BEST OF BYHYU: What Homeowners Would Do Differently If They Built Again—Advice From Those Who Have Already Built A Custom Home —BYHYU 161
As we plan to build our homes, I thought it would be a good idea to scour several blogs and forums to get advice from those who have built before. I specifically wanted to find out what mistakes people had made in planning and building their homes—what they would do differently if they were to build again. So I’ve compiled an extensive list which details the things that homeowners would do, and did do differently when building their second, third and even fourth houses.
Let’s learn from the experiences of others, so we won’t make similar mistakes. Now, some of what others consider “misses” won’t matter to you in the least. Some features should not be included in your house plans because they won’t enhance the way you live. And many of the suggestions are pretty luxurious in nature, so they may not fit everyone’s budget or style. Take suggestions that resonate most with you and the vision you have for your home. But listen with your current and future lifestyle in mind. Think about how you currently live in your home and how you might live in 5, 10 or even 20 years.
Before we get into the main topic, let’s talk about our pro terms for this week. There are 3 of them because they’re closely related and people often get them confused. They’re roofing terms. The first is:
Eave: An eave is the edge of a roof. It is the overhanging lowest part of a roof. Eaves usually project beyond the side of the house for both decorative and practical reasons. The eaves project beyond the house to direct rain water or snow away from sides of the house and larger eaves provide shade.
Two of the main parts that make up the eave are the fascia and the soffit.
Fascia: Frontward/forward facing trim of the eave; gutters are often attached to the fascia.
Soffit: The underside of the eave—the part of the eave that faces downward. To make it easy to remember, you can relate the soffit to another S word like sidewalk or soil. The soffit is the part of the eave that faces the sidewalk and soil. It's not uncommon to have vents in soffits that provide ventilation to the attic.
So, our Pro Terms for this week are:
eave-- the edge of the the roof.
soffit--the sidewalk/soil facing part of the eave.
fascia--front-facing/forward-facing part of the eave.
Now, let’s get to the mini lesson. Again, I’ve compiled a list of the things people wish they would have done differently when building their houses. It’s their advice to those who are planning to build. Let me warn you, though, there are a lot of comments about electrical outlets. More than I ever expected. And even though it may not seem like a big deal, too few and poorly placed outlets caused quite a bit of frustration for those you have built in the past. See if any of these suggestions give you some ideas about your own house plan.
This first list is advice is about:
Electrical & Plumbing
1. Think about where you’ll place your furniture— your side tables, bookcases and anywhere you want floor or table lamps. Where will your TVs or other electronics go? Sketch out your floor plan in advance so you can guide your electricians in the placement of floor and wall outlets
2. Have the electrician wire your home with 2 breaker boxes— one for essentials, like the refrigerator and kitchen lights, and one for non-essentials, in case you wish to add an emergency generator in the future
3. Have 4 socket outlets installed near the bedside table in bedrooms and near the sinks and vanities in bathrooms. Who says you can only have 2 socket outlets? These areas notoriously need more outlets to plug things in.
4. Have a dedicated Christmas or holiday electrical circuit and light switch that control lights on the trees, garland, mantles, and any outside lights you wish to display during the holidays. Along the same lines, have electrical outlets installed in areas that you plan to decorate with holiday lights. If you’re someone who likes candlestick lights in every window, have outlets placed near each window. Or if like holiday lights running along your mantles, your stair rails and around your doors, have the electrician add outlets to those areas. And don’t forget to have outlets installed for outdoor lights near your front door, along railings and along the eaves of the roof, if you put lighting along your roofline.
