House Tour of Kitchen Island by Two Purple Couches

Where to Spend vs. Save When Building a House

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

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 building 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 can seem like a daunting task, and sometimes you want a little bit of advice or a tip here an there to make the process 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.

We had plenty of meetings with our Market Manager to discuss our floorplan, features, upgrades, etc, plus a trip to our builder’s Design Center to view options and select our finishes. Talk about overwhelming! And then once you’ve made your selections, you start second-guessing if you should have picked maple or cherry cabinets, and maybe you 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 the umpteen sheets we filled out with our Market Manager.

Where to Spend:

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. Tom babied those floors until we got 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 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.

Smooth Ceilings: Seriously. Do it. It’s incredible the difference that a smooth ceiling makes in a room. And the cost probably won’t break the bank. Again, this is something you won’t want to mess with years down the road!

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, 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 deals for appliances!).

House Tour of Kitchen Island by Two Purple Couches

Extra Square Footage: We added an optional 6-ft to our family. And ooooohhhhh boy are we glad we did! 1) Not something we’d want to do later (this would be a major construction project) 2) It gives us a ton more space, not just in our family room, but also in our basement and second-floor bonus room. Talk about bang for our buck! And it’s the perfect nook for our gallery wall/seating area as well as for our Christmas tree during the holidays. Money well spent in our opinion.

Also: add extra exterior power outlets for Christmas lights!

Even though we didn’t really need a realtor to purchase a new construction home, we asked the realtor we were working with to sell our condo to review our final options before we submitted everything to our builder. She agreed that all of our upgrades were great decisions, that details like the smooth ceilings and higher baseboards seem minor, but can be very attractive to buyers. So even though we were plunking down a good bit of money, we felt very confident that our choices were solid and added to the value of our home.

You still with me?


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 “Where to Spend vs. Save When Building a House

    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!

    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 Thank you!

  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!

    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!

  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!


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