Photos by Kayleigh Omang, Renderings provided by Benjamin Custom Homes
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 breaking ground, finalizing plumbing and cabinet choices and choosing appliances.
PHASES I, II AND III
In case you missed it…in the first three 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, product selection and a virtual reality walk-through.
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 breaking ground on their property and getting the build going! Come with us as we see what steps in the process they are currently working on and how the home is coming together.
GOLDEN SHOVELS IN HAND
The day we’ve all been waiting for came about the last week of March. With symbolic golden shovels in hand, the breaking ground on Becky and Evan’s custom home happened with much celebration! With the ground thawing sooner than what is typical for our region, this step in the process got to happen ahead of schedule.
The beginning steps of a home build start with digging out what will be the basement and pouring the footing and foundation walls. After this step is completed, the framing process begins. With framing comes excitement, as this is the step that shows the homeowners what their future home will look like in real-life scale and its exact location. Becky mentioned that on previous trips out to the build site, it was hard to tell where their lot was, as it was among three other empty lots all in a row.
“It was really fun to see action instead of just a field of weeds,” joked Becky. Throughout this process, the Mullers have been sharing the experience with their good friends, the Follmans, who are building a home next door. The Follmans were in attendance for the groundbreaking and were able to take a photo and celebrate the start of their custom build as well.
While on-site at the groundbreaking, Benjamin Custom Homes owner Ben Anderson and designer Kara Skarphol took note of some neighborhood details and made some small design changes. For instance, most homes in the neighborhood have metal window wells rather than concrete ones. To match the neighborhood and save some money, their design plans switched to this metal option. Additionally, many of the neighbor’s homes have vinyl siding rather than metal siding, so the Mullers agreed to alter their siding choice to complement the neighborhood better. Saving costs like this here and there eventually adds up and gives the couple room to spend that money elsewhere in the home.
KNOCK ON WOOD
With the kitchen being the heart of the home, having the cabinetry design finalized was a big step for the Mullers. A few months ago, they met with Wendt Custom Cabinets to make their initial designs and selections. Having time to sort through options, hardware combinations and pricing, they now have finalized it all.
The overall design didn’t change much from the initial plans, however, they did decide to alter the kitchen layout. “We did change our minds on the layout. The sink was located on the wall and now we moved it to this island,” said Evan. “In the apartment we are in now, it has the sink on the island and we’ve liked being able to look out into the living room and seeing what’s going on.” This just goes to show that sometimes you never know what you’ll like until you try it!
In addition to the kitchen cabinetry, their finalized plans include cabinetry selections for the bathrooms, laundry room, mudroom and living-room entertainment built-ins.
In the downtime between finalizing their choices and waiting for their construction, Becky has enjoyed planning ahead. A self-professed organization freak, Becky said she has already been mapping out what kitchen supplies will go in what cabinets or drawers. Due to COVID-19, the couple didn’t have friends and family help them move from their old home into their temporary apartment. However, with this impressive organization and the expectation of loved-ones being able to lend a hand, the move into the new home is sure to go smoothly.
IN COMES THE PLUMBING
In this phase of the build also comes plumbing selections. Any item that involves water running through it, the Mullers picked out at this point. This includes items such as tubs, toilets, showerheads and faucets.
To confidently make their choices, Becky and Evan headed to Goodin Company to really experience the selections. While it might seem silly and fun, the process of sitting in bathtubs and testing faucet motions is incredibly important. Having a toilet at an uncomfortable height can be an everyday annoyance. Or having a tub that is too deep for someone of your height to comfortably soak in can make it unusable. Touching and feeling such selections allowed the homeowners to have a better idea of what they really wanted.
The Mullers had already done bidding with Goodin Company, so this process of comparing selections helped them determine which features they were willing to pay the higher bid pricing for versus which ones didn’t matter as much to them. The initial quotes ended up being pretty close to the final numbers, with only a few variations discovered after really testing things out. For instance, a freestanding tub filler that they really wanted ended up being a big upgrade, but something they knew was worth it.
If you’re not familiar with purchasing plumbing fixtures, the pricing and how it adds up can be eye-opening. Evan expressed how doing the math was really educational to him. “You see a price and you say, ‘Ok that’s a couple hundred dollars.’ But then you have to multiply that by three or four, depending on the bathroom,” he said. “It can be kind of deceiving at times when you see just a faucet for $200 and you think that’s no big deal, but in reality that adds up very quickly when you multiply it with the number you need.”
Up next, the Mullers will have their electrical walk-through, have ordered their flooring, be finalizing hardware, paint and stain colors, drywall texture and other various aesthetic details.
When the frame and walls are up, the homeowners will be able to complete their electrical walk-through. This will determine where outlets, light switches and wiring will be located.
Becky and Evan agree that one of their favorite parts of this phase of the process is driving out to Kindred on the weekends and checking in on the job site. “We’ve been taking multiple road trips out there in the morning with some coffee and our dog and just see what’s happening,” said Becky.
Stay tuned as the home is beginning to turn from dreams and blueprints to walls and studs!