things I learned while building a house

family sitting outside new construction home

The things I learned while building a house

deciding to build a house

My husband and I held the dream of building a home for 10 years before we finally pursued it.  When we decided our family was complete after our son was born in July of 2017, the discussion of moving forward with the h0me build became even more real. We weren’t actually planning on building for a few more years but the market was hot and we knew we would be moving eventually.  Our city decided to build a new school out by the property of where we would be building. This solidified the decision to move because we really didn’t want her to have to transition schools.

We sold our house fairly quickly and moved in with my in-laws for the next year. I plan to write another blog post in the future talking all about the ups and downs while all living together. It really wasn’t bad at all and something I would do all over again. For now, I will just say we were truly blessed to have the opportunity and their help while we pursued our dream.

documenting the process

Building our dream house was actually happening and I wanted to document the entire thing! I decided to start an instagram account @kaylahaven_ as my own personal journal of the experience Originally I had used instagram as a place to journal our progress photos and gain inspiration. I had no idea that their was an entire community out there of people documenting their build! My instagram journey continued to evolve over the course of our build. I have met some of the most wonderful people and built some amazing relationships. I not only gained so much inspiration from the account, I also learned so many things. That platform is filled with other people building a home, even contractors that are willing and wanting to help answer questions.

gaining perspective of what the process would be like

I was reading a blog post two years ago, when my husband and I started talking about building. The post was by Erin at the sunnyside up blog where she recapped her build process. My jaw dropped when she shed light on the process taking over a year, maybe even two. I remember thinking to myself, wow that had to have been some house! I couldn’t imagine the process taking that long and was sure ours would go smoother. The fact is, she was completely right. If you add up all the time you spend preparing, talking, planning and actually building, the process can absolutely take that long!

newly framed construction with water

new construction two story wrapped in tyvek


Building a house is a full time job, even if your not hammering the nails

It wasn’t until I was knee deep in selections, two months before our foundation was even poured that I came to the realization she was right. Had I known what I know now in hindsight I may have started preparing for our house a year before we even met with a contractor.

not one persons experience is the same

Deciding to build a house can be one of the hardest things you do in your lifetime. It can also be one of the most magical and exciting things you do. I won’t lie when I tell you it is hard work. It felt like a full time job.  One of the best things I learned while engaging with the instagram community was though many of us were going through similar situations, not one persons story or build process was the same. I realized shortly into our build that there are numerous circumstances that can affect the process of the build. We had issues with our weather that put delays on our timelines. Outside circumstances such as your personal job, and raising a family can also play roles.

So many decisions…

It. Is. a. process. Building a house is full of daily decision. Outside of selection meetings, there are conversations to be had to prepare for the next meeting or deadline. Selections can be overwhelming, especially if you aren’t prepared. If you are going fully custom that adds another layer as the options are endless. Sometimes we had to look outside the box to find products that worked for us. We even decided to do all of the tile work ourselves.  When you add in additional subcontractors or products that your builder may not be accustom to working with there are obstacles to manage.  These include thing such as budget, payment, draws, and timelines.

life felt chaotic and there was no balance

I remember feeling like my mind was constantly filled with decision and things that needed to be done. Early morning wake ups were a regular occuarance, trying to get things figured out in quiet before the kids woke. We would stay up late sending emails and figuring out designs. Our process was likely a little harder as we went with a smaller builder who did not have a designer, so I was trying to come up with the design the best I could with the help of our contractors. Although they did a nice job, it was really challenging trying to mesh everything together, cohesively and stay on budget. I think the hardest part was trying to juggle it all. We had three kids at the time, ages 4 and under and both my husband and I were working full time. Even with all the preparing we had done for the build, it still was tough and our stress levels hit a new level of high. Life felt unbalance, routine was out the window and we were living in the chaotic stages of trying to finish our home build.

new construction with james hardie siding going up

Building a house with young kids

The entire process took us 11 months, from the time we interviewed our builder until we were given the keys. We had heard that building a house can be one of the toughest things on a marriage. It’s true. It’s not that it’s the worst thing you can go through in a marriage, but it certainly is a trying time. We had friends try and prepare us for this but I just thought our experience would be different. Sure my husband and I bickered, but that wasn’t the root of the challenge. We felt so stretched thin.  Raising young kiddos is tough enough as it is. We apparently thought we had super powers and decided to build a house. Looking back, we might have been a little insane.

