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Has anyone built or remodeled a home?

MRBXXXFVVS1

Brilliant_Rock
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Has anyone built a custom home or remodeled a home? Do you have any advice? Is there anything you'd do differently next time?
 

kipari

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Twice (total gut job of historical homes) and it it feels like twice too many...


My advice: if in doubt, go for the upgrade if at all possible. If financially not all options are feasible, splurge for things that will have significant cost/damage later, but are relatively easy now - e. g. : not sure if you'll want a small kitchen in your guest appt? Make them put in the plumbing pipes now that the walls are open. That way you can easily install the kitchen later without tearing everything apart.

I personally try to be as neutral and high end as possible regarding flooring and bathrooms- changing that is costly and a pita. You can easily change wall colours /curtains etc and change up the look. Classic oak hardwood floors never go out of fashion and resale is easier.


Don't assume common sense with workers at all.
Be prepared to micro manage. Even with an architect and foreman around.
We've had the most ridiculous damages done by so called expert craftsmen.

Read the contract carefully. We're not naive, but we've been nickel and dimed to death by voluntarily vaguely written contracts (like, talking about the quality of products /finishing for the whole house for pages and pages (133 for the whole contract) on end. Then only talking about " the ceiling " In one phrase. Then telling us that, in fact the global price included only finishing "the ceiling " In the room mentioned in the phrase before and finishing all the ceilings in the house was extra. Yeah right....)


Good luck to you guys. The final product will be worth it!!!
 

missy

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Yes we gut renovated our Brooklyn apartment in 2004. Basically took everything including walls down and rebuilt it from the inside. We have a photo record of the before and after somewhere.

It was an impressive gut renovation and from start to finish with 6 men working on it almost daily took us only 3 months. From March to the end of June 2004. Our contractor was the best and while they were gut renovating the delivery people went on strike just when we were expecting the new toilets for all 4 of our bathrooms to be delivered. And Michael (contractor) said to me, "Melissa, if I have to go there myself and pick up all 4 toilets and deliver them to you I will" because we had 3 days left before we were planning to move in. And true to his word the home was 100% complete the day we moved in. He was the most amazing contractor we ever hired and we have completed many renovations in our time together so we have experience. Thank you Michael!


Michael's motto was you can only do 2 of 3 things. Do it well, do it fast, do it cheap. Pick 2. We chose the first 2. LOL we were young and enthusiastic and we had the funds so it was OK.
 

missy

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Oops I did not answer your qestion sorry. I have a bad habit of reading just the title and then replying.

Has anyone built a custom home or remodeled a home? Do you have any advice? Is there anything you'd do differently next time?
Hire the best contractor you can. Do your research. Talk to as many previous customers as possible.

In the kitchen lay everything out with the actual dimensions in cardboard so you can see exactly how it will be.

Get what you want and don't settle.

Mistakes are inevitable but not the end of the world. Accept imperfection and enjoy your new space! Good luck!
 

MRBXXXFVVS1

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@kipari Thanks for the advice, super helpful!

@missy Wow, 3 months for a remodel down to the studs is very very impressive! My friends that did gut jobs had the construction drag on for a year or so!

Since we will likely be stuck at home for the next year or so, I'm trying to figure out if we should build, or buy and renovate, a much larger house so we have more space.
Or we could stick with our current home and get a second vacation home.

The cost to build according to my estimates is around 3X the cost to heavily renovate a comparable house (not gutting it). When you include the purchase price of the home that needs renovating, the total cost is about the same. We'd prefer to build, but the challenge is finding empty land or a tear down.

I like the second home idea in theory, but I don't know realistically how often we'd use a vacation home. Decisions decisions.
 

kipari

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@kipari Thanks for the advice, super helpful!

@missy Wow, 3 months for a remodel down to the studs is very very impressive! My friends that did gut jobs had the construction drag on for a year or so!

