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10 tips when building a new house

Building a new house is a huge investment and emotionally it can be one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do. Luckily I love the process! I’ve built three times and renovated a few times so learning how to stick to a budget (but not comprise on what I want) has taught me a few new tricks…

Here are a few ideas for you if you’re thinking of – or just about to build – a new home:

1. Make a Pinterest board and file all of your images in there.

This gives you a good reference point. Also as you get carried away with the building and you start to get overwhelmed with the choices, you’ll be able to come back to this and sort yourself out again. You may find it hard to describe to a builder/plumber/chippy what your vision is for a room, but if you have an image ready then it helps.

2. Ask your builder if you’re allowed to add/change things during the process.

I’ve built twice with a local builder who have allowed me to make changes during the process – like move a door, adjust the verandah, position the vanity. But I have also built with a project building company who does not allow you to make changes after you’ve signed off on your plans. This style of building can be a little trickier. If you’re not a visual person, then your planning stage is crucial as you’ll need to get everything sorted (right down to the position of a mirror in the bathroom) before the house starts being built. Make sure you are clear on this process before you sign off on anything. Ask your building company how much leeway do you have on minor things when the building process starts?

3. Make a non-negotiable list.

Unless you have a bottomless pit of money, then start out with a list of things you MUST have in the house. Try and get that in to your initial costing. It’s hard to put things back in after your builder has gone to a lot of trouble to start your quote.

4. Don’t be in a rush to finalise your plans. Get an electrical plan.

If you find it hard to read your plans and you can’t visualize every last detail, then it’s worth paying an interior designer or colour consultant to help you through this. When I was working with a building company I saw a few doozies being built. (Not the houses I sold of course!) Make sure you also get an electrical plan before you build (that’s if your builder won’t let you decide during frame stage), because some builders need you to have this decided before they start building. It’s important you think about the powerpoints! You can never have too many. It’s so much harder to put them in after you’ve built. I know that it’s common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t think about this enough. Once your insulation goes in you can forget putting powerpoints in those walls – too hard. Also make provisions for tv points and power up high. These days all our tv’s (even in the bedrooms) hang on the wall. We put points up high in every bedroom as I knew my boys would have tv’s in their rooms eventually.

5. Think about the direction your home is facing – north, south, west?

This is a biggie for me! People just don’t seem to think about this enough. A few years ago my husband and I renovated a horrible old house, but then I fell pregnant with my 3rd child and we had no space to bring a new baby in to that house, so we sold very quickly and bought a house. In the end that was a bad decision, but that’s another story! Anyway, the house we bought (whilst looked nice from the front) was built terribly. The people who built it had poor advice on positioning the house on the block. It was a big block, but it was all wrong. The westerly sun shone straight on to the back verandah and you could not sit outside from 12pm in the day. I hated it! If the plan had simply been flipped then this problem would have been averted. So, BIG tip – make sure you know where your sun will be during the day before you finalise your plan.

6. Get familiar with using a spreadsheet on your computer.

This is the place where I knew exactly how much things would cost as I added and changed things. You usually get a base price when building, but if you add anything, or take anything off YOU need to keep a spreadsheet. I used to also email this to my builder every few weeks (I’m a painful person I know!), but I had to make sure we were always on the same page and I did not want to be left with any surprises at the end!

7. Stick to similar fittings throughout your entire home.

Keep it simple. Use the same tiles in bathrooms/laundry (maybe add an accent title here and there). Use the same sinks, light fittings and colours. If you are buying things in bulk (like tiles) you’ll get them cheaper!

8. Have some cash up your sleeve.

Shop around for the best prices, locally and online. Ask your builder if you do find a cheaper vanity, or light fitting will he allow you to use that? Once you’re in the building groove you’ll be on the hunt for bargains. Never ever think your building project won’t go over! It always does. It could be that you need a couple of extra powerpoints, or the retaining wall is bigger than you thought once the block has been cut, or you see some tiles you’d love to feature. In every house I’ve built I know a few thousand dollars may be needed for extra things. I don’t tell my builder that! Ha! I keep it to the side to use if I have to. For example, in this house I wanted huge bathroom mirrors and because mirrors are fitted almost last, I knew I’d be ok to have them because I’d saved a little extra cash to pay for them at the end.

9. Don’t back down and settle.

Don’t let a tradie tell you you can’t have something. They like things to run smoothly! You might need to pay extra for it, but if you want herringbone pattern in your tiles then don’t settle for anything less! Communicate this early on though so everyone is aware of your intentions. If you settle for something you don’t really like then you will regret it for as long as you live in that house.

10. Read every last detail of that contract before you sign it.

Retaining walls and site cut always confuses people and sometimes the builder won’t know what this final cost is until they really get in to it. Most of the time they are right, but you still need to have your eyes wide open! Don’t forget to check that you get a clothesline, letterbox and you get all your concrete paths! Also check if you will be charged for every variation you make. Some building companies will also charge an admin fee for every change you make.

