We are nearing the finish line of building our first home and cannot believe it. Time truly flies! In our first post, we talked about finding our builder, our must-haves and ultimately why we decided to build our first home instead of buying. We started the home-building process in mid-October and it has truly been a joy watching it go from a lot full of dirt, to foundation, frames and now a house we will move into soon. In this post, we want to touch on what actually building your first home is like, especially the build phase. Johnny and I did a ton of research before, during and still do but there’s nothing like learning on the job, so to speak. We hope this helps you with your home-building process!
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
One of the reasons Johnny and I chose the builder we did is they offer a lot of customization without the price tag of a fully custom home. We could add custom cabinetry and open shelves, get bigger windows, change the layout of our bathroom and more. They also have options to move rooms around, too. Regardless of whether you make a lot of changes or not, it is so important to always communicate.
Pretty early into the process, we had a sit-down meeting with our construction manager. He showed us the floor plan and went over every room in our home, including finishes and any custom changes we made. I cannot stress enough how important it is to come to this meeting with questions you want answered and to know exactly what you chose during your design center appointment. If something is wrong, this is the time to fix it. Trust me, the earlier you can clarify or rectify an issue the better.
Once permitting got underway and construction started, we would get weekly or bi-weekly calls from our builder and construction manager. These can range from quick updates including “your foundation is being poured tomorrow” to longer calls detailing what work is being done, if your house has passed certain inspections and more.
SPEAK UP POLITELY
Once the frame of your house is up and things start to take shape, you’ll most likely start to find things wrong here and there. They can be big or small. When bringing issues to light, please do it kindly. Chances are, your builder isn’t trying to do things wrong or to scam you. They are, however, building more than one house and sometimes mistakes happen. Bring things up kindly and don’t be demanding. You don’t want to be that homeowner.
Take for example the window above. We paid to get these bigger windows when we signed our contract. They were the first upgrade with the exception of our larger lot. When the house was framed, we quickly noticed the slot for the windows was for the standard option. We notified our construction manager who assured us they would be swapped out. They were, then we noticed they have mullions, which are the grids. We were not expecting these at all. Every house with these picture windows from our builder we had toured had windows without mullions. We spoke up about this to our construction manager, who said nothing could be done. We reached out to our design center representative who talked to her supervisor and eventually our construction manager said they would do right by us and remove the mullions.
VISIT YOUR NEW HOME BUILD OFTEN
It’s going to feel like a full-time job, especially toward the end when things start moving quickly (at least for us!). When our home was being framed, we would only visit maybe once every two or three weeks. Before our pre-drywall meeting, we hired a third-party inspector to come out and make sure everything our builder was doing was right and by code. I cannot stress enough how important it is to hire your own inspector. Yes, the city will inspect it, the builder will hire their own third-party inspector but none of these people work for you. Even if you have the best relationship with your construction manager, which we have, it’s crucial to hire a third-party inspector to keep everything in check.
Once drywall was up and finishes started going in, we started checking on the house almost every week and now we are at a few times a week. It sounds a lot, but we are told by our construction manager at this stage, twice a week is about normal. Think about it: your walls are being painted, tile is going in, your countertops are being installed… you want to be there to make sure everything is right and up to par. You’ll save your builder money and yourself time catching things in the early stages.
I’ve dreamed of a white-painted brick house for as long as I can remember. Johnny and I both love the clean look of white brick with black trim. In our design center meeting, we spent so much time figuring out the perfect mix of black and white. We triple checked with our own personal designer. In the horizontal photo above, you will notice the paint looks a lot different from one below. That’s because it’s wrong. The painters thought we wanted the gable above the porch all black when only the top trim needed to be black. We quickly corrected them and showed a photoshopped photo I made of what our house was supposed to look like.
Our construction manager assured us it would be fixed. However, a few days later, we came to the house to watch our island slab get installed and saw the painters adding even more black to the house! They thought we wanted our pillars and porch black, too. We immediately told them to stop, shared the photoshopped photo with the painters themselves and also reminded our builder. Fortunately, everything was able to be fixed. After all, it’s just paint, but much easier to fix sooner rather than later.
Our paint colors are Sherin Williams Toque White for the painted brick and the black trim is Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black.
ENJOY THE PROCESS
I can’t tell you how giddy it makes us to visit our new build. When people ask what it’s actually like to build your first home, all I can think of is how much joy it brings us. Yes, there are ups and downs and it’s been a huge rollercoaster for us. But through all the issues, a few failed inspections and some things not going our way, we enjoy the process. There’s nothing like seeing a floorplan you picked, finishes you poured your heart and soul over, come together to form your future home.
One of the most exciting parts for us was watching our quartz waterfall island get installed. We struggled with whether or not we could afford to do this and in the end, Johnny and I made some sacrifices to make this kitchen happen. We chose beautiful quartz with veining to go on our island and white Silestone for the back counters. More information on our stone here.
Take a ton of photos! See something wrong? Snap a photo to email or text to your construction manager. Sharing progress with family and friends? You’ll want photos. For us, we love having these photos to look back on. We are thinking of creating a small gallery wall to showcase the process of building our very first home in each phase. You’ll want the photos to look back on, trust me. Even for us, time is flying and we’re so thankful to have photos to remember the process. Some days, we kinda miss the framing stage, hehe! But we certainly don’t miss our pre-drywall meeting during freezing temps! We’re glad things are warmer and we have HVAC!
Pro Tip: Photos pre-drywall are also great so you know where all the electrical, plumbing and studs are for future projects or just any work you may need. Before you bust open a wall or anything, consult the photos.
BE PATIENT & TRUST YOUR GUT
Sometimes during the process, you may find yourself wanting the next step and the next step. Take it slow and be patient. Sometimes if things look wrong, that may just be the process and let some of it come together before you doubt your design decisions. However, if you feel something in your gut, speak up and see if a change can be made. Usually once you leave the design center and have signed those documents changes could cost you. Once your house is past a certain stage, changes can’t be made.
One change we made after visiting the design center was changing our subway tile in ou master shower from a brick pattern to herringbone. It cost us more money and cost us to make the change but we are so glad we did it! At first I didn’t plan on making the switch but my gut kept saying I should, so we went for it.