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Drawing your own plans - who's done it?


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By Tom in Yosemite, CA on 12/5/2004


Have any of you drawn your own plans? I have a copy of ArchiCAD on order.

Anyone done it, especially with ArchiCAD?

How hard was it? Any pointers to get me started (I don't even have the software yet, but it should come tomorrow or the day after).


BTW, if you are in academia (student, faculty, researcher) you can get the academic version for under $100. Similar pricing on AutoCAD.

Your plans will be stamped "Student" or something, but it's a cheap way to find out whether or not you're up to the task. I figure if I need too, I can upgrade to the real version. I don't expect having "student" stamped on the plans will endear you to the building department.

Tom

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By John in Erie, CO on 12/6/2004


If I had it to do over again, I WOULD HAVE DRAWN MY OWN PLANS.

I have a strong AutoCAD background, but didn't know much about the building industry. Also, I had the (wrong) impression of the building department being mean ogres. (They are not).

I hired a construction consultant (kinda like UBuildIt or Owner Builder Network or whatnot, except I paid only a flat per finished sf fee. No mandatory products or suppliers, nothing to do with my bank, etc.) He told me early in the process that he could give me examples of the kind of details that the building department wanted, and that I should do the plans myself. I chickened out, but wish I had done it.

My draftsperson/designer was fine, but I already had the rough design done and in the computer. It took her months to get little changes done, and that wasted a lot of time.

My college buddy is drawing his own (he's a super AutoCAD jock) and his experience has been much better - He's been in control. He was able to hire the draftsperson at the engineering/soils firm he used to act as a consultant. Overall, he probably got his plans done for $2,000.

Now, $2,000 you say, that's expensive! Well, not really. It would cost a minimum $2,000 or so to get any plan you buy on the Internet approved to build here - and a stamp from a company in some other state will NOT do it. All the homes here require engineered foundations, which are specific to the soil, lot, and topography. In my buddy's case, ~$1,500 was foundation/structural engineering, and the remainder was costs to print lots of copies and pay the draftsperson for consulting. In my case, I paid $3K to the draftsperson, and then another $2,500 in engineering. I blew it there! Should have done them myself.

My hindsight is so good now because I've been fine-tuning the plans as I build (for instance, I nudged a wall 1" to make the ICF layout better, so I updated my plans, so new copies exactly match the house as built). Doing all these changes, I realized I could have easily drawn them up front.

Hope this helps.

John

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By Tom in Yosemite, CA on 12/6/2004


I'm not an AutoCAD jock to say the least. I can do some okay stuff on Photoshop, but that's about it.

I'll putz around though. I'm not really worried so much about the drawing part, as coming up with good design. Things a pro would see immediately, but that I wouldn't.

My plan was to draw it and then run it by a pro.

BTW, engineering here runs $2-$2.50/sf of built space (so including garages, etc.), so no, $2,000 does not sound expensive.

I was thinking not so much of the difference between drawing it yourself and having a draftsman draw it, as the difference between drawing it yourself and having an architect draw it.

Tom

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By Jeff in Henderson, NV on 12/6/2004


As you saw in another thread, I have drawn my own plans using Chief Architect. I am not familiar with ArchiCAD as the only other program I tried was "Smartdraw" which was very inadequate. How much is ArchiCAD?

One thing you need to check out first thing is, will your building department accept "owner-drawn" plans. My building department will accept owner-drawn architectural plans and electrical plans, but not structural plans, plumbing, or mechanical plans. Also, I don't know what kind of house you're building, but depending on how simple it is, you may be able to omit the structural engineering requirements. If you meet the "prescriptive design", which basically states you need to design your house to have braced wall lines that contain braced wall panels. If you design it to the prescriptive standard, you can omit structural engineering in my jurisdiction. The IRC has a whole section on "braced wall" requirements. My guess is that due to the earthquake requirements in California, you will probably need an engineer anyway though.

