How to Build a House – New Build Checklist

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How to build a house
How to build a house? This new build checklist should be helpful.

Building a house is a mind-bending and thrilling experience but there are a lot of decisions to be made, sometimes in a very short amount of time. If you have never done it before your very first question might be – how to build a house? Where do you start? The following New Build Checklist has been put together through hard won experience and I know we would have found it extremely helpful to have had we had a list like this to help us when we started out building our home.

It’s best to get your modifications to the home plan set before the work is underway because change orders mid-build can be especially expensive.

The best part about building your new home is that it’s YOUR home. You get to pick out all the little details you want in it. Here is a checklist of gems that I’ve compiled from friends and anonymous change orders that we borrowed from our builder. Feel free to use this as a discussion checklist for your family, and your builder. Keep in mind that not all these suggestions may be possible (or affordable) when building your new home given your budget or code restrictions.

External Areas:

  • Ask what landscaping is standard. Do you want to add an extended patio?
  • How does the sun hit your house? Will you have the western sun on your back patio? Do you need a Pergula? Ask if it has to be approved by the HOA.
  • Are you building a pool?  If so, consider one that has an autofill function for when you’re out of town, and solar panels for heating it. If you are putting a pool in later, have a general idea of where it will be so that you can plan for accessibility of the digging equipment and to preserve landscaping.
  • Fence height. Is there dangerous wildlife in the area? Do you have small pets? Be sure to consider the best way to protect them from becoming prey. For example, if coyotes are a problem, you’ll want a fence at least 6 feet high and possibly with a roll bar.
  • Do you want a built-in outdoor grill? Plan for it with a gas line and electrical for outdoor fridge and sink.
  • Make sure your outdoor hose faucets are where you want them. You’ll need one in back, one in front, maybe more. Consider your landscaping design and where your cars park in case you will be washing them in your driveway.
  • Also, make sure the faucets have extra protection for freezing weather.
  • Make sure any walking paths are bare-feet friendly
  • Does the stone/brick on your home require additional care? Lighter stone is more likely to show stains and you may be power washing it with more frequency than darker stone.

Garage:

  • Don’t put your water heater in the attic. If you can’t put it on a bottom floor, then have it installed over the garage where the least amount of structural damage can occur if it leaks.
  • Check the width and depth of the garage and make sure you can get your SUV in and still open the doors
  • Do you want overhead storage installed?

Utility:

  • Add a sink in the utility/laundry room, and hanging bar for wet clothes
  • Lots of people also like to have a space in the utility room for a deep freeze
  • Consider a floor drain in the utility room in the event your washing machine leaks
  • A walk-through from the master closet to the laundry room is nice if your layout allows it

Flooring:

  • Don’t put hardwood floors in rooms that are prone to water leaks (like the kitchen).
  • Do consider hardwoods over carpet in rooms that your aging pets like to hang out in.
  • Remember that dark hardwoods are harder to keep clean because they tend to show dirt more.
  • Get the extra padding under the carpet. It can make even cheap carpet feel luxurious.
  • Upstairs carpeting is less noisy than hardwoods and tile upstairs.

Inside:

  • Where will your guest room be? Do you have relatives that don’t do stairs well? Best to put their rooms on the first floor.
  • Do you want a safe room for protection against Mother Nature or in the event someone breaks into your home and you need a secure place to hide?
  • Do you want a wall safe built in?
  • A fireplace in the master bedroom is cozy
  • A raised hearth on fireplace can provide extra seating
  • Do you want to add built in cabinetry in any room? Or change the current cabinetry? Or add windows to the cabinets?
  • Make sure there’s a stud over the fireplace for hanging photos or wreaths
  • Put as many attics in as you can. Ask your builder to put down plywood in all the storage areas to make them as big as possible. It’s much easier to do this as you’re building than later on.
  • Do you want space-saving pocket doors anywhere?
  • Blinds. Do you want them? Remember that a building a new home as bare windows and blinds can be very pricy.
  • PVC blinds are easier to clean than wood. Consider putting shutters and wood blinds on the front of the home and areas that can be seen from the street.
  • Do you want a front door with glass or a more private option of a solid door? Some doors have windows at the top which allow for privacy and let in sunlight

Bathroom:

  • Taller sinks in the master bath are easier on your back
  • Consider wider doors and water closets for handicapped or elderly who may have a walker or wheelchair to contend with
  • “Tall boy” toilets with quiet lids are much more pleasant
  • Look at your cabinetry, you can modify this to fit your needs, even installing electrical outlets in it.
  • Check out the size of your shower – is it big enough? Can you make it larger and be a walk-in shower? How far do you want your tile to extend?

