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Hello World
By way of introduction I am Justin Ball. That probably means little to anyone but my wife or my parents. My kids don't read yet so I suppose I don't score a lot of points there either. I am the guy that wrote the software for The Plan Collection. I still do a fix a few things here and there but mostly I just boss others around now. Much to their dismay I keep hanging around here - kind of like that car you have up on blocks in the front yard. It is ugly, you know you should get rid of it, but somewhere in the back of you head you keep telling yourself that you will do something with it someday. I am also building a home. "Who cares?" you say. True you may not care, but you read this far so at least you are curious. I don't know a lot abou Read more
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Published On : 06-24-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
1477 Views
Designing your home for comfort.
I came in to work this morning and made a great post about designing your home for your lot, unfortuantely, my internet connection timed out and didn't post it and I lost all of the text. Turns out my laptop automatically connected to someone else's wireless network here in the business park and it was very, very, slow. Now that I have that remedied... This morning I stopped by the new subdivision where Justin and I will be building our new homes. I like to check out my lot before starting a new home to determine the best way to design the home and position it on the lot. Sometimes people just build their homes without thinking about how the postioning of the home will effect things. For example, my lot is a cul-de-sac (at the end of Read more
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Published On : 06-25-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
1343 Views
 
Wow! This Is Expensive: Making Sure to Budget Before Starting to Build
<p><span style="font-size:14px">I am building a house.  I have been married seven years.  I have twin daughters and another little girl that is 7 months old.  Three kids total.  My sister-in-law studied family something to do with marrage in college and she tells us that there are several factors that leads to divorce - building a house, the seventh year of marrage and a dealing with all that comes when you have a brand new baby.  Oh and I am trying to sell a car and my house too.  So I am bona fide nuts.  No doubt about it.  I and Callie, my wife, spent some time with Jaren and Jake the other day figuring out Read more
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Published On : 06-26-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
3538 Views
Start from Scratch? I doubt it.
After spending the weekend trying to come up with a house plan that my wife and I can both agree on, I've decided that starting from scratch to design your home isn't always the best answer. I always thought I had the advantage because I design homes for a living. Problem is, I have designed a lot of home plans, each with neat features of their own. So when I start working on a home for myself, I try to incorporate all the neat stuff in one house plan. Can't be done. You will never have the perfect house. There are somethings you'll just have to settle for and no matter what... when you move into the home, there will always be something that you wished was a little different, a little bigger, etc. Anyway, after starting from scratch a Read more
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Published On : 06-28-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
1440 Views
Make all of your selections before you start building
I have learned that building a new home can be a stressful experience.  However, I have also watched other families have an enjoyable experience.  One common thing that helps these people enjoy the process is they make all of their color and material selections before they start building and then they stick with their choices.  I have actually had people come to me with house plans they purchased and a complete materials list and selection agreement.  I knew exactly what I was bidding and I knew how much the home-owners wanted for allowance items.  Because they were so organized, I sharpend my pencil because I knew they would have several general contractors bidding the same plan.  95% of the people are no Read more
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Published On : 07-02-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
1707 Views
Quality, Speed or Price
When choosing a builder, determine in what he specializes.  Is his main focus quality, speed or price?  If he focuses too much on price or speed the quality will take a hit.  If you really want your home done extra quickly you will pay more and the quality will not be as high.  I am sure you also know of a builder who has a good reputation for great quality.  This builder is probably taking advantage of his clients because of his reputation.  You will notice this when he bids your home plans, because his will be the highest bid by far.  A good quality builder is worth some extra, but how much more?  If you specify everything that is to be in your home, the quality guy isn't going t Read more
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Published On : 07-03-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
1618 Views
How to get the most out of your builder
I once built a house for a man who owned a pizza franchise.  He would frequently bring a few pizzas by the job site.  He would talk with my subcontractors for five minutes while they ate their pizza.   He was always positive about the job they were doing and told them how much he appreciated their good quality craftsmanship.  It is just human nature to do a good job when you feel appreciated.  You can't believe the extras those subs did for the homeowner, at no additional cost.  To this day, that is the best home we have ever built.  The homeowner was actually one of the most demanding we have ever had.  However, he gained the respect of my subcontractors before he would say something l Read more