I was pretty intimidated by the whole process of drawing your own plans at first, but I ended up doing it mainly because I got on board with UBuildIt and they would review my plans for me. In reality, they did review my plans and basically said everything looks good. They didn't suggest any changes were necessary. I basically looked at every set of plans I could find to see what I had to "pull off". Some things that come to mind are:

1) Type X fire-resistant drywall required in the garage.
2) Type X fire-resistant drywall required in areas under stairs.
3) Egress windows required in every bedroom.
4) You must have window area equal to 10% (or 8% depending on the code adopted in your area) of the floor area of "habitable rooms" (bedrooms, kitchens, living room, dining room, family room, etc.)
5) Bathrooms require a window (don't know the size) or mechanical ventilation (fans) that can change the air in the bathroom 5x per hour. This can be calculated easily by calculating the cubic volume of the room x 5 and then divide by 60 to determine the cubic feet per minute of the fan.
6) Solid-core door self-closing door required on the garage.
7) Garages can't open to habitable rooms.
8) Landings are required at all exterior door openings.
9) Typically, a concrete post is going to be required to be in front of the water heater if it is in the garage. This is so you don't run into it.
10) Tempered glass is required on certain windows (within 24" of doors, at stair landings, in bathrooms).

Building Code Bulletin

There is a full plan set at Building Science designed for Habitat for Humanity:

buildingscience.com

Another thing to be aware is that, at least in my case, the structural engineer did a lot of the work. He is doing the framing plan that will show how everything connects, he is also doing the foundation plan. So I didn't have to do either of those.

My understanding is that a completed plan set will contain:

1) Plot/Site Plan
2) Floor Plan
3) Framing Plan (shows some wall framing and details of how the floor connects to the wall and the wall connects to the roof)
4) Floor Framing Plan (if required, if not using slab foundation)
5) Roof Framing Plan
6) Foundation Plan
7) Plumbing Plan
8) Mechanical Plan (HVAC)
9) Cross Sections of the House
10) Elevations
11) Any Details - basically anything you want to show in more detail. I figure the more detail you can provide the better chance you will get what you want.

I am very happy I chose to draw my own plans and I saved a lot of time and money doing so. I also had a very simple plan overall though, if I were doing a more complex plan, perhaps a two-story, I would maybe have someone else do it. In reality, I would probably read up on how to draw the stairs and just do it myself. You have to be comfortable using whatever program you're drawing in, so then the issue becomes only needing to figure out what you need to draw and not trying to figure out how to make the computer draw it. If that makes sense.

Of course if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

-Jeff


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By Tom in Yosemite, CA on 12/7/2004


Jeff,

Thanks! Wow, that was a lot of information. I really appreciate the time you spent on that.

From what I could gather, ArchiCAD is considered one of the better programs since it was designed from the ground up to be an architectural drafting tool (unlike Autocad derivatives).

ArchiCAD is quite expensive normally, but to learn on, I bought the academic version for $79.95 (I'm academic staff at a university and entitled to buy it for "self-study" I certainly could not legally use the program professionally). The plans have a "Student Version" notice on them.

I'm not worried so much about that. A relative who is a structural engineer told me that if I have plans, even hand drawn, he could AutoCAD them for me for free/cheap if I need it. He also said he could engineer the plans for a reasonable fee. He has also offered to do a quick check on any plans I buy/draw. Since he lives too far away to visit the job site, he prefers I have another engineer work with me who can do onsite inspections.

It's relatively certain that I will need an engineer. I think that you can actually build in CA in certain areas with certain restrictions without engineering. As soon as you house goes on fill, is built on a slope, is in a high seismic area, has a full basement, does anything slightly out of the ordinary (I would like to build with SIPs if possible), you need one or more engineers (soil, structural, etc.).



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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 12/10/2004


One thing I would caution before you draw your own plans, is to make sure you have a feedback loop. Just because you can draw it doesn't mean it will be easy to construct. Even with my architect, I had a feedback loop of trades that are responsible for building the house. I had an ICF factory representative consult with the architect (including a factory tour) to make sure he understood the limitations of ICF construction and incorporated this in the design (as a bonus, the factory engineer also checked the structural calculations to ensure adequate steel in some 9' wide wall openings). This made sure that whatever the architect designed could be easily built using ICF.

I also used the other trades' feedback between the preliminary drawings, 90% drawings, and final drawings. This feedback loop is exceptionally valuable as almost every trade that looks at it to bid comments on how well thought out some of the details relating to their trade are - they certainly recognize and appreciate this level of detail.

If you frequent this forum, you know how I feel about architects (or at least mine) and the value they provide for what they get paid. But if you seek to save yourself some money by drawing your own plans (and I did to provide the architect a preliminary of what I was looking for), I would encourage you to get feedback from builders, subcontractors, truss designers, perhaps even a Realtor or two (although I generally consider them low-lifes, I know one good one ;-), and others actively involved in the building trades to ensure your house will be easy to build, or at least not unnecessarily difficult. Complex doesn't mean difficult, but apparently simple doesn't mean easy either. I have seen plans that look good on paper that simply can't be constructed in the field, and you don't want to end up here.


