House Tour of Kitchen Island by Two Purple Couches

Building a House: Where to Spend vs Save on Upgrades

Building a house? Check out these tips about where to spend money on upgrades and where to save with DIY ideas to get the most value out of your new home!

If you are thinking of building a home or in the construction process, consider these tips on where to spend versus where to save as you think about upgrades, finishes, etc. #homebuilding #newconstruction #homeimprovement

Building a house can be a daunting process. Some, like me, get excited about the design decisions; to others it can feel intimidating. It is a big undertaking, but going into the process with clear-cut ideas on what types of upgrades will work best for your family, as well as your home’s value, can help keep it from feeling too overwhelming.

I began writing Two Purple Couches about six months after Tom and I moved into our home. I still kick myself for not starting it sooner, like maybe, the day we signed our contract with our builder. I wish I’d documented the whole process through blogging, both for the personal side of watching our home come together wall-by-wall and brick-by-brick, but also because building a house is an involved process, and sometimes you want a little bit of advice or a tip here an there to make it feel easier.

So, 2.5 years later, here are some of the best tips that we picked up. I am by no means an expert, but we got some good advice from family, co-workers and even our realtor that has proved to be true thus far in the life of our home.

Throughout the process, we had plenty of meetings with our Market Manager to discuss our floorplan, features, upgrades, etc. Once we had all of these documented, we made a trip to our builder’s Design Center to view options and select our finishes. Talk about overwhelming! Once we made our selections, I started second-guessing if we should have picked cherry cabinets instead of maple, or maybe I really wanted oil-rubbed bronze instead of brushed nickel? Oh, the sleepless nights that ensue!

Bring your camera when you visit your builder's Design Center so you can document your design selections. #newhome #homeimprovement #buildingahome

Okay, so maybe I didn’t lose sleep over the cabinet hardware, but it can be very overwhelming to navigate all of the options that a builder throws at you. There are things we never would’ve realized we could upgrade or add until we got to that checkbox on what seemed like hundreds of sheets we filled out with our Market Manager.

Where to Spend When Building a House:

So, where did we spend our upgrade money? On our kitchen and master bath cabinetry, flooring, baseboards, ceilings, appliances and extra square footage. And here’s why.

Cabinetry

A co-worker of mine, who’d built a house a few years’ prior, gave me the advice to always upgrade cabinetry if you can. With repeated opening and closing, door hinges wear down. If you have kids in the house, well, we all know that the kitchen is the main place to congregate. Lower cabinets get nicked, doors get slammed, spills and stains happen. And the last thing you want to do five years later is empty those cabinets and rip them out to install better ones. Do that work up-front! Great advice, if you ask me!

kitchen tour

Flooring—Hardwood

We opted to upgrade to hardwood floors throughout the majority of our first floor. They came standard in our entryway, and in the hallway back to our powder room. We thought the first floor would feel more open if the hardwood extended from our entry into our kitchen and family room, instead of being visually divided up by two or three different types of flooring in our entry, family room and kitchen. And it worked. When you step through our front door, your eye is drawn all the way back to our family room, giving the room a pretty spacious impression. Definitely an aesthetic thing, but I think it’s a pretty cool feel. With the hardwood, we opted for oak flooring, as it’s a bit harder and more durable, though not indestructible. My hubs babied those floors until we adopted our pup, Molly, and she dropped a hard bone of hers and left a little dent. I tell him these dents add to the character; I don’t think he’s convinced!

House Tour Entry by Two Purple Couches #housetour #entry #entryway #homedecor #homeaccents

Flooring—Carpeting

We considered upgrading to more of a Berber-type carpeting, but as soon as we saw the cost, we balked. This leads me to my next tip: if you don’t want to pay to upgrade the carpet type itself, upgrade the carpet pad. This was another piece of advice we got, and that I am grateful for. A higher-quality carpet pad can help extend the life of the carpet itself.

Baseboards

We upgraded our first-floor baseboards from the standard option (I think it was about 3″ or 3.5″) to 5″ baseboards. Again for durability, but also because this is another thing you don’t really want to tear up and re-do within the first few years. Plus, the larger baseboards give our home a more custom look and feel.

