House Type: Where to Start

Starting construction begins with an idea
What kind of house are you looking to build? What is the architectural style? How many rooms? What is the overall square footage? Use this page to help formulate ideas.


Page Topics:

  1. define your family objectives
  2. let's decide the rooms for the new house
  3. home design considerations
  4. sketching the layout: room adjacencies
  5. calculating sq. footage dimensions
  6. design requirements
  7. print this 1-page room selection guide

Click a topic heading to toggle the display of its contents | hide all | show all

Define Your Family Objectives

The following questions is what any architect or builder is going to ask when designing your house.

Think how you would answer these questions.
It will help decide the rooms and layout in the next exercise:

  1. what room is most important to you and your family?
  2. do you have children? what are their ages? will your children's needs change as they grow older?
  3. will your home be a focal point for neighborhood children or teen-age parties?
  4. do you entertain regularly? what kind of entertainment, formal or informal?
  5. do you provide care or soon-to-provide care for an elderly parent or other in your home?

  6. do you frequently entertain guests overnight? do you require a guest bathroom?
  7. do you need a home office or work area that is separate from the rest of the house? what kind of equipment will you need? what kind of work do you do?
  8. do you need a room for sewing, crafts, exercise, etc.? what are your hobbies?
  9. do you need a separate, formal living room?
  10. do you need any extra or special storage capacity?

  11. do you need an attached garage?
  12. how many cars do you have?
  13. do you have any recreational vehicles?
  14. do you need storage capacity in your garage?
  15. do you need a basement? what kind, cellar type of day walk-out?
  16. are you a private person? do you require a place to escape?

top of page

Let's Decide the Rooms

Now take the answers to the question above and select the rooms that meet your needs and objectives.

There are a number of different house plans that you can view to help define your rooms and location: view house plans for ideas

For this discussion, we will use our house plan diagram from our Home Building Gallery.

Download this reference sheet as a guide:
click here for room identification guide


Let's start with the Attic:
link to view floor plan: Home Building Center: Attic Floor

attic storage area
attic bedroom
attic living/work area
attic home office
attic exercise room
attic stellar room
attic art gallery
attic other:
attic other:
click to view
floor plan ideas


link to view floor plan: Home Building Center: Second Floor

Upstairs Floor
master bedroom
master bathroom
master closet
laundry area
cleaning room area
extra room for play room
extra room for home office
extra room for exercise
guest room
nursery room
child bedroom
teen bedroom
upstairs bathroom
other room:
other room:
click to view
floor plan ideas


Main Floor:
link to view floor plan: Home Building Center: Main Floor

Main Floor
dining room
living room
family room / great room
home theater / home entertainment
laundry room area
sun room
foyer / stairway
entry way
utility / safety room
den / library
mud room
cleaning room
powder room / bathroom
music room
recreation room
closet / storage
other room:
other room:
other room:
click to view
floor plan ideas


link to view floor plan: Home Building Center: Basement Floor

Basement Area
dark room / photography room
sports closet
extra room:
extra room:
extra room:
extra room:
click to view
floor plan ideas


link to view floor plan: Home Building Center: Garage Area

Garage Area
2-car garage
3-car garage
4-car garage
working area
storage area
click to view
floor plan ideas


Outside Landscaping:
link to view outside plan: Home Building Center: Outside Area

Outside Landscaping
deck or patio
circular, side- or back-entry drive way
swimming pool
tennis or other recreation court
recreational area
click to view
floor plan ideas

top of page

Home Design Considerations

What should you look for when drafting ideas for your home:

Traffic Patterns:

Traffic should flow to one side of the room rather than through its center; i.e., by placing the door ways in the corners

more traffic information:



Location of the kitchen should have direct access to the dining area and garage where grocery items can be unloaded conveniently.

Traffic should not flow through the kitchen working area.

Larger kitchens have a greater resale value than smaller kitchens — you will want to design the working area with appliances in a triangular position for easy working

more information on kitchen layout:

see kitchen design basics:

see our kitchen design directory:
home building gallery: kitchens


Private Areas:

Bedrooms and bathrooms should be separated visually from the working areas of the house.

You should have at least one bathroom near working and relaxation areas and with easy access from the outside.

Never situate bathrooms where you must pass through one room to get to the facilities.

It is almost a necessity (particularly in a resale) that the master bedroom has an attached master bathroom.

