Our Design Plan

If you are as brave (or stupid… or both) as us and want to embark on your own DIY fixer project, here is some simple advice: start with a plan!  For us, because of my design background, that meant putting our house into AutoCAD and clicking away; but for you, that might simply mean grabbing some graph paper and a pencil.  Whatever it is, do not start busting down walls until you have a very good idea of how your new layout will work!  Here are some pointers to help you get started:

  • Draw an “as built.”  In design speak, this means getting to know your existing layout like the back of your hand.  Measure walls, windows, doors, hallways, ceiling heights, etc.
  • Get some trace paper and start tracing over your newly created as built.  Maybe you think you want to take down a wall here, add a powder room here, and so on.  This is where your imagination comes into play, so get creative!
  • BUT, don’t get too creative.  Keep in mind some basic “rules”:
    1. Houses stay put because of structural framing.  Don’t take out the bearing wall that is holding your roof up!  If you don’t know, ASK a professional.
    2. Keep your costs down by maintaining the same general layout for your plumbing fixtures.  Knocking down a kitchen and adding a new one where the master bedroom currently is will be a lot more work, money, and headache than modifying the existing kitchen space.
    3. Remember space planning clearances.  By this I am referring to the space you need to comfortably walk down a hallway, pass through a doorway, sit on the toilet, eat at the kitchen table, and so forth.  There are great guidelines already in place (and building codes!), so make sure you do your homework.  If it helps, start measuring spaces like this in your current home.
      • Don’t forget to consider the size of your existing furniture, too!
    4. Consider public versus private spaces.  For example, do not make your company walk through your master bedroom to use the bathroom.  Try to group bedrooms away from noisy family rooms.  You get the idea!  There’s nothing more annoying than trying to fall asleep to a combat zone on the TV behind your bedroom wall!
    5. Budget, budget, budget! ‘Nough said!
  • Lastly, know what kinds of permits you may need to get for your projects.  Permits cost money and take time to process, so plan for them.  Not only are permits required for your safety, but it will also come back to bite you in the behind if you have to tear open your freshly painted wall after the fact.  Permits can also come into play when trying to sell your home in the future–buyers want to know that your work was done properly!

See below for our examples, and check out what we have in mind for our own fixer!  Click on the images to enlarge them.  And as always, if you have an interesting suggestion or comment, please let us know!  

UPDATE – 11/5/2014: See our previous schematic design, including an explanation for the revision, in my post “Design Revisions.”

This is what an "as built" refers to.

This is what an “as built” refers to.

It is helpful to include furniture in your preliminary design.

Schematic & Demo

The dark, dashed lines are the demo walls.


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