One house plan builder’s long road to the top in Spokane

//One house plan builder’s long road to the top in Spokane

One house plan builder’s long road to the top in Spokane

Until only recently, I would not have claimed to be the best choice for someone in our area to select as their custom house plan draftsman. But now experience and the results of that experience have slowly given me the confidence to truly believe that. It is something that has been very exciting to have dawn on me, especially considering my humble self-taught, hand-drawn beginnings.

Until just this year, I have been a house carpenter/builder who drafted plans for himself and others. Just a simple carpenter with the good fortune to  occasionally  build a house plan of my own  My dad was a residential foundation subcontractor who put me to work the spring break of my 6th grade. My mother started building houses when I was 14, the age at which I became a laborer for that house contractor.  Mom is still building in her early 80’s, and I am still  a laborer in my late 50’s.

 

The difference is that now I am the laborer on projects that I  drafted the house plan for and am the general contractor . Work that was once the kind of drudgery that spawned a thousand teenage daydreams is now good exercise and peaceful, simple but still meaningful work. For years now, I have only worked on projects I have drawn. The really cool thing is that I have not felt like I was going to work for years. Being the framer and form setter and sider and excavator and finish carpenter and painter and various other tradesmen on my houses and additions that I design has changed my perspective.

That is something only a few people can tell you and that is why I am proud and happy and grateful to be a house carpenter at the age of 58. And while I would love to still be a carpenter at 85, I now spend more of my time being a house plan builder than a house carpenter or a home builder. However, that I am a carpenter and a builder is the reason that I am really good at helping people design the homes and shops and decks and additions they want to create.

When I sit in front of my computer and build a model of the project that a client has brought to me, I bring  my years as a framer, mastering skills like framing in a circular staircase or stick framing a bastard valley on a complex roof. I bring to the job of  plan drafting  years of installing kitchen cabinets both deluxe and economy, out-of-the-box and high end custom. I go to work as a designer who has built 400 homes as a production builder when I partnered for ten years with Mom and Chris, my older brother.

One year we built 80 houses and I had a 17 man crew. They did all the framing, cement flatwork, finish carpentry and painting on every house. While that was a long time ago, it is an experience I bring to work with me when I design a project. In 1999 we went out on our own to build homes from plans I had drafted. My plans were drawn in a small office in the garage on a homemade wood drafting table. At first I had only a T-square and a triangle. When a friend introduced me to a paral-liner it felt like I had been handed the keys to the next level.

After building  several of my own designs,I discovered that I loved drawing house plans. Confident that houses could be built from my humble hand-drawn house plan because I myself was getting them permitted and building off them, I decided to try and drum up some business as a house plan draftsman. If I could build a house I could build a website, I reasoned and rightly so it turns out.

While I knew that anyone could build off of my hand-drawn house plans, a few builders thought they could not. I hold that to their discredit. They thought my plans were too simple. They thought plans had to be generated on a computer software program and so they redrew my design on their computers and charged the people.

It only happened two times, but it really bothered me. I knew the house plan could have been sent out for bids and submitted to the building department for permits and then used by the contractor and subcontractors to build the project. But a few builders and remodelers saw the prints were hand-drawn and turned their nose up to them.

No one ever complained and nor told me until long afterwards, but that a builder thought my hand-drawn house plans could not be built off was devastating to my confidence. While I looked at any builder that disparaged my plans as not really being a true builder, it very much bothered me that a few of my clients had to spend more money on their plans just because they hooked up with a coat-and-tie builder. A true home builder, my kind of builder anyway, can build a house from a sketch 0n a cocktail napkin.

Since learning Sketchup about four years ago, things began to change. Sketchup is an extremely popular 3d modelling program. Like millions of others, I am a devout practitioner and proselytizer of this powerful program. For me personally it has given me the way to build in three dimensions on my computer hundreds of projects. Projects that went from imagination to my computer where I sat down as a framer and foundation contractor and builder and draftsman and created an exact model of the imagined design.

Every  2d house plan I have created  with Sketchup is derived from a 3d model that I first frame and build on my computer. And so all of my clients have had the benefit of having their future home or deck or shop or whatever framed and built by a professional in the virtual world before it is ever built in the real world. And that is why I am confident that I am the best for anyone who is looking for a house plan drafter in the Spokane area. I build the project in my head and on my computer and then draft house plans from that, which sets me apart and above my competition for anyone who wants to be sure their plans are buildable and accurate, because it has already been built by a builder and framer and finish carpenter who also happened to have mastered the skill of house plan drafting along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2019-01-14T01:23:33+00:00

About the Author:

Hi, I am Craig Swanson, father of four, husband of one. I live with Elaine, my wife of 32 years and two of my college-age children, Eli and Jacque. I draft plans and design new homes and residential building projects in Spokane, Washington. The program that I use is Sketchup and I highly recommend it for play and work.