Since we will likely be stuck at home for the next year or so, I'm trying to figure out if we should build, or buy and renovate, a much larger house so we have more space.
Or we could stick with our current home and get a second vacation home.

The cost to build according to my estimates is around 3X the cost to heavily renovate a comparable house (not gutting it). When you include the purchase price of the home that needs renovating, the total cost is about the same. We'd prefer to build, but the challenge is finding empty land or a tear down.

I like the second home idea in theory, but I don't know realistically how often we'd use a vacation home. Decisions decisions.
It's stressful, but it's also a nice dilemma to have.

We're in a very competitive and expensive housing market and while I'd personally prefer to build, in a market like mine (greater Paris region) the outstanding lots have been snapped up since the 17th century or so... So it's basically buy, tear down, build or gut job. Out lot is not flat, but it does have an outstanding view and the house has been build by a master architect in the 1850ies, so the location and orientation of the house were perfect already.

Plumbing, windows, heating system however were from 1957 , so it was far from perfect. That's why it made sense for us to do a gut job ...

I personally have enough space now (for Europe, mind you) and I'd buy a second home. But everyone has different needs and priorities.

Looking at my current situation we'd rather opt for a weekend home (not more than 2 hr drive) than a vacation home far away.
So I'd still go away for holidays twice a year and spend long weekends /part of the summer holidays in the second home.

By the sea or by a lake.

But ymmv
 

missy

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@MRBXXXFVVS1 we gut renovated our Brooklyn home because it was in desperate need. No one lived there since the 70s and it was in a time warp. We needed it done fast because I had zero desire to live in a renovation zone and we had sold our previous home and had to be out by July.

I agree it has to be worth your while to get a second home. Use it and enjoy it or it’s not worth it. It is a lot of extra work and double bills. Do a pro con spreadsheet and see how the options look.

We also gut renovated our first jersey Shore house. While living in NYC. We didn’t have as great a contractor (my dh’s friend ‘nuff said right lol) but we weren’t in a rush and my DH actually built stuff for the house himself. The gorgeous bar, the amazing stone BBQ, and the fireplace mantle etc. That Reno was part labor of love and joy.

Our current Jersey Shore home was pretty good as is and we only gut renovated the kitchen. That’s why I said lay everything out. I misjudged proportions and while my dh likes it I feel the Island is a bit too large. But I do enjoy all the workspace so it’s ok. Just not my first choice if I had to do over again.

I love the sea and perhaps one day will retire here. It’s a thought in the back of our minds.

Unsure of how it will work out and in the meantime enjoying both homes in different ways. We stayed at our beach house from May 2019 to January 2020. And came back mid May 2020 and plan on staying through January at least. Most likely. We shall see.

None of us have a crystal ball. If only.


I agree with @kipari. Our home at the shore is only 70 minutes or so from our Brooklyn home. It’s perfect. Or should I say purrrrrfect. We didn’t want a place to hard to get to and we wanted to be able to enjoy whenever we desired.

In 2004 the gut reno cost 30% of our purchase price. In NYC and 16 plus years ago. So ymmv but that was worth it to us. It was not cheap but we love our homes.

Please keep us posted. I’m excited for you and looking forward to seeing what you decide. If I can be if any help advice wise I’ll chime in. It comes down to your lifestyle and preferences and what would work in your life.

Good luck!
 

chrono

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Built a (semi) custom home. I guess it's semi because we had a few plans to choose from but we modified certain things. Few things we would have done differently and are happy with:

1. Pleased with adding a wall light and closet light in every room. No need to worry about floor lamps and dark closets.

2. Would very much have preferred a 3 car garage so I don't have to worry about trekking to the shed every time I need a snowblower, bike, etc

3. Always check on the contractor every day. The kitchen stove vent was supposed to vent outdoors but we didn't catch it until it was almost too late. The contractor had to modify the ventilation piping so it is hidden from the front but you can see it if you know where to look.

