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Designing Your Dream Home: Every Question to Ask, Every Detail to Consider, and Everything to Know Before You Build or Remodel

Designing Your Dream Home: Every Question to Ask, Every Detail to Consider, and Everything to Know Before You Build or Remodel

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by Doe Lang, Susan Lang

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You can have the home of your dreams!

This comprehensive guide walks you through every decision and addresses all the details that most homeowners don't even know to consider.

In this step-by-step, room-by-room handbook, Susan Lang considers every aspect of your homebuilding or remodeling project, such as how to

  • Hire the right


You can have the home of your dreams!

This comprehensive guide walks you through every decision and addresses all the details that most homeowners don't even know to consider.

In this step-by-step, room-by-room handbook, Susan Lang considers every aspect of your homebuilding or remodeling project, such as how to

  • Hire the right architect, interior designer, and builder
  • Design each room to perfectly fit your family's lifestyle
  • Plan ahead so all your storage needs are met
  • Determine the perfect placement for light fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets
  • Save money by avoiding costly design revisions or building change orders

You'll find helpful forms and checklists that will keep you organized and assist you in clarifying your needs. And if you're worried that building your dream home might turn into a nightmare, Designing Your Dream Home covers the most common mistakes that homeowners make and shows you how to avoid them. Susan Lang has thought of everything, so you won't have to.

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Designing Your Dream Home
every question to ask, every detail to consider, and everything you need to know before you build or remodel

By SUSAN LANG Thomas Nelson
Copyright © 2008
Susan Lang
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4016-0352-6

Chapter One Getting Started and Staying Organized

As you begin the laborious task of having your home designed and built or remodeled, it is imperative that you take time to get organized. Getting organized at the outset of the design process will save time and money while reducing stress and headaches.

At the end of this chapter, you'll find basic forms to keep you organized: contact information forms for team members, real estate people, and utilities; a To Do List; a Comments form; a Product Sample Manifest; a Product Sample Fact Sheet; and meeting notes forms. These forms will help you keep critical information at your fingertips, and allow you to stay on top of the communication that takes place at meetings with your team. In the following pages, I'll explain when you use these forms and where to store them.


I recommend using a simple system of tote bags, binders, and wheeled luggage to keep everything you need at hand. The tote bags are lightweight and the contents can be easily identified; the bags serve as a portable file cabinet. The binders are easy to use, easy to update, flexible in size, and serve as portable file folders. The wheeled luggage is an easy way to organize samples and carry them around.


Use three to five tote bags, depending on the size of the bag. These can be inexpensive tote bags made of a soft material, the type often given away at conventions or events.


You'll want 12 three-ring binders in these sizes: 4 one-inch, 7 two-inch, and 1 three-inch. If you will not be doing due diligence (this is explained in Chapter 3) and not dealing with a Homeowner Association, you will need two fewer of the one-inch binders. Choose binders with plastic sleeves on the front cover so you can slide in a piece of paper identifying the binder contents. You will also want to be able to slide the binder title in the spine of the binder. A plastic pouch inside the front and back cover of the binder is a convenient place to store pages temporarily that need to be inserted into the binder.

Additionally, purchase a box of heavy-duty plastic sleeves, a pack of plastic sleeves that hold business cards, and a plastic zippered pouch to hold receipts, all three-hole punched.


Use a piece of wheeled luggage with a pull-up handle to hold samples such as stone, tile, brick, carpet, hardware, and paint colors. Zippered plastic bags are a convenient place to keep samples in the wheeled luggage.

The benefit of the tote bag/binder system is that it easily keeps everything you need at your fingertips. All you have to do is grab the tote bag pertinent to the meeting you're going to or the job you're doing. You can easily have them all in the car with you at any time. As you collect information, you can slip it into the tote bag holding the pertinent binder and file it when you get home.

Or you may choose a different approach to carrying and storing the multiple items needed to keep organized. Whatever your approach, get organized!


