37 Builder Upgrades You SHOULD Do

So you’ve decided to build a house.  What an exciting life event!  All the builder upgrades will be awesome! But wait, what if I screw it up?  What if I forget important details or my builder doesn’t have the designer’s touch?  Should I build the largest house I can or should I build the nicest house I can afford?  Well fear no more.  I LOVE the building (and remodeling) process, have been through it many many times, and am here to help.  Builder Upgrades: What you SHOULD and SHOULDN’T upgrade (because of the huge volumes of information I am sharing on this subject, this will be a mini series, so stay tuned for follow-up posts on what upgrades you shouldn’t do and what you may want to change that could cost you nothing).  UPDATE: Read the 13 Upgrades You SHOULDN’T Do HERE.

13 Builder Upgrades You Should NOT Do

Whether you are building a large custom-house in the suburbs or remodeling a classic row house or designing a new penthouse, doing things the right way on your dime can make or break your enjoyment of the home for years into the future.  The last thing you want is a bunch of doubt and disappointment after you have spent thousands, even hundreds of thousands to build your dream home.  The following are based on my recommendations in order to get the most bang for your buck.  I like to get a step down from the largest house I can afford and include the upgrades that I can’t easily retrofit after I move in.

37 Upgrades You Should Do When Building or Remodeling a House

This post will focus on the Should’s:

