Ever bought house plans online?

Old 07-23-03, 05:46 PM
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Question Ever bought house plans online?

We are looking at several online house plans currently...
Today I spoke with a gentleman that will be developing the site and major water requirements - well and septic system - the property is in the country....
He made mention that we should be careful of online house plans because he has seen them first hand and was involved in several house builds which had used them. His opinion was that these online plans can be very vague and in one case the plumbing layout didn't work out with the framing later on...

So now we are a little stumped.

Anyone else bought plans online? Did they work for you and/or your contractors?

If you have any comments; good or bad; I would like to hear them.

Thank you
Old 07-24-03, 12:30 AM
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As with most activities, you will find people loving and other people hating. Also, you will find several prices, qualities, etc.

Of course, I think that the best design solution is a custom plan. However, online plans are a valid option in my opinion. If you find a stock house plan meeting your expectations, for a low price, why not?

You just need to check what you are buying:
- Some sites will customize the plan, other sites will not, so check this point if you are thinking about changes
- Check if the plan you choose will meet your local building codes.
- Check if the site and professionals have experience and proficiency.

Just as example, some weeks ago, I went to a local hardware store, and I saw a brochure with several deck designs. The design was great, the plans were perfect!...for Florida, because they didn't consider the snow load. In Ontario, this is an element you can't forget.

So, I guess is a good option, just check exactly what are you buying

Good luck!!
Old 07-24-03, 05:44 AM
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Patricia is absolutely correct! What you buy online is a gamble when it comes to pre-made plan packages. Custom plans, specifically designed for the location and what you need is always the best. The cost for this is irrelevant compared to what you get or shall I say, not get, from online pre-made plans. Bear in mind that not all pre-made plans are done poorly. I have seen some that would be workable in any area of the country. The cost however is higher but you are getting what you pay for.

The most important issue is the one on one interaction with your architect. The key is communication and the investment you will be making is the most important decision you will make. Most firms that provide plans online don't visit your site, don't provide the services that you would get from a firm that specifically did your plans. The rule of thumb is "You get what you pay for". If the price is low, what you may receive is nothing but it may have looked good on paper! Depending on where you live pre-made plans can be a real bargain but not always a problem free venture

I also live up North, regardless, a couple of acquaintances purchased plans that looked really good. When they received them, the plans did not meet code and the plans had to be redrawn. They even tried calling them to redrawn them. The cost to do this was outrageous and getting advice was worse than pulling teeth. They only said that the plans should be looked at by an architect! This added expense to the project before it ever got off the ground. An architect had to redraw to meet local codes and structural issues were not addressed properly in the plans. Without the expert advice of the architect, the project was a total loss.

I had a chance to look at the plans and at the bottom was a notice that said

1. "These may not be applicable to your local building codes"

2. "No Refunds are given"

When looking at online home, deck, etc. plans, look carefully at what is and is not included. This will save you from making mistakes that cannot be corrected easily. When something says "may not" in it, don't even consider purchasing them.

Good Luck!
Old 07-24-03, 06:59 PM
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It is ok to look at plans on line, but I would not buy a set. The above have given you very valid reasons why not to buy, and they are very correct. There however is one more reason not mentioned above which may in the end be one of the most important. It is the number of house plans you need. This depends on your financing. The minimum will be 5 sets, the max could range up to 10 sets. I guarantee your online purchase will not take care of all of these. And if you think you can buy an online set and have them reproduced, the ansere is probably not.
In most states all copies must have either an arch stamp or engineers stamp. That stamp must be from the state you are building your house in. Good Luck
Old 07-24-03, 11:33 PM
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Some sites sell the plans with the Autocad files, so you can print all the copies you need.

Old 07-25-03, 10:49 AM
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I have to disagree with the builder/septic guy. Often, builders don't like a "good" set of drawings, because it's a contract that they have to adhere to. They don't have any wiggle room to cut corners. Lots of times builders will bring clients to us, but talk them into doing what we call a "builder's set" of basic drawings, because a) it's cheaper for the client, which means more $ can be spent on the house, and b) there is less detail that the builder can be held to. I don't know your budget or desires, but speaking as an architect, I've seen some bought sets that were brought in by clients, and those sets are often top-notch, highly detailed, well thought out sets, purchased for $2,000 or less. In fact, my boss once made a copy of one of those sets and said "I want NOTHING sent out of this office that has less detail than this." So , for the money, you're definitely going to get more bang for your buck from a complete set bought online or out of a book. So many times, a client will come in with an 8.5x11 plan out of a book and say "Well, we like this plan, but we want to change this one little thing.....that shouldn't cost much, should it?" and they think that we can *POOF* make the changes magically appear, and that it shouldn't take any time because we didn't have to really design anything. Well, there is drafting time involved in drawing the plan and making the changes, then detailing the whole thing. Then the client screams when they get a big bill! They would have been better off buying the set to begin with! It's a headache for them because of the cost, and a headache for us, because we don't LIKE messing with other people's work. So, unless you are willing to shell out some money for a truly custom set, I would argue that you SHOULD consider online/published plan sets. You can buy vellum sets that are reproducible, plus you can make minor changes on them before reproduction. Keep in mind that if you change the floor plan, you need to change the electrical and possibly the foundation plan as well. As an architect, I see no reason not to do this if you're trying to spend as little as possible, and you don't care about being a true custom house. Just stick with a reputable publisher like Home Planners, etc. usually they provide a list of what comes in a set before you purchase.

I would like to also say, I agree totally with Doug A. You get what you pay for and nothing is better than a truly custom set, designed for your site, with the interaction of an architect. You can make it EXACTLY what you want. You're paying them for experience, knowledge, and taste, and that's what you should get. Just leave your preconceived notions at the door and don't be afraid to TRUST them. So unless budget simply won't allow it, that's the route you should really go.
Old 07-26-03, 03:45 PM
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Good input form all. Thanks, guys.
Old 07-28-03, 09:19 AM
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Ditto folks!

I appreciate the input. We've been busy here determining the costs involved for this project, so my appologies for the delay in reply.

This project is a fairly large one that includes:
- well
- septic
- foundations - slab
- 40 x 60 shop
- 20 x 21 garage
- 40 x 60, 2-story house.

The big kicker is we are going to do this ourselves except for the well drilling part. I'm alotting the remainder of the year for the shop and garage portion (we will live above the garage after it is completed as the design provides for an "in-law" apartment there) and then begin construction of the house which I'm alotting another year for.

I'm familiar with simple house construction, having had my share of new-build and major reconstructive surgery - all in the north US or Canada. All prior construction was done using stick-build and this time I'm thinking of trying metal 2x4s so that would be a departure from my comfort zone but something I believe to be useful in a region where termites can be an issue as this time the property is in the south, so there are some differences in what is acceptable... still hard to get used to the idea that a footer can be less than 4 feet....
Fortunately, I have access to the heavy equipment needed for the site development and already have the tooling for construction. Also good is the knowledge we have two very strong boys (ok, their adults now, but you know) so my old back doesn't have to do it all

Anyway. I'm already a fan of this site! Kudo's to the webmaster and everyone that contributes to make it work so well !

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