How To Choose A House Plan – Part 3 of 10

Almost every house plan site offers to change their stock drawings to suit your specific requirements. That’s a valuable service – but be careful, some seemingly small changes can be expensive to make, and even more expensive to build.

One Change – Lots Of Drawings

There was a time when changes to house plans were done in the field with no documentation at all. If you wanted to make the house a little bigger, you only needed tell your contractor – and you didn’t have a plans examiner and a building inspector looking over your shoulder.

But as we’ll learn in Chapter #4 “A Set Of House Plans Isn’t Enough“, building codes across the country are getting tougher and plans examiners are looking at house plans more closely. When a change is made to a set of drawings, that change must be as well documented as the original plans, regardless of the size or complexity of the change. Sometimes that’s not a big deal but sometimes it requires quite a few changes to the set of drawings and expensive changes to the house itself.

Consider for example, a theoretical two-foot extension of a family room at the back of a two-story house with a basement. If you’re working with a typically complete set of plans, your two-foot extension will require a change to all of the following drawings in order to be accepted by your local building department:

Foundation plan

First floor plan

Second floor plan

Roof plan

Left side elevation

Right side elevation

Rear elevation

Main building section

Those are just the “architectural” drawings – you’ll also need to have structural changes made, which may require review by a Registered Architect or Professional Engineer. And in areas that require compliance with energy codes, those calculations will have to be redone.

Don’t let this scare you away from considering altering your design – just be sure you get a firm quote on all of the work needed to get your drawings completely ready to submit for permits. Or better yet, find a plan that doesn’t need these changes.

Some plan services have popular “pre-designed” additions and alterations with all of the necessary drawings already completed. If one of those designs meets your needs, that’s a much more efficient and cost effective way to go.

Consider The Impact On The Rest Of The House

If you find that the change you want to make isn’t offered as a pre-design, you may want to have a custom alteration made. But don’t get caught up in major changes – the trick is to avoid doing so much modification that you’d have been better off choosing another plan, or designing a custom home from scratch.

Every day, my staff counsels homeowners who have gotten their home design almost done – and then added just one more room. Too often we find that final room (frequently a screened porch) is difficult or impossible to blend seamlessly into the design.

If they don’t consider the entire design from day one, they risk “cobbing up” a perfectly good home plan.

The same concept applies to pre-designed house plans. Don’t buy one that has almost everything you want and assume that your other rooms can be easily added. That one more room could mess up everything you fell in love with about the house plan in the first place.

Adding rooms to a completed plan can sometimes start a chain reaction of changes – the new room blocks a bedroom window; the window can’t be moved without moving a wall; the moved wall makes the bath too small…etc.

Instead, take advantage of the “study plans” that most services offer. Buy a study set of the plan that’s closest to what you want, and have the plan service or your design professional evaluate it for the feasibility of the change you want. Study sets aren’t cheap, but they’re a lot cheaper than having to rework an entire plan.

Architects Can’t Stamp Plans

It’s written somewhere on every plan service website: “You may need to have your house plans reviewed and stamped by a local engineer or architect.”

Unfortunately, that’s against the law in many jurisdictions – for Architects. By statute, Architects must prepare or supervise the preparation of architectural drawings before they can affix their seal or stamp to them. To do otherwise is called “plan stamping” and is a practice than can cost an Architect his license.

It’s a bit of a catch-22; you have permission from the plan’s author to alter the plans, but not from your state’s Architect licensing board.

An Architect can – in some instances – stamp a set of plans he didn’t prepare if he’s made significant alterations to them. What’s considered “significant”? That’s for your Architect and his State Board to decide. If you’re making lot of changes to the plans, you’re probably in the clear, although there’s no accepted legal threshold for what are “significant” changes. But what if the design you’ve found is OK as is, and you simply need to get it ready to submit for permits?

Ironically, a “non-architect” – a residential designer, drafter, or structural engineer – might be a better choice in this situation. As an Architect myself that’s tough to say, but the law is the law!

For structural review the answer is easy – find and hire a local structural engineer to review the plans, size the structural members, and place his stamp on the set. An experienced structural engineer might catch a few “non-structural” code issues along the way, too.

