Giving Some Thought to the Electrical Component of our Home

When we built our first Production Home, we had no idea how to prepare for any of the decisions that needed to be made. We just showed up for each meeting with our builder and took their recommendations and advice.

Often times, with Production Home builders, you’ll be discussing any structural issues, electrical choices and plumbing locations all in one (brief) meeting, so the more “preparations” you can do ahead of time, the better. Whether you will be reviewing electrical selections during a more broad meeting or whether you will have a meeting with your builder to specifically discuss the electrical component of your house, it’ll pay to show up ready. Below are some of the ways we will be preparing for making the electrical decisions in our next home.

Print your floorplans

We didn’t do this with our first two houses but have done it with our custom home and it really helps! We printed several copies of our floorplans and used a clean version for each electrical component that we could thing of. For example, we used one copy to set out the outlet placements; another for the light switches; one for the media layout (plugs, speakers, etc.); a fourth for the lighting such as wall sconces, pot lights, pendants, etc. Having each component on separate copies makes it easier to review and see where to change, add, omit, etc…

Consider the use of each space

I cannot stress this one enough! Here are some examples of spaces we didn’t consider when we designed our first two homes:

  1. Stairs
  • The next time around, we’ll be adding outlets at the top and bottom (and middle since we’re going to have a landing) of our stairs so that we can decorate for Christmas to our hearts’ content;
  • We’re also considering adding in-wall stair lighting because, well, why not!
Had we thought of including an outlet at the bottom of these steps (in the little corner nook behind the table) we could used that table more efficiently – maybe added a lamp for ambient lighting, or a charge station for our electronics, or a diffuser for scent..

2. Outlets

  • Pantry – especially if you have a walk-in pantry and plan on storing small kitchen appliances in there;
  • Closets – if your building code allows for outlets in the closet, it would be a great place to hide some of the unsightly items such as wifi repeaters;
  • Bedrooms – consider the furniture layout ahead of time and ensure to place outlets on either side of the bed (a lot easier than running extension cables under the bed to plug in phone chargers and side lights, etc.)
  • Floors – if you know you’re going to have side lamps near your couch, consider placing an outlet on the floor to avoid having a cord running through your living space;
  • Kitchen counters – place outlets as close as possible to the kitchen counters or upper cabinetry – no sense in investing in a nice backsplash, only to have it ruined by the look of electrical outlets
  • Kitchen Island – give some thought to how you use plan on using your kitchen island. If there is seating, you’ll likely find yourself working on a computer there at some point, so add an outlet under the counter near the seating to allow you to plug your laptop (see photo below);
  • Outdoor space – don’t just look down for outlets, consider having them up top (near or in the soffit) – we’ll be adding outlets to the roof of our covered porch so that we can mount space heaters and maybe hang some string lights;
The outlet on our island was close to the fridge which meant I had to run an extension cable across the island, regardless of where I sat

3. Switches

  • Bedroom – we’re adding switches on either side of all of the beds in order to be able to install reading lights that can be turned on/off without getting up;
  • Consider mirror (and other wall decor) placements – we ended up having a light switch behind our entry mirror (photo below) which meant that we rarely turned on the light in the entry hallway;
The light switch behind this mirror rendered the lighting in this space useless (sure, we could have installed the mirror more to the right but then it would not have been centred and would have driven me nuts)

4. Lighting

Don’t forget lighting – all lighting! We never considered wall sconces in our first two homes but there are numerous places – such as this window seat between two bedrooms – where we could have used some extra lighting.

Even with all the preparations ahead of time, I’m sure that once we move in we will find things that we forgot about or regretted regarding our electrical choices but hopefully the above will help us (and you!) to maximize the electrical component of our home.

Custom Home: Months 7 and 8 – Turning our Vision into Reality with a Strong Foundation and Lots of 2x4s…

Ok so, somehow, November turned into December and now the year is over… 2020 gave us plenty of blessings but it was by no means a great year (no year wherein a pandemic essentially paralyzes the entire world could ever be classified as a great year…). I think I speak for everyone when I say “bring on 2021!!!”.


We started the month by meeting with our builder’s interior designers. Our builder provides the services of an independent designer as part of their package – they are there to ensure we keep on track timeline wise and they can offer suggestions and design advise, if needed (we’re pretty set in our ways and know what we want but it’s still nice there is someone there to bounce off ideas, if needed).

