What to Upgrade at the Design Center

You’ve decided to take the crazy awesome journey to building your home! You’ve signed the dotted line and the process has begun. Bask in the accomplishment of picking a builder, lot, floor plan, and overall style of the outside!

Oh wait, now you have to pick everything else.

You will never spend so much time thinking about a door knob handle, cabinet pull or light fixture as you do at your builder’s design center. The great thing about building your home is that you get to choose everything. The terrible part of building your home is that you have to choose everything.

The grout color for the back-splash that you also agonized over for two hours? Pick between these fifteen colors from bright white to black.

What about these thirty options for bathroom tiles?

How about the wall of kitchen and bathroom cabinets?


It’s a little stressful.

I had a great experience at my design center, but I think this is mostly due to the fact that I researched everything before my appointments. I am lucky that my design center has an open house twice a month and I was able to go before we even signed to officially build our home. It helps to be prepared and although they typically won’t give prices at these open houses, you are able to see what the different levels are.

Countertop options. Bay one of three (!!)

When you were walking through the beautiful model homes that they have for our viewing pleasure, I can almost guarantee you that the home was upgraded from top to bottom. They almost certainly added a significant amount of upgrades to that home and it is up to you in the walk through to ask questions about everything and whether or not it will be an additional fee (because there likely is). In our contract it listed out exactly what level of each cabinet, carpet and door handles came standard. Armed with this knowledge, I went to the design center to get an idea of what would get upgraded and what would stay at its base model.

What to Upgrade

We went in thinking that we were going to stay standard everything. We were going to DIY the heck out of this house and save so much money doing it! Then we started thinking about what that actually entailed and that maybe it’s not such a bad idea to have the builder put in some extra work (and extra dollars).

Some things are incredibly difficult to add after the fact. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my kitchen would have a gorgeous white apron sink. It’s something that I made sure that the builder even offered before I agreed to have them build our home. However, my sink required custom cabinets, plumbing and the plumber even had to come out an additional time to make sure that the sink is installed correctly. This added up, but in the end, I am so happy we did this. Things like this are things that you should be prepared for. 

Darn you, gorgeous sink

Some other things that are very hard to add after the fact are:

  • Extra outlets – we will be having an electrical walk further in the process to see exactly where every outlet is going to be. We have the potential to move them, but electrical codes must be adhered to so there is only so much wiggle room. They will of course add outlets for a fee. Things to think about during the walk are things like Christmas lights and lamp placement. They are relatively inexpensive to add during framing, and a pain to add once the walls are up
  • Kitchen Cabinets –  We upgraded our cabinets for several reasons. One was the color: I didn’t like any of the dark colors that came standard with the house. Also, the upgrade came with tongue and groove construction of the drawers as well as soft close in every drawer in the house including the non-upgraded bathroom cabinets. Also, painting cabinets is a pain and our to-do list was already huge
  • Countertops – Kitchens and bathrooms sell a home, we already know. And kitchens are expensive to begin with, so we really wanted to have a kitchen that we would love for the next ten years. We upgraded to a durable quartz and are so happy with the decision
  • Utility sink plumbing – My husband is very handy and is so excited to finally have a garage to work in. This also means that he gets filthy and we decided to add plumbing for a utility sink in the garage (far away from my apron sink). This will be so useful with muddy boots, oily hands from the car and dirty dogs. And less cleaning for me.
  • Soaker tub – Fair warning: my husband was not able to go to the design center appointments. He was away for work during this time, which means that I went all alone. I believe that this was the only reason I was able to get this tub! It is embarrassingly the most expensive upgrade that we added but oh boy is it gorgeous. The reason for the cost is the pure heft of it as well as the extra plumbing they have to add. But I’m already envisioning the cool fall nights with wine and a bath bomb.

The list goes on, but those are some big ones. The next post will entail things to not upgrade in a house.

Exciting news: They are supposed to start digging tomorrow!

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