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Must-Have Builder Upgrades for Your New Home

With so many new home upgrades to choose from, it can be hard to know where to spend your money! It’s easy to be swayed by beautiful paint swatches, fancy showerheads and brushed gold tapware in the display/design centre, but so many of these upgrades can be made after the fact at a much lower price!

There’s nothing wrong with splurging on a few luxury items here and there, we’re all human after all. If money were of no object, I could have (and would have) gone crazy with design upgrades. But, it’s important to keep your budget in mind when making these kinds of decisions, and therefore understand where exactly you should be spending your money to get the best return on your investment. 

Choosing the fixtrues, fittings and design elements for my home took me months; mostly because my boyfriend and I have polar opposite tastes, but also because we had a relatively limited budget for upgrades. Sometimes, the decisions put before us felt impossible to make – after all, when you’re trying to choose between upgraded brick & stone benchtops, it’s hard to know which will add the most value to your house long term (**spoiler, it’s the stone benchtops).

It took a lot of time & research to narrow down our list of upgrades (here’s a blog post that walks you through the process) – so I’ll save you all the hassle. Here’s my list of MUST HAVE upgrades for your new build:

Keep in mind, these are just the upgrades you can make in the design centre… we’ll cover the floorplan & master plan alterations another day!

Stone Benchtops

Builders upgrade - stone benchtop

As hard as this might be for some of you to hear, I genuinely believe that stone benchtops are the best way to spend your money in the design centre. While I understand that this particular upgrade might be out of reach for some, for those that can afford it, stone is an amazing investment in your home and future (especially if you plan to eventually resell).

In my opinion, you’ll get the most bang for your buck choosing a man-made engineered stone such as smartstone, essastone or cesarstone; they look great and have a much lower price entry point than marble or granite. While I’d recommend considering a natural stone in higher-end builds, for most of us, engineered stone is going to be close enough to the real thing.

If you can’t afford to deck out your entire house in stone, perhaps think about just upgrading a few key areas. I’ve seen plenty of beautiful new kitchens that use a combination of laminate AND stone. Provided the colours and patterns match (or at very least, are complimentary), it’s perfectly okay to upgrade the benchtop on your kitchen island, but use laminate everywhere else. You’ll save yourself a pretty penny, and it’s unlikely guests/buyers will even notice… or care.

If somehow after spending all that money, you’ve still got some lying around, adding waterfall edges to your island/peninsula is yet another way to add value to your kitchen.


Best Builders upgrades - floor to ceiling tiles

Choosing the wrong tile in the display centre will cost you a whole lot of money down the line, so it’s best to spend a little extra up front to get something you really like. After all, bathroom renovations are not only messy – but super inconvenient!

While bathrooms mightn’t sell a home, an ugly one sure is a turnoff! 

I can pick a builder-grade tile from a mile away. Let’s be real – some of them are passable, but most are questionable at best. (And this is coming from someone who used builder-grade tile in her guest bathroom).

If you’re spending money upgrading other areas of your home, it’s probably worth allocating a little towards upgrading your bathroom. 


Spending money on adding/upgrading power outlets, light switches and antenna points is honestly a no brainer! You’ll be surprised (and horrified) by how few outlets and provisions are included in your home’s base price. So, make sure you set aside a few thousand dollars to make alterations to your electrical plan.

No seriously, thousands.

In my opinion, this is the one place where it’s nearly impossible to go overboard- so go your hardest. I put additional power points in almost every corner of my house, and added dimmer switches to nearly every light switch. 

Some of the best upgrades I made to my electrical plan were: 

  • Adding powerpoints to the side of my kitchen island for charging phones and appliances 
  • Adding a dimmer to the lights in the outdoor/alfresco area 
  • Raising the height of the TV antenna provisions and power outlets to allow for wall mounting
  • Including a data point in our games room/study for faster internet access

Upgraded Carpets

If you intend on purchasing your carpet through your builder, it’s worthwhile spending a little extra to have them upgraded. The carpets included in builders’ base ranges tend to be of poor quality and can be hard to maintain.

While I’m personally an advocate for installing flooring after handover (to save yourself some $$), sometimes the convenience of having everything ready to move in after handover is more important than saving a few dollars.

When purchasing carpet through your builder I recommend visiting the showroom in person to get a good feel for the durability/pile of the carpets you’re considering. While you might be able to pick some upgrades online, or from your selections booklet, it’s impossible to determine the quality of things like carpet without seeing (or rather, feeling) a sample yourself. 

Sinks (but especially the kitchen sink!)

A white farmhouse sink, a great builders upgrade!

If you’re following my earlier advice and upgrading your benchtops (which I very much hope you are), you should also consider upgrading your kitchen sink. Why? Because it will save you a lot of time, money and hassle in the long run.

Things like tapware and faucets can be changed out after move-in, but swapping out sinks can be a little trickier. This is because your countertops often need to be custom cut to fit the specific style/size of your sink. Therefore, replacing them down the line might not be an option… and even if it is, it’s likely to be an expensive one.

So, if you’re eying off that farmhouse sink, here’s your sign to take the leap. 

Personally, we chose to install a stainless steel double sink- and I couldn’t be happier. It gives us plenty of room to both soak and wash our dishes, and is incredibly easy to keep clean. 

No matter what style you choose, if you’re even so much as thinking about upgrading, it’s 100% worth doing it at the selections centre.


Did you know that you can upgrade your insulation at the design centre? Because I sure as hell didn’t (at least not to begin with)!

So, before you go spending all your money on cosmetic upgrades, make sure you put aside some cash for some functional ones. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. 

Upgraded insulation will not only save you money on your heating and cooling but also help stop sound from traveling from one room to another. It’s especially important if you have children, or are building in a new development with lots of other new construction going on around you. 

This upgrade isn’t something I think about on a regular basis, but I’m sure if we’d forgone it, I’d be thinking about it non-stop. There’s nothing worse than hearing your kids playing PlayStation through the walls while you’re trying to sleep, or waking up to the sound of your neighbor mowing their lawns at 6am.

A water line for your fridge 

Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for this one, as it was 100% my boyfriend’s idea.

Adding a tap/water line for our plumbed fridge has changed our lives- no word of a lie. 

It inspired us to drink more water, saved us freezer space (as ours has a built-in ice dispenser), and even saved us money. Rather than having a Pratap/filtered water system installed after handover, we simply fill our bottles up at the fridge. It’s super convenient and doesn’t require much maintenance at all, we simply need to change out the filter every few months.

You’ll be surprised by just how cheap this addition is too- ours only cost us about $100. What a bargain!

Fly Screens

It might surprise you to learn that fly screens don’t come standard with your external doors. And while this probably won’t cause too many issues for your front and side access doors (as you can easily have these fitted after handover), you’ll almost certainly need to have them installed by the builder on any back sliding doors.

This is because most companies won’t include an extra track to allow fly screens to be fitted after handover. While some might be happy to add one if you ask nicely, it’s probably best not to take the risk.

Either way, you’re unlikely to save yourself much money installing them after handover anyway, as most builders seem to price their fly screens pretty reasonably. Or at least ours did! 

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2 thoughts on “Must-Have Builder Upgrades for Your New Home”

  1. Pingback: Should I Upgrade To Stone Benchtops? - Home Builder's Handbook

  2. Pingback: How To Build A House On A Budget: 6 Money-Saving Hacks

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