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Published On : 07-05-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
1601 Views
Make your choices together
   As a general contractor I have seen the good and bad in people.  Designing and building a new home can be stressful.  However, it doesn’t have to be.  In fact it can be very exciting and rewarding.  I have seen a few couples actually get divorced over building a home.  In those cases, I noticed the husband or the wife wanted to make the majority of the decisions.  Most of the time the husband was very adamant about what he wanted.  In my humble opinion I think the wife should have the greatest say in what she wants in her home.  After all, most women spend more time in the home than men. Generally they do most of the housework, most of the child rearing and care the most about thei Read more
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Published On : 07-07-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
1515 Views
Choosing a Builder
I was looking at a site called NAHB. Which stands for National Association of Home Builders. I enjoy being a member of this association. It allows me to meet with other builders to talk about the latest trends and to compare notes on who has the most difficult home-owners. Well, at least I am honest about it. The NAHB is the association that sponsers the Parade of Homes. I have had eight different homes in the parade. I have served as president of our local NAHB branch. It is a good organization with good ideals and ethics. I would recommend finding a builder who is a member of this association. I found the following article on the NAHB web site: CHOOSING A BUILDER If you're in the market for a new home, you should shop for your builder Read more
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Published On : 07-08-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
1949 Views
Things I like to consider when choosing a building lot
             Things I like to consider when choosing a lot.             Traffic.  Are the roads safe enough for a family with children?             Shopping.  Are there grocery stores etc. in close proximity?             Churches:  Are the churches close to the neighborhood? If you attend church regularly, I would recommend that you attend a few church services in that church. Parks and Golf course should be nearby. Views:  Every lot is a view lot, but a view of what?  Is it overlooking Read more
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Published On : 07-09-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
2140 Views
Check Your Setback Requirements Before You Choose a House Plan
As you are searching for a great home plan, make sure you check to see if it is appropriate for your building lot.  Some cities and neighborhoods require ridiculous setbacks.  This means your home must not be placed any closer than 30 feet to the front property line. In most instances, 30 feet is far too much.  It ruins the size of the back yard and simply adds to the cost, because you have a longer driveway.  One quick reminder as you measure your setback.  Generally the property line is not the sidewalk or the back of the curb.  It can be anywhere from 5-15 feet or more from the back of the curb.  Look for the property corner stakes.  There are also side and back setback requirements.  We would Read more
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Published On : 07-21-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
2102 Views
The time is near
I dropped by Jake's house this evening to finalize some changes to our House Plan. We aren't changing a lot, but like everyone else there are a few little things here and there that need to be customized for our needs. One of the things we did was to adjust the master bathroom. We also changed a few of the closests since we have a lot of stuff. It's funny how a home that has been built for so many other people doesn't quite fit when you have the option to make a few changes. Of course those changes will add up to extra cash, but you have to pay more (sometimes a lot more) for custom work. Before you know it, the house is a lot bigger than the original plan and the price has gone way up. That is always the danger when you build a cust Read more
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Published On : 07-21-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
2141 Views
The Home is looking Great!
I can't believe how quick they put these homes up! My wife and I are building our first home. This has been very exciting and very nerve-racking! We have been trying to pick out all the exterior and interior colors. That alone has been enough to put a man into therapy! I think we have finally decided on the Pebblestone Clay siding with the white trim for the exterior. But, it is coming together nice and quick. Jaren Taylor (my boss and one of our fellow Bloggers) is our Contractor here in Logan, UT. He sure knows how to build them with quality and speed! Our home plan is a beautiful, cozy, front to back, Tri-level. Jake England is the master behind the home design. Jaren talked about tri-levels in a previos blog. They are a very cost-eff Read more
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Published On : 08-02-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
2084 Views
House Plans
Jake is a great guy.  He has spent the past few weeks dealing with our obnoxious home plan changes.  An enormous amount of effort is required to get everything just right.  It amazes me how someone who understands architecture can finesse a home plan into something that is perfect.  I am glad that I don’t have to do all this myself.  I don’t have the vision to turn this: Into this: Thanks Jake Read more
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Published On : 08-12-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
2961 Views
Building Inspectors- Your friend or enemy.
