Learning how to create house plans can generate more business for your general contracting company. Most clients don’t expect to draw home layouts. Any contractor that can’t do drafting will lose leads to those that do. Implementing floor plans into your process can help expand your client base, gain glowing reviews and receive more referrals.

Is There a Cheaper Alternative to an Architect?

The cheapest alternative to using an architect is to do house floor plans yourself. Being self-reliant can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll expenses. While filling an architect’s role is challenging, you’ll produce better output over time as you hone your skills and gain more experience.

Another avenue worth exploring is hiring an architectural technician. An architectural technology degree or certificate holder has foundational knowledge of building construction, architectural history, drafting and design analysis. Hiring one who has worked under an architect’s or an engineer’s supervision can be your residential designer or drafter and draw schematic diagrams based on a client’s input.

Although this pro is a step below an architect, having an architectural technician on staff still means inflating your payroll cost by about $60,000-$100,000 yearly — base pay and additional earnings, like commissions or bonuses, included.

7 Tips on How to Design Your Own House Floor Plans

Drafting house plans is easier than ever. Still, drafting is a technical skill. You can’t just wing drawings because one crucial mistake can lead to costly rework and stain your organization’s credibility. Draft residential floor plans with these tips.

1.    Know Architectural Styles

Understanding the nuances between home styles is essential when making sound new construction and remodeling design suggestions to clients. This issue is less of a problem if you operate in a niche. Focusing on a single style makes it easy to familiarize yourself with quintessential features and know which rules to break.

Architecture encompasses aesthetics and functionality. Unintentionally deviating from tradition affects the property’s character and soul. It impacts the owner’s home lifestyle and the house’s value at resale.

Make no mistake about it — architectural styles evolve. Conventional house styles have contemporary equivalents to reflect modern homeowners’ needs and meet minimum building code requirements.

For example, contemporary floor plans can have open-concept layouts to emphasize fluidity throughout the house and blur the lines between indoor and outdoor areas. They appeal to country-house owners willing to part ways with enclosed rooms with rigidly defined functions — like a closed-off kitchen — to eliminate obstructions and establish a stronger connection with nature. Open plans can also produce a greater sense of spaciousness and delight anyone yearning for minimalism.

Grasping the ins and outs of various architectural styles goes a long way. It enables you to draft a house plan from scratch for custom home projects and avoid inadvertently designing an eclectic house.

2.    Measure Vital Features

Drafting a house plan means drawing everything to scale — 1/4 inch should represent one foot. Accuracy matters, so use a laser distance measurer to calculate the dimensions of the following precisely:

  • Built-in architectural features — integrated seating, shelving, a fireplace, etc.
  • Door and wall openings
  • Light switches
  • Power outlets
  • Windows
  • Vent covers
  • Visible pipes

Some use a tape measure. While it can give you a close measurement of architectural features, it seldom returns an exact one because it distorts data when it bends or sags. On the other hand, a laser beam can accurately calculate the gap between two points straight across.

A laser distance meter computes the time it takes for a pulse of light to reach its target and converts nanoseconds into feet. Even tape measure manufacturers use waves of light as a ruler to create accurate products.

The optics of using a laser tool versus a tape measure are night and day. Use laser beams to measure objects and spaces for house plans to appear credible even if you’re not an architect.

3.    Sketch the Initial Plan

Freehand sketches precede digital drawings. Use grid or graph paper, a ruler and a pencil to sketch measurements, room shapes and the arrangement of various design elements within a space.

Drawing the initial plan by hand during brainstorming sparks creativity. Freehand sketching’s raw nature can be less intimidating for clients. It can encourage them to envision their house in a new light, inspire spontaneous ideas and make it easy to incorporate them into the plan.

4.    Leverage Digital Tools

Refine your freehand drawings and add the finishing touches to the plan using computer-aided design (CAD) software. Various programs exist to help you produce professional-looking 2D and 3D architectural drawings from scratch.

CAD tools give you access to templates, speeding up the drafting process and reducing the risk of error. They can have title blocks for the architectural scale, your client’s name and the plan’s creator.

Many are free — some are powerful enough to get the job done. The beauty of digital drawings is you can conveniently edit them. Their models’ photorealistic finishes can impress clients.

CAD software can have a steep learning curve. Feature-packed ones can make your head spin. Thankfully, some are intuitive enough for non-architect users. Try as many tools as possible to find the one you’re most comfortable with to demonstrate your mastery when dealing with clients effectively.

5.    Put a Premium on Labeling

Add universally understood symbols to house plans to render them digestible by the uninitiated. Every CAD program worth its salt should have a library.

Don’t forget to include the compass symbol to illustrate room orientation. This reminder is also for your sake — remembering which direction fenestration units face is critical to knowing how much sunlight flows on the house.

6.    Mind Clearance

To allow for traffic, observe the clearance minimums and ranges below to properly space design elements apart:

  • 5-6 inches for interior-exterior wall cavities
  • 18 inches for passage-friendly areas between furnishings
  • 24-36 inches for one-person pathways
  • 30-48 inches for two-person pathways
  • 30-48 inches for bathroom wheelchair-friendly spaces
  • 36-48 inches for general wheelchair-friendly spaces

7.    Consider Adding Paper Cutouts

Drawing and cutting out paper furniture pieces to scale is a nice touch. Placing cutouts on the plan aids visualization and allows you to experiment with various placement possibilities.

Draft Beautiful House Plans Like an Architect

Drawing floor plans for your general contracting business without an architecture degree makes you prone to impostor syndrome. While it’s natural to doubt your capability at first, these tips lay the foundations for measurement and CAD skills to help you overcome your technical inadequacies and find more success in business.