Amy Rees Anderson

I Need Your Advice!

Normally I try to provide insight on life lessons I am learning in my daily blog in order to try and help others avoid having to go through some of the same struggles that I do.  But today I need to turn the tables and ask all of you if you would be willing to share any insights you have on an issue so that I can avoid going through any of the struggles some of you might have gone through.  I promise to go back to sharing helpful insights again tomorrow, but for today I hope it’s okay for me to ask for your help and insights instead!

So here is the deal:   My husband and I are in the beginning stage of building a new home.  This is our very first time to build a home from the empty lot stage forward, so going through this experience for the very first time, the last thing we want to do is learn everything the hard way!   I am all about avoiding having to learn things the hard way when you can simply seek advice of other experts to avoid that!  So I am hoping that some of you reading my blog have built a home from the ground up before and can provide me any lessons you learned, or insights or advice you have that might prove helpful to us as we go into this process.   I would much rather avoid the hardships in this process by learning from all of your experiences! 

Some of the areas I could use your advice on this are:

My husband and I sketched out our own floor plan we wanted before we met with the architect so that we could provide them the exact room dimensions and layouts we wanted for our home.  We tried to think through all layout things that we wanted, but if anyone has suggestions for things they think I should remember in the layout I would love to hear those (some examples were friends pointed out that we want a laundry room by the closet, and another friend pointed out that a dumb waiter to lower food down to the food storage room would be nice).  Anything like that would be helpful.  We took our drafts of the plans and we turned those plans over to the architect to begin the computer renderings of the plans, so that is the stage we are at now, but if we want to add anything into the layout now is the time to do it, so please give your ideas if you have any!  Feel free to just post them as comments on this blog as I will be checking for your responses. 

We are starting to interview home builders now and we are anxious to find someone who does quality work for a fair price and who can meet the deadlines they commit to.  I have heard a million horror stories from people who have hired general contractors so it really scares me!  Advice or referrals on who is trustworthy or fabulous would be really helpful to us as finding someone trustworthy is tantamount to me on this project.  Again, feel free to post references as comments on this blog or email them to me privately if you would prefer.

I have to say it is a little overwhelming to go through this building process for the first time. Thank heavens I married a man who knows construction and building!  But designing the layout and hiring the right team and deciding all the details like ceiling designs, and lighting, and cabinets, and furniture layouts, and appliances, and closets, and everything else when you haven’t built a home before is a little bit overwhelming.  But if I have learned anything in my life it’s that anything is possible if you want to make it happen and the smartest way to approach something new is to learn first from the people with the experience and expertise, because that will save you tremendous pain down the road.  So for that reason I am reaching out to all of you so I can learn from any of you that have the experience and expertise, because heaven knows I don’t have it! 

Thank you to anyone who can provide insight or advice.  I truly appreciate it!   And I promise to go back to my normal blogs again tomorrow.  Thank you!!!



  • Athena says:

    You need a basketball court for Ashley! Other than that… a man cave and a spa room for yourself. Oh wait, that’s my dream home.

    • Haley Dennis says:

      I would suggest making a Pinterest account (if you don’t already have one) and pinning any cool house design ideas on a board. I would also suggest that when you design the layout, think about where your family will spend most of their time hanging out. Will it be their individual rooms? Or do you want it to be the living room? Or a combination of the kitchen and living room? I always think that a huge part to how a family interacts and where they mostly do it is based on the layout of the house and what your family’s interests are. Good luck! You are great!

  • Skyler Wolf Jones says:

    Here are the top things I would recommend that I didn’t see in the post:
    -Heated driveway and walkway: It can be done several ways but not having to shovel a long or massive driveway in the winter is absolutely amazing.
    -Making sure the house is networked properly so you can be connected directly or wireless, connection points with wireless are trickier depending on the complexity of the house (example, a theater has mostly cement walls.
    -I saw one comment that they wanted the washer and dryer next to the closet but having a family set next to kids rooms and then one in the master closet I’ve seen as the most convenient, a small offshoot to the back of the closet.
    -Another amazing feature is having a skylight over the master bedroom bed location brings in great lighting and interesting storm views.
    -And last one that I think is a great addition to a house is a secret door that exits the master bedroom in a spiral down to your office which is also a secret door. These are hinged doors that a painting is usually placed or within a nice molding to blend its appearance. Inside that secret stairwell also provides a great place to put luggage and other not as attractive pieces by utilizing all the space.

    Good luck, have fun, enjoy the process!