Funny how some people -when given resposibility- feel it necessary to exert their power excessively to prove a point. Why is that? Do they think it makes you any more willing to do what you can to accomodate them? Recently a local municipality has gotten a new building inspector. This has happened a few times in the past many years I've been involved in construction. Some inspectors ease into it, others feel like they have to be a hardnose about every little thing in the book whether or not circumstances require other solutions that are perfectly acceptable. There is a difference between doing your job, and just being a jerk. Sometimes, circumstances are such that you just need to analyze the situation and not necessarily let things go, bu Read more
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Published On : 08-26-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
1930 Views
Rain, Rain Go Away.
So, my home plans have been approved at the city and engineering is done so I am pretty much ready to start. But... Its been raining a lot the last week or so here and it makes it difficult to start any projects. I was about to start building, but its been so wet it isn't a good time to dig a hole, and even if I did, it would be such a muddy mess no one would want to come out and get started. I love the rain and we sure need it here in our dry climate, so I guess I can't complain. But, the weather sure does delay a construction project. Read more
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Published On : 09-03-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
1331 Views
Building yourself - Tip of the Day
Some of the work performed on your home during construction is not the most enjoyable work to do. And while it may seem like you're paying the foundation guy too much [for example] that guy earns his money. I just stopped by to talk with the guy that is forming up my foundation. He hasn't been there for a couple of days because while carrying a foundation form - which are very heavy- he tripped on a clump of dirt and the form landed on him breaking his collar bone. The foundation guys do this kind of work day in, and day out, which is why they are so fast getting in and out, but can you imagine doing that kind of labor every day? Carrying heavy concrete forms from the truck -often through mud and snow- down into a deep hole. And while they Read more
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Published On : 09-17-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
1528 Views
I have a hole
I haven't posted for a while, but then not much has been done for a while. They dug the hole for the house about a week ago, poured the footings last night and put up the forms for the foundation walls today. Very exciting. Read more
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Published On : 09-22-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
2158 Views
The new house is framed
I have been slow about posting the status of the new house. They finally got it all framed. Here is a picture: Read more
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Published On : 11-23-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
2494 Views
The roof is on
I took this picture this morning. I talked to Jaren just a little while ago and the rest of the roof is on. Things move fast when they get going. Read more
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Published On : 11-23-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
2243 Views
Our House is Done!
We just finished our home! Man, it is an exciting time, all the moving, the closing on the finances, and finally the unpacking. This is our first home, so we are really nervous, but most of all excited. We really love this floor plan designed by one of our Plan Collection designers, Jake England. The design has a great use of space and we have the unfinished basement for all the future growth. Let me tell you a bit about this floor plan. This is a great front to back multi level plan with great curb appeal. You'll love the tall vaulted ceilings in the formal living room that give the home an open feel. Also enjoy the coziness of the third bedroom above the garage built within the trusses. We actually decided not to do the third room abov Read more
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Published On : 11-24-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
2646 Views
Progress
I took some more pictures of the house last saturday. The weather has been pretty cold and snowy so I am glad I did. Here's the outside: This will be the family room: You can see the arch in the living room starting to take shape: Here's an arch we did over the stairs: This will be a plant shelf in the entry way: Things are starting to take shape. We walked through the house tonight. The electrical and plumbing are in. Some of the electrical is wrong which sucks. I was supposed to walk through with the electrician but somehow that never got communicated. Now they have to come back and change a few things. Even more costs. My favorite. I guess there are a lot of things you don't plan on when Read more
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Published On : 12-08-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
2240 Views
Keep your foot in the door.
