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8 Home Upgrades that Are Worth it When Building

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written by:

Carrie Barker


In order to have a *chance* of sticking to your home build budget, you’ll most likely need to make some sacrifices and might not be able to get everything you want in your future home. I don’t want this to discourage you though. It’s simply a fact that we all deal with it when building a home. So let’s stay positive and talk about 8 home upgrades that are worth it when building so that you can splurge where it matters!


Welcome back to the Before You Build Podcast! I’m your host, Carrie Barker (a.k.a. Caroline on Design), and today in episode 41, I’m sharing 8 areas of the home that are great places to upgrade (and worth every penny)

HOWEVER, keep in mind that this is YOUR home and you can do whatever you want. 

I always encourage my ‘Before You Build’ clients to upgrade things in their home that are most important to them and their family.

When deciding where to upgrade (or splurge), it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. You can read 20 different articles about ‘the best places to upgrade when building’ and you’ll get 20 different answers.

Soooo … I’m here to give you ideas of where I think you’ll get the most bang for your buck when upgrading, but the ultimate choice of where to upgrade items in YOUR home should be based on your own list of must-haves.


Before we get into our list of 8 home upgrades that are worth the money, we need to first cover the two major categories for new home construction upgrades: structural (home structure … e.g. square footage) and non-structural (cosmetic upgrades … e.g. crown molding)

When thinking about what is worth upgrading in a new build, focus on structural upgrades because these are very expensive and very difficult (if not impossible) to add or change later.

Non-structural upgrades, on the other hand, are the upgrades to skip on a new build (if your budget is tight) because these items are easier to change or add later.

Obviously, this is a general rule of thumb (i.e. upgrading structural components of your home). You’ll notice that my list of 8 home upgrades that are worth the money isn’t all structural, but many of the items on this list are.

Let’s get into our list …



Square footage is a great place to upgrade or invest because square footage is very difficult (and expensive) to change (or add) later. 

For example, If you need a larger home to accommodate your family’s needs, then square footage is a great place to upgrade or invest.

However, if you’re more interested in upgrading finishes and don’t need extra space in your home, then this isn’t the place for you to upgrade.

So if the square footage of your home is important, this is the first place you should invest in upgrades.


Ceiling height (e.g. 10’ or vaulted ceilings) is very difficult (if not impossible) to change in the future, so this is a great place to splurge and upgrade if high ceilings or vaulted ceilings are important to you.


Insulation obviously isn’t structural but it’s a difficult thing to add once your house is built. I recommend adding extra insulation to your home if you have room in your budget. 

It’s much easier and more economical to add extra insulation to new construction rather than getting into the walls later and adding it after your house is built. 

Insulating your new construction home properly will keep your electric bills lower, it will provide extra comfort for your family, and, ideally, it will reduce noise traveling from room to room between walls (if you add extra insulation between walls and in ceilings).


Your home exterior is not only the first impression people have of your home, but it’s also what protects your home from the weather elements so this is a great place to upgrade on materials if you have room in your budget for higher-end products.

Not to mention, home exterior materials are a huge expense when building and would be very expensive to change later.


Your kitchen (in general) is the BEST place to upgrade square footage and finishes for two reasons:

  1. You’ll get a great return on this investment when you sell your home in the future, and 
  2. More importantly (in my opinion), the kitchen is the heart of the home and is typically where your family might spend the bulk of your time together so you want it to be a spacious, beautiful, functional, and enjoyable room.

In addition to square footage, upgraded kitchen cabinets and counters are definitely worth the investment.

Other kitchen items that are worth the splurge (if within your budget) are a large kitchen island, a walk-in pantry, beautiful pendant lighting over your island, plenty of recessed (can) lighting throughout the perimeter of your kitchen ceiling, and upgraded appliances (if you are an avid cook and this is important to you).


Like your kitchen, investing in your primary bathroom will give you a great ROI (return on investment). 

Upgraded cabinets and counters are definitely worth the investment in your primary bathroom, as well as nicer plumbing fixtures, shower materials, tub, heated flooring, and square footage (if these items are important to you).


This one is not structural and isn’t absolutely necessary because there are great flooring options at all price points. 

However, if you have your heart set on high-end flooring, the best places to install it are in your foyer, family room, kitchen, and dining room … basically, the main areas of your home that guests will regularly see. This is where it’s worth it to upgrade your flooring.

QUICK TIP: It’s always worth it to upgrade your carpet padding even if you buy an inexpensive carpet. This will make your carpet feel cushier and comfier to walk on regardless of the quality of the carpet itself. 


The last upgrade that is worth it is energy-saving upgrades.The more energy-efficient you can make your home, the less you’ll spend on utilities each month. 

Upgrading to energy-efficient windows, appliances, and heating/cooling devices is well worth the extra expense over the long run … plus it’s better for our environment!


All right, you now have a list of 8 home upgrades that are worth it when building. 

Keep in mind … you can get upgrade ideas from me as well as from others, BUT your ultimate upgrade decisions should all come down to what’s most (and least) important to YOU! 

Don’t focus on what’s most important to your neighbors or me or some stranger you follow on Instagram. Focus on what’s important to YOU!

Whatever is most important to YOU is exactly where YOU should upgrade (or splurge) when building your home.

Whatever is NOT that important to you is exactly where YOU should compromise (or save) when building your home.

If you want to dive a little deeper and follow my guided workbook to determine the best places for YOU to upgrade (or splurge) in YOUR home, you can get immediate access to my digital ‘Splurge & Save Planner‘ for ONLY $12! 

Heads up … this is a limited-time offer. Don’t click on the link (to the planner) unless you are ready to purchase within 20 minutes. This is an offer typically reserved only for my email subscribers, but I know this resource will be super helpful for you so I’m sharing the offer with you too :).

If you aren’t ready to dive *that* deep but would like to learn the six crucial steps to prepare for a home build with less stress, more confidence, and a strategic plan to stick close to budget (without sacrificing your must haves), download my *FREE* Custom Home Build Prep Guide.

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I designed my own custom home from the ground up, inside and out. A home that is cozy, comfy, laid out perfectly for the way my family lives, and makes us happy every single day. Oh, and did I mention I did this all without blowing the budget?! 

Yep, it’s true. I’ve been there, done that, and actually lived through it … and you will too. Pinkie promise!

a.k.a. Caroline on Design

I’m Carrie Barker.

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