Kitchen:

  • How about motion or touch sensor faucets for when you have raw chicken all over your hands?
  • Do you want a double oven (one to be a convection oven)
  • Instant hot water spout for pot filling is very convenient
  • Appliance garages in kitchen are great to hide appliances
  • Consider a second sink in kitchen if one is in the island
  • Pull out drawers for pots and pans instead of shelves
  • Cabinet separators to help manage baking sheets
  • Warming drawers are nice to have if you can spare the storage space
  • Consider modifying a cabinet for larger appliances
  • Run a gas line to your stove even if you want an electrical stove – it will help with resale
  • Dark granite on counters shows streaks
  • Granite counters and sink – are more durable
  • Cabinet design: do you want pull-out drawers? Folding shelves? Consider little fingers!
  • Cabinet fronts – do you want glass? If so, add in the additional cost of lighting in those cabinets

Lighting:

  • Make sure each closet has lights installed. Consider closet lights that turn off automatically, especially if you have small children
  • Think about where you want dimmer switches
  • Fluorescent lighting in the garage makes it easier to see
  • Recessed lighting on stairs is more safe
  • Under cabinet lighting is really helpful

Electrical:

  • Do you want an intercom system for your home? For the front door? This can be especially nice if you have a large home.
  • Do you want an all-house music system?
  • Do you want the outside wired for audio, televisions?
  • Consider floor plugs in the living areas
  • Put extra outlets in the kitchen, even in the pantry.
  • Install some USB outlets in areas that are areas you’re likely to charge electronics.
  • Outlets in the closet are handy, especially if you like to iron your clothes right before you wear them
  • Christmas lights outlets near the eaves of the home
  • Integrated outlets in cabinets for hair dryers, rechargeable razors, etc.
  • Cable in every room even if you don’t have a TV in there yet.
  • Recessed outlets can be a nice touch.
  • Central vacuum is handy for quick touch ups.
  • Consider higher voltage outlets in the garage for deep freeze, refrigerator and power tools
  • Make sure you are wired for a security system
  • When discussing wiring, plan for the future. For example, do you want cable on your patio? Even if you don’t plan to have a TV out there right away, now is the time to run the wires. Do you want to have cable in the master bath? Yes, yes I do. Cables need to be pulled now, or else the cost for this luxury may be cost prohibitive later.
  • Consider making your home a “smart” home where all your energy can be managed from your smart phone or computer.

Have you built a new home? What would you add to this list of new build suggestions? Leave your answers in the comments below.

Here are a few books that you might find helpful too! (affiliate links)

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30 Comments
  1. Carrie sheridan says

    i would strongly recommend a large double sink in the kitchen. We have had five houses and find a single sink very inconvenient. With a double sink one part can be for stacking or soaking dishes and the second one is free for using a garbage disposal.

    1. Trista Perot says

      Carrie, I couldn’t agree with you more.

    2. Holly says

      Hmmm. I disagree. I’ve lived with both and I LOVE my huge single sink. I can fit almost anything into it. It was awesome bathing babies in it when they were little as well! We’re building a new house, and our builder didn’t have an option for a large single sink, and I was pretty disapointed.

  2. barbara reynolds says

    Thank you for the list – we are getting ready to start our final home and you have many great things listed. I look forward to any new ideas you may add to your list in the furture, We are just now finalizing our plans to give to the builder.

  3. Amy says

    We are in the building process and my husband is the builder so there is so much to do!! This list was very helpful! Thanks so much

  4. Anna says

    Just finished building a house and love all the upgrades we added! Outdoor lighting is a great and easy upgrade. We added eaves lights to all corners of the house. Makes it nice when taking the dogs out in the evening or when company is coming over after dark. We opted to pay extra and have the trim carpenter install permanent wood shelving in the linen closets rather than the wire shelving. All doors were widened to 3 feet to accommodate a wheelchair or walker ( we plan to age in place) and exchanged door knobs for lever handles. Almost every room was framed and prewired for ceiling fans. And we added a couple of extra exterior electrical outlets for holiday lights and any power tools outside.

  5. Judy says

    Great ideas… I’m pretty good at lists and you actually gave me ideas! Thanks

  6. Cc says

    Add a floor drain in the garage. It helps when you have rain or snow dripping off the vehicles and makes the floor slippery. Also for when you hoes out the garage and need the entire floor to dry quickly.

    Totally agree with the extra and wider windows. I have bad eyesight and extra natural light helps so much.

    Ceiling light fixture in every room. Again for extra light. Even if you don’t want a central main light fixture, put in can lights . Table and floor lamps just don’t always provide the lighting you may need now or especially as you age.

    Put electrical outlet on fireplace mantel for lighted Christmas decorations. Also close to stairway railings you might decorate with lighted garland.

    A back stairway from the basement to the garage, especially if the inside stairway is not straight. Makes it easier to get large furniture into the basement.

