Hey guys! I’ve promised this post for a while now. I’ve felt so compelled to share what we chose to BUY versus what we chose to DIY when it came to builder upgrades with our new home. I researched costs for months during our building/designing process and had to make no less than 600 billion decisions about what interior finishes to choose with our builder.
Warning, this post is long, but goes over pretty much everything I decided upon design wise! That being said, there are many things that were either A) cheaper to do with the builder or B) worth paying the builder the extra to save the work and headache later.
And then on the flip side, there were many things that we could totally do ourselves later and save lots of money by doing so.
I’ll start with the list of things that were actually cheaper and worth paying the builder to do for us.
1. Interior Door Style
The included doors are a 6 panel style like this
I was able to upgrade every single interior door in the house to this style which I absolutely love for one flat fee that was incredibly reasonable. I could never go to Home Depot or anything and buy this many doors for the price.
2. Electrical Pre-wires – $79!
This was by far the biggest money saver with the builder. And it makes sense because when a house is under construction during the framing stage, it’s MUCH easier to add electrical wiring as opposed to after the drywall is installed. I went light fixture happy and spent money wisely here paying the builder to add additional fixture outlets in almost every room of the house. They can pre-wire for under cabinet lighting, chandeliers, sconce fixtures, you name it, for only $79 each which is great.
3. Window Blinds
The builder gave us the option of adding 2.5″ venetian blinds to any windows we wanted and it was definitely worth it to do so. Sure, this is something we could do after the fact ourselves, but the price they offered them at was very reasonable and was helpful since the bedrooms were “move in ready” and we didn’t have to worry about window coverings.
4. Front Doors
Our house has double front doors and the included doors were solid, with no windows or light coming through. You had the option of upgrading to doors with 3/4 decorative glass or full decorative glass. This was a somewhat pricey upgrade in my opinion and I thought surely I could order doors at Home Depot or Lowe’s after we moved in, but I was wrong. I priced out similar 8 foot doors and they cost much more to buy ourselves than what the builder charged. So this was another one that made sense to do with the builder.
5. Cabinets & Countertops
I think it goes without saying that in a new build most of the design budget goes towards the kitchen and bathrooms. With our builder, it was well worth it to upgrade the cabinets and countertops to the ones we wanted because the price made so much sense. It was literally only 2 or 3 hundred dollars for each the cabinets and countertops in the secondary bathrooms. You could never get the “included” ones and then replace them later for anywhere near that.
Now here’s the list of things that were fairly expensive to pay the builder to put in for us, but I felt it was worth paying the extra up front to avoid dealing with the hassle and mess down the road.
Next to kitchens and bath, the bulk of the design budget usually goes to flooring. We chose to go with a wood look tile throughout our whole house minus the bedrooms. Technically we could have taken the “included” flooring throughout the house and then gone back later, ripped it out, and put in our own tile for cheaper. The problem is 1) that’s a lot of work and 2) we would have been ripping up tile to put down more tile. And ripping up tile is a huge mess and not easy. So while we probably paid a premium to have this laid from the beginning, I felt it was worth it to avoid that kind of mess later.
2. Pot Filler
This was one of those dreamy items I really wanted that almost didn’t make the cut. But I squeezed it in 😉 Again, it was pretty expensive to do this with the builder because our builder wouldn’t just do a pre-plumb and leave the fixture off. They made us choose one of their fixtures as well as pay them to plumb it. But just like electrical, it’s pretty difficult to go back and add plumbing later down the road once the drywall is complete. AKA we would probably never do it.
3. TV Mounting Outlets
During the design process we were able to move our cable and electrical outlets for the TVs up higher on the wall for future mounting. This option was $150 for each TV and they technically sell a kit at Lowe’s for cheaper that allows you to put the tubes in the wall to do this yourself, but again, it’s something we didn’t want to worry about.
4. Breakfast Nook Wall of Cabinets
Our builder uses cabinets that can be purchased through Lowe’s or Home Depot. So when it came to the decision of adding the optional cabinets in the breakfast area I was torn on whether to do it ourselves later via Lowe’s/HD or just paying the builder to do it. This required a lot of due diligence on my part researching and making appointments with the hardware stores to get quotes for the exact same cabinet design. In the end, it cost us slightly more to have the cabinets installed by the builder. However, we felt paying a few hundred dollars more was worth not having to worry about it later, having a contractor come in etc.
5. Bathroom Shower Tile
This is the same principle as the flooring. We paid a slight premium to have the tile we wanted installed in the walls of the shower (as opposed to the included ones), but if we didn’t, we would be having to rip out tile to install more tile. Messy, and lots of work. No thanks.
Now for the things I chose to DIY and not pay the builder to do. My favorite part!
1. Light Fixtures
Our builder offered several different types of lighting upgrades, but in the grand scheme it was still VERY limited. With all the sites out there like jossandmain, overstock, lampsplus etc. you have thousands of options at a very affordable price. So needless to say, I accepted all of the “free included” light fixtures in our home and replaced them immediately after we moved in. Which I will be sharing soon 😉
Here are the included breakfast nook light, foyer light and dining room light.