5. Add a solar fan for the attic which makes your house more energy efficient
6. Have structured internet wiring installed in your home— Ethernet and coaxial cabling. And make sure there is an Ethernet port, by each TV outlet since a lot of the new TVs allow you stream television shows and movies through Netflix and Hulu. I know what you're thinking… we want wireless internet. Well, let the iPads and other mobile devices stream wirelessly. But your televisions, desktop computers, video games, theater rooms should be wired whenever possible. That way more bandwidth will be freed up for the wireless devices, and this allows the smart TVs and other stationary web-connected devices to use faster and more reliable wired connections
7. Prewire for a security system & cameras
8. Put a wall switch in each room that is linked to most of the power outlets in that room, that way most electronics can be turned off by that wall switch when you leave the room. This is a great energy saver
9. Have a hot water recirculating pump installed. This small motor keeps the water circulating so that you have instant hot water at all faucets no matter how far away they are from the water heater It saves gallons of water that would ordinarily be wasted while waiting for hot water. The alternative is to have tankless water heaters installed
10. Take pictures of all the walls before Sheetrock goes up so you have a record of where all the wiring and pipes are, in case you need to reference those pictures for future electrical or plumbing changes. I’m actually planning on taking photos throughout the construction process— starting when the lot is being clear and prepared and taking several pictures of all the work done until the house is completed. This does two things— 1. it gives you a visual record of all the work done on your house just in case there are any questions about what materials or construction methods were used during construction. As you know, much of the structure of a home is hidden after construction is complete, so this gives you proof of what was used and how, if, God forbid, you have any issues with workmanship after you move in. The second advantage to keeping a photo diary of the entire construction process is that it could help keep contractors of their p and q’s. If they know that you are taking photos of their work, I bet they will be less likely to cut corners and do subpar work. I know most contractors have our best interest at heart, but just in case you run into some that don’t, seeing you take photos on a regular basis will probably encourage them to do good work
11. Record measurements and the location of anything under the slab, and of various utilities out in the yard. Again photos can be very helpful here
12. Put shut off valves for the whole house in the garage or mudroom for easy access
Closets & Organization
1. Don’t forget electrical outlets in walk-in closets in case you want to steam or iron clothes while you are IN the closet
2. Vents in walk-in closets for air circulation
3. Have not only double rods that you see in most closets for hanging shirts and pants, but remember to include single rods to accommodate long clothing like dresses and robes
4. Make bedroom and linen closets larger than you think you'll need
5. Make laundry and mudrooms larger than you think you’ll need, especially if you will be using those spaces for pet crates, litter boxes, pet food and other pet paraphernalia. You might also want to include an exhaust fan in the area the you plan to house pets and litter boxes
6. Motion sensor or door jamb activated lights in closets
7. One storage area that is often forgotten is the broom closet. Put a full sized broom closet in the mudroom, pantry or laundry room to keep your cleaning supplies out of sight
8. Have a seasonal walk-in closet especially for holiday decorations with hangers for wreaths and space for Christmas trees and storage bins
1. If your tub is beside a window that you want to gaze out of while bathing, make sure that the window is positioned low enough for you to take advantage of the view when you are actually IN the tub
2. Put an electrical outlet in master toilet closet so you can plug in a night light or or a fancy bidet toilet seat
3. Outlets inside vanity cabinets and drawers or a bathroom appliance garage. That way hair dryers, curling irons, electric razors, and electric toothbrushes can be left plugged in for easy use, but stored away so countertops and clear and tidy
4. Heated towels racks, not just for the luxury of having warm towels, but so towels will dry between showers, making bacteria and mildew less likely to grow
5. Instead of placing shower niches on walls where ugly shampoo bottles can easily be seen from outside the shower, put niches in more inconspicuous places, like on a shower wall facing inward, so that the person in the shower can see the niche, but those walking past cannot. Those niches look really pretty when they’re empty, but can look cluttered after they are filled with mismatched shampoo and conditioner bottles
6. Built-in, Pull out laundry hampers or laundry chutes for all bathrooms
7. Powder room near mudroom or back entrance so kids and visitors in the backyard can get to the bathroom easily
8. Tell your framer that you want reinforced bathroom walls so you can add grab bars in the future. These reinforced walls might go near the tub and in the shower and near the toilet or anywhere you think grab bars might be helpful
1. Don’t forget the wiring and cable hookup if you want an outdoor, waterproof television
2. Prewire speakers outdoor audio
3. Run a conduit along the driveway for future outdoor wiring or plumbing needs. A conduit is just hollow tubing, some people even use PVC piping. Those who have built before say they would have also put conduits IN the house from the basement to the attic for future wiring and plumbing within the house
4. Ensure you have water hose outlets (called hose bibs) and power outlets on the outside of all four sides of your house, so you don’t have to drag an extra long water hose or and extra long extension cord around your home when you are doing lawn work or washing windows or siding. You should also put an hose outlet and electrical outlet in places where you can easily reach those outlets when standing on your porch, deck or balcony
5. Enclose the soffit and wrap the fascia in vinyl wrap. Many contractors charge extra for this, but those who have built in the past say it’s worth the fee. Otherwise, you will hate the unfinished look. And those unfinished eaves tend to attract bird and wasp nests. In addition, you’ll have the future expense of having to have the trim painted. All those annoyances can be easily be avoided by having the soffit and fascia fitted with maintenance free vinyl. And in case you think you can do it later, it costs twice as much to do after the house is built
6. Cold AND hot water facet is needed outdoors if you plan to wash your pets outside. Alternatively, you could put a raised dog wash in your garage, mudroom or laundry room
7. Pre wire for motion sensors for selected exterior lights
8. Keypad entry on garage and/ or front doors
9. Have a Gas line installed in areas where you want a gas grill or fireplace.
10. If you planning on having a pool or an area for your children or grandchildren to play sports, you might consider adding a built-in drinking fountain.
11. Wire for an outdoor hot tub if your future plans include one.
1. Put electrical outlets in kitchen pantry for charging electronics or cordless vacuums and for appliances that you may want to reside in the pantry, like microwaves or toasters.
2. Have electric outlets built into the kitchen island or peninsula. Place them under the overhang so we can plug in slow cookers or phone chargers.