I have been working with our framing contractor this week trying to get things finished up at the house we are building. It's a fun process building a home and seeing everything come together, but I think its important to keep tabs on whats going on. Sometimes, someone elses interpretation of how things should be determines the outcome of a homeplan, rather than the intentions of the home owner or designer. Fortunately, we've been working with a  pretty good framing contractor that is happy to build things as we want them, yet makes suggestions on things that will and won't work. Maybe one of these days I'll post a picture of the home. Its been a struggle getting the roof completed as the truss company built a girder truss incorrectly, Read more
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Published On : 12-08-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
1734 Views
Be careful when deciding how much house you can afford
I just read a really great article that talks about the current state of mortgages in the United States.  In my opinion it is always better to use prudence when deciding how much debt to take on. Here is a link: http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/Banking/Homefinancing/P98896.asp If you want to know what the house price index is in your state check here: http://www.ofheo.gov/HPI.asp If you want to know what the house price index is check here: http://www.ofheo.gov/HPIAbout.asp Read more
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Published On : 12-08-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
2908 Views
Progress update
All the electrical and plumbing are now in. The bathtubs are over there, and they are supposed to put in the fireplace tomorrow. If everything passes inspection they will insulate on friday and sheetrock next week. I finally saw a spreadsheet of costs. There is a lot of stuff on there that I did not know you need to to to build a house. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of cooperation from various people and organizations to put up a home. I am amazed it happens at all. Read more
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Published On : 12-15-2004
Author : Steve Donegan
2190 Views
The Latest Home Design Project.
Well, Here is a picture of the latest project. The doors were hung this morning. We should be able to have an inspection tomorrow so that we can start drywalling and getting this closer to being done. The home plan turned out pretty good. Its always fun seeing things come together. Some things turned out better than I expected, and of course there are things that I wished were a little different. But thats the way it goes when you're building a home. Hopefully soon we'll get some masonry work done and get the outside completed. Read more
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Published On : 01-04-2005
Author : Steve Donegan
2563 Views
The house is sheet rocked
Here are some more pictures. These are from a while ago but the show the general state of the house. Here's the outside: It's a mess but here's the family room: and here is a newer picture with things cleaned up a bit: Here's the arch over the stairway: This is the view from the living room looking down the hall: The tub in the master: The basement is a walkout: These pictures are a bit old. I took them over the holidays. The brick is up on the front now, and they will be putting in the flooring this next week. I'll post more pictures as soon as I can get over there. Read more
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Published On : 01-08-2005
Author : Steve Donegan
2620 Views
The brick is on
We have recieved several feet of snow over the past few days. You can tell by the picture that it is winter in Cache Valley. They put the brick up this last friday. The house should be done in the next 5 weeks or so. Here's the latest: Read more
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Published On : 01-10-2005
Author : Steve Donegan
3210 Views
Hardwood flooring
Here is a picture of some of the hardwood flooring that we are going to put in. It is a white oak. My wife doesn't love it but we got it for around $3 a square foot so we will live with it. If anyone is interested in getting some let me know and I will give you the contact information of the guy we bought it from. Here's the outside: Read more
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Published On : 01-11-2005
Author : Steve Donegan
3954 Views
Dealing with subcontractors
I know many of you who are looking at our house plans are probably wanting to general contract your own home.  I have written several articles on why not to do that, but some of you will do it anyway.  For those of you who like that kind of stress, let me give you a few hints when it comes to working with subcontractors. NEVER pay any sub-contractor up front money. When the job is finished, DO NOT just accept the sub-contractors word "I'm finished" INSPECT IT (twice) to make sure it is finished, and then pay them. VERY IMPORTANT: Require ALL Sub-contractors to sign a Mechanic Lien Release (or lien waiver) form, showing that you have paid them in full. Your local title company probably has a pre-written form.Find the right sub-con Read more
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Published On : 02-26-2005
Author : Steve Donegan
2613 Views
So How Much Will This Home Plan Cost to Build?
Since so many variables make up the cost per square foot, such as lumber prices, location, amenities chosen, time of year, etc., there is no "standard" cost per square foot.  You can get an idea by calling several contractors in your area.  However, be aware that their bids probably don't include the cost for building permits, impact fees and construction loans.  Be sure to ask them to give you estimates for these items too.  When comparing bids, homeowners should be sure they are comparing "apples to apples." For example, prices will vary tremendously if one builder is quoting an estimate for a kitchen with hickory cabinets and ceramic tile and the other is quoting cherry cabinetry and oak flooring. Consumers should a Read more
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Published On : 02-27-2005
Author : Steve Donegan
3004 Views
The House is Almost done.
