Home Plan FAQS

Where should I start?

Contacting a builder or real estate agent, selecting a design, or choosing a lot are all excellent places to start. However, if you know little about the process of building a home and feel nervous because it is your first time, it would be wise first to do some general research. Bookstores, libraries, and the internet are also good places to find information on new construction. 

Also, local builders and real estate agents often present new home buyer seminars that are very informative. Additionally, many metropolitan areas have home shows where the latest in home products are featured. 

Television channels like HGTV give a lot of necessary consumer-oriented information on the construction process. And when it comes to new home ideas, don’t forget to visit your Carter Lumber store, where they can show you some of the many different home designs available through Carter Lumber. 

How do I find a builder?

Start with local directories such as the Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau, and the local Home Builders Association to ask them for recommendations. Tell them your price range and what area of town you are interested in. Ask friends and relatives in the area for their suggestions. Also, visit local model homes. Often the builders are there, and you can talk to them to see if they would fit your needs.

Note: Who builds your home is most often determined by the location of where you want to live and where a builder is building. For example, it is not uncommon for a group of builders to buy a piece of land to develop or purchase lots from developers, which means they control the lots. It is also important to note that many builders build exclusively in certain areas and won’t build in other locations. Your local Carter Lumber store manager may also be able to recommend builders and contractors in your area.

Should I buy a lot first?

If you find a specific lot that you are interested in and can afford, it's probably best to buy it first. Then, you are guaranteed of the location of where you want to live.

Should I use a real estate agent when planning to build a new home?

There are many advantages to using a real estate agent. Many agents are very knowledgeable about building a new home and are often affiliated with local builders. Many of them have plan books to look through for design ideas and information on new construction going on in the area. 

For buyers who are confused about the process of building, a real estate agent can be a valuable resource to help you filter information and make the right choices in your decision to build a new home. Your best option would be to look for an agent that specializes in new construction.

Should I hire an architect to design my home or buy from a plan service?

Both provide the opportunity to get the dream home you desire. An architect designs the house from scratch to fit your specific needs. For many buyers, however, hiring an architect is too expensive. On the other hand, plan services offer a wide variety of plans to choose from for a relatively low cost. And these plans can often be modified to fit buyers' needs, usually at a fraction of the cost of an architect's design. Of course, don’t forget to visit Carter Lumber, whose custom home designs may contain the ideas you’ve been looking for.

How do I go about selecting a design?

First, you have to analyze your situation: specifically what you are looking for in a design and why. An excellent way to find out what you want is to ask yourself questions about your needs, wants, and desires in a new home. Also, visit local model homes to get a feel for room sizes, appliances, traffic flow from room to room, etc. 

Second, look through plan books or magazines to find a design that best suits you. There are several places to look for plan books. Home plan design services, such as Design Basics Inc., one of the nation's largest, sell a wide variety of plan books featuring their designs as well as other related products and services. 

Other places to look for plan books are online, bookstores, libraries, and home plan magazines, such as those found in supermarket newsstands. Local builders, real estate agents, and lumberyards also have plan books available. 

What is the difference between a one-story, 1-1/2-story, and two-story home?

One-story homes (also called ranch and garden-level homes) are generally defined as homes with all living areas and bedrooms on one level (excluding the basement). The definition of 1-1/2-story homes tends to differ, but Design Basics defines them as having two levels, with at least one bedroom, usually the master suite, on the main level and the other bedrooms on the second level. Two-story homes are generally defined as homes with all the bedrooms located on the second level.

Note: Some designers and architects label any home with a second level as a two-story home. 

What is my new home going to cost per square foot?

Based on averages in our local area, generally, a new home with a moderate level of finish (including garage, porches, and decks, etc.) is going to cost about $75* per square foot for a two-story home, $85* per square foot for a 1-1/2-story home, and $90* per square foot for a one-story home, plus the cost of the lot. 

Note: These figures are based on our local building conditions only.

The price of a new home in your area may be slightly or radically different. Check with your local builder.

