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Choosing a favorite floor plan

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Thinking of buying or building a new home? Poring through page after page of home plans or touring model homes can be daunting, especially when you're not quite certain of what you're looking for.

When shopping for a home, most people have a good idea of the number of bedrooms and bathrooms they'd like to have. And, more often than not, they have a strong sense of the size and style of the house they ultimately will call home. These and other space and design elements are dictated by two fundamental elements -- needs and budget.

Needs are things which will affect family comfort. Budget is what is comfortable for the pocketbook. Unfortunately, they don't always coincide. Choosing a home plan that meets your needs and budget is what we call a "winning plan."

How do you know when you have a winning plan?

We have prepared the following primer designed to make shopping for a home plan or new home less confusing and more rewarding.

Begin with traffic -- getting from one space to another within your home. Poor traffic patterns make more steps necessary, diminish privacy and can even be unsafe. For example, traveling through the furnished part of a living room or dining room to gain access to another space in the house is generally less desirable than getting there without affecting these spaces or the people in them. Therefore, special attention should be given to how spaces in the home can be traversed with minimal impact on adjacent spaces. Well thought-out design and ample hallways are a good start.

The ability to furnish the space comfortably is another factor that contributes to a winning home plan. Often, people get carried away with other elements of the plan such as the aesthetics or amenities and lose sight of the all-important question: Where will the sofa fit? This question is extremely relevant whether or not you have a house full of furniture. And size is not the answer. Making a room larger does not guarantee that is will be any more furnishable. More wall space does. A section of wall just a few inches too short can eliminate the opportunity to place a piece of furniture, such as an entertainment unit, on that wall. That shortage can short-circuit the overall plan for that room.

Too many windows, windows too low to the floor and an abundance of doors are other factors that complicate furniture placement. We suggest you scale furniture templates out of construction paper and use them to assist you in planning what will go where.

Whereas windows can make furnishing a house more challenging, when it comes to making the most out of the view there simply can't be enough of them. Views and natural light have a profoundly favorable impact on the appeal and value of a home. A dark home is uninviting and, thus, far less valuable.

Energy codes in many areas will dictate the amount of total allowable glazing. Therefore, choose window locations wisely. Be cautious not to have too much glazing along a wall that is prone to severe weather. Too much sun can raise utility bills, lower comfort and fade fabrics and finishes. Use more windows at areas where the best views exist and cut down on or eliminate windows where the view is poor.

Energy upgrades in the construction of your home often will allow for more windows than standard energy codes will permit. For example, extra insulation in the attic, walls or crawl space might improve your energy calculations and allow for added glazing. This can make your home plan an even bigger winner.

Building a home or moving into a new one is an exciting event; however, it is something that most people don't want to undertake too often. Keeping these tips in mind will help separate winning homes from losers.


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