I am even switching out all of the bathroom vanity lights!
2. Kitchen Backsplash
This was a no brainer. Even though I didn’t plan on doing our new backsplash myself, I knew I could hire someone to do it cheaper than what the builder wanted to charge. (I did my own backsplash in my last house [post here] because it was a ceramic tile and pretty standard straight line cuts, but in my new house I am doing a marble tile that goes up around my hood with lots of intricate cuts so I wanted to hire a professional!) I did my research, got quotes from contractors, and the one I ended up going with cost me exactly HALF what the builder wanted to charge.
3. Wall, Window and Crown Moldings
Most of you know I am crazy about wall moldings, feature walls, etc. so I would never in my right mind have someone else do these, ha! Not to mention the crazy price tag that comes along with stuff like that. I MAY end up doing another DIY Wainscoting type thing in my dining room one day, or maybe something else similar. And I will probably do more of my DIY Cheater Crown Molding at some point down the road. These will all happen much later (when the babies are a little bigger), but for now, I will just dream and plan!
I’ll go ahead and get this out right now. I made a mistake on choosing faucets for our new house and it’s my biggest (and only) regret in the design process. Here’s the deal. For some crazy reason, I thought I could upgrade a 4″ spread faucet to an 8″ spread faucet myself down the road. Again, I was trying to save money on the design selections and an 8″ spread faucet cost more than the “free included” 4″ spread faucet. (In case you’re lost, the difference between 4″ and 8″ spread is how far apart the hot and cold handles are away from each other.) I am obviously an idiot because once the holes are cut in the quartz countertop, there is no switching from a 4″ to an 8″ or vice versa. I opted to go with the “free included” 4″ and am now wondering what in the world I was thinking. So basically I am stuck with 4″ spread faucets forever. Unless I get new bathroom countertops. Which is not happening, ever. So, I made lemonade out of these 4″ lemons and am upgrading the free 4″ faucets to prettier 4″ faucets!
This is the included faucet before I change them.
5. More Cabinets, Hardware, and Cabinet accessories
So I’m grouping several things together here. When I say “more cabinets”, I mean for the laundry room. As I mentioned earlier in this post, our cabinets are also sold by Lowe’s and Home Depot which is awesome because I’m able to add more, or purchase accessories for them at any point in time as the budget allows. Paying the builder to add lots of cabinets in our new laundry room was not even close to the top of the budget or priority list. Although I totally need/want the storage in there, it’s just something we agreed we would do at a later date through one of the hardware stores.
So I will live with this for the time being Which is totally fine!
In regards to hardware, you probably noticed that the pictures of my kitchen have zero hardware on any of the cabinets. That’s because 1) the builder didn’t have any gold hardware options (and my heart was set!) and 2) even if they did, they cost $16 each. NO thanks! So needless to say, I asked the builder to leave the hardware off entirely and I will be buying my own hardware online and having someone put it on for me (as I’m terrified of messing up a cabinet door!)
And lastly, cabinet accessories. What are these you may be wondering? I’m talking about things like decorative end panels and “feet” that go under the cabinets. Let me draw you a picture.
In the picture above, the green arrows are pointing to decorative end panels that came on the island I chose. Where as the pink arrows are just plain ends. I want to add decorative panels like the green ones to match the island. Minor details, I know.
Here I want to add decorative “feet” on the bumped out portion of our master bath vanity. It will make it look more like a piece of furniture than a built in cabinet. We also have this bumped out section where our cook top is in the kitchen and I will add the same “feet” there as well. Side note – I just realized something funny. A lot of times we want to do things to make things appear “built in” because that’s desirable, but in this case I’m trying to purposely do the opposite and make it look like a free standing vanity rather than built in. Ha. My husband would not think this is funny in the least.
6. Things I “deleted” and will add later myself
All bathroom mirrors, closet racks, and toilet paper/towel holders.
I asked the builder to leave most of these things out of the house, as I would be going through and adding my own and didn’t want to have to remove theirs in order to do so. That’s why you don’t see any mirrors in the pictures of the bathrooms! Removing huge builder grade mirrors from your drywall can be a huge pain in the neck and damage the drywall. I wanted to add my own decorative mirrors and not deal with the fuss of removing builder ones. This is the nice thing about building! Although unfortunately I did not get a “credit” or any money back for not including these items. I am also adding my own chrome toilet paper rolls and towel racks to match my decor going on in the bathrooms, instead of the included ceramic ones. And finally, as you know I have a build in closet obsession. So I asked the builder to leave out some of the wire racks in the closets that I knew I would be replacing immediately with something more built in. Saves me time from having to patch and paint all the huge holes they leave!
Here are plenty of boxes patiently waiting on a built in closet to be unpacked LOL
PHEW! I think that’s everything friends! I will continue to post more of the progress on the new house and show some of these items that we’ve already completed! I can’t wait to share more with you!
Comment below and let me know your thoughts, or if you have any questions. I love hearing from you guys!