Decision Timeline for Your New Home

By Bud Dietrich

The process of designing and building a house may not be a race, but it does mean making key decisions at precise times.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions . . .

Design is all about decision making.  From big picture issues such as where, what, how big, how much, etc. to detailed decisions such as selecting the style and finish of a doorknob, design is about establishing criteria and then reviewing options against this criteria.  Previously we identified how to create a program, which is the criteria for decision making, as well as how architectural drawings are the way in which decisions get recorded.  Now, we’ll look at the types of decisions that need to be made and when these decisions should get made (timing listed here is a general approximation, since each project is unique).

Week 1 -- B
ig picture decisions:  I
tems like room count, size, look, and feel as well budget will all be addressed early on.  This is also when you write the program that will be your guiding document for later decisions.  This isn’t the time to be focused on the small stuff.  That will come later.

Weeks 2 & 3 -- Conceptual design decisions:
 This is when the architect looks at how house and land fit together, sees how zoning restrictions will affect the project, and develops a sense for some 3D characteristics like size, scale and massing. While you and your architect will want to have a floor plan in mind now, don’t get hung up on exact sizes and relationships.

Weeks 4 to 6 -- Schematic design decisions:  Once you are comfortable with how the house will sit on the land as well as the overall size and general configuration, you’ll want to start fine tuning the plan, elevations and sections.  Decisions you’ll be making now have to do with exact room sizes, window and door locations, ceiling heights and some material selections.  This is also the time that we’ll want to have a handle on the effect of applicable building codes.

Weeks 7 to 10 -- Design development decisions:
 Now that you’ve got the basics of plan, elevations and section settled, you’ll want to see the design impact of heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical systems.  You’ll also want to see the design impact that the necessary beams, columns, posts and more have.  It’s common that during design development some walls get thicker to accommodate piping or we figure out that we’ll need a bigger post to carry that structural load.  During design development we’ll also start to make decisions about cabinetry, special built-in items, the major interior finishes and more.

Weeks 11 to 18 -- Construction drawing decisions:
 To clearly communicate all of your decisions to the folks responsible for building your home, you need a complete set of construction drawings.  This set of drawings will show global as well as detail decisions, even down to the size, style and finish of things like door hardware.  Making sure we’ve made these decisions and probably recorded them will save you time, money and stress during construction.

Weeks 19 and Beyond -- Construction decisions:
 The goal is to make very few decisions during construction so the project runs as smoothly as possible – and changes at this stage can be costly.  But don’t fret if that’s not the case; just make sure your builder lets you know what information is needed and by what date.  And make sure to build in some extra time just in case that plumbing fixture comes broken or the wrong color.