Deciding what you need
Evaluate your obvious housing needs. You need to plan for the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and gathering places you need. For example, if you have a very informal family style, you might want the great room or family room to be the focal point of the house, not a formal parlor. If your family loves to cook and eat, a large eat-in kitchen or a large kitchen with a breakfast bar, might be essential.
Study magazines to get ideas. You can find magazines that feature sample home plans at local building supply stores. You can get great ideas from these sources and they are a good resource to educate you on the typical floor plans for various housing styles, such as Tudor, Victorian or a lodge style home. Although you do not have to adhere to any particular style, houses that can be easily described in real estate listings as a specific type are easier to sell later.
Decide what you need to meet your future needs. For example, if you have children who will be headed to college, you might want to design a bedroom as a self-contained studio apartment appropriate for a young adult to live in and that you can rent to tenants later. Alternatively, you might want to create a bedroom that can be easily converted into office space or a hobby room. If an older parent might move in, a small, ground-floor apartment set-up will be essential.
Plan for any future expansions, especially if your home must be smaller than you want or will need in the future. Create a patio with a good foundation in the area you plan to expand later. This decision will significantly decrease your future costs of expansion.
Basements can provide valuable future space to expand but areas with sandy or porous soil, high water tables or flooding issues can make sealing a basement problematic. If you are not sure, research other houses in the area in real estate listings or check personally to see if neighbors have basement windows in the foundation. If they all have crawlspaces, slab foundations or even raised foundations, your area is probably not conducive to good basements.
Once you have a solid list of what you believe to be "must haves" in your home, you can lay out a floor plan.
Create a draft of your home plan. Use unlined paper and a pencil with a good eraser for your first draft. Do not worry about being messy.
Choose your focal point for your house. Build the rest of the house around it. For a large and friendly family, the focal point will probably be a family room or great room; for an outdoorsy group, the deck attached to the great room might be the focus. The other rooms in the house should be layed out around this center point, either attached directly to this room or to hallways leading out of it.
Lay out the placement of key areas and elements in the house. Place the kitchen so that it is adjacent to all dining areas. Try to keep all bedrooms separated by more than one wall (use closets, bathrooms, and hallways to achieve this effect). You should avoid placing the sole entrance to one room directly across from another room, except for rooms that are off of the central gathering area. Make certain there is window access to every room, unless it is a room that is specifically designed to have no window access (a media room, for example); rooms with no window must have mechanical ventilation of some sort to remain in code for most areas.
Make strategic decisions about the plumbing in the house. For cost reasons, try to keep all of the plumbing close together. For example, try to stack bathrooms on top of one another and set the kitchen and laundry room adjacent to each other so that the plumbing can share a common wall.
Imagine taking a walkthrough of the home, once you have your rough home design. Look for flaws, such as bathrooms that face the end of hallways (you might not want the bathroom to be the viewpoint at the end of the hall), dark narrow hallways or poor flow from room to room. Once you have corrected any flaws in your draft, mark the scale size of each room.
Create your home layout plan using a computer drafting program. Numerous home layout programs are available, from free programs to higher-end, expensive programs. You can often find a suitable home layout program by asking at your local home supply store. Alternately, you can download Google's SketchUp, a free, three-dimensional architectural program, or purchase programs like ConceptDraw or Edraw Soft's Building Plan Software.
No matter which program you choose, take your time when you input your home design draft. The program will correct your scale sizes so you will be able to take the time to review any errors in the sizes you projected. These errors may include rooms that are too small, doors that do not have enough space allotted so that they can be opened or windows that offer an unattractive view. Make sure that the drafting program you choose allows you to do a three-dimensional mock-up of your home so that you can get a really good look at the ideas that you plan to implement.
Print out your house plan. Proof the printed version. If you find any flaws, correct them.
Things You Will Need
- Home design drafting software
- Be patient. Good home design takes time.