-Before you make your selections for a specific flooring/tile, you’ll need to make a decision on what type of flooring you will be putting in the bathrooms. The plumber will need this information so he knows how high to set the toilet flange off of the subfloor.
-If you are in the market for wood/laminate floor or any type of tile for floors, walls, backsplashes, etc., make a trip to a Floor and Decor location near you.
-Watch for sales at all of the local stores on lighting, faucets, flooring, etc. If you have an allowance to purchase these items, the sales/discounts can help you come in under-budget and is worth the time and effort.
Topics of Discussion in this article:
Now that the house was enclosed, we started to make our selections a priority. It was hard for us to believe that we should be finished within 2 months; however, when we broke ground over 4 months ago, it’s about time. We have been looking at a lot of lighting products, flooring, etc., online, but it was time to go make our final decisions. Along with making these selections, I have tried to make it out on site whenever my schedule allows to lend a hand and get one step closer to closing.
Selecting the products for our home is one of the most exciting aspects and one of the reasons we chose to do a custom build. Instead of having to select a “package” or “level” with a production builder with pre-selected finishes in each, the sky is the limit. However, we started to realize this gets overwhelming very quickly. One of the first choices we had to make was flooring. We have selected our cabinet and countertop color, so we used our samples to select the flooring to make sure everything looks good together. At first, I was set on luxury vinyl plank due to the fact it wouldn’t scratch and is waterproof. I thought this was a no-brainer with the boys and the dog. I searched everywhere for a plank that had micro-beveled edges (so it looks like individual pieces), had some texture, and some color-variation/character. IMPOSSIBLE to find… Therefore, we changed our way of thinking and started to look at some of the water-resistant laminate flooring options. We still desired the same features as with the vinyl plank, and there were a lot more options out there with the laminate. These products are still extremely hard and won’t scratch easily. In order to help our sanity and the decision making process, we decided to take a trip to Floor & Decor (without the boys) to look at their options. Michelle made it easy. She walked through the flooring aisles saying, “No, no, no, maybe, no, YES.” For the record, her “YES” was the same one I would have selected. Satisfied with our selection, we purchased a few planks to take home with us.
Next, we walked over to the half of the store with all of the tile options. This proved to be more of a challenge than the wood flooring selection. There were so many different colors, tile sizes (square vs. rectangle, large vs. small), finishes (gloss vs. matte), and types (ceramic, marble, etc.). There were some tiles that we liked as they were very modern and trendy; however, we wanted to select a tile that we hoped would also still be in style 10 years from now. Therefore, we opted for a neutral, large rectangle, gloss tile that was stylish, yet conservative. With the floor for the bathroom selected, we now had to select the tile that we wanted to use for the shower walls. Again, the amount of options was overwhelming. Ultimately, what helped our decision was considering what product would be easier to clean.
Larger tiles = less grout lines = easier to clean
With that philosophy in mind, we selected a large, rectangular, white tile for the main walls with a smaller accent tile that we will be installed a couple rows up higher. We purchased a tile for each one of our choices. When the time approaches for install, I will go back and purchase the required amounts of flooring and tile.
With the flooring and tile selected, it was now time for us to move our focus to lighting. We knew that we were going to need to purchase bathrooms lights, pendants for above the island, a chandelier for the dining room, a light for the foyer, exterior coach/porch lights, and ceiling fans. Again, this was an area where the number of options are almost overwhelming. We made numerous trips to the “big box” stores, the specialty lighting stores, and many online sites. We decided quickly that the specialty lighting stores were not for us. Their selection and quality were not that much better than any of the other stores to justify the significantly higher prices. Our search kept taking us back to the lighting department as Lowes. Over the past two months, Lowe’s added some much more contemporary and modern fixtures. We opted to make our purchases here because they had some styles we liked and their prices were reasonable. We also decided that it would be a much easier decision to change our light fixtures years down the road if we wanted knowing that we didn’t spend a small fortune on them in the beginning.
Michelle and the boys headed to Lowes one afternoon to make some of our lighting purchases. She picked out the fixtures she had her eyes on for the last few weeks for the dining room and kitchen. She let the boys pick out the fixtures for their bathroom (definitely not the one we would have selected) and the ceiling fans for their rooms. This was an easy way for them to feel like they had a part in making some choices for the house.
