Savvy Home Buyers Investigate Interior Zoning

In the hustle and bustle of house-hunting, some buyers neglect to take the time to discover whether or not a home has a practical floor plan.

Although owners frequently seek to correct faults in their present homes, such as inadequate storage space, other faults may be overlooked because they are not obvious to the casual observer.

What kinds of faults? A floor plan that funnels traffic through the middle of the living room, interrupting social activities, is one. A single bathroom in a two-story house could be another.

Certain design faults might be considered merely annoying, others serious. In any event, many can be discerned in advance simply by sketching and later analyzing a rough floor plan of the prospective home.

You need not possess the artistic talent of a Leonardo da Vinci nor the serious technical training of an architect. All you need is a piece of paper and a pencil. It's a good idea to have a tape measure handy to obtain fairly accurate room dimensions.

Don't forget to mark locations of all windows, doors, closets, stairwells and major kitchen appliances. Include the garage, driveway and walkways in your drawing as well.

What should you look for when you analyze a floor plan? A well-designed home should offer good interior zoning and direct routes between rooms. Rooms should be located logically, be large enough to space your furniture comfortably and be functional and flexible in serving intended purposes.

Interior zoning -- the segregation of rooms by the activity that takes place in them -- falls into three general categories: work (cooking and laundering), shared activities (dining and entertaining) and private activities (sleeping, bathing and reading).

Rooms should be separated into three distinct zones so that the activities in one zone don't interfere with those in another. In a two-story home, for example, good zoning dictates that bedrooms be located upstairs, so that activities in the rooms below don't bother sleepers.

Logical location of rooms is important. The kitchen, for example, should be centrally located. It should be near or adjacent to the eating area, but not far from the front entrance. Ideally, it should overlook an area where children might be playing.

On the other hand, the living room should be somewhat isolated. In too many homes, traffic flows from the front door directly into the living room, often interrupting ongoing activity.

Traffic should flow through the house by direct routes. If traffic must pass through a room, it should pass along one end or across a corner, not through the middle. Check traffic patterns in your improvised floor plan by tracing routes from room to room with a pencil. Find out if it's necessary to cross or take circuitous routes.

Rooms should be large enough to accommodate your furnishings. Use your floor plan to see if your king-size bed will fit into the master bedroom. You can also use the floor plan to decide how to place your furniture.

The few extra minutes it takes to draw a floor plan could help you avoid years of inconvenience caused by a home that doesn't fit your needs.