When we were considering building our home, we knew nothing about new construction and how it worked. Now I’ve come out the other side! Building from the ground up is FUN! I am sharing 5 tips when building a home that I did not know before hand, that would have been nice to know! Our builder was Kevin Poythress, a family owned local custom builder in the Raleigh, NC area. He had built a lot of the custom homes on our street in Durham. We found an empty lot in our favorite established neighborhood, something that our builder had bought years ago and was recently listed up for sale. The timing was perfect.
Everyone warned me how stressful building was going to be! My husband and I sat down and had the talk… each of us agreed we would not let the other one go over board. We did not need “all the things”. We would stick together, be a team, etc.
Blah, blah, blah, best of intentions! Well some of these goals we made good on (we were definitely a team!) and most we could have done better (ahem… budget), but when all was said and done, both of us said we would do it again! Should we ever move again (NO), we will build/renovate.
5 Tips When Building Your Home
At the end you are living inside a building that was once just a vague idea swimming around in your imagination. If you are starting out with a builder, or simply considering the process, here are the 5 tips for building a home – things I would want to know before diving in! Or before you dab on your foundation.
1. Get A Vision
A VISION is everything.
Do It Right: Get a fairly clear idea of what each room will look like- not just the fun stuff, like the exterior and the kitchen- plan how you will style each room, what will the big picture look like in the bathrooms, every bedroom… picture the floor, the walls. What will the vibe be in that room? You can nail down the actual specifics later, but have a good idea for the look and feel of all of the rooms.
Hire a designer if it is in the budget at all; this can be the way to go if you are not someone who enjoys making lot of decisions quickly. It was something we spoke about for a bit and decided against. But it would have helped to have someone creative guiding me! As much as I know my own style, if we were to build again I would hire design help from someone I vetted and trusted.
You will be bombarded with thousands of choices everywhere you turn. Don’t go to any meetings unarmed without ideas. Without a clear vision of your own, someone else will decide what you want and leave you even more confused! For instance, you might not know exactly which tile you want before you begin visiting actual tile shops, but you want to come ready with pictures you like. One decision affects the next, and so on.
Where To Find Your Vision:
Inspiration is so easy now! Get on Pinterest and make a board for every room in your new house. Stalk designer boards who have your same style.
You will want the big ones- that ones that gut homes and do total renovations. Some of my favorites were Studio McGee, Becky Owens, and Bria Hammel. I pinned away at all of their rooms that I loved- looking for rooms in particular that I could take the feel of and make it my own.
Home Bunch is a blog who tours lots of homes that are custom. I consulted her often, because so many of her homes are new construction.
Update: Our house tour featured on the Home Bunch blog here!
Be sure to download the Houzz app and create a profile so you can also save pictures there. Houzz was what convinced us we needed to bring our kitchen cabinets all the way up to the ceiling instead of stopping just under.
Lastly, follow some custom home builders on instagram for inspiration- a lot of big builders love to post kitchen and bathrooms and fun tiles! You can follow my builder here. Of course you will also want to follow your same favorite interior designers on instagram too. Pin your heart out until you can envision what you want in your mind.
Where Not To Find A Vision:
Don’t go online starting threads looking for advice, or polling people’s opinions on sites like Houzz or Facebook. You know what they say about opinions… and you are asking the general public, essentially. People who may talk like they know it all, but their tastes and life experiences are probably wildly different than yours. If you are going to ask for opinions, ask a trusted designer whose taste you are already familiar with. Ask family members who know you well and can offer personal advice (“You hate baths! Are you sure you want to pay for the stand alone tub…” etc).
My Own Challenges:
By the time we got to planning our bathroom on our 3rd floor, I was out of ideas! It’s our 5th bathroom in the house and the one I knew would get the least amount of use. So I didn’t prioritize it. I picked out this fun pattern tile floor, but I just couldn’t nail down the rest of the space. After we moved in this bathroom was all over the place, and I still didn’t know how I wanted it to look. I ended up switching out the aged brass handles for acrylic, and our mirror was backordered by the time I finally ordered it. At Christmas our guests had no mirror in their bath. Extra annoyances I could have lived without!
