What You Need to Know About House Plans vs Specifications

Sarah PowellPosted by Sarah Powell on February 9, 2017

Building a house from scratch is a tremendous undertaking. It requires you to make a seemingly endless parade of decisions about things you might not have thought much about before. One area of confusion for first-time home builders can be the difference between the house plans and the specifications.

You are probably more familiar with the concept of house plans. These are the scaled drawings that you think of as blueprints. What you may not know is that house plans come in a set of four different drawings: One for the foundation, one for the interior of the house, one for the exterior (or elevations), and another for the site.

Then there are the specifications. This is a written document that covers all the other details of the house, including:

  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Floors
  • Appliances
  • Commodes
  • Bathtubs
  • Countertops
  • Cabinets
  • Light Fixtures

This list of specifications is what every subcontractor who works on your house will refer to when he shows up to perform his part of the construction. It includes a staggering amount of detail!

For example, you can’t simply say that you want solid core doors on all the bedrooms. For each room, the builder needs to know where your materials are coming from (Lowe’s, for example) and exactly what that item is. For the master bedroom door, then, the specifications might list the following:

  • JELD-WEN White Prehung Solid Core 2-Panel Round Top Plank Interior Door, Item #520521, Model #

And for the door handle on that door, the specification might list:

  • Kwikset lido antique brass universal turn lock privacy door lever, item #256668 model #730LL 5 CP.

Room by room, it adds up to a lot of decision making—maybe more than you want to deal with.

This is why many home plans include a list of predetermined specifications. This saves both money and time. The builder can purchase large quantities of building materials at discount rates, and you don’t spend all your spare time wandering the aisles of Home Depot.

Even with pre-set specifications, however, you need to read that document carefully and understand exactly what you’re agreeing to.

It’s common for buyers to request at least a few changes. If the original specs call for a linoleum floor in the kitchen, but you want a tile floor, the specifications need to be changed to reflect your wishes.

Your goal with the specifications is to take the guesswork out of the construction of your house.