So you want to build a house? Whether you have the luxury of building a completely custom home or you decide to live in a community with a production builder, there are some decisions you need to make before the foundation is poured and the framing has started. Here are some things I am glad we did and others I wish we did after building a semi-custom home. Note: You wont find a lot of pretty pictures today, because it’s the stuff behind the sheetrock that can be the most regrettable mistakes.
So Glad We Did These Things
- Measure your stuff! And I mean the big things. Will your car fit in the garage? Matt has the enormous 2017 Ford F250, and it’s a looooong truck. We knew it wouldn’t fit in a typical garage. We were able to extend the garage 3 extra feet. Altering the floor plan did come at an additional charge.
Our huge truck fit because we planned ahead and made sure the garage would be big enough
- Decide now if you want floor outlets. Most new homes have open floor plans. Unless you want extension cords all over the place, you may want to invest in at least a floor outlet in the living room. The decision needs to be made before cement is poured, so the electrical lines can be laid first. Yes, they can remove the flooring and jackhammer the foundation to add one later, but think of the cost and mess.
Floor outlets are a necessary investment for open floor plans.
- Put in a free-standing tub now. The more updates you want to the house, raises the price. But a free-standing tub will cost much more to add down the road. Here’s why- the drain may have to be moved later, and the faucet from a drop in tub style will have to be relocated. Also, you’ll need to extend the tile to go under the new tub. What if your current tile is no longer available? Not to mention the labor to do the project itself. If you add a freestanding tub during construction- the cost will be added into your mortgage and you wont be writing a big check for a remodel. The same applies for a Laundry Room utility sink- do it now.
- If you choose a floor plan provided by the builder and there isn’t a model unit to visit, mentally walk through the house. Ours had two “niches” in the Dining Room. We had to widen one and eliminate the other just so our furniture would fit on those walls.
- If you love a farmhouse style kitchen sink (or apron sink) put it in now. You can’t just drop one in or replace an under mount with one. The base cabinet has to be specifically made for an apron front sink since they sit lower and the front sticks out. The counter would have to be replaced to fit it, as well. The same applies to a professional cooktop- they don’t fit the same way as a typical cooktop.
- Make sure your mantle is at the correct height. Putting a TV over your fireplace? Don’t let the builder set it to high so you can’t watch TV without straining your neck. If you have a wooden mantle, code requires that it is 1 foot above the firebox. If your fireplace is raised, opt for a brick or stone mantle so it can be lower. My beam mantle was supposed to have decorative corbels, which raised it another foot. My Living Room isn’t very deep, so the sofa and chairs are pretty close to the fireplace. We eliminated the corbels to lower the beam. We also lowered the hearth and firebox from 2ft off the ground to just 15 inches. Every inch counts when hanging a TV over a fireplace.
The Small Stuff
- We put the dishwasher to the left side of the sink since we are both left handed. It’s just more functional for us. We also put the outlets on the left side of our bathroom vanities.
- Solid Core Doors for better sound proofing and durability.
- Outlets for Christmas lights.
- Under counter outlets for a seamless kitchen backsplash. (I had to get designer-y)
- Tankless water heaters work great and take up less space, and can’t leak.
- Frameless shower doors. Shower doors with frames leave holes in the tile once removed. You can add a frameless door later, but plan on replacing the tile, too.
- We plumbed for a gas grill knowing we would add a built in BBQ later.
What We Should Have Done
- We altered our floor plan by moving one wall and relocating a door. What we didn’t see (and wasn’t pointed out to us with the request) was the location of the HVAC air intake vent. I moved a door to close off my mudroom and laundry room. The floor plan we worked on didn’t have HVAC indicators on it. We now can’t close this door that we paid to move. The air can’t properly circulate if we close off that area, so it’s always open. I wish our builder would have shared that detail with us before approving our request.
- We forgot to have the plumber move the shower valve closer to the shower door instead of under the shower head. It’s always a gamble that we get sprayed with cold water every time we turn on the shower.
- The truck does fit in the garage, but there isn’t enough room to walk around it- another two feet would have been helpful.
- Central Vacuum System. We have a Golden Retriever, do I need to say more?
- We forgot to add a hose bib (outside faucet) to the front of the house. When you live on an acre and a half, you notice it when it’s not there. Another detail that I believe the builder should not have let pass.
If you are building a house for the first time or your a seasoned pro, it never hurts to get a second set of eyes on your details – and maybe pressing your builder on some pros / cons of your decisions. Having a good home builder is key, but so is enlisting help! Don’t let your new home be filled with regret or a “woulda, shoulda, coulda” feeling. I know we felt like we were bleeding money some days, and making the upgrades just added to it, but overall these details were worth every penny. AND small changes upfront can save money in the long run and can add even value to your biggest investment.
I’ll be back soon ~