Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

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RonSwanson
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Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by RonSwanson »

Hello!

My wife and I are in the escrow process for some beautiful property with great views. The existing structures need to be torn down and we will be building a new house. We have three young children and I hope that they are still young when this process is over :)

Building a new house involves a lot of decisions and I'm sure we won't get everything right. There will be things we wished we did, didn't do, or did differently.

So for those of you who have done a build, what things are you super happy that you did? What things would you have done differently with your design in retrospect?

Our strategy now is to focus on things that are impossible to change, such as the size of the foundation, location of the house, and internal layout. Then focus on things that are difficult to change such as concrete vs hard wood floor.

Anyway looking forward to hearing from this great community!
ddurrett896
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by ddurrett896 »

Didn't build but done a whole home remodel.

1) Mudroom between garage and kitchen. Keeps shoes, jackets and kids stuff out of the house. Add washer/dryer plus sink here. Can't tell you how many times the kids strip dirty cloths here, throw directly in the washer or wash off cloths.

2) Huge shower with 2 shower heads/valves. This is the only time wife and I have no distractions (kids, phones, email, dog, tv, etc.) and just chill!

3) If you spend time outside, recommend a large covered patio area off the back of the house. I'd run natural gas out there for a grill and fire pit.
QBoy
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by QBoy »

My wife and I built a vacation house and are glad we did. The best decision we made was finding a great architect. Expensive but worth every penny. The architect in turn introduced us to several contractors that she had worked with. We chose one of those based on previous work of his that we saw and, most importantly, the rapport we developed during the interview process. There are lots and lots of decisions to make. A great architect and contractor can guide you on those decisions.

Good luck.
squirm
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by squirm »

known the property inside and out before you build. figure out if you want design/build or architect. talk to builders.
also make sure you and your wife are on the same page with everything.

good luck
Last edited by squirm on Tue Oct 13, 2020 2:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Topic Author
RonSwanson
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by RonSwanson »

ddurrett896 wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 2:24 pm 1) Mudroom between garage and kitchen. Keeps shoes, jackets and kids stuff out of the house. Add washer/dryer plus sink here. Can't tell you how many times the kids strip dirty cloths here, throw directly in the washer or wash off cloths.
Check! This is already in the plans - great idea from my wife. The washer/dryer is a good idea that we didn't plan on though so I'll add it to the possibilities.
ddurrett896 wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 2:24 pm 2) Huge shower with 2 shower heads/valves. This is the only time wife and I have no distractions (kids, phones, email, dog, tv, etc.) and just chill!
Totally - I'm all about the shower sanctuary :)
ddurrett896 wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 2:24 pm 3) If you spend time outside, recommend a large covered patio area off the back of the house. I'd run natural gas out there for a grill and fire pit.
Yeah I live in the pacific north west and would grill a lot more if I had covered space for it - great idea.

Thank you!
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SanityCheck
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by SanityCheck »

Once you get the room layouts finalized.....think about in advance - and document the location of every electric outlet, switch, cable drop etc. it will be easier once the framing goes up. Think about how you'll move throughout the house.....where you'll need 3 way type switches etc. Put in extra outlets......and extra lights......you won't regret this planning !

Are you putting in a backup generator ?
Topic Author
RonSwanson
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by RonSwanson »

SanityCheck wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 2:33 pm Once you get the room layouts finalized.....think about in advance - and document the location of every electric outlet, switch, cable drop etc. it will be easier once the framing goes up. Think about how you'll move throughout the house.....where you'll need 3 way type switches etc. Put in extra outlets......and extra lights......you won't regret this planning !

Are you putting in a backup generator ?
Yeah I even plan on running smurf tube to lots of locations to pull new wires as necessary.

Yes we plan on a generator.
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Watty
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by Watty »

I have not built one but one big thing you should do is to make sure that the house is reasonably handicap friendly.

In addition to still being there when you are elderly I know someone that was in a car accident that needed to use a wheelchair for a while and their house was not accessible enough. When they were ready to leave the hospital they needed to move into a rehabilitation center while their spouse arranged for the house to be remodeled so that they could get into it when in a wheelchair.

Even if you do not make it fully ADA compliant there is a lot that you can do for very little cost just by giving some thought about how a wheelchair would work in the house. For example making sure that there is a way to access the house without steps, having wide doors, and having a bedroom and full bath on the first floor. Also make sure that the bathroom and kitchen are laid out so that you can maneuver a wheelchair.

It would also be good to have grab bars in all the showers and baths. At all ages slipping and falling in the bath or shower is pretty common. I don't know if they are required by building codes now for new construction but they really should be.

