How To Design A House From The Ground Up (Step By Step)

Updated September 13, 2021

Sustainable 9

It’s not just a vision for tomorrow: Sustainable 9 Design + Build creates homes for tomorrow today, reflected in its enduring commitment to green, high performance, energy-efficient homes that are stunningly designed and custom-built.

So you’re ready to design a house from the ground up? This is no small feat, but one of the most significant parts of tackling a home design is that you’re able to see the project from the very start to finish.

Designing your own custom-built home can be extremely rewarding and it can save you some money. Before you get too far into the weeds of a design it’s best to know what all goes into a home design.

Design a House, Your Way

There’s a lot that goes into deciding to design a house, but the best place to start on your home is at the drawing board.

Start by Sketching Out the Floor Plan

how to design a house

If you have a simple idea of how your floor plan should look, sketch out the general layout. If not, then do some research on how to design a house and start thinking about what features are most important for you, such as rooms and space requirements.

It’s important to have a plan when you’re designing, even if it’s just in your head. Starting a design without ideas or inspiration is going to be really challenging. So, instead, try to do some brainstorming before you start.

Designing the Floor Plan with Computer Software

computer software

If you’ve already sketched out how you think your floor should look and that layout is fleshed out, then start using computer software to do all of the sketches and get the measurements just right. A computer can help get everything perfectly accurate without too much dirty work done by yourself. Here’s a list of some of the best softwares on the market.

Decide how big you think your rooms will be (in square feet) based on how much space is necessary for that room. For example, if you’re designing an office, make sure it has enough space to fit your desk, a few chairs, and maybe some white space so that you don’t feel cramped.

Designing the Exterior Elements of the Home

It’s also a good idea to sketch out how the house should look from the front and back. This will help you decide how the house should be oriented on your lot.

The exterior of a home often catches people’s attention and sets it apart from other homes in the neighborhood, so that aspect needs to be well thought out before moving onto other parts of the design. Exterior design can come before or after the interior. Ultimately it’s up to you and how you flow-through design.

Choosing Your Exterior Materials

After you’ve got a good idea of what you want the exterior of your home to look like, you’ll need to decide on materials for the exterior. The list of materials isn’t too extensive and will include siding, windows, gutters, trim, roof type, and material.

The list goes on but these are some of the most important elements that will come up. When you’re deciding on what’s best for your home, take inspiration from other homes that you like either in your area or from Pinterest.

Find the Right Lot

Whether you have an idea of the lot or you need to find the location of your dreams, getting the right location is imperative.

The lot can impact how your custom home will look and how long it’ll take to build. Ideally, you want the house to be situated on a flat plot of land that’s close to amenities such as grocery stores, schools, etc. Whether you want it on a body of water, in the woods, or out in a field is up to you.

Check If Your Site’s in an Architecturally Restricted Area

If you’re building in a neighborhood or other similar area, you may be in an ARA or Architecturally Restricted Area. That means the home will need to be reviewed by a board to ensure that the architecture throughout meets the standards of this organization. Reach out to your ARA to learn more about the specific design instructions that are required.

Find a Builder to Work With

find a builder

Finding a quality builder is important because he or she is the person who will be overseeing how your house comes to life. From start to finish, this is typically the key figure in making sure all of the construction and design aspects are taken care of.

Since it’s a large project with plenty of moving parts, you’ll want someone who specializes in home building rather than just one aspect.

If you have a specific builder in mind, they’ll be able to offer more details on how the process works and how long it will take as well as how much money you can expect to spend throughout the project.

At Sustainable 9, we offer comprehensive design and build services. We’ll work together with you to ensure that your home gets built exactly the way you want it done. Whether you choose to design a house from the ground up or just need a bit of assistance – we’re happy to help!

Coordinate with Truss and Structural Engineers

After you have the first draft of your plan finalized, you’ll need to meet with a structural engineer and truss specialist to make sure your design is sound. These engineers will help you ensure that your home will be built to code and ready to handle the weight of move-in and all the materials you’ll have in it.

File for the Permits

When your design begins to near the end of the process, you’ll need to submit it for permitting. Permits are required for almost all building projects, including new homes, remodels, renovations, and more. The permits help ensure that the homes are built to code and that they’ll last for years to come.

Choose Your Materials

man choosing flooring materials

Once you have the permits in hand, it’s time to start choosing how your home will be built. Are you going with a brick exterior, or would wood look better? Will all of the windows be vinyl, or do they need to be custom-made? What type of flooring, countertops, or roof will be on the home. We talked through some of the details above, but the materials will make up a big part of the design process.

Deciding on the types of materials that go into building a house is one of the most important steps. With how much goes into choosing materials, you’ll want to spend at least a few months mulling over your options and deciding what’s best for both cost and durability.

While this process can feel overwhelming, it can be very fun! There are several showrooms throughout the country and also in the Minneapolis area that you can visit to see some of the best products in action.

Landscaping Designs

Many homeowners don’t think about the need to have landscaping done around their home after it’s built. And, because it’s an afterthought, sometimes it takes years to actually get grass growing, trees, planted and flowers around the house. When you’re working on the home’s exterior appearance, don’t be afraid to also work on the landscaping designs. Would you like to have a deck or patio? What will the entryway look like from your driveway?

Take the time to dream up your exterior just like you do your interior, and you won’t be disappointed with the results.

Final Steps

Sign Off on the Final Quote

Now that you have all of your materials picked out, how much you’re spending on labor, how long it’s going to take, and what the final cost is for your project – it’s time to sign off.

This will be a binding contract that states how much money you’ll need upfront before any work begins as well as how payment works throughout the process. This is the very last of the busy work before you’ll be able to finally break ground on your home.

Start Building

The building process for a home could take a whole blog of its own. But for today, it’s important that you know the building process takes time. It’s not an overnight process, and when groundwork needs to be down on a new build, it can take a bit longer. The site will need to be prepped, the foundation laid, utilities installed, walls raised, roof trusses put on, roof put on, and interior work done.

house builder

It’s a lengthy process, but if you have the right builder, it will go smooth from start to finish, and you won’t need to worry about hitting any hiccups throughout the build.

This list gives a good idea of the step-by-step process that works together to build beautiful homes around the country, but it doesn’t do justice for all of the in-between work that’s involved. Having the aspiration of designing your own home is awesome, and we’re excited when our clients have lots of ideas about the building process.

We also encourage first-time designers who are working on their own homes to partner up with local building companies to help get the most out of their projects and make sure all of the details are taken care of. If that’s you and you’d like to help Sustainable 9 design a house and build the home of your dream, reach out to our team!


A custom-built home means you don’t have to sacrifice the details that make your home one-of-a-kind. View our award-winning work and get inspired.

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Sustainable 9

It’s not just a vision for tomorrow: Sustainable 9 Design + Build creates homes for tomorrow today, reflected in its enduring commitment to green, high performance, energy-efficient homes that are stunningly designed and custom-built.

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More energy efficient than a standard new construction home* *based on HERS ratings


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Tighter and less leaky than a standard new construction home* *based on blower door test/air leakage results

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