  • Add an extra garage if you have the room.  Everyone has more to store than they think!
  • Upgrade trim and moldings.  It is not worth it to go back and remove all of the trim, replace it, caulk it, and paint it.
  • Raise ceilings.  I didn’t know this was an option when I built with a builder, but I wish I had.  My 8 foot kitchen feels so much smaller than my neighbors 9 ft.  This also applies if you have a basement.  Because of the way heating and a/c ducting is in many houses, I strongly recommend 9 ft. minimum for a basement.  In some areas after duct work it will be around 8.  By raising the ceilings, your windows can also become taller bringing more light into the space.
  • Add an exit door out the garage.  This may work out to be the perfect place for your garbage cans, a dog door, or you could switch out a solid door for a half-light door with a window to add light to the garage.
  • Add an operable window in the master closet.  Being able to get fresh air and light in a master closet is so nice.  We have a small slider window that is up about 7 feet off the ground.  No one can see in, and I can’t see out, but my husband can open and close it easily and I only need to turn on the light at night (read about my master closet HERE).
  • Add an outlet in the pantry.  My pantry is where I keep my toaster oven, small shake maker, and other small appliances (even a Swiffer Vac).  All can be plugged in at all times and don’t take up valuable counter space.  With wireless printers, I even know people who keep their printer in the pantry.  If you have an outlet, I promise you’ll think of something that can be neatly kept out of sight in your pantry (read about my pantry HERE).
  • Add an outlet in desk cupboard.  This is similar to the pantry.  We have a power outlet as well as network, cable, and audio in my kitchen command center.  I use it for charging phones, an electric pencil sharpener, upper cabinet lighting, phone plug-in for Pandora on home speaker system and battery chargers (read about my kitchen organization station HERE).
  • Be sure to add a Christmas light outlet in the eves of your home.  The outlet can be used for lights or heat tape if you live in a cold snowy climate.  Be sure you have a light switch inside, then you can retro fit it to have  timer later.
  • Upgrade to three tone paint and have a white ceiling.  This mostly applies to homes that have very high ceilings like in my family room (read about my family room HERE).  I have gone ahead and painted my kitchen and basement stair ceiling.  I am dreading painting the rest of my ceilings, especially where I’ll have to rent scaffolding!
  •  Granite counter tops may seem like a huge upfront expense.  And they are.  But, what are the chances that you will come up with an extra 5-10 k to install them after you move in.  Do it before you sign your mortgage payments and wrap them into the home loan (read about my favorite granite HERE).
  • Get the best lot you can.  Some builders may give out incentives for choosing the least desirable lots or charge huge premiums for better lot locations.  In most situations, I think it is worth it to pay the upfront fees for the better lot, EVEN if it means a smaller house.  Our current home backs up to a park, which meant a larger price tag than other lots, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
  • Extend wood flooring into high traffic areas.  I know it can be pricey, but so is refinishing existing flooring to match a new section, or trying to find an exact matched to your existing wood after a few years have faded or darkened or is no longer in production.  Wood floor hallways or family rooms are always desirable, plus, you can throw a rug down if needed (read about my sister’s wood floor HERE).
  • A jetted tub in the master bathroom was a must for us.  I know some find them disgusting or unused, but not us.  I have my cleaning routines  that work for us and we use ours at least 3 times a week, usually after a long day as a way to relax.
  • Add a cable TV outlet in the master bathroom.  This goes back to my previous bath reason.  I like to watch a tv that is mounted on a plant shelf in my bathroom while I soak in the tub.  I also enjoy watching the weather and daily news when I get ready in the morning.  Just think about it as an option that doesn’t cost much if planned ahead.
  • Add a window in basement bathroom.  This is one that I am kicking my self about now.  I wish that we had the builder put in a high slider window with opaque glass above our shower in the basement.  This would have allowed for great ventilation and at least some natural light flow.
  • Add can, puck or pot lights as often as possible.  You may want to hire a lighting specialist to help you with this, but the more lighting on the more switches the more customization of light you can use to create a mood.
  • Light switch for outlets. I love plant shelves, and nothing helps accessorize them like an outlet for a lamp or light and a switch down low for easy access.  Depending on the space, I will decorate with a lamp, home-made light up sign, or Christmas lights for a nice glow like in my master bathroom.  The switch makes all the difference.
  • Delete cheap closet organizers.  Our current home came with cheep particle board painted with stationery shelving.  We had the builder completely delete all of these “organizers” and then went and purchased our own from Home Depot and Lowe’s.  With an Ikea near by now, I could find a great system there as well.  I love the melamine (sounds weird to say I love plastic) surface for all of my clothes.  I also love the adjustable shelves and smooth rolling drawers that come with these systems.  I also asked the painter to paint all of the closets the same color as the bedroom instead of the glossy trim paint.  This makes the closet feel like an extension of room rather than a closet (read about my master closet HERE).
  • Delete mirrors in bathrooms.  This is another easy step to make a home look more custom.  Simply ask the builder to NOT install any mirrors and then go shopping for framed mirrors from a discount store like TJMaxx or Ikea (read about my guest bathroom HERE).
  • Extend the amount of brick and stone that you have on your home.  Before construction begins is the best time to decide if you want to extend the brick or stone masonry on your home.  Often the foundation may need to be poured differently or the windows framed out differently when working with these materials, so adding them later can be tricky.
  • Future outdoor hot tub outlet.  If you already know you plan on having a hot tub and know where you want to place it, have your builder or electrician add a 220 outlet to the outside of your house near your future location.
  • A fire pit or BBQ natural gas line can easily be added now again, if you know where you eventually want to place them.
  • 3 way light switches or lights that can be turned off in two places can be very helpful, especially in open floor plans.  Think through your floor plan and how you may enter and exit rooms and hallways, and whether you may want two or more switches for lighting (read about my vintage crystal chandelier that has a three way switch HERE).
  • Have your framer build braces for future ceiling fans.  I am not generally a fan of the look of ceiling fans, BUT I have them in each of my children’s bedrooms.  One study I read said that a fan can drastically reduce the chances of SIDS so my nursery was the first room to get one.  During the first year of my son’s life, the fan was always on the lowest speed.  Fans also help move air around and keep a space cool.  The ones in our children’s bedrooms were easy to install, so we just asked the builder to brace for them in future (read about my son’s Indiana Jones room here(read about my nursery HERE).
  • Taller cabinets in kitchen.  I don’t think I have ever heard someone say that they had too much storage space in their kitchen.  Why not have the cabinets go all the way to the ceiling (read about a remodeled kitchen with TALL cabinets HERE)?
  • Under cabinet lighting is not an easy or cheap DIY project.  Have the builder manage this and install more under cabinet lights than you think.  Mine has an off/low/high switch so I can control the intensity of the light.  Don’t forget that the cabinet manufacturer will also be adding a piece of trim to hide the lighting so be sure that they are in on this upgrade as well (read about my kitchen HERE).
  • Window well rock outs are awesome if you are lucky enough to have a basement.  I don’t recommend them in the front of the house, but on the side or back of the house or where it makes sense for you, rocking out a window well can really open up a basement.
  • Add a walk out from a basement.  Again if you are lucky enough to have a basement, now is the time for a walk out to be installed.  If you can’t afford it, or aren’t sure if you want one there, be sure to add a window at the height of the door that you may want.  Then, a retro fit will be much simpler.
  • Delete your mantle if the builder doesn’t offer one you like.  Just have them attach a few 12X12 ceramic tiles with adhesive.  Then when you find the mantle of your dreams, remove the tiles and install your own mantle (read bout my mantle HERE, HERE and HERE).
  • Raise your fireplace and add a hearth.  This is especially great in a two-story room to help give balance and scale to the room.  Raising the fireplace usually doesn’t cost any money, but the hearth might be a small charge.  When we have large gatherings our hearth serves as a perfect seating spot especially in the winter as a place to warm up by the fire.  I also love a raised fireplace since you can see the flames and the fire over other pieces of furniture.
  • Add a niche to recess the tv into and wiring for any future electronic devices.
  • Wire for home audio and theater speakers.  You don’t need to have the builder install their speakers, as along as the wiring is in place and pulled down a little through the drywall, the speakers can be installed anytime.
  • Smooth walls.  Seriously?  People are still doing textured walls?  Please consider all smooth walls.  It makes decorating easier on so many levels (read about murals on smooth walls HERE).
  • Skylight or Solatubes are a great addition especially in area’s without windows like an upstairs bathroom.  These are not the easiest DIY and in order to not be liable for leaks, let your builder install this one.
  • Add a disposal in all kitchen sinks.  Why am I still scooping out all that gross food that my kids accidentally drop into the “wrong” side of the sink?  I wish I had added a disposal to both sides.
  • Install a trash compactor in the kitchen.  I am shocked at how many people do not add a compactor to their kitchen.  I LOVE mine.  I take out the trash just once a week with mine.  Sometimes I use it just for recycling, and other for trash, either way it is a MUST for me.
  • Include a recycle drawer similar to a trash drawer.  If you use a trash compactor for trash, a specific can for recycling can help clear up the clutter without having to walk it all the way outside every time you drink a “cold pop”.

