“Old Ways Won’t Open New Doors”

With our first home, we never even thought about our interior doors. It didn’t cross our minds that we could alter the doors; whatever was included is what we’d get. The only “upgrade” that we did was change our pantry door to a French door and I thought I was so clever for having thought of doing that…

A few years into our first home, I decided to paint all of our doors black and, wow, what a difference! That was the first time we realized how a space can be drastically changed just by updating the doors.

We smartened up (a little…) with our second home. While I still didn’t imagine that I could significantly change the doors, we decided to ask if it was possible to upgrade the doors from 7 feet to 8 feet and, sure enough, Mattamy Homes said yes! I’ve talked, in a previous post, about how significant of an impact the added height made to our home – not just from a design perspective but also from a functionality point. We also had the doors painted as soon as we moved in, this time in a dark gray/blue to match the grey tones of the house.

8-foot doors painted in Sherwin Williams Cyberspace

Now, with our custom home, I’m hoping that maybe the third time is a charm. We have forgone our old ways of just taking what is included when it comes to doors; below are some of our changes:

  • We upgraded all of the doors to 8 feet (I wish we could go higher but the prices rise drastically (in the $1,000s) with anything above 8 feet);
  • We chose all solid core doors; no more hollow doors for us;
  • We changed most of the bathroom doors to pocket doors so that we don’t need to account for the space that regular doors take up;
  • Where closets are concerned, we removed the doors altogether to make them feel more like change rooms as opposed to closed in closets;
  • We changed the pantry door to a swinging door – we keep all of our food in the pantry so we’re usually coming in and out of that space a lot – making it a swinging door means the kids can get in without having to ask us each time!;
  • We changed the door leading to our future gym in the basement to a glass door to allow sunlight to enter the space; and
  • The one I am MOST excited about is my office doors, which we changed to steel/glass barn doors!

While I am sure there is a lot more we could have upgraded to our doors, the above pretty much encompasses what was within reach from a budget and accessibility standpoint (our supplier provides all of the doors we wanted except for the office doors). Realistically, nothing is set in stone so, if in the future we decide that we want something even more custom, we could always make changes, one door at a time.

Custom Home: Month 10 – Windows, Doors and all…

Month 10 – aka February – started off really slow. The house actually sat idle for about two weeks due to a delay in our windows and doors. Around mid-month, the windows arrived and WOW! we love them! (The doors are still delayed but we won’t worry about that for now).

Windows and doors were the first selection we made for our house after finalizing the floorplans. Our builder includes black exterior windows in their quote but we chose to upgrade to black interior as well. The black interior is more expensive and, we are told, higher maintenance overall but it also adds a completely different look and feel to the house, which is what we are going for. The way we see it, windows should last several years (dare I say even a couple of decades), so might as well get the size, look and feel that you are going for because, once installed, they’re there to stay!

While the house may have sat idle, we did not. This month, we had a three hour meeting with a tile showroom consultant to narrow down our tile selections. Our builder has included a fairly generous tile budget in our purchase but we have to use his supplier – luckily, his supplier happens to be one the largest tile shops in the city, so we had plenty to choose from. We basically made our selections up to the maximum budget allowance and will then be getting any remainder tile ourselves (from outlet stores, Home Depot, Lowes, etc.). While we haven’t finalized any selections just yet (still waiting on the consultant to finalize the quote), here are some of the few that made the shortlist:

We also met with our stone supplier to discuss our various countertop selections. I think we’re going to end up playing it safe when it comes to countertops and just pick white and calacatta quartz countertops for the majority of the house. My only “daring choice” (if you can even call it that) is that I’m hoping for a leather-looking black-ish counter for the dry bar area in the great room – the only issue, however, is that I will need to pick something from the remnants that our supplier has because I don’t want to invest in purchasing an entire slab for just 6 feet of countertop, so my choices will be dependent on what is available at the time.

That pretty much sums up Month 10. Slowly decisions are being made and, with each month’s recap, we feel as though we are getting closer and closer to making this build our home!

Custom Home: Month 6 – Filling the Holes

Well… October was an eventful month on all fronts!

