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Home Build prep guide



9 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Building a House

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written by:

Carrie Barker


If you’re building a home (or planning to build), you’re probably worried about the typical things … you know, like staying on budget or making the right design decisions. But guess what?  There are MANY other things you might not even realize you NEED to think about until you are already in the thick of building your home. Don’t worry … I’ve got you covered with a list of 9 things I wish I had known before building a house.

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Welcome back to the Before You Build Podcast! I’m your host, Carrie Barker (a.k.a. Caroline on Design), and today in episode 3, we’re going to talk about 9 things I wish someone had told me before I built my custom home … just so I would know what to expect.



This is a tip that I’m sure you’ve heard before. I’m not saying you will necessarily go significantly over budget (we didn’t!), but you will most likely go over some allowances. We far exceeded our appliance allowance, for example, but we were under budget on cabinets so it all worked itself out.

I just want you to be prepared to go over budget in some of your allowances when building a home (especially in today’s market).

Psst … you can learn how my husband and I built our dream home without blowing the budget in my *FREE* on-demand training, 3 Crucial Steps to Build Your Dream Home Within Budget (regardless of the current home build market).


It’s very time-consuming to visit your home build site daily (especially if you live in a different city as I did), BUT if you want things done correctly, you NEED to oversee installations as much as possible.

If you aren’t on-site to direct electricians and other subcontractors, they will make the decisions for you. Believe me … you do NOT want them making decisions on your behalf. This is precisely how I ended up with a breakfast nook pendant that was completely uncentered. Ugh!


This is a good thing! Once you have furniture in your home, you will no longer be laser-focused on the imperfections (e.g. a small crack in your wood flooring). There WILL be imperfections (lots of them, in fact) in your new home and this is totally NORMAL!

We all assume a new home will be perfect, but it won’t be perfect (unfortunately).

The good news is that the imperfections won’t be as glaringly obvious once you furnish your home. Honestly, you’ll be SO thrilled that the build process is behind you that you probably won’t even think about the imperfections anymore.


During the framing stage, my husband and I got a little nervous. We had conversations about whether or not our family room and bedrooms were big enough. They looked TINY at this stage.

Thankfully, our builder reassured us that this is very normal. It’s some kind of optical illusion, but once the drywall goes up, you’ll feel MUCH better about your room dimensions. Pinky promise!

things I wish I had been told before building a house


When you move into a brand new home, keep in mind that you will have no window coverings.

So be sure to include plenty of room in your budget for window treatments because even the most basic (inexpensive) window coverings can ADD UP when you are dealing with an entire home of windows.

Be prepared to spend several thousand dollars on blinds or shades (YIKES).   


Your yard will be a blank slate when you move in. I recommend sodding your entire yard if you can. We planted grass seed in our backyard and it took three years (and three planting seed tries) before our yard finally looked normal and plush.

The good news is that you can do your landscaping in stages. You can budget this out over several years … and you can do most of the work yourself to save money.


Did that get your attention? I am VERY serious about this recommendation.

Guess what happens when you don’t have a porta potty (or whatever you call it in your city)? Subcontractors might use your sump pump as a urinal.

Unfortunately, this is what happened at my house while under construction and I had no idea until I started smelling the evidence. GROSS!

Just take my advice on this one :).


This really made me sad (because I have a TON of trim work in my home). I had NO idea how much cracking would occur when my home ‘settled’. I do live in a climate with extreme temp variations and high humidity so I think this makes my location more susceptible to settling and expansion.

At any rate, be prepared for cracking. It WILL happen … and it will continue to happen. The first couple of years are the worst, but we still experience cracking after nine years in our home. 

Thankfully your guests will NOT notice the cracks as much as you do. Also, most (reputable) builders will come back at your one-year anniversary and fix any house issues.

After the first year, it’s typically up to you, the homeowner, to remedy any issues.


Hopefully, you will be VERY happy with the majority of your design selections. I know that I was … actually, I’m still happy with my decisions nine years later. 

However, there will probably be at least one thing you wish you had done differently.

This is totally normal and OK! Just make a mental note of what you want to do differently in a future build. I absolutely love my home, but there are a few minor things I would change if I built this home again.


Hopefully, you feel more prepared to build after reading this (lengthy) list of what I wish I had known before building a house :).

Just knowing what to look out for (and knowing that these things we discussed are NORMAL) will help you feel more confident, Plus, I hope you now realize that you need to leave plenty of room in your budget for window coverings and landscaping.

