We’ve watched HGTV, we’ve created mood boards on Pinterest and we’ve, of course, carefully perused the pages of this very magazine to gather dream home inspiration. With such access to options and styles, many homeowners are attracted to the idea of going the custom home route, starting from scratch and having a hand in every step of the home-building process.
But where do you even start? Sure the idea of a custom home sounds great, but that certainly sounds like a big undertaking for a novice homeowner. If you’ve ever considered building a custom home, or are just curious about the process, this series is for you. Join Evan and Becky Muller as we follow them from beginning to end of all that goes into creating a custom- built home.
This month, we discuss the groundbreaking, electrical walkthrough, quartz selections, interior details and additional updates along the way!
PHASES I – IV
In case you missed it…in the first four phases of “Building with the Mullers,” we discussed who the homeowners are, getting financially pre-approved, lot selection, choosing Benjamin Custom Homes as the builder, putting their current home on the market, exterior renderings, the bidding process, appliance and cabinetry selection, a virtual reality walkthrough and finally breaking ground.
To briefly recap, the homeowners Becky and Evan Muller are highschool sweethearts from rural South Dakota, now living in Fargo. Currently, Becky is a Commercial Interior Designer at ICON Architectural Group and Evan is a Financial Planning Analyst at Aldevron. They initially intended on Fargo being a brief interlude, but as they now both have jobs they love and are happy with the community here, they’ve decided that their “five-year- plan” of living here is now a forever plan. And with this plan to plant roots in the area, they’ve decided to embark on building a custom home. Since Becky is an interior designer and works in the industry daily, the couple had a head start in what to expect and what they wanted out of this process.
Their vision has taken shape more and more as the months go by, and this phase they finally got the satisfaction of watching the walls go up and making some big decisions. Come with us as we see what steps in the process they are currently working on and how the home is coming together.
A Strong Foundation
Breaking ground on the Kindred lot got started in March. After months of planning and reconfiguring, it is finally all happening! Once the basement foundation and walls were poured, the framing and getting in the subfloor were the next steps. Then came building up the walls and roof trusses, putting up the sheetrock, getting insulation and vapor barrier in, installing windows and getting the home enclosed as soon as possible to keep it all safe from the elements.
With walls and windows coming into place, the home really began to take shape and feel real. Even with just the foundation poured, Becky said she remembered walking on that platform and getting excited as she envisioning the scale and layout. Especially coming from the twin home they owned previously, seeing this large square footage was a special moment for the couple.
After the sheetrock was up and screwed in, taping and mudding came next. This means all the screw holes and seams between each panel of sheetrock got covered and smoothed with “mud.” This ensures that the walls are seamless and smooth, even if you do intend on adding texture to the walls down the road.
All the sheetrock is up in the house, save for the basement ceiling. For now, this will remain unfinished so that the crew will have access to mechanical parts if needed.
Before the walls were put in, the Mullers completed a framing walkthrough to ensure all the blocking they wanted was correct. And at the same time as that walkthrough was also the electric walkthrough. In attendance of this electric walkthrough were Melanie Anderson, Kara Skarphol and Tim Engelking of Benjamin Custom Homes; Red River Electric, Mari Santoyo Perry of Solimar Real Estate and Becky and Evan Muller. Here, they looked at light fixtures, power switches and outlets, ensuring everything was as it should be.
Most outlets are determined by electrical code, but there are some specific details that are up to the homeowners. For instance, the Mullers decided to have an outdoor outlet just below the roof, so that Christmas lights can be easily strung and connected when the season comes. Without all the furniture pieces and locations finalized yet, this step took some creativity and pensive decision- making.
“[This walkthrough] was a long one, two to three hours! It was a long process, which you would expect, right? You’re talking about every room and every outlet in a sense,” recalled Evan.
Perhaps the more exciting part of the electrical decisions came with lighting discussions. This included the locations of can lighting and ideas on what light fixtures would work in different spots. For instance, the Mullers were glad that they already decided on a dining room table, because now they were able to position the statement light fixture centered around that table’s measurements. Having an idea of what specific light fixtures they wanted really helped in this step. From knowing if they wanted one big fixture over the kitchen island or three pendant lights, to determining if they want sconces or a vanity light above the mirror in the bathrooms, this all got discussed.
The same forward-thinking goes for wiring. Knowing where you want to put your TVs or speakers is important at this time. Evan has visions of home theater speakers that he wants to wire himself someday. This isn’t part of the budget at the moment, but the Mullers wanted to make sure the wiring was ready to go for when the time is right. Thinking ahead to things like this saves a lot of time and money, by not having to break through walls or ceiling to get the wire in place later.
All in all, the Mullers felt pretty good after this walkthrough. With the Benjamin Custom Homes team and their Realtor and friend Mari Santoyo Perry by their side, they were reassured that their choices were staying on budget.
Every Little Detail
Framing and electrical outlets are certainly important, but the fun parts of this process come with picking out the interior details. In perhaps one of the longest meetings yet, Evan and Becky sat down with Kara Skarphol, Melanie Anderson and Benjamin Custom Homes’ project manager, Tim Engelking. In this meeting, they picked out bathroom accessories (mirrors, towel hooks, toilet paper holders, etc.), coat hooks for the mudroom, wall and ceiling textures; paint colors for walls, doors and bases and more. For the most part, these were all finalized during that one, long meeting.
