Custom Home – Month 14: If These Walls Could Talk!

Month 14 and… we have walls!!! Lots has happened this month to get us to this point!

We started June off by having the insulation and stairs installed! We were really worried about the stairs because they had been backordered for several weeks and we’d reached a stage in construction where work could not progress without the stairs but, luckily, the stars aligned and we have one less plank to walk!

On the outside, the house was wrapped and the exterior stone was delivered! The wood beams for our front columns were installed and our garage floor was poured!

Offsite, we’ve finalized our light fixture and tile order AND we chose our kitchen counters! We sourced our own stone from a fabricator in Ottawa. We looked at several products but ultimately went with Quartz, in part because that is what we’ve had in our last two homes and it worked well for us. Plus, the cost point was what we were comfortable spending at this stage.

Our kitchen counters finally arrived after months of being stuck on a boat in a shipping container!

And to end the month… drumroll please… WE HAVE WALLS! Drywall was installed last week!

See! I told you lots happened this month! Our builder told us that going forward, since we’re less than 90 days out, we will start seeing lots of progress every week – looking forward to seeing what month 15 brings!


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.