KISS keep it simple stupid.
I am not a big fan of acronyms since I usually can,t figure out what they stand for, if they are not explained in the text. However, KISS is an acronym that is pretty apt in almost any decision making situation, and one I have no trouble remembering. Applying it is a little more difficult, but the most sensible approach to house building. Of course, our wants and needs don’t always make sense.
When building a house, the simplest plan is going to be the most cost effective, and the easiest to make work well in terms of comfort, efficiency and ease of building. I am going to dedicate this post to examples of how simple works.
Size is an important aspect of simplicity. The larger a house gets, the more complicated it is likely to become. The other side of the coin, is that trying to fit all your needs and wants into a small package, can make planning more complicated. Prioritization and compromise will be necessary, even if your budget and space is nearly unlimited.
A rectangular house is the cheapest build, and the most efficient energy wise, with square being the ultimate. There are limitations though. A square house can get expensive if it gets too large. If you want any clear spans, then roof and floor trusses get increasingly more costly, as the width increases. Hip or gable roofs may become to high, and limit you to flat or low slope roofs with their inherent maintenance and cost issues. A square footprint can be a good choice for a two or three story house, since you can fit in much more living area, and they can be very efficient energy wise. They do have the problem of space wasted in staircases, and are more difficult to design and build than bungalows or ranchers. They do suit small building lots, that are becoming more common as cities encourage infill in older residential areas, and as land costs in many areas escalate.
My favorite? My personal favorite is a ranch style house with attached garage. They do require larger lots, and unless your requirements are minimal, will not work on city lots less than 5000 sq. ft.. Second, would be a bungalow, which is basically a rancher on a basement. I am not so fond of multi-level splits, 1½ story, or two or more stories because they are more complicated, and I don’t like stairs. Stairs waste space, can be dangerous, and are not friendly to handicapped, seniors or toddlers. Maybe none of these apply to you now, but I am willing to bet that one or more will, at some point in the future.
Cheapest space for the dollar?
Well, that would have to be what is generally known as a bi-level. Basically a bungalow, where the basement is only about a 4 to 5 feet (1.22 to 1.52 meters) in the ground, allowing for large windows in the basement. One entry, generally the front, is a split with the door near ground level. You have stairs, but there is a landing half way down, so you don’t have as many steps to fall down at one time. Typically, even the small ones with a developed lower level, will have about 1500 sq. ft. (139 sq. m) of useful living space, and 4 or more bedrooms. Ideal for a large family with a small budget. This can be a simple house to build, and quite energy efficient. Garages can be easily attached to an end wall, if you have room, with entry to one or both levels. They also adapt easily to sloped lots. Because of their in-between height, they can fit into a more diverse variety of neighborhoods.
I know it sounds like I am a real fan of the bi-level, doesn’t it. Well I am, just not for me. Not for me, because me and my wife are already seniors, and we don’t want stairs of any kind. We also have no need for a lot of space or bedrooms.
If you build your home smaller than the average for your neighborhood, it would be wise to design it so that it is easily expandable. Try to make it easy to add bedrooms, bathrooms or family rooms. After basement development, the easiest and least disruptive way to add space, is with a bump out. Of course, the house must be oriented to allow for this and c onsideration must be given to how heating, cooling and ventilation could be accomplished. Headers could be pre-installed in bearing walls, and electrical could be left stubbed off in strategic locations. My own plans are to build our house in stages, starting with about 1000 sq. ft (93 m2), two bedrooms and two baths. The intent is to add an attached garage within a year or two, or as finances allow, and add two more bedrooms at some point in the future, for a better resale value or maybe just a make work project.
This post has kind of led into a discussion on house configurations and the pros and cons of each. In another post we will deal with this further and perhaps discuss different construction methods and materials.
Below is my own simple and easily expandable home plan. Still working on it. it is 28′ x 36′ or 1008 sq. ft.. (or about 92.5 sq. meters)