What Builder Upgrades Should I Do?

Whoa, that was a lot of info, but wait I still have two more posts coming soon: Upgrades you SHOULDN’T do and Change Orders that probably won’t cost you anything!

If you are planning on building or remodeling and find this list overwhelming I can help.  I do consulting on house plans.  Send me an email amanda@burlapanddenim.com and we can set something up.  My rates start at $300 for up to 4000 square feet.  I will send you a detailed list of suggestions to make your home flow smoothly, easy to decorate, and full of designer touches.  And, depending on your builder, I could save you a lot of money!  Our builder charged $100 for each change order once the home was under construction.

 Did I miss anything that YOU would upgrade?  Tell me about it in the comments below!

Linked Up: Funky Junk Interiors, Tatertots & Jello, Home Stories A2Z

 

90 Comments

  • CENTRAL VAC. Even if you can’t afford to purchase the entire system, you should at least consider having your builder wire/prep for it is during the construction of your new home. You can always add the equipment (hoses, attachments, etc.) later. This will pay off in a HUGE way when you sell your home.

    • I do wish I had added Central Vac. Not really for the vacuum, more for the places you sweep and it sucks the dirt right under the cabinets…I really like those. The hose from the vacuum always seems like a pain, but that is just me.

      • Central vacs are a big plus in our area. We absolutely love ours and if you have the vac sock they don’t damage the walls. I grew up with one. I had to get ours fixed and it was better than buying a new vac. the warranty on ours was great as well.

        If a house that I was looking at buying had at least rough in for the vac it would be a big plus for me.

    • As a housekeeper, I always hated central vacs. The hose was too long and difficult to unclog. They are never as good as a good vaccuum. Ihated dragging the long hose from room to room. At least with a vaccuum, I could roll it from one room to the next.

      • I am not a big fan of central vac. I also find them hard to take from room to room with out scratching aloud the walls and corners. Eventually they get old and break down and people just get a regular vac since it to expensive to fix.

  • I found this article so interesting (arrived from pinterest) that I’ve added you to my rss reader. Eagerly awaiting the “upgrades to NOT pay for” sequel.

  • Direction of your home. We live in a place that snows a ton we like our home to face the south easier shoveling

    • Kourney,your right! If you live in a heavy snow zone or really steep hill, that is critical! Thanks for adding to the list.