For non-structural issues you may be able to have an Architect provide a sheet of standard notes that you can attach to the drawings – without the need to stamp the drawings. You may also be able to get this information from your builder, or from a residential designer or drafter.

But then again all this might be moot – since very few jurisdictions in the country require an Architect’s stamp on single-family home construction drawings!

So check with your building department first – but don’t assume an Architect can always “stamp” your pre-designed plans.

Minimum Code Compliance

Plan services sell plans that conform to the code that was in effect in the location the house was built, and at the time the house was built.

In the United States, local building codes are based on one of four current “model” codes. Each of those codes share similarities, but each has its differences, too. Each code goes through periodic revision, so they’re constantly changing.

It’s very likely that the house plan you buy will need some changes to bring it “up to code”.

More importantly, however is the idea that the plan you buy will at best be only minimally compliant with the building code. That will get your plan past most building departments but will leave quite a bit of the specifications and details of the house undecided.

That’s the case with most single-family construction drawings, even the ones you get from an Architect. It’s your job to work with your builder and maybe your interior designer to address all the details you need to build out the interior and exterior finishes.

Check your plan service’s list of drawings – some services include more detail than others. The plans are a good start, but you might still have a lot of work yet to do!

How to Stay Away From Lousy Commercial Cleaning Service Providers

The business building is the face of every company. It establishes the customers’ first impression, which is why your business must take cleanliness and maintenance seriously. Fortunately, commercial cleaning service providers are there to take care of your cleaning needs, so you can focus on what actually matters most – your business.

Below are the things that should be examined when looking for a commercial cleaner to ensure satisfactory service.

They should present a cleaning service checklist.

To keep away from lousy contractors, make sure to ask for their checklist. The cleaning service checklist contains the various tasks performed for each cleaning. This serves as a work order that shall be signed by your management in order for the cleaning contractor to submit billing. The checklist helps ensure that you only pay for the cleaning services that have been rendered and have met your satisfaction.

They should utilize high-quality cleaning equipment and products.

Lousy cleaning contractors are more concerned about gaining profit rather than delivering topnotch services. For that reason, they tend to make use of low-priced products and equipment to furnish their cleaning tasks. In some instances, these commercial cleaners utilize the wrong products or equipment. This could potentially cause irreversible damage or unsightly stains to your office building. To steer clear from inexperienced cleaners, choose only the reputable company that will take the time to visit your office, determine what needs to be done and guide you in creating a program to maintain the cleanliness of the facility.

They should have insurance coverage.

Do they have liability insurance that is enough to cover a possible liability claim as a result of the cleaning process? Do they take care of their employee’s compensation insurance? These are just two of the questions you need to ask to determine the contractor’s insurance status. To be sure, you may ask for a copy of their insurance policy or insurance certificate. Any company that refuses to provide you with the copy signals a red flag. You should know that every trustworthy commercial cleaning service provider will gladly present any proof of insurance to its clients.

They should have a clear pricing structure.

The cleaning services being offered vary from one client to another. It is therefore important for the contractor to provide a clear pricing structure depending on your company’s cleaning needs. You may ask them for a quotation of their rates not only for the cleaning services you will avail on a regular basis but also for incidental services that may arise for the duration of your contract with them. Credible commercial cleaners understand financial preparation will happily provide you with clarity in terms of budget.

They should have fair policies.

Finally, you should be aware of their policies when it comes to payment options, payment terms, cancellation, and guarantee. Bear in mind that the best companies are those who live by policies that are fair to all the sides involved.

Selecting a commercial cleaning service contractor does not need to be a difficult task. Simply use the details in this post to help you out in making an educated choice.

Tips For Finding Green Housing

Every day in the news we hear something about the environment. It might be scientists discussing climate change, or an animal care expert discussing habitat loss. Sometimes it’s something as simple as people wanting to know what they can do. When you’re looking for a home, you might have thought about buying a green house. Here are some tips to consider to help you find a green house.

One of the main things to consider is where the house is located. Part of being green is cutting back on your carbon footprint. Is your house close to shopping, schools, and work? If not, you’re spending a lot on fossil fuels getting to where you need to be.

