With thousands of plans available on-line or through house plan books, how can I pick the right one? The shear number of choices makes this a tough task. And even if you are choosing among four or five models and plans in a builder’s development, the choice can still be hard.


Here are my tips to make the task of choosing a house plan easier:

1. Write a program for yourself and then evaluate house plans relative to the program.
2. Use the process of elimination to winnow down your choices.
3. Look for “disqualifying” features.
4. Do not compromise on your program requirements.

The first tip is by far the most important. A program is the architect’s word for a list of needs and wishes for the design. List out the basic rooms you want with target sizes for these rooms and spaces. Use your current house or a friend’s house as a benchmark. And don’t forget to make notes about your building site. It probably has a width limit and the slope of the site should be considered.

Important – Make sure your programmed room sizes add up to the overall square footage your budget dictates. Include hallways, stairs, and closets, plus a 10% factor for the space consumed by walls and plan inefficiencies to get a realistic overall target square footage. Break this down by floor, too. By the way, we offer a Square Footage Calculator to make this task easier.

Next, add notes about the characteristics of the rooms, how they should interact, which should be “connected” or near other rooms which should be sunny or secluded, etc.

Now, you will have the “yardstick” by which to evaluate house floor plans. Stress getting the best floor plan. It is much more important than the exterior home design when selecting house plans. The outside can be easily altered to change the look and style of the house. But changing a floor plan is not so easy.

As you go through house plans, mark only the ones that fulfill your program and bypass the ones that don’t. There is no sense wasting time on them, even if they have some features you like.

Now, review your selected plans again, searching for what I call disqualifying features. This might be an awkward arrangement of rooms that do not flow well or a lack of privacy relative to the bedroom or powder room door locations. It might be a clumsy entry experience. Discard those inferior plans.

Be ruthless in your evaluation. With the entire universe of stock plans on the internet and in plan books, there is no need to compromise on your program requires. Remember, some revisions of stock plans can be done economically. You’ll need to contact the owner and seller of the house plan to see what they can do.

Another warning, the house plans you buy may have framing information, but residential building codes can vary from place to place. You may want to have a local architect or engineer review them just to be sure they meet the building code.