  • Thank you. We will be following for the other articles. We are starting a redo of our entire house.. This week is a new roof and a new solar heating sustem for the pool.

    Next will be all new windows.

    The interior remodeling and finally exterior.

    We figure we should be done by 2020, (Maybe)

    Thanks for this help.

    B & L

  • Can’t wait for the post on what not to upgrade with the builder. This was a fantastic read!

  • I have always heard that you should Get the nicest pad for your carpet. Nice soft carpet is great put if you still feel the concrete underneath it really doesn’t matter you will not want to sit/lay on it.

    • Aleece, I’ve heard the same thing about the carpet pad. Excellent suggestion. My “upgraded” carpet disintegrates evey time I vacuum so even a nice pad wouldn’t have helped me :)

  • great list! I would add- a covered porch for the backyard and requesting they leave trees in the back or at least plant a few for you! Living in a hot climate, we can not enjoy the backyard because we have no shade back there! We go through the struggle of buying an expensive umbrella every year and trying to keep trees alive. I wish we would have just let them build us a covered porch with lights and ceiling fans! :)

    • Oh, a covered porch is a good one. We plan on building a pergula on our deck this year to help shade the west side of our house! Trees are a huge help too. Thanks for adding to the list!

  • I’m so glad I found this article on Pinterest as we are building a home in FL and have our first plan review session next week and then we go to the design studio. Any suggestions on cabinet colors for kitchen and bath?

    • Elise, if you are looking for classic-then you can never go wrong with white. For a more current look then a light gray can look fabulous too especially if you add some classic marble. Either white or gray can go with a vintage or modern look. Enjoy building!

  • Totally with you on the smooth walls! When I bought my house, the previous owners had used a paint that they added sand (or whatever gritty stuff they use) in the living room. Even after 3 coats (1 coat tinted primer and 2 of paint color) it is still very slightly noticeable if I run my hand over it – maybe because I know it’s there. In their defense, I believe they expected to be in the house for a long time. I haven’t done anything in the powder room – they decoupaged it with get this… brown paper bags.

    • Oh no, Jenner, sounds like your previous home owners were real DIYers. That can be a tricky place to move into and update.

  • Electrical outlets on both sides of the front door so when decorating with lights, you don’t have to run an extension cord in front of the door. I also have dormer windows in my attic with outlets by them powered by a switch in the foyer. I keep an electric candle light plugged in to them in each window and turn them on for Christmas along with my other Christmas lights. I also have plant shelves with outlets, but the electrician forgot to connect them to an outlet down below. Grrr! I use a remote switch up there. I wish I had an outlet in mantel for Christmas lights, too. Can you tell I love to decorate for Christmas?!

    I also recommend pocket doors in bathroom closets and any other place where a swinging door is inconvenient!

    • Looking for feedback on the 8ft-9ft ceiling. We are planning on having vaulted ceilings in our new home and we currently have them in our existing home……….builder pointed out that we could save some serious money in materials if we stay with 8ft ceilings. Now we think that our walls/ceilings are wonderful with the vault, however we are going to have a zero entry home, so wondering if it will seem like a closed in space. just looking for input……….

  • What is a window well rock out? I can’t find any information on it.

    • Kayleen, A window well rock out means that in place of inserting a “window well” large rocks or boulders are carefully placed on top of each other and then you can plant plants between the rocks.

      • Can you share a picture of what this is?

  • I’m with you, I wish I had 9′ ceilings and taller kitchen cabinets and I’d add tile shower to the ceiling.

  • Wow! Must be nice to be rich! Jeez lol. Hell of a “must” list.

    • Em, not really a “MUST” list, just a should. Think of it more as a “should do now or pay more later” kind of a list. And rich? Compared to some yes, most no. Most of the list are DIYs so it’s more of a how much are you willing to do yourself?

      • yes, if you can have disposals in ALL your kitchen sinks and can wire your home with a theater sound system you are wealthier than most. And almost none of these are DIY. Nearly all the suggestions were things to tell your builder. Just keep it real and at least own it.

