Choosing finishes: the bathroom edition {how to choose plumbing fixtures}

photo credit: BHG

With building a house comes SO MANY decisions. One of the big debates I had was deciding on the finish for the plumbing fixtures (faucets, shower heads, etc.). Part of the struggle was that I wanted to carry that finish throughout the house — towel bars, door handles, hardware, etc. — so it wasn’t going in just one place. During my debate, I posted this photo (--->) on Facebook and Instagram, and I had to laugh, because I don’t think I’ve ever gotten such a response on anything I’ve ever posted before. People are PASSIONATE about their plumbing fixtures.

Here are some inspiration images I found as I trolled Pinterest and Houzz for hours on end while I debated:

We’ll have white cabinets, and I wanted something classic that I won’t hate in a few years. The trick, I suppose, is that it’s hard to know now what you’ll hate then. The majority of responses to my informal survey were in favor of brushed nickel or oil rubbed bronze. I like them both. I had thought about the beautiful champagne bronze finish — sort of the matte gold that is so popular right now — but vetoed that because it’s pretty pricey, especially when using it on everything, and I wasn't completely sure I would continue to love it for years to come.

The winner? Brushed nickel. Several of my friends who have oil-rubbed bronze warned me that the finish wears off, so that decided it for me. Added bonus? Brushed nickel doesn’t show water spots and fingerprints as much as shinier finishes, and with two kids, every little bit helps. And since it’s been around for a while, there are tons of options for brushed nickel — different styles, price points, etc. In a future post, I'll write up a list of links to tons of places where you can comparison shop for fixtures.

We ended up choosing Kohler faucets and are buying them through Ferguson Kitchen & Bath, the vendor used by Tucson Plumbing, who is doing all of the plumbing in our house. Chad has been working with Tucson Plumbing and Ferguson for years through his job with Pepper Viner Homes. We’re so glad we were able to source our choices through a local vendor, and we love that Kohler has a lifetime guarantee on all of their items. Once everything is installed I'll post some pictures!

So to sum it up, here are the factors to consider when choosing your finishes:

  • Style (Does the finish go with your color scheme and cabinetry? Do you like the styles that are available in that finish?)

  • Cost (Some specialized finishes are really pricey — take that into consideration when you're deciding where you want to spend your money!)

  • Durability/Quality (Does it make sense for your lifestyle? Is it easy to clean? Will the finish hold up if it's somewhere where it will get a lot of use? Is there a guarantee on your selections?)

  • Availability (Are there plenty of style options available in your price range?)

Which finish do you like best? Any strong opinions out there?

Want to read all of our homebuilding posts? Find them here!

Finding a piece of land for a new home (more than you ever wanted to know about buying a lot)

I mentioned our long process of finding a lot in my last post. This is a crucial decision and one that should be carefully considered because so many factors are involved. Over time, after looking at lots, we consolidated our “wish list” to help narrow our search, rather than considering every crazy piece of land that popped up on the MLS. Having said that, we agreed that getting every item on the list would be unlikely, so we had to be prepared for making concessions.

Here are the things we had to consider:

  • Price – what could we afford to pay for land considering the cost building of the floor plan we wanted? If you’re looking to build and are flexible about your floor plan and the size of your house, you may be willing to spend more on the land and sacrifice some square footage for it. Since we had our hearts set on a certain floor plan, we didn’t have a lot of wiggle room with our land budget.

  • Location – we have learned how hard it is for our lifestyle when we have a long distance to drive for everything. We knew we wanted to be within a short distance of the kids’ school, and in the direction of Chad’s work. Not only that, but we wanted to be within the district boundaries of the high school that we want Luke and Maggie to attend, as that will be an issue a few years from now and we don’t want to move again any time soon! Also consider: traffic, proximity of shopping, hospital, doctors, etc.

  • Size – many, many houses in Tucson are built very close together. Again, this is a lifestyle thing, but for us, especially coming from back east, we knew we wanted some elbow room – preferably around an acre or more with room for a pool and backyard entertaining. On the other end of the spectrum, maybe you’re looking for a low-maintenance lot and a small yard would be perfect for you so that you’re not tied down to a lot of yard work and upkeep.

