Rules of Thumb

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.

  1. ‘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?)
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. Keep Records – Document every nickel. Why? You will need to reference it at some point, I promise.
  5. Do your research – One of the best websites that was suggested to me by a friend is called 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.
  6. 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;)
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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