A couple of other things that are on my wish list;

1) Have the garage next to the kitchen to make it easy to unload groceries.

2) I love unfinished basements. They can be used for all sorts of storage so that you do not need to worry about storing things in the finished living area. They are also great for having a workshop and doing projects. Having all the pipes exposed not only makes it very easy to work on but you will spot a any problems before they become big problems.
mkc
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by mkc »

Have had 3 homes built.

Spending a lot of time on the layout is good. Not just rooms, but thinking about plumbing location (internal walls better than external), traffic flow, groceries, laundry path. Spacing of windows for furniture. Garage depth (especially if you have a truck). Future-proofing spaces for laundry equipment, fridge, etc. so you're not stuck with too small a space for replacement appliances. HVAC ducting location (keep it all in conditioned space). HVAC return locations (for comfort and aesthetics). HVAC register location - for comfort and furniture/drapery placement. We put a lot of research into HVAC (hired a third party firm to design ours). Lots of detail on the insulation and air sealing "package" as well. And windows. And make-up air for the range hood.

Lots and lots of thought and effort went into the "bones".

Success - very happy with the comfort and low operating cost of the home.

Lots of personal time on the jobsite (but not interfering). At least once per day, often twice. Don't assume - if you see something that looks odd, ask. We put in our own sweat equity with extra thermal breaks, air sealing, taping Tyvek holes, etc. Sweeping subfloors. Shop vac'ing before drywall to get up as much of the construction dust as possible.

Watching things like built-ins and cabinetry and making sure clearances were good (particularly height for tall counter appliances).

Very specific on outlet locations - where are we going to plug things in?

Used software to layout lighting to make sure we had good coverage especially in the garage, shop, and bonus room which is used for hobbies/exercise/home office.

Regrets - minimal on the most current build. If we'd thought more about the (pretty much a necessity in our area) standby generator ahead of time, we'd have done something different with the wall oven power. They are on a separate feed/breaker than the rest of the house so it was cost-prohibitive to have them part of the generator-covered power. Planning ahead for the genset would have avoided this (we didn't know how needed it would be in this area).
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by TomatoTomahto »

Could you tell us some more about the property? It would help direct our thoughts.

I can tell you two things that I wanted to retrofit:

We wanted batteries to store our excess solar power, and achieved 32 kWh of storage and 1/2 to 2/3 of our backup needs. We could have achieved full backup but it would have required a lot of trenching from the solar field to the house and been prohibitively expensive/disruptive.

We wanted geothermal for heating and cooling and achieved it. A retrofit to take excess warmth from the house during summer to heat the pool was logistically impossible as a retrofit, but doable if planned from the start. Had the geothermal been planned before building, we could have sited it better, but it works.
Okay, I get it; I won't be political or controversial. The Earth is flat.
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RonSwanson
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by RonSwanson »

Watty wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 2:57 pm I have not built one but one big thing you should do is to make sure that the house is reasonably handicap friendly.
Good idea. We also have parents who are aging and we want it accessible to them if they are in a wheel chair as well.
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RonSwanson
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by RonSwanson »

mkc wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 3:08 pm Have had 3 homes built.
Thanks MKC for your advice. Great list!
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RonSwanson
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by RonSwanson »

TomatoTomahto wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 3:21 pm Could you tell us some more about the property? It would help direct our thoughts.
The property is well over an acre on a high bank waterfront. Almost 180 degrees of water view, then 90 degrees of trees and field. So part of our design restriction is making good use of the views which is certainly added complexity for the layout. Where the house would be, the property is on a gentle slope in both directions. Plenty of space for the kids to run around and play, beautiful trees (that cannot be removed haha), etc.

Although the lot is large there are a lot of building restrictions such that I think we will end up with a main house and then an unattached garage. Sadly in order to maintain the views, the garage probably won't be located right next to the house but we will have a driving circle allowing us to pull up to the house to unload things.
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Sandtrap
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by Sandtrap »

A list:

