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Old 08-03-2017, 04:26 PM   #21
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We did build a custom home in the eighties. Did our own general contractor oversight with a builder friend on the other end of the phone for advice. I designed it and took it to an architect to do the drawings. My dad came to help build it. Subcontracted out the foundation, foundation plumbing, concrete driveway, sheetrock and mudding, brick work, window installation, a/c and heat pump, roofing, carpet. Some of the subcontractors were friends or at least acquaintances. Dad and DH did the rest.

Plan light switches so you can turn on a light to cross the room and turn the light out when you exit that room. We had light switches on each side of the bed for overhead light, reading lights, ceiling fan switch.

Yes, we had a bidet and have missed it ever since we moved.

Wider hallway than normal. Wider doors to bathroom as I have a relative that gets around in a wheelchair.

Back then we did not know about Andersen casement windows. Don't do double hung windows! Too hard to close. Also back then, they were not doing the thing where they foam the attic instead of insulating above the ceiling.

I recently saw a kitchen remodel where lower cabinets had all large drawers instead of doors. Great access.

Here's a thread with more ideas:

Have fun!
Kindest regards.
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Old 08-03-2017, 04:29 PM   #22
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Some one mentioned pocket doors, we have them, I wanted at least one we have 3. After about 6 months I had an utoh moment, it was off kilter. called the builder. turns out there is an adjusting screw near the top to re-straighten the door when the house settles, problem gone.
Withdrawal Rate currently zero, Pension 137 % of our spending, Wasted 5 years of my prime working extra for a safe withdrawal rate. I can live like a King for a year, or a Prince for the rest of my life. I will stay on topic, I will stay on topic, I will stay on topic
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Old 08-03-2017, 04:39 PM   #23
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Since we have a compact footprint, we have almost all pocket interior doors... only 3 interior swing doors in the whole house. We like them... no wasted space... we went with solid pine doors throughout and top quality hardware.
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Old 08-03-2017, 04:41 PM   #24
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Well worth it. Look at lots of houses and find out what you would like.

Our biggest issue was the draftsman who thought he was an architect. Asked for ADA doors and then had to pay again for him to fix his drawings. Also, found out that he made the staircase as narrow as possible, the back deck as narrow as possible and added an arch in the middle of the laundry room.

We were onsite every other day or so. Found that cookies and lunch ensures that your workers meet your requests.
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Old 08-03-2017, 04:51 PM   #25
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I'll second the bidet recommendations. We built our home 17 years ago (using a general contractor). We survived, but it tested our patience with each other.

The bidet we installed was the old fashioned type, separate from the toilet and all it does is squirt water.

The new all in one washlets from Toto are the way to go. They integrate the toilet and bidet, and even include a dryer function. DH is remodeling his office bathroom and just bought a $2,200 Toto washlet toilet/bidet. It's still sitting in a box so I can't speak from experience, but I would never install basic toilets in the main bathroom of any home I was building from scratch or remodeling at this point. It's just too nice of a luxury to not have.
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Old 08-03-2017, 04:52 PM   #26
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Have lived in Florida for 19 years, 17 in SoFla, last 2 in the Panhandle.

First home was built in the late 60's, current was newly constructed. My tips:
1. Don't skimp on insulation. New house has sprayed foam on the underside of the roof (inside the attic area). Can easily spend time up there in the heat of the summer, and don't have a big disparity between 1st and 2nd floor temps. Wish the builder had done that over the garage, and I may do it later. Would not have another new home without it.

2. Roof attachment is critical. Statewide building code for wind loads varies by region, and there may be insurance discounts if your roof is "overbuilt" for the requirements in your area.

3. If storm shutters are an option in your local code, skip them in favor of rated windows and doors.

4. Have the garage floor painted before you move in.

5. Attic Storage - Have plywood laid across every reasonable space in the attic during construction - it's a pain to do it later. Also pull-down stairs to simplify access. Have a few lights installed up there too.

6. Put some thought into closet design. I had the builder install Closet Maid in every storage area. Utilitarian in appearance, but the flexibility is nice. no regrets after 18 months. No wife to please either

7. Flooring is a personal choice, but I went with wood throughout for durability and ease of cleaning. Easier on the feet than the tile in the SoFla house. Not good for dogs, though.

8. Rain Gutters - do them before you move in.

9. Lighting - Spec LEDs for everything you can afford, especially the common areas, kitchen and baths. Was surprised to realize how much heat is generated by every other type. Pay attention to color temp on the LEDs - 2700K is similar to an incandescent Soft White, 5000K is brighter with no yellow. Ended up with some of each.

