Choosing your finishes and upgrades among your key homebuying decisions
Buying a new home is a huge decision, probably one of the most significant decisions in your life. Deciding which finishes and upgrades will make it the home of your dreams can seem like an overwhelming stream of decisions. What’s important? It depends who you ask.
According to many consumer surveys, the most popular upgrades are focused on the way something looks or feels, or how much energy it uses. That’s why a consumer is more likely to ask for radiant heat bathroom floors, glass tiles, butcher block countertops, low flow shower heads or an on-demand water heater. Those are great choices; attractive choices. The problem is, they’re all a bit… cosmetic.
For a different perspective, I went to some experienced Ontario builders and asked what they’d include on a list of upgrades if they were buying a new home from someone else. The answers were surprising.
There was no mention of butcher block countertops or glass tiles. But builders do think about features you might not, such as ensuring there are no blind corners in the kitchen cupboards (so the lids from your plastic containers can’t sneak off there to hide.)
Builders would opt for energy efficient fixtures like low flow shower heads but there was also plenty of enthusiasm for less visible features, like metal framing. They’re also in favour of drywall arches, boxing as well as any backing at trusses be done with metal framing for strength and durability.
As for the basement, builders who are buying houses are thinking less about laminate flooring styles, and more about adding fibre mesh reinforced basement floor concrete, since it will reduce the potential for cracks and curling later.
Outside, if your house and your neighbour’s house are built less than three metres apart, many builders would skip the strip of grass between the houses and opt for stone side yards. Without sunshine, you’re never going to have much more than three blades of grass and six weeds anyway, so it makes sense to keep it low maintenance.
What it comes down to is this: Builders know a house that’s built with those “invisible” upgrades is far less likely to face costly structural repairs down the road.
If you’re buying a new home and thinking about upgrades that are worth the investment, talk to your builder about all the options that might be available. Stronger infrastructure elements are an investment that will keep you and your family happy and safe in your home for many years to come.