What it’s REALLY like to build a house

We didn’t need a new house. I LOVED our old house. But stoopid Covid made us stay at home all the time and for some reason we started to THINK we needed a new house. And then one day I was scrolling the Internet and this plot of land on a cul de sac came up for sale, and my hubby was like let’s think about it, and I was grabbing him by the lapels yelling, “Are you insane?!! There’s no time to think! It’s going to go!”

And so, just like when you grab an extra pack of tic tacs at the cash register, we were making an impulse purchase. Do you want freshmint, orange, or tropical adventure? Oh, no thanks, I’ll take the one that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. WTF????

So was it a mistake? Depends on which day you ask me. But before I tell you what my final answer is, here are a few things I learned along the way. If you’ve ever thought about building a home (or doing a big renovation), here are ten things I learned when we were building ours:

  1. Be prepared to make 10,000 decisions. You have to pick every doorknob, pull, light fixture, tile, faucet, etc etc etc. And if you’re anything like me, you will spend many hours staring at ten different whites trying to decide which one to paint the walls.

    HUBBY: WTF, isn’t white white?

    ME: 🙄

    P.S. If you are doing a project right now, I HIGHLY recommend this website for lighting, bathroom mirrors, cabinet hardware, etc. I loved all their stuff, and it all goes well together! At least I think it does. If it doesn’t, please don’t tell me. (I can earn off qualifying purchases)

  2. Be prepared to pay for things you really want AND things you DON’T really want. Did I know the chevron fridge would cost more money? Yes. Did I know the price of lumber would skyrocket right when were starting to build. Grrrrrr, no. No matter what they tell you things will cost, they can’t predict everything.

    Look at my very expensive lumber. It’s exactly the same as less expensive lumber.

  3. Okay, so picture this, you and your spouse walk into a massage parlor for a couples massage. Only once you get in there, it’s not a massage parlor. It’s an operating room. And you’re both gonna be sliced open end to end and hemorrhage money for the next 18 months. That’s what it’s like. Be prepared for change orders out the wazoo. 
  4. Do you like telling people what to do? Me neither. I HATE asking for things. Heck, I don’t even like calling a store to ask what time they close. But you’re paying a crapload of money for something you’re going to live with for a really long time, so ask for what you want. Just make sure to say please.
  5. You know all those awesome pictures you see online of totally amazing kickass homes? They’re bullshit. Nothing looks like that in real life. Because no matter how awesome your mudroom is, your kid’s gonna dump their backpack on the floor. And their room’s gonna look like it came out of a Pottery Barn Kids catalog for approximately point two seconds. So pick a style that goes with “stuff.” Because life is full of “stuff.” And by stuff I mean shit that doesn’t photograph nicely.

    I LOVVVVE Zoey’s welcome sign. If you like welcome signs, here are some awesome ones! (I can earn off qualifying purchases)

    This is reality, people. Not a catalog.


  6. While you’re designing spaces in your house, picture yourself using them. Like literally picture yourself unloading the dishwasher and putting shit away. Is it close enough to where the dishes and glasses go? Will the cabinet door open in the right direction? Is there a space for a drying rack? Yes, I know your new beautiful kitchen isn’t supposed to have an ugly drying rack in it, but it will. So where’s that hideous thing going to go?
  7. Building a house is like having a baby. People are going to flood you with alllllll kinds of unsolicited advice. Like someone told me I should definitely put two dishwashers into the kitchen. And I started to think it was a good idea, until I thought about who I am and how I’m not a fancy person and realized I am not a two-dishwasher kind of gal. Think about what YOU really want and need. YOU, not someone else.
  8. IF a room doesn’t look exactly how you pictured it, IF a tile is a slightly different color than you expected, IF a door opens differently than you asked, remember something—FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS. Don’t get me wrong, if something is truly wrong, ask for it to be fixed, but some things aren’t wrong. They’re just different than you expected.

    This ceiling was supposed to be slanted. But it looked good so I was like whatever, and told the construction guy just to leave it.

    These can lights weren’t in straight rows at first and I knew they would drive me bonkers, so I said please 100 times and asked them to be changed.