Face the house to best view and "feng shui", not generic IE: subdivisions, street facing "wow me" fronting, etc.
Face the house and driveway and people access that is practical and convenient.
Less windows and visibility on any side near to neighbors, street, etc.
Save what trees and features of the property that you can and build around it, blend the home to the land naturally.
Paint or use earth and natural tones and colors and surfaces and materials.
Use forever materials. IE: roof the house once (metal or tile, etc) Synthetic stucco with color coat vs paint and caulk every so many years forever on wood, etc.
Use synthetics, IE: decking.
Minimize upkeep, do not be a "yard slave".
Retain or install access to the entire property, use all of it, so children can run and wander and play and explore.
Post and pier foundation on a split level vs concrete footings and solid pours and unipours and slabs. Go with the later.
Build out and enclose or finish all areas including the basement, etc. Do not save it for later. Use all of your available space.
Light light light. Lot's of big windows and decks and sliding doors. Let the outside in. Small windows and dark homes are not healthy.
Layout your home so it is practical. IE: Pantry next to kitchen at garage access, laundry on the proper floor and location, etc.
Consider your private and quiet spaces, ie: master bedroom, etc. Make them quiet and private.
Safety safety safety. Upgrade and upsize hallway widths, stairway widths, access doors, etc. No cramp spaces, tiny rooms.
High ceilings in the garage and large access garage doors. IE: Many homes have a 3 car garage with 2 huge door and another tiny useless one. Upsize the doors for a pickup truck.
Don't build with future additions in mind, build them now. It will save $$ and time.
Non slip floor and other surfaces, garage, driveways, outside stairs, etc. No falling allowed.
Perimeter fence the entire property. It's yours. Use all of it. Can a dog run free?
Driveway gate.

j :happy
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NightFall
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by NightFall »

Draftsman != architect. Get an architect. If you have neighbors, pay attention to sight lines to provide a private space particularly in your back yard. Consider acoustics in the house. High ceilings can create echos. Sound dampen areas where you don’t want to hear what’s on the other side of the wall. I don’t like double wide garage doors. They make them 16’, which is hard to park two cars in. I went with separate 9’ garage doors. It also gives plenty of space between cars. A driveway wide enough to park two cars across (we did 20’) was useful as well. A bunch of houses around us have 10’ driveways and the owners occasionally drive off their driveway when backing up, especially if it’s not straight.

Kitchen design was important to us. We spoke to so many builders that wanted to do 3’ between the island and the counter on the other side. You can’t open your dishwasher or oven and stand in front of it with that clearance. We did 4’ and absolutely consider it the right decision. Also, you can’t have too many cabinets no matter what you think right now. Speaking of cabinets, be able to put away most of your common dishes without walking away from the dishwasher. That’s more of a where you put things once moved in, though it may affect cabinet design as well.
delamer
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by delamer »

Think about internal sound control.

Try to place closets on adjoining bedroom walls and/or walls that are shared with bathrooms.

Minimize the ability of sound to travel between living areas and sleeping areas. For instance, don’t have a 2nd floor balcony that overlooks the family room.
gronkman
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by gronkman »

Consider framing an elevator on all floors, even if you don’t build the elevator now. It can just be a large closet on every floor until you (or future owner) might need it.

Along the same vein - if your bedrooms are on the 2nd floor, consider building an office/study with a full bathroom on the 1st floor. That way, if you become less mobile in the future you can utilize it as your main bedroom instead.

Think about spending a little extra for sound-reducing subfloor material.
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RonSwanson
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by RonSwanson »

Sandtrap wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 4:35 pm A list:
...

j :happy
Epic list, thank you!
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RonSwanson
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by RonSwanson »

Sound control is very important to me, both noise transfer and acoustics of the room. I like how high ceilings look but not how they sound, so investigating a new technology where you buy wood panels that are micro-perforated (2mm holes) and have insulation behind to absorb sound. Not cheap of course...
rustymutt
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by rustymutt »

Sounds lovely, if I may use that word so loosely. lol
I built new in 1995, and honestly you have got to know the local building codes yourself, to keep my builder honest.
By the time my attorney and me met with him, he offered to buy it back for more than I'd paid for it. Housing boom was just under way.
We held him to the contract, and legal ramifications.

I think if I build new again, I'm hiring a architect to help me with small details that matter most to me. Like energy efficient appliances. Whole house ventilation exchanger. I'm wanting also to downsize, as it's just me. Seems taxpayers can't stop property tax increases in some states. My God it's out of control what local, and state lawmakers do to homeowners. And we only have our vote to fight it. And most of all quality labor which takes the time to do jobs right, even under the carpet where we can't see. I had change orders on first house, and put the main floor on 16 inch centers, and 3/4 tongue & groove OBS. Screwed down below grade and sealed. The premier seal was upgraded also, which is just better quality material than standard. Little things that like. Could be title to a Country music guys. Any song songwriters out there?
Even educators need education. And some can be hard headed to the point of needing time out.
HomeStretch
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by HomeStretch »

Consider engaging a landscape architect to do a master landscape plan for the property. The plan should include incorporate everything you may want outdoors - shed/cabana, sport court, pool, outdoor shower, outdoor lighting, irrigation, patios, music, fencing, etc.

