I’ve already promoted Houzz.com which I visit daily, but here’s a list of some other websites that make building/decorating a home a little easier:
- Homestars – Are you not 100% certain about the trade that you are hoping to hire? Visit homestars.ca, search the company name or type of trade that you are looking for, and voila!, you will find the best-rated contractors in your area. I was very unsure about my tile installers…they weren’t cheap, the guy talked too much, he was just annoying actually….until I searched him on Homestars. He was rated a perfect 10 and had about 100 reviews. Customers found his work to be of high quality and they were fast. He was hired (but still very annoying).
- Lowe’s – Rona, Home Depot, Lowe’s = What’s the difference, right? Quite a bit. In my opinion, Lowe’s has both the best selection of product and the best prices. The shopping experience is far superior both in-store and online and shipping is free. Bonus! Home Depot comes in at #2, I find it chaotic, personally. They charge for shipping, and their loyalty program could be better. Rona is #3. Since Rona is franchised, the smaller stores don’t carry a ton of product, but their customer service is great since you’re dealing with the owners direct. The Airmiles program is pretty good though. I’ll be able to fly around the world twice with the amount of miles we have accrued.
- The Dollar Store – The best! Windex, mops, cleaning cloths, brooms, garbage bags. They have it all and only for a buck or two.
- Amazon.ca – I find amazon is great for those hard to find products. Our kitchen faucet was purchased through Amazon, shipped to Naples, Florida and was nicely wrapped under the Christmas tree for Erik. Savings: $250. And I have my eye on a firepit that I can’t seem to find at a decent price anywhere else. Amazon is Amazing. And I am excited for the drones!
- Elte & Restoration Hardware – Look but don’t touch is my motto at these retailers. I love this, and this, but with a little bit of hunting I know I can find something just as nice for way less money!
To say that we’ve learned a lot throughout this build is an understatement. Here are a few rules of thumb (some of which we learned the hard way), which have worked for us when building the new house.
- ‘Is that your best price?’ – It’s never their best price, so ask. If they won’t budge, then walk away for a day or two. They’ll be back if they really want the job. And if they don’t, there’s other fish in the sea. (Can you tell that this is my philosophy on break-ups as well?)
- Get multiple quotes – We chose three quotes per job. It’s a lot of work collecting all these quotes but you can save a lot that way too. We’re not exactly sure how much we’ve saved by doing it this way, but I can tell you that this week alone we saved eleven big ones. Eleven THOUSAND big ones. I’ll drink to that!
- Pay Wisely – Seems obvious but here’s a story: One of the trades this winter worked about 5 days in 2 weeks…they were sick, it was too cold, they had jury duty, their kid was sick, the Olympics was on, the dog ate their homework … Yet, they wanted to be paid on their normal 2 week schedule! Hell no! The trades will pressure you to open your wallet, even if they don’t deserve it. And always hold back a little extra to ensure they come back to finish any final work that is required.
- Keep Records – Document every nickel. Why? You will need to reference it at some point, I promise.
- Do your research – One of the best websites that was suggested to me by a friend is called Houzz.com. I visit this site daily to review products, explore ideabooks from top designers, or just flip through the thousands of pictures for inspiration. Want ideas for a dog washing station? Check. Inspiration for my future wine cellar? They have that too. Reviews on my new LG Washer & Dryer? You betcha. Advice on how to survive a new house build with your partner? Well, that brings me to my Next Rule of Thumb.
- Fight Fair – There’s been yelling. There’s been days when we don’t speak to each other. There’s been tense moments…in public…at Home Depot. And this was BEFORE we started building the house! We try to fight fair, remember that we’re a team, and try not to hold any grudges (written with grit teeth;)
- Follow the Plan – This we say often. Do not make any changes to the structure or design of the house without speaking to your architect. Thinking that you can make changes on the fly, doesn’t always work out the way you were expecting. I’ll leave it at that and forever hide a plant over the one mistake I hope none of my visitors ever notice.
- Payoff your neighbours – Yes, we bribe our next door neighbours. Don’t judge. Whether it be Keg Gift Cards, bottles of wine, or more bottles of wine ‘just for putting up with all of this’, it goes a long way. Anything to make the stress of our build less painful for them. If there was such thing as a ‘Neighbour of the Year’ award; we’ve won it.
- Everyone is on the take – Sorry, but this has to be said. If you think your hardwood guy is just ‘being nice’ by referring you to his friend who does tiling, you’re wrong. He’s making a cut. And who’s paying for it? You are. The referrals can also be really obscure…Why would my kitchen guy be getting a commission on flagstone for my patio? Well, he is. And somehow, someway, you are paying for it.
- Last Rule of Thumb – Have FUN. This is/has truly been an incredible experience and we are so lucky to have built our house from scratch. Although stressful, we have managed to have a few good laughs and I hope one day we can look back at this blog and reminisce about how much fun we had during this adventure.
I am not confident that I will be able to write a Pulitzer winning piece today, so instead I have compiled a list of our favourite features in the house. Starting with #10…
#10 – The NYC Styled car lift
#9 – Surveillance Cameras
Don’t steal the toilet paper roll…We’re watching you!
#8 – This fireplace
For those nights when a glass of wine is needed and a friend who never gets tired listening to my dramas over and over again
#7 – George’s shower
#6 – Master Bedroom Balcony – Cool, right? My idea!
#5 – The powder room inspired by below
#4 – Gas line to the backyard for this!
#3 – Our kitchen – LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!
#2 – The Tree! – the tree that has caused many sleepless nights, calls with lawyers, and captured the attention of every trade coming through the house. It’s become my 2nd favourite thing about the house. Go figure!
#1 – The freestanding bathtub – Can’t wait!
Lamborghini’s vs. Buick’s
Between selling the townhouse, Erik & I working on weekends at our day jobs, and business trips out to B.C., we’ve somehow managed to get a few things done at the house but overall, it’s been slow going over the last few weeks. Siding is just about finished, flooring has been delivered, interior doors, trim, crown moulds will be delivered sometime between today and Friday, tiles are just about purchased, fireplaces are installed, main bath cabinets are purchased, laundry room cabinets are to be delivered this weekend, and wait for it………A STAIRCASE HAS BEEN ORDERED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! After lots of research, we decided to go with Royal Oak Stairs out of Newmarket. Although my dream was to have a glass railing, it’s All About the Benjamins at this point and it was just too pricey! We also discovered that there are currently no building code guidelines when it comes to glass railings, so there was a very good chance that upon final inspection the City would ask that it be removed. As I mentioned in a previous post, the cost of a staircase with glass railings is the price of a new car, so having an inspector come in only to demand that we remove the railings, is like driving out of a dealer lot with a new car, crashing it, and having it written off. I just couldn’t risk it! So, instead of getting the Lamborghini of all staircases, we settled with the Buick….sophisticated good looks, upscale interiors, comprehensive standard features, quiet operation, and enhanced Bluetooth and telematics technology (jokes!). Here’s some updated pictures:
Master Bedroom Fireplace
The Family Room
The Front Elevation
The Buick Of Staircases