The master bathroom should be large, with full size bath, shower, his/her vanity sinks and exhaust vans that vent to the outside

see bathroom design basics:

see our bathroom design directory:
home building gallery: bathrooms


Living Areas:

Living areas include the dining room, living/family room, and den

Designs may vary with rooms segmented by walls or merged into a larger, multi-purpose room with boundaries such as pillars segmenting one room from the other

see our main-floor design directory:
home improvement center: main floor


Energy Efficiency:

There are some great energy efficient products on the market that can reduce your energy costs and keep you more comfortable

the government has published materials on energy efficient homes:
home energy advisor
energy information for your home

see our energy design directory:
home improvement center: attic floor



Poured concrete is the most expensive foundation and best choice for full basements because of its strength and resistance to leaks

Cinder block is a substitute to concrete, but is not as strong and is subject to leakage.

Monolithic concrete slaps are used with homes without basements bringing the cost and implementation down

more structural information:



more plumbing information:

more electrical information:


Room Dimensions:

bedroom: not less than 7 feet in any direction
closets: depth at 24 inches or more
hallways: minimum width 3 feet
dining room: big enough for 8-person dining table
kitchen: work aisle at least 42 inches wide

more room dimension information:

top of page

Sketching the Layout: Room Adjacencies

Think how each room should be adjacent to each other.

Example, the dining room should be adjacent to the kitchen; the master bedroom should be adjacent to the master bathroom; the foyer should be adjacent to the living room, etc.

These adjacencies generally define your house plan. Review them carefully. Depending on your lifestyle, you may want to move a room to the other side of the house.


There are three categories of assigned adjacencies:

  • Primary Adjacencies:
    these include adjacent rooms that are critical to the success of your design such as kitchen and dining room
  • Secondary Adjacencies:
    these adjacencies improve the quality design of your home but are not necessarily critical. Examples may include a mud room and bathroom.
  • Non-Adjacent Rooms:
    these are rooms that should not be adjacent to each other to ensure the quality design of your home. Examples may include master bedroom to secondary bedrooms.

    use our construction specification sheet to list adjacencies


Drawing a bubble diagram can help illustrate adjacencies.

Illustration: let's use the main floor plan for our diagram:

  • Start with primary adjacencies (in red),
  • then define non-adjacent rooms (in green), click to view
  • connect everything with secondary adjacencies (in blue) click to view
  • now put it all together and view a sample plan click to view

top of page

Calculating Square Footage Dimensions

Once you have defined the number and kind of rooms in your house, calculate the size dimension for each room

use our construction specification sheet to list dimensions


Link to our Home Footage Calculator to calculate the numbers

list the rooms in your house on the dimension sheet (page 3). We've provided three sample sizes. You may choose either A-B-C, or enter your own custom dimension.

calculate the square footage for each room by multiplying the width by the length: Tools: use our home footage calculator

  • subtotal the square footage.
  • for finished rooms, you will need to add 20% to the subtotal amount for wiring, plumbing, wall setup, etc.
  • your total square footage shows the total interior size dimension for your house
  • continue calculating dimensions for garage, basement (finished or unfinished, and other
  • list the dimensions on the specification sheet

top of page

Design Requirements

Requirements and amenities include:

— type windows
— type doors
— type flooring
— whether a specified room will have a fireplace (what kind)
— whether a specified room will have built-in shelving
— whether the kitchen will have an island
— type appliances, etc.

these requirements and amenities are listed in your
construction specification plan


The Construction Specification Plan will be used for the following tasks:

  • use the spec plan to custom design or revise an existing house plan
  • use the spec plan to bid the construction project to contractors
  • use the spec plan to obtain approval and financing for the construction project

    more information in our step3 plan

top of page

Calculate How Much to Borrow
Enter monthly payment: $
Enter months to repay: months
Enter your estimated APR: %
Total Borrowing Amount: $
* Calculations are based upon the assumptions you entered. Please note that rounding errors can make a small difference in calculations.
Designing Your Specifications

use our FREE spec planning form to design your home construction specs for contractor review and bid:

  • select type of materials
  • select design
  • select extras
  • budget your spec plan
spec planning sheet
spec budgeting worksheet
What's in the News
For Your Rolodex

quick access to five key areas in home construction:

  1. step-by-step guide
  2. tools
  3. financing
  4. shopping
  5. getting help
get rolodex pad