*Always be mindful that a home's cost per square foot is radically affected by the level of finish. For example, vinyl floor covering is less expensive than ceramic tile, which is less than marble. When comparing one builder's home to another's, don't focus on the cost per square foot, but rather on the features and finish level that are offered as standards.

What determines the cost of a new home?

While many individual components go into the cost of a new home, the three primary driving factors are land costs, material costs, and labor costs. If you build with Carter Lumber, you can expect an itemized explanation of where every penny is going in your new home. 

What if I want to make changes to the design?

Many plan services, such as Design Basics, offer custom changes to their designs for additional fees. Builders and buyers can also take their plans to a local draftsman to have changes made.

Note: Changes made to any home plan are legally considered to be derivative works of the plan. As the owner of the home plan's copyright, only the original designer is entitled to copyright of derivative works. Any attempt by others to claim copyright in derivative works would be a violation of federal copyright law.

What is a vellum as opposed to a blueprint of a design?

Most people are familiar with blueprint paper, a standard type of light-sensitive photographic paper (called diazo paper) that architectural plans are commonly printed on. Vellum is a type of translucent paper that home plans are more recently being printed on.

A vellum's advantages are that it allows the floor plan lines to be erasable with an electric eraser, so changes can easily be made to the plan. Another benefit is that extra blueprint copies can be made directly from it.

Looking at a floor plan, how can I get a feel for the actual size of the rooms?

One way is to measure the rooms in your own home or apartment to understand approximate dimensions. This is also an excellent way to determine whether your current furnishings will fit in the home you want to build. Visiting model homes or other newly built homes is also a good way to get a feel for room sizes.  

Often builders and real estate agents will provide layouts of these homes with the dimensions listed. In addition, Design Basics offers a Study Print and Furniture Layout Guide for each design. This product has a complete 1/4" scale floor plan (specific for each design), with over 100 self-adhesive, reusable furniture pieces, also at 1/4" scale, to help buyers determine room sizes and plan furniture placement.

Does the shown square footage include the garage?

No. Generally, square footage is calculated as finished (dry-walled, painted, carpeted), walkable square footage. It would include footage from outside framed wall to outside framed wall (not including brick, siding, stucco, etc.) and anywhere the floor joists would project, such as in a cantilevered (overhanging) bay window. A boxed (square projecting) window, however, would not be included. (Difference: The floor ends at the wall in a boxed window, but extends out in a cantilevered bay window.)  

Other things typically not included in a home’s square footage are front, side, or back porches, courtyards, patios, etc. Basements are also not included in the square footage unless they are finished. Future expansion areas over the garage are also typically not included in the square footage. However, on many plans, such as Design Basics plans, square footage is calculated and listed as optional.

Can I take a design from a plan book to a local drafting firm and have it re-drafted?

No! It is a violation of federal copyright law to draft a plan based on a plan service's design ideas, such as Design Basics. The copyright protection in each Design Basics plan, for example, covers the design of the home, as well as the plan itself. Either the builder or the home buyer must purchase the design from the design service if they wish to legally build that home or make any changes to the plan.

Should I purchase the plan, or should I let my builder buy the plan?

No matter who buys the plan, the home buyer will, in the end, probably pay for it. If a builder buys the plan, chances are they will include it in the price of your new home. The only difference between the consumer buying the plan and the builder buying the plan is that with some design firms, such as Design Basics, whoever physically buys the plan has the licensed right to re-build the home as many times as they choose. If the consumer buys the plan, the consumer owns that right. The builder would then not have the right to re-build that home unless he purchased another blueprints set for that design.

Is anyone who designs a home an architect?

No. An architect is a licensed professional in the field of architecture. It is not a requirement in the United States that everyone who designs a home be an architect. However, many states require as a part of their local building codes, that before a home can be built, the construction drawings must be stamped by an architect or engineer licensed in that state. Many excellent home plan designers are not architects. And all home plans, whether designed by an architect or not, must conform to local building codes before they are built.