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By Tom in Yosemite, CA on 12/10/2004


Actually, we're still on the fence with the architect/no architect question. We found an architect who we would like to have design the place, but he only sells a package that includes design, engineering, SIPs walls, doors, windows, and framing lumber. It's a relatively premium package but we have a really good feel from him and may still go that route. We're just not sure it's in our budget (the place is Sunlight Homes - sunlighthomes.com - and I highly recommend at least checking out their website especially if you're interested in a smaller, energy-efficient, SIP-built home). They are committed to building a quality home on a reasonable budget and it may in the end be worth it to hire them.

On the other hand, a structural engineer has warned me that most architects he knows are utterly incapable of designing things that are within a reasonable budget. He said fully 50% of the designs he does calcs on never get built because the architects design way beyond budget for their clients.

As for the feedback loop, we have the above-mentioned structural engineer, some O-B's and a couple of contractors who are willing to look over any plans we have, regardless of who does them. We fully intend to take advantage of that.

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By Michael in Cave Creek, AZ on 12/11/2004


If you cannot select exactly the services you want from your architect or designer. RUN!

The purpose of paying design people money is to get exactly what you want. Not some package that they mark up heavily. A designer should not be compensated for specifying any particular product.

If you want a package deal just buy a tract house or find a contractor who can build you a semi-custom home and save yourself the headache of being an O-B.

A good O-B is fully responsible for his or her job and is constantly thinking about how to buy things. Usually it makes sense to buy labor and materials separately. The plumbing, electrical and HVAC trade might be an exception. A good O-B doing a successful project ups his or her net worth by anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands. There are plenty of people along the way who try to stick their hands in your pocket. Usually, the harder they try to sell, the worse the deal is.


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By Evan in Middleville, MI on 12/31/2004


Be careful with student stamped plans, Autodesk's position is pretty clear that it was not intended for commercial use, however I am not sure what they would say with personal use like this. Also, the registered full version of AutoCAD is a $3,700 upgrade from the student version. Unless you plan on building a lot of homes, that can be a hard one to justify.


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By Peter in Gilford, NH on 12/31/2004


I did my own plans using Chief Architect (also purchased student version of AutoCAD).

After you finish your plans, take them to an engineer for review. I found one locally who looked at the plans for $200 and gave me the wet stamp and several suggestions for improvement.

Also, a great service is the engineering you can get for free from suppliers. If you are planning on using I-Joists, Weyerhaeuser will do plans for floor and roof framing for free (including all the engineering). Many other suppliers will provide free drawings and engineering (Boise, BetterHeader, etc.).

If you plan on using PEX tubing, your local plumbing supply house will do the plans for the heating for free.

Home Depot (via the Pro Desk) will give you software to download the current prices from your local HD store. After you generate your material list, you can get pricing online using their software.

Lastly, I purchased a used 36" HP plotter via eBay to print my plans (for about $450 bucks). The local copy shop wants $30 bucks to print the first page and $6 bucks to make a copy. Since my plans have more than 20 pages, the plotter has more than paid for itself, and after I'm done, back on eBay it goes.


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By P in North, FL on 1/5/2005


I am using Chief Architect to do my plans. I really like it.

A suggestion:

I live in a college town (University of Florida). If you live in a city with a university, you may be able to get students to do your plans for next to nothing, under the supervision of one of their professors. Especially if you are looking to do something different.

Good luck.


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By Jeff in Henderson, NV on 1/5/2005


I just wanted to add that if anybody is looking at Chief Architect, they just dropped the price by around 25% supposedly because a new version is coming out soon.

Also if you purchased Chief within 90 days (like me) then make sure and request a refund to the lower price.

-Jeff


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By Andrew in Corpus Christi, TX on 1/5/2005


I also used Chief Architect to draw my initial plans, and then took my work to a professional designer. Things are progressing well and I'm glad I hired a pro. My design right now is 3,100 SF, three-story, ICF waterfront. There are some issues that I would have had a real hard time with myself, but at least my designer had a very good idea of what I wanted to build. With my ideas and her input I believe we will end up with a finished product that is better than what I could come up with on my own, and hopefully I will also have short-circuited any costly mistakes caused by my inexperience.

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By Peter in Gilford, NH on 1/5/2005


Andrew,

I think your comments about a designer are very valid. But I think for the novice builder, finding the right designer can very difficult.

