Building a house is a mind-bending and thrilling experience but there are a lot of decisions to be made, sometimes in a very short amount of time. If you have never done it before your very first question might be – how to build a house? Where do you start? The following Building a House Checklist has been put together through hard-won experience, and I know we would have found it extremely helpful to have had we had a list like this to help us when we started our new home build.
It’s best to get your modifications to the home plan set before the work is underway because change orders mid-build can be especially expensive.
The best part about building your new home is that it’s YOUR home. You get to pick out all the little details you want in it.
Here is a checklist of gems that I’ve compiled from friends, tips from our builder, and our own home building experience.
Feel free to use this online or downloadable checklist as a starting point for discussion with your family and your builder.
Keep in mind that not all these suggestions may be possible (or affordable) when building your new home given your budget or code restrictions.
- Ask what landscaping is standard. Do you want to add an extended patio?
- How does the sun hit your house? Will you have the western sun on your back patio? Do you need a Pergula? Ask if it has to be approved by the HOA.
- Are you building a pool? If so, consider one that has an autofill function for when you’re out of town, and solar panels for heating it. If you are putting a pool in later, have a general idea of where it will be so that you can plan for accessibility of the digging equipment and to preserve landscaping.
- Fence height. Is there dangerous wildlife in the area? Do you have small pets? Be sure to consider the best way to protect them from becoming prey. For example, if coyotes are a problem, you’ll want a fence at least 6 feet high and possibly with a roll bar.
- Do you want a built-in outdoor grill? Plan for it with a gas line and electrical for outdoor fridge and sink.
- Make sure your outdoor hose faucets are where you want them. You’ll need one in back, one in front, maybe more. Consider your landscaping design and where your cars park in case you will be washing them in your driveway.
- Also, make sure the faucets have extra protection for freezing weather.
- Make sure any walking paths are bare-feet friendly
- Does the stone/brick on your home require additional care? Lighter stone is more likely to show stains and you may be power washing it with more frequency than darker stone.
- Don’t put your water heater in the attic. If you can’t put it on a bottom floor, then have it installed over the garage where the least amount of structural damage can occur if it leaks.
- Check the width and depth of the garage and make sure you can get your SUV in and still open the doors
- Do you want overhead storage installed?
- Add a sink in the utility/laundry room, and hanging bar for wet clothes
- Lots of people also like to have a space in the utility room for a deep freeze
- Consider a floor drain in the utility room in the event your washing machine leaks
- A walk-through from the master closet to the laundry room is nice if your layout allows it
- Don’t put hardwood floors in rooms that are prone to water leaks (like the kitchen).
- Do consider hardwoods over carpet in rooms that your aging pets like to hang out in.
- Remember that dark hardwoods are harder to keep clean because they tend to show dirt more.
- Get the extra padding under the carpet. It can make even cheap carpet feel luxurious.
- Upstairs carpeting is less noisy than hardwoods and tile upstairs.
- Where will your guest room be? Do you have relatives that don’t do stairs well? Best to put their rooms on the first floor.
- Do you want a safe room for protection against Mother Nature or in the event someone breaks into your home and you need a secure place to hide?
- Do you want a wall safe built in?
- A fireplace in the master bedroom is cozy
- A raised hearth on fireplace can provide extra seating
- Do you want to add built in cabinetry in any room? Or change the current cabinetry? Or add windows to the cabinets?
- Make sure there’s a stud over the fireplace for hanging photos or wreaths
- Put as many attics in as you can. Ask your builder to put down plywood in all the storage areas to make them as big as possible. It’s much easier to do this as you’re building than later on.
- Do you want space-saving pocket doors anywhere?
- Blinds. Do you want them? Remember that a building a new home as bare windows and blinds can be very pricy.
- PVC blinds are easier to clean than wood. Consider putting shutters and wood blinds on the front of the home and areas that can be seen from the street.
- Do you want a front door with glass or a more private option of a solid door? Some doors have windows at the top which allow for privacy and let in sunlight
- Taller sinks in the master bath are easier on your back
- Consider wider doors and water closets for handicapped or elderly who may have a walker or wheelchair to contend with
- “Tall boy” toilets with quiet lids are much more pleasant
- Look at your cabinetry, you can modify this to fit your needs, even installing electrical outlets in it.
- Check out the size of your shower – is it big enough? Can you make it larger and be a walk-in shower? How far do you want your tile to extend?
- How about motion or touch sensor faucets for when you have raw chicken all over your hands?
- Do you want a double oven (one to be a convection oven)
- Instant hot water spout for pot filling is very convenient
- Appliance garages in kitchen are great to hide appliances
- Consider a second sink in kitchen if one is in the island
- Pull out drawers for pots and pans instead of shelves
- Cabinet separators to help manage baking sheets
- Warming drawers are nice to have if you can spare the storage space
- Consider modifying a cabinet for larger appliances
- Run a gas line to your stove even if you want an electrical stove – it will help with resale
- Dark granite on counters shows streaks
- Granite counters and sink – are more durable
- Cabinet design: do you want pull-out drawers? Folding shelves? Consider little fingers!
- Cabinet fronts – do you want glass? If so, add in the additional cost of lighting in those cabinets
- Make sure each closet has lights installed. Consider closet lights that turn off automatically, especially if you have small children
- Think about where you want dimmer switches
- Fluorescent lighting in the garage makes it easier to see
- Recessed lighting on stairs is more safe
- Under cabinet lighting is really helpful
- Do you want an intercom system for your home? For the front door? This can be especially nice if you have a large home.
- Do you want an all-house music system?
- Do you want the outside wired for audio, televisions?
- Consider floor plugs in the living areas
- Put extra outlets in the kitchen, even in the pantry.
- Install some USB outlets in areas that are areas you’re likely to charge electronics.
- Outlets in the closet are handy, especially if you like to iron your clothes right before you wear them
- Christmas lights outlets near the eaves of the home
- Integrated outlets in cabinets for hair dryers, rechargeable razors, etc.
- Cable in every room even if you don’t have a TV in there yet.
- Recessed outlets can be a nice touch.
- Central vacuum is handy for quick touch ups.
- Consider higher voltage outlets in the garage for deep freeze, refrigerator and power tools
- Make sure you are wired for a security system
- When discussing wiring, plan for the future. For example, do you want cable on your patio? Even if you don’t plan to have a TV out there right away, now is the time to run the wires. Do you want to have cable in the master bath? Yes, yes I do. Cables need to be pulled now, or else the cost for this luxury may be cost prohibitive later.
- Consider making your home a “smart” home where all your energy can be managed from your smart phone or computer.
Have you built a new home? What would you add to this list of new build suggestions? Leave your answers in the comments below.
Here are a few books that you might find helpful too! (affiliate links)