Custom Home Design Plans: Ask the Architect

"When designing a custom home, is it cheaper to modify an exiting plan or design a home from scratch? If it’s cheaper to modify an existing plan, why is it?

When designing a 2 story custom country home where the upstairs is basically in the roof and has dormers for windows, what are some things to keep in mind to keep construction costs down? For example is it cheaper that the first floor walls match the 2nd story walls?

The Marion 319 by Original Home Plans

Creating a set of house plans requires two steps: designing the house and producing the plans.

Very few designs are ever created from scratch. Almost all are adaptations or revisions of existing designs because there are only a limited number of layouts that work.

On the production end, things have changed with the arrival of computer drafting (CAD). Before computers, it was always easier to start with a clean sheet of paper because erasing parts of an existing drawing was extremely difficult. On the other hand, using a computer to cut, copy, and paste makes it easy to assemble a set of plans from parts of older sets.

Cape Cod designs in the northeast and Low Country designs in the southeast are classic examples of 2 story houses beneath a one story roof. Maintaining a simple roof line is the key to cost effectiveness; a complex roof can leave you with lots of dead area and a difficult layout.

My home plan website,, has some great examples of Cape Cod designs. Perhaps, they will give you some ideas.

Good luck with your project,
David Moore, AIA
Original Home Plans

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