When we purchased our first builder grade home, we took all that we could get! Meaning, builder grade mirrors in all of the bathrooms (think – rectangle glass with no frame); cookie-cutter cabinetry hardware; “boob” lights; round doorhandles; basic baseboards and trim, etc.
By the time we purchased our second Production Home, we knew better than to just take what was being offered. Sure, certain things we agreed to pay the inflated upgrade cost because it was easier to have the builder install them (i.e.: we upgraded the baseboards, the door handles (which included matching door hinges and stoppers), etc.) but other things we simply asked to leave it blank and we handled on our own afterwards.
Now – full disclosure – unlike with a custom builder, you don’t save any costs by omitting what a production builder includes. At least with our Production builders, they just scratched our items off the list but didn’t provide any credits for doing so. Even so, below is a list of items we omitted in our second home so as to allow us the opportunity to put our own touch in the house afterwards.
Mirrors are probably the number 1 thing that will give away whether something is custom or builder grade. Production Builders are notorious for using rectangular frameless mirrors in every bathroom. What’s more, they install the mirrors before painting – so if you decide to change it out later, you basically have to first paint the whole wall. There are some great DIYs that can be done to builder grade mirrors (i.e.: to add trim) to make them look more expensive but given the number of affordable options that you can get at pretty much any home store, we chose to omit all of the mirrors in our second home and just installed our own. It made a huge difference!
Omitting the builder grade cabinetry hardware was another no-brainer for us. Finding something we liked and mastering the art of installing the hardware ourselves (had to make sure everything was level and aligned before drilling any holes!) took some time but when I look back at the kitchen handles in our first home versus what we purchased on our own for our second home, I think this is definitely one of those items that you do not want to compromise on and that is worth omitting if your builder doesn’t offer exactly what you are looking for.
Another reason to potentially forego builder grade cabinetry hardware is because, at least in our case, our builder charged an upgrade fee to mix different hardware (i.e.: pulls on drawers and knobs on doors). So not only did they not have exactly what we wanted, they would have charged us more just to install different hardware (despite the fact that there’s no additional labour involved…).
Toilet paper holders and bath towel rods are another area where one can easily tell what is “builder grade” and what is custom. Sturdy accessories (as opposed to the cheap plastic-made-to-look-like-chrome accessories seen in builder grade bathrooms) are a great and inexpensive way to add a more personal touch to even the most builder basic of bathrooms. And, as an added bonus, you get to pick where you want to place your accessories!
All in all, I am not one to simply pay for something and not use it. I think that is why, in our first home, I let the builder install everything that was included. I thought it was irresponsible to simply forego something I was paying for (since the builder wasn’t offering a credit) just to then go out and spend more money on a higher end version of essentially the same thing… However, having lived with the above builder grade finishes in our first home and then seen the value added from doing our own thing in our second home, I genuinely believe that these are items that come at a relatively inexpensive additional cost but that offer a lot of value to your space.