You don’t have to do everything right away or all together. But the master plan will influence the house build - plumbing lines for outdoor hose bibs/irrigation/pool, electrical lines for outdoor lighting/outlets, propane lines for grill/fire pit or fireplace / pool heater, etc. It may also impact window and door placement to provide best access to outdoors and take advantage of good garden views. It may be cheaper to rebar and pour patio concrete base while pouring the foundation. Etc.
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Watty
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by Watty »

RonSwanson wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 4:22 pm The property is well over an acre on a high bank waterfront.
Unless that is very high, like on a bluff, be sure to get flood insurance. If you are on the borderline of the different flood rating zones then the elevation of your first floor can be very important and make a big difference in how much the flood insurance will cost. In some cases doing something like raising the level of the house by a foot might make sense if that will get you in a lower cost flood zone.

Even if your house is safe from flooding the roads to your house may be lower and closed during a flood so be prepared for that.

I once had some minor flood damage in a house that was on a 20 foot hill that was about a quarter of a mile from a river that was normally about 20 feet wide and 6 feet deep. After an unusual series of weather events the river flooded and was about a mile wide in places. I had only minor flood damage but if the water had been six inches higher it would have gotten into the walls and there would have been major flood damage.

In most parts of the country the weather records are not very reliable much more than a hundred years ago so a lot of the flood zone ratings are not all that accurate.
Last edited by Watty on Tue Oct 13, 2020 6:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Murgatroyd
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by Murgatroyd »

One of the greatest features we’ve ever enjoyed is to have an additional switch for the kitchen under counter lights added to the master bedroom. If you are an early bird or just decide to walk around in the dark the ability to throw light from the kitchen is priceless.
stan1
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by stan1 »

What's the budget for this house? These frugal Bogleheads are going to get up well over $500/square foot to construct it.
phxjcc
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by phxjcc »

RonSwanson wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 2:16 pm Hello!

My wife and I are in the escrow process for some beautiful property with great views. The existing structures need to be torn down and we will be building a new house. We have three young children and I hope that they are still young when this process is over :)

Building a new house involves a lot of decisions and I'm sure we won't get everything right. There will be things we wished we did, didn't do, or did differently.

So for those of you who have done a build, what things are you super happy that you did? What things would you have done differently with your design in retrospect?

Our strategy now is to focus on things that are impossible to change, such as the size of the foundation, location of the house, and internal layout. Then focus on things that are difficult to change such as concrete vs hard wood floor.

Anyway looking forward to hearing from this great community!
One thing I do no see anywhere in the comments so far is the orientation and placement of living spaces with respect to sun, neighbors, traffic, and weather.

I like living rooms facing south, kitchens east or north, master bedroom away from the street (and east-I HATE hot bedrooms) and pool/deck(s) away from sight lines from the neighbors and street. Aging is inevitable, so a first floor master may allow you to stay in the home forever--even if you use it now for an office/guest room. Consider prevailing winds when locating windows and sliders, and go with deep over hangs on the south and west sides for thermal efficiency.

I would encourage 2 x 2 bay garages. One for cars, one for "stuff", and as "sand trap" said, make the height tall enough for modern SUV's. And run 220V to the garage.

Also, when considering HVAC equipment location, be SURE that the blower is closest to the most used spaces.

I used SMARTDRAW software for my CAD work, medium learning curve, but at about $100 it was a good tool.
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RonSwanson
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by RonSwanson »

stan1 wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 6:32 pm What's the budget for this house? These frugal Bogleheads are going to get up well over $500/square foot to construct it.
On average around $500 sq/ft. Some areas will be on the lower side (unfinished basement sections), some higher (main floor), and some in the middle (bedroom floor).
J295
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by J295 »

I haven’t read upthread, but I’m hopeful there is a lot of valuable information. Most of it, however, will be random and the value will be dependent upon your unique situation.

I don’t know if it’s been suggested, but depending on your skill set and experience, and whether you want something personal to yourselves or are satisfied with something more cookie cutter, you may wish to consider getting an architect and/or a designer.

We have accomplished two total renovations and one custom build. The renovations we accomplished as general contractor, and the most recent one had 18 subs, an architect, and a designer. The custom build we had an architectural engineer on the plans and ourselves overseeing the builder. The first renovation was over a number of years, with three children age four and under, barely two nickels to rub together, and a lot of sweat equity.

Good luck. We loved the experience
shell921
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by shell921 »

Built 2 custom homes. Last one in 2009. If I had it to do over again, I would build a home with a
an "in-law suite". A home within a home. You can use for in-laws or guests!