I didn’t care as much about these fixtures as I was on a mission to save money. We decided to put recessed lighting in many locations. I kept watching the sales for the the local stores to see where I could get the best price. I went to Menard’s during their 11% off sale to purchase all of our recessed light housing ($7.49 each) and LED trim rings ($7.49 each). After loading up two carts with lighting, I headed for the door. Two days later, we received an ad for the Menard’s lighting sale. The ad had the recessed housing and LED trim rings on sale (both were $4.99 each). This sale price was better than the 11% off sale, so I took the receipts back so they could make the adjustment. I took the same mentality with purchasing other items for the house while on sale. While it took some time and effort, it resulted in some significant savings
Next on our agenda is to finish selecting the remainder of the light fixtures/fans and the faucets for all locations.
Prior to the start of the rough-in wiring for the home, I had not had the opportunity to discuss our wants/needs in detail with Keith or the electrician, Jim, even after making several requests. I took out my blueprint of the main level and started marking where I wanted to place recessed lighting, chandeliers, etc. I wanted to have a though-out plan for when Jim got started. I am very OCD when it comes to the even spacing of recessed lighting, etc. In many of the locations, I measured off the exact location and marked on the subfloor so it could be transferred to the ceiling.
I planned to be at the house when Jim arrived to get started. We spent an hour and a half walking through the house marking locations of outlets, lights, and switches. I hadn’t given any thought to the location of light switches, but I’m glad that we discussed it or I would have found some switches in undesirable locations once we moved in. Other items that we discussed were switched under-cabinet lighting, floor outlets in the living room and office, locations of outlets for wall-mounted TVs, a 50-amp plug in the garage, locations of receptacles on the exterior, etc. Once we finished our discussion, Jim got to work mounting wall boxes, drilling holes, and running wires.
In the boys’ rooms, I initially had thoughts of having four recessed lights near the corners and a ceiling fan/light in the middle. Jim convinced me that the four recessed lights would probably be too much light (even on dimmer switches) for 11×12 bedrooms and that the ceiling fan light would be enough. The next time I had the boys at the house, I shared with them what was going on in their rooms and that we wouldn’t be adding recessed lights. Caleb was a little disappointed and then suggested that we have two recessed lights instead of four, placed to the side of where his bed will be. He said this would be good light for reading. I had to admit, this was a good idea and something I hadn’t considered. The next day, I instructed Jim to place two recessed lights in each of the boys’ rooms. This was a situation where the mind of a 9 year old was helpful!
Once the housings for all of the recessed lighting were installed, I went back and checked their exact locations. I wanted to make sure that in the kitchen that they were in line and spaced evenly front to back and side to side. In the office, I checked to make sure that the lights were the same distance from each of the walls. In the great room, I wanted to make sure the lights would be spaced evenly in the sections where I would be installing some ceiling beams in the future. Almost all lights had to be adjusted, some by as little as 1/4” and some by as much as 3”. This was a tedious task, but once drywall is installed, it would be too late to make adjustments.
At the same time Jim was installing the electrical, the HVAC and plumbing crews were getting started as well. The majority of their work took place in the basement. I learned that when building, it’s important to have these two crews work hand-in-hand. They have to work together to determine the locations of cold air returns, supply lines, drain lines, etc. Many of these items have to be placed in specific locations between the floor joists in the basement. After a couple days for install, the basement looked like a disaster with installation materials everywhere. Slowly, over the next week, items were secured and everything started to look more organized
Mike, one of the plumbers, needed to know what specific flooring materials we would be using in the bathrooms. It was an executive decision on my part as Michelle and I hadn’t made a decision yet. I had never considered that this would be something the plumbers would need to know. I told Mike that we’d be installing ceramic in both of the full bathrooms and the laminate in the half bath. This was important because in the areas with ceramic, Mike spaced the toilet drain flange 1/2” off the floor to account for thickness of the concrete board and tile. In the bathroom with the laminate, he only had to space the flange 3/8” off of the floor. Although it didn’t seem like a big deal, it would make the difference between a tight fitting toilet and a wobbly one.