You also should plan for a home that takes advantage of natural light where possible, so you can keep your electricity bill down. A green home will have landscaping that blots out the hot summer sun. The plants then lose their leaves in the winter to let in the winter light.

You should also find a home that has the ability to create cross-drafts to be able to take advantage of the cool night air. Few things are more refreshing after a hot day than that lovely evening breeze.

Choose a smaller home when you can. You’ll save resources since there is not as much material to go into construction. Plus, you’ll not have to heat as much in the winter or cool as much in the summer. This also means you should consider the floor plan. Does a two-story make sense, or should you go with a one-story ranch instead?

One of the current trends is the micro-home. These tiny houses are often smaller than most apartments, but they are still fully featured. Talk about cost savings! Many furniture makers are now crafting multi-purpose creations to go into these micro-homes, too.

You should also consider the types of construction materials used, like how solid the insulation is. The batting type of insulation with a high R rating is your best bet. Windows that are double pane are less likely to overheat a house in summer. Take a look for any deals on solar panels, and if your energy company gives rebates. Some customers can even sell excess energy back to the power company. Check around doors and windows for any leaks or drafts, too.

Should you decide to do any upgrades on the house, be sure to look for a green contractor. Explain that you would love to see as many materials recycled as possible. Your contractor can also help find natural wood instead of particleboard cabinets. He or she can also be creative in repurposing materials like countertops.

If you have the ability to find a green real estate agent, this person is more likely to be familiar with the home features you want. He or she will know the green builders and be able to guide you to a good green home.

You might think a green home is trendy, and won’t have any resale value down the road. In actuality, as more and more people become aware of the need to be green, they’ll only become more popular.

Pros And Cons Of Building A Rambler

You have many styles of homes to choose from when building your own home. One of the most famous styles is the rambler. A rambler home is all on one floor. This style became very popular after world war two when the soldiers were returning home and housing became more affordable. The ranch home has been around for years, but it is still very useful and will remain for years to come.

The ranch style home has many advantages and several disadvantages. You will want to understand these before you decide to build a ranch style home.

The ranch house takes up more of the lot space than a two story home for the same size home. This means that you will have less yard. Many people find this to be a disadvantage while others actually consider it an advantage. It depends on how you look at a reduced yard size. If you don’t like yard work and playing outside, then a smaller yard is an advantage. If you do like working outdoors, then it may be seen as a disadvantage. Most neighborhoods come with parks and schools close by so a sizeable yard is not needed for recreation purposes.

Another advantage of a rambler is the lack of stairs. You may not consider that an advantage now, but what if your ailing mother came to stay with you or you had a new baby. These people have trouble with stairs and it may be to your advantage to have all of the room on the same floor.

Also, a ramble is normally a rectangular or L-shape. This means most places are in close proximity. Getting around quickly is much easier in a rambler. If you want to stay away from the children for a few hours, you may consider this a disadvantage.

Another advantage of the rambler style home is that the rooms tend to be bigger and the floor plan is very airy. With the kitchen, dining room, family room and bonus room all on the same floor it can create larger rooms that join into other rooms. Some people enjoy this type of floor plan because it is easier to get more people into the house for parties and entertaining.

The rambler also is cheaper to build in some circumstances. As you add floors to a building you also increase the complexity and design problems. The basic rambler is very simple in design and so special materials and engineering is not needed. This allows the home to be built faster and cheaper.

This also means that maintenance is cheaper. If you have tried to wash the outside window on the second floor you will understand. Hanging siding is cheaper on a rambler and most other maintenance activities. You won’t have to own a super tall ladder for hanging Christmas lights if you only live in a one story rambler home.

Heating and cooling costs tend to be cheaper compared to other homes. You can insulate the entire roof and the air is kept on one floor. Two story homes often have multiple units to service the different floors. Heat will rise and you will have to be constantly trying to cool the upper floors or heat the bottom floor. Maintaining a single insulated floor is much easier and cheaper.

In summary, many people consider the rambler to be boring in design. Others think that it doesn’t look as nice as other homes. You will have to decide what fits you and your needs best. The rambler can have cost benefits and detractors. However, it has been very useful for years and will continue to be used for years to come.