Live In Your Floor Plan . . .
We followed some advice given to us by a realtor friend. Post up the couple of floor plans you’re considering where you live now, and at the end of every day, discuss how you would have lived in the new house. Do it for two weeks. Try to imagine the day you just lived in different weather, times of year, perhaps with a larger family. If you do this for two weeks you will likely eliminate a number of floor plans you thought were quite good. Plus you will likely end up making some changes to the winning plan to better fit your lifestyle.
And while you’re at it, design your basement floor plan! Builders will rough in the plumbing for you in the basement before the floor is poured – if you have a good idea about your plan you can put the drains and vents, and the toilet drain, in the spot that YOU want it versus where the builder thinks it should be. Also design in any wet bar you might want to have in the future, or an (extra) laundry tub.
. . .Then Change Your Plan
Builders will often let you change a plan, within reason. We made a few changes that we are very happy with. There are a number of other changes we would have made had we thought about them.
One of the changes we made for our plan was to create a walk-through closet to our bathroom. For couples with different wake up times having two doors between the bathroom noises and light in the early morning hours helps let the other person keep sleeping. It’s nice for both people.
We also took out a funny angle at the entrance to the master suite. It would have looked really good, but we thought the space would be better used as two small closets. Good decision.
Finally, the entrance from the garage was a short hallway that went into the living room, then into the eating area, then the kitchen. We redesigned that whole entry to put the garage entry right into eating area and kitchen, and to give more privacy to the powder room for our family and guests.
The upgrade I wish we had done was 9′ basement ceilings. It sounds strange to put high ceilings in the basement… until you look at a basement ceiling. Usually the HVAC ducting runs across an inconvenient location in the basement, and there are usually beams and exposed large plumbing that uses up 9 to 12 inches of your basement ceilings. So really, if you build 9′ basement ceilings you will have a full and proper 8′ of usable space when it comes to finishing your basement. Another benefit of higher ceilings in the basement is larger windows which lets in more natural light and helps to make it feel much less like a basement. If you don’t end up finishing your basement, you still end up with an extra foot of vertical storage space which can go a long ways to helping clear clutter.
Stairs with a 90 degree or 180 degree turn can look beautiful and definitely add some flair if they are in the open. Keep in mind however that moving long or heavy items up a bent stairwell can be challenging. Often times stairs to the basement mirror the layout of stairs to the upper floor. If this is the case in your plan, consider how you will get construction materials, couches, etc. into the basement when you go to finish it. Maybe straight stairs make more sense for you.
Also consider how the garage or front door line up with the basement stairs. If you’re like me you have a lot of tools and a make-shift workshop in the basement, which means you’ll be carrying full sheets of plywood and full length 2x4s to the basement to work on. How many corners will you have to go around, and how much damage will you cause to your main floor walls getting stuff to the basement? Even carrying boxes of seasonal decorations up and down and around corners can be more difficult than necessary with poorly placed stairs.
Which brings me to my next point: Widen the stairs. If at all possible, add 6 or 12 inches to the width of your stairs, and the same amount to the access doors (for basement stairs). You’ll be glad you did when you start carrying things up and down the stairs!
Watch out for door conflicts. Do you have to close one door to open another? Will they bang together if one isn’t closed? We have this situation in the garage entry we modified – it is our fault since we didn’t think through the door plans. It may not be possible to prevent all door conflicts, but at least you will be aware of it going into your new home.
Many home designs have sliding glass doors to the back yard. the standard size is 6′, which leaves just under 3′ for walking through. Consider changing this door to an 8′ sliding glass door which gives just under 4′. Or, switch the sliding glass door to double opening French Doors.