Custom Home: The Mistakes We Already Know We Made

The one aspect of building our home that has brought me both comfort and angst is the fact that I know mistakes will be made; they’re inevitable. My hope, in the end, is that the mistakes that we do make in the construction stage will lead to something even better once completed.

While there are certainly little design aspects that we wish we had planned out differently – such as ensuring that our front doors were centred in our foyer – we are choosing to make the best of the design that we have and not dwell on those little things. However, we already know of two “bigger” mistakes that we’ve made that we would definitely do differently if we were to build another house.

Pay Attention to Window Sizes

The first mistake we made was to not pay close attention to our window sizes. Before building, I would have thought that bigger is better when it comes to windows but, now that we have big windows throughout, I really wish I had been more intentional on window sizes. To be honest, when we approved our initial plans, the window locations were shown but not the specific sizes. We actually didn’t know what our window sizes were until after the plans had been submitted to the City for approval and, at that point, we didn’t want to make any changes out of fear that it would delay the approval and the start of the construction.

Even before we started designing our home, I always wanted a breakfast nook off of the kitchen with built-in seating. We actually carved out additional square footage in our plans to ensure we could have that nook. Unfortunately, the windows that were included in the plans for that space span almost the entire wall from top to bottom; meaning, there’s not enough wall space to build a bench. When I first realized this, I actually felt as though I had been punched in the gut… This was the one aspect of our design that we knew we wanted and I never even thought of checking to make sure the windows were at a proper height/size.

So now we’ve let go of the built-in bench design and will get a nice table and chairs instead. It was an expensive mistake to make (as we probably would not have added the extra square footage if we weren’t going to get a built-in nook) and a lesson that I would stress to anyone who is building – make sure your windows fit your vision for the space!

Discuss Your Plans for Your Unfinished Space

Another mistake we made was not sharing our plans for our unfinished space with our builder from the onset. In my mind, I always knew that we would allocate a portion of our unfinished basement to our future gym and pool room. Paolo and I discussed doing a rough-in for a future bathroom in that space so that, later on when we finished the space, we can add a powder room and avoid having our kids or guests walk across our whole basement space to use the other bathroom.

I didn’t share this plan with our architect at the initial design stage since it was something we intended doing a few years down the road. Well, when we knew our builder was working on plumbing and getting ready to pour the concrete in the basement, we reached out to ask that they add a rough-in for a future powder room. The response was a resounding no…

It turns out that when your house is on a septic system, like ours, the size of the system is determined by factoring, among other things, the number of bathrooms in the house. Once the septic size is chosen, it is included in the initial building permit application. If we really wanted to add the powder room, we would have had to have an engineer recalculate the size of the septic, potentially create new plans and submit a request to the City to amend our permits. All of this would come at a significant cost and delay to us. So what could have been a few hundred dollars for a rough-in, would now cost us a few thousand dollars. Needless to say we will not be adding a bathroom in the gym/pool room.

It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is. Never assume you don’t need to discuss your intentions for an unfinished space. There are certain things done at the construction stage that could affect how you could use your space in the future. Another example is to let your builder know if you plan on installing a pool down the road – this may impact the size of your electrical panel, where your septic system is installed, how many trees are cleared during excavation, etc. If you know that you want to add or expand on a space in the future, it is really important to communicate those wishes with your builder from the onset.

I’m sure there will be many other things that we will wish we’d done differently once the house is actually finished and we are living in it but, for now, I feel as though it could have been much worse. The two “big” mistakes we’ve made have just meant that we needed to rethink our intentions for the space but they aren’t going to take away from the enjoyment of the home.

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