  • Jaydeep says:

    Hello Amy,

    I am actually in the process of building a house for myself. Its a two floor house. However please bare in mind that this construction is in India. Although materials and regulations are different, I believe the approach would be same. A few points that you can keep in mind:

    1. Look for your budget. How much do you wan to spend.
    2. Have a clear layout plan (You already have the basic layout)
    3. Get it verified from an architect and a civil engineer. An engineer will tell you the issues you could face just by looking at design.
    4. Ask the contractor which all materials he is going to use and what is the phase by phase plan including the cost.
    5. Monitor the construction. Always ensure that you visit the construction site regularly to check the progress. Believe me you will at time feel that there can be some changes made to original layout if you are there in person.
    6. Best option is to ask references from engineers/architects. They typically survive through references (at least in India). Plus let the architect/engineer know that you are choosing the contractor only because of their reference (You may still wants to ask for references from contractor, just don’t tell the architect/engineer about it). This way they will be under pressure to give you the best of references as their reputation also get involved here.
    7. Please ensure that you map the cost with time by which you want the house ready. As time passes by cost of materials also increases and that could hit your pocket. Clearly ask the contractor how much will be the cost and in what time.

    As I am not from the US I am not able to give you any references, however I hope above points help in getting things started.


  • Trent says:

    Good luck Amy. My wife and I splurged on tall ceilings for the basement. It was a great investment. We figured we could always update other things as our tastes or styles changed over time. I’d also make sure to have enough lighting over the toilets, outlets in the yard for Christmas lights, and one more outlet in the garage than you think you need, because it will undoubtedly don’t on handy. We also love our walk out basement into this garage. The stairs are extra wide and the door is right at the top of the stairs so

  • Trent says:

    It makes moving things in hey easy.

  • Trent says:

    Oh the challenges of posting comments with a phone:)

  • Barbara Breen says:

    Hi Amy,
    I think you should make sure the new home is built to Energy Star 3.0 standards. If you add all the latest energy saving technology to the home while it is being built, your new home will function as it should with no cold or hot spots and as you move from room to room because the temperature stays the same. If you go with Solar and GeoThermal features, things like a heated driveway will not cost lots of money to use. At Daybreak, we also build “Smart Homes” that function from an iPad or an iPhone. The doors will lock, music, lights and airconditioning can all be adjusted before you arrive! Really a nice feature 🙂

  • Bradley says:

    Hi Amy!! Please put an automatic sprinkler system in your new home……it’s the BEST advice for saving your families life!!

  • Debra says:

    I have not built a house from scratch, But I have done major renovations on two houses. The one thing small that I spend time on is where the light switches and plugs are. This little things has made many things easier. You need to consider where you want light switches, consider how you enter and leave rooms. Plugs are another thing to seriously consider. In today’s world there are lots of electronics. I always put 4-6 plugs in the wall where the TV, video, etc equipment is going to be. Last time I determined where to have a charging station and had 6 plugs put there.

    You also can never have to many closet or storage areas that have good organization systems in them.

    If you have a laundry in the living area have the walls insulated to reduce the noise in the rest of the house.

    Good Luck

  • Dave Barton says:

    Raidant floor heating in baths and kitchen so that you do not need to used forced air heating ducts that run under your custom cabinets. This way you do not over heat and melt or destroy all of your bath products like make up, shampoo, conditioner, etc and or destroy food products in the kitchen.

    I could write a book about custom home issues if this is your perfect last home and are not looking at it for resale.

    And about builders….the only word I need to know is Kodiak Builders

  • Steven Wray says:


    Congratulations! This will be a fun project for you and your family. Very exciting.

    To begin with, I would suggest that each of you begin with a wish list that you create on your own –The sky is the limit here – Prioritize when you have completed. Then compare your lists when each of you have completed. A great architecture firm will help you with this also.

    If this is your dream house – maybe it will be the last house you build. If that is the case, try and plan for senior living. Wide doors, minimal stairs in a sleeping / living area, etc.

    All that said. My number one recommendation is to interview a number of architects, builders, and designers and chose those that you feel a personal synergy.

    Bring your interior designer in on the process early.

    Since you live in the Rocky Mountains with beautiful surroundings. My favorites:

    1. Locati Architects –Absolutely top notch, with spectacular people and stellar design experience.

    2. SBC Construction –
    Amazing contractors dedicated to building your dreams – not just hammer and nails – an extension of you and your family.

    3. Tracy Schlauch interior design will work with you, your husband, and your daughter to create an interior space that you love and is functional to your lifestyle.

    Have a great time! I’m excited to see the progress on future blogs


  • Ken Markiewicz says:

    My insights are that of an artist, family man, and home owner. First is a covered front porch. Great to relax and actually connect with the neighbors. Next a generator for when electricity goes out. This happens regularly in some areas. Next a dimmer switch for all lights in all rooms. It’s all about ambiance, but being bright enough when you need it. Last but not least, the refrigerator out of the walkway or doorway. You just can’t get past it when it’s open! I also agree with the last suggestion for a quiet room for the laundry. Mine is next to my office, and it’s annoying. I’ve read lots of great suggestions from the other posts, so Good Luck, and Happy Planning!

  • Catherine says:

    I would suggest a Mud Room and a master bedroom on the main floor. Lots of cabinets in the kitchen, like one for recycling and garbage. I think having a warming drawer in the kitchen would be great too!

