Home Improvement

We are in the planning stages of building a new home. What are some things we should consider that many people often don’t think of?

By May 7, 2019 39 Comments

We plan on being in this house for the next 20 plus years. The last thing we want is to build something that we will later regret and will be a headache to change in the future. Does anyone have any tips or suggestions of things we should include in the build that is easily overlooked?


I really want to thank everyone who responded with tips and thoughts! A lot of you really got us thinking in different directions and made us consider things we weren’t originally. We now have a monster list of requests, changes, questions, etc that we will share with the builder.

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  • yesmaybepossibly says:

    Obviously lots of plugs everywhere.

    Design spaces base on what your life is like, not on “style” or pinterest.

    For example, for a kitchen, how do you cook? Do you like to chop a lot of your veggies and cook a lot from scratch? Then make sure to give yourself counter space near the stove top so you can chop stuff and drop them in without having to walk across the kitchen.

    Do you bbq a lot? Consider having a built-in gas outlet for a bbq, more convenient than having to replace the little gas tanks.

    If you are going to spend a bit more money, add sound insulation to bedrooms and or bathrooms. It’s nice to have an added level of privacy in those two places, for reasons.

  • RevGonzo19 says:

    Depending on region I would go with drainage around the foundation and insulation overall, especially in the basement. Rim joists, a proper thermal and vapor barrier on the foundation walls, the whole shebang.

    Don’t know if you are into this but perhaps consider how climate change could impact your region and plan accordingly.

  • R_edd22 says:

    Soil type. Mostly in relation to contours and water table. High water table in souls that don’t percolate quickly can cause you headaches in a basement. Also, if you’re on septic or sewer. Easements, are there any on the parcel. HOA fees if in a subdivision and what those responsibilities of the HOA are.

  • ArcticLover says:

    Might want to make sure you have a proper pantry, just off the kitchen.

    A linens closet in your bathroom.

    And one we discovered when building our house. It’s an inconvenience for the laundry to be in the bathroom. We talked it over for months with our planner and builder… the washer/dryer should have it’s separate room with a bar for hanging up clothes right away. We built ours right off the master bedroom it’s separate from the in suite bathroom. As you enter the door to the bathroom immediately to one side there is the door to the laundry room.

    Those are the items we found that were most commonly overlooked.

    Good luck!

  • reconlabtech says:

    Look at the direction the living spaces face when considering sunlight.


    Friends of ours moved into a beautiful new home that had a wall of windows in the family room. It was huge floor to ceiling, wall to wall. AND, when the sun shined on it for several hours the room would reach potato baking temperature.

  • Betweenworlds2017 says:

    Quick list…

    Plumb for A/C if not installing with the build, brace and wire for ceiling fans in all rooms, vent attic well to prevent mold issues, if in a snowy climate, install heating lines to melt snow off of the roof, heated floor tile, extra wide ADA doors and other ADA accommodations, sump pump in crawl or basement, if a basement- egress windows a little larger than legal to look forward to future requirements , and to accomodate real sized people who may need to use them.

  • UnblinkingLycopene says:

    A wise older man once told me: “it’s not ‘what can I afford?’ It’s ‘what can I afford to maintain?”

    I know several folks who went all out on a build because it was their “forever home” and they weren’t going to do it twice—and they barely had enough money to finish the house, much less furnish it, add window treatments, fix the yard, etc.

    I sell insurance and the years go by quickly as a homeowner. That new roof will need to be replaced in 15-20 years if you live down South, and the more roof surface area you have, the more expensive it will be.

    There’s also taxes and home insurance to consider.

  • lastskudbook says:

    2x network cables from cupboard containing modem/router to every tv position and to 1 WiFi access point positions.(ubiquiti UniFi or similar)

  • Omap says:

    cat6 or cat6a to every room terminated to a common area in the house for network equipment.

