building small house - compromises you regret?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by BeckyW, Feb 19, 2004.

  1. BeckyW

    BeckyW Well-Known Member

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    We have built homes in the past that were much larger both in square footage and budget. Now we are designing a much smaller home with a much smaller budget to work with. We are coming upon that season of our lives where we will be empty-nesters so a much smaller house makes sense that way.

    We're looking at 1100 square feet (probably 2-bedroom rather than 3) with a later addition making the house 1500 sf.

    The question I'm putting out for those who have built 1000 sq ft size homes is:
    what compromise/s did you make in design/layout that you now wish you hadn't?

    We always appreciate the counsel and wisdom of forum members - thank you for your thoughts.
    BW
     
  2. havellostmywings

    havellostmywings Well-Known Member

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    Becky... we are going from 2500 sq ft, down to 1768sq ft... what I am doing is rethinking furniture and storage more than anything...

    i will actually have a bigger kitchen in the new place... but smaller bedrooms and living room...

    I am going from an 8ft couch, 6ft loveseat and a recliner to.. just the loveseat and recliner.. i have a trunk that right now only holds extra blankets that i am going to make glass shelves for and set on its side to hold movie tapes and dvds.

    I am losing closet space, so I am going thru things and packing excess clothes, seasonal wear in plastic bags and then in the big plastic tubs... they can go in the storage bldg we are going to build..

    our new place has a tiny 3rd bdrm, so where as now we have the office actually in our bedroom, the office will be in the little bdrm ...

    So it may not be what you give up in the design of the home you are building, but maybe rethinking what you will put in it to make you comfortable.

    Lynn in Texas
     

  3. Gary in ohio

    Gary in ohio Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We went from 2500 to about 1500sq/ft. I found A lot of stuff I didnt really need, we sold off most of the furnature since it didnt fit well with a 100 year old farm house and picked up smaller items. Closest sometimes are an issue and seaonal storage of closes but you can find all kinds of hidden nooks to hid things if you reallly look.
     
  4. Kathy in MD

    Kathy in MD Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We built our house with the thought that only my husband and myself would be living in it. There are no closets on the first floor for vacuums, coats, etc. That was fine 22-years ago, but bad knees quickly proved that was a bad idea. The first floor is completely open except for a flight of stairs in the middle of the house. This makes heating, with a wood or pellet stove, more efficient. The plans called for 3 bedrooms, we opted for 2 bedrooms with a larger bath. That also proved to be a bad idea. I now use that second bedroom for office, sewing room, and etc., which means there is no room for overnight guests or aging parents who might have to move in with you.

    Best of luck in the new house,,,,Kathy
     
  5. diane greene

    diane greene Well-Known Member

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    Old 1200 sq ft farmhouse here - my wish list would include well designed closets and built-in/recessed book shelves. There were no closets when we moved in, just lots of big nails along the walls for hanging things. More usable attic (or loft) space for out of season items would be nice. One good thing is our basement is usable and all the utility stuff fits down there.
     
  6. MelissaW

    MelissaW Well-Known Member

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    I'm glad more people are considering little houses. I love mine! Big houses seem like such a waste of resources for a small family. The only thing I wish we'd thought of is a mud room. Two big guys and two big dogs constantly clomping through my tiny kitchen with dirty workboots and paws, and bulky coats is a real problem. Are you putting it on a basement? It's nice to have a place to store things, and having the furnace and water heater on another floor gives you more closet space upstairs! Good luck!
     
  7. farmmaid

    farmmaid Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Mud room-laundry room with a closet for farm clothes to walk into from outside. Does not have to be big, 8'x6'. Also put in there a deep utility sink to wash and fill pails etc..Joan
     
  8. Little Quacker in OR

    Little Quacker in OR Well-Known Member

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    :) Yes! No matter what anyone else tells you, make sure you have TWO bathrooms! No kidding here. Not necessarily two FULL baths....one full bath with tub and shower plus a half-bath would do it. I also wish we had a real guestroom. We use an enclosed porch but it's really not what's needed. Very un-handy as the "doggie door path" to the dog yard goes right through that room.

    I think you are very smart to address this now. Good show and good luck! ;) LQ
     
  9. Madame

    Madame Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We're looking at 1100 square feet (probably 2-bedroom rather than 3) with a later addition making the house 1500 sf.
    The question I'm putting out for those who have built 1000 sq ft size homes is:
    what compromise/s did you make in design/layout that you now wish you hadn't?

    I haven't built, but I moved from a 1500 sf home with a full basement to an 1100 sf home with a Michigan (partial) basement. I hope to buy land in another year or so and build then.

    1) Be sure you have ample storage space. This might mean a full basement, an attic, lots of closets, a tool shed, whatever. I had to get rid of a LOT of my stuff when I moved simply because there was no place to put it.

    2) For me, lots of bookshelves are a necessity, not a luxury.

    3) Figure out where you spend the most time and make those the biggest rooms.