  7. RichmondGal says

    Excellent ideas! Some other items to think about: have your garage stub plumbed for a sink. Extra noise insulation if you have bathrooms directly in line with bedrooms. Outlet for freezer in mudroom. Consider exterior lighting switches in master bedroom. so you can control lights. Water spigots on each side of house and up on deck/porch. Don’t neglect ceiling medallions in entry, dining and kitchen nook. Pocket doors are great options. Talk to your builder – I had a lovely vision of a three sided frameless shower. Builder explained that the water would be on an exterior wall and that gave him concern for freezing pipes. Kitchen cabinets- all the way to the ceiling or with space between ceiling. If you have space, do you want lights above cabinets?

  8. Tassie says

    I think if you have a really big bathroom. A ceiling fan rough in, is a great idea. I’m doing that in our new house. The master bath is 10×15 by itself.

  9. Bettie says

    We live in Texas and have a relatively smaller bathroom. We replaced one of our bathroom ceiling lights with a ceiling fan & light combo. It was one of the best, if not THE best, updates we have ever done. When it’s hot and you’re taking a shower just trying to get cool, there is nothing like feeling the ceiling fan breeze in the shower. And as a bonus, the bathroom doesn’t stay hot as long after a shower and the humidity clears up in almost no time. I will never have another bathroom without a ceiling fan.

    1. Trista Perot says

      That’s great idea!

      1. SHELLY says

        Great idea, we live in AZ and it is hot in the summer!

  10. Beth L. Fischer says

    What a great list on building a new home. We have moved 9 times, and have been blessed with all our homes. This time we
    want “our home” with everything we need. GREAT LIST> Keep the ideas coming. Love this site. Thank You.

    1. Trista Perot says

      Awesome! Good luck on your build!

  11. John says

    Great list! Thanks for sharing! Making sure ceiling fans are an easy option in any room is a great idea, especially larger rooms to help circulate the air and even the temperature in the room. I would also recommend running network/media/audio wires through the walls to outlets for your home network, surround sound media/sound systems and any other ‘wired’ needs you may have. This will spear you or whom ever might be the home owner down added costs and frustrations down the road.

  12. Ci says

    We lost our home to fire a few months ago and are starting to rebuild. I have asked for outlets with USB ports in each bedroom, living room, and one in the kitchen. We are also making each door 3 feet wide with levers instead of knobs because I was diagnosed with MS a little over 5 years ago. I’m not in a wheelchair yet, but I know I will be one day. Also have a smoke and fire alarm in every room!! And avoid using plug-in air fresheners, especially in the top plug of the outlet.

    1. Trista Perot says

      Thanks for sharing your advice. I’m so sorry to hear about your house and diagnosis!

  13. Rebecca says

    Thank you for the list. I would have never thought of some of these points. We just sent our desired floor plan over to the builder to have some adjustments made. I am super excited and a bit overwhelmed with this process that we will be venturing on. Hoping to be in our new forever home by April 2017!

    1. Trista Perot says

      I’m so glad you found it helpful! If you’re in the DFW area, I will be presenting with my architect friend discussing the whole build/reno topic. 🙂 Would love to have you there!

  14. rACHEL GERHARTZ says

    Great list and added ideas in the comments. We are just beginning to build for the 2nd time on a lake lot and making all these decisions can be overwhelming so I appreciate all the ideas! Thanks!

    1. Trista Perot says

      Thanks and GOOD LUCK! 😉

  15. Tonee Erickson says

    Thank you so much for the list! We are just in the beginning process of our building….waiting on approval of our plan! Hopefully can start before the snow flies!! Do the USB outlets cost much more than typical outlets?

    1. Trista Perot says

      Hi Tonee! Good luck with your build! I would get an estimate from your builder and then shop them at a home improvement store. You may find it’s cheaper to buy them there if the builder is putting a premium on them. Hopefully, they pass along their discount to you, but I would verify. 🙂

  16. Cindy says

    You mention nothing about high speed internet wiring. Wifi is easy, but it’s half the speed of wired, so you may want outlets in the rooms where you use computers, TVs, the Roku, etc. Plan for your router to be in the center of the house so you may want to plan for a hidden place to put it.

  17. Michelle C Lee says

    1…might want a slide to top of home to bottom for the following reasons 1)all sizes for play, 2) fire exits 3) if you have a storm room in your home and you need there quick
    2… a small door in garage to kitchen or pantry to help your back and make it quicker
    3…a warmer drawer to keep your food warm while you’re still cooking other stuff
    4… a toy room for your kids or family kids reasons why there should always be a clean bedrooms or you probably here this all the time there a boy in my room now my room has boy germs
    5… we are having a problem with our movies and books coming g up stolen everytime we have a lot of people over so when we build we are have a game, movie, and book room and locking it.
    6… don’t just make the guest room for adults what if you dont have kids but have nices or nephews or younger siblings or if you have kids and there not enoght room or if there age are compultly differt or there not friends sadly

  18. tammie says

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your list. We are in the process of building and I wish I had this list before we started. Thanks again!

    1. Trista Perot says

      Good luck! And have fun creating your dream home!

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