Today I have the pleasure of having a guest blogger, Jennifer Brouwer.  She has written a great article about how to decide which upgrades to buy when buying a new builder home.

Often model are beautiful and full of lots of upgrades but the house you are buying comes with the bare bones and the cheapest of finishes unless you buy the costly upgrades.  Those upgrades could put you out of your price range and comfort zone so they need to be selected carefully and Jennifer has shared some good ideas to help you decide when it’s worth it and when it’s not.

Interior design -The Skinny on Upgrades


“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.”- William A Foster –

The Skinny on Upgrades

In light of my recent experience assisting a client with selections from a builder’s “design centre”, I would like to arm you with some information regarding “upgrades”. Below is a list of what I think is worthy of taking a second look at, namely, what things may be easier to execute during the building stage and what things can be omitted from the builders selections and completed after you have taken possession of your new home.


This is a great place to “invest” in a better quality product. I am a fan of tongue and groove hardwood but the typical builders “standards” do not include the current popular colour choices (you can guess why…..  do I hear upgrade?) But you can avoid up-sell pressure if you remember these two tips

  • It is really important that you know market costs on product and installation so that you can compare builder’s prices to the expense of doing it yourself after closing.
  • Are you willing and prepared to accept possession of your house finished with builder standard flooring so that you can execute the upgrades on your own?
  • Brazilian_Cherry_floor-resized-600



Lighting, in my opinion, is a major element in good design! Again, builder’s standards are insufficient and the ceiling fixtures are usually esthetically un-appealing. When it comes to upgrading lighting, here is something to keep in mind.

  • Focus on the rooms you use the most and think about what tasks are done in each space. Check what lighting is included (pot lights, ceiling fixture sconces etc.) review the builder’s costs for additions and determine if any are required.  It often makes sense to make modifications at the building stage because adding pot lights and ceiling fixtures is a messy job especially on the second floor.  It can be done after you move in, but it is stressful and aggravating.  I feel there is a huge value making lighting modifications as a builder up-grade.


I would never upgrade painting with the builder.  The quality of paint they use is poor, the selection is limited and it will need to be re-done or at least touched up after you move in.  I feel it is spending good money after bad.

Staircases & Railings

If it is in your upgrade budget, do it now.  Grin and bear the inflated price and know there is value in minimizing the complications and upheavals altering your staircase after closing would cause.





I am torn on this one.  I personally would never pay the exorbitant prices builders charge to “upgrade” millwork I cannot customize. I would stick to standard millwork and rip it out, repurpose or donate the cabinetry to Habitat for Humanity and install “custom” after closing. I would wager that you could facilitate the kitchen of your dreams still be under the quote for builder’s upgrades.


Upgrading tiles is a must!  The typical builder’s standards are poor quality and often leave much to be desired esthetically. Like the staircase and lighting fixtures it can be challenging to change tile later.




Faucets and Hardware

I would NEVER ….. I repeat NEVER in a gazillion  years pay 500% plus mark up for faucets  that are readily available at your local big box store.  Replace these yourself!!

Vanities & Counters

Again, I am torn.  The cost of this upgrade is atrocious.  You can get an entirely new custom vanity complete with counter top for the same the cost as upgrading the cabinet doors with the builder.  If you are dealing with a higher end builder, hopefully the floor tile continues underneath the vanities. If so, you can choose “standard” and upgrade later without any huge issue.

Finally, ask questions. Find how flexible the builder is to changes. Can you delete certain items (ie, flooring, the bath tub, cabinets) and if so are you given a credit? Can you contact their suppliers directly if you do not like any of the choices available at the design centre?  Ask for what you want. You never know what your builders will do for you until you ask!

Those of you who follow my blog know that, if nothing else, I am practical.  I love upgrades, but I prefer not to throw money out the window if a better solution can be found.

Remember, upgrades are fabulous but you have the full interior to address in your lovely new home!

Choose thoughtfully, Spend wisely,

And  remember to save some funds for the finishing touches.

You will be so thrilled you did!!




JenniferBrouwer info resized 600

Thanks Jennifer!