Before You Get Started
Before you get started on planning your new home here are some things to consider.
Be practical about what you can afford. Look at housing in your area and see if what you want is being built at the price you want to pay. Set a budget and stick to it.
There are many, many decisions which will have to be made about what goes in to make your house. Individually the difference may seem to be insignificant as compared to the total budget but if you pay just a little more at each step, by the end of the project this could add up to major difference in cost.
Site comes first.
(that is if you want the best design) A house designed for a specific site will almost always be better than a random house plan plopped down on a random site. Some sites are better than others. Here in Texas, West facing porches and windows can be a problem. It is not fun to have to take out a large tree if it can be avoided.
Builders bear most of the responsibility for building quality and safety. No matter how detailed the plan is, the final product (your home) is only as good as the people who build it. An experienced, trained, quality builder is important.
Most all plans that you would find online are subject to copyright (meaning not only can they not be directly copied they also cannot be substantially copied) Simply redrawing someone else's plan does not avoid copyright issues. By the same token I retain the copyright of all my plans so unless we make a special agreement you can not give them to someone else or resell them to build a second house. The good thing here is that plans are often not very unique. There are only so many ways to arrange rooms to fit contemporary preferences and so basic arrangements and room sizes tend to not be copyrightable. In other words no one can copyright an 11x11 bedroom with a closet in it.
What You Need to Get Started:
Most clients come with some sort of plan that they have developed themselves so there is less guess work involved. It is also most helpful to have a clear concept of what the exterior should look like because the interior needs to be designed with the exterior look in mind. You should begin to create a binder with pictures, finishes and products you are interested in. Create a list of some of the things you know you want included.
The more information I have the less I have to guess.
Some clients start with very few preconceived ideas. This is what I call starting from scratch and more time is required to design this way.
If you are developing your own plans remember to include wall area keep in mind how the thickness of walls will affect the layout. For example a typical 2x4 brick/stone veneer wall is 9" thick. Interior walls are usually 3-1/2" all walls will have some sort of finish -typically 1/2" drywall on interior walls
The best thing to do is find a some graphing paper in a size large enough to draw the plan at 1/8" = 1' or larger scale or if you like computers there are several free and cheap home design programs.