Residential Frequently Asked Questions

The time needed to complete a set of plans varies depending on the complexity of the home, the ability of the architect and homeowner to communicate, the amount of changes made by the client, and the architect’s current workload. We at MSA Architecture & Planning will do our best to complete your plans in a timely fashion. At least 90 days should be allowed to go through the entire design process. We have found that clients who rushed through the design process often regret not taking more time to think about their design decisions.

Depending on the severity of the changes, we have a couple of options. First, we may simply be able to make changes in the form of an addendum sheet which is attached to your set of plans. With this option, you would be charged hourly.

Secondly, if changes are complex, the plans may need to be redrawn on our computer system and reprinted. This second option is more costly but can eliminate costly mistakes in the field. You would be charged either hourly or for a new plan, whichever is cheaper.

Make a notebook of cut-out magazine pictures, photographs, drawings, or copies of pictures from books…anything that helps to illustrate what it is that you want. That is the best way to communicate to your Architect and Builder what you want.

Always ask questions about anything that you do not understand. There are no stupid questions. Remember, you may be living in this home for a lifetime, and you should get the house that you want.

When choosing a builder, talk with people for whom they have built a home. Find out if the home was completed within the proposed budget, if the home was completed in a timely manner, and if the builder has been good about doing after-the-fact warranty work. It is also a good idea to check the builder out with your Better Business Bureau.

Find a builder you like and feel that you can trust. You will be spending a good deal of your time and money with this person. If you would like, we are more than happy to provide you with a list of builders with whom we do business and find to be credible. You can also get a list of builders from your local builder’s association.

When designing your home, cost effective measures can be taken. Some cost effective ideas are listed below.

Depending on the size of your home, building a two-story home rather than a one-story home may be cheaper. The foundation and roof is very costly and you can minimize that cost by building up rather that out.

Costs may be reduced by trying to minimize wasted space. Do you really need 12-foot long hallways and a foyer that is 12 feet by 20 feet?

Dual purpose rooms may be a good solution for you. You could combine a study and guest bedroom into one room depending on your needs.

Planned future rooms are also good ideas. An example of this would be an attic bonus room to be finished out at some time in the future or by yourself after you move into the house.

Covered porches are nice, but they can be costly. Think about the location of covered porches and if they will really be utilized or are only for looks. If they are for looks, you may want to spend your money elsewhere. Talk with your architect about using another more cost effect way of achieving the look that you desire.

The materials and methods of construction can affect the price of your home dramatically. Having a builder involved with the design process can be very helpful in this area. A builder generally knows the current cost of materials and can help steer you in the direction that your budget allows. They will let you know, for example, if wood floors and wood windows are out of your budget and give ideas about possible comparable replacements.

YES, you need to have your house foundation engineered. Soil conditions change from site to site, and it is important that your home’s foundation be designed for your unique soil conditions. After all, the foundation is the base of your home upon which everything else is built. Do you really want to chance it?

A cabinet is 2 feet deep.

An island is a minimum of 2 feet deep.

The minimum clear space needed around an island is 3 feet in all directions.

In order for us to answer this question, we must first ask the homeowner what furniture will be in the secondary bedroom. Are you putting a king size bed in the room? Generally, a functional size for a secondary bedroom is 11 feet by 13 feet or 12 feet by 12 feet.

When deciding water heater placement in your home, consider these things: maintenance, potential water damage, and needed floor space. For instance, if a water heater is placed on the first floor, it is typically easier to maintain and replace. You also reduce your risk of water damage in the unlikely event that your water heater were to leak. But placing the water heater on the first floor uses space available for storage.

Typical garages are about 19 feet wide by about 21 feet deep. If you want to park two large vehicles such as Suburbans in your garage comfortably, you would probably need a garage that is 22 feet wide by 24 feet deep.

A whole book could be written on energy efficient design and building materials. To conserve energy needed to heat and cool a home, we must talk about heat gain and heat loss. Heat can be gained or lost in three basic ways: radiation, conduction, and convection.

Radiation, simplified, is heat transferred by light rays. Conduction is heat transferred through materials. Convection is heat transferred by movement of air.

We will break down energy saving features into these three categories. Generally, energy saving products and methods are worth doing if they save enough energy to pay for the feature within 5 to 10 years. We will concentrate on those features that are considered to pay for themselves within that amount of time.

  1. Does your lot have a great deal of fall or slope to it? Be aware that if it does, your foundation will probably be quite costly.
  2. Is your lot in a flood plain? The finished floor of your home is required to be out of the flood plain. This means that you will need to build your home up on piers or that you will need to built somewhere on your lot that is not in the flood plain.
  3. Are there drainage issues to deal with? It needs to be determined how water runs off your lot and how this will be affected by the placement of your potential home.
  4. What kind of restrictions does your subdivision have? You need to be aware of masonry requirements, roofing material requirements, square footage requirements, landscaping requirements, etc… all of which affect the cost of your home.
  5. Are sewer and water provided for you, or do you have to provide your own? If you must provide your own, you should talk with people in the area to find out how much a typical sewer system and water well costs and figure this into the cost of your home.
  6. Is there an Architectural Control Committee (A.C.C.)? Depending on how you look at it, these committees have advantages and disadvantages. Most of the time, the purpose of these committees is to protect property values in the neighborhood. However, some people may think that the A.C.C. is too controlling. This is something you need to think about before you buy your lot.

More Questions?  Call MSA today at 210.408.7533 or use the contact form to put MSA to work for your business.