What are building codes?

Building codes are safety regulations on how a building (commercial or residential) should be built. They are intended to protect both builders and home buyers from building an unsafe structure. They deal with everything from nail spacing to wheelchair accessibility. Many restrictions, regulations, and inspections are regionally required due to soil conditions, weather conditions, etc. 

There are three major nationally recognized model building codes that are all very similar in content in the United States: UBC (Uniform Building Code), BOCA (Building Officials Code Administrators), and CABO (Council of American Building Officials). Every state, county and local municipality has adopted some form of one, any or all of these standard building codes. Design Basics plans all conform to the Uniform Building Code. 

Do Design Basics plans meet my local codes?

Design Basics plans are drafted to meet average conditions and codes in the state of Nebraska at the time they were designed. Because codes and requirements can change and vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, Design Basics Inc. cannot warrant compliance with any specific code or regulation. 

All Design Basics plans can be adapted to the local building codes and requirements. The purchaser's responsibility and builder of each plan are to see that the structure is built in strict compliance with the governing municipal regulations (city, county, state, and federal).

Design Basics has a working relationship with Structural Engineering Consultants, Inc. in Santa Clarita, CA.

What are covenants?

Covenants are rules and regulations set up by committees for specific subdivisions or areas of land development. These regulations are intended to protect the property values of the homes built there. Examples of covenants might include regulations on how close houses can be to one another, lawn maintenance, or other rules, such as no satellite dishes, no cars parked in the yard, all brick elevations, etc.

What do I receive when I order a set of plans?

You receive a complete set of construction drawings. Each set of drawings includes the following:

  • Cover Page. Each Design Basics home plan features the rendered elevation and informative reference sections, including general notes and design criteria, abbreviations, and symbols for your Design Basics plan.
  • Elevations. Drafted at 1/4" scale for the front and 1/8" scale for the rear and sides. All elevations are detailed and an aerial view of the roof is provided, showing all hills, valleys, and ridges.
  • Foundations. Drafted at 1/4" scale. Block foundations and basements are standard. We also show the HVAC equipment, structural information, steel beam and pole locations, and the direction and spacing of the floor system above.
  • Main Level Floor Plan. 1/4" scale. Fully dimensioned from stud to stud for ease of framing. 2"x4" walls are standard. The detailed drawings include such things as structural header locations, framing layout, and kitchen layout.
  • Second Level Floor Plan. 1/4" scale. Dimensioned from stud to stud and drafted to the same degree of detail as the main level floor plan.
  • Interior Elevations. Useful for the cabinet and bidding process, this page shows all kitchen and bathroom cabinets and any other cabinet elevations.
  • Electrical and Sections. Illustrated on a separate page for clarity, the electrical plan shows the suggested electrical layout for the foundation, main and second level floor plans. Typical wall, cantilever, stair, brick, and fireplace sections are provided to further explain construction of these areas.

All plan orders received before 2:00 p.m. CT will be processed, inspected, and shipped out the same afternoon via 2nd business day air within the continental United States. All other product orders will be sent via UPS ground service. Full technical support is available for any plan purchased from Design Basics. Technical Support Specialists provide unlimited technical support free of charge and answer questions regarding construction methods, framing techniques, and more. Please call 800-947-7526 for more information. 

CONSTRUCTION LICENSE: When you purchase a Design Basics home plan, you receive a Construction License which gives you certain rights in building the home depicted in that plan, including No Re-Use Fee. As the original purchaser of a Design Basics home plan, the Construction License permits you to build the plan as many times as you like.

Local Modifications

The Construction License allows you to make modifications to your Design Basics plans. We offer a complete custom change service, or you may have the desired changes done locally by a qualified draftsman, designer, architect, or engineer.

Running Blueprints. Your plans are sent to you on vellum paper that reproduces well on your blueprint machine. The Construction License authorizes you or your blueprint facility, at your direction, to make as many copies of the plan from the vellum masters as you need for construction purposes.