  • AdvicePerson says:

    Mudroom-type area for every entrance that will be regularly used (front door for guests, entrance from garage, etc). There should be:

    * a place to hang coats
    * a place to drop mail, packages, gloves, umbrellas, etc
    * a seat to take off shoes
    * a place to **put** shoes, preferably an edged mat for wet shoes

  • nemoppomen says:

    Hire an architect. Not meant to be snarky but it’s who you want to work with so you can focus on features rather than the nuts and bolts of how it works. Buildings are extremely complicated and there are a never ending list of codes to adhere to. Let the professionals deal with those things. Find someone who has experience in the type of home you want.

  • foistedmorganic says:

    2×6 “deadwood” between the studs before drywall goes on, everyplace where you will be attaching to the wall – towel racks, tp holders, heavy artwork etc. Take pictures with a tape measure in view.

  • oddogirl says:

    When you are old you will be thankful that all your necessities are on the main floor: master bed/bath, laundry, kitchen. Stairs are hard on old knees and an easy entrance from the garage with minimal steps will allow you to stay in your home longer.

  • zeronetenergyhome says:

    Energy efficiency. I would think about insulation and what kind of solar gain you’ll get from windows.

  • Strangeite says:

    I am in the industry (an appraiser) and the biggest thing that I don’t think most people consider when building their “forever home” is how important the design of the house needs to work with the land.

    Most people start laying out their house in their head or on paper long before they find where they are going to build it. I know that it isn’t practical for many people, but it should be the opposite. Find the land first. Almost everything can be changed later, including the entire house, but you can’t move the land. Can’t change where the sun rises. Can’t move the flood plain (only FEMA can do that). Can’t change which direction the weather comes from.

    In addition, once you know where the house is going to be and you get a feel for the place, it might completely change how you would lay out your home.

  • FragilousSpectunkery says:

    Ask neighbors what they would have done differently.

  • Bungeesmom says:

    Pay attention to the location of the light switches. Having the light to the shower not in the same room as the shower is very inconvenient.
    Also exhaust fans. You don’t want them venting into the attic.

  • Iz-kan-reddit says:

    If you’re building a basement, waterproof the living bejeezus out of it.

  • montytribe says:

    If you like to cook, a special cabinet for maximizing storage for spices. As well as for large infrequently used counter top equipment.

  • reconlabtech says:

    One good thing to remember about running Ethernet cabling to every space is that even if most things will be wifi connected, many other items including mesh wifi systems can use Power over Ethernet. If you plan on having a camera or two on the outside, be sure to run Ethernet to those locations to connect to your network and power them.

  • iamnotarobotgirl says:

    Outlets in your awnings and eves. Makes Christmas lights sooo much easier.

  • aintnocoffeeshop says:

    Airtightness is the single most important performance factor that will contribute to comfort and energy ($$) savings in your home.

  • natetcu says:

    Built a home last year (Houston, TX). Two things I wish we would have added were more electrical outlets with built in USB charging ports (kitchens and bedrooms) and electrical outlets under the eves for Christmas lights.

    Our builder did well with drainage in the yard, we added a flow loop for a water softener and a reverse osmosis system for water from the kitchen sink and fridge. Extra closet space and a central storage room/closet is nice to have. Added a gas stub out on the back porch so I could get a nat gas grill (turned out great).

    Edit: words, their hard…

  • McFeely_Smackup says:

    electrical outlets inside closets. it’s WAY more useful than you’d think.

  • Renovatio_ says:

    A floor safe so that the future owners can get karma for posting it 20 years from now.

  • chewbaccasaux says:

    Things I’m really happy I did:

    * Door switch lights for closets and pantry
    * A covered car port in front of the garage
    * Outlets in the soffits
    * Outlet for electric car in the car port
    * Tankless hot water heater
    * Skylights over showers
    * Cat6 everywhere (TVs, cameras, outside, access points, etc)
    * Low voltage conduit (3”) buried deep from the house to the alley for Comcast and other utilities
    * Doorbell low voltage wiring at all doors
    * Built on shelves in the master bath
    * Kitchen cabinets with mostly large pull out drawers
    * Flo water management device (by Moen)
    * Dutch door to the backyard
    * Motorized window coverings
    * Have the ducts cleaned when you’re all done

