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House Build Diary 2 - Preparing and Planning




Before starting a build you need to do your research and learn about building. There are Youtube videos to watch and websites to read and take notes. Usually, people consider working with an architect to create their custom house plans. Architects change from $80 per hour to $200 or more depending on location. Some will offer to take a percentage of the build like 10% for the architect fees. 10% of an $800,000 build is $80,000 dollars. I would not choose an architect who works in percentages.


For our first build in TN, we drew up all the floor plans and elevations on graph paper. Then we contacted a school that taught drafting and found a student from the school who was interested in making some money by creating house plans from our graph paper plans. We met with him several times as he progressed. We changed several things back and forth until we agreed on the final version of the plans. Stair placement was one of the difficult parts. Wasting the least space and getting proper head clearance for stairway openings can be tricky. Once we had completed the plans we hired a general contractor who ran the plans past an engineer for approval. For about $3,000 we had house plans that were approved by an engineer.


The key to controlling architectural costs is having the plans as complete as possible before submitting them to an architect for drawing. Also if you study how to control construction costs you will find that straight lines and square corners are cheaper than curving walls and odd shapes. In our TN house, we knew we wanted tile roofing and saltillo tile floors on the first and second floors. This means the wood structure needed to be bigger and stronger than normal and so we used 2 x 6 studs in the walls and some heavy-duty trusses in the roof to carry the weight. At the time we could have used 2 x 4 studs in the walls to meet the code but now I believe the building code now requires 2 x 6 exterior walls in order to achieve the required amount of insulation.


In our MD house, we drew up the graph paper plans and worked with an actual architect. At $80 per hour, the total cost was $19,255. We started these plans almost two years before we started the build and slowly paid out of pocket for them. The code used in Montgomery county MD at this time was International Building Code 2018 (IBC).


In both builds, we wanted to do a knockdown and a new build. The other option would have been to purchase some land and build on empty land. We started down that road and purchased 16 acres of land in Florida. If city water and sewer are not available you will need to install a well and a septic tank. Wells can be tricky if you have to drill deep or if there is rock. It can get expensive. We had the perc tests performed on the property which lets you know if your soil will work correctly with a septic tank. You also will want electricity and Internet connections for which you may be charged additional fees for any distance they have to run new lines. Also, it is hard to value a house that is out away from town with few neighbors. You get much more consistent pricing with a house in an existing neighborhood. We did not proceed with the Florida house.


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