Not necessarily this layout but the concept of a home within a home is great.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CtHIIMdFZI&t=537s
pmr2017
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by pmr2017 »

Consider the height of the basement ceilings. Talk with the builder to see what their plan is and if you have the ability to raise them. This will make a finished basement feel a lot more spacious, or give more space for a home gym if you wanted to put a power rack down there for example. Also, think about the location of all of the utilities in relation to where you would want to potentially finish.

If you do intend on finishing the basement, don't bother adding any additional outlets during the build beyond what the builder includes as they'll just get ripped out when the basement is being finished.

Think about the size of your deck and also how high off the ground it will be. Personally, I'd want as few steps as possible.

Get an irrigation system for the lawn. Unless you have massive flower beds, skip putting it in here.

Don't obsess over small details, such as placement of outlets. Electricians have to follow code, so they may not be able to get them all in the exact spot you want. There are ways to deal with an outlet not being where you want it; bedroom furniture can have a central box on the back of the headboard feed into a nightstand, or the side of the bed.

Unless you, or you SO really enjoy baths, skip the large soaking tub. Either use that space to expand a shower (or add a second shower) or cut it out to expand your master bedroom space. I personally don't think it's worth the space if it's only going to be used a handful of times a year.

Perhaps most importantly, just accept that you will not get everything right and after living in it for 6 months you'll find things you wish you had done, or done differently. That's normal. Just enjoy the fact that you have a brand new house. Some people act is if building a house means you get to have everything exactly the way you want it. Sure, for the most part that's true, but often times needs and preferences change over time.
AF_Engineer
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by AF_Engineer »

There was a similar post this past summer on this site, "New construction - what to consider" (Link below). Had 161 posts of some fantastic ideas, many of which we included into the house we're currently building. Now that's investing in gold!

viewtopic.php?f=11&t=317275
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Sandi_k
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by Sandi_k »

We haven't built a home, but we have done major renovations. Things we prioritize:

- Easy access to the outdoors. For us, that means a patio slider from the kitchen or living room, with a corresponding deck.

- Spacing between bedrooms, with no common walls. I don't want any sound pollution when we have guests. So we have bedroom sharing a wall with a bathroom, then a bedroom. Then the laundry room, then the stairs to the garage, and then the office.

- Laundry should be on the same level as the bedrooms.

- Master bedroom should have some offset from the kitchen and living room.

- Window sills should be at least 30" off the ground, to allow for furniture placement.

- All bathrooms should have an exterior window for natural light.

- The home we live in now has double-depth sheathing (3/8" plywood plus drywall) on the perimeter of the house to reduce outside noise and improve insulation. That plus double-pane windows with argon has reduced ambient noise dramatically.

- Ceiling fans in living rooms and master bedroom.

- Water closet/privacy wall in bathroom for toilet use.

- Double width shower with double shower heads. Bench in shower for shaving. Zero clearance entry for ADA access if/when needed.

- Dimmers on all light switches.

- Double sinks in master bath, and double medicine cabinets to get things off the counters.

- Soft close drawers and doors on kitchen cabinets.

- Task lighting over kitchen sink *and* over kitchen island. As we get older, brighter light is helpful.

- A pantry. We have problems storing "Costco quantities" upstairs near the kitchen, and I wish this house had a pantry.

- Pull out drawers for spices and baking sheets.

- Pull out racks for corner cabinets to avoid the "lost corners."

- Under cabinet sinks - no top mounting. Faucets that can be easily operated with soapy (and aged) hands.

- Working windows that open on different walls in common areas, sufficient to create a cross-breeze with a fan.

- Electrical outlets on both ends of the kitchen island. Outlets that have USB/110V options in kitchen and bedrooms for easy device charging.

- Agree with a PP who advised running natural gas out to the deck for a BBQ and/or firepit.

- Our main living quarters (LRm and deck) face east; when it gets to be ~ 1 pm in the summer, the sun is over the pitch of the roof, creating natural shade on the deck. As a result, we don't have pergolas, shades, awnings, and other sun devices that are visually cluttered. We can make do with a large deck umbrella, and that's it.

Best of luck! It sounds like fun!
Ted17
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by Ted17 »

Would add Ethernet throughout house. Wireless mesh devices are great but still prefer wired connections. Also, all else being equal, favor south facing roof for solar and 220V outlet for garage. Somebody mentioned geothermal - would explore that as well. I would be very interested in a net zero house but overkill for most. Exercise room though I’m sure there is a very wide spectrum of utilization. Probably don’t have to mention it, but a dedicated space for the kids and all their stuff (toy/play space when young, hang out area when older). First floor master if possible. Agree with other commenter that the responses here got $$$ quick :D
2Scoops
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by 2Scoops »

My parents built a house in the 80's and said there were two things they wish they had done differently.

