What to splurge on during the build process
Buying a new home is overwhelming no matter what, but it’s especially demanding if you are buying a new-build that is being constructed from the ground up. If you get in early enough in the building process you have the ability to customize finishes. While this is incredibly fun and rewarding, design centers typically have you pay up front for any upgrades you put into the house so it’s very important to make sure that the upgrades you’re spending money on before you move in are worth it vs. remodeling things yourself later.
Below is a room-by-room list of what we upgraded in our new build home before moving in that we felt was worth it as well as things that can be done later to save money up front.
The kitchen is hands down where we put the most money. To me, the kitchen is the heart of the home and a place that we spend a lot of time, so I wanted to make sure that it was not only functional for our needs but also a space that felt like us.
Things That Were Worth It:
1. Kitchen Cabinets to the Ceiling
This was a big one for me to make the house look more custom. I have a background in kitchen & bathroom design and I would never design a kitchen for a client without putting cabinets to the ceiling. The reasoning for doing this before we moved in was to make sure that the cabinet style and paint color matched perfectly. It would have been difficult to get someone to come in after the fact and add cabinets to the ceiling that matched so this one is my #1 must have upgrade for any new-build home.
2. Hood Vent Over the Range
The hood vent over the range replaced the standard microwave above the range that comes in most builder grade homes. This was something that I thought could be done after the fact but I realized that when the microwave is placed between the cabinets, the two sides of the cabinets are unfinished. Because of this, if you were to take the microwave out and replace it with a hood, you would have to get two finished panels to match the cabinet style and match the paint exactly. I realized that if I wanted the hood vent, it was worth it to do during the initial building instead of tearing things out and trying to make it work later on.
3. Trash Pull Out
It surprised me that most builder grade homes actually don’t include a trash pull out in the kitchen cabinet designs. Having a trash pull out was huge for me because I didn’t want a big trash can sitting in our kitchen. Because the pull out was part of the cabinet design and style I didn’t want to mess with it after the fact so I felt that it was worth it to get it done in the building phase.
4. Microwave in a Drawer
Because we replaced the microwave from above the range with the hood we needed a spot to put the microwave so we decided on doing a microwave in a drawer in the kitchen island. This replaced what would have been a cabinet in the island but since I added cabinets to the ceiling there is still plenty of storage in the kitchen. I love the microwave in a drawer concept because it hides what is in my opinion a bulky appliance and makes it so that it isn’t the focal point of the kitchen. If don’t have an island you can design a microwave in a drawer into a standard cabinet as well.
Thing to Do After:
1. Soft Close on Drawers
While having soft close on drawers and cabinets is nice it wasn’t a must-have right away for us. This is also an easy add on after the fact so it was something that we decided to save our money on for now since design centers do charge a premium for any upgrades you get.
2. Under Cabinet Lighting
We actually decided to get under cabinet lighting at the design center and even though its something we do use all the time I wish we would have waited on it. When we saw the under cabinet lighting that the builder put in we weren’t 100% happy with it because it is a little bulkier than we want and is only installed in certain pockets rather than being a seamless strip of lights under the cabinets. If this is something that you can wait on I would unless you know exactly what type of under cabinet lights the builder is planning to put in.
Things That Were Worth It:
1. Floor Tile
The standard builder grade floor tile that would have been in the bathrooms and laundry room was a brownish square tile (think old public restroom). I decided to upgrade all the bathrooms and the laundry room with a 12x24 straight set porcelain floor tile with a marble grain to it. Floor tile was important for me to do before we moved in because it’s a big job to have someone rip out floor tile and then install new tile so it was an upgrade that was really worth the money up front to make the bathrooms look modern.
2. Single Hole Faucets
Most builder basic homes have what is called a mini-widespread faucet. The issue with this is that because the hole is cut to size in the countertop for a mini-widespread faucet you can’t upgrade it with anything else other than a different mini widespread faucet without getting a whole new countertop. Upgrading to a single hole faucet was relatively inexpensive and now when I want to upgrade the faucets in the bathroom I can do so without replacing the entire countertop so its saving money in the long run to get a more updated look and not be stuck with the dated mini-widespread look.
Things To Do After:
1. Tub/Shower Surrounds
Although it is nice to have a pretty tiled shower or tub surround to do so at the the design center was going to be very expensive. The standard surround is a neutral simple white acrylic and doesn’t date the bathroom in any way or distract from other design elements. Save your money on this and upgrade it later if the shower surrounds bother you over time.
Common Areas & Bedrooms
Things That Were Worth It:
1. Hardwood Floor
We upgraded our flooring in all the common areas to a 9” waterproof vinyl plank. Part of the reason that it was worth it to me to upgrade this before we moved in was because if we had the standard carpet and tile installed then we would not only have to rip it all up but then we would have to replace all the baseboards as well as adding the new floors. That is a big project and expensive change. Even though there was an upcharge for the hardwood flooring itself at the design center it was so worth it to move in with beautiful hardwood floors.
Things To Do After:
1. Replace Carpet in the Bedrooms
Some people like carpet in the bedrooms but I however am a fan of hardwood flooring throughout the home with rugs. We decided to wait on replacing the carpet in the bedrooms with hardwood flooring because it would have doubled the cost of the flooring up front and it just wasn’t in budget. My advice would be to slowly replace out the carpet in the bedrooms starting with the rooms that bother you the most like the primary bedroom or a bedroom you are using for an office. Because these rooms are not as large as all of the common areas replacing the baseboards is not as big of of a job as all of the common areas. Having carpet in the bedrooms is definitely something that is livable and can wait to be replaced later on when it starts to bother you.
Other Upgrades We Did:
Other upgrades we felt were worth it to get at the design center was a quartz countertop and a herringbone white tile backsplash in the kitchen.
Some things that we didn’t get because of preference was overhead lighting in the bedrooms because we like ambient lighting and prefer to have a switch to turn on a lamp. This is completely a personal preference depending on what kind of lighting you prefer. However, keep this in mind because typically overhead lighting does not come standard in bedrooms in a builder-grade home.
Our list of projects for our home are never ending but it has been so much fun to create a space that we love. Remember to not get discouraged if you aren’t able to afford all of the upgrades that you want at first. So much of the character of our home comes from our furniture and textures like window coverings and curtains. Know that you have time to save money and upgrade things down the line or be surprised once you live in the house that things you thought would bother you might actually not be bad at all!