As the ultimate DIY project, I want to owner-build a home. I've already "designed" the house, meaning I have a 1/2" scale floor plan, roofing ridge line, and elevations for all interior and exterior wall treatments. These are all done in CAD. I know exactly what it will look like inside and out.

In order to build it though, I need building plans, maybe stamped by an architect. The person who makes the plans would need to be qualified to make structural engineering decisions and calculations, like joist spacing, wall framing diagrams, and foundation calculations which I am not qualified to do.

So far, I've found four types of people, none of which will do what I want:

  1. Architects want to design the house themselves, and seem offended that I would come to them with specifics about exactly how the house should look and be laid out.

  2. "Residential Designers" seem to be draftsmen that also want to do the design elements themselves. I'm also not sure about their qualifications for engineering calculations.

  3. Design and build firms want to do the design themselves and build the house too!

  4. Most engineers only seem interested in commercial projects, and it seems like over kill to hire an engineer ($$$) to draft building drawings for a small residence.

So if I already have a complete "design" for the house (layout and artistically speaking) but need that design turned into structurally sound and code compliant construction drawings with the proper legal approvals, who is the right type of person or firm to do this work?

  • 2
    If the architect will not take your money, call a different one. There's always somebody willing to take your money.
    – Tester101
    Jun 15 '17 at 16:16
  • 1
    I'd find an architect that would listen to me. There are many issues he/she can help with: zoning compliance, setbacks, underground utilizes, best heating system, etc.
    – Lee Sam
    Jun 15 '17 at 16:18
  • Find a less pretentious architect... You're the boss - it's your money & your house.
    – brhans
    Jun 15 '17 at 16:30
  • Bad time to do it. We're in a "period of economic optimism", and everybody's building while the building's good. Wait until after the bubble bursts, all those people who turned you down will be blowing up your phone. As for what is permissible, don't go "maybe", ask the local AHJ, the people who issue building permits. Jun 15 '17 at 16:34
  • I am sure an architect will be able to do it. There are plenty available on google :-)
    – JStorage
    Jun 15 '17 at 18:54

Some of the things you mention don't require anything specific. Wall and foundation diagrams are boilerplate. The truss company will design the roof system to fit your design. Joist specs are fairly straight forward, and a salesperson at your local lumberyard may have the expertise you need.

As has been mentioned, if you find the right company they'll be happy to work from what you've drawn. They may insist on re-drawing it, but there should be very little demand to change your design substantially. Keep looking for a smaller local outfit with a good reputation.

  • I agree with @isherwood most of the information is boiler plate. I designed my shop 1 wall was 11' below grade, I needed an engineering stamp for only that section of the foundation. I had a local guy draw my plans and print them. I submitted those to the county they did red line the section for the foundation and added a hand rail on a stair well everything else was fine. Look around and check references my guy was way cheap, after plan approval he printed me 2 more sets (total of 4 ) he put in the required studs and headers and we used the truss company prints for the roof. Plans for permit
    – Ed Beal
    Jun 15 '17 at 19:19
  • Beyond the boilerplate, there's certain things that I'm not sure about. For example, the terrain is sloped, and we want to build a walk-out basement/garage with 11' overhead clearance to use as a wood shop. There's definitely soil composition and erosion factors to consider, as well as the reinforcement of the full basement wall. I've also read that the standard/minimum requirement for lbs per sqft of floor load may be inadequate in some cases, such as homes with aquariums or grand pianos.
    – Nick
    Jun 16 '17 at 6:32

Most people find Architectural and Engineering firms cost prohibitive. @brhans has the right idea. You might try looking around for a good construction manager and work with him to find a drafter or drafting company. Be very careful in selecting anyone to help you. Check references, find other people who have used them, make sure you build a level of trust, and if you have any reservations make sure you resolve it before signing any contract of outlying any cash. This can be a real minefield, so approach with caution.


That sounds like an expensive plan. I suggest going to one or more architects and looking through their plans; for a price they will make changes( elevation changes are easy.) I did that but had to redraw everything at the last minute. The architect and contractor should have some good suggestions. However , I found they had an obsession with making bath and closet doors 2 feet wide - I wanted 3 ft. whenever possible. I reframed a couple in the evening.

  • Owner-builders don't use general contractors, they replace them by hiring and managing sub contractors ("subs") directly. Why didn't you change the doors in the planning phase? Reframing parts of walls against the drawn plans could cause failed inspections and could expose you to legal liability later on, even if the part that failed was not the part you changed.
    – Nick
    Jun 16 '17 at 6:08

I bought Chief Architect's Home Designer and did it myself. I tried Punch but didn't like it.

It won't be as professional as a set of purchased prints but most residential contractors are used to working with minimal prints.

I was able to buy the poured walls, sub-floor package, and trusses with this software. From there all that is left is the finishing up. 😉

Good luck!

  • 1
    It looks like this product handles drawing the appearance you want, but not structural/construction design and code issues.
    – fixer1234
    Jun 15 '17 at 18:46

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