I found a custom-designed house that I liked and then went to the town to pull the plans to find the architect. Then I called the architect to arrange an appointment. I told him that I really like the house he did and wanted a similar design (shingle style). I was ready to hire him.

Then I went to the builder to check on how it was to work with this architect. He then told me the guy was slow and uninspired. The real "brains" of the operation was the drafter, and she had just quit. He said he never really used the architect's service's, but always their drafting person. Now that she was gone, he was looking for someone new.

Strangely, the architect was $150/hr and the drafter was $35/hr. I would have been happy to hire the drafter.

In my "day" job as a software engineer, I find that only about 1 in 50 people in the software biz know enough to do the job. When I'm hiring a new software engineer, I find it difficult to find that special person, because many "know the talk", but aren't really that good. I've got 25 years in software. 

I assume that most professions, from dentists, to doctors, auto mechanics and architects, have a similar workforce: a few bright stars in a sea of crap. My problem (and for most people), is I don't know what interview questions to ask to determine if they are one of those bright stars. And to make it more difficult, architects and designers must have both a technical skill set and an artistic skill set. Ever try to get a modern painter to paint a portrait... now try to get a guy who does Colonial houses all day long to do your shingle-style house.

The odds are not in our favor...


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By Andrew in Corpus Christi, TX on 1/6/2005


Peter,

In my case, I was able to see several houses in the same neighborhood done by my designer. She is familiar with the unique aspects of the lots and the houses being built there (tall and narrow). Lot size is only 45'x75', and covenants require min. 2,000 SF Mediterranean style with a red Spanish tile roof. Most houses look kind of like Spanish villas or something like that. She has designed 6-7 houses in the neighborhood and the couple of owners I spoke with were quite happy with their houses. My design costs are $.75/SF of air conditioned space plus structural engineering costs.

I am also incorporating some neat features such as 14' walls on the first floor. I have to elevate my utility room 4' to comply with FEMA regs. I'm 12' above S.L. FEMA calls for 16' above S.L. for any usable/livable spaces. I will have a garage that runs from the front all the way to the back, and I am taking advantage of my 14' walls to build a storage loft above the garage. I am also going to build my second and third-floor decks out of concrete (structural concrete beam formed around the perimeter supported by ICF columns with a corrugated steel pan in the middle, filled with lightweight concrete and topped off with exterior grade ceramic tile.).

My designer and I have reworked the plans enough so that we now only need to use steel beams in four places (support for overhead door openings, and two small deck support spans between internal ICF support walls). I think this is pretty good considering that we are not using contiguous walls in all places from the first to third floors.

I'm also in the process of trying to convince the homeowners association to change their covenants that require the use of clay tile roofing. I want to use a metal tile roof product such as Met-Tile which has a 50-yr. warranty and a 230-mph wind rating (important to me since I'm in hurricane country). They seem pretty receptive to the idea and will be requesting samples of the materials. I don't think they will have a problem so long as everything looks architecturally the same.

As I said, with my small lot I will not have much of a yard to speak of, but with two good-sized decks and a boat dock it should still be very nice. I'm trying to make maximum use of all of the space that I have so being creative is a must. I guess that I'm lucky that my designer shares the vision and likes the challenge as much as I do.
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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 1/6/2005


I'm with Andrew on this one. My architect came from the Yellow Pages because I exhausted all reference resources before I found one I was comfortable working with - I simply cannot imagine how some people were happy enough working with some of them to recommend them to their friends. While the Yellow Pages is high risk, we spent an inordinate amount of time calling and talking to architects, meeting them in their offices, looking at their portfolios, and simply following up. Each time you meet with one, you learn something you wish you would have asked all previous architects in all of your entrance interviews. It was a huge learning process for both Gayla and me, not just in what makes a good architect or designer but also in what our expectations were for the finished house.

However I'll also agree with Peter. There are a lot of architects and designers that wouldn't have contributed one iota of value to my project, and charged me handsomely for the opportunity.

The key is to find a good architect or designer. Find a good one, and they are worth their weight in gold, although they charge considerably less. For me, some of the things I looked at were buildability of plans, consideration of building materials in plan development (I set up two meetings with ECO-Block personnel just so my architect could learn the differences between ECO-Block and Arxx as he had done previous ICF designs using Arxx), wide range of projects from low-income to high-end (mine must fit in their somewhere), experience with nontraditional building (passive solar, SIPs, ICF), based on his portfolio I wanted to see someone that challenged themselves (if all they do are Colonial houses, this is what you will get).