1- add the "Christmas light" package. The ability to turn on all of their window candles with one flip of a switch rather than doing them independently

2- A laundry sink/tub in the garage


My wife and I built our current house about 10 years ago and glad we took my parents recommendations. That said, our new list also includes:

Gas range/stove, irrigation, covered outdoor living space, integrated technology closet for all AV equipment, dual ovens, dedicated ice maker, and an oversized garage (longer to accommodate a truck and room for 3 cars). I also echo some of the other comments about lots of outlets and not skimping on the master shower size/fixtures.
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burt
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by burt »

I've never had a house built, but lived in a townhouse with serious foundation problems. Cracks in the wall you could stick your hand in. Numerous smaller cracks that needed repair and paint, every year. Roof leaks caused by the house settling. Foundation repair company jacked the house up and that resulted in blowing out a couple of large windows. Exterior doors that wouldn't open/close properly.

If it was me, I would spend the money for a civil engineer to design a very robust foundation system. Everything else would be secondary.
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Bogle7
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Success comes from planning

Post by Bogle7 »

We did a major renovation where the reno cost more than the property (land + original house).

1. Hire an architect. He/She will have many great ideas.
2. Subscribe to multiple house magazines. Write down thoughts about what you like. Or, start a scrapbook.
3. Spend at least 2 years planning. Changes on paper are cheap. Our change orders cost 2% because of the thorough planning we did with both our architect and general contractor.
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Sandtrap
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by Sandtrap »

Watty wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 6:22 pm
RonSwanson wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 4:22 pm The property is well over an acre on a high bank waterfront.
Unless that is very high, like on a bluff, be sure to get flood insurance. If you are on the borderline of the different flood rating zones then the elevation of your first floor can be very important and make a big difference in how much the flood insurance will cost. In some cases doing something like raising the level of the house by a foot might make sense if that will get you in a lower cost flood zone.

Even if your house is safe from flooding the roads to your house may be lower and closed during a flood so be prepared for that.

I once had some minor flood damage in a house that was on a 20 foot hill that was about a quarter of a mile from a river that was normally about 20 feet wide and 6 feet deep. After an unusual series of weather events the river flooded and was about a mile wide in places. I had only minor flood damage but if the water had been six inches higher it would have gotten into the walls and there would have been major flood damage.

In most parts of the country the weather records are not very reliable much more than a hundred years ago so a lot of the flood zone ratings are not all that accurate.
+1
Example:
1-2 years after purchasing a home in a "rezoned non-flood zone", what was nicknamed a "100 year flood" happened after weeks of severe monsoon rains. It turned parts of our property into a lake. Awful. We installed some very large and expensive property flood control measures. Even now, occasionally after heavy monsoons or winter snow melts higher up the valley, our "stream" that is normally about 30 feet wide, will turn into a raging river 150 yards wide. Yikes!

Example:
Developing a high hillside view lot overlooking the ocean turned into a battle when heavy winter rains rushed down from high mountain slopes. One does not have to live in a flood zone to have flooding problems. Also, hillside erosion, foundation instabilities, etc.

OP: design your home to be rock solid. Do not build on "fill", just on the hillside "cut". Make footings castle rock solid.

j :happy
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michaeljc70
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by michaeljc70 »

mkc wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 3:08 pm Have had 3 homes built.

Spending a lot of time on the layout is good. Not just rooms, but thinking about plumbing location (internal walls better than external), traffic flow, groceries, laundry path. Spacing of windows for furniture. Garage depth (especially if you have a truck). Future-proofing spaces for laundry equipment, fridge, etc. so you're not stuck with too small a space for replacement appliances. HVAC ducting location (keep it all in conditioned space). HVAC return locations (for comfort and aesthetics). HVAC register location - for comfort and furniture/drapery placement. We put a lot of research into HVAC (hired a third party firm to design ours). Lots of detail on the insulation and air sealing "package" as well. And windows. And make-up air for the range hood.

Lots and lots of thought and effort went into the "bones".

Success - very happy with the comfort and low operating cost of the home.

Lots of personal time on the jobsite (but not interfering). At least once per day, often twice. Don't assume - if you see something that looks odd, ask. We put in our own sweat equity with extra thermal breaks, air sealing, taping Tyvek holes, etc. Sweeping subfloors. Shop vac'ing before drywall to get up as much of the construction dust as possible.

Watching things like built-ins and cabinetry and making sure clearances were good (particularly height for tall counter appliances).

