I’m an architect. I was designing and building my third home.  I thought I was prepared for this. I thought I knew what to expect. Yet, the home building process never fails to surprise, humble and amaze me.

Backtracking a bit, my husband and I purchased an older home on a beautiful lakefront lot with an adorable little boat house and amazing sunsets. However, the house was a complete tear-down. It looked cute on the outside but was aging badly on the inside. We patiently lived there for 10 years before deciding to make the big move.  We hired a reputable builder who recommended collaborating with a local residential architectural design firm to provide additional expertise in both design, computer modeling and construction documentation.

I wasn’t quite sure how this all would pan out. Even though this was my third home that I was building from scratch, I never worked with this builder before and wasn’t sure if there would be chemistry with the architectural designers.  So, I strapped on my seat belt, expressed my husband and my desires in a very rough sketch and sat back to listen. I wasn’t sure what to expect or how the architects would react. They listened too. After a few passes back and forth, a design concept emerged. In the process of building, I learned a few things along the way.

5 Things I learned building my house:

1.) Get the builder involved in the early stages of design.
Our builder sat through all the initial design meetings. In those meetings, he was able to steer us away from design decisions that adversely impacted our budget and towards more cost effective solutions.

3.) Never Trust Your Building Allowance
Our builder based our building allowances on a spec home that he built previously.  The problem wasn’t the allowance. The problem is that it didn’t take into account our personal preference.  The builder could tailor his selections more easily because they weren’t his own.  But clients have personal preferences that are harder to predict.

3.) Pick and choose your battles.
There will always be areas where you and your builder or subcontractor will have disagreements. Don’t try to fight every battle. Some design issues are not worth it and will fade gently into the background once the entire area is finished..  The question you need to ask yourself is  “Can I live with it the way it is?”    If you think that every time you will look at it – it will bother you, then you need to correct the problem.  Otherwise, let it go. Striving for perfection all the time is exhausting.

4.) Let it sit for a while
This, I have to explain.  Sometimes I had preconceived ideas about what things would look like once they were built.  If things came out differently, I immediately called the builder and sounded the alarm bells. What I didn’t realize is that my preconceptions were sometimes too strong.   I needed a little time to adjust to what was actually built.  And most of the time, things looked fine the way they were.

5.) Enjoy the journey
Well, that sounds easy enough, but sometimes not so much… especially when there are budget and time constraints.   Take a step back and appreciate this rare opportunity. Not everyone gets to build and live in a home they created. Its both a pleasure and a privilege. We celebrated by throwing a “Capping of the Cupola” party. (We have a cupola on the top of our home.) It was a fitting celebration as we approached the end of construction and a nice way to show our subcontractors how much we appreciated their hard work.

Our journey thru the building process ended on a high note. We now have lived in our home for almost a year.  We don’t miss the construction draws or living in our dear friend’s home anymore while we waited patiently for our home to be finished.  Our neighbors sure don’t miss all the noise and construction traffic. Yet somehow, I yearn for the buzz of table saws, the radio blasting while painters sprayed paint on the walls, the smell of freshly fallen sawdust, and the camaraderie in building for a purpose.

But I get to relive it all with you.  What’s your building story?  Perhaps we can start a new journey together!










Pick and choose your battles

3.)  When things don’t turn out as expected, adjust to it

4.)  Home Builders almost always underestimate building allowances
a.) Pressure to meet client’s budget
b.) Cannot predicate client’s preferences

5.)  Enjoy the journey!
a.) Cupola capping party.
b.) Pizza, coffee on the job