the old barn

5 Things I’d Do Differently on Our Home Build

September 11, 2023

I wish I could tell you that I achieved the perfect home when we built, but just like there are no perfect people, there are no perfect homes.

We love this house, and feel very grateful every day to get to live here, and for the experience of owner-building it. The things on this list don’t negate that. These things do not make me love my home any less, they are just things that I would advise someone who is building to do given my experience after living here for 4 years.

While I do enjoy a nice little quirk in a home, things that make it unique and different, there are a few things I would do differently if I were building this home again. And maybe someday, I’ll make these changes. Who knows!

5 things I'd do differently

1. Garage Doors

I chose these garage doors for aesthetics. I just prefer the look of individual doors to a wider (2-car) door. However, these 8′ wide doors are a tight squeeze for my SUV (Honda Pilot). If I were to build this house today, knowing what I know now, I would go with 9′ wide or 10′ wide doors. If the budget was super tight I’d do a single 16′ or 18′ wide door so I could have just one opener instead of 2. The height of my doors is 8′ which I find works well (versus a more standard 7′ tall).

detached garage with a bonus room above

2. PVC Porch Posts

Our porch posts (columns) are made of cedar and then painted. Cedar is good weather-resistant wood and is recommended for this type of application. However, painted cedar is tricky. Maybe our painter didn’t use the right kind of paint, or maybe we don’t have enough coats but the paint chips off. It is not easy to clean and because of the rougher texture of the cedar, it holds onto dirt.

If I were to build this house today, I would use metal posts, wrapped in smooth PVC for the porch columns. The PVC would stay clean and I wouldn’t have to worry about paint chipping off. There are prefabricated PVC post wraps you can buy which may be another good option if the height and size are right for your porch. If not, you can buy PVC trim boards that look like wood and use those to wrap your posts.

Living Room of the Century Oak farmhouse floor plan looking toward the dining room.

3. Square Cabinet Knobs

It’s such an easy one to fix now, yet I still haven’t done it. Why would I avoid square cabinet knobs if I were to build again?

Because they turn! They are never straight! Luckily I only used these in the Primary Bathroom. Word to the wise, use round knobs or handles on your cabinets.

I'd chose do knobs differently

Laundry Room

During our build, just before the foundation was poured, the plumber told us we needed to put a bunch of mechanical stuff in the place where I had planned to put the washer and dryer. So I quickly came up with a new plan for the laundry room. I don’t love it. This is why the floor plans I sell of this house have a different laundry and mudroom configuration. Why don’t I like it? There’s a barn door between the laundry room and kitchen but we never close it, so I can always see my dryer from the kitchen. In order the keep the symmetry on the front of the house, I needed to leave the tall window where it was, which meant that my washer and dryer would need to be separated by about 3′. Functionally, this is not as easy as having them side by side. It’s not the worst, but if I had to do it all again, I would not do it like this.

I'd do laundry layout differently

Factory finish on the cabinets

Our cabinets are custom-built, but have seen pre-fab cabinets look much better than ours.

I have also done a kitchen remodel in the past where we kept the existing wall cabinets and just had them painted on-site, and then had a new island built and it was painted in the shop. The factory-finished island paint was perfect and we never had any chipping. The paint was like a hard shell protecting the island cabinets, whereas the wall cabinets painted on-site never looked as good and needed touch-ups often.

My daughter (when she was a toddler) even wrote on those island cabinets with a Sharpie and I was able to clean it off without ruining the paint.

In our current house, the painters painted the cabinets on-site and it’s just not that pristine hard-shell finish. We have places that have chipped, and they just haven’t held up well.

If I could go back in time, I would do a factory finish, even if that meant semi-custom, ready-to-assemble, or pre-fab. Maybe someday, I’ll have at least the drawers and drawer fronts replaced or refinished.

Cabinets, especially kitchen cabinets, take a lot of abuse and need to be durable! The kitchen is used daily and there are sauces, water drips and splashes, trash, crumbs, steam…constant use.

It’s worth a little extra money upfront because if you skimp on cabinets and need to replace them in just a few years, you’ll not only be replacing the cabinets but also the stone counters which are not cheap.

I hope you’ve found this helpful! If you’re in need of floor plans, be sure to check these out:

And if you’re interested in building your home the SMART way by becoming an owner-builder to save BIG $$$ on your home build while maintaining full control, be sure to check out our Bootstrap Builders Program.

  1. Marika says:

    We did custom cabinets in our home and I 100% agree with you. The painter did a poor job so I already had to re-do all the painting in our bathrooms and we’ve been here less than one year. Next up is the kitchen. I prefer my sister’s RTA cabinets over ours. We also failed at how we configured our laundry room. The best part about mistakes is learning from them.

  2. Charlie ,
    I guessed 5 things than compared what you said here to the 5 I picked out
    First , I definitely hit the kitchen cabinets spot on ! Definitely would not skimp there!

    Second – the porch I would have raised and yes to the pvc which I have on my posts !

    The laundry room – I guessed to put both washer / dryer behind doors or in a separate room. Not in the hallway . Wasn’t sure you had the space for that?, but you will make sure of it moving forward 🙂

    The garage doors – didn’t notice the height at first – but totally get it . I have a tandem garage , which allows for larger vehicles – depth wise. Height is something most people do not consider – good point!

    Last , I saw the difference in floor heights between kitchen and sone other area ? Usually , one really likes a smooth transition throughout each floor without a height difference in flooring material
    And most people do not like saddles – but I like them in older homes as they give natural wood floors distinction between rooms. Most likely they are more expensive today. All the new farm homes I see being built have no raised floors and spec homes use other materials besides natural wood .
    Flooring is dam expensive to purchase – any real wood is today.

  3. Hi Jessica,
    Great post! I agree with your advice on garage door size, PVC porch posts, and factory-finished cabinets. I’m a home builder and always recommend these things to my clients.
    Thanks for sharing this informative article with us!

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