    Things we screwed up:

    * Maybe too many windows? Lots of windows makes furniture and wall hanging placement difficult
    * 35% over budget (mostly things we chose to do, other things our builder screwed up which forces us into an upgrade or design change)
    * Mechanical room design. If I had it to do over I would be more involved in where the furnace is and how the water heater is situated and where the pipes come in and the accessibility and cleanness of all the piping and finish work in the mechanical room.
    * Drywall. They never got the ‘level 4’ drywall quite right. we should have insisted on halting the project until every corner, every ceiling line, every window and door detail was right. Instead they kept bringing people out to do a few touch ups… making a huge mess (on floors, on cabinets) every time. We gave up.
    * Cleaning. Insist on a full construction clean. My GC brought in regular cleaners and we’re still finding layers of drywall dust throughout the house.

    Things I’m glad we didn’t do:

    * Speaker wire everywhere
    * Shiplap everywhere
    * Carpet
    * Intricate base/case

  • Cyrano_de_Maniac says:

    You’re on the right track focusing on infrastructure and things that are costly to change in the future. My additions/thoughts on the non-obvious bits that haven’t been well-covered by others (e.g. conduit):

    – Get the HVAC design, particularly the return and supply plan, thoroughly evaluated (or even designed) by an independent HVAC specialist. Cold/hot rooms and inefficiency can be reduced substantially with proper return and supply ducts. (All this assumes forced air). Too many houses are built without thoughtful ductwork plans, and instead they just rely on the HVAC subcontractor to put some stuff in place wherever they see fit.

    – On every single segment of wall (i.e. between every door, window, closet, etc) think long and hard about “What if I want to power something at this location?” That dead-space two foot section between two doors may someday be just the spot you want a night-light, or small decorative display during the holidays, for example. That room that you currently think is an office may be a bedroom someday, or vice-versa. So basically I’m saying, put electrical outlets even in some places that don’t make immediate and obvious sense.

    – Similarly — I’ve lived in too many houses with electrical outlets behind the logical place for a bed’s headboard. Why are those outlets not in the corners where they would be near the nightstands? So think over placement of outlets very carefully.

    – More room than you currently need in the utility area. Over the lifespan of a house things like furnaces, water heaters, water treatment, and the like will change, and often there’s “more and bigger” as time goes on. So give a fair amount of space to these items so that you have options in the future, rather than having to replace with what you can manage to fit in a confined space.

    – Think carefully through the location of faucets on the exterior of the house. You probably don’t want to leave the garden hose laying across the driveway to reach that one bit of lawn over on the other side, so get a hose bib located such that you don’t. Also consider planning the plumbing for ease of adding an in-ground sprinkler system in the future (unless you live in an arid location — then just accept your environment and plan for xeriscape landscaping).

    – Think through aging-in-place considerations. Get the kitchen, laundry, a wheelchair accessible bathroom, and at least one large bedroom on the main floor. Get 36″ doors (or larger) everywhere on the main level. Consider a 3-car garage so that two stalls can be dedicated to a ramp-equipped van and the ability to ride a wheelchair out the side of it. This entire topic is not nearly as simple as common sense would tell you it is — consider talking to someone who has spent many years living in a wheelchair about how they would do things.

    – Insulation. Thorough insulation. Don’t skimp. It will save you energy and money, and increase your comfort level.

    – No stairwells in middle of the floor plan — push them to the edge of the house. When the next owner 30 years from now wants to remodel and change the floor plan, they’ll be glad there’s not a friggin’ stairwell in middle of the thing chopping it all up. Not that I’m bitter, or anything.

    – Think through the noise situation. Keep bedrooms far away from noisy areas such as kitchens and media rooms. If you can isolate the bedroom area of the house from the rest of the house with an additional door.Consider a bathroom fan where the fan section is on the far end of the duct rather than at the bathroom ceiling. Consider additional wall depth/insulation and/or better windows on the side facing the street. Consider double-thickness drywall and resilient channel construction.

    – Pantry. You want it. Even if you don’t think you do, you do. And lots of it.