        • Whoah Betsy! This list is for people building or remodeling a home and is supposed to be BUILDER upgrades they should sign up for. Most of these I DID do myself with the help of my rockin’ husband. As for wiring your home for a theater sound system? That costs about $150? There are a lot of tutorials to do that yourself, and trust me it is easier done before the drywall is put up. And the disposal in all the kitchen sinks? I only have one but has two sides. A disposal in each side is ideal. Friends of mine have a “prep” sink and I’m only suggesting they add one there as well. Cheer up :)

  • Upgrade your insulation! We put in soundproofing through out the house and upgraded the insulation in the garage and the ceilings through out the home – what a difference it makes. And it is NOT something you would want to retrofit after you move in. Well worth the cost in the savings we get from lower heating and cooling bills~

    • Jan you are right! When we finished the basement of our house we added insulation in the ceiling and it has really helped keeping the home theater sound from rumbling the main floor.

  • Dual coax cable lines to every TV. Even if you never use them, someone who buys your house may want a satellite dish, and might need them. It also gives you flexibility if you want to run an antenna to your TVs.

    • Patrick, I couldn’t agree more! Those runs are so easy when the walls are open. In one house I even videoed the open walls incase I needed to find stuff later once the drywall was up.

  • We’re in the process of building a house and I built a paired home 3 years ago with a large national builder. I agree with almost everything on your list except the walk-out basement. Some building sites warrant a walk out basement, but if you can have your outdoor living space and yard directly off your main floor, you’re more likely to use it. I think it is a pain in the butt to always have to walk down a flight of stairs from the patio to the yard, especially for kids and dogs. Plus your outdoor living space is more secluded if you aren’t entertaining on a raised deck off the main floor. I agree with the other commenter about the direction of the lot. We live in Colorado and prefer to have our house face north and have good sunny southern/western exposure for the back yard. It makes the front more icy, but it is worth it to have a garden and warm yard.

    • I totally get it Anne. It depends on your situation, but I kind of feel we have the best of both worlds with 1/2 of the basement above ground and only 1/2 a flight of stairs to get to the back yard. Good luck with your current house!

  • Add an outdoor water source on an elevated deck and run the gas line to the elevated deck, that way you can have the gas grill off the kitchen and no need for propane tanks and you can water your deck flowers without dragging the hose up from the ground level.

    • Cindy, Brilliant! I love both of those. We have a drip system for our planters and have them running up to the raised deck but the hose is a great idea. As for the gas line, I kind of wish I had added that just for a fire pit! Thanks for adding to the list.

  • I’m sorry – did I miss the upgrades that will improve energy efficiency and comfort while reducing energy bills?

  • Hi, great ideas and yeah some are expensive, but worth it from the start – on our first build we didnt do any upgrades and it cost us far more in the end to redo everything we wanted!

    We are currently renovating an 70′s house and one thing we are doing is putting in a piping system to run wires for electrical and speakers. We reinsulated – the foam, so when we rewired they suggested we place 2″ pipe around the house to run whatever wires we wanted, that way if there are any future wiring issues, its easy to re-run them.

    I agree with the 9ft ceilings – they are a a must – especially for re-sale!

    • Tammy, Great idea with the 2″ pipe! We put pipe under all of the concrete like under the driveway and then another behind our tv spot in the basement over to our media storage room because who knows what kind of cables may be needed in the future! Thanks for your thoughts Tammy!
      Amanda

  • Loved this! Want more!!

  • This was an interesting read. We built our home 9 yrs ago. Some I wish I would have done, others we are fine without. Depends on how your family works. Some that we wanted and didn’t do…. the builder put on an astronomical price tag on. HUGE! That deterred us from doing them because we knew how much it really cost. Can lights that we wanted… well over $100/can. My husband works for an elec. wholesaler and we know how much it really costs. Builder would not work with us on the electrical/electrician to do the work. Adding to the 3rd stall in the garage, our builder wanted several thousand for a few extra feet. Builders make a killing on upgrades. Make sure to have a wish list of what you can and can’t live without.

    I would add, check the kind of windows they use. If you are in a climate where it is cold, do your research. Nine year old home, and we are replacing ours as they are not energy efficient.

    I would also say a split trunk system for the ductwork/heating for a two story home. The heat is more evenly distributed. Something I wish we would have done and didn’t.

    • Michelle, I agree with your tips! Windows can make a big difference and I also wish I had looked into splitting my main and second floor HVAC. Thanks for sharing!

