It’s been a while since I’ve done an update on our new home! Just to catch you up we found the lot August 2022 and put in a lot reservation! The lots were supposed to be done (improved with utilities) for us to start digging in the Spring of 2023. But here we are entering the fall of 2023 and we are hopefully just weeks away from being able to dig.
So you may be thinking that I’ve been sitting and waiting for the lot to be ready to start planning the house but that is so far from the truth I have done so much planning on the inside and outside of the home so let’s dive in.
Other posts you might like:
- Let the plans begin – the story of how we found our lot
- Home Building FAQ – difference between custom, semi custom, and track homes. Being your own contractor hiring a builder
My architect informed me that the average homeowner will take anywhere from 3 to 6 months to complete a set of plans with anywhere from 5 to 40 revisions! I was able to get my completely finished plans with only 12 revisions, in 4 months, and the majority of our meetings were back-and-forth Zoom calls and emails where I would changed circle areas that I wanted to change, and then zoom calls to clarify what made sense structurally and functionally as well as fits in the budget.
Crazy enough this whole process of designing a custom home, working with an architect if your architect isn’t in house with your builder is you don’t actually know how much your house is going to cost to be built. Our builder was able to give us a rough estimate of price per square foot based on his previous homes, but there are lots of factors that contribute to increasing the cost of your home that you may not think about. I frequently consulted my builder on if this change was a good change to get in budget, but ultimately we didn’t know until the blueprints were finished and bid.
Revision after Revision
My first set of plans had for a two-story house with a full basement and as we were designing the house, I was unable to decrease the footprint of the second-story to make the house smaller without also decreasing my main floor is overall square footage, so as a compromise we opted to change it from a true two-story house to a rambler with a finished attic, which means that the bedrooms are created within the attic trusses, which also allows for really unique ceiling lines in the bedrooms.
The first mock up with the architect had my home over 1500 ft.² too big! My architect said, let’s put EVERYTHING you want in the house, and then slowly we will take away. We were able to scale this down significantly by getting rid of the two-story design and doing the rambler with a finished attic. What I compromised on was in the process I ended up with a smaller playroom, and I lost one bedroom and one bathroom on the second story, but overall I’m saving a ton of money by decreasing the square footage, losing a bathroom and losing one bedroom.
During this time I was scouring Instagram and Pinterest and bookmarking anything and everything that I liked! If you aren’t familiar with design, this would be a great time to hire an interior designer to help make these structural decisions with you.
The revisions from number 3 until number 8 were very minimal repositioning windows, adding a little bit of square footage here or there readjusting the configuration of a room or a bathroom and make sure everything was the size I wanted it to be. My architect kept telling me time and time again this is the phase that you should take the most time on because its easy to move a wall on paper, but once you are framed, it’s a lot more difficult to make these changes.
One thing that helped was taking a tape measurer to my own house and to my friends home.
Example: my current kitchen island is 4×10′ so I knew I wanted an island a little bigger and wider but without a seam so I picked a 5’x11′ island.
I measured each and every bedroom in my existing house and compared it to the floorplans to make sure each room was sized appropriately.
Once we had the main floor and the second story layouts the way that I wanted it with then spent the last couple of meetings discussing the layout of the basement and what would work for our family here in Utah we have the same square footage as your main floor is also the square footage in your basement and with the slope of the lot that we are building on where we are able to do a true daylight walkout basement, which means even though part of it is under the ground it will have windows and doors that lead to the outside so from the back of the house the home looks like a two-story home, from the side a 3 story home, but from the front of the home the home looks like a one story home. Wild but so cool right?
After we had the entire interior layout the way that I wanted we then started working on the exterior renderings, and as part of the package that my architect provided, I was able to get 3D in color renderings of the exterior so I could really visualize what it would look like, and then black and white renderings of the main spaces of the interior.
We had a final meeting where we went through and determined what different surfaces would be on the exterior and interior and what I mean by that is what wall will be brick, what wall will be stone, and what wall will be stucco. What color it will be with the windows have grid will they not. Then on the inside, which floors will be tile, carpet, etc.
The more accurate that you were able to get your building plans with the architect, the more accurate that your builder can bid out your plans
Engineer the Blue Prints
Once we signed off everything with our architect, the architect brought the plans to the engineer. The engineer is able to take the architect’s plans, and create a full set of blueprints. This was a scary step for me because once we signed off on everything with the architect, it meant that any additional changes to the layout of the home I would have to pay per hour for the architect to make those changes. Whereas before the engineer phase I had unlimited edits.
The engineer took about three weeks to complete the finished blueprints and then was able to print off these blue prints online this is the site that I found was the least expensive, and then delivered those blueprints to my builder for him to bid out the house.
