Modifying Plans to suit your needs

Alan Mascord Design Associates offers hundreds of professionally designed home plans, but what if you don’t see exactly what you’re after? What if you locate a Mascord plan that comes close, but you would like to have some changes made to it? That’s where our plan modification services come in.

From minor plan changes to extensive design modifications, most Mascord home plans can be adjusted to suit your specific needs. This article will walk you through the entire process, step-by-step. We will provide some helpful tips and guidelines along the way, and we will also consider the important role you play in making your project a success.

An Overview

Whereas a custom design starts from scratch, a plan modification uses a completed design as the starting point. Since we are able to reuse portions of the existing base plan, this can often be an affordable alternative to custom design. Of course, there are reasonable limits to what qualifies as a modification project. But in most cases the design changes our customers desire are deemed feasible and qualify for our modification services.
From the start, we approach the project as a team. Your involvement as the client is vital, especially during the first two phases of your modification project.
Modification projects are done in four sequential phases:

  • Project Definition and Intake
  • Design
  • Production and Engineering
  • Delivery and Support

Project Definition and Intake

The Project Definition and Intake phase begins with your initial inquiry, and ends with the completed Design Agreement accompanied by receipt of the deposit to begin the Design phase. (By the way, this phase is usually free to the client, with payment of a deposit required only after this phase is complete. In some cases, if extensive consultation is needed at this stage, our hourly rates may apply.

Likely you already have an idea of what you’re looking for in a home plan: the size of home, a preferred style, and the general layout and features. The property where the home is to be built may also influence plan selection (Is the site sloping? Limited width or depth? Trees to protect? Views to take advantage of?) Building codes, local zoning ordinances, as well as neighborhood CC&Rs can also all have an impact on plan selection and design decisions. All of these factors are important and make up the design criteria.
Since almost all of this information is specific to your site and region, we depend on you to gather it up and provide it before design can begin (in fact, that’s your first assignment as part of the team.) Since building codes and local zoning ordinances vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction — and are frequently changed without notice — it is impossible for AMDA to keep up-to-date with this information for the numerous building jurisdictions in the Pacific Northwest, and around the country.

We are able to provide you guidance in rounding up this information. When you contact one of our project intake specialists, they can provide you helpful checklists and forms to point you in the right direction, in addition to the information provided in this series of articles.

The Project Definition and Intake Phase also includes plan selection, and the establishment of the scope of design changes and services desired. This allows us to determine our fee and to produce the Design Agreement to get the project started.

Tracking down all this information can seem tedious, but it’s invaluable to getting your project off to a good start. (We’ll get to the fun part — design — soon enough.)
So, where to begin? The best place to start is the specific lot where the home is to be built, since site requirements can often be the most restrictive and the most critical.

Site Information

Whether or not we provide the final site plan, having this site information is valuable because it can affect plan selection and design. We could tell you some real horror stories of some folks who thought otherwise (but we won’t).

A plat map of your lot shows the exact property line lengths and bearings (for example, 101.62’ N39°25’17”E). You can provide this by either faxing a legible copy, or mailing it to us. If any of the property lines are curved, the corresponding curve data will be needed. This will include the curve radius, curve length, and chord length and bearing. (This is often found in an accompanying “Curve Data Chart”.) To learn more about this, check out our Site Plan Guidelines on our

Unless the property is actually flat, the topography of the site is also very important. Slope steepness is impossible to determine visually. Slope often appears less severe than it really is. A ten or fifteen foot drop may only appear to the eye to be a few feet. For sloped lots, we prefer a professional topographical survey with contours at 1’-0” or 2’-0” intervals. Some experienced builders are able to produce an accurate topo survey as well.

When a professional topographical survey is obtained, please direct the surveyor to email us an AutoCAD file of the completed survey. Please contact us for the appropriate email address where that should be directed. Additional site information includes:

  • Property identification: either a lot number and subdivision name or street address.
  • Zip code of the property.
  • Any additional site features that need to be considered (i.e. other structures on the site, views and vistas, trees to be preserved, mail boxes, obstructions, etc.)
  • Is a septic field required?
  • Are there any easements?
  • Is a soils report required?

We will continue this series on our plan modification process in our next newsletter. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have, or for assistance with plan selection. Feel free to email us at You may also contact one of our project intake specialists directly. At our Portland, Oregon office, contact Karen Dummer (503-225-9161 ext. 246).


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