Specifications: Personalizing Your New Home

Creating specifications and the home building materials list is another step in personalizing your new home. This is where your shopping skills are highlighted because, as you negotiate with building suppliers, you begin the process of identifying the products that become an integral part of your new home.

This means researching places like Home Depot, Lowes, and other building suppliers to determine what new products are available and at what cost. You can save a great deal on your overall construction cost.

You need to do your research in an organized manner to save yourself some time and energy. The major categories that you must address in creating your specifications include the following: Exterior Walls Roofing, Gutters, Etc. Windows and Exterior Doors Cabinets, Vanities and Counter-tops Interior Doors and Trim Appliances Fireplaces Plumbing Fixtures Lighting Fixtures Floor Covering Hardware Painting and Decorating

You will need to identify the brand names for each of these categories in your specifications to eliminate confusion and hassle during construction. It makes no difference whether you are building your own home yourself, with a consultant or with a new home builder. You have to prepare these detailed specifications and a Home Building Materials List for clarification.

Exterior Walls

Home Building Exterior Wall MaterialsThe specifications and home building materials list begins with the exterior walls. You need to decide if a maintenance-free exterior is important to you or do you care that you would have to paint the exterior on an annual basis. If you are like most individuals, you would select the maintenance-free option. However, if you are building a multi-million dollar home, it doesn’t matter.

You can choose between brick veneer, stone veneer, synthetic stucco (if it is applied correctly, it is great), hardie plank siding (cement board), vinyl siding or wood siding. You could use a combination of these to generate accent panels. The popular choices are brick veneer, stone veneer, hardie plank siding or vinyl siding.

Remember, contrary to what you hear, you still have to paint the hardie plank siding. You should also consider using vinyl soffit and fascia in lieu of wood in your specifications.

Roofing & Gutters

Home Building Roofing and Gutters MaterialsThere are a multitude of roofing materials available on the market today including asphalt shingles, cedar shake shingles, and clay tiles. The most common roofing material is the asphalt shingle. The most common design is the 25 year architectural shingle. This should be considered the minimum for your specifications.

One of the most popular brands of shingles is the Elk Corporation. You can check their website at http://www.elkcorp.com. In addition, there is the CertainTeed Corporation at http://www.CertainTeed.com and GAF Corporation at http://www.gaf.com who manufacture quality roofing products that you may want to consider.

A relatively new concept is the use of metal panels on your roof in lieu of shingles. Their specifications state that they are factory finished and do not require much maintenance, unless you have a hail storm. Your insurance company should cover the damage.

Gutters and downspouts are a must and are really a personal choice regarding style and color. However, they should be included in your specifications and home building materials list.

Windows and Exterior Doors

Home Building Windows and Exterior Doors MaterialsYour home building materials list includes windows and exterior doors. The specifications for the windows include wood, aluminum, and vinyl clad. Even the more expensive window manufacturers like Pella and Andersen make a vinyl clad window. If you are looking for maintenance-free specifications, then select the vinyl clad.

Current building codes require the windows to have insulated glass with low “E” for energy efficiency. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES do you use single-pane windows. I think that they may have been outlawed by now.

Exterior doors come in wood, metal and fiberglass. Fiberglass has become very popular as a maintenance-free door. It also resists dents and scuff marks (for those of you that have children). They also come in a wood-grained pattern to look like wood doors.

Your overhead garage door should be a lightweight metal door for ease of operation. It makes it easier for the automatic door opener to function properly. Check out the products offered by Wayne Dalton, http://www.waynedalton.com, and Clopay Door Co., http://www.clopaydoor.com.

Cabinets, Vanities and Countertops

Cabinets, vanities and countertops offer a wide variety of styles and colors. Your kitchen cabinets offer a great opportunity to truly personalize your kitchen with all of the latest technology.

For example, if you have corner cabinets, your specifications should include lazy susans that offer precious storage space with easy access. This should be true for both the upper and lower cabinets.

An appliance garage is a great asset for storing your can opener, toaster, coffee maker, and iced tea maker all out of sight. Then there is the wine rack that can be just about any size that you want.

There are other drawers and cabinets to consider depending on your lifestyle that will enhance your specifications. Of course you have the flipout sink cabinet drawer for all of your sink items. You can even get a broom closet in a tall cabinet if you do not have other space for it.

The choice of cabinet styles and colors can be mind boggling. However, let me give you a couple of pointers.

If you are considering a pickled cabinet (i.e. maple, oak, etc.), be very careful if you have a great deal of sunlight coming into your kitchen. Over time the cabinets will turn yellow. You do not want your expensive pickled maple cabinets turning yellow.

I almost made that mistake, but I did a thorough research on the subject to verify it. Also, I have personally seen these cabinets turn yellow over time. Don’t make a mistake here that you will regret. Pre-finished cabinets are okay as long as they are not pickled, if you have a lot of sunlight in the kitchen.

