Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
Building a house can be very daunting to plan, as there are materials, contractors, architects, building codes, labor, and much, much more to figure out. Blueprints are one common area that people have questions or concerns about, but do you really need a blueprint to build a house?
You do need a blueprint to build a house in order to clearly define the physical dimensions of the home. Whether you’re building it yourself or hiring a licensed general contractor, blueprints are necessary to ensure it’s built properly, including what’s to be constructed around and inside the home.
In this article, I’ll be covering why blueprints are important, what blueprints include and cost, and other essential information about building a house.
Why Blueprints are Needed to Build a House
Quite frankly, there are so many complicated aspects of home construction that it’s crazy to even consider building a house without blueprints. Even if it’s just to keep the progress of the construction straight between you, the contractor(s), and whoever else is involved in the process.
Moreover, you need blueprints to get your construction approved by your municipality, which is an entire process unto itself. Occupancy standards must be made, and it has to be determined if your home construction will disturb anything historically or ecologically significant – there’s a lot to it!
You can plan out the rough layout of your home yourself, but you’ll need a professional to draw it up into a standardized format that contractors can understand. You can get blueprints drawn up by a draftsman or architect, which are similar but distinct professions.
Cost of Having Blueprints Made
Pre-existing blueprints can run between $500 and $1.000, while custom blueprints may cost between $1,500 and $3,000, or possibly more. This also depends on whether you plan on customizing the blueprint to meet any specific design requirements you have in mind for the home – do you want tile flooring, granite, or marble countertops? That requires customization, which may run you a bit more.
The cost also depends on whether you have an architect or a draftsperson draw up your plans, which I’m about to go over in the next section. In general, though, plans from an architect will cost more than plans from a draftsperson.
Blueprints by Architect vs. Drafter
Contrary to popular belief, architects and draftspeople are similar but distinct professions with different educational and professional credentials and functions.
An architect has to go through at least five years of education and a three-year internship before they’re licensed. Architects are responsible for the engineering, drafting, and overall design of buildings. This means they oversee everything from the materials used in construction to how open spaces affect lighting within the building and much more. Virtually all major construction projects have at least one architect.
A drafter or draftsperson requires less education, though many have associate or bachelor’s degrees. A draftsperson is responsible for drawing and designing blueprints, usually with CAD (computer-aided design) software. Drafters often work under architects’ guidance. While architects dictate the overall design, drafters do the drawing.
Drafters typically specialize in one of five areas. By contrast, architects are typically proficient in all areas of construction design.
These areas are:
- Architectural design
- Civil design
- Electrical design
- Electronic design
- Mechanical design
No matter who you pay to draw up your plans, it’s vital that you get an idea of their reputation, work quality, guarantees, and involvement in the construction. Possibly even more important is whether the blueprints are up to spec – will they meet or exceed building code regulations? If not, you’re dead in the water before you even start.
Can You Purchase Blueprints and Build a House Yourself?
In most places, it’s possible to purchase a set of blueprints (or have them drawn up), buy the materials and land, then build the house yourself. Many states in the U.S allow people to act as their contractors when building their homes. In that case, you would be referred to as the owner-builder.
Now, just because it’s technically possible doesn’t mean it’s recommended! There are many very complex parts of home construction that require specialized tools and skillsets including roofing, pouring concrete, electrical work, and plumbing. Unless you have experience in these areas, it may be best to do the framing yourself and have pros handle these specific areas for your home project.
If the goal is to save money, estimates vary on exactly how much you save by building your house yourself, with 30% as a conservative estimate and up to 50% depending on the size and scope of the project. This also varies based on whether you have to pay for additional equipment, labor, or materials.
How Long It Takes To Build a House
According to the U.S Census Bureau, it takes an average of 7.7 months to build a house, from initial building permits and authorization to the completion of construction. Just gaining the proper authorization and permits takes an average of a month, while the actual construction process takes 6.7 months.
An eight-bedroom mansion will take much longer to design and construct than, say, a 3-bedroom family home. This also doesn’t take into consideration a lot of the design and work that goes into the surrounding property, such as landscaping, driveway construction, and so on.
Furthermore, that figure doesn’t include the time it takes to negotiate and purchase the land, nor how much planning goes into conceptualizing, designing, or drawing the technical blueprints. All of these should be expected to take a fair amount of time as well.
It’s important that you keep your estimated timespan for construction realistic and open-ended because things happen along the way that aren’t always expected. For instance, deliveries may be delayed or a storm may set back construction.
Blueprints are an essential part of planning and designing any building, but especially a home you plan to live in. Working with an architect or drafter to draw up satisfactory blueprints is a key part of the home construction process.
- Home Advisor: Finding & Hiring a Draftsperson: What They Do, Questions to Ask
- Moving: How Long Does It Take to Build a New Construction House?
- U.S Census Bureau: Survey of Construction
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