Plan questions - Read First

Started by John Raabe, March 04, 2005, 12:59:50 PM

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John Raabe

This section of the forum is for help with our CountryPlans specific house plans. We try and jump on these questions first as these represent requests from PAYING CUSTOMERS (thank you!) Many of our active members (all volunteers) also check this support forum and share their experiences as well.

What follows are notes about making plan changes. We encourage you to adjust your plans to your needs and local conditions. Non-structural changes such as moving windows and non-load bearing walls are easy. Structural modifications are trickier. This forum can sometimes help you brainstorm ideas on structural modifications but we cannot give actual structural advice. So, don't use this as a substitute for a local professional! You may need such help especially in heavy snow, hurricane and earthquake country, or where you have sloping ground, clay soil or other site "challenges".

Here is an article about How to make changes to our plans.

While most jurisdictions approve our plans as designed, others may require changes or an engineering review. It is hard to predict how easily plans are approved and this "approval climate" can vary even in a single jurisdiction.

To make simple changes (moving windows or non-bearing walls) you can often mark these on the plan itself. You often see plans being marked up by owners and builders right at the permit counter. Inspectors often encourage this. Sometimes it makes sense NOT to make changes until you get your permit and then work out your modifications with the site inspector. More extensive revisions and any structural changes should be noted on the plans and checked with the building department. They can tell you if you need to have a local engineer or designer do modifications to the drawings and details. This will cost additional money, of course, but can save a great deal over the expense of starting a plan from scratch.

You can do much of this plan modification with tools from our sister site where templates are available for many of the plans we sell. Using the appropriate software, these allow floorplan changes such as reversing a plan, moving walls, windows and doors, testing furniture layouts, and adding or changing things like porches. After you have the plan the way you like it, floorplans & elevation drawings can be printed to scale and pasted into the paper plans. These PlanHelp templates are not full CAD files and do not include the structural details that are in the paper plans. They require the purchase and installation of an inexpensive home design program on your computer. (See our tutorial on 3D Home Architect ver. 3). These programs run on Windows computers or newer Mac computers that can run Bootcamp or Parallels for PC programs.

Here are some of the other tools, details and plan sheets that can be downloaded from PlanHelp and may be valuable to your project. These are in PDF format and can be printed directly. (A PlanHelp subscription costs $29 for 3 months.)

The plans we produce use common code-level "best building practices" and commonly available materials that have been proven by time to be structurally sound. Your inspector or plan checker will be familiar with stock plans and evaluating whether or not unusual local conditions require additional hardware or structural engineering. The booklet that comes with your plans has suggestions for how to work with the building department.

Please understand that we do not provide customized engineering or plan modifications for our plans and you are advised to contact local professionals for such services.

Thank you,

John Raabe
None of us are as smart as all of us.


So... I hope that I am not asking you to post-engineer. If so, I apologize.
We are going to call tomorrow to by the Grandfather Cottage plan. I am wondering if it would be easy and possible to build out the other ("left") side with a room attached as the kitchen / bath room addition, making that room into a sunroom, using the sunroom plans? It seems to me that this would not be a major change but merely a matter of mirroring one side with another and changing the walls and roof design.

Hope this makes sense to you. Maybe you have seen similar things done before?


John Raabe

Yes, I would think that might be a good approach and a relatively easy workup to the plans. You could add roof glazing with site built skylights facing south.
None of us are as smart as all of us.


So extending the bedrom section on the VC plan would be considered a structural change and need to be modified by a local engineer? Just considering putting a laundry closet and walkin closet on the wall that faces the bathroom.

John Raabe

No, an extension of the bedroom wing - just adding more rafters and studs of the same span - that should not require any new engineering.

Extending the length of a gable or shed roofed building or addition is just more of the same... However, making it wider, adding another floor, etc. - that changes things structurally. When you do that the building inspector or your local builder may be able to help you size the rafters, joists, etc.

On the other hand, the inspector can also requiring an engineering review where a local professional will size the structural elements and take the responsibility off the inspector. For unusual situations, and especially in earthquake and hurricane areas this is more and more common a requirement.
None of us are as smart as all of us.


Thanks for the quick reply :).  Soon as we are 100% sure this is the plan we want we can order the plans and start the adventure  ;D


I'm guessing your plans are in feet and inches. Is it possible (or easy) to change that to millimeters on the plan? Does that make sense? I'm in Australia and the builders here use the metric system. I'm quite happy working in feet and inches but wonder how readily the local council would pass them. (That's for me to find out!)


Since John does allow modifications to his plans you would have no problem from him if you made the conversion calculations yourself and replaced his inch-feet dimensions with metric.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn't mean it is good design.