Flooring, Cabinetry, and Countertop selections

While the walls and stairs are being built inside your home, it is time to start thinking about the finishing touches. The more custom your builder is, the more options you will have available to you.

The three areas we will focus on are:


Solid Hardwood
Solid hardwood flooring is typically three quarters of an inch thick and is nailed to the sub floor. The thickness and the installation allows for future sanding and refinishing. If the option of sanding and refinishing your floors in the future is appealing to you, solid hardwood flooring is the best option.

Solid hardwood flooring should only be installed above grade overtop of plywood, wood or OSB subfloors. You cannot install solid hardwoods overtop of cement subfloors which are often found below grade.

You will likely notices gaps between the wood planks in the winter months. The solid wood will contract in cooler air and expand in the warmer months.

Solid hardwood flooring will also be the most expensive hardwood option. If expanding and contracting boards is a concern, you are trying to keep costs down, or you are installing in a basement over cement there are other options that will give the same look and feel as solid hardwood.

Engineered Hardwood
Engineered hardwood flooring has become increasingly popular in the past few years. Hardwood flooring throughout the main level of a home has become the norm and engineered hardwoods offer a cost effective way of accomplishing that without too much compromise.
The look and feel of engineered hardwood is identical to solid hardwood (maybe an expert could tell the difference, but most can’t). This is accomplished by using a veneer hardwood overtop of a plywood backing. The flooring that you can see and touch is wood. However, it is only a thin strip of wood that is compressed on top of a less expensive plywood which keeps the prices lower than a solid hardwood.

An engineered hardwood cannot be sanded and refinished. Some of the higher quality engineered hardwoods claim you can sand and re-stain once.

In addition to being cost effective, engineered hardwood is appealing because it is not as affected by humidity and temperature as solid hardwood. There is less expanding and contracting with engineered hardwood.

Laminate Flooring
Laminate flooring is a fraction of the price of both solid and engineered hardwood. This type of flooring is made to look like hardwood, but is not made of wood. It is created by a photographic layer made to mimic the hardwood of choice. This photographic layer sits on top of a High Density Fiber.
Laminate flooring tends to be thinner than solid or engineered hardwood and measures three eighths of an inch thick. These floors are installed without nailing the product to the subfloor and is often referred to as a “floating floor”. The tongue and groove system locks the flooring into place.
This cost effective option can work well if you desire a hardwood look on a cement subfloor. It is also easy to install for any DIY-er.


There are many door designs offered in cabinetry from a very simple shaker style to an ornate cabinet with many grooves and inset trims. Whatever your style, there are typically several wood options. Popular wood which is a soft wood, but has very few knots so it is ideal for painted cabinets. Maple wood has some wood grain and knots, but is a popular choice for those looking for a bit more durability with either a painted or stained cabinet. Cherry cabinet have the reputation for being the most durable and beautiful and are often stained rather than painted to show off the wood.

Regardless of the type of wood chosen, I encourage you to ask what parts of the cabinets are solid hardwood. Some cabinets have plywood boxes and door insets leaving just the trim around the door solid hardwood. If you knock on the cabinet door inset and boxes you can hear the difference.


Making selections can be very overwhelming and I personally find the countertops to be the most difficult item to select. You will likely find yourself wondering endless aisles of granite slabs trying to visualize what that slab will look like when it is cut down to size and placed horizontal overtop your cabinets. And its not just granite anymore, quartz, marble and quartzite are featured on design blogs everywhere.

Granite has been the desired countertop material for the past decade or more. It is known as a high end product and homeowners have been programmed to value granite as an upgrade that everyone wants in their kitchens. However, the trend is moving away from granite. If you like to be ahead of the curve with design and want to install granite, I would steer away from the speckled busier granites and chose a granite that has more “motion” with long veining.

As the trend moved away from granite, photographs of immaculate white kitchen popped up in magazines and design blogs. Huge kitchen islands gleaming with white Carrera marble. It is definitely a look worth photographing. However, is it practical? Marble is an extremely porous stone so stains are possible even with the best sealant. Red wine or tomato sauce could be a potential disaster on a marble surface. But it is so pretty! It didn’t take long for quartz to become popular to give the look of marble without the worry of stains.

