Builder Upgrades Selection Help... Please!

chloe.chloeApril 30, 2012

Hello! I am hoping I can reach out to you all since I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the choices & options to select in our new homebuild!! Any advice would be so welcomed!!

I posted yesterday in the kitchen forum about upgrading cabinets on a new construction home or keeping the builder grade cabinets and refacing them to a shaker-style after the closing in an effort to save some money. A few people suggested to just go with the upgrade since it would be around $3,500 (not including the island)in lieu of refacing later which could be much more expensive.

There are other upgrades which we are considering but honestly, do not know if it would be worthwhile to just wait and do them later or upgrade them now. Here are some of them:

Builder charges:

Millwork: $ 2,500-$3,000 for the window sills & wraps (entire house or $110/window)The standard is the sheetrock on all 4 sides (which I absolutely do not want)

Fireplace: $1,595 (can we negotiate this into the sale of home... this, in my opinion, should not be an upgrade since it was offerred last year at no extra)

Flooring: (The builder includes engineered hardwood in the entry & powder room bath)Here are the cost options for both engineered hardwood & level 2 laminate (we are still undecided which way to go...we love the look of the engineered hardwood but have been told that the laminate is more durable for our little dog who is not quite potty trained yet and future family we are planning):

Engineered Hardwood for 1st floor: $6,000 - $7,000

Laminate Level 2 for 1st floor: $4,000 - $4,500

** Can we get the flooring done cheaper outside (i.e HD, Lowes, Empire, etc)? If we could save substantial $$, I would be willing to wait until after the closing then have someone come in to do the floors.... I just don't know if there are substantial savings or the builder is marking everything up like crazy?

Appliance upgrades: Builder charges $2,035 to upgrade appliance package to level 4 - Kitchen Aid Gas stainless, microwave and stainless dishwasher (builder grade is electric stove in stainless, microwave & dishwasher in stainless).

Crown Molding: Builder charges $10/L.F White Painted Crown Molding & $15/L.F Hemlock Crown Molding...would want entire 1st floor.

Cofferred Ceiling in family room (the kind with the beams). I don't know yet what the builder charges for this particular coffered ceiling but for the standard coffered (no beams), they charge $475/room. I love, love, love this look of the coffered with beams but again, don't know if it would be cheaper to hire someone to do it afterwards?!

Wainscoting in dining room: $30- $35/ L.F

Painting: $400/room for different colors than the basic options (I'm thinking of doing this in the dining room).

** Would it be more reasonable to hire a finish carpenter after the closing to do all the millwork (window sills/wraps, crown molding, wainscoting, coffered ceiling, etc and just NOT upgrade with the builder)OR are these reasonable prices?

There are other upgrades which we are automatically doing but didn't mention here.... but these are the "cosmetic" additions which I would like but since this is my first homebuild, I don't know which things are really overpriced and can wait or which of these builder upgrades are reasonable? Any advice, thoughts, opinions or past experiences would be so helpful!! Thank you all so much!!

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Epiarch Designs

did they offer any energy efficient upgrades? Or I should ask, where is the home located and what is the exterior shell construction like? Energy efficient upgrades and air sealing enhancements should be your FIRST place to spend money. It is the only place in your home to have any sort of a pay back for you. What windows are they including?
As for the rest of your list, its really impossible to have any idea on costs associated with the house with seeing a plan or knowing sizes of spaces.
For example, the wood flooring. If your home is 4k sqft, thats a great price. If its 1k, thats a really bad price. However just looking at the prices, nothing is really jumping out at me as way higher then it should be.
I would probably not have the builder responsible for appliances. I would think that is an area you would like to have complete control on what you select.
No one here can really tell you which one of those cosmetic items you should or shouldnt do since it is your home. Do it how you like it!
Typically the more you can compile into the build process, the better. It MAY be possible to do it afterwards, but also consider the mess and additional time it will take to fully complete the house. Discuss with him owner-provided items and ask for install only pricing too. Sometimes they are flexible with this and give you a good install price. Just know things like this are up to you to have things ordered, on site and correct to meet the timelines. If things are delayed, they come at a cost, which is out of your pocket not his.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 1:58PM
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Thank you for your reply! I had so much on my mind that I neglected to mention the square footage: 2,500 sqft. Yes, the house is energy efficient....our builder is known to be a "100% energy star builder" here in the Pacific NW.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 2:56PM
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Epiarch Designs

please elaborate on "energy efficient". Is he applying exterior foam to the (assumed) 2x6 walls? Are you blowing your insulation (fiberglass, cellulose or foam) instead of fiberglass batts? Is he supplying an air tight package that included caulking and sealing with blower door testings and a HERS score/rating? Will it really be an energy star home, and if not, is he building per Energy Star 3.0 guidelines still? Also ES 3.0 is a good base point, but why not go above and beyond slightly? You are looking at spending $15-20k+ on cosmetic enhancements. Why not just spend a few more k on exterior envelope improvements and have an even higher performing, lower utility bill house?
Just some food for thought. No one ever wants to spend money on things they can not see, even if it saves them money and gives you a more comfortable, healthier home.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 3:12PM
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Here is a little more of what they include in being energy efficient:

R49 attic insulation

Energy-efficient 96% Bryant furnace

Duct Blaster test performed to check air sealing of duct work

Low-E vinyl spectrally selective glass windows, which reduce heat and UV rays

80% fluorescent lights � interior and exterior

Blower Door test performed to check air sealing of house

Advanced programmable thermostat with multiple time and temperature settings

ENERGY STAR� Dishwasher

Energy efficient water heater

** I don't know if this means anything but their HERS rating was 65 and they compared it to a typical energy efficient NW home to be at 80 and many new construction homes to be at 95 (the lower the score the more energy efficient)

These are just the "included" features...there is the option of a tankless water heater as well but we are unsure if we will be living in the house for more than 5-6 years, so thats still up for debate.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 3:38PM
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Epiarch Designs

that is a good starting point. what about your exterior walls?
tankless waterheaters are not nearly as efficient as they attempt to sell you on.
Curious question however, why build and only be there 5 years?

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 4:04PM
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My husband is in the military...ideally, I would prefer to build once and have it be our forever home but we don't always know where we will be but since my husband will be retiring in 6 years, we will have the option of staying here or moving back to the east coast. We found it is a far better investment to build than to buy used (mainly resale value, esp if we decide to sell in 6 years or so).

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 4:58PM
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