4. High ceilings are great but I'd prefer to have a proper balcony or walkway to access it easily and safely. Window leaks and being able to clean the windows and chandeliers easily and safely is something I did not consider.

5. Very much prefer wood flooring over carpet. Should have done the same for the upstairs, which is all carpet except for the bathrooms.

6. Yes to copper piping. Lasts longer than PVC piping.
 

missy

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@chrono I agree completely about wood floors. While it’s a personal choice I think wood floors are amazing and nothing looks prettier. And it wears well too. Not to mention it’s the cleaner choice I think.

Since I mentioned my DH building things for our homes here are 2 of his own creation.

Here’s the stone bbq my DH built at our first beach house. It’s gorgeous.
IMO.


636BA48F-7FFA-4EFC-8652-D0F72A041D2C.png



And here’s the outdoor table he built for our current beach home. It seats 12 comfortably. Though these past few months no company has enjoyed our house besides us. Covid blows.

90AEBE03-EA9B-4297-A75E-359DAF2C528C.png
 

chrono

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Oh yeah, should have gone for a ground height enclosed deck / sun room with side fake wood deck instead of the regular open air wooden deck. A pain to maintain, too hot to use most of the time, bees love to make hives on the underside, and the wooden deck is coming apart from the weather changes (expansion and contraction), plus splinters if you dare to go barefoot. Granted the deck is 20 years old now and it's about time for a new one...

But it would have gotten far more use if it was a sun room rather than open deck.
 

missy

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We used Epay wood for our deck. It wears very well and I would do it all over again. It’s a good choice.
 

bling_dream19

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@chrono I agree completely about wood floors. While it’s a personal choice I think wood floors are amazing and nothing looks prettier. And it wears well too. Not to mention it’s the cleaner choice I think.

Since I mentioned my DH building things for our homes here are 2 of his own creation.

Here’s the stone bbq my DH built at our first beach house. It’s gorgeous.
IMO.


636BA48F-7FFA-4EFC-8652-D0F72A041D2C.png



And here’s the outdoor table he built for our current beach home. It seats 12 comfortably. Though these past few months no company has enjoyed our house besides us. Covid blows.

90AEBE03-EA9B-4297-A75E-359DAF2C528C.png
That is impressive and very beautiful! Love the table too.
 

mellowyellowgirl

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3,832
@chrono I agree completely about wood floors. While it’s a personal choice I think wood floors are amazing and nothing looks prettier. And it wears well too. Not to mention it’s the cleaner choice I think.

Since I mentioned my DH building things for our homes here are 2 of his own creation.

Here’s the stone bbq my DH built at our first beach house. It’s gorgeous.
IMO.


636BA48F-7FFA-4EFC-8652-D0F72A041D2C.png



And here’s the outdoor table he built for our current beach home. It seats 12 comfortably. Though these past few months no company has enjoyed our house besides us. Covid blows.

90AEBE03-EA9B-4297-A75E-359DAF2C528C.png
Divine Missy!!!

I'm needing outdoor furniture and my jaw dropped at that table set!!!
 

missy

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Divine Missy!!!

I'm needing outdoor furniture and my jaw dropped at that table set!!!
Thank you! I know if you lived near us Greg would be more than happy to help build you one according to your preferences. He really would.
 

dk168

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My house where I live now was subjected to extensive renovations that included the following:
- moving the boiler from the kitchen downstairs to a new cupboard in the second bedroom
- removal of all the horizontal radiators by the window and replaced with new vertical ones away from the window, which involved new pipework
- removal of the understairs cupboard in the kitchen which was used as a pantry
- gutted and replaced the kitchen
- installed electric underfloor heating downstairs
- replaced the floor cover downstairs with ceremic tiles
- gutted and replace the bathroom (it was peachy pink :sick:) and replaced with a wet room with underfloor heating
- re-wired the house
- installed air conditioning (split units)
- installed decking and parameter fence in the garden

Apart from the garden, the house renovations were carried out by one company who specialised in kitchen and bathroom renovations who sub-contracted the work such as electrical and plumbing to their trusted suppliers.

