Thursday, June 14, 2012

Step Eight - Finalizing the plans

It may seem like I haven't posted much lately, but that doesn't mean we haven't been moving forward on our house.  We and the architect have been busy making decisions and finalizing details so that we have a complete set of documents to send to the bank's appraiser, the contractors who will be bidding on the project, and the township for permits.

Apparently not all architects go through this step of choosing finishes and appliances.  They simply prepare the documents for generic items, and the homeowner makes these decisions with the contractor.  While it has taken a while, and not always been easy to make these decisions, we're glad our architect is helping us with this.  To begin with, when we have contractors bid on the project, we know we'll be comparing like bids using the same materials.  Secondly, we won't have to sit with each contractor to choose finishes and possibly have them suggest different products that they are more familiar using.  Thirdly, it allows us to get the plans appraised even while we're waiting for bids, since the materials are already decided upon.  Fourthly, since we're designing a Leed home and our architect specializes in green construction, we know that the materials being chosen have the least impact on the environment and will be energy efficient.  And lastly, we know that the specific items we have chosen have been integrated into the plans, so we won't have to make changes to accommodate our choices later, or have problems arise from items not working together as expected.

Choosing the flooring and wall finishes was not particularly difficult.  We knew we mostly wanted wood floors, with tile in a few places, and cork in the kitchen.  We also already had ideas for color and design schemes in most of the rooms of the house, so it was simply a matter of finding the materials that matched our vision and price range.

Choosing our mechanical systems was not all that difficult either.  Firstly, we didn't actually choose the brand and model; we left that up to the experts.  But we did decide on what types of fuel we wanted to use for the various household systems, and how we wanted them to work.  Again, we had some pretty specific ideas about how we plan to live in our new home and what will be easiest and best for us, making the process pretty quick.

What really was difficult was choosing our appliances for the kitchen.  We knew which kinds of appliances we wanted, but researching and choosing the exact brand and model took a long time.  Our architect asked us to do this early in the process so that his engineers could make the appropriate decisions regarding electrical and ventilation features.  This way we'll (hopefully) have fewer changes once we start construction, as everything's been considered in advance.

We have not completely finalized every possible decision that could be made.  Some decisions won't affect the plans very much, such as paint color or cabinet hardware.  These decisions can pretty much wait until we go to paint or install hardware, so we did not push to decide on those yet.

Having made these sorts of finishing decisions, our architect and his engineers were able to draw up a complete set of plans for every imaginable system.  Which means that we finally have a complete set of plans!  And while we're eager to get going with construction, first we're scrutinizing the documents ourselves to make sure everything is as we wanted, which is not a particularly easy task.  I know these documents are standard, and those in the construction industry are used to seeing and reading them, but to a lay person building their first house, they can be intimidating and difficult to read.  But we feel it's important to understand our plans so we can better supervise the building of our house, so we're taking the time and effort to do so.


  1. I'm really curious to see how you like the cork floor for the kitchen. I'd never heard of it as a flooring material but my brain is LOVING all the ideas it's coming up with regards to it!

  2. Two things we love about the idea of the cork floor are the give, so it's easier to stand on and that glass can fall on it and bounce instead of breaking. We saw the cork floor in another house the architect designed and the owners loved it, so we hope we will too.

  3. One thing that confuses me about cork is it's sustainable, right? But I thought the whole reason wine producers stopped using it was cost due to it being a scarce material?

  4. It is sustainable. Cork is made from the bark of the tree which can be harvested without killing the tree. Wine producers did move away from cork for a while, but not due to scarcity, but plain economics - alternate closure had been developed that were more consistent and inexpensive. One of the down sides to cork wine stoppers is the number of unusable corks in the ordered sheets due to natural flaws in the bark. However, cork is coming back as a wine stopper since it still has advantages over the synthetic substitutes. The floors are doubly sustainable since they're made from the scraps left over from the already sustainable wine stopper industry.