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8 Biggest Mistakes We Made When Building Our New Home

We’ve compiled a list of the 8 biggest home building mistakes we made as first time builders, so you don’t need to make the same ones!

Deciding to build a new construction home (rather than purchasing it off the plan or established) was hands-down the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s been more than a year since my boyfriend and I started this journey, and not a day goes by where I don’t feel like pinching myself in disbelief. It still doesn’t feel real.

So perhaps I should preface this article by saying that I love my house: I love the neighborhood, I love my design choices, and I especially love how easy it is to maintain.

With that being said, there are definitely a few things I’d do differently if I had my time over.

8 things to be exact.

Here’s a list of all the home building mistakes we made as first time builders and what you can do to avoid them:

Don’t forget to add shower niches!

This one still haunts me. 

Every time I step into the shower and come face to face with a shower caddy, I shudder. Somehow, despite all my meticulous planning and research, I forgot to add shower niches. By the time I realised my mistake, it was too late; our master plans had long since been signed, and construction had already started.

This particular home building mistake probably bothers me more than it should. After all, shower niches and ledges have only really come into vogue over the last few years. I’ve lived in plenty of houses without them before, and will likely live in plenty of houses without them again. It’s not the end of the world, I know – it’s just annoying. 

With that said, if you haven’t signed off on your master plans yet- make sure you add a shower niche (or ledge) to your bathroom! Trust me, you’ll thank me later. There’s nothing worse than having to line your shampoo bottles up on the windowsill or shower floor. It promotes the growth of mold and honestly just looks unsightly.

Splurge on Floor to Ceiling tiles

Norsu Interiors pink bathroom
Norsu Interiors blush bathroom

In order to save a few dollars, my partner and I decided against doing floor-to-ceiling tiles. At the time, we just couldn’t justify the expense. The bulk of our budget had already been allocated to higher-value areas like the kitchen and alfresco. 

With a bit of hindsight though, I realise we should have splurged a little. While I still love my bathroom, it feels a little lacking sometimes- it doesn’t have the same sense of grandeur that the bathrooms on home reno shows do.

I realise that floor-to-ceiling tiles are a luxury not everyone can afford. In fact, they’re a luxury we ourselves could barely afford. But If you’re sitting on the fence like we were, this is your sign to take the leap! After all, bathroom remodels after the fact can be extremely expensive… so it’s worth spending a little extra money to get something you love. In our opinion, tiles are a must have builder upgrade.

Add Drawers/Shelves to Your Wardrobes

“I’ll just install an IKEA wardrobe after handover”

Please, please believe me when I say it’s not worth the hassle. Any money you save installing that Ikea unit yourself is absolutely not worth the headache that comes along with it. 

When my boyfriend and I first moved into our new home, we very quickly realised how little clothes storage we actually had. It was a huge oversight on our behalf and one that caused us some significant trouble. For weeks we lived out of suitcases and boxes, shoes were strewn throughout the house and absolutely nothing had a place. 

I was lucky enough to have some storage space at my parent’s house… but, not everyone is so lucky. For the sake of your sanity, have your builder install the cabinetry in your wardrobes before handover. Built-in storage is an absolute lifesaver, and will never go astray. Not only will it help moving day go smoother, but it will inevitably increase the resale value of your home!

Don’t Skimp On Hallway Space

Before you judge us too harshly, it’s important to mention that my partner and I built on an incredibly narrow block (we’re talking less than 10m in frontage). We didn’t have a lot of room to work with, so we had to make a few concessions in the name of maximizing our living space. There are plenty of things I wish I’d done differently to make better use of our narrow block, but this certainly tops the list.

In order to add some depth to our second and third bedrooms, we decided to narrow our hallway by just a few centimeters. On paper, this didn’t seem significant. But it was. 

Don’t get me wrong, the hallway doesn’t cause us too much grief on a day-to-day basis. It’s a little tight, but it’s tolerable. It’s only once you start trying to maneuver furniture around corners, or squeeze more than one fully grown adult in the space that it really becomes an issue.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is: don’t skimp on hallway space unless you absolutely have to. Unless you’re working with an incredibly narrow block like we were, it’s really not worth the hassle.

Make Use of Hi Lite Windows

In order to make our living room a little more usable, we decided to remove a window from our floorplan. Doing so allowed for better furniture placement in the living room and opened up a second walkway- but it did leave the room feeling a little dark.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret removing the window- it made sense given the general layout of the room. I do, however, wish I had considered replacing it with a hi-lite window instead. 

Hilite windows are great for strange, poky walls that you intend on placing furniture against (While I’m usually against placing furniture against walls… that’s a discussion for another day). They’re also a great option for people building on small blocks (especially in densely populated areas) where nosy neighbors might otherwise have a perfect sightline into your bedroom. Eek!

Add More Counter Space

This probably goes without saying, but the more counter space you can squeeze into your kitchen, the better. 

In order to make room for an after-market coffee/drinks bar, I decided to remove about 1m worth of bench space from our kitchen. Silly, right? 

While admittedly we saved a ton of money removing this section of cabinetry, it’s a decision I deeply regret. Almost six months later and we still haven’t purchased that coffee bar. At this point, I doubt we ever will. Our priorities changed… and I grew tired of furniture shopping every weekend. Had we just forked out the cash up front and kept the extra bench space… I would have had my coffee station by now. 

As it currently stands, I’m stuck swapping out appliances to save bench space, and cursing my past self for shrinking our kitchen. 

Extend Your Garage to Make Room for Shelving

They say you can never have enough storage – and they’re right. No matter whether you’ve got a single, double, or custom garage you can always benefit from a little extra space.

If you’ve got the room, I recommend extending either the length or width of your garage by at least 0.5-1m to allow space for shelving. After all, a standard garage can barely fit a family SUV, much less one with a towbar – so you can forget storing your mountain bikes and Christmas tree in there too. 

The extra space doesn’t necessarily have to be used for storage either, it can be customised to suit your family’s needs. Perhaps you need room for a motorbike, workbench, fishing gear, or a deep freezer- the possibilities are endless. 

If we’d had the foresight to extend our own garage, we would have saved ourselves a lot of time and space down the road (and been able to put it on our mortgage!). Without that additional storage spa 

Ask to raise the bench height

Did you know that it’s possible to raise the height of your kitchen and bathroom benches? 

Neither did we!

Quite often i’lI find myself hunched awkwardly over the sink while washing dishes or preparing dinner- it’s uncomfortable and probably terrible for my posture. Unfortunately, it’s even worse for my boyfriend, who stands a head or so taller than me.

If we’d known raising the bench height was an option, we would have taken it in a heartbeat. Money wouldn’t have been an object.

So, for the sake of all your taller friends and family members, I highly recommend asking your builder whether this is something they offer. That way, there’ll be no excuses for skipping out on dishwashing duties! You might even improve your own posture in the process.

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