10. Climate control - Don't let your builder try to save you money here. Separate, appropriately sized units for up and down (if 2 story), adequate returns, ceiling fans in every room, high capacity exhaust fans.

11. Door locks and hardware - I spent some money and time swapping out the conventional knobs with levers. Another thing easier done up front.
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Old 08-03-2017, 04:57 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by 523HRR View Post
We are planning to build a custom home in Florida. If anyone has built their own home from scratch, are there any particular features that you incorporated that have added convenience or functionality that you would recommend and would do again if you were to build another home? Also, any tips, lessons learned or word-to-the-wise would be appreciated.
Check on the work every day if you can. We caught a couple major mistakes, like the porch roof was too low. One house the front door wouldn't open fully because the steps to upstairs were too close. And others. All would have been more trouble had work continue to progress.

We loved the process, and we wouldn't hesitate to do it again. You do need a spouse that feels the same though. We have had 13 houses, so we're not shy
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Old 08-03-2017, 06:08 PM   #28
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-If you have dogs, have tile floors throughout and just use area rugs as needed.
-Lots of lights with different switches so you can add or subtract light easily.
-We have a whole house fan that we will never be without again, so long as we live in dry areas.
-We have a wrap around porch that shades the east, south and west of the home, with the garage on the north side. This keeps the heat from being a burden, and provides shade for our pups. Around these parts, it cools down nice at night, so we use the whole house fan to cool it off, then in the morning, run it again to bring the cool air in, and then shut the windows and blinds. Between the shaded porch and the whole house fan, we rarely use the AC unless it gets up over 95-98F during the hottest part of the day. This year we've had more numerous 103++ days than ever before, so we are using the AC a lot.
-Split AC or separate AC units for different areas. We have one unit for the main living area, one for upstairs, and one for the master suite.
-Ceiling fans in every room.
-Walk in shower with multiple heads. When we are in a rush, we can shower at the same time. If i did this again, I'd make it a foot wider and two feet longer. No glass to clean up.
-Fully wired for AV.
-Make sure to have places for WAN to WiFI, and the WiFi extenders.
-Make sure to have conduits for sprinkler wiring installed.
-Make sure there are multiple pipes for water or electric under every concrete walkway or never know what you'll want to put in later.
-Have an electrical outlet near the toilet for a heated seat and a Japanese style bidet...integrated into the seat. As Blue collar guy says, the bidet is useful, but you dont need to do it with a separate stool. Use one stool, but have wiring, outlet, and plumbing prepared for the seat. Toto and others make them. This is our one real regret...we forgot to include this in our design.
-If you are RVers, include a dump station, hose bib, and 30 or 50 amp electric service installed for the RV parking area. In fact, even if you aren't RVers, this is a good never know, and it'll improve the sell-ability if you ever decide to move on. Honestly, I've never used my dump station in the two years I've had it, but we use the water and the electric all the time. We will definitely use the dump station when we pick up a small towable for nearby mountain excursions.

-Don't bother with Cat-5 home network wiring...spent $8k on it, then WiFi came out.
-IMHO, best to not have a 2-story home for retirement age folks. At the very least, build the master suite on the ground floor.
-If you do have a 2-story home, DON'T have a 2-story great room...the warm air all goes upstairs. It gets too hot upstairs, and not warm enough in the great room. (We experienced this...)

I'm sure I'll come up with more, but DW is calling me to help with dinner...
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Old 08-03-2017, 07:58 PM   #29
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We just built our home with a builder in Central FL. We couldn't be happier. It cost more than we planned, but that was our fault - some of our choices were more expensive than the standard stuff. While making all the choices can be stressful, it's also fun and you appreciate things being the way you want them when you move in.

We went with one of the models our builder showcased, but made some changes to the floor plan and the elevation. Because some of our changes (like removing the golf cart door in the garage) simplified construction our changes to the plans cost almost nothing. Getting the layout the way you want it is the biggest reason to build rather than buy, I think.

Other posts mention some good ideas. I'll add that we don't regret insulating the attic with spray foam. The temp in the attic is almost the same as inside the home, and we save a bunch on electricity.

Good luck!

Edit: Get the electric wired with a transfer switch for a generator. If you can afford a whole house model good on you. We have the family room, kitchen outlets, office, master bedroom and bath wired to a generator switch. Our portable generator is plenty powerful to keep the refrigerators on, as well as other necessities.
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Old 08-03-2017, 09:17 PM   #30
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I am married to an over educated carpenter, AKA an Architect. Our first home we built stick by board. It took years.. wouldn't recommend it to my worst enemy.

