15 Mistakes We Made When Building Our Home

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woman holding dirty clothes putting into laundry chute cabinet door in bathroom

Building a house? You shouldn’t already have regrets.

But until you actually live in the space, you don’t always think about certain conveniences or details until you don’t have them (or wish you did). Here’s a list of some mistakes we’re kicking ourselves for not knowing before the big build.

1. The best kitchen cabinet doors have drawers, too.

kitchen drawers in white cabinets stocked with dishes

Opting for all drawers or adding drawers inside of your kitchen and bathroom cabinets will make reaching for (and finding things) a lot easier. Plus, pull-outs help keeps things more visible and organized.

If you’re trying to get your drawers more organized you should also consider some containers for organizing all your small and miscellaneous items.

Hip Tip: Remember that time our team organized for an entire month? We shared the before and afters of what our homes look like now after taking our declutter challenge!

2. Dining room sets not your thing? Skip the traditional rooms.

dining room with table and chairs with dishes tall candles

Keeping unused rooms for the sake of tradition (like formal sitting rooms and dining rooms) sometimes doesn’t appeal to new home buyers and their modern-family needs. Make sure you know your family’s habits and whether or not you’ll be getting the best use of space with every room in your new home.

“We built our home and it came with a formal dining room. Unfortunately, we’ve never used it that way. A few years ago, we kinda turned it into a sitting area (no renovation or anything – just moving furniture around) and it has worked better for us. I wish we would have just turned it into a sunroom instead.” – Mary

Beautiful organized white pantry room with baskets and table in middle of floor with flowers

While change can be scary, don’t be afraid to step away from tradition if you know it’ll suit you and your family best. Best of all, nixing a room altogether may even save you some cash at closing, and changing it down the room could be a costly reno.

Take my Hip sidekick, Michelle, for example. Their home office wasn’t being utilized to its full potential so they opted to totally transform the space into a huge pantry (shown above). While she still did everything on a frugal budget, it probably would have been more cost-effective from the get-go. Regardless, we have all the heart eyes for her pantry! 😍

3. Design some tall, wood kitchen cabinets to transform your kitchen.

tall white kitchen cabinets with large island and stools

Where you can, add tall kitchen cabinets that go all the way to your ceiling (or as high as the manufacturer will make them). These will also provide ample storage space and will make your kitchen look much more custom.

“We had short cabinets in our new kitchen. With 10′ ceilings, this left us with two feet of open space that didn’t do us any good. I would have rather had added storage.” – Jamie

Hip Tip: Now you need to fill all of those cabinets with these kitchen gadgets that you didn’t even know you needed until now and the best pots and pans that our team loves!

4. Your friends and family need space for their winter coats and jackets.

small coat closet with jackets hanging inside

Make sure you have sufficient storage for winter gear and coats. Whether you plan to host large family dinners or invite just a few friends over, having some space for their stuff when they come in is important, too, and something as little as a coat closet can often be overlooked.

“I first realized where we went wrong with our build when we had our house warming party. 80 people and 160 shoes later, we realized we should have built a bigger coat closet and a designated place for shoes when coming through the front door. It was so embarrassing having to pile winter coats all over our office floor.” – Stephanie

“We mistakenly built our house without a coat closet or a place to hang coats and organize shoes. BIG mistake! It was so annoying when guests came over, as there was nowhere for them to drop their stuff. My office (which was the first room by the front door) became the dumping ground for shoes and coats.” – Collin

5. Adding electrical for TVs, lighting switches, and ceiling fans will save money down the road.

ceiling lights in kitchen and dining room

Adding light fixtures, boxes for wall-mounted TVs, and other electrical necessities down the road can mean tearing into your beautiful walls and additional electrical work. Plus, all of the above add a huge expense to your installation bill.

These are all easy and fairly inexpensive add-ons while you’re building so make sure to think ahead for how you plan to decorate and live in each room. And while you’re at it, make sure to request dimmer switches to really set the scene.

“I’ve had to add so much in-ceiling lighting to our home, because it had almost none – and it can be a lot of drywall work and tying in electricity. It’s just too dark without it, and the difference is amazing!” – Lina

Hip Tip: Did you already build and need new lighting? Check out how Lina frugally installed a wall sconce in minutes without any wires at all!