I found a great architect that I (or any of my subcontractors) can call at a moment's notice to answer questions, and he either takes the time to answer them immediately or calls back the same day. I have been to his house after work (more convenient for me) to discuss construction details. He has been and continues to be a mentor to me during this process. (Many O-B's hire project managers. I don't need one, as my architect is always willing to consult and talk about the project - no additional charge). These are some of the things I would look for when trying to find a quality architect or designer.


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By Jeffrey Roy in Tok, AK on 1/7/2005


One Jeff to another... I am in the early planning stages of designing my log home in Alaska. I am using FloorPlan3D v.9 and DesignCAD Express v.15, both programs from IMSI. I am in an area where there are no building codes; however, should one try to sell a home and the prospective buyer tries to get financing, the banks will not loan unless you can provide plans that are at least up to the codes for the surrounding organized boroughs. That is where it pays to have engineered plans and blueprints done. In my case, my wife and I are 50 years old and have no plans of ever moving or selling, so we have decided to draw up all our own plans that are needed.

I have a few questions and hope you can answer them for me.

One, how did you get your plans from your ArchiCAD program to PDF? Did you use a PDF converter?

Two, did you purchase a plotter or how did you print your plans out in the large format?

Thanks, and good luck.

Jeff

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By Jeff in Henderson, NV on 1/10/2005


Hi Jeff,

I used a PDF converter program "PDF995" (pdf995.com) which is a freebie program that installs itself just like a regular printer that you can print to using any application. One thing in order to print the 24"x36" (also called ARCH D) you have to change your "paper size" to ARCH D which you can do after you have PDF995 installed by right-clicking on the printer from the printer's control panel and then clicking "Printing Preferences" and then clicking "Advanced" and then you can change your paper size to "ARCH D".

Then I just sent off the PDF files to Kinko's. They charged me $3 a page to print the large format and it turned out great.

-Jeff


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By Anonymous on 1/10/2005


I am interested in the Sunlight Homes packages. I have been in email contact with them and they are very responsive. However, my concern is the cost per square foot. Have you decided any further on Sunlight Homes? Also, have you checked any references or seen any of their houses in person?

Thanks in advance.

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By Jeffrey Roy in Tok, AK on 1/10/2005


Thanks Jeff,

I really appreciate your getting back to me on this. Maybe another question, did you run your plans by a structural engineer or an actual architect firm? When drawing up your plans, did you consult a building codes book for your area? You may have stated so in your last posts, but just responding now off the cuff. Thanks.

Jeff

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By Tom in Yosemite, CA on 1/14/2005


I haven't seen any Sunlight Homes in person. The nearest one that's still under construction is about a seven-hour drive. If you are serious, they are willing to give you references. To protect the homeowners from being bombarded by the idly curious, though, they want you to be serious about building and seriously considering them. They did give me two names that they were sure would be happy to take a visit from me if I wanted to make the drive.

I really like SH. Jon's two gurus are Christopher Alexander and Edward Deming. Since I think these are two of the great American thinkers of the 20th century (at least in fields that pertain to building a house), that makes it easy for me to talk and understand Jon's language. Also, they are into small homes. They themselves just moved out of a large "standard" home into a 1,600 foot home and office combo. I respect people who are living smaller, designing smaller and building smaller (personally, if I won the lottery, our home would still be under 2,000 sf).

That said, we're looking into a more local solution if possible. There is a certain premium to a Sunlight Home and I'm not sure we're there with our finances to pay that premium. It's not ruled out, but I do think it's simpler to deal with a local designer and a local builder. We're still under a building moratorium here, so we're not in a hurry and we're looking at several options and just trying to do a cost/value analysis.

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By Anonymous on 1/14/2005


Thanks for the info on Sunlight. We are getting close to making a decision. I really like the idea of panelized. I see stick-built sitting in the snow and rain and don't care for it. I have had several email conversations with Margie and she has been very responsive. We originally looked at timberframe and that is how we got to the panel construction.

Every time I talk to an architect, I envision major cost overruns. We don't have a budget to support huge overruns. We can't use a stock plan because of the views involved and I don't think a stock plan would take advantage of the site.

Thanks.


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By Ray in Scottsdale, AZ on 1/30/2005


We have gone the "designer route" to have our plans drawn. Very happy so far, but now we need a structural engineer to review the design and stamp the drawings. Question: Just what service does a structural engineer preform?