So there you go, some simple building tips from me today! You need to be happy with your end result, so make sure you plan and research everything you can. Don’t be afraid to ask questions too!

Happy building. ♥ KC.


  • Carolyn Nixon

    Allison Speer

  • Claire Chadwick @ Mum's Closet

    Thank you – perfect timing. We’re in the nitty gritty stage of checking every little cross and dot and x on the contract before we sign. Soooo much to think of and soooo much to account for.
    Stressful and amazing all rolled into one 🙂
    C x

    • Katrina (author)

      Good luck! So exciting!!

  • S

    Thank you! But…….what if your amazing view is facing west? Am feeling very confused having bought a waterfront acreage, as the water is on western side, so that’s where the views are but so is the sun?!

    • Katrina (author)

      You’ll love your mornings with the view! And the sunsets in the Winter. Might be warm out there in Summer in the afternoons so you might enjoy the back of the house when it’s too hot.


  • Kerh Hollyman

    Bailey Daniel Shaw

  • Fleur

    Thanks Katrina. Great list! We are going to start building soon so this list is very handy!

  • Paulene

    Hi katrina,
    So lovely to be able to contact you as I watched you on the Block a few years ago.
    My partner and I live in Ballarat Victoria. We are in the process of building again.(we are in our 60’s) and I absolutely love your home.
    Would you be so kind as to share with us your house plan? Or tell us who designed or built it.
    We want 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a study, a lovely courtyard and a 2 car garage.
    I just don’t know where to start. We are not really a lover of architects as they can be a little over the top.
    We would really appreciate it if you could help us out a little.
    Kindest regards,
    Colin & Paulene.

  • Angela Carney Mitchell

    Here here …..

  • Jody White

    Charmaine Piro

  • Katrina Donnelly

    Nicola Jones

  • Anna Raven

    Love your beautiful new home, could you please tell me if you used timber or aluminium windows at the front?

    • Katrina (author)

      Hi, they are aluminum 🙂

  • Richard Smith

    Hello! I needed a help with project of my new roof. I searched in the internet how can I make project alone and I found some tips. I collected it here – Your article for “10 TIPS WHEN BUILDING A NEW HOUSE” is one of my best choices. Thank you for this tips.

  • Erin

    Hi Katrina
    My husband and I are in the very early stages of building our first house, looking into using a private builder.
    I came across your house on pinterest today and I love it! Well done, its absolutely gorgeous.
    Would you be happy to share the name of your builder with me? I’d love to see the floor plan also if you wouldn’t mind.
    Thanks so much!

  • Yannie

    My husband and I are building our own luxury home. Thanks for the tips. I’ll make sure that we get builders that can help us plan and design our house so that it has everything we need.

  • Brent

    Love this article! We’re building through Reef Properties in sunny Mackay (in QLD), we used a few of the tips above. Check out their site:

  • South East Auckland Renovation

    What an excellent blog post! Being involved in the building industry I can honestly say that every word in this article should be followed. Good job Katrina.

  • Laura

    Hi Katrina

    My partner and I are currently building our first home. We have aprox four pages of changes, and boy have we had to fight for some! Next time would use a local not a mass builder. I’ve been using for years, love it to pieces, as I can always find a huge variety of photos of what I’m after, along with ideas I haven’t thought of.

    My other advice would be to visit plenty of showhomes, and continue re-visiting them as you are getting your plans drawn up. We have realised things wouldn’t work by seeing something similar in person.

    Personally, I’ve struggled with how limiting building can be at times. We can only choose tiles from one company, the kitchen benchtops are a total rip-off etc. So totally agree you need to have some cash set aside. We are now supplying floating planking flooring for our living, dining, and kitchen as the builder won’t install it. Also, supplying heated towel rails etc.

    Great post! Thanks!

    • Katrina (author)

      You are welcome. It’s a bit of a learning process isn’t it? Good luck with everything. I am sure if you ever build again you’ll ace it 🙂

  • Janet

    Thank you Katrina! You have just mentioned all the niggling thoughts I have inside that I’ve not been able to communicate/articulate to my hubby! Great tips and information. THANK YOU!

  • Alicia Jacometti

    Hi Katrina, We have almost finished building our new home. It’s driveway selection time. Is your driveway just plain concrete or does it have some colour in it? We are looking at different types of aggregate & I’m having such a hard time deciding on colour to complement the house. I don’t like the feeling of walking on sharp aggregate and am wondering if we should just go with straight concrete. Our facade is all James Hardie Scyon Linea board with a Shale grey roof and currently white cladding which we will probably change to quarter strength Shale Grey. I absolutely love your house it’s simply beautiful and has been a real inspiration.

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