The varieties of Quartz is endless. There is every color you could ever imagine. This is possible because Quartz is a man made product. And like most man made products, they took something from nature and made it better for our use. Just like hardiplank looks like real wood siding without the maintenance or issues, some variations of Quartz has been made to look like Carerra Marble.

But Quartz is not a less expensive option to natural countertop material. It is typically more expensive than granite. However, unlike granite it requires no maintenance. So for those who dread sealing granite every six months, you may enjoy the ease of Quartz.

Not to be confused with Quartz, Quartzite is a natural stone similar to granite. It is often referred to as an “exoctic” granite which translates to “more expensive” and “hard to find”. There are many styles of Quartzite but the patterns within the natural stone fall somewhere in between marble and granite.

Like granite, Quartzite needs to be sealed once every six months. Although not as porous as marble, it is not as stain resistant as granite.

Other Related Articles

Home Building Guide - ebook

Choosing a Homesite

Before you can build a home, you will need a piece of land. Usually land will fall into one of two categories – a piece of land that is for sale independent of a builder or development or a homesite within a development with a predetermined builder or selection of builders.

Hiring a Builder

When hiring a builder think about how involved you want to be in the process. Typically a person who is building a home will fall into one of three categories:

1) Not too interested in design choices, but would like a nicely built home. – Many of the larger builders offer limited selections and don’t allow for changes. This is a good choice for a person who isn’t interested in the details.

2) Desires a completely custom home. – The very high end custom builders say “yes” to almost all requests and their clients pay a premium for this flexibility.

3) Interested in being involved in the process and would like flexibility in the building and finishings. – Many small and medium sized builders have a selection of floor plans and options, but allow for changes to those plans and flexibility on the finishings and details of the home. This home building series can benefit all three categories of people but is most inline with the the person who is wanting to be involved and make choices, but doesn’t have an endless bank account.

Site Prep

Some homesites will requires days or weeks of site prep. This post is designed to help you think through the potential tasks needed to prepare your land – tree clearing, fill dirt, retaining wall, and drainage.

Creating a Backyard

We have said from the beginning that we like a challenge. This particular piece of land presents challenges because of this steep drop, but it is a challenge that can be overcome with some engineering. It would have been easier to say this home would not have a backyard, but that wasn’t going to work for me.

Cement, Rebar, and Engineer Plans, Oh My!

The average home sits on top of a 12 inch footer with metal rebar every 3 to 4 feet. If you have been following our blog, you know this is not your average home. After the lot was cleared and dirt was moved around, the engineer came out to re-assess. This was the plan all along – start clearing and moving dirt then re-assess our building plan. Even if you know a home can be built, but it is important to take a step back and make sure it is being done the best way.

Window Selections

It may seem early in the process to start thinking about “selections”, but these decisions are often made before the framing is done to ensure all materials are delivered in a timely manner and the contractors have what they need when they are ready to start installing.

Color Selection

I love color. However, picking the right paint color always leaves me stumped. I am the queen of paint samples, samples, and more samples. I have quickly learned that the tiny little color swatch is very different than a 9 foot wall (multiplied by 4 walls). But repainting a powder room a few times isn’t the end of the world. Although my husband may disagree.

Framing Tips

While the builder has the framing crew at your home site, you will be spending your time making all your selections.  But there are some important things to be thinking about during the framing process.  If you haven’t already, ask about the width of the wood being used.  2×4’s are appropriate and used in most homes.  But if you are worried about the cost to heat and cool your home, you may want to ask for your exterior walls to be framed with 2×6’s. It should not be too expensive for this upgrade and you will be gaining 2 inches of insulation (6 inches instead of 4 inches).  And since we are on the topic of insulation, discuss to differences between spray foam and batting with your builder and ask what they intend to use to insulate your home.   Foam’s R-Value, or thermal performance, is twice that of the traditional batting.  Don’t forget about extra insulation in the attic, basement, and over the garage.