Very specific on outlet locations - where are we going to plug things in?

Used software to layout lighting to make sure we had good coverage especially in the garage, shop, and bonus room which is used for hobbies/exercise/home office.

Regrets - minimal on the most current build. If we'd thought more about the (pretty much a necessity in our area) standby generator ahead of time, we'd have done something different with the wall oven power. They are on a separate feed/breaker than the rest of the house so it was cost-prohibitive to have them part of the generator-covered power. Planning ahead for the genset would have avoided this (we didn't know how needed it would be in this area).
A lot of good points. It is the small details where a lot of things can be overlooked. I've seen some crazy stuff done with light switches. Even how the end of a row of cabinets is finished on the side and the panel that should hide the side of the refrigerator (which I often see missing).

If I didn't visit the jobsite frequently on our last build we wouldn't have caught a major framing problem on the upstairs (hallway too wide, laundry room huge, master closet small) until it would have been major $$$$ to fix (and I'm sure a fight over who's fault it was).
cadreamer2015
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by cadreamer2015 »

If your property is in an area known for radon risk, make sure it is plumbed for passive radon venting during construction. We did construction in Maine. Our architect specified radon collection pipes be laid underneath the basement floor, which was done. We should have had those pipes connected to a vent pipe going through the walls an up through the roof but did not think about that. After construction was complete we did the radon test and it was too high. We had radon remediation done, and the contractor said it would be cheaper to put in new radon collection pipes in the corner of the basement because of where he needed to run the vent pipe out. If we'd have had the passive vent piping put through the walls during construction, which would have been super easy, all that would have been needed was to put in the exhaust fan in the attic. Not a huge deal in the scheme of things, but there was some extra cost and we have our exhaust fan (radon pump) sitting on the outside wall of the house.
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RonSwanson
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by RonSwanson »

All of this information is so great. Thank you.
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fishandgolf
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by fishandgolf »

Fireplace! :D

DW and I built a new home last year. It was as downsizing thing for us.....nearing upper 60's and needed something smaller with less maintenance.

The one single feature that we spent the most $ was the fireplace. Floor - ceiling with real stone.....but we chose NG gas over wood burning. Had a wood burning fireplace in our first house and it was a PITA......

Other things we wanted and did:

* large garage
* all hardwood 6 panel doors.....all 36" wide
* all concrete patio and driveway....no more black top sealer :D
* hardwood floors in living room and hall ways
* Master bdrm on east side, two smaller bdrms on west side
* 9' walls in basement
* large sink in garage
* walk in shower with heated floor. DW wanted this. I tried talking her out of it.....glad she got her way! :D
* casement windows......we first planned double hung then switched......now wish we'd stayed with double hung. :(
* ceiling fans in every room


The two previous houses we lived in had hydronic heating system. We decided to go the less expensive route with forced air; I regret that decision :(

Wishing you and your family the very best of luck! It's a lot of work but worth it !! :sharebeer
Flashes1
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by Flashes1 »

We built a 6,000 sq ft custom home:
  • Hire a decorator that works for you and has experience with new home construction. She guided us thru the construction project and would meet us at all the various places to help us pick the granite, appliances, knobs, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, etc. She designed all the cabinets, stain color for the floors, tile, paint colors, etc. etc. Best $3,000 we spent.
    Put the laundry room on the same floor as your master.
    Screened in porch.
    Don't skimp on the landscaping - go with big trees.
    If you have a dog - put a small wash tub in the mud room.
    Sink in the garage.
    Outdoor fireplace.
    Wide wood work - I think we did 5"?
    Make sure you like your builder as a person because you are going to spend A LOT of time with them over the next 6 months.
    I wish we did the "spray insulation" it costs a few bucks more, but the energy savings make it worthwhile.
    Extra wide driveway that fits two cars side by side.
    Plugs in your garage for electric cars.
    Irrigation system.
hicabob
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by hicabob »

An electrical outlet behind the toilet for one of those fancy bidets. Another thing that seems obvious but is not often done is a vent right above the toilet. It's a much more effective location for odor elimination than in the middle of the bathroom and of course install elongated Toto's or similar high end toilets.
michaeljc70
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by michaeljc70 »

hicabob wrote: Thu Oct 15, 2020 1:00 pm An electrical outlet behind the toilet for one of those fancy bidets.
+1. It was a pain to add one to one of my bathrooms after the fact. Now that I have one (bidet toilet seat) I would never not have one. I'm ready for the next TP shortage :D .
fishnhunt
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by fishnhunt »

3 bed 2 bath as absolute minimum for resale purposes. Get a big garage and have deep stalls. I have never met one person who complained their garage was too big. We have a 3.5 car garage now and I wish it was double the size.
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by TomatoTomahto »

michaeljc70 wrote: Thu Oct 15, 2020 1:07 pm
hicabob wrote: Thu Oct 15, 2020 1:00 pm An electrical outlet behind the toilet for one of those fancy bidets.
+1. It was a pain to add one to one of my bathrooms after the fact. Now that I have one (bidet toilet seat) I would never not have one. I'm ready for the next TP shortage :D .
+5
My wife and son went on a trip to Japan a few years ago. Expensive trip. In our renovation, we installed 5 Toto toilets afterwards.