There are a large number of styles and woods to choose from. There is one thing to remember. The vertical space between the doors is known as the “style” and the width varies. The closer the doors are together, the more expensive the cabinet. The greater the space (style) between the doors, the less expensive it gets.

The same can be said for the style of doors. The inexpensive ones include a flat surface with no design. The next in line are the “picture frame” doors which are flat with moulding around the edge.

When you get to the raised-panel design, you are moving up in cost. The raised-panel with beaded moulding takes it further up the ladder.

One final note on cabinet specifications, especially, the upper cabinets. If your ceiling height is 9 feet or more, consider using the taller 42 inch upper cabinets instead of the standard 30 inch cabinets. They will look better and give you more storage space.

These are things that you need to consider along with the accompanying door hardware when preparing your specifications and home building materials list.

The same holds true when selecting your vanities. You can use the same analysis. If the space permits, you should consider a set of drawers in between the “his and her” vanities. The space is priceless.

Your countertops are usually cultured marble in a variety of colors and styles. Be sure that the immediate area around the faucets on top of the sink is recessed below the very top of the countertop to allow the excess water to run back into the sink and not on the floor.

There are many choices in countertops on the market today. From the inexpensive formica flat top with a backsplash to the granite top. There are also the corian and generic granite tops that are just as good as the real thing.

Formica has a style that looks like granite, but beware that it will scratch. Again, I almost made that mistake too. Only your imagination and budget are your limitations.

Interior Doors and Trim

Moving on in your home building materials list is the selection of the interior doors and trim. You may not think that this is a major choice, but it truly is.

The specifications for interior doors are typically hollow core masonite doors either flat or with raised panels. You can buy solid wood doors if your budget allows.

There is a wide variety of trim to consider. Do I want chair rail in the kitchen and dining room? Do I want “judges paneling” in the dining room or den? What about crown moulding? Depending upon your lifestyle, these questions must be answered.

There is a wide variety of window and door casing available from the inexpensive clamshell and colonial to the more detailed beaded casing like the RB-3. They also come in varying widths.

The same holds true of the baseboard. You can get the plain with low profile to the taller beaded with all types of trim on it. Again, your imagination and budget are your limitations.


Your specifications must include your appliance selections. General Electric, http://www.geappliances.com, and Whirlpool, http://www.whirlpool.com, and Jenn-Air, http://www.jennair.com, are great choices to name a few. There is also Viking, Thermador and Wolf products that you may want to consider.

Depending upon whether you like to cook, I would suggest a separate cooktop with either an updraft or downdraft vent system. If you like to grill indoors and maybe, fix pancakes, consider the cooktop with interchangeable modules (grill, griddle, etc.). However, make sure that you have at least the four burners in addition to the modules.

A double oven is a must if you cook a lot. You will need space for a microwave oven as well.

The specifications for the remaining choices of refrigerator, dishwasher, garbage disposal, trash compactor, etc. are purely based on your desires and budget.


Having built two houses a couple of years ago, I thought that I had researched all the information and specifications regarding fireplaces. When one of the houses sold, the buyer proved me wrong.

The home had a pre-manufactured fireplace with gas logs and glass doors. The buyer ripped this fireplace out and replaced it with one that had remote control gas logs and blowers. This was a “couch potato’s” dream.

You can now get electric fireplace inserts that do not require a chimney, but provide adequate heat and ambiance. They are great if you want to place your large-screen television above it and save space.

Don’t forget the fireplace surround and hearth choices. There is wood, ceramic tile, slate, marble, etc. to choose from. Make sure your specifications are clear in this matter. Choose wisely.

Plumbing Fixtures

The next items in the home building materials list are the plumbing fixtures. No, you do not have to select the piping, but you do have to choose the faucets, commodes and shower fixtures.

Kohler brand, http://www.us.kohler.com, is one of the top brands followed by American Standard, http://www.americanstandard-us.com, and Moen, http://www.moen.com. The choices are endless.

Let me give you a suggestion about the commodes. Gone are the days when the commodes flushed and almost sucked you down the sewer drain. Today, we have the water-saving, efficient commodes that use a small amount of water. The problem is that it takes two flushes to clear the bowl. Go figure.

If you are not a petite person, I would suggest that you select the elongated bowl. It better accommodates our current body specifications.

Let me give you a warning about bathtubs and showers with ceramic tile surrounds. They look great at the beginning, but if you do not maintain the grout in between the tiles, you will get small pinholes that become bigger holes as a result from direct spray from the faucet.

I had an experience with these ceramic tile surrounds in a shower. I did not know that the water had seeped in behind the tiles and when I leaned on the wall, my hand went through the wall including the drywall behind it. It had turned to mush and that was the last time I ever used ceramic tile.

Most people forget to maintain the grout like they should. That is why I do not include this in my specifications. Okay, you have been forewarned.