6. Having functional wall & floor outlets everywhere will make or break a room’s functionality.

black outlet box with cords plugged in behind TV stand

Speaking of electrical, make sure to add additional outlets in places that really matter. The right placement (or having enough outlets in general) will be a large factor in how well you utilize each and every room in your new home.

Plan out where you’ll be putting furniture, nightstands & lamps, and think about places like the bathroom and how you’ll be living in and using each space daily.

“I really wish we had added more outlets in the basement. We ended up putting a lot of gym equipment down there (half of which needs to be plugged in) and also a TV and sound system. Running all of this off the two standard plugs has been a huge pain. I can only imagine what it would cost to add more with the cement walls we have down there.” – Tara

“Extra outlets in the bathroom would have been nice. I have one outlet in my bathroom, and I wish I had added more! I have a warmer plugged in and my toothbrush, but I have to unplug one when I need to use the hairdryer or hubby needs to charge his razor.

An outlet in the walk-in closet would have been a great idea, too. We have two walk-in closets, and neither of them has outlets. It would be nice to charge electronics in there, or to even have an extra lamp/lighting plugged in so you can actually see your stuff.” – Chelsey

Hip Tip: Speaking of outlets…check out this outlet shelf I installed in seconds. It’s the best outlet hack ever and will free up counter space.

7. Window replacement can get expensive – opt for more natural light.

empty room with wood floors white walls and two small windows

Planning for too few (or too small) of windows could be one of your biggest regrets. 9 times out of 10, natural light is always a good idea, and I fully believe you can never go wrong with too many windows and larger windows. Natural light makes any room feel bigger and airier. Plus, adding them, later on, tends to be costly and very inconvenient.

Hip Tip: Want more ways to make your home feel bigger? I shared the best tips to get your living room feeling larger than ever – most of the tips can even be implemented in multiple rooms of your home.

8. Ignoring light switch placement will affect the functionality in your home.

turning on a Leviton wifi smart light switch

Light switches are most useful when they sync with the flow of your furniture. Go through each room on your floor plan and make sure that the switch is connected to the light you want to turn on when you walk into each room. It’s even helpful to have switches at an opposite exit.

Think of it this way when planning for light switches: You should never have to walk in darkness through a room.

9. Garden hoses are easier to use outside with more than one hose bib.

hose bib on green house siding

Make your outdoor living, watering, cleaning cars, etc. easier by placing hose bibs in convenient areas. It’s an extremely easy add-on that could end up being a complicated and costly installation down the road.

“My husband loves to wash out the garage floors, hose off the lawnmower, etc., so it would be so nice to have a hose set up in the garage. Plus, if you ever wanted to add a sink, it would be super easy to connect.” – Chelsey

“We totally forgot to add a hose bib towards the front of our house to easily water the garden. We have one out back, which for us has been useless, and stretching the hose from the very back has been nothing but a hassle!” – Steph

10. Don’t forget the soft closing feature on your kitchen cabinets.

white cabinet with plates and silver hinges on door

Some may consider this a luxury, but self-closing hinges are going to last a lot longer than some of the cheap hinges builders tend to use. Plus, they make opening and shutting doors easier (and quieter).

Hip Tip: Speaking of kitchen cabinets, here’s how to get your spice cabinet in order in under just a few minutes.

11. Don’t ignore the future load of your electrical service panel.

electrical panel with insulated walls

While an electrical panel isn’t very pretty or something you’ll look at frequently, upgrading it so you don’t constantly blow fuses is a hassle you’ll want to avoid for everyday conveniences.

“Thankfully our builder recommended upgrading our service panel, as it could have cost us up to $4,000 to change later! Basically, when you have a lot of things plugged in, you require more amps, so upgrading your electrical panel when you build saves you from blowing fuses. This is super nice if you have an unfinished basement that you plan on finishing, want to put a shop in your garage, etc.” – Chelsey 

12. Throwing your dirty wash down a laundry chute gives parents a free hand.

girl putting dirty clothes in the laundry chute cabinet in bathroom

Not that a laundry chute needs any explaining, but I love how Lina took hers a step further and even incorporated her chute as a part of her overall bathroom design, making it fit seamlessly in the bathroom vanity. Just know too, that it’s a fairly easy DIY down the road is the floorplan of your house supports your idea if you opt not to add it into your build.