If you enjoyed this episode, I think you’ll love my *FREE* Custom Home Build Prep Guide that will help you to build your dream home with less stress, more confidence, and a strategic plan to stay on budget! Following these steps will start you on the path to a successful home build.

  1. Ha! Carrie, I love your #2 recommendation! When building our last home, I would visit at least once a day, and sometimes a few times a day. I know I got on some of the sales agents and builder’s nerves, but I was excited! I was paying for the home, and I wanted to see it through the process. At closing, our main builder told me how helpful it was to have me on site. I was able to address concerns or changes as they happened, where some homeowners would come a week before closing and complain about everything. Be polite, but check on your house and it’s progress. Thanks for sharing!

    • Yes, it is SO important to be on-site as much as possible so you can address issues immediately instead of waiting until it’s almost too late!

      Thank you for your comment!

  2. […] You might enjoy reading The Top 9 Things I Wish I had Known Before Building a House. […]

  3. Abby Fields says:

    This is such good advice. It is SO nerve wracking think of custom building! I want my custom home in utah to be perfect, but I know there will be things I need to prepare for!

  4. […] If you want to learn more from my home build experience, be sure to read ‘The Top 9 Things I Wish I had Known Before Building a House’. […]


  6. Maryann says:

    I am curious if you were able to get the pendent light over your breakfast nook centered, or are you living with that? Just wondering if that is something that they would fix.

    • I had my electrician move it to center it over the kitchen table. I can still see the blemish on the ceiling where the paint is slightly different, but I don’t think any guests would ever notice unless I pointed it out.

  7. Anita Lovegrove says:

    Good idea to be on site when contractors are there. When we built out heating contractor was going to put heat register in middle of floor in front of where refrigerator was going! If I wasn’t home he would of had to rerun duck work and fix floor. I made him put it in kick plate of cabinet. Also I wasn’t home when cupboards were delivered and installed wrong color inside and they were supposed to be custom but they were off center of my kitchen window, which drove me nuts years later when I wallpapered and it really showed. Be on site as much as you can!

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  9. Shannon says:

    You are so, so right about the window coverings. I didn’t realize my new big beautiful windows were almost all unable to use a standard size blind. Almost $4K worth of custom blinds later, I wouldn’t change the windows, but I wish I had realized at the start that I would have this issue, so I could avoid basically having to spend that money all at once.

  10. Pamela Johnson says:

    I love your design blog and have gotten such great advice in all your articles, thank you. We are in Central Wisc. and decided to build a “aging in place” home so that blog was very helpful. We hope to start the build this summer. I am struggling with exterior design, colors?, Stone?
    Etc. Do you have advice on this. I love your exterior, beautiful. I would like to do a soft white, cream/grey stone and dark charcoal color accent. Just so afraid to make a mistake!

    • Hi Pamela! We’re almost ‘neighbors’ … I’m just south in Illinois :). Have you read my blog post about the best white exterior paint colors yet? If not, click HERE to read it. That post might be helpful in getting you started with paint color selections. Best of luck to you! -Carrie

  11. vwilliams says:

    We are building our final home now – retired. I have some thoughts for you to ponder, things that we didn’t do on our other builds. We hired a full service architect this time. He designed our home and is going the distance with us on the project. He is now coming to the site to make sure all the plans are being carried out properly. We feel that the decision is paying for itself. He is advising us on materials and where we can save money – when to substitute, when not to, catching small issues. We, along with our architect, builder and even our landscape architect often meet and discuss things. Big and small things. For example, drainage to take water away from the house has been discussed, we’ve added a retaining wall in order to add some width to a parking area outside of the garage. Custom windows were changed to standard size except in one area to save money. We had no idea which ones were standard and non-standard, ask your window rep or architect – it was a matter of an inch or two. Our dining room was too narrow to allow chairs to be pulled out because of where a buffet would be placed so a wall was moved over in the planning stage. We moved an ice-maker next to a sink for drainage and preparing the floor under the ice/m for drainage (and probable leaks). The counters in the owner’s bathroom will be one height for my husband and another height for me since they are on opposite sides of the room. The builder knows that walk through discussions will occur prior to plumbing, cabinet builds, electrical, etc. I wanted nice wooden double front doors, but due to weathering and afternoon sun and the urging of our window rep, architect and builder, we are now having a door custom made – clad outside, wood inside. In other words, it’s taking a village and great communication to get our home built.

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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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