Renovation to new build Do’s and Don’ts

Joe and I have flipped, renovated and now built a home from the ground up… we’re no experts BUT we have learned a thing or two!! Here are a few tips and tricks, do’s and don’t and suggestions for successful remodel/build. Stay safe and good luck!!

Building a house or renovating a space is not something you do everyday, so it’s best to be prepared, research and do some serious shopping around yourself first. When you are getting ready to do a large remodel project or build a home here are some things to consider first:  A custom build project requires close collaboration between you, your architect and your builder. This team will be responsible for making your dream become a reality (or a nightmare).  Many people work with an architect long before choosing a builder (this is what Joe and I did and honestly, I would recommend choosing a builder and working together WITH an architect!) . By incorporating the builder early, you can avoid significant surprises when you get to costing out your project. Nothing can take the wind out of your sails as much as believing you’ve designed your dream home or space, only to find that it is much more expensive than you can afford! Spending a little more time now to have it your way and love the space is MUCH better than spending the next two to three years after construction thinking you should have done it another way. It is MUCH cheaper to do something during construction vs. living with it and not liking it, then tearing it out and re doing it. Here are some tips on how to create that beautiful, functional and affordable space. Now, Joe and I were creating a 100% custom home from the ground up. We didn’t have any floorplans to walk though or design center to choose from. There are definitely pro’s and cons to this. The pros are that we had all the freedom in the world and were not limited one ounce on what we chose. The con’s are that it was pretty hard to design it because we were really shooting from the hip on budget. Without a builder involved in the beginning it was really hard to know what things cost. We designed our home with an architect and then got it bid by several different builders. Some may say this saves you on cost, but I’m not sure it does. If I could do it all over, I would probably find our builder first, work with his architect and do the process hand in hand with all of us together. Either way you choose to do it, these tips should help you in the process!

  • In the beginning (a year or so before we started), I invested in a large 3 ring binder and had a file folder for EVERY space in our home. Including the exterior, windows, doors, cabinets, paint colors and fixtures I liked. I created a pinterest account and did the same thing so I would have access to these images at all times.
  • I looked through home decorating magazines, Houzz, Pinterest and internet images. I found images that inspired me and that Joe and I loved.
  • Drive around and take photos of houses in your community or wherever you visit. Look at different stone exteriors, color schemes and styles that appeal to you.
  • Organize the information by room. Your kitchen folder may have custom cabinet covered appliances, a gas range, a large center island, colorful backsplash tiles, a convection oven or oversized farm sink.
  • Choose which features seem ideal to you and your spouse and also how you envision your day-to-day routine.
  • Including some fun ideas of things, you have always wanted like a brick wall, a rustic hood vent, a beautiful chandelier… put these in a separate folder called finish ideas or extras.


In order to come up with an accurate budget for your project, your builder/designer/project manager needs to understand as clearly as possible what is most important to you. Unless budget is no concern at all, it is likely that you will need to prioritize and make decisions about how to best spend the allotted money you have committed to put toward your home.


Make a list of MUSTS in your dream home/ new space, and also know where you are willing to compromise if finances require.

MUST HAVE LIST: Must Haves: • Additional guest suite with bathroom • Gourmet kitchen with granite countertops and stainless appliances • Views • Natural stone masonry fireplace • Crown moldings in dining and living rooms

  • Make a list of WOULD LIKE TO HAVE:

WOULD LIKE LIST: • Coffered ceilings • Wine cellar with refrigeration • Built-in audio/video system The more that you can do to determine your own tastes and desires, the better the builder can do to make your vision a reality. Don’t be intimidated by this step in the process. Consider it a blank slate. This is the creative part…have fun!

  • Also, take these items and make PRIORITY LIST:

As soon as the construction starts (if not before) you’ll find out the original budget has most likely increased. It’s only natural you’ll have to give some things up or increase the budget, so it’s good to know what’s priority. You must also consider that during construction you’ll probably have to add things you never thought of things you budgeted for are not really what you thought they were. This happened to us several time during the build process. We ended up spending a little more for better quality windows and larger bathtubs. We also decided to put in two furnaces and A/C units instead of just 1 because we have two floors and our how is quite large. Some things get over looked during the planning so…


This is VERY important. It is VITAL to have a contingency fund for those “just in case” moments or those “but this one is so much nicer” moments. I would suggest 10% of your total budget be put into this fund. Believe me… you will probably end up using it, and if not… then great, you have a little in your pocket at the end of the project and you can celebrate!


For some this is easy as you like to see things progress and make decisions when rooms are framed and you can see the vision clearer. For others, you may just want to get it all done in one fair swoop and not have to think about it anymore! As the construction advances you will have it clearer in your mind what you really want.

  • Don’t rush the process. Poor planning is the leading cause of cost overruns on projects of any size. Nothing is more expensive than doing things twice. You should spend several weeks to a few months on the planning process of any space. In building new it’s easy to place things where you want them, but when you are redesigning a space you should coinsider trying to keep things as close to original placement as possible. This will help eliminate large moving costs and can free up money to spend on finishes.
  • It’s much easier to imagine what the house will be after the walls are up and you have a better notion on the actual dimensions. Visit the house or space often in every stage and then think about it. A little tweaking and manipulation may be needed now that you can see the space more clearly.
  • After you have thought about it and made up your mind, go to the store and look closely at all the different options.
  • BUY SAMPLES!! If you have a show room or not, either purchase lots of different samples or rent them out. Place them in the space and look at them during different times of the day. Feel them, match them up with other material you like. What looks best? What will last the longest? What will be the most durable? Ask yourself “What is the priority of this space?” Is it beauty? Functionality? Durability? All these are things to consider when making design choices. If it’s too hard for you to imagine or choose…try to getting some help at the store or an opinion form a friend or loved who knows your style. Show them the plans or space if you can and ask for some opinions. If it’s a good store, they will help out a lot and even narrow down the extensive choice selection there is, based on your taste, budget and style of house. This can be a plus, because sometimes you can really get lost in the middle of it all!!

I hope these few tips can help with the new build and or renovation process! Happy renovating!!



  • Kelly Shepherd

    Hello…what beautiful master piece you created! Love your style. If you don’t mind me asking did you use an existing home plan or did you and your husband create it yourself! Would love to hear from you. Kelly ShepherdReplyCancel


      Hi Kelly! Thank you… It took us 2 years to design this home from scratch.ReplyCancel

      • Kelly Shepherd

        Hi Heather, thank you so much for the response:) We are thinking about building a home and have found it overwhelming just picking a design we both like!! Your blog is very inspiring and makes me want to do it now! I am sure you have been asked about the blueprint/design of your home. And I too am very interested in hearing more about the layout of the inside of the home? How many bedrooms/bath? Total square foot? Do you have a basement? Also if we do design our forever home can I purchase some of your time for design? I am Canadian and live in Windsor, Ontario but would love to pay you to help me create the perfect spaces once we can decide on a darn plan! From your pictures the inside of your home looks sprawling contrary to parts of your blog?? Hope to her from you again. Thanks for taking the time to respond Heather.


        Kelly ShepherdReplyCancel

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