Building new, need help picking upgrades!

mordakJanuary 15, 2012

I'm buying a new house, 2500 sq ft in North Carolina.

The house has a living room, dining room, great room, kitchen, breakfast nook, laundry room, 4 bed, 2.5 bath.

The builder is offering $15,000 in upgrades to pick from. I've picked like $18k so far. What should I cut out?

Full front porch+Brick on porch+garage $5150

Master Bath (adds extra sink, separate shower, garden tub) 3575

14x14 patio upgrade from 12x12 $260

Cable outlet x5 (4 bedroom+great room) $225

Fan prewire x6 (4 bed, great room, dining room) $600

Flood lights $150

Paint whole house (instead of just white) $1250

Insulated garage door $285

Chrome faucets $125

Vinyl floors level 2 (laundry, master bath, hall bath, half bath, kitchen, nook) $700

2" faux wood Window blinds $1400

Water heater 40 gallon gas (Upgrade from 50 gal Electric) $300

Garage door insulation $285

Kitchen island $1650

Open rails on 1st floor stairs $600

Laminate upgrade $125

Carpet pad 6 lb 1/2 inch $1130

TOTAL $17,810

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Chrome faucets are an upgrade?

I'd check the pricing on window blinds. Perhaps it would be better to install them after you have moved in.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 8:04PM
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I wouldn't do the insulated garage doors in NC. I think the wiring of the tvs in all bedrooms is important for resale. I am not a fan person so I would elminate all those ;)

I think the best way to look at it is which can I upgrade later, and which are not easy to upgrade. I would keep the brick on the porches and front and the master bath upgrade for sure because those can't be added later.

I also would say that 3k in upgrades adds a few dollars to your mortgage payment at these low rates so keep that in mind. I might rather pack my lunch every day than cut some of these things out. . .

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 9:12PM
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I agree with Athensmom about the fans! Also, is that paint upgrade for interior paint? If you really need to cut the cost...I'd just have them paint all the rooms white for now. Then you can slowly paint the rooms yourself? Good luck with your build!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 9:38PM
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Yes the standard walls are white. The $1250 is for the whole house to be painted a color. I've never painted before, is it easy to do myself?

Why not do the insulated garage door? I'd like to put a small gym in my garage.

As for fans, they are much cheaper than running the AC thats why I like them.

Is it ok to do cable in bedroom+great room only and skip dining/living room cable?

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 9:47PM
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How about I drop the $1650 built-in island and do this $800 island with stools instead? Picture below

Here is a link that might be useful: island picture

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 9:48PM
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Don't do the island at all. You can do a plain aftermarket worktable there instead for now and plan something really nice later. You might even find a cool antique piece to repurpose. Skip the insulated garage door, laminate upgrade and vinyl upgrade. You can insulate the garage door yourself for less than $50. DIY porcelain tile on the floors yourself after you move in. And do granite later instead of upgrading the laminate. Entry level granites are almost as cheap as an upgraded laminate.

I would not skip the fan box upgrades. That will be hard to do later and would cost a lot more. I wouldn't skip the cable either. If the blinds include measuring and installing for all of the windows, it's not a bad deal at all.

One upgrade I would absolutely insist on would be at least a 50 gallon gas water heater. 40 just isn't big enough with most people enjoying larger tubs and more shower heads. Or, do a gas tankless if you will be in the house for longer than 5 years. The cost difference during building is minimal, but the cost to upgrade later is substantial.

If this is to be a long term residence, I would also insist on 2x6 construction and an upgraded insulation package. That would be more important than any these decorative upgrades offered and would make the house more comfortable, quieter, and cheaper to own. I'd skip every other upgrade on the list but the master bathroom in order to upgrade the envelope. You only get one chance to do that right.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2012 at 1:08AM
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While greendesigns has a point about upgrading envelope, some of these big builder homes are so leaky that upgrading insulation might be futile. In much of NC, getting an energy star certificate saves 5% lifetime on energy bills. If it gets the builder to air seal better, it is worth it.

I am surprised by the fan comments - every house in the south should be prewired/braced for fans. I am surprised it isn't code yet - think of the safety issues when future owners put in fans.

2x6 walls in much of NC is nice but pretty far down the list of energy smart upgrades.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2012 at 5:53AM
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The upgraded laminate counters are only $125, no way you can find granite counters for even close to that. This builder is not energy star certified...they told me the materials are just as good though but they don't want to pay for the certification because it would raise the homes prices too much.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2012 at 8:20AM
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If you don't get the fan prewire in the dining room...will they still put an overhead fixture there? It would be odd if a builder didn't include some type of chandelier in the dining room in the basic package. Unless your house is reallllly casual, like a beach house, I think most future buyers would expect a light fixture, not a fan in the dining room.

