Thinking of building a new home? Take this short quiz.
A) Building a home is great. You get to design it and pick out just what you want!
B) Building a home can be tough. The decisions! The budget! Your marriage!
C) Both A and B
Yes, friends, it’s C. Building from the ground up is both agony and ecstasy. Just ask me–I’m in the middle of the process as we speak. So if you’re hoping (or daring) to take on this adventure in the near future, let me help you out with (my first) four tips for newbie homebuilders.
1. GATHER INFORMATION.
You almost can’t overdo this part. You should accumulate more information than you think you will possibly need. Use Pinterest, Instagram and magazines to get tons of ideas about the look you’re going for. After you start the building process, these choices will of course get narrowed down by what is 1) possible 2) budget friendly or 3) just logistically optimal. Having more ideas than I need has given me an arsenal to go to. “That lighting won’t work in here? Ok, how about this one?” “Oh, that tile’s not available anymore? Here’s my second choice.”
2. CHOOSE AN EXPERT.
And make sure to pick people you like and who “get you”! I had a specific exterior look I wanted but a totally different interior than my plan called for. We wanted more space downstairs and less upstairs than the plan we picked. I also wanted my design studio above the garage. No matter how good your plan is, there are changes you will want to make based on your needs, budget, and the way your family lives.
I was able to talk through my specific needs with the experts at Blue Line Design Co. They studied my photos, heard my ideas, and revised our plan until it worked perfectly for us. They helped me bring my vision to life and I really have no idea how they got what was in my head onto paper. But they did!
3. BE PREPARED:
it looks way different on paper than it does in real life. Something sounds like a great idea when you are sitting in an office discussing it while looking at a blueprint. For example, we asked for three cased windows in a nook overlooking what will be a favorite view, the backyard. But we soon saw that the separation between the windows, however small, would break up prime window area. We realized we needed to large one or we would regret it.
It’s difficult and costly to make revisions once the foundation is poured and the walls start going up. Listen to me here: when you get the blueprints back, try to actually envision what the spaces will look like in real life. We measured and taped off areas and room sizes and imagined furniture and cabinet placement. Don’t agonize, but definitely give this step your time and attention. Make sure that you feel 100% about the plan on paper because that is what the builders work from.
Once the build starts, changes are difficult and costly. And, if the changes are not on the blueprint, mistakes can happen more easily. You want the blueprint to be as close as possible to exactly what you want, with limited change orders.
4. PLAN AHEAD.
And ask questions about what’s next. What you don’t want: “They’re ready for the kitchen cabinets? But I haven’t finished deciding yet!” Or “Wait! The tilers are here? My tile won’t be in for two weeks!” Time is money on your build. And not being ready when the builder is ready can delay the entire process. So visit the building site often and communicate regularly and clearly with your contractor about what’s coming next design-wise.
Surprises of this type are usually not the fun kind, especially when you need some time to choose what you like, find it online, or wait for it to be shipped. Because I am an interior designer, clients bring me in on this process. “Yikes! The builder needs a decision about these finishes and I have no idea…!” Even as a designer, I’ve had my nail biting moments, so I truly understand when my clients need this help.
Now I’ll say this: most builders are experts in their own field–load bearing walls and plumbing lines and such–but they really don’t care as much as I do whether that grout works well with my subway tile. That is why designers and builders are a perfect partnership–we both bring our expertise to the part at which we excel.