The second home was constructed by a quality contractor from drawings DH prepared. He was at that house almost daily during construction. The superintendent on that project called him regularly after the house was finished to help him problem solve other projects.

My advise is to take a lot of time preparing the drawings, be specific about finishes and watch the project like a hawk. Hiring and Architect to 'observe the work' regularly can catch mistakes (I will save you war stories along that line). DH caught a potential major mistake by the plumber who thought he knew better how to lay out the waste line - it would have ended up lower than the sewer line. We supplied the fixtures because DH had business relationships but I think the home owner should visit showrooms so you know what you want.
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Old 08-03-2017, 09:20 PM   #31
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I built 2 - one in 1984 and one in 1994. I did some framing, all electrical and plumbing and trim work. Since its been 23 years since I built our last one, I'm not too familiar with new products. I don't think I would want to tackle a new home now unless I was the general contractor that does no physical labor. Building a house can take a toll on a person physically.

But if I did build another one, it would have:

Everything as maintenance free as possible
Master Bedroom on main floor
Lots of hardwood floors
Open floor plan
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Old 08-03-2017, 09:45 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Brat View Post
I am married to an over educated carpenter, AKA an Architect. Our first home we built stick by board. It took years.. wouldn't recommend it to my worst enemy.

The second home was constructed by a quality contractor from drawings DH prepared. He was at that house almost daily during construction. The superintendent on that project called him regularly after the house was finished to help him problem solve other projects.

My advise is to take a lot of time preparing the drawings, be specific about finishes and watch the project like a hawk. Hiring and Architect to 'observe the work' regularly can catch mistakes (I will save you war stories along that line). DH caught a potential major mistake by the plumber who thought he knew better how to lay out the waste line - it would have ended up lower than the sewer line. We supplied the fixtures because DH had business relationships but I think the home owner should visit showrooms so you know what you want.
When we built our lake house, our architect cousin drew complete sets of blueprints--from every angle. Our old, experienced carpenters would have been happier if we'd have drawn the plans on an old brown paper bag.

We had 3 carpenters that were 3 parts of a gospel quartet. They did every job including wiring and cabinetry. They had the roof on the second story in 7 working days, and the house is perfectly square. We only sub'd out the sheetrock, roof, brickwork and plumbing.

We paid a very good weekly wage to the carpenters. Building supply stores are 15 miles away, and we did all running around picking up supplies--saving a small fortune. And we cleaned up the job site nightly. At the end, we paid 10% of the total cost of the house.

We framed our house with fir wood, and it was very straight and easy to work with. It's trimmed out with redwood, and it's holding up very well. We made every color and trim decision on front end--making minimal changes as the job went along.

When our house was completed, the carpenters went across the river to build a palatial mansion on a 3 acre island and a arch bridge to the island. Today, it's about as beautiful house as there is within 100 miles. Top quality carpenters are an investment in value.
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Old 08-04-2017, 02:08 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by travelover View Post
I've never built my own house, partly due to shared experiences from those that did. What I gathered was that it was more expensive than estimated, took longer than estimated and was extremely stressful. Then once it is done you have to do all the landscaping or pay to have it done.

That said, a central vacuum system is a lot easier to install as the house is built.

#1 for central vac
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Old 08-04-2017, 06:10 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by LRDave View Post
We did (our vacation home soon to be our retirement home). It wasn't awful, but I spent a LOT of my time at the build site (2 hours away) - just making sure things progressed as planned. I took the crew out for lunch a lot and always brought water and soft drinks with me.

In 10 years of retrospect:

