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New Build Upgrade Advice

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  • Jul 10th, 2020 11:12 pm
[OP]
Deal Addict
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Dec 21, 2007
1195 posts
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Markham

New Build Upgrade Advice

We’ve purchased a freehold new build townhouse as our first home. We have a meeting to discuss structural/electrical upgrades we would like and was wondering which ones would be worth going through the builder. Below are some of the things we are considering:

Smooth Ceiling- For the whole house it would cost $4930 which seems quite high. We are considering just getting the main floor done for $1735.

Hood Fan—does it make sense to upgrade the hood fan at all? We currently live in a condo and the standard hood fan seems pretty inadequate in quickly removing smells/vapours. The builder has an option to build the framing for a stand alone hood fan with a 6”duct for $250.

Stairs—The standard is a natural oak staircase with oak strip hardwood in landings. Is it worth it to upgrade to White Oak for $1420.

Shower Stall—looking to upgrade to a frameless stall for $1165

Any other things you would suggest getting done through the builder? Seems like things like pot lights and the gas line I can do later on for a lot cheaper through a third party.
13 replies
Deal Addict
Mar 22, 2017
2337 posts
2976 upvotes
West GTA
For new builds always focus on things you can't easily change later first - the height of the walls, the basement height, flooring, upgraded windows, structural stuff.

Don't 'upgrade' to white oak from red oak - there's virtually no difference, white oak just doesn't have a slight reddish tint and tends to be slightly more finely grained. It doesn't matter much, I'd pick white oak if they cost the same but wouldn't put a bunch of money into it. If the oak is a different grade then it's a different conversation - there's common 2 (lots of knots and variation in boards, only good for rustic places and outside), common 1 (some knotting and variation but less, this is minimum for an urban home), and select (very little knotting or variation). There's clear but that's only for woodworking, not floors. If you're going from common 1 to select then maybe, up to you how important that is.

You should smooth the ceilings - if they won't do it, then get someone else to later on - don't let them put popcorn on it, leave it as bare drywall if you have to and get someone in to tape and skim it. It looks a lot better to have smooth ceilings, popcorn looks cheap and dated and darkens rooms.

Maybe see what electrical service they're putting in - you want a good panel since it'll let you have induction stoves and two electric car fast chargers for when you switch. 200A is typical now and likely enough though.
Deal Expert
Feb 7, 2017
22286 posts
20907 upvotes
Eastern Ontario
grumble wrote: For new builds always focus on things you can't easily change later first - the height of the walls, the basement height, flooring, upgraded windows, structural stuff.

Don't 'upgrade' to white oak from red oak - there's virtually no difference, white oak just doesn't have a slight reddish tint and tends to be slightly more finely grained. It doesn't matter much, I'd pick white oak if they cost the same but wouldn't put a bunch of money into it. If the oak is a different grade then it's a different conversation - there's common 2 (lots of knots and variation in boards, only good for rustic places and outside), common 1 (some knotting and variation but less, this is minimum for an urban home), and select (very little knotting or variation). There's clear but that's only for woodworking, not floors. If you're going from common 1 to select then maybe, up to you how important that is.

You should smooth the ceilings - if they won't do it, then get someone else to later on - don't let them put popcorn on it, leave it as bare drywall if you have to and get someone in to tape and skim it. It looks a lot better to have smooth ceilings, popcorn looks cheap and dated and darkens rooms.

Maybe see what electrical service they're putting in - you want a good panel since it'll let you have induction stoves and two electric car fast chargers for when you switch. 200A is typical now and likely enough though.
This

Pay upfront now for the structural things ... or other things that will be difficult to change later.

The rest of your OP List ... not so much

But smooth vs popcorn ceilings would be a must have for me. Popcorn sucks. And it’s a b!tch to get rid of and go to smooth later on. Much easier right from the get go.