What is the standard plumbing finish you will get if not chrome? Do you love the island? Is it really pretty or just so-so? Do you think it will impede your work flow? Are you the main cook? I am thinking ditching the island for now might be the best is one of the more expensive items and I think you could find something special to replace it with in the future.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2012 at 9:26AM
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Will you heat/cool the garage? If not, then don't insulate the garage door.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2012 at 11:05AM
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No I won't heat/cool the garage. My friend said I can insulate the garage door myself for $50, so I won't get the $285 upgrade from the builder for that.

If you don't get the fan prewire then no, there is no ceiling light either. The fan prewire is $150 per room, and the ceiling light with switch is $125 per room. I'll do ceiling fan in 4 bedroom, great room, living room, then the overhead light in Kitchen and Dining room :)

I don't cook a ton, mostly frozen foods, single bachelor at 26. So I think I'll pass on the $1,650 island and get one later for $1,000 myself.

What about the blinds for $1400? There's 19 windows and a sliding glass door. On it looks like I could get the blinds for $750-1000 so I'm leaning towards that.

As for paint, I'm gonna keep the standard white builder paint for the 1st year, then after they fix all the nail pops I will paint the rooms one-by-one by myself. (I have no painting experience however) but I think I can get the house done for under the $1,250 the builder wants.

How about an outside motion detector light for $220? The chrome faucets throughout house for $125? Crown molding at $500 per room? Deciated 20 amp shop circuit in garage? Upgrade attic fiberglass insulation from R30 to R38? (Don't have price on that yet)

    Bookmark   January 16, 2012 at 11:20AM
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Drawers for the lower kitchen cabinets. SOOO much better than fixed shelves, and better that roll outs too. (See the link below for info and pictures; it's from the kitchens forum.)

Also see if you can minimize or eliminate any fillers in your kitchen. Even small spaces can be put to work with pullouts. Check for some ideas, like the one below which is a "filler pullout".

Here is a link that might be useful: Drawers vs pull out shelves

    Bookmark   January 16, 2012 at 11:51AM
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I see carpet padding is on your list and that's good. When we picked out carpet, we tested the samples with different levels / qualities of padding. A good padding can make even a lower end carpet feel much more plush, so don't skimp on the padding. This is something that I think is best checked out in person. (Check the carpet allowance and then visit a dealer to see what you're getting without an upgrade. Make sure you can tell if the allowance includes labor or not; you want to be able to see what kind of carpet and padding you can buy to stay within your allowance.) We took different levels of carpet and tried them with different levels of padding.

Also depending on your room sizes, you might be able to get a great price on a high end carpet remnant. We were able to get really nice carpet for DS's room from a large remnant. You can tell the difference just walking in the room. There were remnants up to 20' long and more, which surprised me. It's hit or miss of course but worth a look.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2012 at 11:59AM
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Mordak, I too am building a home and just finished selecting my upgrades. Something to consider is the longevity of the upgrade. I made it a point to spend my upgrade dollars on things I could not easily upgrade later (such as your porch/brick upgrade). Items like flooring and finishes are likely not going to last the duration of my mortgage so I am doing those afterwards.

Also, anything I plan to replace within a reasonable timeframe, like the laminate counter in the kitchen, I chose the basic option (no additional cost) and will upgrade later. Why pay extra for something I will replace anyhow?

You were asking about the chrome faucets as an upgrade, is the standard brass? It's not a huge amount so if it's your preference then why not?

Crown can be added later, as can patio upgrades (are we talking concrete pad or a wood patio...that would be more difficult). And as previous posters have mentioned paint and window coverings can be had for cheaper if you put in the labor and do it yourself.

I didn't see any mention of cabinet or appliance upgrades, have you looked at any of those? I hadn't planned on upgrading my appliances until I found out the included dishwasher was the old "latch" closure type and $100 would get me a more updated model. I am sure all builders are different though so it may not be something you are concerned about.

Good luck -this process is fun, but stressful!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2012 at 4:40PM
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I would only do the upgrades that would be difficult to do later. When we bought our first house we upgraded the cupboards, put in a soaker tub and patio doors in the master bedroom. We waited to upgrade other things gradually, after we moved in.

I would out the following upgrades:
outside motion detector light for $220-you can buy and install motion sensor lights in your outdoor fixtures for much less.
Paint whole house (instead of just white) $1250- easy to do yourself later. Paint is cheap.
Insulated garage door $285
2" faux wood Window blinds $1400- much cheaper to buy yourself
Kitchen island $1650

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 11:11AM
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Grayce thank you. I'm cutting all those out, but I'm not sure about the island...I've looked online at portable islands but they don't look nearly as nice... Although they are $800 instead of $1650

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 11:35AM
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I would skip the island and you can do it later. Just get the name of the cabinet maker who made your cabinets (which you need anyway) and live without it for a while. . .