    – Kitchen workflow. Read up on good home kitchen design, and make sure your appliances and work surfaces are well arranged and sized. Don’t skimp. And don’t forget a spot for the trash.

    – An intentional place to dump “stuff” (bags, purse, etc) when you come in from the garage.

    – A place for necessary yard equipment where it’s needed. We ended up building an addition onto our garage almost entirely because we needed a place to keep a full size walk-behind snowblower and still get the cars in the garage at the same time. The extra storage was a bonus, but the snowblower was what drove the issue.

    – Extra depth and width on your garage. Nothing says “I love you” to your spouse like planning so that they don’t have to wiggle their way out of the passenger door next to the garage wall. And nothing says “I love me” like enough depth to put a workbench, tool chests, and the like in front of the vehicles and still be able to work there when the vehicles are inside. And don’t assume that future vehicles will be the same size as your current vehicles. Basically, plan for every vehicle being a crew cab long-box pickup with dualie wheels.

    – Try hard to get a mud room, and bonus points if it has at least a half-bath attached to it. It sucks to have to take off your shoes and pants when you’ve been working on some messy job in the yard, and suddenly find you need to answer the urgent consequences of that cheap lunchtime burrito. Extra super bonus points if you get the laundry in that area too.

    – A drain system around the perimeter of the basement, with provision/space left for hooking it up to a radon mitigation system. You may not need either of them, but it beats busting up the floor later, and it costs almost nothing to install now.

    – If you have a double-basin kitchen sink, get it plumbed as a Y with two independent traps instead of having the disposal empty into a trap shared with the other basin. I hated how disposal waste would sometimes get stuck at the joint where they come together, and I’d have to unhook it all to clean it out. I remedied that at our new house. But get this down on paper in the planning stage — it has an impact on the necessary size of any drain plumbing shared between the two sinks, so your plumber will need to get that all sized correctly up front.

    – Plan plumbing access from behind any shower or bath controls. Ideally it will be some sort of removable panel.

    – If you think you or a future owner will ever want to park heavy vehicles on a concrete driveway, get it built 1-2″ thicker than the “standard” 4″ thickness. A 5″ thickness driveway has twice the compressive strength of a 4″ thickness. And get that subsurface prepared correctly with compaction and base material.

    Edit: Typos, missing words, a few clarifications, and driveway.

  • keithrc says:

    A nice way to future-proof is to ask the builder to install a wiring conduit (at least 1-1.5″ wide) drop for each room- maybe even each wall if they’ll be hard to reach later.

    People will tell you that everything (except power) will all be wireless from now on, don’t believe them. There are a number of good reasons to want your devices connected with physical wires, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

    In the same vein: if you plan to wall mount any TVs, figure out where you’re going to put them and have a wiring conduit placed from the middle of the wall to the lower wall, or directly to your patch closet, whichever. Also a plug receptacle either at the mounting point or at the lower end of the conduit. A wall-mounted TV with no visible cables makes it almost attractive.

  • mtcwby says:

    Insulate a lot for one. We had a semi-custom home that was of pretty good quality. My dad inspected and had been a builder for a long time. Five years ago we bought a custom around the corner that was 10 years newer. The difference in comfort in temperatures is dramatic despite being only 700 feet apart. I rarely run AC at the new place during the summer despite it getting 100+ about half the summer. It typically doesn’t get hotter than 78-80 inside during the day. It’s much more heavily insulated with thicker walls and even my shop is insulated and comfortable most days.

    Other features we like are a foot pedal for the Kitchen sink that both saves water and is more convenient to use. I’d also probably investigate heating and cooling through the floor although I don’t know what the state of the art is. We have a gas fireplace with blower at the new place as well and radiant heat and cooling is just so much more comfortable and effective than forced air. Lots of outlets too as well as ethernet to various spots in the house. Mesh networks are great but wire is more reliable and makes that mesh network function much better.

  • manth3harpoons says:

    9ft basement ceilings

  • STLFleur says:

    Personal pet-peeve: Kitchen Windows facing West!

