We did it and you can too—if you really want to. We already told you about that in a September 2016 article. We’ll excerpt some of that piece and expand it to offer some alternatives. To get the full picture of how we did it, revisit that article—it has the photos that show some of the results. You don’t have to do it our way, but we’ll tell you the pros and cons.
We’ll include a few photos different from the previous article–some before and after. Raw land to exterior and interior. The chairs you see aren’t quite where the house now sits, but it gives you an idea of the slope and what sort of grading and filling came before building a home on the site. We wanted a view. 🙂
The wonderful thing about a custom-built home is that you can have everything just the way you want it. The terrible thing about a custom-built home is that you have to decide what it is that you want. Well, isn’t that the whole point? Yes, but the decisions never stop until all the furnishings are installed. For some, it all may be simple enough. For others, it may be so daunting they wouldn’t even consider it.
It can’t be that tough, can it? Yes, it can. First, let’s consider what goes into making that custom home. Maybe you could start with a menu of options offered by a builder; we didn’t do that, we decided everything. NOTE: We’ll save the location choice for a later article; that’s another big deal which can entail much research and travel to prospective places.
Here’s some of what goes into your decision process.
- Floor plan—room by room, size and orientation, closets, etc.
- Materials—exterior and interior walls, floors, roofing, countertops, etc.
- Fixtures—plumbing, cabinets, lighting, etc.
- Doors and windows—plus the blinds or shades
- Colors—walls, ceiling, floors, appliances, fixtures, etc.
- Appliances—kitchen and laundry
- Hardware—for doors, cabinets, etc.
- Heating and cooling—significantly influenced by the climate, elevation and other factors of where you will build that dream home.
Woof! That’s a lot of decisions. You could begin by driving through neighborhoods in the locale you want to build that dream house. What strikes your fancy? Or watch HGTV or similar shows. Get books online or at your local bookstore that show options. Check out magazines like Consumer Reports for reviews of appliances and other items. If you’re really into the DIY mode and also adept on the computer, make use of some home design software like we did.
Here’s a sample of the variables that you will need to consider. Much of it is preference, some of it is cost-related and some of it is affected by where the home will be. You’ll find few contemporary styled homes in the Mid-Atlantic; everyone builds colonials. That doesn’t mean you must make a home that looks like all the others for miles around, but depending on proximity of neighbors, covenants or restrictions, etc., your options may be limited–at least for the exterior. No adobe or rammed earth likely to be found east of the Mississippi. Few colonials in California.
Consider these items that go into designing a house. Energy conservation, cost, durability and personal preference on these items will enter into what you decide. Let’s say you are a boomer and don’t plan on moving again–then low maintenance and convenience are essential. Perhaps one-floor or at least fewer steps. Lever door-handles rather than knobs for potentially arthritic hands. Wider door frames for wheel-chair access you don’t need now but may in the future. It’s less expensive to build the aging-in-place elements the first time rather than having to remodel them in later.
Can you predict the future? Will your speaker connections, satellite or cable connections eventually be wireless rather than be wired? Maybe, but if you put in the outlets now, you won’t have somebody drilling holes in your wall later. Yes, you could go crazy considering so many diverse elements of a home. But the more you are able to, the happier and less bothered you’ll be later.
These are a sample of broad considerations that go into the building process. They’re not intended to be comprehensive.
- Brick–facing or solid
- Roofing material–slate, shingle, metal, clay tile and more
Weather issues can affect materials and how a home is built
- Building codes to withstand hurricanes in coastal areas–like roofs tied to the foundation in Florida
- Likewise for the tornado belt code–have a basement shelter in Kansas or nearby states
- Earthquake potential–homes that can move on the foundation
- Flooding potential–whether you can build there or not or if you do, what you cannot do or must do
Utilities–where the house is built will likely affect the options
- Natural gas or propane
- Well or municipal
- Municipal or septic
In our case, most of the floor planning came well in advance of construction through use of software to design the house. That floor plan considered what we did and didn’t like in the last home we had lived in for 30+ years. We built our dream home on raw land—meaning it needed site preparation, water/sewer/power and other infrastructure. As costs climbed (expect them to) we kept shrinking the dimensions of our plan. Little things required changes–additional decisions needed. Like the lighting store in our town closing or a manufacturer dropping our local window and door vendor. We adapted and worked through it. In the end, having moved in, we were delighted in the home that will be our last. We love how it looks. We love our view. We love how it works for all our needs and wants. Perfect for her quilting and crafting. Perfect for my writing. Fine for relaxation and all the tasks of daily life. It is the realization of a dream.
So, if you really want a dream home—one that fits your life and your budget, go for it! Finally, if you’re specifically interested in reducing your carbon footprint and saving money on utilities, consider a green home. See this article that previously appeared on the publisher’s blog. On the one hand, utilities are not as enthused with (and no longer bound or encouraged to) tying your solar/wind power generation devices to their grid. On the other, the costs of solar panels continue to decline. Plan for thermal mass to retain and slowly disperse heat. Windows on opposite sides to allow ventilation, avoiding cooling costs (in temperate climates not needing dehumidification). Use low flow commodes and shower fittings. Even if you’re on a well, as we are, you will use power to heat water and pump water–if you don’t use solar or other sources to do so. 😎