Various posts on this forum seem to indicate that they charge between $300 and $2,500 - a very big spread. Do they just review and stamp? I've never worked with one, and would appreciate any input on what services they have provided to you and what added value they can bring.


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By Nancy in Tampa, FL on 2/9/2005


I designed and drew up the plans for the house we just finished using 3D Architect. I then took the scale drawings to a draftsperson to complete and have engineered for submitting to the county for permits (cost $1,500). This draftsperson was equally as good as an architect. Since you know what you want, you don't need an architect to help you design it, just someone who can help you refine it and make recommendations. The house turned out great and I didn't have any problem with the construction phase due to a plan problem. My opinion, for what it's worth, is that an architect is there to design the house for you by listening to what you want. Not to be a draftsperson and just draw up plans. A draftsperson who's been doing this for some time is just as qualified when it comes to the drawings, and your county code, which of course must be followed.

Good luck!


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By Nancy in Tampa, FL on 2/9/2005


Ray, the engineer just reviews the plans to make sure they are structurally sound and follow the county codes. He is licensed/approved by the county to do so. Our fee for the engineer's stamp was included in our drawing fee by the draftsperson we used. If we had gone to someone else it would have been about $150. I'm in Florida.


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By Angela in Orlando, FL on 4/25/2005


Hi Phil! Would you happen to know of a good architect in the area? We have contacted U of F on several occasions and that was such a dead end. I really thought that was going to be a cool avenue, but I can never reach anyone nor get anyone to give me a call back. Any suggestions you may have will be greatly appreciated!!

Angie in G'ville


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By Mike in Huntersville, NC on 8/5/2005


I drew my own house plans on QuickCAD (AutocAD software).

I was unsure as to what all the permit office needed to review and approve drawings, so I hired a guy who moonlighted house plans on the side. He was recommended by my UBuildIt consultant. He took my electronic copies to work on them and create plans for only $400.

He said it would take 4-5 days. After about three weeks and me all over him, he gave me the blueprints. I was very disappointed when I realized he did very little to my existing plans and added some minor notes, etc...  He said any changes he will do later for free.

Frustrated that I lost three weeks and $400, I looked at the printing shop info on the spine of the blueprints and contacted them to ask what type of file would they need to make 24"x36" prints.

I ended up making changes and tweaking the plans and simply turn them into PDF file for the printer to make copies.  It felt good to have control over this and have it done whenever I wanted.

If you have done your own plans, I recommend submitting them to the permit office and they will return it with red marks and whatever you need to add to make them complete.


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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 8/5/2005


If you are being asked by your code authority in AZ for an "engineering stamp" it's for one of a couple of reasons:

1) The local plans examiner isn't comfortable doing the engineering review and wants someone else to take responsibility, or

2) You are doing something not covered by the current version of the IRC, which the state has adopted.

I use a structural engineer out of Mesa who charges about $.75/sf for structural engineering. But for easy jobs that only require a "lateral load analysis", I use some that charge about $1,000.


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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 8/5/2005


Here is something that may help. Our local jurisdiction has tons of stuff on-line.

They have a checklist for plan submittals. Some things may not be applicable to all parts of the country. And there are some ADA-type regulations added here.

pimaxpress.com


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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 8/5/2005


If you want to save money, and have plans on file for bidders, I suggest you skip the local photocopy shop. I use Kinko's on weekends when I NEED a print right now. Otherwise they are twice as expensive as the local companies that cater to design professionals and contractors. If everything else you are trying to as an O-B is for contractor pricing, why pay consumer retail for oversize copying?

I use a company that specializes in plan printing, they used to be a "blueprint' company. They are now digital and part of an international network. I pay about $1.35 a sheet for 24x36. And I spend a couple of hundred a month of prints.

So see if ReproMax's network can help you.

repromax.com


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By Mike in Huntersville, NC on 8/8/2005


My photocopy shop is a small outfit run by a husband and wife. My copies were about $1 a sheet.

8 sets of plans (80 sheets) was like $85 with tax.


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By Jim in Austin, TX on 8/8/2005


Mike,

You should have used Chief Architect or 3D Home Architect (retail version of Chief). The program has a plan checker that walks you through the plan, checking for code omissions or potential trouble spots. It's fairly easy to use and could have saved you the $400 for the designer who had too much on his plate to give your plans the attention it needed.

