10 Tips For Building Your Dream House

In this post: Tips for building your dream home
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10 Tips for Building your Dream House

 1. Start with your Appliances!

This seriously dictates *everything*.  My recommendation is to go into the appliance candy shop and pick out what you want.  That way, you know the exact size of kitchen you need, the exact place to put plumbing in, and the exact amount of wiring/electricity/power needed.  It is much easier to put in the appropriate amount of power NOW instead of later when you’ve put up the walls and say, oh hey, I want a built-in espresso machine only to find out you can’t because you didn’t think of it ahead of time!  My builder and so many of our contractors thought we were so smart in doing that!

2. Know what type of housing style you want!

It helps to make a Pinterest board or a board on Houzz to give your engineer/architect ideas of what you want. Otherwise if you say “farmhouse” their idea may be of traditional American farmhouse not Joanna-and-Chip farmhouse.

3. Your architect and engineer will mess up

You need to triple check your plans a hundred times with every time they make a change.  Remember how you said you wanted “X hall” 5 foot 6 inches so you can put a certain piece of furniture? Yeah, well they changed it. So you have to keep correcting them.  Otherwise that special piece may not fit!  They constantly changed things with every drawing! For me this was the most exhausting part. And then came time to framing… make sure the framer is framing what you want!  We modified the drawings the framer got because we were sick of making corrections with the engineer!

4. Know the building code!

For example: we learned we cannot have dual shower heads in our master after we already designed everything.  So great, right? Yeahhh still fuming about this…  Same with the driveway, oh surprise, driveway can’t be pretty crushed granite gravel, thanks fire department.  Outdoor lights have to have a light sensor on them, so maybe that antique light won’t work unless it is modified with a sensor. Knowing the building code ahead of time can allow you to plan for things like that. Don’t you love governments, telling us how to live?

5. Is this your ‘Forever’ home?

If so, you need to think about what were to happen if you are going to end up in a wheelchair? You need to have a bedroom with a full bath on the main floor – even if this isn’t your master bedroom of today, it might be the one of your 80s!  You need to make sure the door and hallway can accommodate a wheelchair, same with the shower and the toilet room. Laundry should also be in the main floor for that reason.  Get what I’m saying? You say, oh, well I won’t live here when I’m 80. What happens if you break a leg and need a wheelchair? Or you need to have hip/knee surgery? Same thing.

6. Pay attention to your HVAC system

Yeah, so… our architect and engineer did not think about the HVAC.  And apparently this is a very common thing per the HVAC man.  Our engineer put beams left and right where we would have run the HVAC. This has led to a massive headache. We have solved it (I think), but beware, this is a common problem.  HVAC is so important if you want to keep your house a comfy temp year round!

7. Budget

Your project can very easily go over budget. It is very easy to pick the most expensive of everything – it is much harder to find cheaper alternatives – BUT they are out there!  Get multiple bids for the same thing. You think the plumbing bid is high? Go get two others and find out.  For instance, the kitchen cabinets went over budget, so I cut back on cabinets in the laundry room.  Figure out where you want to spend your money and splurge there.  And FYI, the permit fees may be way higher than you expect.

splurge on the inset cabinets, save on the overlay.

8.  Plan. Plan. Plan.

PLAN! Plan for everything.  Think you might want a chandelier in this room but can’t afford one right now… plan to do a flush mount ceiling light that later can be easily changed into a chandelier.  You seriously need to think of everything. Do you think you want a floor plug in the floor? Yeah, you need to know BEFORE they pour the foundation.  Same with the plumbing. BEFORE the foundation.  Think you might want to put a TV possibly in the room with internet/cable/satellite? Wire that sucker before the sheetrock goes up.  Want to use that antique door or fireplace? Need to plan for that!

9.  Having Someone Tell You What You Need/Want

NO! This is your house, if you want a window flower box, GET the window flower box. Don’t let the eye rolls and grunts from your builder get in the way!  The only thing I did NOT get was a groin vault ceiling. It just wasn’t possible.  I am still sad about this. It just couldn’t work.  Remember, you are paying them to build what you want and you are the one that has to live there! 

10.   It is a lot of work.

A LOT of work. That is an understatement.  Building a house is not meant for every one.  It is a second full time job.  It is stressful. It can tear apart marriages. The home shows make it seem easy.

Remember, it actually can be fun.  

When things screw up (like um, the HVAC system), it is not worth it to me getting super angry about.  Why? Because I can’t redesign the whole house.  What’s done is done.

You must face the challenges given to you, and not stress about what should have been done, and do what can be done!

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  1. March 20, 2017 / 2:16 pm

    I could read such things forever. Really nice afternoon reading. Thanks very much!

  2. March 21, 2017 / 5:41 am

    Every tip is right on! Tip #3 should include the framers will mess up, too. They will not measure accurately and a door moves 6" to the right or left. You have to take a tape measure (construction-guy size tape measure) and check the framing as it goes in.


    • March 21, 2017 / 5:58 am

      Yes you are right! I forgot to mention we were out there with our tape measure measuring *everyhing*. Found out they put the floor plug in the wrong spot he Day before the foundation poured literally after we marked an X in the spot and went over it, we get out there that evening and double checked it all only to find it was 6 feet off! Huh?! Thank god we caught that, otherwise it would've literally been in the middle of a room and not hiding under the furniture!

  3. March 23, 2017 / 1:59 pm

    Lots of great tips! I especially like designing your forever home for aging in place. That's what we did for the home we're building. We also added bracing for grab bars in the bathrooms including next to the toilets. Take a peek at my article http://houseofchant.com/aging-in-place-home-design/.

    We also wanted a unique driveway and found 'tar and chip' aka 'chip seal' paving. It's a paving system used on county roads, commercial lots and is gaining popularity as driveways. It's a lot less expensive than concrete and asphalt plus it looks like gravel without having to deal with loose gravel.

  4. March 29, 2017 / 3:21 am

    Very smart to design the aging in with the home. Time is flying. Wonderful tips! Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home!