Do you have a set of house plans that you love but haven’t used yet? How long are they good for? Do they ever expire?
You may have worked with an architect to draft your future home plans, bought a set online, or borrowed plans from a family member. Perhaps you have held them for a few months to a few years.
Let’s dig into how well they age!
Does a house plan expire?
The simple answer is, it depends.
It depends on what amount of work you have had done on your house plans. I have highlighted the three main stages below.
Scenario 1: You purchased basic plans from an online resource
These plans will not expire. They can be used when ever and as many times as you would like. Why? Because they have not been applied to a plot of land.
In order to build on these plans, you will need to work with a developer or architect to adapt these plans to your specific land. Elevations may need to be adjusted and the whole structure may need to be updated by a local structural engineer.
For example, a building code would be different for building the home on the coast in Florida, where there are numerous hurricanes, then building in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, where there could be many feet of snowfall.
The blue print you get offline is a base outline and thus will not expire.
Scenario 2: You borrowed home plans from a family member or friend.
These plans will expire if they were used to build their existing home.
The reason these plans will expire is because they have been specified for a particular lot of land that will be different from your lot of land.
You can take these home plans as a framework to build upon but you will still need to refine the elevations and structural engineering of the plans. You may also need to adjust the exterior based on your Home Owners Association (HOA) guidelines.
Scenario 3: You worked with an architect to design your home plan
If you worked with an architect to build your home plans for the lot in which you want to build on, then these will typically not expire. However, there are some caveats to this.
1. Depending on the amount of time that has passed from when your home was designed, city or county code may have changed. These are probably minor changes but they would impact your ability to secure permits or pass inspection if they are not reviewed.
2. Your HOA guidelines may have been amended or updated. This could impact your plans in many ways. Maybe they revised the materials you can use on the exterior of your home. Perhaps they increased the minimum square footage required for a new build. Keep up with any changes to avoid this.
3. Your Permits expired. If you developed all of your house plans and received your city, HOA, and county permits to move forward but never did. Then these permits would expire and you would have to reapply. This can cost additional money and may require additional changes to your plans as explained in items 1 and 2.
4. Your geographical data expired. This may be the case if you have held a piece of property for a long time and haven’t built yet.
For example, you bought a piece of land in 2005 and had house plans developed but decided for financial reasons to hold off building until 2020.
In order to complete your home plans in 2005 you had topographical surveys completed, sewage reports, and soil reports completed.
If you wanted to start building in 2020, there is a high chance that you would need to update all of your reports in order to secure current permits. Most environments don’t change much over 15 years but any slight change could impact the foundation of your home.
Who approves building plans?
Building plans may need to be approved my multiple parties. For most people, their city will be the primary contact who will be responsible to granting permits to move forward with your construction process.
If your property is located outside of city limits you will need to follow the permit process as outlined by your county. Don’t assume that since you are not in city limits that you don’t need a permit to start building.
Also, if your lot is in a neighborhood that has an HOA, you will need to make sure you have their approval prior to starting any construction! Their guidelines and procedures may differ from what your city or county requires.
Building plan approval process
1. Start with your HOA
Before you contact your local jurisdiction for approval you will need to show approval from your HOA. If you don’t have an HOA you can move on to step 2.
Every HOA is different but there is typically a design request process that you will need to follow. It is best to connect with your HOA early in the design process so that they are involved from the beginning and can be prepared to review your designs.
Some design reviews are submitted initially via a form that is mailed to the HOA manager. They may request all final designs and environmental surveys before setting up follow-up meetings with the design board and your home builder.
If you try to gain City or county permits without HOA approval it can cause a setback in your timeline.
HOA reviews can take anywhere from a week to approve to a few months! The more information you share from the beginning can help this timeline be as short as possible.
2. Submit plans to city or county planning department
After you have HOA approval to move forward, if its needed, then its time for submitting your final plans to your city or county’s planning department.
All city or county’s will have different requirements so check what you will need to submit early on in the design process.
You will need to wait for the planning department to review and then they will submit your plans to the local building department.
3. Building Department Review
The building department will review your plans for any code violations.
They will closely review everything related to the structural, mechanical, and electrical design of your home. The more detailed the plans that you submit are, the less likely they will come back to you for additional information.
What is included in a set of Plans?
As mentioned above, all city or counties are different and may require different documents. However, most jurisdictions require multiple sets of plans to gain a permit.
Most city’s will require at least 4 sets of plans to be submitted for review. Each set should include the following documents:
1. Site Plans
The site plan is the overall design of your entire lot. It should include a diagram to scale of everything that will be located on or under your property. The following items should be noted in a site plan and drawn to scale:
- Setback dimensions
- locations of easements and driveways
- Lot boundaries
- property corner elevations
- footprint of proposed structures
- Location of any wells or septic systems
- surface draining
- location of utilities and storm water
- arrow pointing north
- landscape plans
Note: this is not a complete list. Please check with your specific permitting office for everything required.
2. Floor Plans
Floor plans are what most people think of when you say blueprints. These will be the top down view of each floor of the home including the roof plan.
All new builds will also need to show foundation plans. It should show the layout, dimensions and details of continuous concrete slabs, footings, reinforcing steel, and the strength of the concrete to be used.
3. Elevation Views
Building elevation drawings are scaled images of the exterior of the home. All sides need to be shown.
These drawings will include, at a minimum, the type of materials on the exterior, and window and door locations and sizes.
4. Cross Sections and Detailed Drawings
Section drawings are a way to show structural information. It will include the types of construction materials used to ensure all codes are being met.
Section drawings can also be referred to as cross sections. They are what you would see if you were to cut completely through a building from the top to the bottom.
These need to be drawn to scale just like all the other plans.
Simple projects may only need one cross section drawing, however, more complex projects may require multiple cross section drawings.
Is buying house plans online a good idea?
Buying a house plan online can be a good idea if you are looking to save some money in architecture costs. The downfall is you may be giving up some of your custom home dreams for an already planned design.
When you purchase a plan online pay attention to what comes in the set. You will also need to still have a local architect or engineer refine the plans for your specific location and lot.
Building codes vary between states and towns so there are some changes that may be needed despite purchasing completed plans.
Check with local architects to confirm their rates before purchasing anything online.
Additionally, your home builder may have already built plans that you can use for your new home.
This is an awesome choice because the builders are already familiar with how the build will go and they are most likely already built up to code. They will just need to be adjusted for your lot.
Can I design my own house plans?
Technically yes. you can draw your own house plan if you can draw straight lines and calculate correct measurements.
All drawings for permits will be required to be drawn to a specific scale.
You will need to still meet with professionals for structural engineering unless you already posses these specific skills.
If you are a hobby artist who has never built a house before, I would highly recommend using an architect and working with professionals. You can draw baseline plans for others to build off of for inspiration.
House plans are a common part of the construction design phase. If you’d like to learn about what else happens during this time, make sure to take a look at our article here.