“We installed a laundry chute when we realized our laundry room was right below our bathroom. We were able to conveniently disguise it by placing it in as a cabinet at the sink. I would totally recommend this addition to anyone building to save from moving any plumbing, electrical, etc. down the road. It has been so amazing with the kids and makes doing laundry so much easier.” – Lina

Hip Tip: We love doing laundry now that we found the best laundry detergent ever!

13. Skip the cheap upgrades and opt for high-quality materials later on.

wood floor samples in store

Certain upgrades aren’t worth the price you have to pay to get them while building (and the quality isn’t always up to par). Go with standard builder options, then upgrade things like flooring and light fixtures on your own so you’re sure to get exactly what you want for the price you want.

“When we built our semi-custom house we were so excited to have hardwood floors that we didn’t even think about the quality we were actually getting. In just 3 short years we have so many knicks in different planks, some of them are peeling up, and even though we were told we could sand it down and restain it down the road, it’s pretty clear that the wood is way too thin. So disappointing!

I wish we would have gone with the standard flooring and replaced it with a wood that we would have loved and would last a very long time!” – Becky

“When we built our house, we weren’t really keen on paying for anything extra as it was our first house and were trying to save every penny. However, now that we’ve lived here for 5+ years, I’m realizing that the carpet already needs to be replaced because they generally use the cheapest possible carpet unless you upgrade.” – Chelsey 

In another light, there are some who find it more valuable to go the route of upgrading finishes from the beginning:

“In my experience, ‘builder grade’ is synonymous with ‘disposable’. Don’t settle for builder grade appliances, flooring, paint… anything! Even if you’re building on a tight budget, I think it’s a better investment to take the credit they offer for those items and apply it towards an upgrade. Otherwise, you’ll just be upgrading on your own dime in a few short years down the road.” – Jenna

14. Walls, doors, and hallways, oh my! Open up your spaces instead of closing them off.

small room with narrow hallways and wood floors

While most people already seek an open floor plan when building, make sure you’re using all of your available square footage and eliminating unnecessary use of square footage – like hallways.

“I would have planned for fewer hallways so our living spaces would be larger. I would have rather had a big playroom that opens up to bedrooms instead of 100 square feet of passages.”  – Jamie

15. Not considering the kid factor.

girl giving baby a bath in white farmhouse sink

If you plan to have kids and are building your forever home, it helps to understand how children use space differently than adults. Spending time with other peoples’ kids (and talking to their parents) helps you understand what’s important so you can use your space wisely.

“Oh my gosh. I totally wish we would have had our kids first because we didn’t think ahead about a lot of things! LOL! Our biggest mistake was actually the placement of our master bedroom. It’s above our living room, and everything is hardwood.

Plus, my husband works nights 6 months out of the year, so we constantly struggle with everything being too loud. Had our room been placed in a better area, I know this wouldn’t be such an issue.” – Jessica

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Join The Discussion

Comments 5

  1. April

    Your suggestions were interesting to read even if I don’t agree with all of them. Different strokes for different folks, I guess. The suggestion about a big enough coat closet is something I wholeheartedly agree with though! I am older and have lived in many different houses in my life. Each one has taught me things I really liked about each one and things I don’t. A small coat closet is definitely not desirable. I am spending time at home during COVID looking at house plans planning our final one story retirement home. One thing I cannot help but notice is how many home plans do not even have a coat closet. I find this strange. (Are you listening home designers?) Many of the ones that do have a coat closet, have one that is far too small. We are currently living with a small coat closet and my dream retirement home plan will have a nice large coat closet.

    Good suggestions about getting the electrical system to meet all your needs and the need for plenty of planning before the house is built. I agree. Our final home will but fully wired with Ethernet in each room. We do not use wireless ANYTHING due to health concerns. This will certainly take some advance planning. What I don’t agree with is installing dimmer switches. These are really simple to install later but the downside of dimmer switches is the amount of EMFs they produce. We installed one in our current home and took it out once we learned of the dangers of EMFs and where they can be a problem in a home. Don’t believe me? Buy a EMF meter and check it out for yourself. That’s what we did.

    My dream home plan will have the following and all my criteria comes from what I have learned from the different houses we have lived in.