Bidding out the Blueprints
He took the blueprints, some in the digital form, and some of the physical form to each of his subs. This process took 2 months for each specialty to bid out the job, and the builder to spreadsheet all the costs into a complete bid. We did fluff up some of the numbers just in case when we go to purchase materials end up costing more than expected. Every builder will do this process differently, and some builders will just give you estimates and not the actual bid prices. I would be mindful to work with a builder who is transparent on all costs, which means that they share their spreadsheets with you they show you the bids from each of their contractors and they also show you what money is being withdrawn from your construction loan.
I believe that this honesty & transparency between contractor and home owner is rare, but should be the gold standard.
After spending over 9 months planning and stressing about if the changes I made were making a difference to the total cost of the house, we got out bid back! It was, a little high, but not so high that I need to go back to the drawing board and make changes with the Architect which is a huge relief.
During the three months that the engineer was creating the blueprints, and the builder was bidding out the plans, and I started planning the actual layout and cabinetry of my kitchen!
Most builders will have a cabinet company or cabinetmaker that they choose to work with, but if you are like me, and want to help add in some sweat equity and decrease on costs, you can check out RTA cabinet companies. RTA stand for ready to assemble and these are cabinets that get delivered to you unassembled, and then you build each of the cabinet boxes and build each of the drawer boxes and attach the doors.
The cabinet company that I am choosing for my kitchen specifically is Cabinet Joint and the reason that I picked Cabinet Joint is because they had by far the widest selection of cabinetry options in terms of box sizes, doors styles, wood species, stain colors, and trims. They can even paint the cabinets any Sherwin-Williams paint color, which basically means that you have millions of options when it comes to designing your kitchen. In other spaces of my home I plan to build cabinet boxes from scratch (ie: mudroom, pantry, workshop), but my kitchen I wanted 100% finished when we move in.
I first started with their basic mock up, which included a 3D rendering of the kitchen, and then I upgraded to the ProDesign, which allowed me to have a one-on-one consultation with an expert kitchen designer, where we were able to get into the nitty-gritty in terms of layout function, cabinet box, sizes, crown, molding, filler panels.
She then they created a colored 3D rendering of the kitchen. I’ve ordered their sample kits that include all of their different stains and even some sample doors so that I could really see what the stain would look like on a full-size door.
In order to complete this process you have to have your specific appliances picked out because those appliances have to fit within the dimensions of your kitchen and at the same time that you’re picking your cabinetry, you also need to be picking your floors to make sure that the two coordinate together.
Cabinet Joint’s cabinets have a 1 to 3 month production time and then an additional 1 to 2 weeks to be shipped and arrive at your house.
Like I mentioned in order to plan out your kitchen, you have to have your specific appliances selected. If you’re working with your builder on this they will have a show rooms and kitchen specialists where you can go and see the appliances up close and personal and then you can give the SKUs of the appliances to your cabinet company and they can ensure that each of the spaces is large enough for your appliances. Not to mention that post 2020, all appliances have been on backorder and many home owners who are ordering their appliances early in this process still don’t have their fridges or ranges a whole 12-18 months later. So if you can pick your appliances as early as possible.
During the architect phase, I went through each room and decided which windows would be fix windows, and which windows would open, as well as the size of each window.
Once you’re in the construction phase, you can still make changes, but for engineering the plans they need to know window placement and size.
But during this time I was able to send my blueprints over to several window companies to generate bids. Once I selected the window company, we had a one on one with meeting where we went through each room, the bid, and verified that this is the correct window for that space including the color of the window, if the window opened, if the window had grids and any other features.
Taking the perspective of a DIYer who plans on doing a lot of the work in my house myself later on, there are a few things that I am not willing to negotiate on in terms of building my custom dream house. The first one is windows! If there’s any place to splurge, it’s on windows and making sure that you have large enough windows and enough windows in your home to provide adequate light and aesthetically pleasing exterior! Areas inside your home (yes even your kitchens and bathrooms), are easy to demo and upgrade down the road. Windows, not so much.
Preliminary Landscape Design
If you’ve been following along in Instagram Stories then you are very familiar with the fact that I (Christine) am the decision maker of all interior things, and my husband (Lance) is the backyard mastermind! So of course as we are planning out the architecture and home Lance’s head is also spinning with the layout and ideas for the backyard! We have BIG BIG plans for the backyard. You can see how we planned our current home’s backyard here.
We have contacted a few landscape architects to help us map things out and the plan is once the hole is dug and foundation is poured and backfilled we will meet on site and start the planning phase for the yard. Lance’s big dreams of a moat, bridge, waterfall, basketball court, and pool oasis might have to be reigned in a bit, but for the next few weeks he can dream all the big dreams!
Now that we have our bid finalized we signed contracts and submitted for building permits with the city.
- Get Building Permits back
- Finalize Construction Loan
- Improvements done on the lot (utilities, curb and gutter)
- Start Digging
- Flooring, Tile, Bathroom Fixtures, Architectural details all need to be planned and picked out.