Mid-month, we met with the plumbing suppliers to choose our fixtures. Another good thing with working with a builder’s suppliers – they have your plans, know your budget and know your builder! So after visiting the store a few times to try to nail down what we wanted, we set up an appointment with a representative and he walked us through each room and helped us make our selections. We ended up with a broad range of choices – from black plumbing fixtures in boys’ bathrooms, gold in the powder room and chrome in the ensuite!!!

Dreaming of using this bridge faucet at our kitchen sink…

As for the our land – the foundation was completed!!! We can now see our elevation and how high our house will sit on the lot (the engineered pad we placed to secure against any water issues meant that the house is going to sit higher than we expected but we love it!).


Our house has taken shape!!! The carpenters worked hard in December and almost managed to finish framing the entire place! Unfortunately, they ran out of time before the holidays and weren’t able to install the trusses as they had hoped but we can now walk through the main floor and see each room division, window sizes, etc…

Paolo and I visited a tile outlet (Eurotile) and purchased some tile for the house that we wanted to save on. Outlets are great for savings but it means you have to take possession of the tile right away – so we both carried about 800lbs of tile from the store, to the basement in our rental and will later bring it back upstairs and deliver it to the lot when the time comes… Totally worth it since we saved, on average, at least 40% on the tile.

We also met with the designers again to go over our wish list for the millwork. We already knew that we weren’t going to fit everything into our budget, so we’ve decided to focus our resources on the kitchen and, hopefully, the bathrooms. The rest, such as the pantry and mudroom, will be projects that Paolo and I will take on in the future.

All in all, November and December were definitely the biggest months thus far in terms of progress. Our government has instituted another lockdown for the holidays and into the third week of January, so I’m not sure how much we will advance next month or whether it will cause delays in the end but, for now, we’ll just take our time walking the property and admiring what is already there…

While we didn’t get to “wake up” in our home for Christmas this year, we did visit the house on the 25th with Theo – he got to keep his pjs on and see his future room! Hopefully, this time next year, we’ll be wrapping up our first holiday season in the CasaCres forever 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!!!

Custom Home : Month 5 – Making Room for the House

September was a fun month for our future home!

During the entire summer, we would drive up to our lot and go for walks around the neighbourhood but we couldn’t actually walk the lot itself because it was overgrown with weeds, grass (and who knows what else…). So we had to admire it from afar…

The whole time, we thought that our builder was waiting on the building permits in order to start clearing the land. So, when we got the call to meet with the excavation people, we assumed that the permits had been issued – I even (prematurely) posted on my Instagram that we got our Building Permits! Turns out that you actually don’t need building permits to clear land and we have not yet received our building permits but… our land was cleared in September!!!

We started off by meeting with the representative of the excavation company and walking through the lot with him to see where the house could be placed (taking into consideration placement for well, septic, driveway, maybe a future pool, etc.). We selected a few trees along the perimeter that we were hoping to keep. Unfortunately, there was a whole section of trees that ran along the side of our property line that we really wanted to keep but couldn’t due to grading issues and, in any event, those particular trees were apparently not in the best of shape to begin with… Disappointing but we’ve already discussed the possibility of planting some trees along there later on.

After a few false starts which added some days to the job (the first machine broke down within less than 15 minutes of starting and then, once the second machine was delivered, it needed some repairs before they could get started), the land was cleared within about one day of actual tree clearing.

Next step is to begin digging and get ready to pour the foundation. We won’t know until they get started whether we will need a building pad (which is not included in our purchase price). Our neighbour, who built his house last year, had to get one so we expect that we will as well… fingers crossed we somehow miraculously don’t or, if we do, it’s a short one because I would hate for our “extras” budget to be eaten up before we even have the foundation poured!!!

Custom Home : Months 1 to 4 – Plan! Plan! Plan!

My first (not-to-scale) attempt at designing our home.

The first few months of designing a custom home are probably the most significant but, still, they felt so theoretical since it consisted of mainly “paperwork”.

At the end of April, we had already locked down the company that we had chosen to be our builder. Once the purchase of the land was finalized in May 2020, we started working with the architectural designer to design the house. Since we were in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, our exchanges were primarily via email. The designer reached out and asked us to send him as much information and pictures as possible of our “wish list” to give him an idea of what we were looking for.

Eight emails (and several attachments) later, I had basically described as much as possible of what we had been dreaming of for our custom home. I also provided the above drawing that was, of course, not to scale but that set out how we hoped the rooms could transition in our home.