And exhaust fans ... if doable have all the ducting for your fans in the kitchen & baths exhaust outside vs no venting, or venting in the attic etc
Actual fans themselves ... you can always upgrade later.

Everything else ... stairs, shower stall etc are cosmetic / decor ... stuff you can DIY later on after you’ve lived there awhile
Deal Expert
Aug 22, 2011
37380 posts
23447 upvotes
Center of Universe
grumble wrote: For new builds always focus on things you can't easily change later first - the height of the walls, the basement height, flooring, upgraded windows, structural stuff.

Don't 'upgrade' to white oak from red oak - there's virtually no difference, white oak just doesn't have a slight reddish tint and tends to be slightly more finely grained. It doesn't matter much, I'd pick white oak if they cost the same but wouldn't put a bunch of money into it. If the oak is a different grade then it's a different conversation - there's common 2 (lots of knots and variation in boards, only good for rustic places and outside), common 1 (some knotting and variation but less, this is minimum for an urban home), and select (very little knotting or variation). There's clear but that's only for woodworking, not floors. If you're going from common 1 to select then maybe, up to you how important that is.

You should smooth the ceilings - if they won't do it, then get someone else to later on - don't let them put popcorn on it, leave it as bare drywall if you have to and get someone in to tape and skim it. It looks a lot better to have smooth ceilings, popcorn looks cheap and dated and darkens rooms.

Maybe see what electrical service they're putting in - you want a good panel since it'll let you have induction stoves and two electric car fast chargers for when you switch. 200A is typical now and likely enough though.
+1, great advice.
Deal Addict
User avatar
Dec 27, 2007
1300 posts
739 upvotes
Oshawa
I’m guessing you didn’t try the “search” feature as this question has been asked A LOT.
Deal Fanatic
Aug 29, 2011
8178 posts
5091 upvotes
Mississauga
200 amp electrical service minimum if it isn’t already included as a basic feature.

Builders love popcorn ceilings because it’s effective at hiding half-assed taping/mudding.
Sr. Member
Jun 1, 2017
778 posts
645 upvotes
Mississauga
i would ask about the floor joist framing - mostly on the main floor. Since its a townhouse, its probably clear spanning outside party wall to outside party wall. Ask to go to 12" o/c spacing if it isn't already to tone down the vibration. If the builder is using 5/8" osb sheathing, ask to go to 3/4" plywood.

The increasing the height of ceiling on main floor is a nice feature, but since its a townhouse, im sure that is impossible to get done.

Rough in for basement washroom.
Deal Guru
May 29, 2006
10681 posts
3345 upvotes
things i wish i had done at time of build

put a drain in the attached garage ( i park in it and it gets very sloppy in the winter.
i wish i had the walk through pantry off the garage door that many new homes have, my house has a large entry way, and its just wasted space.

things im glad i did, put pot lights in the common rooms/
Deal Addict
Dec 18, 2017
1307 posts
874 upvotes
London, On
Where I am sitting, I can see each drywall panel in my family room ceiling that has popcorn finish. As I look over the kitchen, which is smooth, I can't see the joints. I never gave any thought to it costing that much more to get the ceilings finished smooth. Our bedrooms upstairs are smooth finish, which has been nice for repainting. About half to 2/3 of our main floor is popcorn, and we haven't painted it at all in the 10 years we have lived here (probably hasn't been painted since the house was new in the 80's lol), and I'm probably going to get a painter to do it.

Our last newbuild house was in the Bell Expressvu era, so we had coax cable ran from the spot where the dish would be mounted, up under the eaves and through the walls to the various points where we would have a receiver. Maybe not something many would do now in an urban setting and not needing satellite as much, but it does remind to give thought to any type of cable runs you might want to do while the walls are open. If you know where you want to mount a TV, then maybe have power and cables to that spot up the wall, maybe some extra framing for a TV mount. Networking or home theatre options as well.