    Depending on what time you eat dinner, and the time of year, prepping and cooking in a kitchen with the sun setting and shining right in through the kitchen windows can be *awful*, making an already hot kitchen even more unpleasant. It is like this at my MILs house; even her tinted windows don’t help.

    Definitely make sure the Windows from the kitchen face North or South!

  • ilovedawn2001 says:

    My father-in-law was a master carpenter. Yes partner over the course of 45 years of build countless houses together.
    He helped my family and I build our home from scratch. The largest single piece advise I can give you is to have at least 6 inch thick exterior walls. You’ll spend a bit more on lumber, exterior doors windows but will recoup that in energy savings very, very quickly plus it makes the whole house feel a lot more sturdy and quiet…Because it is!

  • mel_cache says:

    Build ADA compliant, as in, wide hallways and at least one large bathroom on the ground floor.

    Also heated floors in the bathrooms.

  • SleepingFairy says:

    Look at Garage Doors early in the process of picking exterior finishes. They probably have the most limited color selection of anything you will be buying. It’s often easier to match other finishes to the garage door, rather than try to match the garage door to the other finishes.

    When you are picking your garage door, remember that you will probably eventually have to get a replacement section or two due to damage (so many people hit their garage doors with their cars!) Remember that the beautiful special order door will be more expensive and take longer to get replacement sections for. That being said, it’s a huge piece of your exterior, so get a good looking door!

    Source: sell garage doors for a living.

  • boskolicious says:

    If you are building a double story house and you have a bathroom/toilet on the upper story, make sure you get all the pipes lagged ( sound insulated) there is nothing worse than hearing those god damn pipes go off during the night while you’re trying to sleep. Do not get a tiled floor shower base, they will need replacing and will leak after 6-10 years, use a nice solid shower base. Don’t be stingy, thinking you’re saving by using a cheaper product or doing it yourself, you’re wrong!!!! Doing it yourself will take three times longer than a professional, cheap knock offs are exactly that. Sure everything costs more, but it will last for 50+ years . Good luck

  • temp91 says:

    Since purchasing my first home, I’ve been collecting a list of items to look for in our next house. We live in the south, so there is nothing about basements, frostlines, etc.

    1. Ensure that bathroom vents actually vent outside.
    1. Dryer hookups located closer to exterior vents clog less
    1. Ensure that bathroom vent hoses are insulated to prevent condensation/mold.
    1. bathroom grout clean & sealed
    1. Doors fit and close securely, no cracks in foundation.
    1. Exterior wood, paint flashing in good shape, no chance for water damage.
    1. Shingles in good shape, no chance for water damage
    1. Fence – use metal posts, cement extends above grade
    1. Doors, windows, gates, drawers can all open, don’t hinder using space.
    1. Door frames have kerfed trim for weatherstripping
    1. Back door can accomodate a dog door
    1. Age of appliances
    1. Age & tonnage of HVAC
    1. Programmable HVAC control panel
    1. Check for mold in HVAC
    1. Plumbing has accessible cleanouts and traps
    1. Plumbing water lines use PEX or copper (PEX introduced between ’93 and ’98, variety of colors), avoid polybutylene used in the 80’s through nineties before it was banned, (also comes in a variety of colors)
    1. Plumbing drain lines should avoid cast iron
    1. Floor drain in utility room
    1. Avoid trees that are too close to house, adjacent property
    1. Exterior lighting (walkway, patios, driveway, yard)
    1. Look for evidence of bugs & roaches near water sources
    1. Lead paint was used prior to 1978
    1. Power outlets securely mounted
    1. Power outlets installed liberally
    1. Cracks in walls, ceilings, floors.
    1. 2 power outlets in master bathroom vanity
    1. External power outlets
    1. Conduit under front walkway to allow running christmas lights, drip irrigation, etc.
    1. Sprinkler system should have zone(s) around perimeter of house to control soil moisture around slab
    1. External water faucet front and back, frost-proof
    1. Rain gutters with leaf guards
    1. Lawn grade has adequate slope for drainage
    1. Kitchen drawers have ball bearings, work well loaded down.
    1. Spacious pantry with shallow shelves
    1. Spacious closets & storage
    1. Lighting in closets
    1. No light cracking around external doors
    1. Fireplace functional with sealing door, powered chimney vent is best for guaranteed draft
    1. Toilets: American Standard Champion with 4″ drain or other good model on california state reviews for power and efficiency
    1. Bidet?
    1. Kitchen sink that has mount for filtered water faucet
    1. If house has water softener, ensure the garden faucets are not softened
    1. Thermal windows have no leaks, no moisture trapped.
    1. Run every drain for several minutes
    1. Run hot & cold water at each faucet
    1. Tankless hot water (these supposedly corrode out within a few years), or hybrid hot water heaters are very efficient.
    1. Kitchen has under cabinet lighting or power outlets/routing to accomodate it.
    1. Kitchen cabinet that can accomodate large flat items stored vertically for baking sheets, etc.
    1. Secure doors & windows
    1. Choice in ISP
    1. Cell phone reception
    1. No close fracking wells
    1. Clean water supply
    1. 2×6 or equivalent wall assembly is higher quality
    1. Roof angle, direction, size amenable to solar panels

