5 Tips for Choosing Finishes/Upgrades for Your New Build


Today I thought I’d talk about 5 lessons we learned when choosing finishes/upgrades for our newly built home. First of all, our home was built by D.R. Horton in 2016. They are a large and well know builder all over the US. After living in our home for over two years we really don’t have too many complaints. A few of our neighbors ran into problems, so they may not give this builder such high marks. However, we didn’t have too many things for them to fix at our year-end walk through. Knock on pretty teak wood that it will stay that way.

Buying a newly built home was so much fun for Chris and I. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to buy our house until the foundation was already up. This meant that we missed out on getting a sink in our laundry room and an air purifier in our central air system. Other than that, we got to pick the finishes and upgrades like flooring, granite, grout color, fireplace style, etc. I’ll talk more about what we chose in another post, but for today I’d like to tell you 5 tips for choosing finishes/upgrades for your new build. These are based on decisions we wished we made up front. Fortunately, they’re decisions we can live with, but they’re worth mentioning.

Pay for the builder to install the garage door opener.  At the time we thought it would be no biggy to buy one and install it ourselves. We’re fairly handy and we have family who can help. What we didn’t bargain for was that our garage has a 10′ ceiling. Typical garage door openers come with parts for hanging the motor from 8-foot-high ceilings. For higher ceilings, the system must be upgraded to provide additional support that prevents the motor from moving from side to side. Needless to say, for a year we were manually opening the garage door until Chris got his booty up there and installed it.

Visit the design showroom in advance of your appointment. You would think that 3 hours would be enough time, but we’re talking about finishes for a 2700 sq ft home. It’s a lot to consider in one sitting. It helped that I have knowledge of interior decorating and had a good idea of the look we were going for. However, if I were to do it again I would have asked to come to the showroom prior to our appointment so that I could get a better feel for what the options were and take pictures to mull over later. I’m happy with the majority of our choices, except for the kitchen backsplash. My dream has been to have a kitchen with subway tile. We weren’t shown that option so we went with the design below.

It’s not terrible and the accent tile is less showy with a working kitchen. However, it’s not the clean, modern look I wanted. I attempted to request no accent tile, but the tilers had already been there and it was a done deal.

Choose a waterproof carpet pad for all carpeted areas. We chose a waterproof pad in the basement where we assumed the dog and kids would be tracking in water, mud, etc. But we decided to forgo it for the carpet upstairs (mostly due to the added cost). This turned out to be a big mistake since our dog, cat, and kid are up there and “spills” happen all the time. Let’s just say that we’ve invested in a carpet cleaner. If I were to do it over I would get the waterproof carpet pad for anywhere I had carpet.

Make changes to finishes in person, not from a photo. When we met with the builder’s designer at the showroom we chose granite for our kitchen counters that was black and white with no other colors mixed in. This was the look we were going for. A few weeks later I received an email saying that the granite we had chosen was now out of stock (they warned us that this could happen with any of the finishes). We needed to make a new choice quickly.

Granite Samples

The sample at the top is the original. We had to choose between the two on the bottom. In my mind the one on the right looked like it had more white with some black and was less busy. It seemed like a perfect substitute. Well, this is what it looks like IRL.

Dallas White Granite

Isn’t that crazy how much burgundy is in there? Who would have thought. So lesson learned!

Upgrade flat paint to an eggshell finish. Don’t get me wrong. I actually like the flat finish look. However, if I were to do it over again I would request eggshell finish in areas where there’s a lot of traffic. One year later there are scuff marks all over the walls in the stairwells and the entry hallway. The builders used Sherwin Williams washable flat paint, but it doesn’t wash off the same way eggshell finish does. Another lesson learned!

I hope you’re able to learn from the mistakes we made and have a much smoother process choosing finishes/upgrades through your builder. It’s definitely an exciting, stressful time that flies by.

If you’ve worked with a builder and have other tips or lessons learned please share them in the comment section. 

Take care,


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