2. Working together
If your partner has an opinion on design, can you even work together? What if your styles are vastly different? Two styles CAN blend (I love a farmhouse table with modern chairs!) but you are going to have a lot of negotiating to do. Learn how to compromise… a lot. Let him get the sleek vanity in the bathroom if you can get the chandelier you want over the table.
That being said: if you have different styles than your partner, regardless of what they may be, don’t go too far in one direction- stick with understated choices since you are marrying two different styles!
We actually didn’t have challenges in this area because Jose was happy to let me pick everything. It would have been a struggle had he felt differently!
3. Plan For Extra Storage Space Before You Build
3. I am so glad our architect pushed us to go with extra storage! It seemed so extra at the time. Seven months into our home now, and we still have some empty drawers in the kitchen! We have a house full of growing kids, and I am so grateful to have empty closets/drawers/storage benches waiting for us to grow into.
If you don’t have enough room for extra storage- what can you move around while you are designing the floor plan? We sized down our downstairs guest bath in place of a giant walk in pantry. SUCH a good decision! It works hard for us and we don’t miss those extra few feet in the bathroom.
4. Plan to Spend Throughout The Build
People told me to be careful, but nobody warned me there would be upgrades throughout the entire process that I would want. I thought the kitchen and a few other areas would be our focus and then we would be satisfied. Wrong. But if you are splurging on every idea that comes your way (and that takes discipline not to!), long before you get to the landscaping there will be nothing left. So be discerning. Know that if you get the best countertops, put hardwoods everywhere, take the ceilings up high all in the beginning, there will still be other things later you will be forced to turn down.
Something I’m Glad We Spent Money On / Getting Creative With Budget
One thing I am glad I spurged on was the one item I almost didn’t do, because I didn’t see the value in it. My husband and mom were both urging me to get a central vac. I am so glad they talked me into it! I am obsessed with our central vac. and it makes mom life so much easier. Pretty sure this qualifies me as a total boring adult, but it is actually fun to use!
Find ways to splurge in a smaller ways to help stay in budget. For instance, I wanted our electrical outlets put into the baseboards instead of the drywall for a more seamless look. We cut costs by only doing this on the first floor. I have no regrets there! Another common idea that lots of people do is to create your kitchen island out of a luxury countertop, and keep the surrounding countertops in a less expensive material that looks good together.
5. When something goes wrong: ask how much time? how much money?
5. With so many little details, a little hiccup or two might happen. I knew that going in. But out of all the useful tips when building a home you should know, a major one is how to reconcile “mistakes” when something goes off track. The two big questions when you don’t like how something is turning out are:
How much time, and how much money to fix this? Then you will have your answer if its worth it to fix, or if you need to get creative and find a way to live with it.
After the plans were all laid out on paper for our home, I started thinking about how I really wanted the roof over our front porch to be metal. But I forgot to tell the builder (or anyone, for that matter). Not sure what I was thinking. Months later, I came to check on the house and saw men put up a shingle roof over our front porch. My mouth dropped open. My metal roof wasn’t happening! How could I be so stupid? I had forgotten all about it, and instantly I was in tears. I sent an immediate email to my builder… “So I know the shingle roof is already going up over the porch,” I said, “but is it too late to make a change?”
Turns out, the shingles had been back ordered and were a custom color so they couldn’t be returned, and because of that the roof installation was already past the original projected date. Of course the metal roof wasn’t even ordered yet, much less picked out! Had I stopped there it would have been over.
I hate rocking the boat in situations like this, and pushing for something nobody else wants is way outside my comfort zone. But I wanted that roof! “How much time exactly, and how much money are we talking to start taking the shingles off and replace them?” Actually, as it turns out, not enough time that would it set the overall deadline of our home back, and not so much money we couldn’t make it happen. And I love my metal roof.
I hope my 5 tips when building your home is helpful. I am incredibly grateful I was able to go through this process and I want to encourage others to be able to enjoy it the way we did! As always, feel free to reach out with any questions you may have.
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