  • Neighborhood – having said we want a large lot, I also like being in an actual neighborhood. These two factors are often at odds with each other, as many large lots stand alone and aren’t in a neighborhood. I just love for my kids to make friends and to be able to ride their bikes or walk to hang out with other kids. Plus, I feel safer with some neighbors nearby. However, the downside of a “subdivision” is having to deal with CC&Rs. These guidelines and rules are put in place to keep the neighborhood nice and maintain property value - but they also mean you don’t have free reign to do whatever you want with the design of your home. And if you have Sanford and Son tendencies like my Georgia farm-raised husband, you’ll have to hide your junk from the street view. And they’ll yell at you if you’re lazy and leave your trash cans out. Guilty.

  • Schools – in addition to the neighborhood factor, you need to consider where you want your children to go to school, and whether the lot is within the boundaries for that district. Open enrollment, where you can enroll your children in a school outside of their district, is an option in Tucson. However, that is a conditional thing and can be unavailable if your school is too full – I didn’t want to count on being able to open enroll and then panic if the high school didn’t have availability when it comes time for ninth grade. And whether or not you have kids, you will want to consider the quality of the school district for resale value for your home.

  • Orientation – I never paid as much attention to this until we got to Tucson, but here, view is everything. I really wanted an eastern-facing backyard with a view of the Catalina Mountains from the back of the house. In addition to nice views, the morning sun is a lot more tolerable, and the afternoon shade is a huge perk during our 6-month long summer. In our current house, we get a lot more afternoon and evening sun than I realized, and it is brutal during much of the year, making afternoon entertaining pretty uncomfortable at times. Also, mountain views are a boost to property value in Tucson. All of that considered, we had to think about how our house would face on any lot we considered.

  • Cost of development – the cost of land isn’t necessarily what it seems. This is an area where Chad’s experience helped save us, because I sure wouldn’t have known better with a few of the lots we looked at that seemed like a good deal. Some lots are seemingly affordable, but in order to place a house on them, they may require tens of thousands of dollars of land work - moving dirt, raising the pad, etc. Also, there can be environmental restrictions; for example, there was a 1-acre lot we liked, but you could only actually disturb such a small percentage of the lot due to restrictions that we couldn’t have fit the house and yard we wanted. Not only that, but there can be requirements that you re-plant certain plants if they’re moved during construction (saguaro cactus, anyone?), and that should be factored into the budget. In addition, you have to see if water, electric, gas, and sewer are available, or you’ll need to be prepared to account for the cost of bringing those utilities in, which isn’t cheap.

Overwhelmed yet? Even just writing this, I’ve been going back and adding more as things occur to me. And this is just the LOT – we haven’t even gotten to the house yet. Clearly there are times early in this process where we’ve already been questioning what we’re getting ourselves into. But the benefit is us working together as a family with a lot of patience and a lot of effort to create something we’ve been dreaming of for years. And how are you supposed to know all of this about the lot? A reputable builder will help you through the process, and a good realtor will know how to find you the right lot. I’m happy to know some of the best - contact me for recommendations!

Did we get everything on our wish list? Nope. What did we end up with? Stay tuned. I’ll tell you about the lot we chose in our next post!

Why we're building a new house

Why build a new house / new home construction / building a new home in Tucson, AZ

For a long time now Chad and I have been ready to build a new home. We’ve built three homes together in the past – two in Georgia and one with Pepper Viner Homes, the company he’s been with here in Arizona for the past 12 years. The house we’re in now has served us well over the past nine years; we moved into it when Maggie was only one month old. The kids are approaching their teen years now, though, and we need a little more elbow room. 

Over the past couple of years the stress and hassle of commuting to work, school, and activities for all of us has really taken its toll. We started looking seriously at lots about a year ago, and the process of finding a piece of land in the right location at the right price has been much more difficult – and much slower – than we anticipated. More on that later.

Another reason – with the housing market on an upswing after several rough years, prices and costs are going up. We’re hoping to get moving along with this process sooner rather than later.

Our Work in Progress - why we're building a new house

Luckily, with Chad having worked in the homebuilding industry for most of his life, we’re coming at this process with a pretty clear picture of what we want to do. We’re excited to be using one of Pepper Viner’s existing floor plans with a few tweaks to customize it for us – that alone will save us time, money, and angst. We know the plans are well-designed and engineered. Our floor plan was built as a model home at one of their communities last year, so after touring it several times, we knew this was the one. It will give us the space we need, with plenty of room for a home office, guest space, and for the kids to hang out with their friends.

To sum it up, building a house is the right decision for us because it will save us money, allow us to customize our home, give us the space we need, and allow us to choose our location.

We’re so excited to get started – and I’m going to chronicle our process right here. I hope you’ll follow along and chime in with your thoughts, questions, and suggestions as we go!