Some of the most exciting part of building a new home is the last few weeks, but it can also be the most stressful if you're building your own home. A lot happens in the last few weeks as all of the finish materials are put in the home and the colors and textures start to take shape. It's fun for me as a home designer because I get to see my ideas that I had when creating the house plan start to come together. If you're building the home for yourself however, it can be stressful as you come closer and closer to the day you have to be out of your old home or apartment and the new home is still not yet complete. This week is the last week I have to finish my home before I have to be out of the last. As luck would have it, we've ended up wit Read more
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Published On : 03-21-2005
Author : Steve Donegan
2264 Views
Here are 10 steps for hiring and working with a contractor
This is the year you're going all out. You're going to build a deck, add a porch, erect a gazebo or lay a patio. You've done the research. It's well within your capability and you're looking forward to the satisfaction of creating a structure of beauty. Or not. Yes -- you'd like to proceed with an outdoor structure, but for you, it isn't a do-it-yourself project. How can you find the right person to do it for you? Here are 10 tips for hiring and working with a contractor. 1. Plan your project carefully. Clip pictures, make sketches, write a description. This will help you accurately convey to the contractor what you want the finished product to be. 2. Make a list of contractors. Ask your neighbors or friends for the names of rep Read more
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Published On : 04-29-2005
Author : Steve Donegan
3432 Views
Now or never.
Sometimes, when you are building a home, there are certain decisions that just have to be made. Some of these decisions are fairly inexpensive when the home is under construction, but much more expensive to add once the home is done. For example, if you finish the basement of a home, you'll want to be sure you have gas lines, heat and electrical work run wherever you may need it in the upstairs because it is much harder to add those items after the basement is drywalled. I am regretting not adding another gas line to a location where I would like to eventually put a fireplace. Had I done it while my home was under construction it would have cost me around $100. Now if I go back and add the gas line I will pay 2-300 because the drywall is Read more
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Published On : 05-17-2005
Author : Steve Donegan
2199 Views
Finding your Dream Home
Now is the time to find Your Dream Home!   As you know, fall is just around the corner. The days are now getting shorter, the weather is getting cooler, and leaves are starting to change colors. With all this change in the air, I have to ask -- can you think of a better time to start looking for your dream home? Now is the perfect time to start looking through house plans for at least two reasons. 1) The Market As most of you know, the housing market has been in a bit of a slump. In fact, according to some experts, we are experiencing the biggest U.S. Housing slump in 40 years! That information may sound quite dismal, but there are some benefits that many people fail to realize. For years, material suppliers Read more
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Published On : 09-08-2008
Author : Steve Donegan
5709 Views
Everybody Loves a Happy Ending
We at The Plan Collection just received an email from one of our past customers, and with his permission, I'd like to share a little bit about his experiences. It's a success story that will show you just how enjoyable an adventure building your own home can be -- especially if you get things started off on the right foot. I'd just like to highlight a few key points that helped give this project a happy ending: CHOOSE THE RIGHT HOUSE PLANS Like most people, Garry had considered building a home for quite some time, but he had a few concerns: "I had been thinking about building but wasn't sure how it would work on such a narrow lot. I went to Google and just typed 'House Plans '. Your site came up. This plan was the th Read more
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Published On : 09-10-2010
Author : Steve Donegan
2555 Views
Finding your Dream Home
Now is the time to find Your Dream Home!   As you know, fall is just around the corner. The days are now getting shorter, the weather is getting cooler, and leaves are starting to change colors. With all this change in the air, I have to ask -- can you think of a better time to start looking for your dream home? Now is the perfect time to start looking through house plans for at least two reasons. 1) The Market As most of you know, the housing market has been in a bit of a slump. In fact, according to some experts, we are experiencing the biggest U.S. Housing slump in 40 years! That information may sound quite dismal, but there are some benefits that many people fail to realize. For years, material suppliers have catered their Read more
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Published On : 01-01-1753
Author : Steve Donegan
0 Views

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