a house can cover in a given plot of land.
- Floor area ratio – the total area (m2) of all floors per area (m2) of the plot.
Secondly, your building plans will be scrutinized for conformation with building codes and regulations. These will look at the different sections of the building codes such as the following
- Energy efficiency
- Structural elements
These building codes can be obtained online or from your local municipality office.
Note that some of these codes may require a sound technical knowledge in order for you to fully grasp the various concepts outlined thereof.
This may well be the most important item to focus on before you begin the process to design your own house.
Even before you formulate a vision for your floor plans, you should have a clear understanding of all existing site conditions. And how they might affect the building of your house.
So right after your visit to your local authority’s offices, you need to start visiting your site often and taking note of all existing features surrounding your plot.
These will include the following:
- Access – All factors that may affect how you access the plot must be noted. These may include vegetation and obstacles that may obstruct free movement into the plot.
- Existing vegetation – the location of trees around the property should be noted. You must make a note of all trees and vegetation that can be removed.
- Contours – the steepness of the site must be noted so that the design can either follow the gradient or necessary work be carried out to level any severe areas of the plot.
- The sun’s orientation – the position and path of direct sunlight must be considered. In colder regions, one will have to ensure that a house is built and orientated to receive as much sunlight as possible.
- Privacy from neighbouring plots – the position and orientation of neighboring homes (if built) should be noted so that there are no conflicts for privacy.
- Physical services (ie. electrical poles, manholes, etc) – The position of any other physical element that may affect the layout and orientation of the house must be noted.
- Traffic patterns – traffic patterns must be noted to avoid traffic noises or any other conflict with access into the plot.
- Security – Any exposure to risky areas must be noted and all security precautions be considered.
These features together with items listed in the previous section (ie. Planning and Zoning Requirements) becomes essential.
They should then bring you closer to formulating a sound vision of what your floor plans and exterior features should look like.
Now before you can put pen to paper, you still need to know how much you will afford.
Which brings us to the next section.
You’ve sure heard the expression “Rome was never built in a day”.
What most people don’t mention is “how much” it cost to build Rome.
It may sound far fetched but fact is, most people overlook the critical role of finances in building a home.
Building costs are forever escalating.
So in order to avoid disappointments, one should carefully look at the cost implications, before, during and after the house is built.
Always remember that the loan amounts you receive from your bank’s loan approval will look a lot more different from the figures you will receive as monthly bills in years to come.
So before you rush into concluding home loan deals, ask yourself the question: Will I afford to repay this loan after paying all my other debts and monthly utility bills?
If your answer to the question above is NO, then find a more affordable figure to work with.
A 20 or 30 year mortgage repayment with fluctuating interest rates will not be kind to you if you stretch your affordability right from the beginning.
Now that you have resolved your finances and you’re certain that you will cope with monthly repayments on your loan amount, it’s time to start putting pen to paper.
Your vision should also be clearer now.
Function should be your next consideration.
Here you will look at your family’s needs and lifestyle.
Remember that you may not be able to cater to every need of each family member. Trade-ins will have to be made.
Needs will also be categorised in order that similar functional spaces are kept together and not isolated.
Here you will look at all your site’s limitations, rights and physical conditions mentioned above, and bring this into effect.
The result of this process should further clarify your vision and make it even more practical.
To Successfully design your own house will be meaningless if the final product doesn’t represent the lifestyle and interests of its inhabitants.
For example, a person who enjoys cooking will want to have a spacious kitchen that provides for all the items and appliances that they will need to prepare their delicious meals.
On the other hand, as a car enthusiast you will want to have a larger garage so you’ll be able to store all your tools and equipment.
It would therefore be wise to ask every member of your family to make a list of their needs, wants and luxuries that they will want featured when you design your own house.
Based on this, the family can now figure out the functions to be prioritized and the ones to be sacrificed.
This will certainly be the most exciting part in the process to design your own house. Here you will form a vision of how the house will actually look like.
Most people will want to make a statement on how the exterior form of their house looks.
To do this one will need to visit as many websites, read as many magazines as possible.
You will want to visit all the upmarket neighborhoods where you can gather pictures of all the exterior features that you like.
Even when you will be appointing an architect, it makes sense to form an image in your head of how the house design should look like.
Having said that, the design form should not only be limited to the exterior looks of the house.
You will also want the visual pattern of the inside to express the lifestyle and character of those who will occupy the house.
Using 3D Design Software
Most people will want their finished home to look the part and to impress visitors to the house.
That is the reason architects use 3D modelling software to design a house. The 3D designs help to communicate the design features and intentions to a client.
Some of these 3D programs are available online for free.
“Home Sweet Home” is not just a saying but a feeling.
Everyone needs that feeling of freedom and privacy when they enter their home.
To achieve this, you will want to consider all the necessary factors that affect privacy of your new home.
A home that has living areas facing a noisy street is undesirable.
You wouldn’t want your swimming pool and entertainment spaces to be facing your neighbor’s entertainment spaces.
Most gated communities contain rules and guidelines that ensure that every home is designed and built in a way that affords a degree of privacy to every house within the community.
Architects are also very critical in how privacy is afforded in the design of a home.
So when you design your own house, even outside a gated complex, you will want to pay special attention to how the privacy of your family is catered for.
For example, you may want all your upper floor bathroom windows to have frosted glazing so as to ensure privacy when you take a shower in your bathroom.
We have all heard how global warming is becoming a real threat to our own existence.
Besides, the cost of electricity is now becoming unsustainable for most working class families.
This makes it imperative for homeowners to find new ways to save electricity.
Most governments around the world are waking up to the global warming reality.
As such, a growing number of municipalities around the world now require some form of energy efficiency measures to be presented when submitting building plans for approval.
As a result, your architect would be well versed with any such regulation and statutes.
Construction Methods & Materials
Building methods and materials vary between countries and provinces all over the world.
Conventional methods of construction have been made routine by centuries of building practices.
These technologies are proven to withstand weather elements, are cheaper and most importantly, there are industries in place, ready to cater to such methods.
When you design your own house special attention must also be given to the kind of skill sets available in your region.
It’s pointless to want to build a log cabin in an area where there are no specialized carpenters who can cut logs.
So it would help to do your research on what common methods, styles and construction skills are available in your region.
Secondly, you will want to ensure that you design your own house to conform to the way in which the house can be built within your budget.