Designate one tote bag for supplies. You'll need

* Blue painter tape

* Calculator

* Correction tape or fluid

* Paper clips

* Pens, pencils, highlighters, and erasers

* Plastic sleeves

* Post-it notes

* Retractable fifty-foot tape measure, cloth tape measure, and ruler

* Rubber bands

* Scissors

* Scotch tape

* Stapler and staples

* Three-hole punch

* Tracing paper and note-taking paper

The other tote bags will hold the three-ring binders. In the following pages you'll find recommendations for the contents of each binder. You can decide which binders you want grouped together in the same tote bag. The size of the binder and the size of the tote bag will determine how many binders will fit.

To identify easily which tote bag holds which binders, you can tie a different colored ribbon to the tote bag handles, use a luggage tag, use different colored tote bags, or come up with some other identifying mark.


Create cover pages and spine strips for each of the 12 binder names. Decide which binders you want in which tote bag. If identifying and coordinating with color is important to you, you can print the cover page for your binder on colored paper to match the color of the ribbon tied on the tote bag or the color of the tote bag.

The 12 binders are

Binder 1: Blank Forms (three-inch binder) Binder 2: Hiring Your Team (one-inch binder) Binder 3: Due Diligence (one-inch binder) Binder 4: Design (two-inch binder) Binder 5: Team Meetings and Communications (two-inch binder) Binder 6: Existing Content/Wish List Photos and Tear Sheets (two-inch binder) Binder 7: Homeowner Association (HOA) and Municipality (one-inch binder) Binder 8: Financial, Legal, and Insurance Information (two-inch binder) Binder 9: Shopping Forms and Checklists (one-inch binder) Binder 10: Product Brochures and Specification Sheets (two-inch binder) Binder 11: Final Selections (two-inch binder) Binder 12: Builder Discussions (two-inch binder)


This binder should include blank copies of all the forms in this book related to your home. Any form that does not represent an area you will be using in your home should not be copied. This book covers 32 rooms; if your home will only have 12 of the rooms, then copy only forms for those 12 rooms. (See Appendix 1, page 348, for a complete list of forms and where you will find them in this book.)

Photocopy each form and put those blank copies in Binder 1. You will need to make multiple copies of some of the forms; these are indicated by an asterisk throughout this chapter and in the list in Appendix 1. You will need a copy of the Bathroom Checklist and Bathroom Storage Item Checklist for each bathroom, the Bedroom Checklist and the Bedroom Closet Checklist for each bedroom and bedroom closet, and the Individual Room and Closet form for every room and closet you will have in your home. Depending on how many architects, interior designers, and builders you will be interviewing, you will need multiple forms for the questionnaire.

Suggested titles for the tabs in this binder:

Architect Site Visit/Change Order Form Architectural Plan Review Forms Builder Discussion Forms Comment Forms Contact Information Design Due Diligence Forms Entire-Home Selection Forms Hiring My Team Forms Meeting Notes Forms Miscellaneous Storage Checklists Noise Checklist Form Product Sample Forms Room Checklist Forms Shopping Forms To Do List

Later, once you begin completing these forms, you will transfer them to different binders, as explained in the following pages.


This binder will contain information related to hiring your architect, interior design, builder, and consultant team. This binder will contain

Architect Comparison Chart Architect Questionnaire Builder Comparison Chart Builder Questionnaire Interior Designer Comparison Chart

It will also include

* Lists of architects, interior designers, and builders you are considering

* Correspondence with potential architects, interior designers, and builders

* Lists of interview questions for architects, interior designers, and builders, along with your notes on their answers. (Create your own list of questions using the suggestions on pages 28, 31, and 34 as a guide.)

* Answers to the questions you asked when taking the potential architects and/or builders to the site. (Create your own list of questions using the suggestions on pages 28 and 34 as a guide.).

* Contract points to discuss with your attorney. (Create your own list of points, using the suggestions on pages 29, 32, and 35 as a guide.)

Suggested tabs for this binder:

Architects Builders Consultants Interior Designers Other


This binder will contain information related to due diligence you are performing on a piece of property you want to purchase. You'll file these filled-out forms in Binder 3:

Due Diligence Information Fact Sheet Homeowner Association Information Fact Sheet Municipality Information Fact Sheet Real Estate Contact Information

This folder will also include

* All printed marketing brochures and sheets on the property and any information received from the companies involved

* Contracts

* Due diligence questions and answers (create your own list of questions using suggestions in Chapter 3).

