Whether you are building custom or buying spec, one of the most enjoyable parts is picking out the materials. Balancing the ever growing list of “must-have” items with your budgetary reality can be difficult, especially when presented with such a tantalizing list of upgrades and options to choose from.
My wife and I recently spent the morning at a designer’s office picking out flooring, countertops, and other finishes. The cost of some upgrades was shocking compared to others. Going from granite to Caesarstone was surprisingly inexpensive. Going from builder-grade carpet to something a bit fancier would have been $8,500.
Likewise, the upgrade from the spec front door to the full-lite frosted glass masterpiece was $750–about the same as upgrading all of the kitchen cabinets to premium. Both of those are likely to make an impression on a regular basis, but only the front door can be swapped out with minimal effort or financial penalty at any time down the road.
The process of picking finishes is perhaps best approached with a heavy dose of pragmatism. You should consider the following criteria for each upgrade:
- Does it fit into the budget?
- Does the value added by this change meet or exceed its cost?
- Will this upgrade cost significantly more later on?
- Does making this change cause any rework?
Pretend you’re considering changing your fridge to a deluxe built-in model. Maybe getting the fancy fridge fits in the budget and adds a lot of perceived value to your home. Since the cabinets are already being built, the cost of the change now vs a few years down the line is about the same. That $8,000 fridge is now going to cost $12,000 because of the rework. Now how attractive is that upgrade?
We are already generating a list of things we’d like to implement now but we’ll defer until a remodel sometime around year 10-15. There will be no built-in fridge for us this time around, but maybe (just maybe) when the kids are older.
My wife and I have learned a thing or two about working together in the years we’ve been together. We know we both get hungry and crabby after a couple hours of shopping, touring, or making home decisions. We know that I get antsy if my feet get too hot and she falls apart when dehydrated. As a result, any successful trip to the design center requires granola bars, bottled water, and breathable walking shoes.
When we go to design meetings, I typically carry a roll of the house plans, an iPad, and a notepad and pencil. We also bring a partitioned folder that contains color samples for indoor and outdoor and blocks that match our wood trim, cabinets, and doors.
Know what you need in order for your planning sessions and shopping trips to be successful. You don’t want to end up with a sub-par refrigerator or countertops you can’t stand because you weren’t in the right frame of mind or didn’t have the wall sample color handy.
Believe in Yourself
Our builder and the designer related similar anecdotes about clients who spent hours and hours picking out all of the surface details in their home only to get home and begin second-guessing themselves. In one case, the client put the order on hold and returned to the design center to review every choice only to determine that everything was perfect the first time through. In the other case, the client spent hours changing every element only to come back a third time and pick out everything they had chosen the first time through.
The moral of these stories is obvious: don’t second guess yourself.
Up until that point, I had been ruminating over the interior doors we chose. Was our choice overly thematic? Will the bi-fold closet doors in the kids’ rooms look silly? Will people line up at my front door to make fun of my poor choice in millwork? Of course, this was just me over-thinking it. My wife and I agree that the design is beautiful and no amount of re-picking is going to benefit us.
Set yourself up for success and have faith in your decisions. You have a lot of choices to make and it should be a pleasurable process. Don’t break the bank or make any rash decisions and you’ll have a beautifully finished home you’ll be happy to live in… until you decide it’s time to remodel.