  • How about a tankless water heater? It’s totally worth the upgrade when you can take a 20+ minute HOT shower and not lose hot water EVER!! :) The hot water is instant upstairs in the showers–ahhh, totally worth it. It’s tempting to stay in longer than you need to! I can also run my washing machine and dishwasher at the same time then turn around and give my son a bath and get hot water immediately. I did that tonight after my shower. Most hot water heaters would’ve been pooped since I was using a hot cycle on my washing machine as well.

    • Lori, I looked into it a few months ago when our water heater went out but everything I read steered me away because of cost. They do sound amazing, and I am envious that you have one :)

  • We are currently building our home and we did lots of research by asking others their likes and dislikes in their homes. That helped us a bunch. Some of these tips here are great, we decided to add everything structurally that we wanted because the other stuff could be added at a later date. We did the third car car garage but my husband is a car nut and we have dirbikes and ATV’S so we added a 5 ft bumpout, a rear entry door and, 6 extra plug in’s in the garage. We added a floor outlet in the living room since it’s an open concept, vaulted every ceiling possible, moved door in laundry to allow for deep freeze, added gas stub off back covered patio, I also put an outlet in my pantry but it for my portable central vacuum system. KAREN, I wanted one installed in my new home by they wanted $4000, and my portable one is less messy and I can take it anywhere and there are NO cords!!!!! For less than $150

    • Kelli, thanks for sharing all of your upgrades! I love the 3rd car garage AND 5ft bumpout. I wish we had done a bumpout since we have SOOOOO many tools, bikes, and projects in the garage. And I’d love to know more about a “portable central vac” is that code for a regular vacuum?

  • A water faucet on each of the 4 corners of the house.

    The builder will usually only do 2 water faucets (water bibs), one in the front yard and one in the back yard. Even if you don’t have huge yards, it is really nice to have a hose close to what you need to water – - and not drag hoses across the driveway.
    It is a very cheap upgrade when we were building – - like $45 each (14 years ago).

    • Nancy, Great suggestion. We had the two builder faucets and then added two ourselves when we installed our sprinkling system. We love having four faucets!

  • Wonderful list. We are 5 weeks away from closing on our dream house that we designed from the plans up. Most of what you listed we did. The floor outlet in the family room when you have open concept is a big one for me. I also put outlets in my pantry, and several key closets around the house (printer, cordless vac, electric razors, etc). We added house bibs to all 4 corners of the house and one on the deck. Also made sure we had plenty of outside outlets for Christmas lights. We have a 2 car garage on the front (side entry) with a single car on the side – and have a walk through between the two. We also asked that the 2 car garage be made a few feet wider to allow getting in and out of the cars on either side much easier. The laundry sink in the garage is going to be a huge plus so my husband can wash up some after working in the yard or on the cars, for bathing the dogs, etc. We spent a lot of time with our plans, figuring out how we planned on living in the house and then walked through with our builder to determine the placement of light switches and extra outlets. I agree with doing the hardwoods up front – much easier than trying to match later, and in the end will be cheaper. Granite, Granite, Granite! Not just in the kitchen. Upgrade your bathrooms too – totally worth it. My husband had tubing put in that runs from above the fireplace to the built ins next to the fireplace, so that he can easily run the wires from the DVR, DVD, etc to the TV and keep the components all hidden. We placed several TV outlets (along with power) at higher levels in several rooms to allow for mounting the TV on the wall without running the cords down to the regular outlets near the floor. We also have a couple rooms where the components will be in a closet on the other side of the wall so they are out of sight, and put the power/cable in those closets for that. Many of the things we wanted, the builder did not charge us for (extra outlets, cable, etc). Also, if you know what you want and can’t find a builder that has a floor plan that fits your needs, don’t be afraid to look at custom. We always thought custom homes were for the rich (and famous), and were thrilled when out realtor introduced us to our builder. He has a small neighborhood he’s doing custom homes in ranging from $250K-500K – and we got so much more for the money than we would have with a big builder that only gives you a small bit of room for customization.

    • Wow Tammy! Sounds like you thought of everything! I’m sure you’ll love your house, especially after really thinking through all the details. And a custom home is a great way to go, especially when you are so detail oriented. I’d love to hear updates and photos as you go.
      Amanda

  • Loved this!!! I only wish I would have seen it about 8 years ago when we were building our house. We built what we could afford at the time and now I have so many regrets….lots of woulda, coulda, shouldas!! I never plan on leaving this house, but hopefully in a few years we will be able to do some major remodeling! I couldn’t agree more on the higher ceilings! I would LOVE a mudroom too! Also, just say no to oak & brass! I love the curb appeal of our cape cod home, but the inside is pretty much plain ol’ builder grade! :)

    • Oh Katie, I love cape cod styled exteriors! Instead of a major remodel, I like having my house constantly in project mode…ha ha.

