for your reference: where to cut corners when building a house

Over the years, I have collected quite an assortment of reference guides for my clients.  Many of them file these 'sheets' in a three ring binder for their reference on future projects .  I thought that this blog might be a great way to share some of these reference 'sheets' with you, too!

You can download the .pdf of this post HERE for your personal reference.

Here is a list of 50 items with suggestions on where to cut corners and where to invest when building a home.

1. Specifications and Plans - DO NOT cut corners here. Get the best and most detailed plans.
2. Survey - DO NOT cut corners here. Better make sure your house is in the right place.
3. Foundation - DO NOT cut corners here. Possibly the most important structural part of your home. Use extra steel. If it is a slab, use EXTRA steel and pour it 6 inches thick.
4. Foundation Waterproofing - Absolutely spend money here. An asphalt coating is NOT waterproofing.
5. Termite Control - DO NOT cut corners here. If you are in termite prone areas, pre-treat soil now. It is cheaper than doing it down the road.
6. Structural Steel - You could save money by not priming and painting it, but it would be a mistake, especially any exterior brick lintels. Those must be primed and painted on all sides and edges before they are installed.
7. Sewer Line/Septic - DO NOT cut corners here. Do you like to rod out sewer lines? Who does? Get the best installed here.
8. Electric Service - You could get an economy panel but you may have a hard time getting breakers in the future. Go with name brand stuff here.
9. Roof Trusses - Get standard trusses if you want to save money. Need extra storage space or a future room? Then get attic trusses.
10. Roofing - You can get by with regular 3 tab shingles. The steeper the roof pitch the longer they last. This is really an aesthetic issue. What will look good on your home?
11. Roof Ventilation - DO NOT cut corners here. More is better.
12. Air and Water Infiltration Barrier - DO NOT skip this. Water does leak through brick, siding and stucco. You must protect the wood structure.
13. Windows -  DO NOT cut corners here. These are the most important energy items in your home. Buy cheap windows trying to economize and you will regret it.
14. Exterior Doors - This is an important mechanical and energy item. DO NOT waste money here. Think how much it will cost to replace one!
15. Furnace/AC -  DO NOT cut corners here. These two items control and maintain your indoor comfort. Buy the best. BEWARE - This is one area where most builders try to save money.
16. Ductwork -  DO NOT cut corners here. This system moves air around your home.
17. Water Heater - You can save here if you want. Buy one with a 5 year warranty. Water heaters - if installed correctly with di-electric unions - can be replaced in several hours.
18. Gas Lines - Put in what you need for now but have the plumber install tees with nipples and caps if you think you want additional lines run in the future to a fireplace or a gas grill.
19. Telephone Wiring - It is important to have a single cable run to each place where a phone will be. DO NOT loop one cable throughout the house.
20. CAT 5 Wiring - Phones, computers and all sorts of devices can be networked if you install this wire. A wise investment.
21. Central Vacuum - You don't need one, but they are nice to have.
22. Plaster - It is better than drywall, but drywall will work.
23. Soundproofing -  DO NOT cut corners here. Here is the one place to spend some extra cash. Once you move in it is too late to remediate.
24. Siding - You can save with vinyl siding. Some are very realistic looking.
25. Brick - In the long run - if installed correctly - brick saves you money. It also adds value.
26. Gutters - You can save here. These are easy to upgrade later.
27. Exterior Paint -  DO NOT cut corners here. Buy the best paint possible. The new urethane acrylic blends are the best. Back prime all wood before it is installed.
28. Exterior Sidewalks - Pour these 5 inches thick.
29. Driveway - If you can find a tar and chip installer it is the least expensive but best driveway.
30. Garage Door -  DO NOT cut corners here. The largest mechanical device in your home.
31. Disappearing Stairs -  DO NOT cut corners here. If you cut corners here you could break a leg.
32. Mailbox - These can be replaced in an hour.
33. Fencing - This is a luxury you possibly can put off till another day.
34. Retaining Walls - The new mortarless technology stackable walls are very affordable and they work.
35. Landscaping - Do as little as possible. Be sure to consider how big things get.
36. Interior Doors - You can replace these later. It is not too hard.
37. Interior Door Hardware - These also can be replaced with little effort. Get by for now with cheaper ones.
38. Kitchen Cabinets -  DO NOT cut corners here. These are tough to replace. Buy good ones.
39. Kitchen Sink Faucet - A serious DIY'r can replace a sink faucet in about two hours. Upgrade later.
40. Built-in Appliances -  DO NOT cut corners here. Buy good ones.
41. Refrigerator -  DO NOT cut corners here. Get a new one that uses little electricity. They will save you money down the road.
42. Dishwasher -  DO NOT cut corners here. If you like to talk in your kitchen you better get a quiet one.
43. Disposal - These can also be changed out in less than an hour. Buy a cheap one for now.
44. Laundry Room Cabinets - A great place to economize.
45. Interior Light Fixtures - For important ones, I would buy high quality. Hallways and other secondary rooms - economize for now.
46. Tub and Shower Valves -  DO NOT cut corners here. Buy the best. These are hard to change out.
47. Lavatory Faucets - Get cheap ones. You can change these in an hour or less.
48. Toilets - Economize. A toilet can be changed in as little as two hours.
49. Carpeting - Economize.
50. Furnishings - If you know what you want, invest now.  But it is better to live with the space for a while and then decide on your purchases.  They should be quality pieces that are built to last.