Thursday, March 29, 2012

Step 6 - Sketch Out the Floor Plan

I love maps.  If we're going somewhere, I like to follow along with a paper diagram and once we get where we're going (amusement park, new city, state park, etc.) and someone offers us a chart of the area, I accept it with gratitude and open it up with excitement as my wife explains, "He's a map guy."  Over the years, people have regularly asked me how I go about re-doing the really bad-off houses I buy to rehab.  After I clean the house out (Step 5) the next thing I do is create a floor plan (which is really just a map of the house.)  This step is not absolutely necessary, but it's what I do.  However, I am a map guy. 

Let me say that if you're about to dive into a home renovation project, you're going to be well served by having a drawing (in some form) of your house.  You can scratch your home's layout on a napkin from a fast food restaurant or you can commission an architectural firm to create a rendering for you, but I'd like to suggest that you start somewhere in the middle.  A measuring tape and a few sheets of graph paper are the easiest way for me to knock out Step 6, but you may have some computer software you're more comfortable with.  It's going to take a few hours to draw out the house (at the least), but I always do it and feel it's worth the time and effort.  Ultimately, you may hire an architect, but having a drawing will only be an asset if you do.

There's several reasons why I sketch out the floor plan.  First, it's easier for me to visualize changes, adjustments, and additions when I have a bird's-eye view of how the house is laid out.  I see things differently and more completely when I have a scaled depiction on paper.  Secondly, like taking pictures, I want a drawing of what the house looks like before I start tearing it apart so I can compare the layouts before and after (the same as I do with the pics.  See - Pictures, Pictures, Pictures!)  In addition to that, I need to draw the house in it's original form before I start redrawing it (Step 8).  For me, renovating a run-down house is a step-by-step process that has unfolded over the years in a pattern that works effectively for me.  Step 6 is just a routine part of how I go about my process of bringing my dilapidated buildings back to life.

The Cottage - Before

There are a variety of types of graph paper out there, but I've grown to prefer those that have either sixty-four or one hundred blocks per square inch in sheets that are 11" x 17".  Standard graph paper will work also, but I like using the styles with the smaller squares because that allows me to create a rendering of the home in which each small square represents a 4" area of the structure.  This may seem too minute or finite and might sound like a task that's going to take way too long.  I've plowed through this step too many times to count, it's easy once you get going, and I won't renovate a home without having a drawing to work from.  For me, Step 6 is a necessity.   

There are several reasons why I prefer and recommend that the drawing of the home is broken down into four inch increments on the sketch.  First, doors, windows, cabinets, counters, closets, appliances, stairs, hallways, rooms, and most everything else in the house will be in sizes closely divisible by 4.  Secondly, most walls will be accurately represented in a floor plan if they're drawn to be 4" thick.

Finally, remember to include fixtures in the bathroom, cabinets, fireplaces, porches, balconies, and anything else on the inside or outside that may impact your plans.  This drawing does not need to be elaborate.  It needs to be easy to read, clean, organized, and most importantly as accurate as you can make it to the four inch dimension I keep referencing.

I always do a rough drawing right away in the project house and then a second, cleaner version when I get home while I'm sitting down at my desk or the kitchen table.  After that, I'm ready for Step 7 - Permits and Step 8 - Redraw the Floor Plan

The Cottage - After

I would like to apologize to those of you who are outside of the United States where things aren't as easily divisible by increments of 4 inches.  I do realize that my readers in other parts of the world may be working from the metric system.  Although I have worked on construction projects outside of my home country, my experience is predominantly here.  Please excuse me for specific terminology more applicable in the USA.  However, I hope with some minor translations in my measuring techniques, you can adjust my advice to help you no matter where you are in the world.  

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