1) Don't skimp on windows and doors. Overspend on high quality windows and doors. I did this and pat myself on the back often.
+1 We too had our vacation home built and I eventually replaced all the windows. I focused on layout and site lines from room to room on the first floor and across the water and was very happy with the results. We sold it last year after enjoying it for 23 years. The new owner bought it furnished and hasn't changed a thing.
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Old 08-04-2017, 07:08 AM   #35
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Many useful suggestions here along with helpful links. My thanks to everyone for their input.
FIREd 2012 at Age 49
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Old 08-04-2017, 07:52 AM   #36
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I wont be typical. 3 year build and 2 visits to China to source 2 40' Containers of higher end stainless steel / glass/ doors / garage doors / windows...
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Old 08-04-2017, 08:16 AM   #37
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I second the part about doors wide enough for a powered wheel chair to get thru, you never know what may happen in the future. Also might add ADA height toilets as well. In the kitchen check that the space for the fridge is big enough for the largest model of fridge you would consider. Also if there is an island, check clearances for getting the fridge in and out.
Depending on the amount of hail where you are building consider metal roofs, (also they do better during hurricanes as pieces are larger, for standing seam roofs)
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Old 08-04-2017, 08:28 AM   #38
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- one floor - one floor - one floor
- bathroom in every bedroom
- foam the underside of the roof vice ceiling blow in insulation
- every door at least 36" wide
- two sinks in every bathroom
- use foil faced sheathing on the roof (tiny cost with good payback)
- don't use fiberglas shingles on the roof (they are cheap, but there are better solutions (tile, concrete tile, etc) for several reasons)
- Termite prevention x 10 under and around slab ... saves money later
- High SEER A/C/Heat Pump, but non-proprietary (repairs easier)
- Access built in for all plumbing
- Wait on garage floor paint for a year or so ... it is still curing
- Additional engineering and care on the concrete (it cracks ... it cracks)
- Consider tile everywhere and then carpet over it if needed
- tall base moldings
- wide door moldings
- plan for or against crown molding at the start (way cheaper)
- skip anything that seems like a fad
- be smart about walls, likely someone or you will want to add or remove some
- white high quality fixtures in the bathrooms
- no fiberglas tubs or showers
- consider wireless security system vice hard wired
- although the trend in the kitchen connecting directly with family room, consider having something in between to reduce noise
- 6" exterior walls for more insulation and more sturdiness
- air handler unit in the garage vice in a hallway to reduce noise and likelihood of flooding with the A/C drain gets clogged (I know there is a shut off, but ...)
- extra large A/C drain (maybe an inch black plastic roll pipe without seams)
- don't put the HVAC compressor on the same slab as the house
- noise insulation (carpet pad is good low cost solution - NOT thermal insulation) between bedrooms and family room, between bathroom and rooms, etc
- leave wiring for ceiling fans in attic until you sort where furniture goes
- 10' flat ceilings minimum everywhere
- I don't care for coffered ceilings (preference :-))
- I have never used a fireplace in Florida (if you MUST have one, make it unobtrusive in your design ...
- Plan on walls being the place where A/V systems go ... don't build into cabinets
- taller doors to work with 10' ceilings
- toilet room with door in the master bathroom with its own somewhat noisy fan
- large, very quite fan in the master bathroom proper
- shower without glass (just size it larger)
- linear drain in the master bathroom shower (easier to repair and to replace tile and can use larger format tile)
- spend some time thinking about windows ... if they aren't in a bedroom (code), they likely will never be opened, so get nice thermal plates for view (assuming there is a view)
- design for sun ... make sure to cover or minimize west and south for Florida sun
- make sure the driveway base is extremely well compacted ... pay extra if you are using concrete ... if concrete pavers, wait for natural compacting if neighborhood will allow
- plan for water drainage - there are two sizes of most gutters - get the larger and the large down spouts and run them underground to the street or to natural area if you lot is that large
- do NOT build where the house will be below the street (sounds silly, but we have looked at dozens of houses in north Florida where this was done)
- do not put any lace, or texture on the walls or ceiling ... you will need to repair something at one point and everything is then it is hard and more expensive
- do not wallpaper anything initially
- use lots of pocket doors
- consider a generator
- I like gas, especially for cooking, but Florida has very high gas rates in some areas
- build in surge protection for the entire electrical panel
- consider a hot water system with a recirc pump if single unit
- consider a single hot water unit as it is easy to replace and less expensive than individual room or whole house systems
- if all electric, consider a heat pump hot water heater as it will pay for itself in 5-7 years
- ensure slope on every piece of expose concrete, including porches driveways, etc
- no vinyl siding ... concrete board of some type instead

probably lots more ...
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Old 08-04-2017, 08:32 AM   #39
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In addition to the other great suggestions, here are a few things others suggested to me, and I love all of them: if you have a fireplace, put an outlet on top of the mantle. Ceiling fans and lights my not align with furnishings if they are installed in the center of the room - layout the rooms first (especially dining and living areas) then decide where those fixtures would look best. And, my personal favorite -- a gas line to the patio for the grill. No more changing propane tanks!
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Old 08-04-2017, 09:50 AM   #40
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Anyone know what nphx is talking about?

Saves money by going personally to China? Personal foreign outsourcing?
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