Smooth Ceilings

I realize that it can feel silly to pay for a ceiling upgrade, but do it. Seriously. It’s incredible the difference that a smooth ceiling makes in a room. And the cost probably won’t break the bank. This is something you definitely won’t want to change out years down the road. Whether you’d DIY or hire it out, scraping textured ceilings is a very, very messy job.

Appliances

This is probably more of a personal preference than anything else, though maybe not when it comes to the dishwasher. In order to get stainless steel appliances, we had to upgrade, though the stainless dishwasher also happened to be a higher-quality model, so I think this was a win-win. The appliances that came with our floorplan were: dishwasher, range and microwave. We purchased our fridge, washer and dryer ourselves (Tip: try Black Friday (or other holiday deals) for appliances!).

House Tour of Kitchen Island by Two Purple Couches

Extra Square Footage

We added an optional 6-feet to our family. And ooooohhhhh boy are we glad we did! This is definitely not something we’d want to do later, plus major construction like this would cost way more once the house is already built. This additional space was added to our family, basement and second-floor bonus room, so we got a lot more square footage for our money. In our family room, it’s the perfect nook for a gallery wall/seating area as well as for our Christmas tree during the holidays.

Room by Room Showcase: Summer Family Room Tour. Easy summer decorating ideas and DIY projects for a cozy family room gathering space.

Exterior

We added some extra power outlets to our front porch, specifically for hanging Christmas lights. We also added an extra water spigot to the back of our home for watering the grass, flowers, etc.

Even though we were building a house, we relied on the advice of our realtor throughout the process. You don’t necessarily need a realtor to purchase a new construction home, but we were already working with him and his team to sell our condo. We asked them to review our upgrade options before submitting our final picks to our builder. They agreed that all of our upgrades were great decisions, that details like the smooth ceilings and larger baseboards seem minor, but can be very attractive to buyers, and even add to the value of our home. So even though we were plunking down a good bit of money on these upgrades, we felt very confident that our choices were solid and adding to the value of our home.

You still with me?

Good.

Sorry this is a behemoth of a post! But it’s good stuff, amiright??

H’okay, so, now that we spent all that upgrade money, where did we save?

Keep reading to see where we saved our money…

13 thoughts on “Building a House: Where to Spend vs Save on Upgrades

    1. Two Purple Couches Post author

      That’s a great tip, Amy! I wish we’d had the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks in a model of our home before we built it. There are some things you just don’t realize you want or need until you’re living in the space, and the garage is a great example!

      Reply
    1. Two Purple Couches Post author

      Hello! Thank you for your comment! I’d be delighted for you to reference my post and provide a link to it. Per my terms of use, which you can find here, you may use 1-2 of my images with my original watermark. Please attribute the content to me and provide a link back to this post, but please do not lift the full post. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at twopurplecouches@gmail.com. Thank you!

      Reply
  1. Alicia

    Great food for thought! I’m glad I found this, even though I’m a little late to the party.

    We are getting ready to build again and I’ve been making a list of the upgrades I definitely want. I 100% agree on hardwoods throughout the first floor (it does make it feel larger and more open) and we will be bumping out our kitchen and great room for more space and I really think it adds a little more character too depending on how it’s bumped out.

    One other thing that we’re doing (I wish we’d done this with the first house we built) is upgrade for taller ceilings on the first floor. It really doesn’t cost too much more, it’s DEFINITELY not something that anyone would want to change later on.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Two Purple Couches Post author

      Thanks Alicia! You bring up a great point about the ceiling height – that is a great upgrade to choose if you can. And I completely agree about extra space adding character – it’s a nice way to distinguish your home from your neighbors. Our next door neighbors have the same floorplan that we chose, but the options we each selected really do distinguish them; it’s nice to not feel quite so cookie-cutter 😉 Congratulations on your new home! I hope the building process goes smoothly!

      Reply
  2. Erin W.

    I personally dislike carpet in general. It feels good on your feet but it causes my allergies to flare up. So easy money saver there! Thanks for writing!

    Reply

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