We also installed a Japanese soaking tub. There is no better way to melt your stresses at the end of a day. If you’re not ready for one, just make sure that your floor can handle it.
Okay, I get it; I won't be political or controversial. The Earth is flat.
Electrum
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by Electrum »

Hi -

We did a gut remodel and put on an addition and garage. We thought long and hard about what we wanted, and spent hours poring over the architect's plans, marking them up. That was time well spent.

We installed a central vacuum system, and it has been great. If you decide to install a central vacuum system, be sure to consider vacuum baseboards, also known as sweep inlets. They are insanely useful in hard-floored rooms that collect a lot of crud, like the kitchen, dining room, entry way and so forth. Just open the valve with your toe, sweep the stuff to the inlet, and it will disappear. No more dustpans.

As part of the remodel/addition, we expanded the kitchen and added a dining area. We were then left with the old dining room, 10'x10'. We decided to turn it into a laundry room, with washer/dryer, deep sink with goose neck faucet, cabinets above the W/D and sink area, a folding counter, closet and a door we can close to hide the mess. :happy This room also has a sweep inlet. The laundry room is centrally located, and has been a great feature.

In regards to the kitchen, I highly recommend that you find a copy of 'The Motion Minded Kitchen' by Sam Clark. It proved invaluable as we designed the kitchen. It was published in 1983 and is out of print, but you should be able to find copy on the internet. We didn't use all of his ideas, but incorporated what made sense to us, and our kitchen works very well.

Good luck with your build!

Electrum
Ykcor
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by Ykcor »

My old accountant told me when my wife and I built decades ago; "Build like you were selling it tomorrow, because you might have to."
Also, envision yourself growing old it the home. Make sure you have a bedroom on ground level and the bathroom(s) are handicap capable.
If you live in a tornado area like I, consider a safe room.
You can't have enough closet space.
It is much easier making the house energy efficient when constructing than later retrofitting.
marcopolo
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by marcopolo »

RonSwanson wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 4:22 pm
TomatoTomahto wrote: Tue Oct 13, 2020 3:21 pm Could you tell us some more about the property? It would help direct our thoughts.
The property is well over an acre on a high bank waterfront. Almost 180 degrees of water view, then 90 degrees of trees and field. So part of our design restriction is making good use of the views which is certainly added complexity for the layout. Where the house would be, the property is on a gentle slope in both directions. Plenty of space for the kids to run around and play, beautiful trees (that cannot be removed haha), etc.

Although the lot is large there are a lot of building restrictions such that I think we will end up with a main house and then an unattached garage. Sadly in order to maintain the views, the garage probably won't be located right next to the house but we will have a driving circle allowing us to pull up to the house to unload things.

Lots of great suggestions above, so I will not repeat a lot of them.

I would add one very specific suggestion.

We also built on a lot with 180 sweeping ocean views.
A feature i would highly recommend is a large set of pocket doors (NanaWall, La Cantina, or similar) connecting your main living space to your outdoor covered patio space over looking the ocean view. The large wall of windows, and being able to completely open them up to create one large space is really nice. We did a 20' opening, four 5' panels that recess into wall.

If you do this, consider a zero threshold design that really integrates the indoor and outdoor spaces.
Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.
VanGogh
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by VanGogh »

During our custom home building process, after the home plan was chosen, but before construction started, I visited some new build homes. Even though they had different floor plans, it allowed me to better visualize room size. As a result of those open house visits, we chose to expand our powder room and laundry room. On the flip side, we decreased the size of our jacuzzi tub, which looked like small pool installed in the open house bathrooms. Maximize those views! Best wishes!
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LilyFleur
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Re: Building a new house - Successes and regrets?

Post by LilyFleur »

Install a double-wide shower and make one side of it a view window. Situate the mirror above your bathroom sink(s) so that every time you are at the sink, you look at the mirror and see the beautiful view through the shower behind you. (so the vanity is parallel to the double-wide shower)
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