Some parts were easy to agree on. Bathroom accessories and coat hooks were decided quickly, as the couple already had in mind exactly what look they wanted. Even the paint and wall textures came together fast, as they – again – already had a good idea of what they wanted. Selected paint swatches included a crisp white, blush pink, sage green and cool-toned graphite that all worked great with their desired gray and black accents.
Since lighting has such a big impact on a home, the Mullers are taking their time getting those fixtures finalized. With some pieces on backorder or discontinued, they are keeping their eyes out for any possible look-a-likes and sales and specials. They have the luxury of time still on their side, so they have been sure to take advantage of Memorial Day or Fourth of July Sales and even some end-of-season specials. Staying on budget and getting exactly what you want is possible!
In addition to determining the styles of the light fixtures, the homeowners had to keep in mind what Kelvin temperatures each fixture would run at. Some light fixtures produce warm-tones, some are pretty clear and others lean more cool-toned. If you were to intermix the those too much, it would greatly throw-off the cohesion…and just look bad! Even taking into account what bulbs are required, they considered things like longer-lasting LED bulbs versus cosmetic Edison-styled bulbs that tend to burn out quicker.
No Drab Slabs
Not every meeting in this phase was a long one! When picking out countertop options, the decisions were made in one quick trip to Northern Stone.
Originally, Becky had intended on using her work connections (that came with a generous discount) to order their quartz. However, once shipping got added into that cost, the price ended up being more expensive than purchasing locally. So instead of going through her original vendor, the Mullers opted to choose from the existing stock at Northern Stone.
About picking from Northern Stone’s remnant and in-stock selections, Evan said, “It was a really good recommendation from Benjamin Custom Homes. Doing so is a huge benefit for anyone looking to do an entire house, versus having to buy a whole slab elsewhere.” Northern Stone keeps a sizable selection in-stock at their location, so not having to pay for freight also helps the convenience and overall cost.
“It worked out well. A lot of the ones they had in stock actually were perfect and exactly what we wanted, so that helped bring down the cost a little bit,” said Becky. The homeowners knew they wanted white quartz, so the hunt through Northern Stone’s selection was made easier by already having a vision in mind.
As for the fabrication, the Mullers decided on an extra- large double waterfall kitchen island. This was a more luxurious choice, but even at the early planning stages, this was a detail they knew they wanted. The couple was surprised at how much they were able to get out of the remnant selections at Northern Stone. They were able to get a few slabs, all in the same pattern/color and had enough to fulfill even their oversized island dreams. “After Northern Stone took our dimensions and figured out their existing slab sizes and everything, we had used almost every single inch of all the slabs we purchased. So it was pretty efficient,” said Becky.
Hurry Up and Slow Down
With the “big things” like foundation, framing and sheetrock already in place, a lot of the upcoming steps will come in smaller, less visibly noticeable waves.To put it in comparison, when the couple first started visiting the lot, it was just a flat property. Then all of a sudden, 80% of the walls are up and it was a huge noticeable difference. Now, the coats of paint, trim work and electric wiring will produce less of a wow-factor.
In the first months of construction, Becky and Evan enjoyed visiting the construction site and seeing how progress was going. But now that the walls are up and the space has become enclosed, the couple jokes that they have officially been “locked out.” With more nails on the ground and potentially dangerous wiring in place, the site became more of a liability. While the Mullers enjoyed taking their dog, JoJo, to the site and exploring progress, now their visits will be less frequent and therefore they will see more visible progress each time.
While they wait for actions to be taken on-site, the Mullers are actively looking for deals on furniture and decor. With paint colors decided on, they look forward to being able to make more furniture and accessory choices now. So far, they have made moves on ordering pieces like their bed frame and other furniture pieces that have longer lead times for delivery. They’ve taken advantage of many companies offering free material swatches, as they haven’t been able to shop in person. “[The swatches] were good clarification when buying online, as opposed to going in and touching things. We have been buying a lot online, from places like West Elm, Article, Target and All Modern. We have just been shopping around,” said Becky, then adding that Evan has been doing his best to keep her in line with all the purchases!
As you can see, a lot has happened since our last issue. And as mentioned, things will visibly slow down for a bit, as all the details come to life. But we have a feeling that by next issue, the home will look a lot different!
Up next, the couple anticipates the installation of the flooring and seeing the paint go up. On the financial side, the Mullers recently locked in an interest rate at their bank, but are still shopping around and comparing what their closing costs would look like elsewhere.
Depending on when their move-in date, they will decide what they want to do for landscaping. If their move-in date is sooner-than-later, they will be more inclined to get started on the landscape right away. But if it’s closer to October, they will decide to hold off until next spring.
As progress is being made, there is more and more to look forward to. “I think what I am looking forward to the most [right now] is seeing the siding go up. Because you can see the interior lines and obviously there’s a lot going on inside there, but getting the exterior is the next big piece that’ll put it together for us,” said Evan.
With most selections picked, all that is left for the Mullers to do is wait for construction to come together. Stay tuned for next issue, where we dive into what will come together in the next two months!