Another item Mike requested was the location of the outdoor water spigots. I had never given this any thought either. I knew we wanted one on each side of the house, one of which would be close to the back of the garage where we could rinse off lawn mowers, etc. Mike also said they usually installed one on the inside of the garage. On this spigot, he asked me if I wanted it to be hard or soft water. He stated that most people make this one soft so they can use it to wash their vehicles and it won’t leave water spots. This sounded like a good idea to me. I guess I’ll no longer have an excuse to not wash my truck…
With all of the rough-in work complete, the electrician, plumbers, and HVAC crew won’t be back until it’s time for any small adjustments or the installation of finishes.
Plan for the Future
While building the house, I have created a list of projects and priorities. Some of the items will need to be completed prior to the home being finished, while others might wait for a couple months or even years. However, it was important for us to make provisions for the future projects while we had access to the wall and ceiling framing.
Some of the immediate projects would be completed after drywall was installed and painting is complete. One item that I prepared for was a fold-down ironing board in the laundry room. I went ahead and ordered the kit off Amazon so I knew the exact measurements. This was pretty easy because they are made to fit between two wall studs (only 14” wide). I selected the location and fastened two horizontal pieces of wood between the studs at the needed height. The drywall crew will cut around this opening so that I can recess the cabinet in the wall. Another item was for a jewelry cabinet that I’d eventually hang in the master closet. I checked the dimensions online and they were not as wide as two studs (16”). This meant that when I mounted it in the future, only one side would be fastened into the stud and the other side would be fastened using wall anchors. Instead, I cut and fastened two 2”x6” pieces between the studs. The drywallers will install drywall over these nailers, but they will give me solid wood to fasten both sides into later. The next items I prepared for were TV locations. Wherever we were planning on wall-mounting TVs, I also cut and fastened 2”x6” pieces. This would give me a solid location to mount the brackets instead of trying to locate the wall studs.
The biggest item that I made provisions for/built was the fireplace. In our current home it took me 10 years to get around to building and installing an electric fireplace insert and mantle. This has been something that we have greatly enjoyed. It was not imperative that we build a fireplace at our new house immediately, but it was going to be much easier now so it could be drywalled with the walls/ceiling and flooring could be installed around it. I was able to complete this project in about a day using extra lumber that was still on site. Equipped with a saw, nailer, level, and ladder I got to work.
While we wouldn’t be finishing the fireplace with decorative stone, tile, or molding initially, at least the structure will be there ready for finishing touches. The drywallers will be able to finish it smoothly with the walls and ceilings, which is something with which I struggle.
Some of the long-term projects were things like faux beams on the cathedral ceiling in the great room, a coffered or decorative accents on the ceiling in the office, etc. To make preparations for these in the great room, I measured and marked the location of the future beams on the subfloor. Then, I found the location on the ceiling were the beam would eventually be installed on the drywall. This showed me between which trusses I needed to place nailers. Once identified, I measured and cut 2×4 pieces that I then fastened between the trusses. I fastened pieces by the wall, 3′, 6′, and 9′ from the wall on both side of the room. By keeping uniform distances from the wall, I will be able to measure and know exactly where I can fasten the beam to the drywall in the future.
To prepare for the future decorative ceiling in the office, I followed the same steps. Originally, I planned to install a traditional coffered ceiling (looks like a tic-tac-toe pattern).
I measured and marked the locations where all of the beams would go. On the floor, everything was able to be spaced out as planned. I began putting the nailer pieces in the ceilings when I realized there would be a problem. For this to look good, the recessed lights in the four corner “boxes” would need to be spaced evenly between the walls and the beams. This wasn’t an issue on one side of the room, but it was on the other where a bottom of a truss would prevent me from placing a light in the center. I printed out some graph paper and started thinking of a plan B. I have seen a few different types of decorative ceilings while showing houses and one came to mind. I sketched it on the graph paper to scale (or at least fairly close). It turns out that I actually liked this design better than my original plan.
With an idea in mind, I then cut and placed the blocking pieces in the correct places for this ceiling design. I took photos to show the measurements from the center fixture and from the walls for future installation reference.