* Notes taken when viewing property with realtors and potential architects and builders.

Suggested tabs:

Appraisal Information Attorney Communications Banker or Mortgage Company Contact Information Contracts Due Diligence Information Fact Sheet Due Diligence Questions and Answers Home Inspector Information Homeowner Association (HOA) Information Fact Sheet Municipal Codes, Zoning, and Building Information Fact Sheet Property Flyers or Fact Sheets Title Company


The information contained in this binder will communicate to your entire team your vision of your dream home and any building restrictions imposed by the Homeowner Association (HOA) or municipality. Add a plastic sleeve to hold business cards. These should be followed by all design-related forms.

Forms and checklists that will go into Binder 4, once you have filled them out:

Apartment Area Checklist Architect Contact Information Attic Checklist Bar Checklist Basement Checklist Basic Bedroom Fact Sheet Basic Design Fact Sheet Bathroom Applications for Stone/Tile Checklist Bathroom Checklist Bathroom Storage Item Checklist Bedroom Checklist Bedroom Closet Checklist Breakfast Room Checklist Butler's Pantry Checklist Ceilings, Doors, Floors, Lighting, Walls, and Windows Checklist Closets in Your Home Checklist Common Household Item Storage Checklist Control Room Checklist Dining Room Checklist Driveway Checklist Electrical Checklist Electrical Plan Review Checklist Elevation Plan Review Checklist Entry Foyer Checklist Exercise Room Checklist Existing Contents of the Home Checklist Exterior and Interior Christmas Lights and Decorations Checklist Exterior Applications for Stone/Tile Checklist Exterior Elements for Your Home Checklist Exterior Front Entry Checklist Family Room Checklist Floor Plan Review Checklist Garage Checklist Garage Item Storage Checklist Garage Vehicle Checklist HVAC Checklist HVAC Plan Review Checklist Individual Room and Closet Fact Sheet Interior Applications for Stone/Tile (Excluding Bathrooms) Checklist Interior Designer Contact Information Kitchen Appliance Checklist Kitchen Cabinet Layout Checklist Kitchen Checklist Kitchen Island Checklist Kitchen Item Storage Checklist Kitchen Pantry Checklist Kitchen Plumbing Checklist Laundry Room Checklist Library Checklist Living Room/Great Room Checklist Mechanical Room Checklist Media Room Checklist Miscellaneous Information Checklist Morning Kitchen/Counter Checklist Mudroom Checklist Nursery Checklist Occupants of the Home Checklist Office Checklist Playroom/Game Room Checklist Plumbing Checklist Plumbing Plan Review Checklist Pool House Checklist Porch, Patio, Deck, and Balcony Checklist Powder Room/Half Bath Checklist Rooms in Your Home Checklist Safe Room Checklist Specialty Room Checklist Stone/Tile Cuts Checklist Things That Make Noise Checklist Wine Room Checklist

Suggested tabs: Architectural Plan Review Checklists Basic Design Information Checklists Bathrooms Information Ceilings, Doors, Floors, Lighting, Walls, and Windows Checklist Christmas Lights and Decorations Checklist Closet Checklists Contact Information Contents Checklist Electrical, HVAC, and Plumbing Exterior Information Garage Information HOA and Municipal Design Information Kitchen Information Noise Checklist Room Information Rooms in Your Home Checklist Stone/Tile Checklists Storage Checklist


This binder will contain all communications with your team:

* Discussion points for the next meeting with your team

* Timetables provided by members of your team

It will also include these filled-out forms:

Architect Meeting Notes Builder Meeting Notes Consultant Meeting Notes Interior Designer Meeting Notes Landscape Architect Meeting Notes Subcontractor Meeting Notes

Suggested tabs:

Architect Communications Architect Timetable Blank Architect Site Visits Blank Change Orders Builder Communications Builder Timetable Consultant Communications Consultant Timetable Interior Designer Communications Interior Designer Timetable


Once you have filled out the Existing Contents of the Home Checklist (page 75), file it in Binder 6. Using plastic sleeves, organize photos and tear sheets into categories and place them in this binder. One group of photos represents items you currently own that will be used in your home. These photos should include the dimensions of the item and the name of the room where you want the item placed. The other group of photos and tear sheets represents your wish list. Write on each photo, tear sheet, or the plastic sleeve you have placed it in what appeals to you about this photo or tear sheet.