  9. Okay, so here’s what I want you to do. Go get a plant. If you don’t have a plant, go find one in your yard. Now watch it. Are you watching it? Okay, keep watching it. Is it doing anything? It’s growing! And you’re watching it grow. That’s how F’ing patient you have to be when you build a house because it takes forevvvvver.
  10. Have more money than you think things will cost, have more patience than you ever knew you had, and have a super strong marriage made of titanium because you’re gonna need it.

So was building a house a mistake? If you asked me a year into building it, my answer would have been maybe. If you asked me the day we were leaving our old house that I love with all my heart and will always miss, my answer would have been yes. But if you ask me now, a month after we moved in, my answer is an emphatic hellllll nooooo. It was NOT a mistake. I LOVVVVVE our new house. It’s not a home yet, but it’s starting to be.

Of course, ask me again when our first mortgage bill arrives. The answer might change again.

If you liked this, please don’t forget to like and share it. Thank you!!

P.S. I wish I could give credit to our amazing builder and all the awesome people on his team. Unfortunately, I try to keep our location anonymous, so I can’t. With that said, if you live in our area, feel free to ask me privately. They were AMAZING. 

There are 8 comments for this article
  1. Angela Ward at 8:40 pm

    Our cabin filled with mold a few years ago so we took on the task of rebuilding from the ground up, ourselves, during covid when all the lumber prices quadrupled. Never again will I build new. So many decisions and my husband and I are both real indecisive so it was so much work. Oh, I’m super cheap too so add that in for fun. Took months just to pick out lights, and ceiling fans are a whole other story! Luckily we have amazing friends and family that really helped with the building part. We’re enjoying it now though and will be retiring there in 5ish years.

  2. Marti at 8:59 pm

    Here is my advice from building, be careful with the amount of lights you have, and leave on often. Our first electric bill 🤯 needless to say we use less lights. Also our heating guy put the furnace IN FRONT OF A DOORWAY! Ummm no thank you please.

    • Brynn at 8:55 am

      The key is to have a good policy for the first year (or more) when things can be fixed/adjusted/shifted. We had a lot of doors that sagged bc installers didn’t use long enough screws. Stair rail became loose after just one yank from a small 6 yr old. We replaced all heating, air, and hot water equipment, only to find that the HVAC/plumber company (I insisted on using) had hired a bunch of rookies to meet the covid-era demand, and most of it needed to be redone.
      I agree with everything else you mentioned. I thought I’d LOVE picking light fixtures most, but by that point in the process, I had such decision anxiety – and there are SO MANY lovely choices, I almost had a breakdown over it.
      Glad it’s all over!

  3. Kelly at 8:53 am

    We loved building! We also hired a designer to cut out all of the millions of choices when walking into a store. She took care to get to know the style of what we wanted, so when we walked in to make backsplash choices for the kitchen, she had laid out 3 options. We loved all of them, but loved one more. When something was incorrect at the house, she was our spokesperson.
    When we had to pick lighting she said, “on this first go around, we won’t worry about price. This is to get the look and then we go back and find cheaper options if necessary.” We picked out one light fixture for our stairs that was over the entire lighting budget! Thankfully, she got us the look without the price because she knows the different lighting manufacturers.
    I would come visit the house every single day. (Started building March 2020 – yes, that March) I got to know every single one of the subcontractors that built our house. I brought the framers beer on Friday; the painters donuts when they were working Saturday morning. I gave gift cards to the electricians. They were much more likely to move something or even make suggestions to me because they knew me. Get to know your people!!

  4. Jeanette Dionne at 1:27 pm

    OMG if I had 2 dishwashers I wouldn’t every use my cabinets!!

  5. Heather Mason at 6:33 pm

    I wish we were able to do this! It sounds insane and wonderful! Quick question about your builder, do they also do renovations? I don’t think we’re all that far from you, so I would appreciate their info! You can email me if you’d like. Thanks!

  6. Andrea T at 9:53 pm

    So beautiful!
    But for real with the mudroom and kids – why must they drop stuff right NEXT to where it belongs!?!?!?

  7. Kerri at 6:47 am

    D**n Covid. We moved too. Would we have been fine at the old house? Of course. But covid really highlighted the missing pieces of our old house. And our new to us house fits us so well. Congratulations on your new digs