Planning 101

While a structure as big as house might seem to have room for anything and everything, once foundations are laid and framing begins the ability to do many things narrows drastically and the precision needed to deliver the desired result while complying with best practices, codes and regulations can be mind boggling. While our architect has given us a set of plans that are structurally sound and give us the look and feel we want, we didn’t ask him to spend a ton of time thinking about where all the mechanical components, ductwork, waste, water and gas lines, wires and electrical outlets will go. With the exception of heating, ventilating and air conditioning, HVAC, where we have a mechanical engineer design the system, we prefer to work these things out with the licensed professionals that will be responsible for installing these items and making sure they work properly and meet codes and regulations.

A number of weeks ago, around the time we were installing the foundation, we held a meeting with the plumber, electrician and HVAC contractor to review the plan and discuss options for equipment placement, what the plan and site conditions would permit and how to best compromise so we could get everything we needed in places that would work for them, but more important, for the future homeowner. Failure to properly plan here could result in losing a sale or wasting thousands of dollars to correct a “dumb mistake” that the new owner just can’t live with.

Here are the results of that meeting in plan view:

Believe it or not, there were not a ton of options, even with 3500 square feet of basement. First of all, we wanted to keep all of the areas outlined in yellow free of mechanicals hanging below the bottom of the upstairs floor joists giving us nice 8’6″ ceilings everywhere but under the beams. Then, the furnace locations need to tie in with the ductwork so there is not much wiggle room there. Next, since our furnaces and water heaters are highly efficient they don’t need a chimney of any kind – they only need to vent out of an outside wall. This seems like it would give us tons of flexibility but it doesn’t.

Rules require vents to be certain distances from each other and from operating windows. Ideally we would have liked the water heaters on the same side of the house as the furnaces but in the fight for vent locations, the plumber lost and was banished to the other side of the basement where the only plumbing is the master bath. To make sure we have hot water quickly when needed (waiting for hot water is a waste of water and energy), we will install a recirculating line and will pump hot water from one end of the basement to the other.

The plan above is the product of meeting and will hopefully allow us to proceed nicely with the mechanicals after the carpenters are done. However, chances are there will be a few more skirmishes in the battle for mechanical locations but we are pretty comfortable that we will be able to keep them to a minimum. We will get back to the framers with an update on their progress toward the end of the week.