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Phases of Construction - Design Phase

Design Phase – This phase of your home build will take place prior to actually closing on your property. During this phase you need your construction loan pre-approved, a lot contracted on and an architect ready to draw up your plans. The architectural plans are required by the bank in order to get final approval and to close on your loan.

You will discover many things about your property during this phase as you will be required to get soil samples and a survey. Soil samples are important as the results determine the grading and foundation restrictions. If your home is being built on piers, the soil report determines the depth of the piers. The survey will disclose your setbacks and easements. All of this information is needed by the architect when he draws up your plans.

Designing your home can be a very fun and complex process. There are few things to keep in mind when you do this.

First, your architect bills by the hour, so you want to make sure you limit your changes and revisions to keep your costs down. Try to know what you want. Truth be told, sometimes it’s hard to know if something works until you actually have it drawn. Then, once drawn, it might not look like you initially planned. In addition, remember your architect is an artist with his/her own creative ideas. If you want a contemporary home designed, don’t hire an architect that does traditional design. You’ll spend a fortune in revisions and you and your architect will grow to hate one another. I wanted my architect’s signature features in my home, that was something that was very important to me. In other words, I wanted people to immediately recognize the architect when they saw my house.

Secondly, a change isn’t always just a simple movement of a sink or a toilet. When the architect draws the plans, he is also considering the placement of electric and plumbing under floors and behind walls. He also has code issues to consider. Pocket doors, for example, impact the placement of electric switches and plumbing since the doors slide between the walls where those items are placed. I had a very tight space where my guest bath and utility room were and wanted all the swinging doors removed and pocket doors put in their place. This request created a challenge and some hours of work for my architect as he had to move switches and plumbing. If you move a sink, more than likely a light fixture gets moved, too. In sum, an architectural design isn’t just a drawing of a house and floor plans. It’s also the guts and mechanics of the house; and they are all interconnected.

Remember, once your designs are approved for permitting, the time for revision is over. (Ask your bank if you can close without a permit. This will at least allow you to add revisions to your design post closing if needed) Keep in mind, while building the house you can make some revisions without creating permitting issues. I moved a sink and a toilet and I changed the size of a powder room. As long as we followed code with regard to the placement of the sink and toilet we were ok. The inspectors didn’t look at the blue prints to make sure each item was where it was supposed to be in the plans. My G.C. did change the placement of a window in my guest bathroom and it changed the code for the window; that change did impact me and I had to get a different type of glass installed before being able to pass final inspection. Make sure that any revisions made during construction are completely addressed by you and your contractor and that you have made sure you meet all code requirements.

One more thing to keep in mind during the design phase – do not begin doing ANY prep work on the lot that you are purchasing. Do not begin excavating, clean up, etc. You have to wait until you close first. Your bank will ask you to sign an affidavit stating you have not done any work on the lot.

Once you’re passed the design phase and have closed on your house, it’s time to move to Site Prep.

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