The duration took longer than expected, and way over budget (my fault for liking nice things in the house).

I decided to have it all done at the start so that I did not have to live on a building site for a month or so, and stayed in a B&B while the work was being carried out instead.

I was very careful and specific with my vision and plans for the layout of each room, and provided scaled 2D drawings where everything should be, including the position of my cat litter box in the kitchen!

The cupboard in the 2nd bedroom was new, and it had a section for clothes/storage and a small cupboard for the new combi boiler.

The cupboard door for the new boiler was the only door/cupboard opening in the entire house I did not specify how it should be opened, and it was installed the wrong way round, DOH!!!

If I were to it again, I would do the same, in that I would be very specific about the designs, appliances to be purchased etc., and provide scaled drawings where possible.

I would stay close to the project and perform site visit on a regular basis.

It will not happen now, however, I dearly wish to my own house build to my own design and specification - it would be stressful, yet great fun when it is over!

DK :))
 

Elizabeth35

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Sep 24, 2011
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You are getting great advice here.

Outdoor space is very important to me. My advice would be to allow enough $ in the budget for beautiful outdoor area with good landscaping (including professional design for both). Good landscaping is $$ for a new home, and if the lot does not have any decent trees you will be lacking shade for years.

I would carefully consider the orientation of the lot in regards to prevailing winds and sunrise/sunset. I sometimes see homes built with no trees on the west side and a wall of windows---rendering the outdoor area (and interior rooms) useless in late afternoon as there is no shade. Here in the windy, cold Midwest---trees on the west side help protect from the bitter cold wind as well as provide shade in the summer at sundown.

Interior wise---if you are someone who uses an interior designer, work with them from the beginning.
A designer will be able to spot issues regarding lighting and future furniture placement. Have you ever seen houses where there is not a single wall large enough for a king size headboard?!? Or interior doors that open to block another door?
I have seen high end homes with extension cords on lamps because they skimped on outlets. Or my pet peeve---A/C unit placed next to your patio where the noise renders conversation impossible.

At a minimum, if this is a custom home, I would spend the $ for a kitchen designer so your kitchen meets your functional needs. I have seen design flaws such as dishwasher that opens in front of a corner cabinet, no counter space next to stove or refrigerator so there is no place to set something down.
Consider ease of maintenance---can you easily reach all ceiling fixtures to change bulbs and clean?
 

winnietucker

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We completely gutted and remodeled our first house. We changed the layout, redid all the plumbing, drywall completely redone, and had the knob and tube wiring removed & replaced professionally. We also had the shower custom done and tiled professionally. We DIY-ed the rest of it.

My suggestion is to not DIY so many things at once if you’re not experienced. My goodness that took us so, so much longer than we thought it would. We’re in our 2nd house now and my husband is still over it. He refuses to do anything to this house. With our first house we were young and eager... Live and learn.

I also suggest having more money than you anticipate needing. So many things pop up - a cushion is nice.

I also second putting in nicer stuff. We went mid-range for everything. So engineered wood flooring, fancy outlets with the USB ports everywhere, whatever that thing is called so you can have cat 5 or 6 or whatever it is wiring in the entire house (my husband’s thing so I’m not 100% sure what it is), nicer tile, custom shower, actual marble countertops in the bathroom, a nice pellet stove, etc... made a huge difference when we sold.

Next time we’re going to do it in phases. I can’t do a whole house reno anymore. I don’t have the energy for this or the desire to live in a construction zone anymore.
 