We started the month with a meeting with our exterior window and door supplier to make the selections for our home. With our Production Homes, we were lucky is we had a say on the color of our front door but, this time around, the decisions were endless. We were having to select window colours (exterior/interior), the sizes and layout of certain windows, which way they would open out, etc… After some careful consideration, we decided to change out our double French doors to a 12-foot sliding door in our great room because we didn’t want to give up the interior floor space required to leave room for the doors to open (we learned that, in our area anyway, you cannot have the doors open outwards which meant we would have to leave approximately 5 feet of space between the doors and our furniture in order to open them properly)…

When we were done selecting the windows and doors that would plug the (intentional) holes in our actual home, we then discovered that, due to water and organic matter on our land, we had to have a three to four foot engineered pad installed so as to prevent future water damage in our home. It didn’t sound like a big deal but it ended up coming with a big price tag! Disappointing to know that a good chunk of our upgrades budget has had to go towards compacting rocks into the ground (literally!) but the last thing any homeowner wants is water issues, so foregoing the pad was never an option. The hole in our land was filled by the end of October and is now sturdy enough for trucks to drive on!!!

Once the engineered pad was completed, our water well was dug (or drilled?). This will be our first time living on well water. We still need to do our research and do some upgrades with water softners, reverse osmosis, etc. but, from what we were told, they dug pretty deep and we should have some good water pressure!

The final missing “hole” to be filled this month??? Baby #2 of course!!! Our sweet BOY, Luca, made his appearance in a sudden (and a little traumatic) manner in mid-October. Our family of four is now complete! Theo has a new best bud, Paolo has another potential future golf buddy and I am officially likely to never have control of the television remote again!!!

Five Upgrades Worth Overpaying For

It’s no secret that Production Home builders often charge a huge premium for upgrades. Things such as extra pot-lights can easily run you $300 per light when you have them installed by the builder. So while it is always important to be selective on what items you upgrade through any builder, it is even more imperative to scrutinize your upgrades when you are buying a Production Home.

After our first home – where we upgraded in certain areas where it wasn’t worth doing (more on that in a future post!) – we learned to be a lot more purposeful in selecting our upgrades for the second home. Here’s a list of some of the upgrades that we did in our Production Homes and that I know we definitely overpaid for but that I would get all over again because I think they are SSOOO worth it…

  1. Eight Foot Doors
Eight foot doors with nine foot ceiling

This is a must any time you have nine foot ceilings (or higher). The visual impact is huge – the higher doors look and feel stately – but they are also very practical. The added foot means you have clear access to an extra shelf in the closets for storage.

2. Hardwood Stairs

Hardwood stairs with white risers

In our first home, we contemplated getting carpet stairs through the builder and then changing them to hardwood down the road. We spoke with a trusted friend who worked in the construction industry and he told us that the work involved to change out the stairs later on (including removing spindles, buying hardwood, etc.) would likely equal to the same, if not more, than our builder’s up-charge – so we decided to just have it done through Tartan at the time. When we bought our second home with Mattamy, it was a no-brainer – we paid the upgrade for the stairs, white risers and spindles.

3. Coffered Ceiling

Coffered ceiling in the great room

Coffered ceilings are a definite splurge item on any build and, even more so, when buying a Production Home. Having said that, we really wanted a statement piece in our family/great room to distinguish it from all the other cookie-cutter designs. And this upgrade definitely hit the mark – people always commented on how nice the ceiling looked when they walked in – it was an unexpected feature in our home.

4. Railing instead of Knee Wall

Railing instead of knee wall in the loft area

The infamous knee wall around the staircase often gets overlooked at the design stage – it’s not until you move in and see how closed off it looks when you look up or down that you realize railings, instead of a knee wall, allow for more light and make the space the look bigger.

5. Free Standing Tub and Glass Shower Enclosure

Standalone tub and glass shower enclosure instead of tub/shower combo

In our first home, we kept the master bathroom basic – we didn’t even add an extra sink. With our second Production Home, because we thought this would be our final home, we really wanted to make the master ensuite a sort of relaxing retreat. We paid a heavy premium for the standalone tub, glass shower enclosure and the tile surround in the shower but I think it was worth it. All of it came together nicely and definitely elevated the look and feel of our space.

As you can see, my top five upgrades are, for the most part, structural items that I know we never would have done ourselves afterwards. And while stairs can be upgraded, coffered ceilings can be added and the tub/shower could be updated down the road, we knew that these were items that offered high impact and that would be – even without the premium charged by the Builder – too expensive, time consuming and difficult for us to contract out later on…

Ultimately, you want to invest (and potentially overpay) in those items that will have the greatest impact on the look and feel of your home and for which you know would be too difficult to do yourself (or even to contract out) at a later date.