  • Brennan Kelsch says:

    I used to be a house framer, and the biggest thing I would say whatever you decide to do with your home, make absolutley sure your general knows exactly what you want and that you know what is going on from start to finish. A central vac is always nice, as is a wood burning stove and a couple gas fire places for thoes nights you just need to stare in a fire. : )

    P.S. You can never have enough plugs. Good luck

  • Scott Morgan says:

    Go with quality products. An example of this is use commercial grade outlets rather than residential grade.

    I like to have a natural gas grill outside and a fire pit. They work well in all seasons.

    If your house is built in Utah, I know a few contractors are are honorable. Can’t help outside of Utah.

    If you are building a storage area under a span like a porch, make sure it is sealed well so moisture does not leak in.

    Incorporate a humidifier and an industrial or HEPA filter system into your HVAC system.

    May want to look at building in water storage with the new build. Along the same lines build in propane or LP to backup the natural gas. Then have a power generator that runs on the gas.

    Enjoy the process and the ride. It is fun.

  • Kel Faddis says:


    A few suggestions:

    1. Record ALL meetings with your architect and/or builder. ” if its not written down or recorded, it was never discussed”. Sad but true.

    2. Cat 5 cable run to every room in the house. You never know what cool new technology will be our future so make sure the infrastructure is in place.

    3. A safe room with a Fort Knox vault door. It can be hidden if needs be.

    4. Every bed room has its own bath room.

    5. A Japanese high tech toilet in the master. So worth it.

    Just a few ideas. Good luck.

  • ARAadmin says:

    To all of you who have posted messages or sent me emails – THANK YOU SO SO MUCH – and KEEP THEM COMING! The house will be in Utah for those who asked that question. I cannot thank you enough for all these great ideas and lessons. They are going to make this experience so much better! Thank you, thank you, thank you…KEEP THEM COMING!!!

  • Kel Faddis says:

    A few more:

    A heated garage.

    Hot and cold water in the garage with an industrial sink.

    These are two of the smarter decisions done in my home.

  • Jessika says:

    Amy! My brother in law’s company, Far West Construction, would be able to do your house! They’re good and they’re fast! I honestly don’t know about their pricing, since I don’t hire them, my husband just works for them 🙂 I do know they are in high demand because of their speed with quality intact. If you want more info, send me an email, Good luck!

  • Gypsy G Designs says:

    I have not built my own house, but since I was a teenager I have been drawing floorplans! Forget fashion magazines. It was all about architecture and interior design!

    One thing I have notice from others building and drawing floorplans with the interior design in mind; is to be sure you are giving yourself the size you want and need. I had friends building a house who had a lot of kids. Their bedrooms on the floor plan were 11′ x 11′ or 11′ x 12′. I suggested they add a couple feet as their kids would be sharing rooms. They thought it was big enough until the walls were up and the first thing they said to me was “You were so right and now it’s too late!”
    Pay attention to “how” you work in the kitchen. There is a triangle design that works most efficiently in kitchens. But I noticed from the MANY homes I have lived in that I have a favorit pattern when cooking. Starting from left to right fridge, sink, then stove. It also helps to have the refridgerator and freezer closest to the shopping entry. Have enough counter space to unload groceries near the fridge. Allow plenty of prep spaces. This is why there are often a second little sink on islands for process foods and baking. Plan plenty of bright light over all of the work spaces. Allow for plenty of refridgerator and freezer spaces. My sister loved my idea of what I call a “Condiment Fridge”. Instead of one of those wine fridges, an undercounter fridge for all those condiment, marinades, dressings, etc! It’s great if you like to cook. Our family has 5 favorite salad dressings alone!

    Plan good and visually fun natural lighting all through the house. But keep in mind if the sun is going to be beating in and over heating the house in summer. Tall covered porches allow for a view yet block direct sunlight in areas you don’t want it. I am from southern Arizona and even southern windows can overheat a house by noon! But I love a view of the weather like lightning storms and snow.
    I really think it’s wise to use an attached or good-sized out building/shop that isn’t as visible from the front of the house as a solor covered roof-top. (South facing at 45 degrees)This is great during outages and to reduce electric bills year-round. With tall basement ceilings and good deep window wells, I think it’s a great idea to have a subterranean level. This is energy efficient and also good for outages. When designs right, you don’t even now it’s a “basement” level.
    I also suggest you plan some fun design elements that you will love and amuse you and guests. A secret wall shelf or creative, decorative built-in storage. What style is your home? There are some excellent faux rock designers that add an interesting natural element to designs. Example
    I could go on and on with interior designs! It’s all too much fun!

  • Christian DeBry says:

    If you’re looking to build a more efficient home, I’ve heard that geothermal heating / cooling is one of the best “green” investments in terms of ROI. You’ll need to bury a bunch of pipe underground for the heat exchange, but since you’re building from scratch anyway the incremental cost would be very low.

    Some estimates I’ve seen put the recapture cost at less than 5 years, as opposed to solar panels which can take more than 15 years.

  • Karolin says:

    I changed the refrigerator and then taken away the back to clean it up perfectly all as well as place it back together.
    For what time period should i have to wait to check if there is some changes?

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