Lessons Learned from a Custom Build

By: Janice Clements

Now that our house construction is finished and we’ve moved in, my favourite thing to do in our new space is to crank open all the windows across the back of our home and enjoy the refreshing summer breeze permeating the space while I write. I love the sound of the cicadas in the yard, the songs of the birds enjoying the trees that surround our home and the roars of motorboats on the lake. 

Now that we’re almost completely settled, I’m thrilled we’ve made the move, but to say that the process was perfect would be a lie. Since the lessons learned from building our own home are too numerous to list, here are the highlights:

Expect delays.While for the most part our project ran smoothly, it began to run behind schedule towards the end of the build. Had he had it his way, our contractor would have delayed our closing for a month. The reality of it was he really needed another two months. But we had run out of time in our previous home and were forced to move in though there were still finishing items to complete. 

In hindsight, we probably should have taken advantage of the clause in our purchase agreement outlining the builders’ responsibility for putting us up in a hotel should the project run over. We were so anxious to move only once, the thought of it was unappealing.

Be sure to get written confirmation from your builder about completion timelines and insist on weekly updates in the last few months of the build.

Will you still love me tomorrow? You may love him now, but eventually you will grow sick of your builder and he will grow sick of you. I was tired of trades still roaming around our home and property for weeks after we had moved in and while the builders were really good guys and did a lovely job on our home, I started to resent their presence. I knew they were here to finish a project, but they were now in my home, a place they still considered a job site. Be assured, the two don’t always jive. 

Plan, plan, plan and then, plan some more.I am typically a grossly over-organized person given that I have managed large renovations, a business and two teenage boys for over two decades. But, at the end of the day, I got to go home to my quiet life and organized home. When you’re running back and forth between work and your new build AND trying to organize a family move, it’s easy to lose track of things. 

Insist, EVERY time, that your builder put scope changes, additional pricing and any other deviations from your original plans in writing for you – even if it’s only a text. You don’t want to find yourself in a he-said-she-said scenario.

What’s it like to live at work?Having never moved into a home that was also a working project for me, I was somewhat annoyed to suddenly be living on my jobsite. While I was so grateful to have the opportunity to do a custom build, it takes time to make a house a home. Plan a housewarming party or invite guests over as soon as possible after you’ve moved in. Memories, not things, are what make a house a home. The faster you can bond with your space, the better. 

Moving is a PAIN. All of the habits you created in your old home are disrupted. The rhythm in which you live, the places you were used to finding things are gone. Nothing is where you need it to be and half of what you need you can’t find.

Opening boxes is like getting presents on Christmas morning, so get to it as quickly as you can. The more you find quickly, the closer you will be to maintaining your sanity when life is upside down.

Despite your best efforts, you cannot be in two places at one time.So, when you head out the door and leave the trades or the movers or your family behind to manage things while you’re not there, don’t expect everything to be as you expect it to be. It won’t be. Period. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that building a home is a luxury. While it’s not a perfect process, it’s important you find the joy in the build.





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