    4) One floor. I figure as we get older, some of us have problems with mobility. With everything on first floor, that's not a problem. Handicapped accesible isn't a bad idea, if you plan to spend your life there. Needs change as we age.

    5) Low maintenance. Think about the materials you use when building. Tile vs carpet? Roof type? - look for something durable that'll last your lifetime.

    6) Avoid wasted space. The house I have now has a tiny living room and bedrooms, but a large dining room and wide, wide hallways. When I build my own, I'll have an eat-in kitchen and ditch the dining room. Along the same lines, if you have a guest room, use it also as a sewing room/office/whatever.

    Good luck to you with your building!
     
  10. SteveD(TX)

    SteveD(TX) Well-Known Member

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    I've never done this, but as a r.e. appraiser and consultant maybe I can offer a little advice:

    -simple floorplans without lots of hallways make sense
    -vaulted ceilings make a small home seem much roomier, but are slightly less efficient to heat and cool
    -you can't spend too much money on insulation (see above); and get an energy efficient heating and cooling system
    -closet space should be plentiful, but sometimes an outside storage building at a LOT less cost per SF should be considered
    -large kitchens are NEVER regretted
    -extra electrical outlets are worth the extra cost, esp. where you might have an entertainment center or computer
    -do it right the first time; if you can afford to NOT cut corners, you will be better off in the long run.

    Good luck.
     
  11. FolioMark

    FolioMark In Remembrance

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    I really wish I had made my kitchen wider by 3 feet at least. Its 12x20 now which seemed huge but 15 x 20 would let me have a big table in the middle and cabinets on one side and still get around the table in my wheelchair. Its a bit tight now and that extra 3 feet would allow more safety space around the wood cookstove as well. The other thing I have decided to do when I finally add on the bathroom space is to make it as big as I can about 12x14 with a roll in shower that has direct access to the outside. Muddy wheelchairs, dogs, farmers can come right in from outside and get clean. Also the washer/dryer in there and I am definitely building an old fashioned store room about 8x14 with floor to ceiling shelves and cupboards.
    Everything stored in one place like a big supply closet.
     
  12. Don Armstrong

    Don Armstrong In Remembrance

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    Haven't built, but it used to be that the "ten square" house (a square being ten feet by ten feet) was the standard Australian suburban post-War home, so I've seen them and lived in them. Of course, we're dry and hot here for the most part, so there's more life possible outdoors than in a snowed-in winter.

    Negatives - you asked for negatives. OK - DON'T tie up the bathroom anytime anyone is using the toilet. To put it positively, have separate toilets. You can have a toilet in the bathroom - good idea if you can afford it. However, it shouldn't be the primary toilet for the house.

    If someone starts using the bathroom toilet as the primary toilet, shoot them - makes life simpler all around, and you wouldn't want to live with such an ignorant inconsiderate idiot anyway. Maybe give them a chance in advance, and warn them that if they do it, you'll do it.

    I would also definitely build for wheelchair and disabled access - wide doors, wide corridors, shallow ramps rather than stairs wherever possible. This also benefits those of us who have even occasional bad backs, and have to shuffle around then, and can't negotiate tight spaces and tight turns. Likewise grab-handles to rise from a toilet or a chair in the shower. Flat shower floor, rather than a shower cubicle - we'll have to do this soon for my father, who is suffering from arthritic knees and can't readily lift his feet. Surprising resale advantages here, for older couples, disabled people, or for people with an elderly relative.

    That also says - upstairs space is cheaper to build and cheaper to heat or cool than all-on-one-level, but people with limited mobility can't use it. Always have a bedroom, bathroom and toilet on the ground floor.

    You're talking about a two-person household. OK, then you can afford to have a wash-room rather than a separate bathroom and laundry. Washing machine, dryer if used, access to the outside so you can take laundry directly out to a clothesline, bath and shower behind a curtain. Big low sink for washing vegetables or muddy items. All tiled. Serves as your mud-room, as Mark suggested. Separate toilet, lockable doors, accessible both from here and outdoors, so people don't need to come into the house to use the toilet. Separate basin or tub outside undercover. Do whatever you need to in the way of stopcocks or whatever to stop it freezing if that's a concern overwinter. All the plumbing in one space is economical - have the kitchen sink on a wall adjoining this space.

    If possible, have covered space outside this wash-room door. Porch, car-port, whatever. Means you can hang clothes to dry even in wet weather, send children (yours, grand-kids, visitors) outdoors to play even in bad weather, overflow area for a big party or space for a rain-affected barbecue.

    Separate storage space is good. Cheaper to build. Maybe a garage with adjoining shed space (workshop, row of secondhand cupboards and shelves, overflow sleeping when you get inundated with guests. Maybe connected to the house by your carport.

    Try to design so there is a buffer-space (even if it's only the spare bedroom) for noise between living area and main sleeping area. Even if there's only two of you, it matters if someone's sick, or working shifts, or just had a sleepless night and needs to catch up.

    As someone said, always put in provision for much more power than you think you'll need. Put in a LOT more powerpoints now while it doesn't cost much, and make provision for easily pulling more cables. Whether that will be power or phone or computer network or television or what you don't yet know, but you can guarantee you'll need more of some sort of cabled services in a LOT of rooms.
     
  13. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    Make that kitchen(and pantry) big if you are a homesteader who cans,etc.Make the master bedroom big enough for a queen sized bed easily walk aroundable and a good size closet and room for a big dresser.2 toilets and have an outdoor access to bathroom to double as a mud room.Those are the deficiencies that we will correct in our next house.
    BooBoo
     
  14. Corgitails

    Corgitails Well-Known Member

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    You can't have too many electrical outlets! That's one of my pet peeves about my current livingspace.

    Cait
     
  15. Mudwoman

    Mudwoman Well-Known Member

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    The house that we are building is 1040 sq ft downstairs with 300 sq ft as a loft area upstairs. Down is a kitchen, large living area, utility room, bath and bedroom with sitting area. upstairs is a large storage closet, small area for the computer that looks down at the living area and a guest room. Then we have a covered wrap around porch that is 700 sq ft. Eventually it will be screened in. We are about 6 weeks away from moving in. Yeah!

    The thing that everyone absolutely LOVES about our house is the wrap-around porch. It is 10 ft deep rather than the standard 6 or 8 ft deep and what a difference that makes. Cost with the roof and everything ran about $6 sq ft. Lots of wonderful living area for the money.

    Not sure that I will regret anything but if there is something it will be the lack of a dining room/eating area. Dh and I have always eaten in front of the TV and didn't use the table in the eating area of the old house except when we had company which wasn't all that often. We decided that we would be able to use the large covered wrap around porch for entertaining and dining if needed and used the sq footage saved for additional storage and larger rooms.

    We made the decision to go with one bath downstairs. Kitchens and baths will eat up the biggest portion of your finish out budget. There may come a time that we have to add a half bath in the workshop/studio for those few times that you just need an extra toilet. But with 16 very private acres, we may just do an outhouse for those times. We added an outdoor shower to the back deck off the utility room for bathing the dogs and washing up when super dirty before coming in the house. Extra cost was about $50.

    The thing that we did do in this house is that the downstairs will be all wheelchair accessible. We have a large roll in shower, wide doorways with pocket doors and added the sitting area to the bedroom so that in the future we could put the computer downstairs or my sewing there if we needed to. We have no hallways. Each room opens directly into another room. Except for the ceiling in the bath and bedroom, all the other ceilings are vaulted making the house seem very open and large. The living room has 14 ft walls allowing for the upstairs loft. We added R11 insulation in the interior walls for quietness. What a difference that makes!!!!
     
  16. AngieM2

    AngieM2 Big Front Porch advocate

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    Mudwoman - sounds great.
    When you can, will you please post some photos? Exterior and interior. I absolutely love the sound of your porch.

    AngieM2
     
  17. Hank - Narita

    Hank - Narita Well-Known Member

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    We opted for a smaller mobile home; don't buy a mobile! Definitely we compromised on storage and should not have done that. When we shop it is in bulk so no room for canned goods, paper goods, etc. We also need a larger shower in the bathroom.
     
  18. shakeytails in KY

    shakeytails in KY Well-Known Member

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    OK, I'm confused. In the US the toilet is always in the bathroom, enclosed by walls. A bathroom consists of a toilet, a sink and a tub or shower, a half bath is a toilet and sink. What do you mean not use the bathroom toilet as the primary toilet? Can you please explain what is customary in Australia?
     
  19. Don Armstrong

    Don Armstrong In Remembrance

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    OK, sounds like a half-bath (why on earth would you call it that? I see no evidence of a bath in it) is what you mean. A toilet, in Australian parlance, has walls, a door, a ventilating window (generally high and small), and a toilet stool. These days they often have a small basin, but earlier they didn't - the assumption was that you'd progress to the (next-door) bathroom to use the hand-basin there.

    The basic equipment for a toilet room is what you'd find in a toilet cubicle, but with solid walls and ventilation. Basin optional but common these days. Otherwise (terribly commonly but not terribly frequently) known as a thunderbox.

    Maybe that's the secret of the terms. Americans are ashamed to have it thought they might, Australians prefer to make sure people know where to. Sort of like buying toilet paper. I've known people who are ashamed to be seen with it. I tell them "I'd prefer to have people know I use it than suspect I might not".
     
  20. FolioMark

    FolioMark In Remembrance

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    DON: In the old days that was called a water closet. Just a room with a stool and bathing took place in another room altogether. And I agree its sensible arrangement. No need to stand out in the hall with your legs crossed while your sister puts on her false eyelashes. Many new homes in the states have gone back to a similar arrangement. The stool is in a seperate little space that is part of the bathroom proper. Much more sensible arrangement. Then again I am rather intrigued by the old roman setup too, a nice row of marble seats where you could have a bit of a chat. You can just imagine Brutus and the boys sitting in a row and plotting Caesars demise. ;) Rather like all those steam room scenes in gangster movies.