I am an old AutoCAD man myself, but now have switched over to Chief due to its ease of use, 3D capabilities, and the ability to instantly change all the areas of a plan instead of having to open each sheet.

I still use AutoCAD for some details, but mainly because I already have them drawn. If I were you, I would tell that designer that he needs to reimburse you the money you paid since he did not do what he promised. If he chooses not to, then complain to the better business bureau, the A.I.B.D., and the aia.org. He will get the hint and either repair your plans properly or give you your money back.

At the very least, expect to pay 50 cents per square foot heated for plans to be brought up to code. This is using your designs as is, with little to no changes. Anything lower would draw concern to their capabilities and overall design experience. I have charged as low as that to drum up business, but now I refer most of my work away to others for I suffer from too much to do.

Attached is what I normally include in a plan set. You should expect nothing short of this.

Jim


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By P in North, FL on 8/8/2005


Mike,

I had a draftsman do essentially the same thing to me. He took my money and changed my plans beyond recognition. He didn't like to do anything new and just altered my plans to fit in with what was comfortable for him.

I just gave up on him and purchased Chief Architect.


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By John on 10/12/2005


Autodesk has a product called AutoSketch. I have been using the program since the days of DOS (about 20 years). The latest version is 10.0. Personally, I have version 5.0 and am perfectly happy with it. I've used it for designing numerous woodworking projects, landscaping, decks, sprinkler systems.  I am currently using it to draw my house plans. Recently I read reviews for version 10.0 and the reviews are very positive.  Many more symbols have been added. I'm considering the upgrade myself. Version 10.0 MSRP is $250 and is well worth the price.
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By Patrick in Orlando, FL on 10/19/2005


Nancy,

I am looking for a draftman to draft my house plan. I would like to talk to your draftman. I live in Orlando. We plan to build on Merritt Island.

Thank for your help

Patrick


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By James in Taylorsville, UT on 10/24/2005


ArchiCAD is a great program...

Currently I work full-time as an architectural project manager in Ogden, Utah. I use it mainly for large commercial projects such as churches and schools. However, ArchiCAD was designed for residential projects. As a side job, I'm designing homes and drawing plans for other O-B clients. It's a very powerful tool in that I can produce high-quality renderings of the home.


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By Mike on 10/24/2005


Q: where do most of you who used draftspeople find them? 

I've heard mention of university students and professionals, but how did you locate them... Yellow Pages, national trade organizations, word of mouth, etc.?

FYI, I just read The Owner-Builder Book and I am very excited about the home I plan to build in Vermont probably next fall. I'm hoping to find some resources in my research phase through this website and by contacting other O-B's through this network. I will begin my land search probably next spring, and go from there. I have a very good idea of my home design, including some materials (ICF/SIPs), and have been using AutoCAD to create the design for ...oh... probably two years now! It seems to get tweaked every time I turn on the computer because I find new ways to make it better, more efficient, or because I add more detail.

I look forward to reading a lot more posts in this forum.

Thanks,

Mike

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By Rick in South Ogden, UT on 1/17/2006


Hi James,

I'm am just starting the O-B process. I bought 1.12 acres in S. Ogden and will build there in a couple of years when I retire from the Air Force. I have a very clear picture of the house I want in my mind and want to do the plans myself. Is ArchiCAD the only program you recommend? Also, do you know of any programs that have a service to review plans and provide engineering stamps for a fee as part of the program?
 
Thanks... This is the first step in a very long journey!
 
Rick

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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 1/17/2006


If you cruise through many of the preceding comments here on this topic the majority of your questions will be answered. Check with your local building department for a checklist of what needs to be on the plans.

Some want as little as possible so things can change later without revising the plans every week. Others want as much info as possible. One reason is that your plans become a legal document (that's why they are called "construction documents") which you can base contracts on. The vaguer the plans, the more omissions from the contract, and more change orders down the road.

As far as CAD products, it might be easier to do it by hand then buy and learn an Autodesk product. I use AutoCAD, but I also do 40+ projects a year. I am considering switching to Chief Architect as soon as I can justify the expense. The nice thing is that it will import .dwg files.


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By Jon in Ellicott City, MD on 1/18/2006


If you're looking to save money on the CAD, you might consider TurboCAD. It's not as capable as AutoCAD, but it is a full 3-D CAD that is only $300 or so.

I use TurboCAD quite a bit, and think it's a great bargain. And because it's a less complex program, the learning curve is less steep. I'm sure you could be cranking out basic floorplans in a couple of afternoons.