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No personal experience, but my parents are going through this right now and the work has dragged on and on and on. Luckily they aren't/weren’t living inside an construction zone or anything but it’s a pain. Number one top tip would be to make sure you get an excellent contractor who has his/her own team for every single one of the million things that building a house requires! If you can get a chance to inspect other homes done by the contractor, go through those buildings with a fine toothed comb (not just relying on pictures and testimonials) - they got screwed by their contractor who didn’t do as good of a job on the polish/fittings etc. as promised and also took like 3x the agreed upon time to finish it. My parents had to move into an unfinished house to get them to hurry up and leave - and even now some stuff is pending but the virus cropped up in the middle so small things have been shelved and will be picked back up later.
 

MRBXXXFVVS1

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Wow, so much great advice! I will definitely be referring back to this thread! Do you know how much % over budget and timeline the builds or remodels took?

If we build, I'd prefer to go with a "full service" builder that will take care of everything. If we renovate, I'd prefer to also go with a "full service" contractor (not sure if this exists) and have it all completed before we move in. However, DH thinks it might be a fun project for us to DIY. I'm not sure how I feel about checking on the construction frequently due to COVID-19. I'm honestly a little overwhelmed with all of this detail (which is probably not a good sign).
 

kipari

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Wow, so much great advice! I will definitely be referring back to this thread! Do you know how much % over budget and timeline the builds or remodels took?

If we build, I'd prefer to go with a "full service" builder that will take care of everything. If we renovate, I'd prefer to also go with a "full service" contractor (not sure if this exists) and have it all completed before we move in. However, DH thinks it might be a fun project for us to DIY. I'm not sure how I feel about checking on the construction frequently due to COVID-19. I'm honestly a little overwhelmed with all of this detail (which is probably not a good sign).
Hmmm, even the best builders, contractors and architects will need your input at best, management under normal circumstances and micro management in many cases...

I'd rather be blunt upfront than see yuh suffering like all (literally all) of my friends.

Plus I have to add that finding good contractors is hard. I've never been able to find one as good as @missy regardless of budget.
We have interviewed about 20, about half weren't up to the job, 5 were not available for the time period and the one we picked was the one who seemed most professional, reactive and was the only one who seemed to have a very efficient organization.

He was mediocre on many fronts. Drives me nuts.
 

Arcadian

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Unfortunately yes. I never want to do it again. We did a major renovation to our house when we first purchased (down to replacing the sills and rewrapping), then did another major renovation/build when we added over 1K sqft to it(it was a small house at 888sqft)

I recommend you have an extremely competent contractor do to the job. We did both times (same guy!) Contracting was his 2nd job, his first was as a biologist at an Army Lab. He did not take on lots of jobs (of course!) but we were lucky to have him.

To save money we did a lot of the work. Was it fun? Most days no. I was the scheduler and the one that sent things out for bid. I learned a lot of how to do that from the contractor. Subs coming to the house knew I knew what they were supposed to be doing and I always inspected their work. That included getting up on the roof Electricians got an earful once because while not dangerous, I caught them cutting corners. Made them fix it because it could have meant our ass come inspection time. I let the contractor know and he also gave them an earful.

The plumbing guy asked me if I wanted a job...lol He picked up quick that I knew what I was talking about.

The subs we had to have was hvac, electrical, plumbing, insulation/wall boarders, roofers. Everything else was under our domain.

It is absolutely essential to have some understanding of electrical and plumbing if you go the route we did, or, you spend the money on someone that is trustworthy. In addition, I did the flooring including all the tile work which saved us a ton but wrecked my back, knees, hands for months afterwards. it turned out extremely good, but they get paid what they do because its hellishly backbreaking.

He was the concrete guy (he did not like that), the finisher, and also the siding guy. We stuck with white siding for good reason...

Also we did the painting...whoosa...it ended up nice because I'm picky...lol

When I moved to Florida I did not want a project house. I got my wish (thankfully!)
 

missy

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Plus I have to add that finding good contractors is hard. I've never been able to find one as good as @missy regardless of budget.
We have interviewed about 20, about half weren't up to the job, 5 were not available for the time period and the one we picked was the one who seemed most professional, reactive and was the only one who seemed to have a very efficient organization.

