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  • Writer's pictureBren Petrunick

Enhancing Builder Basics: Design Tips for Making Your Production Home the Envy of the Neighbourhood

The Niagara Region is growing, and new communities are springing up around every corner, which means that more and more families are taking possession of brand-new production homes. Finding the right mix of standard finishes and upgrades can be challenging, not to mention costly. But we’re here to help! At SWI, we guide homeowners through the selection process, and we’re sharing a few tips here on how to customize your production home so that it’s anything but cookie-cutter. 

A man standing infront of a fireplace in a warm and cozy looking livingroom designed by Simply White Interiors fron NOTL Ontario

A production home is found in a community of new builds constructed from a collection of floor plans, and each home has a limited selection of options that purchasers can personalize. A production build is usually completed faster and is more cost effective than a custom-built home. However, our clients continually seek creative ways to enhance the “builder basics” for a finished home that is reflective of their personality and style. 

There are two avenues for upgrades: purchasers can either select upgraded materials at the time of construction (which can often be cost-prohibitive), or homeowners can wait until after they’ve taken possession of the home to replace some of the builder-grade finishes. Here are the team’s recommendations for both scenarios.

Upgrades to Consider During Construction 

Generally, we advise clients to consider upgraded finishes during construction when it would be time consuming, messy and expensive to remove and replace the builder finishes. It’s also worth considering how long you intend to stay in a home, as most of the items we recommend here will add value to your home if you’re planning to resell within three-to-five years. The three big-ticket items we recommend getting right the first time are flooring (wood and tile), countertops and exterior finishes. 

Tearing up flooring post-possession will not only delay your move-in but it’s extremely messy and labour-intensive (which is code for expensive). Furthermore, the flooring you remove can rarely be salvaged and resold to offset the cost of the new materials.

Likewise, the incremental cost to upgrade to the counter surface you really want is worth splurging for during construction rather than waiting to replace later. Since countertops are templated specifically to your kitchen configuration, they are more difficult to resell or repurpose. 

A very beautiful white and black kitchen with gold accents designed by Simply White Interiors, Interior design NOTL Ontario

Lastly, it’s extremely difficult and expensive to replace materials that enclose your home, otherwise known as the building envelope. We recommend selecting the windows, exterior doors and exterior finishes that you want through your builder. In some cases, upgrades after completion aren’t even possible. For example, if you really wanted a brick exterior but couldn’t afford the upgrade at the time of the build and went with siding instead, this isn’t something you would be able to change down the road because the foundation and exterior preparation for siding and stone are different. For this reason, it’s always advisable to have a conversation with your builder about potential future upgrades. A few simple steps now will set you up for success later. 

Upgrades to Consider After Possession

This is when you can really unleash your creativity. Your builder gave you a bit of blank canvas, so here are some ideas to express yourself through simple design upgrades that are easy and effective aftermarket. 

Custom molding – whether you choose to upgrade your baseboards or apply wainscotting, shiplap or beadboard to your walls, these architectural details go a long way to creating a custom look.

Light Fixtures – this is one of the best ways to make a statement in your new home. The lighting budget on a production build is notoriously minimal, so there are a few routes to go here. First, you can consider spending your entire budget on the fixtures you really want, even if it only gets you two or three lights. In this instance, ask your builder to install a keyless lamp holder in place of a fixture in other locations and then you can hire an electrician to install new fixtures at a later date. Or you can select the most cost-effective option for all light fixtures and replace them one-by-one after you take possession. In this option, you’ll be able to resell all the fixtures you remove to help offset your purchase costs. 

A classic and clean white kitchen with black and wicker accents. Designed by SimplyWhite Interiors, custom interior design, Niagara ontario
Cabinet Hardware – quite often a builder’s selection of standard cabinet knobs and pulls is minimal. If you want to upgrade these after you move in, make sure that you pick an option similar in style to what you plan to install later. For example, don’t choose a pull if you plan to switch to knobs because you’ll have an extra hole drilled in your cabinet door! 
Ceiling Details – faux beams, shiplap or wallpaper can all be installed after you take possession of your new home at prices lower than your builder is likely to quote you during construction. A pop of paint colour on your ceiling is another way to add visual appeal and set your home apart from the rest. 

Bathroom Mirrors – whether you purchase new mirrors or add a frame to the builder’s basic mirror, you will add instant character and customized appeal to your bathrooms. 

Plumbing Fixtures – this is another place where you can opt to stay within standard selections and swap out later for a style or finish that would have been a considerable upgrade through your builder. The good news is that those original taps will hold their value and can be sold to recoup your costs. 

A custom bedroom window with window coverings, the window has thick black molding and the drapes are cream with two thick black stripes. Designed by Simply White Interiors, custom interior design in NOTL Ontario
Wallpaper – this aftermarket install is sure to wow in any space and tip the style scales toward a completely customized design. 

Window Treatments – going directly to a supplier for custom window treatments will save you the builder markup. We can’t say enough about the power that well-designed and crafted shades, drapes and blinds have when it comes to transforming a home! Stylish and functional, this investment is worth getting right the first time, so hire a professional and ask for references.

Interior Doors – builders often attach hefty price tags to painted interior doors or intricate door designs. If you’re up for some DIY or know a reputable painter, you can create a highly customized effect by painting your interior doors a striking colour. You can also select a flat or single panel door design during construction and add moldings later to achieve a design that’s entirely unique to your home. 

A group of 6 people standing infront of a table that is full of fabrics, textiles, and books. Simply White Interiors, custom interior design in NOTL Ontario

The SWI design team would love the opportunity to create with you and help you take your production home from ordinary to extraordinary!

Start the process today with a consultation call, 905-708-4784 or email us at



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