Another thing to look for when buying house plans is how complete they are, and how much detail they contain. Unfortunately, this is extremely difficult to determine on most house plan websites, as they all state that their plans are detailed and complete, and all show essentially the same list of “what’s included”. For a detailed description of the many differences between plans when it comes to content, please go to https://architecturalhouseplans.com/whats-included/
An excellent example of this can be seen in elevation drawings. All plans, no matter how simple or complete, have drawings showing the exterior of the house from the front, rear and both sides. However, some may only show the outlines of the house and its roof (including the pitch), along with the locations of the doors and windows. While slightly more detailed drawings will specify materials (generically, not by brand, by the way) – ie “board and batten siding”, without specifying the manufacturer – and heights of things like subfloors and tops of plates. But fully detailed elevation drawings from architects include all of the above, and sometimes considerably more.
This level of variation can also be seen on floor plans, foundation drawings, structural sheets, cross-sections, framing information, and individual detail drawings covering the correct assembly throughout the house.
The bottom line is, the more information you give a builder, the easier it is for him or her to follow the plans and construct the house. This is particularly important when working with previously-drawn plans, because the architect or designer is not there to answer questions the builder might have during construction.
Since that option is not available, it’s important that the plans are detailed enough to not require advice. This is also an illustration of the importance of picking plans that were actually used in the construction of the original house, when any issues encountered were worked out during the process. Almost all “stock” plans were drawn in an office without a client or a piece of property. So they have not even gone through the permit process, much less been through the entire construction process.
But even with the best plans, builders will occasionally run across something that’s not clear, or includes an error that needs to be corrected. Fortunately, it’s the rare architect who would allow his previously-drawn plans to be sold to others without correcting these things first. I know that that’s what all the architects and designers we work with do.
Now there are some builders who are intimidated by highly detailed plans, and others who prefer not to build from them. In both cases, they know how they like to construct houses, and they prefer their experience over following plan instructions. It’s up to you to determine what type of builder you’d like to work with.
I’ve learned over time in this business that, in general, architects and builders do not have great respect for one another. Here’s a classic scenario: the architect visits the site during construction, and upon seeing how something was built he slaps his forehead and thinks “I spent 8 hours designing that corner of the house, showing exactly how it was to be constructed, and he just went ahead and built it the way he’s used to!” But builders often think to themselves during the construction process: “has this guy ever actually built anything?”
This is really unfortunate, because collaboration makes the entire process easier for all involved. In my opinion, it’s always better to give someone too much information than too little. In the former, the excess can be ignored; but in the latter you end up searching for answers.