  • I love the suggestions. We bought a foreclosure and basically remodeled the whole house. Luckily, my son is an electrician and he installed can lights in the front room (there were no ceiling fixtures) and under and over cabinet lighting in the kitchen which I absolutely could not live without! I bought the mirrors for my main bath at Hobby Lobby on 50% off and it perfectly matches my new vanity. I love your idea of two garbage disposals. I would also add outlets to the kitchen island if you have one. Great list!

    • Gaela, sounds like you are hooked up with your son! Have fun with your foreclosure, I’m sure you are doing a fantastic job.

  • I have moved several times and perhaps one major thing that we found an love is to, if possible, have a drain in your utility room. This helps with keeping the room clean as well as helps in the event of a flood from the washer. A drain in the middle of the floor in the garage also helps to make washing out the garage so much easier!

  • We’ve built twice and are working on our3rd set of plans. Great list. I would say regarding the mirrors, go with built in medicine cabinets so nice to have the extra storage. Also, pipe for the central vac even if you aren’t interested in investing that much, it can be a great selling feature . Go tankless on water heaters. Our current house has 2 hvacs and 2 water heaters one for either side of the house (another option would one for each floor). Don’t get crazy with wacky design ideas, someone is going to have to sale that house someday and you never know it could be you. Keep it normal.

    • I love medicine cabinets too. I’d suggest framing it out and then you can add it when you want or when you find the perfect one to match your decor. Thanks for your suggestions!

  • GUTTERS! I never thought to include this in our house because the state I grew up in (Pennsylvania) every house had gutters but not every state has gutters as a building requirement. Living close to the coast in North Carolina it rains A LOT and North Carolina is not a state that requires you to have them. Within the first few months of us living in our NEW home all of our flowerbeds were washed out and any and all concrete turned green. We later installed our own to keep the cost down and it was a huge trial and error period because they continued to leak! We didn’t build our house but it was a new construction when we bought it and there are a few things we would’ve done differently and I would have absolutely adding gutters into our closing! I also would have added linen closets in all of our bathrooms. With our split floor plan it would be a huge help to have a linen closet in either the bathroom or the hallway on that side of the house.

    • Rachel, Gutters are an interesting add. They are no required here in Utah either, but I do love having them. And can you ever have enough linen closets? I think not, love your thoughts.

  • Other minor items:

    a) Paint you entrance closet a flat bright color – Get rid of builders flat white.

    b) Change all lights in house to LED, many have remote & Color control features

    c) Do not use eggshell style paints on your walls, always go for the flat style paints.

    d) install wireless video surveillance fed into your smartphone.

    e) Make certain that floor tiles (in kitchen) install all the way to the walls and not to when the floor cabinets begin.

    f) Hard wood flooring should 3/4″ thick, to endure multiple sandings.

    g) All water feeds should be at least 5/8 ” not the 1/2 “”.

    h) Use a good quality water shut off vale at the main input and by the hot water tank. The cheap rotaries always fail when you most need them.

    i) Basements are not made to store old junk and crap. Get rid of it, ASAP.

    j) Make certain builder leaves enough electrical switches on box, for future needs.

    k) Install biometric door locks at all main doors.

    l) Remember, if you are doing it, do it right. Its lightly more expensive but well worth it.

    good luck!!

    • Stuart, I agree with all of your suggestions EXCEPT B. I can’t stand LED’s. Thanks for sharing all of your thoughts, I know my readers will love them!

  • Another thing I think is a must as a nanny is dimming lights in children’s bedrooms! Makes it easier. May not be something needed to add at the beginning but I know the bosses have it in this house and they’re getting it in the new one! Just something to think about for the kiddos!

    • Great idea Sophia, I’m personally OBSESSED with dimmers. I add them after I move in, it probably depends on how much your builder charges.