Do you have ample storage without the island?

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 12:02PM
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Also, what do you mean by laminate upgrade? What is on the counters if you don't upgrade? There are some good looking laminates out there (I love the Oiled Soapstone by Wilsonart) that aren't expensive. There is a reader on here who did that countertop with a square edge (rather than an eased edge) and then used a sharpie to cover up the seam. It looks so much like soapstone it is nuts!

IKEA also has nice looking laminate with a square edge.

So from your list, I would eliminate the insulation of the garage doors, the kitchen island and the paint - all of which are either unnecessary or can be added easily later.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 12:09PM
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The laminate counters are standard, can upgrade to premium laminate + more color selection for the $125.

Oak cabinets are standard...should I upgrade those to Birch?

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 12:16PM
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I would keep the island just for resale value. Does the builder's island include an electrical outlet? I would want to be able to use electrical appliances on the island. To add an island later and add an electrical outlet might be very expensive, or next to impossible.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 4:00PM
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What part of NC are you building? Several of the items you listed as 'up grades' should be standard.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 7:24PM
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Concord NC and the builder is Timberstone Homes. I haven't signed the contract yet, I was going to sign it this Thursday

    Bookmark   January 17, 2012 at 8:20PM
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Those prices all seem very reasonable to me!

If the $1250 price for painting includes different colors for different rooms (2 coats) and different trim color, that is a steal. Yes you can do it yourself later but your time is money also. It is also a lot easier when the house is empty. If the $1250 is one color for the whole house the added price is probably for edging out the trim. FYI It cost me $1000 in Maryland just to get my hallways, ceiling, and trim painted on 2 floors with relatively cheap painters ($550 per day for 2 painters).

I'd def get all the pre-wiring.

The kitchen island can always be added later, agree with that.

$1400 for INSTALLED faux wood blinds for 19 windows and a sliding door is also a steal. It is about $500 for labor, estimate 2 hours per window since you are a novice and you will be paying about $10/hr labor. Even $20/hr is a good price for labor imo.

It's all cost vs your labor.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2012 at 3:24PM
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I got a quote from the builder.

I can upgrade from 13HPX and CBX26UH (13 SEER and 7.7 HSPF) to:

A) XP13, CBX27UH blower (14.2 SEER, 8.3 HSPF, 11.5 EER) ARI #4611972

B) XP14, CBX27UH blower (15.5 SEER, 9.0 HSPF, 13.0 EER) ARI #4686863

Also they want $470 to upgrade from R30 to R38 in attic (blown in fiberglass) and $930 to go from R13 to R15 in the exterior walls.

Should I keep the standard, upgrade A, or upgrade B?
Should I upgrade the attic, walls, or both insulation?

I'm in Charlotte NC

    Bookmark   January 18, 2012 at 9:19PM
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What is the cost to upgrade to higher SEERS? 13 SEER is code min.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2012 at 10:24PM
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R 38 is the absolute minimum recommended, even in a warm climate. R 30 and R 13 would not pass inspection here. I'd do the walls in a heartbeat, and look at doing blow in cellulose on top of batts in the attic. You generally get more R for your money that way with the benefit of the dust barrier of the batts. I'd also install a radiant barrier on top of the cellulose. Be sure that the home has sufficient air channels installed for the vented soffit as well as the proper ridge vent.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2012 at 1:16PM
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Home Building by new and upcoming builders in the market of building construction is the investment of profit as for attaining stability in the market they will provide you rebate in their home construction rates as well as provide you the best of what they can.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 4:50AM
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Lose the blinds, crown, garage insulation etc. Keep the fan boxes, master bath, porch and I think you should keep the island. Built in islands just look better to me IMO. I would paint myself later, is is super easy and you can pick the colors after you get in the house and see how you are really going to use the rooms with furniture and everything.

The energy upgrades are worth it. But you can always have more insulation blown in the attic later if you decide to.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 12:06PM
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I'm also in NC. I like to paint in my own house, I'm in charge of painting our rental houses, I help my sisters with their rentals also, and we painted my dad's before we put it on the market. There is so much painting involved in a new house, I would rather have a contractor paint the whole house intially. You have a 2500 square foot house. Choose your colors and have them do it. It's tough to work around drop cloths, moulding, window frames, covering furniture...then you are the one who would need to put on the second coat if the first didn't cover. Definitely choose the painting.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 11:26PM
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Hi mordak,

What was your final list of upgrades? We hope to be building in a short while and also have free upgrades and are not sure which way to go as yet.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 6:16PM
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