Poor planning leads to forgetting things, which leads to do-overs, which run up the cost and delay the job. Planning ahead gives you time to consider your options and decide in what order to do each task. It also means working out the details, so that construction professionals can give you their best price and finish their work quickly. All of this saves you money and time, and keeps everyone happier.

Would you rather start without proper planning, take eight months to finish, and go over budget? Or would you be happier taking a few months to plan, starting later, finishing in three months, and coming in under budget? We thought so.

Plans Are an Important Part of Planning

When you are making design or structural changes to your house, it is always a good idea to have professional construction documents (CDs). A rough sketch is not enough when you’re investing this much time and money. Often needed for permits, useful for working out construction and finish details, and very helpful for managing the work, complete CDs help ensure that everyone is working with the same information.

CDs can also be used to write and enforce contracts, to help make sure you get what you expect (this is why they are also called contract documents). And when you’ve settled on your final design, you will have detailed drawings to use for budgeting, negotiating contracts, permitting, and managing the project to a successful completion.

Begin with drawings of your house as it is now, known in the trade as as-builts. If you have the original drawings from which your house was constructed, those should do the trick—but make sure you add any changes made to your house since it was built. If you don’t have the original drawings, you can hire a drafter, residential designer, or architect to produce a set for you. A typical set of as-builts will include floor plans, elevations (side views of your house), and perhaps sections (cutaway views through the house). Use these as-builts as a base for considering changes you want to make.

If you’re redesigning parts of your home, your architect, designer, or drafter may then add roof plans, structural drawings, electrical and mechanical diagrams, a site plan addressing landscaping and drainage, and details (close-up drawings of crucial elements, such as footings, roof eaves, and window flashing).

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