  • Love all of these ideas! Definitely all good advice! Our builder included about 90% of the list and list additions below so choosing a good builder with an excellent reputation would be my #1 suggestion! The things that we paid extra to upgrade were a larger back patio, a sidewalk from the driveway to the back patio, tankless hot water, upgraded to professional level appliances, nicer lighting package (not necessary but I was particular about all of my lights coordinating), upgraded carpet pad, extra outlets in the garage, several additional can lights beyond the many included ones, and a ceiling fan on the covered back porch. Specific to our region – tornado alley, we installed hurricane straps every approx. 3 ft. (only cost $300 for whole house) tying the walls to the roof which upgrades our house to being able to withstand an F2-F3 tornado (150+ mph winds and 95% of all tornadoes) and a generator switching panel in case we lose power (common in both severe storms and ice storms here) – we plan to eventually add a whole house Generac system. The one really dumb thing we didn’t do was add a garage door opener to our 3rd garage bay. It only cost $150 for the unit and installation – so cheap and so silly not to put it in. We ended up getting a much nicer opener on the main door and moved the more basic model to the 3rd bay but my husband had to install it. That would be my other huge piece of advice, don’t sweat the small stuff. If you think you even MIGHT want it, go ahead and do it. Most experts recommend planning about 10% of your purchase price for upgrades. We ended up spending less than 5% with all of our upgrades so it can be done if you keep an eye on things.

  • I only have 1 – sensor light in the pantry.

  • I’m in heaven with your builder Do’s and Don’ts lists! Thank you so much! Have you had a chance to write your tips for Change Orders yet? :)

  • I never thought to raise the ceilings. This blog has so many good tips! My husband has lots of really tall family that would love this addition to a new home.

  • My mom always recommended to put in marble windowsills, because it makes cleaning a breeze. We are in the beginning stages of a custom build, which is to be a large multi-family abode (my hubby, myself, and 2 kids as well as my parents on the other side.) Some things we have asked our builder for are an electrical outlet in the floor for the living room, built in shelving for the shower, added bookshelsves and closets in hall dead space, and fully covered patios (backyard, off upstairs game room, and off upstairs master bedroom on our side.) Hubby is technically savvy and will be running all of the cable (he agrees with the other commenter about all outlets being coax and Cat6) and also plans to run speaker wire throughout the house. We have a butler pantry in the kitchen, as well as an overly large room to be used as products for resale in our salon as well as pantry overflow. We are asking them to run a gas line for a fire pit later, as well.
    LOVE all the ideas, and I can’t wait to check back for more.

    • The marble windowsills are a great idea, as is the electrical outlet in the floor especially with laptops and electronics these days. You are full of great ideas, hanks for sharing!

  • We find that having faucets or water source on each side of the house is great for watering flowers cleaning the air conditioner etc… also we have installed outlets on all sides of the house, really handy for using the trimmer or putting up XMas lights… it’s a must if your remodeling or building a new home.

  • We are building a house in NC. The price of the custom cabinets the builder strongly wants is very high. I want to go with semi custom cabinets. Any opinion on who is right? This is our last home and we want to live there as long as possible. We are in our 60′s, but husband still works with no plans to retire. Opinions?

    • I’d go with the semi custom cabinets in a heartbeat! If you can get the look you are going for, I bet they’ll be perfect.

  • Put electrical outlets inside the bathroom cabinets next to the vanities. You can keep your blow dryers, curling irons, straighteners, etc. plugged in and install wire holders on the insides of the doors to hold them. Then you never have to have wires strung out across your counter tops.

  • Upgrade your HVAC Equipment from “builder standard” too often we see cheaper hvac equipment being installed in brand new homes and it doesn’t last or causes issues within the first 1-3 yrs.

    As a home owner research on your own and let your builder know what YOU want!

  • i have a qus. we are building a house but the builder told they cant upgrade anything.. my qus is can i add extension gas line to my patio? after i move there?

    please reply

    • Yes Sham, you can add it after you move it, it’ll just cost you more. If you can add it before you landscape, that should help keep the cost down if they need to put the pipe in the ground. If you have an unfinished basement, it should be a simple add. Just call an HVAC company and they can help you.

  • Geothermal!!! Worth every penny! ;)

    • Interesting, thanks for the tip Cassie, I have to admit, I don’t know much about geothermal.

  • […] cabinetry and features that are most meaningful to you and your family. According to an article by Burlap & Denim, there are certain builder upgrades that pay when you having a new home […]

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