I chose to buy Chief Architect for my plans, and I've been very happy with that decision. The great thing about CA is all the time-saving features. You don't have to draw objects line-by-line. All the symbols are right at your fingertips. The biggest feature to me was the ability to view the house in 3-D, both inside and out. So I could try slightly different rooflines or adjust room layouts and then see how it would look if I were standing in or in front of the house. It really helped us a lot. It wasn't a small expense, but it was worth it to us.

Good luck!


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By Patricia in Days Creek, OR on 2/12/2006


Hi - looking for homeowners with no prior building experience who have successfully drawn up their blueprints using any software and a few books from the library (so you know what you are telling the software to do and can at least check the local codes) that didn't end up having to hiring anyone for anything other than at most a quick check of the structural soundness and a stamp.

What software did you use? Would you use it again?

For the pros out there - here is the scenario: my husband and I want to build from scratch a timberframe home - without the prefab panels. Instead, it will be sided with pine plank and the exterior wall posts will only have about 2" visible inside with the rest being part of the wall. We know it is common to enclose outside the entire frame - but we also know it can be done both ways. So we intend to build the house way above code since we have access to large beams and a contractor friend to assist with the erection of the home. Our experience is academic - I read, I learn, I remember. I have the demo of Chief Architect full version 10. I like it a lot, but am concerned about the materials list and the cutoffs and the accuracy of the framing, since I will have to manually delete any unnecessary members. It likes to take a 1/2 inch off measurements too - our beams will be cut true since we are doing it ourselves.

If you are a designer/architect/builder/etc. - are you able with Chief or some other product to make the design, do the floor plan, framing, roof and foundation and have it 100% done without exporting to another program to finish?

We don't have the budget to buy two programs and if one can cut it alone - it would be cheaper to use a lower-end product for my floor plan and hire a draftsman to do the rest. We just tend to do things ourselves so we know we can trust the one doing it. And we intend to be way better than code - like 100 years from now it stands and doesn't creak in the wind.

Also - whichever program I go with - most likely Chief, but possible SolidBuilder - I would love to have a pro that uses the same program review my specs for a modest fee - I email you - you check it over - email it back - you don't have to do the changes - just tell me what needs fixing - we learn by doing and I would want to understand what I did wrong and why it was wrong and how to fix it myself.

The best thing about Chief is the 90-day satisfaction guarantee - since I pretty much have the floor plan and the framing in my head - 90 days should be plenty of time to get to the drawing point and if it stinks I will return it and try one of the others. Unfortunately the others don't have money-back guarantees unless you prove they lied about the capabilities of the program - being difficult to learn is subjective, so that doesn't fly with SolidBuilder's sales team - "just call us", they say, "and we tell you how to do it."

Thoughts, suggestions, reality checks?

PJ

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By Jon in Ellicott City, MD on 2/13/2006


I'm an owner-builder who did my own design and developed my own prints. 

I used Chief as my design tool and to develop the blueprints. Though I have some minor gripes about the program, it served me very well.

I used TurboCAD for my timberframe plan. Chief is pretty crude as a straight CAD program (at least the version I used - 8.0, I think). I was able to develop a full 3D plan of my timberframe in TurboCAD, including all the joinery. 

When I had that timber drawing done, I was able to pull the pieces apart and see each timber exactly as it will appear in my shop. That should save me a lot of trouble and potential error. No thoughts like, "OK, if this is the front of the post, then the tie beam is here and the girt is there, so I need mortises on these three sides, but not the other. And I need mortises for the braces, except this one is higher than the other two by... how much was that difference again? But wait! This mortise pocket cuts into the other one. I'll have to remember to shorten the tenon in that girt." I'll have enough to worry about when I cut that frame without having to visualize each piece and mentally tracking every adjustment on the fly. 

Both programs served me well. If I were starting over, I'd buy both of them again. Even though you could technically do both tasks with one tool, I think it would be foolish... kind of like using a crescent wrench to drive nails. In my mind, it makes more sense to buy a hammer.

As far as budget... TurboCAD costs about $300. That's trivial in the grand scheme. 

That being said, there's a lot more to both the house and timberframe design than choosing the best drawing tool. The house design can be done by a well-studied amateur with a good design tool. The timberframe requires more engineering than the average person can handle. If you have to hire an engineer or designer to do the frame design, it might make sense to have them do the drawing too.

Good luck with your project!


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