How are they dealing with lighting in the house? Our first home, they supplied the cheapest whatever. Second home, they gave us a lighting allowance in the price of the house and we went and bought whatever we wanted. We set up a time with the electrician and I dropped them all off at the house and he installed them. I would get the lighting you want right off the bat even though it falls under the "can do it later" category.
Member
Mar 9, 2019
225 posts
118 upvotes
Like others said structural items you can't change later, so if interested get them done. Depending on what you do after it may or may not be cheaper. Ex. if you wanted marble countertop in bathroom it maybe expensive now, but remember if you get get laminate countertop and change you may have to patch wall/drywall, paint, new sink, and marble and that could be the same or more.
Deal Addict
Mar 22, 2017
2337 posts
2976 upvotes
West GTA
djeffery wrote: Where I am sitting, I can see each drywall panel in my family room ceiling that has popcorn finish. As I look over the kitchen, which is smooth, I can't see the joints. I never gave any thought to it costing that much more to get the ceilings finished smooth. Our bedrooms upstairs are smooth finish, which has been nice for repainting. About half to 2/3 of our main floor is popcorn, and we haven't painted it at all in the 10 years we have lived here (probably hasn't been painted since the house was new in the 80's lol), and I'm probably going to get a painter to do it.

Our last newbuild house was in the Bell Expressvu era, so we had coax cable ran from the spot where the dish would be mounted, up under the eaves and through the walls to the various points where we would have a receiver. Maybe not something many would do now in an urban setting and not needing satellite as much, but it does remind to give thought to any type of cable runs you might want to do while the walls are open. If you know where you want to mount a TV, then maybe have power and cables to that spot up the wall, maybe some extra framing for a TV mount. Networking or home theatre options as well.

How are they dealing with lighting in the house? Our first home, they supplied the cheapest whatever. Second home, they gave us a lighting allowance in the price of the house and we went and bought whatever we wanted. We set up a time with the electrician and I dropped them all off at the house and he installed them. I would get the lighting you want right off the bat even though it falls under the "can do it later" category.
My only thought on the popcorn painting is that it's fairly easy to remove unpainted popcorn - you just wet it and scrape it off. If you paint the popcorn, then it's very hard to remove as the paint prevents water penetration and it has to either by laboriously wetted and scraped, power sanded off, skimmed over or have the ceiling entirely replaced. If you have someone take off unpainted popcorn it's also half the price or less of painted, which means thousands of dollars saved - you could even do it yourself if unpainted to bare drywall then just pay for the skimming. If you paint popcorn, you can't take it back.
Deal Addict
Nov 17, 2012
4476 posts
3860 upvotes
Toronto
Only things on that list I'd pay for is the smooth ceiling and the improved range vent (what is standard?).

Do you know how the shower is being built? I'd insist on knowing EXACTLY how it is being waterproofed. Which products etc.

Sadly chances are if you pay $1100 for a frameless shower door, it will have to be ripped out in 5 years when you find out the shower has been leaking and is now rotted.
Deal Addict
Dec 18, 2017
1307 posts
874 upvotes
London, On
grumble wrote: My only thought on the popcorn painting is that it's fairly easy to remove unpainted popcorn - you just wet it and scrape it off. If you paint the popcorn, then it's very hard to remove as the paint prevents water penetration and it has to either by laboriously wetted and scraped, power sanded off, skimmed over or have the ceiling entirely replaced. If you have someone take off unpainted popcorn it's also half the price or less of painted, which means thousands of dollars saved - you could even do it yourself if unpainted to bare drywall then just pay for the skimming. If you paint popcorn, you can't take it back.
Sorry, I see where I messed up. It's painted, I should have said it hasn't been painted again since we have lived here for 10 years and very likely not at all again since new.
Deal Addict
Apr 18, 2005
3473 posts
1654 upvotes
Mississauga
I'd still not paint it again and remove it. We removed all popcorn on main floor.. and now I am thinking we should have done the bedrooms too. Gah.. but it's not cheap to get done right and had to watch the budget.

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