    My kitchen will have a triple bowl sink – preferably stainless steel. This sink will look out into the living area so my husband who does the dishes can watch TV while cleaning up. He’s a big fan of TV! It will have plenty of counter space and drawers with lots of under cabinet lighting. What it won’t have is a dishwasher. We don’t use it. It takes too long for 2 people to fill up a dishwasher. Since we stopped using one, we no longer have a problem with ants. I will also not have a microwave. We don’t use them – ever. Want to change the molecular structure of your food so your body has no idea what you just ate? Just microwave it.
    I want a really large pantry – preferably walk-in but please no window in it – just very good lighting.
    All the plumbing in my dream home will be on an inside wall. Less chance of pipes freezing that way.
    I will skip the formal dining room but have looked at plans with a formal dining room with the idea of turning it into an office.
    A large screened-in porch off the kitchen is a must! Also our garage will be detached! The toxic fumes coming from an attached garage can be harmful to your health – another feature I hope home designers will take a look at.
    And the one thing I want that I don’t see anyone mentioning is what I would call a Christmas tree closet. A friend of mind once shared this idea with me and I thought it was simply brilliant! I want a space near the living area where I can just wheel a fully decorated Christmas tree into, then shut the door until the holidays roll around again. I have found multiple plans where I would turn a powder room into a Christmas tree closet. Should be cheaper to build, less toilets and sinks to clean and holidays just got a whole lot easier!

    Speaking of powder room, I don’t want one. Two bathrooms in a home is plenty enough for a retired couple. I prefer not to be cleaning bathrooms in my old age. We moved from a house with four of them to our current home with 2 1/2. One less bathroom to clean would be even better. I would even be quite happy with one sink in the master bath as long as the vanity had plenty of storage drawers. Definitely no spa tub wanted and a nice walk in shower is much more preferable. We have a large Jacuzzi in our current home that is in reality a great big hole in our master bath that just collects dust. I often look at that thing wishing it was another closet! If we really want to take a bath in our two bath retirement home, we can use the tub in the main bath.

    And your suggestion for lots of windows is not something I would opt for. Yes, natural light is nice BUT it comes at the cost of efficiency of a home not to mention all the money you will spend to now control the amount of light and heat loss those extra windows will have. Think higher heating and cooling costs. Window treatments are not cheap either. We currently live in a townhouse with 32 windows. I don’t particularly want to be keeping all those windows clean in my old age either. Any windows we do have will defiantly have to tilt in both top and bottom for easy cleaning. I find myself removing windows when I look at house plans. I just pray we never have to replace all 32 windows in our current home. Another added bonus of less windows is you have more wall space for furniture placement.

    So as you can imagine, what works for one family might not work for another. Still I think this is a great conversation to have because it makes one think carefully before settling on a home plan that might have some disappointments in the end. Thanks so much for your thoughts!

    • Jenny

      I can say I would not want to live in the home you have described! Sounds like you do not entertain or have any guests over, so you are correct, different things for different people! Good luck with your final retirement home. Fumes, chemicals, etc.

    • Sophie

      Ok, the Christmas tree cupboard is GENIUS! even if I unfortunately do not have the space for that into he house we are building now. However, we are building an energy neutral home and in order to do so we in fact are required to have enormous windows. In fact, our north side has nearly no wall space. I can also attest to the eddiciench of this as we live in a flat with a wall of windows south facing and I rarely even turn on our heating in winter. But of course, you need to live in a sunny area which perhaps you do not….

  2. D.Leslie

    Interesting how different our needs are. We are building our dream retirement home. We will have a big open great room with a dining room to meet the needs of big family gatherings. Lots of windows are a must. My Christmas tree will be in a walk in guest bedroom closet. And lots of garage space.

  3. DebB

    We are currently planning our last home build to retire in. For us, a front porch is a must! Since I love to cook, a large pantry is a biggie (and rarely on home plans!) While we are healthy now, the future may be different…so we are making hallways bigger with 36″ doors everywhere. Since we will not be adding a basement this time, a 3rd garage is a must! Here are a few other ideas: overhead lights above showers and tubs; electrical outlets in the floor of your great room; a large tub sink with your washer and dryer; make half of your kitchen bar higher with higher barstools so no one can see your dishes in the sink; make sure the light above your eating area is centered to the table; blinds in the patio doors; water spigot next to garage, on sides of house and by back patio; Motion floodlights at each corner of the house (roof); Light pole by sidewalk in front of the house; ample lighting on front porch; his and her sinks and closets; Large shower vs garden tub. I hope this helps!

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