Suggested tabs: Existing Content Photos Wish List Items Photos Wish List Tear Sheets


This binder includes the following information you have collected:

* HOA architectural approval process

* HOA bylaws

* HOA covenants

* HOA general information

* Municipal codes

* Municipal general information

* Municipal permits

* Municipal zoning laws

Suggested tabs:

HOA Architectural Approval Process HOA Building HOA Bylaws HOA Covenants HOA General Information HOA Permit Application Municipal Building Permit Application Municipal Code and Zoning Information Municipal General Information


This binder includes

Architect Site Visit Form Change Order Form

It also includes

* Contracts

* HOA approvals

* HOA permits

* Insurance information

* Invoices

* Municipality approvals

* Municipality permits

* Paid and unpaid invoices

* Paid receipts

* Permits

* Plastic zippered pouch for receipts

* Proposals

Suggested tabs:

Architect Site Visits Change Orders, Invoices HOA Approvals HOA Permits Insurance Information Municipality Approvals Municipality Permits Paid Invoices Paid Receipts Proposals and Contracts Unpaid Invoices


This binder holds copies of all the shopping forms used when shopping for items for your home, as well as checklists to refer to when shopping. They are

Appliance Shopping Form Bathroom Applications for Stone/Tile Checklist Bathroom Hardware Shopping Form Bedroom Closet Hardware Checklist Bedroom Closet Hardware Shopping Form Ceiling Fan Shopping Form Door Hardware Checklist Door Hardware Shopping Form Electrical Item Shopping Form Exterior and Architectural Hardware Checklist Exterior Applications for Stone/Tile Checklist Exterior Hardware Shopping Form Gas Log Fireplace Shopping Form Individual Bathroom Hardware Checklist Interior Applications for Stone/Tile (Excluding Bathrooms) Checklist Kitchen Hardware Checklist Kitchen Hardware Shopping Form Laundry Room Hardware Checklist Laundry Room Hardware Shopping Form Miscellaneous Rooms with Cabinet Hardware Checklist Miscellaneous Rooms with Cabinet Hardware Shopping Form Stone/Tile Cuts Checklist


Excerpted from Designing Your Dream Home by SUSAN LANG Copyright © 2008 by Susan Lang. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Susan Lang is a personal home building consultant who works with projects as small as $3000 and as large as several million. This is her first book.

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Designing Your Dream Home: Every Question to Ask, Every Detail to Consider, and Everything to Know Before You Build or Remodel 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thorough. I wish my banker, financer, accountant and attorney were as thorough as this Ms. Lang. For the novice, this text is priceless and will help avoid redo's whether on paper or in more expensive mediums -concrete,wood,wiring, and finishings. For the intermediate - second time homebuilder, the value will strike you with all those 'Hey, I remember this and I didn't remember that, but I will this time'. For the experienced, even the experts need a coach to guide them, and for the spouse, it's a neutral medium to build agreement without overdoing your emotional wants that drives the hubby to the bar and the wife to the jewlery store. The author clearly hunkered herself down to share her experience and passion. Rather than a Dummy's Guide, it's 'Don't Be an Idiot By Missing This Great Help that Will Save Your Sanity and Possibly Your Marriage So You Move In Together'.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Many helpful forms to use and clear and concise text to help make all those decisions!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This review was originally an email to Ms. Lang, but the Contact page on her website is a dead link. I read the book and while I have found it extremely helpful I am not for the life of me able to print  the forms from my Nook reader. Pages do not match up - for example there is reference in the text that Appendix 1 is on page 348 - the Nook book is only 268 pages long!  Why is there no hypertext so that when a form is referenced, you can click on it and go to the form? Forms are not formatted properly to be able to print. Why?!? While I found the information provided helpful, perhaps even vital to completing a successful project,   the execution is severely lacking. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago