Frequently Asked Questions
While working with customers, I am constantly learning about their needs and managing inquiries that arise. As a result, I have included a list of frequently asked questions along with very detailed answers in order to provide additional support. Contact us if you have more questions.
Why should I choose R. Allen Design to design my custom home?
I am a residential designer that specializes in designing custom homes and I have over 22 years of experience working with clients and contractors. I am a CPBD (Certified Professional Building Designer). This certification is offered by AIBD (American Institute of Building Design) by a separate self-governing board called NCBDC (National Council of Building Designer Certification) which maintains and administers accredited certifications for professional building designers. The certification requires background education, extensive experience, preliminary testing, and annual CEU (Continuing Education Units) requirements to remain certified annually. It allows Reggie to apply this certified stamp with his name and unique CPBD certification number to all of my designs as proof of my knowledge, experience, and continual efforts to improve and excel in the professional building design profession. I also have lots of "hands on" experience as a project manager on site. To help me succeed, I have taken all classes and passed all exams that would allow me to be a Licensed Residential, Commercial, and Industrial, Contractor in the state of TN. Although I have no desire to be a contractor, this gives me a special niche in residential design field due to my in depth understanding of the process. In a sense, I am more like a project manager or contractor that designs plans for your project based on all the details of your project. I continue to stay up to date on current codes and construction procedures which allows your home to be built to the latest and greatest specifications. This knowledge has helped me build successful design business with customers and contractors over the past 22 plus years. I think you will find that whatever you spend on a set of plans from R. Allen Design, you will easily save the cost back by me using my knowledge of the process. I work with you and your contractor to reduce costs during the design as well as help with optimum placement of your home on your property. A recent example is a client that had a designer sketch up a new set of plans and the cost estimates were too high for their budget when the initial contractor gave them an estimate. The client gave up on their project for a few months and then decided try another contractor. The new contractor they consulted with recommended them to R. Allen Design to evaluate their current design and budget. I discussed some possible changes and designed a new home with a different look but achieved their goals and was able to save the client the $25,000.00 needed to continue their project without reducing square footage. In the end the cost of the plans was not even a consideration due to this type of savings and the beautiful new look of the home. You can easily regain the cost of your plans by using my knowledge to create a detailed set of plans that will get you an accurate estimate and eliminate extra labor and possible errors during construction. A couple of days in the field with construction mistakes or uncertainty can easily cost more than my plan costs. Please understand that I don't draw pretty pictures and hope they work. I visit your site and meet with your contractor to determine these valuable insights in advance. I know very few residential designers or architects that offer this type service. They design a beautiful project and hope the builder can "make it fit" the situation. There are always plenty of things to contend with when building a new home. Let me help you and your contractor eliminate as much of this as possible up front with a premium set of plans.
How much is the cost for a set of design plans for a custom home designed by R. Allen Design?
It would be nice to have a set fee for all plans but just as all homes are different and have different levels of customization, our prices are based on the size and complexity of the home. I must consider the necessary drawings required by your contractor and building department in the county or city that you wish to build in. With that said, feel free to send me examples or a description of what you are looking for and I can email you back an initial ballpark estimated price to complete your design. If the price is in your budget we can begin the process and finalize pricing and details accordingly.
What is the schedule and timeline for a design to be started and completed at R. Allen Design?
My schedule is based on the current workload when you contact me. I am a small individual business that does a limited amount of custom designs each year. It does take a bit of time to get through the process but I give each person the same high quality attention and time for each design. In most cases it normally takes me between 2 and 6 months to get you started depending on clients in process. Initially we agree on a price and sign a contract based on that price. This contract along with a 50% deposit holds your place in the schedule until I start. After I officially start the drawings on your home it normally takes me 2 to 4 weeks depending on home size and complexity to have your preliminary design ready for you to review. At this stage you will be put in the driver seat on the timeline. If it takes you a day, a week, or a month to review it will be your decision. On average it takes most clients 3 to 5 days to do the preliminary review. After the preliminary review we will make minor modifications to areas you may want to change. Depending on the amount of modifications this is typically 1 to 2 weeks. After the modifications are made you will get a final review. At this point if all is approved then you will submit the final 50% payment of your contract and I will release a digital file to you that will allow you to email or have unlimited copies made for the bank, contractor, suppliers, etc. If all goes smoothly from the day I start the drawings until plans are completed it is 4 to 8 weeks with the average being 6 weeks. You would add this time to the wait time for me to start your project. So if my schedule has me finishing plans in process for 2 months before I start your plans then it would be 2 months until I start then 4 to 8 weeks till finished. Summer months often get booked up in early winter so I can be 6 months until start time in certain times of the year. I can't always promise things faster but I can promise the same quality for your job that I did for the jobs while you had to wait. The worst mistake is not getting in line for your design. Here is my example, I had a customer call me and give me their information. I determined a price and prepared a contract. I told them I could start their plans in 6 weeks. The customer replied that they would drop off the contract and money to me on a certain day that week to get in line. Later in the week their contractor called me and said they were going to delay a few days to see if they could find a designer to design the plans faster. I said, "I understand". In the meantime, 3 weeks passed and during that time, I signed 2 new contracts. After the three weeks I received and email that said they needed to meet me and give me the deposit so I could start the design in three weeks. I replied with the fact I had two new deposits and would be glad to put them in line but the wait was now 12 weeks. They were disappointed but knew they had gambled with the schedule. They wouldn't wait so they sought out design help elsewhere or mentioned purchasing online plans which in the end put them further behind. Until the contract is signed and the deposit in the bank a client is not put in the schedule. This is good business practice and in return I practice keeping my end of the deal by sticking to my schedule for completion.
Does R. Allen Design offer references beyond this website?
I am glad to offer all the references you can request. It is to my benefit to do so. If I ever have clients with concern they call or meet with former clients or contractors. After they talk with former clients or contractors this only increases their confidence in my design. I have never had a client talk to someone and then not use my services due to that conversation. A house is a lifetime investment for most people and the least they deserve is being comfortable with those designing and building it. My clients are more than a contract and a payment, they are my customers and soon to be friends. I seldom get through a local town visit without talking to local customers or customers that have a second home in East TN that I have worked for. I have customers I have completed designs for across the states that send me Christmas cards or emails to stay in touch. I would never just trust a website to tell me the truth. I love the new technology we have today but nothing is better than talking to someone personally. Most people that I have designed for that have had previous bad experiences can confirm they didn't do their homework and check references and talk to the individual personally.
Does R. Allen Design redraw plans from magazines or internet?
I respect my design peers whether it be residential designers, architects, or engineers so I am very sensitive to "copying" others designs and expect the same from them as professionals. This is something that I do not promote. As a customer, we know that you have to get ideas from somewhere and many ideas are typical so it is not plagiarism. As an example, if you spend any time on Pinterest, you will see many of the same designs in many plans from many different sources. If you have a picture or sketch of a floor plan of a kitchen that shows the sink in an island and a stove in a certain location or other typical items such as this, it would not be plagiarism. We can work on creating your custom kitchen similar to this. If you see a home with stone on the front porch and wooden posts I can create this in my own way to be similar. If you have a floor plan from a magazine and you like the way something is laid out we can work with that idea but I don't approve of copying other professional's work. If there is specific design that you want to look like another professionals work but you would rather work with me on your design, you can always purchase the internet plans which in most cases will allow you to build one residence "like" or "modified" with the exact looks or elements. I have had several clients do this and it is the proper route for letting me do your design drawings and respecting someone else's work. There is a set of plans in my office I am estimating a price to design that a customer purchased from an online website. The customer now owns the right from the Architect for us to re-design this house with modifications (or not) for one time construction. I have found several ways to improve the plan from a design and cost perspective so it is worth the customer purchasing a one time use and allowing me to modify some areas to keep him in budget. If you are unsure, please consult with me so I can determine if you need to purchase the rights to the design or if you are just using an idea that is not "copyrighted" to that design. I will be glad to help make the right decision in regards to whether or not something is plagiarism. If you see a design on this site that is one of my custom designs I will be glad to sell it to you if there are no restrictions in the contract but if it is a design that originated from another source you will have to purchase their plans first. I respect my associates work and try to make sure I stay in a safe zone and not copy their designs without permission.
Does R. Allen Design only do design work in East TN and Western NC?
This is where I do the most of my designs but I have completed designs in many states whether for my business personally or for other companies that I still currently do home designs for. East TN and Western NC are within driving distance and it allows me to do site visits to help determine design needs when necessary. With that said, I have lots of designs that I have never been within 1000 miles of but I have been able work via pictures, email, and contractor information.
Does R. Allen Design have any types of construction they specialize in?
I design all types of residential construction from wood, brick, stone, etc. With that said, I do enjoy heavy timber and log style construction projects. Unfortunately that is less than 10% of the construction types in the US. Early in my design career, I was a full time project designer and project manager for Hearthstone, Inc. in the 1990's. They design, sell, and manufacture Heavy Timber Frame and Log Home projects. If you look at their website, you will see many projects that I designed and worked on in the past and some recently. After 22 years, I am still thankfully designing Timber Frame and Log style homes for this company thru my business. You will note this if you see some of the photos throughout my site. I still have a great relationship with Hearthstone, Inc. in Newport, TN. I am also licensed provider to sell timber components for my designs through the company to contractors and clients. Please feel free to ask me about special pricing options that Hearthstone, Inc. offers to my clients during the design phase of your project. With all the above said, I am happy to design any style or type of home. I love the variety of styles and types that people request.
Do design plans have to be stamped by a Professional Engineer or Architect?
This question is asked often due to the misunderstanding of what is required for the design and construction of a customer home. Are you a licensed Architect or Engineer? The answer is "No". I am a CPBD (Certified Professional Building Designer). The next question is what is CPBD. A CPBD (Certified Professional Building Designer) is a certification offered by AIBD (American Institute of Building Design) by a separate self-governing board called NCBDC (National Council of Building Designer Certification) which maintains and administers accredited certifications for professional building designers. The certification requires background education, extensive experience, preliminary testing, and annual CEU (Continuing Education Units) requirements to remain certified annually. It allows me to apply this certified stamp with my name and unique CPBD certification number to all of my designs as proof of my knowledge, experience, and continual efforts to improve and excel in the professional building design profession. This along with my education and experience to be a Residential Designer or a Licensed Contractor offers me the skills and opportunity to do professional residential designs. I have no desire to be an Architect or Professional Engineer. With that said, I have no desire to be a Licensed Contractor in that my expertise and enjoyment is designing homes. However, I do have great respect for all three professions, I have worked for all of them in some facet in the past, and I still use them as valuable resources on projects when needed. I think the best way to explain is by the example of a more common reference of something that is easier related to by most individuals. If you feel ill would you go see a Nurse Practitioner, a Medical Doctor, or a Medical Specialist. The majority of the time the wonderful medical knowledge and social skills of the Nurse Practitioner is more than adequate to diagnose your symptoms and give you the care you need. If the illness is a little more in depth, then you might want to see someone with more extensive knowledge of internal medicine such as a Medical Doctor. If perhaps the illness is complex, even the Medical Doctor would recommend you need to see a Medical Specialist who has better knowledge of your unique situation. Each one of these professions respects and recommends to the next level when needed and each one of these professions require different levels of training. This also explains the increase in cost to visit each level of the profession. This scenario is easy to understand for most people because we all have to see a health professional at some point in our lives. Now let us jump back to CPBD or Residential Designer (NP), Architect (Medical Doctor), or Professional Engineer (Medical Specialist) and see that all three jobs offer residential design in some format but each one offers an increased level. The majority of county building departments only require a professional "stamped" set of plans by and Architect or Professional Engineer for a home with very large square footage in heated space or if the structure is more than three floors levels in height or is very complex in structural needs. Please check your county building department for the requirements or better yet allow me to do so for you when I prepare your estimate for your home design. Most county building departments and banks require general plans to be submitted for loans and building permits. Then they rely on your Licensed Contractor to fulfill the commitment of making sure things constructed to proper building codes, safe living, and standard architectural practices. A perfect example of this is that many internet plans are not even designed for the environment or location you plan to build. If so they would have to have many different designs for the same plan. For example, concrete foundation footings here in East TN only need buried 12" for frost protection but the northern states are up to several feet due to the cold weather. This information is not on general plans that you purchase online. Also note that most states use the IRC code for architectural design and construction but many county building departments have an addendum to the code for their particular county. An example of this is a county I live near requires that railings on porches be 42" in height vs. 36" in height as the standard code recommends. Most homes in this county are on hillsides and the county building department voted in and addendum for higher rails for safety in their county so the contractor must install per this addendum or a certificate of occupancy will not be granted (you can't move in otherwise). Therefore, most plans are more so a general design that a licensed contractor must make work with the local codes, possible addendums, and code requirements. Some county code departments accept a general sketch from the person wishing to build. This is slowly going away as most county code authorities now require more than detailed sketches in so much that the common person is not knowledgeable enough to provide these, nor get approval from a local building department with a general sketch. This leaves the home owner buying a plan off the internet that doesn't match exactly what they want, hiring an architectural or engineering firm which is typically more service and more expense than they need or can afford, or relying on a contractor to try and fill in the blanks. As a CPBD or residential designer, I fill this void by supplying the contractor and local building department with required drawings that meet architectural code for your building location. The contractors and companies I work with prefer a good set of working drawings to do construction by and that is what I provide. My drawings become part of the construction contract because it shows what you are getting and contractors can generate an actual cost estimate based on these detailed plans. This in itself can save you the cost of your plans in that the contractor is not having to guess (guesstimate) a price for your home. With all the above explained, please understand that if there are structural items in your design that require more than normal design techniques and knowledge, I have access to engineering firms that will review your plans and give us the professional advice and approval for a cost. When I review your design if this is needed, I will recommend it. If the job is out of the reach of my experience and knowledge, I will recommend you surpass me and start with one of these professionals just as a Nurse Practitioner would recommend a Medical Specialist. In the last 20 years, I can count on one hand the times an engineer has had to approve or stamp a project. This is simply because I always refer you to a higher level if your home exceeds standard design practices. In short, I do not even start a design I am not capable properly completing. I always recommend you to a higher level of service if necessary. Most standard residences fall into simple design practices. I have designed over six hundred homes successfully with this in mind not to mention remodels and additions. My experience has exceed a thousand projects which has provided invaluable experience.
What if there is a question that I cannot find an answer to on this site?
Go to our contact us page and send us an email with your questions or concerns. Select the link below and fill out the request and I will typically respond to you within 24 to 48 hours.