I had poured hours and hours over floor plans online of bungalow/one-story homes but I didn’t like the flow in any of them… I was really looking for spaces to be divided by hallways; instead, a lot of the homes we were seeing omitted the hallways (probably as a means to save square footage), so you would just step from one room into another, which I didn’t like.

The architectural designer took my scrawny pencil drawing (and numerous emails) and came back a few weeks later with our dream floor plan! We never met him, hadn’t even spoken to him on the phone at the point, and he just got it – he knew what we wanted. Of course, it wasn’t 100% done – we had a few back and forth exchanges over specific details and, ultimately, about 4 versions of the plans – but it was so close that we were finally able to start getting excited about the possibilities. (I won’t share the final floor plans since, technically, they are someone else’s work but my Instagram account is sure to provide a good idea of the design as I walk through the spaces, once things get started.)

After the plans were finalized, a lot of the work was done behind the scenes by our builder and his team. The floorplans turned into engineered drawings; drawings setting out the location of the house on our land, including slope percentages, etc., were made; and a whole package was put together and submitted to the City for building permits. The whole process – from start to finish – took about four months and then, in September, we got word that the land was ready to be cleared!

Finally – some tangible progress that we will be able to see and walk through!!!

Custom Home : The Very Beginning

Paolo is the one who discovered our land on a whim in the Fall of 2019. He found it vaguely advertised online and decided to call the number for the land developer listed on the website. The developer explained that the land had been bought a few years ago by a family who lived in Saudi Arabia and who had been planning on building in Ottawa. They had since changed their mind and asked the developer if he could list the land as available on his website.

Paolo drove over to see the land and instantly fell in love with the area – two acres, at the back of a cul-de-sac with only three other houses on the street. Location wise, it was only minutes from the main highway and less than 8 minutes from our current house.

He called me at work to tell me about it – I only somewhat listened to what he was saying… It’s not that I wasn’t interested (I was!) but I just didn’t want to get excited about the prospect of actually being able to design and build our own home on a lot located exactly where we’d always talked about wanting to live. I knew that if I let myself be open to the idea, I would become fully invested and, inevitably, disappointed since it just didn’t seem possible. We had been living in what we thought was our forever production home for less than three years and I knew that we had some equity in the house already but nothing that would allow us to consider making any kind of substantial profit to then fund our custom home build.

So, for the first three months or so, I held off on being involved. Paolo said he wanted to explore the option himself – just to see… He had a few telephone discussions with the land developers and met with several builders. He even had a number of potential builders meet him at our current home so that they could get a sense for our taste and style – I had made it clear to him that I wouldn’t build a house with finishes that were less than what we already had.

Meanwhile, we had agreed that if it was meant to be, then it would happen – we weren’t going to force the issue. We agreed that we would not rush into things simply because the land was available – if the sellers got another offer, we would walk away and not engage in a bidding war. We were very specific about style and must-haves for our custom design – so if the builders couldn’t provide us with a quote that met those requirements within our budget, we would forget about it and enjoy our perfectly good and beautiful current home. Finally, even if the land remained available and we found a good builder that could give us what we wanted within our budget, we still had to overcome the hurdle of selling our fairly new home for a profit that would, at a minimum, fund the purchase of the land – so, if we couldn’t do that then, again, we would walk away from the project.

We went back and forth on the idea for a solid six months. By February, the land was still available (mainly because it wasn’t being actively advertised, which worked in our favour), Paolo found a reputable builder that he knew I would like (although we hadn’t committed to any one builder just yet) and the Ottawa housing market was thriving. We conditionally accepted an offer on our house, subject to us securing the land. Those negotiations took a few days (mainly because the sellers were in Saudi Arabia and the time difference meant we had to wait for responses) but, eventually, by mid-February, our house had been purchased for above our asking price and we entered into an Agreement of Purchase and Sale for the land – aahhhh, this is really happening!!!

A few days after that… we found out we were expecting baby #2!

I really think everything happens for a reason. Our motto all along, in all of our life decisions, has been “If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen”. Everything had to line up just to get us to the starting point of building our own custom home. Had we found out that I was pregnant even a day before we signed off on the agreements, we likely would have walked away due to bad timing but, as luck would have it, the stars lined up and we get to build our own custom home and grow our family, all in the same year (which also happens to be the year that we find ourselves in the middle of a world pandemic known as COVID-19…). No worries, just another day in the life…