  • JaMimi1234 says:

    Don’t get caught up in expensive plumbing fixtures, tile, or flooring. I’m not saying go cheap but that 8/sft hardwood is good enough. Next to the $11/sf it may look not as nice but d you’d never seen the $11 then you would be none the wiser. Same with plumbing fixtures. Don’t go cheap but there is often a builder line equivalent to that must have sink. Maybe splurge on your en-suite if you MUST. get decent appliances you can upgrade later I can always tell the first time builders over those who’ve done it before over how much priority they place on these little things. Five years down the line it won’t matter that you spent $2 more sq/ft to get the perfect shade of white tile in your kids bathroom – buy the builders line & splurge on the one feature that really brings you pleasure. Go with the robe hooks your builder recommends. You’ll go down a rabbit hole and either come back to that option or spend way too much money.

    Don’t wait till the last minute to select light fixtures. They can be expensive & are often a forgotten about detail that homeowners rush to make at the final hour. Start looking now so your not disappointed when you realize you haven’t roughed in properly for the one you actually want.

    Spend the money on your millwork. It’s worth it. You touch it and use it daily. This is going to be a way bigger budget item than you realize & people who pinch pennies here are always disappointed. Just accept it & move on. That said – unless you are a millwork nerd like me there are plenty of nice melamine’s that folks use in high end homes. I always say go veneer but if you must save somewhere this is a good place rather than sacrificing the overall design or function. You can also go with a less expensive but similar material in your walk in closet, supplementary bathrooms, basement while choosing a higher end material in your kitchen, powder room, and en-suite.

    Insist on an actual paint sample when choosing colour & bring it to your house. Swatches won’t do the trick.

  • grando37 says:

    Take photos of all rooms before drywall goes up, so you know where studs, pipes, electrical run

    Consider interior insulation for noise dampening

    Think about putting conduit in where you want to mount TVs without visible wires

  • kelchm says:

    There is a lot of great advice in this thread so far.

    Remember that this is *your house* and you can specify how you want things done. There are many practices that are used in home construction (even by builders that have a “good reputation”) that are done because they are easier or marginally cheaper than doing it the *right* way.

    As a specific example, I am having HVAC retrofitted into my house this month and instead of fiberglass ductboard for the trunk lines I specified that metal ducting be installed and then wrapped with equivalent insulation. It’s marginally more expensive, but it’s far more durable and can easily be cleaned without causing damage.

    I’d suggest doing your own research on building science before you get underway. There a lot of really simple, inexpensive details that can be done which will make your house last longer and be more energy efficient. Things like how your windows are detailed to prevent water intrusion really matter!

    Some great resources I would start with are:

    * [https://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/](https://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/)
    * [https://www.youtube.com/user/MattRisinger](https://www.youtube.com/user/MattRisinger)

    Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be involved. You’re going to need to live with the choices that are made for (potentially) decades, so don’t leave things to chance!

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