Hey there, guys! This post has been A LONG time coming! Below I’m answering all your most asked questions about building and/or remodeling a home. I’ve learned a lot throughout my life with my Grandfather being a custom home builder, my Dad a real estate developer and broker and my Mom working for two interior designers. AND now, Luke and I have been doing it! What an adventure it’s been. I always love a new project! Speaking of that… we looked at some property this past weekend to maybe built our next home or develop it… I’ll keep you guys posted as to what we decide to do!
If I didn’t answer your questions below, please leave a comment and I will get back to you. If you’re looking for your DESIGN questions answered, check out this post! Below I’ve also shared a few pics from when we build our first home (the modern farmhouse). Enjoy!
What’s important to look for when looking at property to build?
Grade on a property is one of the most important items to look at when considering building. Site work can be very expensive. Other things to look at/into are: current neighbors/homes, landscaping (are there trees on the property), HOA, building envelope, set backs and view corridors.
Where do you start once you have a property to build on?
It’s a bit of a combination. If you are custom building, I’d select an architect at the same time you are figuring out your builder (general contractor). In my experience these two work closely together so you want to make sure everyone meshes well. At this time you want to also be putting together all of your ideas/visions for the home. I use Pinterest for this. It will help give your team the overall look and feel you are wanting to achieve with the home. Once the design and bidding phases starts, they will both guide you on finishes and costs associated with the house. Putting a budget together at the BEGINNING is key!
How to find a good contractor?
These are the things I look for: referrals from previous clients, look at past homes they’ve built (tour if you can), make sure they have the bandwidth for your project (time/people), financially sound business, talk with subs they frequently use, put an overall budget in place prior to breaking ground and decide on their fee ahead of time. Other things to consider: do they communicate well, do you trust them/get a good feeling? These are also important!
How do you find a good architect?
These are the two main things I look for: referrals from previous clients and looking at what they’ve designed. Make sure you have a fee structure setup beforehand and that the architect understands what YOU are looking for in a home. I prefer working with architects that are more collaborative with their clients.
What is the best way to create and build a mood board for a remodel?
As mentioned above, I use Pinterest when I start a project. I first start pinning everything I like. Then I begin to see repetitive design/themes, which give me a better understanding of what I’m going after. From there I will do a deeper dive into each room/space and create a second board. After this I start to pick out options for the actual finishes. These will go on the “selects” page/board, which I make in Canva. If you have a designer, they will most likely do this for you. This is a great way to visually see everything you are selecting together. Does it work, does it not?
How do you stay on budget?
This is difficult in many home projects. Making sure you know what you want BEFORE you start building. The builder should have the bids in and budget prior to breaking ground. You don’t want any surprises as you move forward, however there will inevitably be a few. To eliminate this, make sure you are on top of all decisions being made. COMMUNICATION!!!
What are the top 3 most difficult things when remodeling and how do you avoid them?
 Vision – finding the best design for your space. Give yourself TIME to “massage” the design. I suggest living in a space before you remodel. This will allow you to understand what you really want.  “finding” things once you get into it – spending more time and money. This is a hard one to avoid, however if you are taking on structural changes to a home, make sure you have the correct people looking at these before making the decision to move forward. The work up front will ALWAYS help save you money in the end. Don’t rush!  It costs more than you think. I sound a bit repetitive BUT knowing what you are getting into up front, what you want to achieve and bids for everything is SO important.
What are the biggest ways to save money during a remodel?
If you can do some of the work yourself and/or be your own “general contractor”, getting all the bids and managing the process, this will help greatly to decrease costs.
What would you do differently in the next home?
I learned a lot building a home and remodeling/designing numerous spaces. Now that I have Ford and another one the way, I would add elements to my modern farmhouse that worked well for kiddos. I think this question warrants an entire blog post – maybe I’ll do one! 🙂 Here is a quick list of things I’d do different: add a bonus room, bigger closet in the master, move office away from main living area, add another fridge, add two washers and two dryers, not an all white mudroom/laundry room (this room gets dirty quickly), utilize the space above the garage (it’s cheap square footage), create a more cozy dining room, add a breakfast nook, bigger garage, no cement matte tile in main bathroom floors (looks dirty & hard to clean), figure out landscaping ahead of time (this can drag out the “construction” when living in the home).
What is the ideal timeline for renovating or building?
This all depends on the size of the project. If it’s a home start to finish, a year to a year and a half is standard. For a remodel, it is all dictated by the size/scope of the project. In our current fixer upper, it took about 3 months of work. The main bulk of that was paint.
What are the benefits of a back kitchen?
The kitchen in our modern farmhouse, including the back area, was my favorite design element of the home. Since I entertain and cook A LOT, this was key! I love that I had an area to prep food and clean up separately with an extra sink and dishwasher. The home was an open floor plan so having the back area was really nice.
Thoughts on building vs remodeling?
I LOVE both! Surprise, surprise. It depends on if you have the VISION! If you are working on a remodel, you need to be able to work with what you have and be creative when it comes to design. If you are starting from scratch, it’s much easier from a design perspective.
What are splurge-worthy items vs. budget items?
Just like my philosophy with furniture, you want to invest in the foundational and most used items. For a home I think appliances and flooring are places to not cut corners. The kitchen is the heart of the home and the most used space. It is also what brings the most VALUE to a house. Don’t go cheap here! I’d suggest nice appliances. My favorite brand is Wolf/Subzero. When it comes to floors, think about walking on them everyday – you want them to be durable!! This is why I prefer a hard, real wood. It will wear the best AND look great, elevating your overall home style. For mid-range and more budget items I’d suggest: hardware (handles, pulls, knobs, door handles), faucets, tiles (back splash & bathroom floors), wrapping beams (not solid), light fixtures and bathroom mirrors.
Where to find bathroom vanities and mirrors?
I typically have vanities made. This is something I’ve found give homes a lot of character. For mirrors I find them numerous places. Here are a few of my favorites: Rejuvenation, Wayfair and Pottery Barn.
Where is a good source for wallpaper?
My favorite place to find wallpaper is Burk Decor.
Is a metal roof the way to go or a trend?
A metal roof is not a trend. They’ve been around forever AND last longer. This is why you pay more. It’s worth it!
How do you bring warmth into a room with concrete floors?
You do this with paint, other finishes (counter tops, hardware, light fixtures, etc.), furniture and decor. Concrete floors are “cool” so bring in warmer neutral tones!
What are your biggest takeaways from building vs remodeling?
Regardless of which one you do, it’s A LOT work. Be prepared, have a budget and select a qualified team to help you!