He was mediocre on many fronts. Drives me nuts.
We got lucky. My neighbor had just renovated her place with Michael and couldn’t stop raving about him. Funny story. One day during her Reno the plaster on my ceiling started falling down due to the work upstairs. I marched up there yelling at Michael (before I knew him) and he came down and took care of the mess and re plastered the next day.

That was my old apartment and when Greg and I found this home I called Michael who had more work than he could handle. And he was turning people away. Anyway he remembered me and my hot temper :lol: and he agreed to take on our renovation. We definitely got lucky. And Greg was annoyed with Michael in the beginning for various reasons but I kept saying hang in there. He’s worth it. And he was.
 

Elizabeth35

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All the comments about the contractor choice are excellent.
Check their references, ask to see their insurance/bond, and read your contract.
Check BBB and with your local municipality to see if there are any complaints.

Make sure you understand what permits will need to be pulled if you do a reno as opposed to new construction. If you are doing a reno---make sure you understand your local codes and make sure your contract specifies that all work will be done to current code. Is an architect required for the reno if it is extensive? Understand what inspections need to take place and when, and be present for inspections if at all possible.

Understand the payment schedule and make sure you are not fronting too much $$.
 

paragon1234

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We did it twice - an extension to our first house in London, then we sold up and moved to the countryside to a house with potential that needed gutting. We ended up leaving only 2 external walls standing. The stairs, the floor joists and all internal walls removed and the roof rebuilt. It was practically a rebuild.

We learned several things from the first project, like storage storage storage. You need to think about where the vacuum cleaner and mop would go.

We learned that a utility room and downstairs toilet are essential for us.

We used a free site floorplanner.com to draw out our ideal kitchen layout so we could see exactly what units would fit.

We checked on the site every day, because builders will make mistakes, or assume things if you are not there to clarify.

You can never have enough electricity sockets. Decide how many you need, then double it.

If the house is big, with big rooms, you need spacious communal spaces too. I insisted on a really big entrance hallway. My husband thought it was a waste of space, but it's the first thing people see and it gives a feeling of grandeur and gives you somewhere to put the buggy (which we are almost ready to get rid of).
 

msop04

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Built a (semi) custom home. I guess it's semi because we had a few plans to choose from but we modified certain things. Few things we would have done differently and are happy with:

1. Pleased with adding a wall light and closet light in every room. No need to worry about floor lamps and dark closets.
Do you mean recessed/can lighting and/or an overhead fixture? We're building in less than 6 months, and dark rooms are a pet peeve of mine. I also hate seeing cords for lamps.
 

Elizabeth35

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Do you mean recessed/can lighting and/or an overhead fixture? We're building in less than 6 months, and dark rooms are a pet peeve of mine. I also hate seeing cords for lamps.
Don't forget about wall sconces--they are great in dining rooms and on each side of your bed---saves space on the night stand. We also have wall sconces in our hallways as I am not a huge fan of ceiling fixtures in hallways.
It is very au courant to have chandeliers in the bedrooms and bathrooms too.
As far as lamp cords---if you know your furniture placement, you can have an outlet placed in the floor so the cord does not have to drape to the wall outlet. Even if you have an area rug or carpet---you can have a hole bound in the rug for the outlet. We did that in a large room with a console table behind a sofa so the cord did not have to run 10' over to the wall.


And always better to have too many outlets than not enough.
 

lyra

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Built semi-custom and would never do it again. I have ptsd from it. I actually ran down my street chasing after the contractor yelling at him, lol. It was an upstanding builder too. Just a very stressful experience and we had problems with things until we sold the house 5 years later. But that's just me. Would I do fully custom, I suppose I would but at this stage of life it wouldn't be worth it.
 

Elizabeth35

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Here's one thing I will do in my next house reno (if it is feasible). I want closet lighting that turns on when you open the closet door, just like in a fancy hotel-lol. We all have dreams right?
 
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