Light Fixtures

Have you ever had the experience of buying a builder’s home with an allowance of $1,000.00 for light fixtures. Have you priced light fixtures lately? Even if you purchased your light fixtures from Lowes or Home Depot, which I have in the past and gotten some great deals, you cannot furnish your new home with adequate lighting for $1,000.00.

Remember, you have both interior and exterior lights to buy. Also, your specifications will include closet lights and attic lights, maybe security lights outside.

You may even end up with a multitude of recessed can lights in the kitchen, at the fireplace, master suite or other areas and they are not inexpensive. You will have to allow much more for your lighting fixtures than you think.

Floor Covering

The floor covering section of your specifications requires some careful planning and is based on whether you have a slab foundation or a crawl space or basement foundation.

Hardwood floors are difficult to install on slab floors unless you know how to do it properly. The correct procedure is to use “sleepers” which are wood slats fastened to the concrete slab before the wood flooring is attached.

Also, a vapor barrier is required to prevent moisture rising from the concrete slab up through the hardwood flooring. Be sure that this is on your home building materials list.

Pre-finished hardwood floors are very common today and are much easier to install than the real hardwood (like oak) floors. Also, with the pre-finished floors, you do not have to stain and seal them.

This can be a very dangerous operation involving oak floors or other solid wood floors that require finishing. I have seen homes blown apart by the igniting of the fumes from the sealer that was applied to the real wood floors.

If hardwood floors are not installed with the proper adhesive, the boards may come loose over time and you will have to nail them down to the subfloor to prevent squeaking. This will occur in high traffic areas like in the kitchen or foyer area. These problems may seem very minor now, but later on they become an annoyance.

I want to address ceramic tile floors that are common in areas like the foyer, kitchen and bathrooms. Be careful when you install them in the kitchen.

Real tiles (like mexican et al) are very hard on your feet if you are standing on them for any length of time while cooking or cleaning up after entertaining. There are substitute products that look like mexican tile and those other thick tiles that are more comfortable and give you the same effect.

Also, you must make sure that the tile is stain-resistant and resistant to water. Otherwise, maintenance becomes a problem.

When installing carpet and pad, be sure that the pad is of good quality. You can put an inexpensive carpet on a good pad and achieve great results, but a great carpet on a cheap pad is not so good. Listen to your carpet suppliers for advice on where to place each type of carpet, especially in high traffic areas.


The personalizing of your home must include your specifications for the hardware. This includes door hardware, wire shelving, bath accessories and mirrors. Most builders do not install bath accessories like they did in the past. They allow for personalization by the owners.

In the bathrooms, for example, you might want to select the finish on the bath accessories to match the finish on the faucets (i.e. brass and brass, chrome and chrome, etc.). Don’t forget the robe hook on the back of the door. You will need it when you take a bath or shower.

When installing mirrors, be sure that your specifications dictate that they are attached with mirror brackets so that the mirror doesn’t suddenly fall of the wall.

I had that happen in one of our bathrooms. Fortunately, no one was in the bathroom at the time, but the mirror broke into numerous pieces and cut the vanity cabinet doors and the vinyl floor. It can be hazardous to your health if you are near one that breaks.

Walk-in closets have gotten so big these days that people put televisions, wetbars, and entertainment centers in them. They need to get out more and get a life.

Under normal circumstances, you can use ventilated wire shelving in various configurations to accomplish your goals. The shelving in the pantry and linen closets should be a minimum of 16 inches wide to accommodate your basic staple items as well as blankets, sheets and towels.

It is also a good idea to put a shelf above your washer and dryer if you are not installing cabinets. Get the one that has a rod and shelf combination so that you can hang up wet clothes that are not going in the dryer.

Painting and Decorating

When you have your house painted, be sure that your specifications include at least a prime coat and a finish coat on the walls, ceilings, and trim as a minimum. A prime coat and two finish coats are recommended and are a must if you are using colors.

I have seen painters using inexpensive paints such that you could read The Wall Street Journal through them. In all the years in the construction industry, my employers and I have specified Glidden paints, http://www.glidden.com, and never had any problems.

Another good choice is Benjamin Moore paints,http://www.benjaminmoore.com. However, it is a little more expensive.

Most painters use inexpensive brands. However, I am just recommending the brand that we have used for years.

Wall decorating including wall covering will not be discussed in detail since wallpaper and I have an adversarial relationship. Proceed at your own risk.

I know that this task of creating your home building materials list and identifying your specifications is tedious to say the least. However, it is critical because you must be clear when you communicate your desires to personalize your home.

Energy Efficient Home

Energy conservation is everyone’s responsibility. We have a tendency to be a “wasteful” society and have demonstrated that we are poor stewards when it comes to building energy efficient homes.

We will tie together several of the above topics to show how to effectively utilize energy conservation techniques in our home building specifications and material lists. Please click on the above link for more detailed information on how to conserve energy and save money at the same time.