The Exterior Elevation You See May Not Be What You Get

The Exterior Elevation You See

House plans on the internet almost always show a dressed up home.  This is true whether the plans are offered by a builder or manufacturer (modular, stick, panelized, or log) or a company that just sells plans.  They all want to present an attractive façade because they know that your first response to a plan is likely to be based on its exterior elevation, not its floor plan.

This one-story home shows an exterior elevation with several optional features: cultured stone siding, a 12/12 roof with 2 reverse gables and gable returns, a garage with two bumpouts and a reverse gable, two circle top windows, an ornate front door, decorative moldings, and a rear chimney.
This one-story home shows an exterior elevation with several optional features: cultured stone siding, a 12/12 roof with 2 reverse gables and gable returns, a garage with two bumpouts and a reverse gable, two circle top windows, an ornate front door, decorative moldings, and a rear chimney.

There are many types of optional features that can be used to turn a plain appearance into an ornate one.  This often includes, for example, garages, porches, decks, taller roofs, dormers, return gables, decorative moldings, specialty windows, fancy front doors, and chimneys.

Getting the Exterior Elevation You Want

Embellishing the exterior elevation of a plan is reasonable as long as the modular builder makes clear what they are including in their price.   Sometimes this information doesn’t come out until you’ve received a detailed written estimate.  It won’t even come out then if the estimate only lists what is included and not what’s excluded.

There are two ways to make sure you are getting what you want.  The first is to look closely at the modular builder’s estimate, and then have the builder add the missing information.  The second is to have the builder provide you with a drawing of the exterior elevation showing exactly what you’re getting.

The Exterior Elevation Is Independent of the Floor Plan

When looking through a plan book, do not be misled by the pairing of floor plans and exterior elevation plans into thinking that you cannot make adjustments. In fact, each floor plan can have a multitude of exterior looks, and each exterior look can be applied to many different floor plans. For example, all homes can have a garage and porch, even if the artist has not included them in the drawing. Likewise, you can adjust the slope of the roof, add dormers and decorative gables, and opt for oversized roof overhangs if you choose, regardless of what you see in the drawing.

Remembering that each plan can have a simple, unadorned look and a complex, ornate look, as well as many looks in between, will free you up to consider some interesting floor plans that have been paired with what are unattractive elevation plans to your eye. It will also motivate you to take a second look at some desirable elevation plans that are matched with unworkable plans. A practical way to do this when you are looking at floor plans is to cover up the exterior elevation plans with a piece of paper. Otherwise you will find your eyes continually drawn to the elevation plans as you turn the pages.

For more information about ensuring the exterior elevation of your home will be just the way you want it, see Designing a Modular Home in my book The Modular Home.

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