What are some unusual features that would be great to add to a new home under construction?

Here are a few random thoughts from my brain.

  1. Choose your allowance items early, get specifications and walk through with subs. Keep a specification book for you and for the job. Keep both up to date. Highlight unique installations. Make notes on plans with the date, follow up with an email with decisions. Do not expect everyone to remember every decision you make and every change. This is your one home and focus but it is not their one and only job. Don’t take it personally. Follow up with emails – short and succinct with pertinent info. Everyone wants you happy and satisfied.
  2. Have a review meeting with Contractor, plumber, HVAC and electrician after the structural engineer has engineered plans to make sure all subs have an easy access and plan for their work. (thus you need to have your allowance items chosen and have specs) Structure takes precidence over trades, of course, but issues can be worked out before framing commences.
  3. Add blocking in walls for grab bars in the showers, bathrooms and stair ways and landings for aging in place or if you have a bad back, hip or compromised motor skills and need to pull yourself up.
  4. Add blocking in walls for bath hardware, heavy wall hung art/mirror/pieces/curtain rods/ tv brackets etc.
  5. Mind the switch locations for exterior doors, leaving room for the stack for drapes. Mind switch and outlet locations according to furniture and art layouts.
  6. Consider taller than standard kitchen counters at sinks ( be careful in areas with appliances since ranges don’t rise past normal 36″) or lower than standard cooktop for vertically challenged folks. You can find a ADA compliant dishwasher to accommodate a 34″ countertop at sink. Just need to coordinate with your kitchen designer and appliance supplier.
  7. Stack closets for a future elevator and attic space above for equipment and below for pit
  8. Audio speakers that are hidden ( really hidden- sheetrock speakers)
  9. Decide if blinds/shutters will be inside mount and plan accordingly so they don’t stick out. If they are outside mount, insure they don’t interfere with door and furniture clearances.
  10. Plan a closet dedicated to the mechanical, security and audio. Make sure you have a supply vent to condition and a louvered door to insure equipment doesn’t cook.
  11. Plan your finish flooring in all rooms so the subfloor and first step can be coordinated in the framing stage to avoid trip hazards and ugly transitions. Tile thickness is different than stone, wood, carpet etc. choose early.
  12. Have a furniture and rug layout early and before committing to the floor outlet placement and BEFORE rough in for HVAC and electrical.
  13. Leave enough room for the ergonomics of people and space – behind bar stools, dining chairs, kitchen aisles, appliance doors, door swings water closets. 36″ is not enough for kitchen aisles.
  14. Have a handicap accessible path to living areas including into house from garage, including into closets, pantry and shower- just in case. 32″ minimal door opening but 36″ preferred. Pocket doors are better because of the thickness of the door when door is open 90 degrees the clear area decreases by 2″. Check the turning radius of a wheel chair. You can have a header put in for a 36″ door for future and use a smaller door until you need the larger. But see note about zero threshold shower.
  15. Get your ceiling fans in the correct spot for furniture instead of center in the ceiling in the room. Ditto with cans and light fixtures.
  16. Plan shower head heights including the shower head arm drop. Include a handheld shower to clean shower and for aging in place. keep in mind where you place the valves and the door swing of the shower door.
  17. Ask plumber to install vent stacks and plumber to side of framing instead of straight up in the wall above your vanity so you can hang a decorative mirror and a light above the vanity.
  18. Think about and plan accordingly for the rough ins in this order – usually – the plumber is first, then HVAC then electrical. Because plumbing should not bend and needs to flow downward, HVAC shouldn’t bend and be pinched, and electrical wires can bend around the other two.
  19. Motorized screens for porches- decreases temp by 10 degrees. Down when you need them and up when you don’t or if there is a storm.
  20. Speaking of a storm – plan storm shutters in the beginning.
  21. Wired/wireless interior blinds with remote control or phone app
  22. Plan several charging stations for devices
  23. Plan for a generator panel in storm prone areas.
  24. Think about a Zero threshold shower ( floor must be lower in framing stage to make flush) again for aging in place or a broken leg.
  25. Cross bracing for heavy furniture that is running parallel to floor framing so furniture does not bounce – think china cabinet/ break front in dining room or piano or sculpture
  26. Switched outlet with one or two switches to turn off Holiday lights inside and out instead of doing individually
  27. Central wall switch location for flood lights, landscape lights and Holiday lights or a home automation system.
  28. “Panic” switch by bed to light up inside and out if you are alone a lot and feel the need.
  29. Conduit under walks, patios, decks and drive for future needs. Take pictures with measurements noted, print out pictures and file in your job folder.
  30. Plan landscaping & foundation vents height so vents are not buried with dirt and mulch.
  31. Keep in mind eyes fade with the years and you will need multiple light scenarios, lights at stairs and trip points.
  32. Since we lose dexterity with age, look into touch lights for under cabinet lights in kitchen, 1/4 turn door hardware, soft close cabinetry, decora switches instead of toggle.
  33. If you are going to have a tile backsplash- think about recessing the outlets into the bottom of cabinet and light valance or using plug mold instead of having outlets ruining the look of your tile. Think about location of outlets in island, use plug mold and have a little extra overhang at countertop to hide plug mold.
  34. If you have a large island and don’t want seam in the top, choose the slab and plan the island around the slab size. Making sure the countertop people can get the big slab into the home at the end. Countertops do not bend around stair wells! Ditto with kingsize mattresses, extra long sofas and poster beds! nor do they fit into a normal residential elevator.
  35. Use fiber optic switch for disposal instead of the wall mount disposal switch we all turn on erroneously no matter how long we have lived in the home.
  36. Hot and cold water on the exterior.
  37. Spigots on decks to water plants and wash down areas
  38. Ample outlets on exterior, deck, porches and in garage. They are ugly but you just have to get over it.
  39. Add a couple of home run circuits to garage for future
  40. Leave enough room in your electrical panel for future upgrades.
  41. Take pictures of each stage of rough in so you remember where things are years down the road. We won’t remember- period!
  42. Plan your supply and return vents during the framing stage for trim and to make sure vents are out of the way of furniture and drapery.
  43. Add 4″ cans in dark corners for ambient light and drama, add to ceiling or floor according to your furniture/plant layout.
  44. Add propane or natural gas outlet for grill instead of lugging the tank around and it running out during a party after the stores have closed. Out an outlet by the grill station if you use a rotisserie or need a grill light.
  45. Add a hidden outlet on top of mantle for holiday decorating.
  46. Mind where your HVAC guy places thermostats. They seem to always take the center of the best art wall. lol.
  47. Consider a HVAC unit with the filter at the unit so you can hide the return air channels in cabinet toe kicks and stair risers instead of the ugly return air.
  48. Coordinate and plan any finish millwork and molding with electrical and HVAC so it is symmetrical and stiles are wide enough to accommodate sconces and base is tall enough to have horizontal outlets in the base or at the least have outlets in the center of the paneling. especially important if using coffers or beams on ceiling.
  49. Plan crown molding to avoid the recessed cans or ceiling supply vents in the way of crown at the trim stage.
  50. Plan the header height of the windows and doors so they are even and the casing it at the same height instead of differing by a hair. Ditto with casing on door in the corners – choose your trim early in the framing stage.
  51. Keep in mind every detail must flow together not scream and shout for attention. Keep in mind scale and proportion with each detail you choose. One or two details in each view/space should be the star and the other details be the chorus,
  52. Heated floors in the bathroom are awesome. Waking up in winter to a warm floor is always a bonus.
  53. I could go on and on but must return to my design work! Enjoy the process of construction and breathe!

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