3. Several people said they wished they had Recessed their fridge, meaning building walls or cabinetry around the refrigerator so it looks built-in
4. Put cabinets or drawers on the both sides of kitchen islands for extra storage.
5. Warming drawer and/or a refrigerator drawer near the dining room or in the butler's pantry
6. Pantry entrance near both the kitchen AND the garage, or if you have the space, your pantry could have 2 doors- one near the garage and one to the kitchen
7. Motion sensor or door jamb activated light in the pantry
8. Have gas AND electrical lines set up in the kitchen so you can choose either gas and electric appliances. This is also a great selling point if you plan to eventually put your house up for sale. If you’ve watched House Hunters on HGTV, you know how particular some people are about whether they have an electric or gas stove.
9. Pull-out bins for garbage/recycling/ even laundry. Why a laundry bin? For dirty dish towels, napkins, aprons and baby bibs
10. Paper towel holder recessed in a drawer space
11. Two soap pumps at sink—one for hand soap and one for dish soap.
12. An appliance garage or some other hidden-away, easy-access place to store frequently used appliances, like coffee makers, toasters, blenders and can openers.
13. A small towel rack mounted on the inside of the cabinet under the kitchen sink where you can hang dish towels so they can dry, but be out of sight.
1. Add stair step lighting for any stairways you have inside and outside. This is a bit on the luxurious extra but it’s also a safety feature.
2. Light switch to the attic in the hallway before you enter the attic (and remember to include lights in attic itself)
3. Solar tubes or sky lights for areas that don’t get natural sunlight
4. Use 3 way switches where you want to turn lights on and off from more than one place in a room. The three way switch is always used in pairs and allows you to turn a light on and off from two different locations. You probably have some 3 way switches in your current home. They’re often used in hallways. Ask your electrician his opinion about where you should include 3 way switches in your house plan
5. Master switch that controls all exterior lights or to put exterior lights on timers.
6. A master switch at each exit (Front, back or garage), that turns off all the lights in the house when you are leaving.
7. Put ambient lighting (those in cabinets & built-ins) on timers so they'll come on and off automatically.
8. Have a light switch placed near the head of your beds so you and your family can turn out the lights once you are in bed.
1. Talk to HVAC contractor about where heating and air vents will go so they won’t be installed where you want to place furniture or in high traffic areas like in front of patio doors. If you’ve ever lived in a house with heating and air vents in high traffic areas, I bet you and your feet remember.
2. Make interior doorways 3' wide to make moving furniture and walking through while carrying laundry baskets and groceries easier. This is also an aging in place feature because it will allow for the passage of wheelchairs and walkers, if they are ever needed
3. Make halls 4’ wide for the same reasons
4. Another aging in place piece of advice is to Plan for an elevator shaft, in case you want to install one later. Use that space as storage closets until you the elevator is needed
5. Add a few extra feet to the garage for you can easily walk around the cars and so you will have plenty of storage space
6. Put a regular door in the garage that leads to the outdoors so you don’t have to open the garage door when you are taking the trash out or walking from the garage to the outside for other reasons.
7. If you have a crawl space foundation, have lights put in that area for plumbers and other workers who might at some point need to work under the house.
8. Have recessed cut outs placed in the walls of the mudroom, pantry and/or garage for fire extinguishers.
9. An entrance to the basement from outside so deliveries and repair men don't have to go through the house.
10. Have a drain placed in the garage to get rid of the excess water from melting snow off of cars. Local codes in some areas won’t allow this, so consult your local building authorities before including this in your house plan.
11. Finally, have thermostats placed at the far end of the walls instead of toward the center of the walls so they don’t interfere with picture hanging.
I hope this information sparked some thoughts for you about how you actually live. What are your weekday and weekend routines? How do you entertain? Include only those things that will make living in your home more comfortable, convenient, enjoyable and economical.
Well, I got lots of great ideas for my own home design. I hope you did too. If you think some of these suggestions would be helpful for friends or family who are in the midst of designing or building a house, you can share the link to this page by text or email. You can also share the link with your Facebook or Twitter community.
Ok, let’s do a couple of quiz questions.
1. What part of the roof’s eave faces forward or frontward?
The answer is Fascia.
2. Why is creating a photo diary by taking pictures throughout your construction process a good idea?
A. It gives you a record of where wiring, pipes and other structures are just in case repairs or changes need to be made in the future.
B. It gives you proof of what materials and construction methods were utilized during construction.
C. It discourages contractors from cutting corners and using subpar materials
since they know there be a visual record of their work.
D. All of the above.
The answer is D, all of the above. A photo diary gives you evidence of work completed and materials used. You, or someone you designate, can simply go by the construction site everyday or every few days, and take pictures of the work in progress. Much of the information you capture in your photos will be hidden once the home is complete. Plan on keeping most of the photos indefinitely in case you need future repairs and if any disputes arise with your contractors.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete and it’s subject to change, so it may not apply to your project. Always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
I’m glad you joined me for this week’s episode of Build Your House Yourself University (BYHYU). I hope you come back next time.