managing outside demands while building

The toughest part of building was managing all of the outside responsibilities. When we decided to move in with my in laws and start the process of building, our oldest was not even four. We uprooted their routines, their living situations and moved in with my in-laws. Although we were blessed to have this opportunity it didn’t make the transitions any easier. Our children adapted pretty well. Our biggest challenge came with managing the parenting responsibilities, working full time jobs and then trying to make all the decision for the house. Things felt chaotic. We tried so hard to maintain balance while living with my in-laws. In reality when you are building a house, structure and routine kind of go out the window.

new construction drywall

provenza luxury vinyl plank


Fill your cups, do your research

I found it so helpful to gain knowledge from other people who had been through the process of building. Rather than this post be a reflection on my process, I want to leave you with some insight and advice that I wish I would have had before building. Although a challenging event in our lives, I grew so much through the process both professionally and personally.

So…my advice for those considering building a house.

1. Prepare yourself to let go of circumstances out of your control

Being the person I am, I like to have control over most things in my life. I gave up that control when we uprooted our family to build our dream house. It is tough to hand over the the responsibility to your builder, especially when it’s your dream. There will be many circumstances that happen along the way that will be out of your control. My piece of advice is; try and focus on the things you can control.

2. Preparing yourself with information and knowledge about the trades is incredibly helpful

I had no idea what it was like in the building world, although I have numerous family and friends in this field.  My knowledge and expertise comes in health care, and I am completely blind when it comes to building a home. I learned it is okay to ask questions if you aren’t sure. If you have friends or family in the trades, ask them for help. It’s okay to have things double checked by people who know better.

just as I am challenged in my job everyday…

It is okay to realize that although the people building your house are the “experts”, sometimes they do not know everything. I know that I don’t know everything in my line of work and sometimes I have challenges. The same goes for your builder. It is incredibly important to speak up and identify what your expectations are, and to try and figure out a way for the job to get done accordingly.

3. You need to have a business moto

If I can stress anything enough in this entire blog post, it is this next piece of advice. Usually I am a pretty assertive person when it comes to opinions and thoughts. I usually have no problem letting my voice be heard, until it came to the house. For some reason while we were building I clammed up completely. I felt completely out of my element and that I was inadequate the entire time to voice my opinion or thoughts. I would always wear emotions on my sleeve and would feel so badly about things that needed to be redone or asked about.

take emotion out of it

My biggest challenge personally is that I couldn’t take emotion out of it. Unfortunately I learned a little too late that in order for my expectations to be heard, I had to use my voice. I had so much emotion tied to the home I would raise my children in. What I didn’t realize until far too late, is though it was emotional for me, it likely wasn’t for my builder. It was business.

focus on the the monetary value, use a business approach

One thing that was hard for me to understand when building, was that it’s a business transaction. When you decide to build a house you sign a piece of paper hiring someone to do the work for you. It is likely one of the biggest financial investments of your life, and also a place where you will raise your children. It makes complete sense that there would be emotions tied to this. Unfortunately I lost my voice along the way. I kept feeling badly, and that I couldn’t speak up for fear of offending someone. This is probably the worst thing you can do in a build.  If you want something done a certain way, you literally have to have thick enough skin to just ask for it. I wish I would have taken the advice and stopped feeling badly.

I hope you found this information about the process of building helpful. Although a process, the growth I experienced in so many aspects in my life is so priceless and worth all of it.


xoxo Kayla



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6 thoughts on “things I learned while building a house

  1. i am so happy to have found your blog! we are just finishing up building our home and i was looking for inspiration for decor and paint ideas — and found out we have the same luxury vinyl plank floors as well, as well as very similar marble backsplash in our kitchen!

    i did have a question, where did you get your stair runners from – trying to see if we should install some (I have 2 littles, 4 and 2yo).

    can’t wait to see more content!

    1. Its actually just carpet and then we did maple end caps that we custom stained to match our floors. The carpet we found at our local flooring/carpeting place!

  2. Thank you for this post Kayla! We are currently in the building process. WE have picked Our house plan and waiting on quotes. I am having a hard time finding my voice. Like you I am usually pretty assertive, but I shut down when I am asked a question even though I know what i like. It also makes you nervous about spending money that you have spent so much time saving!! I am so glad that you decided to do this blog series!