Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

I recently mused to friend and fellow travel blogger Laurel that no one wants to read a blog post about picking out bathroom faucets. She disagreed, so here goes nothing.*

In my first construction post about our new home, I mentioned all the choices we encountered when working with our architect on the house plans. We made it through the design process with our marriage intact, but as we now know, that was only the beginning of a seemingly endless parade of choices to be made.

Now Introducing: Subcontractors

Once our framing was complete, it was time for subcontractors to make their appearance in our little domestic drama, and they each brought with them a list of questions that we needed to answer. The first round was roofing, and for that we just needed to pick the color — silver, of course, to match the Airstream.



Next up: the electricians. For these gentlemen to do their work, we needed to tell them:

  • where we wanted every single light switch and outlet in the house and in the carport below
  • which light switches would be three-way
  • where all light fixtures would be located in the ceilings and on walls
  • where ceiling fans would be located
  • the electrical load of all our appliances, especially the power-hungry on-demand tankless water heater
  • location and style of bathroom fans
  • the exact location of kitchen appliances like the refrigerator and oven, and the height of the range hood
  • and more…

Needless to say, many hours can be spent discussing the placement of bathroom vanity lighting or the most intuitive spots for switches. The house we are currently renting helped us focus on these questions by providing handy examples of what not to do. Pro tip: don’t put light switches for a room behind the door of that room, making them impossible to locate; it very quickly moves from being mysterious to aggravating. After several marathon sessions discussing all our current and future electrical needs, we marked everything with notes on blue painter’s tape for the electricians. To supplement this communication strategy, we met the electricians in person on site several times to review the work in progress.



Once the electrical work was roughed in, it was time for the plumbers to appear. Predictably, they also presented us with a long list of detailed questions. We needed to advise the plumbers on the exact location of all our sinks, and in the case of the bathrooms we needed to confirm the dimensions of the vanity cabinets so the water supply and drain lines would be placed properly. We also had to finalize choices like the location of shower controls, the refrigerator water supply line, and exterior hose bibs. Here we resorted to sketches with detailed measurements to explain what we were planning to install.


Our septic system was also finally installed after being ordered in July. We have found that building in a rural area often means a long wait for service in specialty trades. But it should be worth the wait, because the aerobic septic system promises to provide an environmentally-friendly method for wastewater disposal, with our substrate of pure sand allowing for excellent percolation. Now that the septic system and drainfield are in place, we can finish up contouring the area around the house and start thinking about landscaping … because we are not making enough decisions already.

Why I Hate the Word “Options”

The last sticks and bricks home that we owned was in Palm Beach County, Florida, an area notable for its high volume of planned communities. We had a home built in one of those planned communities to our specifications. As a practical matter, that meant selecting one of 5-6 floor plans offered by the developer, and spending a few hours at the developer’s design center picking out finishes. We chose one cabinet style out of a dozen choices, one granite countertop color out of 8 options, one floor tile out of two dozen choices, etc. In retrospect, the notion that we were “designing” that home is completely laughable.

Let me just say that if you haven’t agonized over the placement of every single electrical outlet, then you have not truly designed your home. We can also confirm that the paradox of choice is very real. Normally, having multiple options allows people to optimize by getting the best result for their particular situation. But when your options are virtually limitless, the sheer volume of choices means that the cost of searching and analyzing them all overwhelms the incremental benefit of finding the exact item you are seeking. Moreover, seeing too many appealing options makes it easy to second-guess choices and wonder about the road not taken. As a person who has spent WAY too much time researching and reading reviews of various faucets, fans, shower doors, and more, I am here to tell you that finding something that is 95% acceptable is the sign to stop searching.

The fact that we had to make so many decisions already means that many choices are locked in, including the size and location of everything from the sinks to the appliances to the water heater. Now it’s just a matter of executing and implementing all these decisions. We’ve made a head start by purchasing small items that are finalized and storing them in a spare room in our rental house. We also have appliances and cabinetry on order, but because everything about 2020 sucks we are dealing with major shortages and delays resulting from pandemic-related supply chain disruptions. When we are fortunate to find items in stock, we buy them immediately to have on hand when the time finally comes to install them.



Construction is proceeding slowly but steadily. To help keep everyone safe and healthy, our builder never double-books trades. So the roofers, electricians, plumbers, and septic teams all had the house entirely to themselves for a week or more while they did their work. Upcoming work includes spray-in insulation and HVAC. Once all the subcontractors are done, the main crew will return to focus on siding, trim, interior carpentry, and finishes which will involve — you guessed it — more choices about things like trim styles, paint colors, and flooring options.

An Unusual Thanksgiving

Meanwhile, despite 2020 being a year like no other, Thanksgiving still appeared on the calendar. Unlike in past years, when we had traditional meals either with family or courtesy of Whole Foods, this year we knew we would not be gathering in a group so we opted for something different. Trying to replicate that big meal for just the two of us seemed pointless and sad, so instead we created a feast of surf and turf. Local oysters served as the appetizer, and we were especially pleased that we figured out how to pop those suckers open with our handy little oyster knife. The main meal of steak with a savory cranberry – rosemary sauce, mashed sweet potatoes, and green beans hit the spot. We achieved our ideal Thanksgiving experience of eating too much, drinking too much, and falling asleep on the sofa.



We hope all our readers had a safe and happy Thanksgiving! Stay tuned for more exciting updates on the house construction saga. At least the focus will not be on bathroom faucets. Probably.



* Complaints can be registered at

10 thoughts on “Decisions, Decisions, Decisions”

  1. I enjoyed reading about the progress of your home. I was a general contractor for 15 years. A sharpie was my best tool LOL. Every door swing was marked with an arrow to avoid light switches being installed behind a door. Every cabinet was drawn on the floor. And even without a pandemic, we rarely overlapped/scheduled our subs. I loved my job and the process and once even designed a home based around specific lighting fixtures. I look forward to seeing the finished product.

    • The sharpie is indeed the best tool! We’ve been doing a lot with blue tape, including taping out the locations of cabinets so we could place the lighting overhead. Seeing things marked out in person really helps us figure things out, more so than reviewing the paper plans. Overall, we are finding the process of construction pretty fascinating because we both love learning how things work. Luckily our builder and his subs are very friendly and don’t seem to mind the owners popping over to check on things frequently.

  2. I told you this would make a great post! I find it fascinating to read about all of the decisions you have made/have yet to make. I must say I’m glad I’ve never had to make THAT many decisions. Building a home obviously requires infinitely more decisions than just remodeling.

    If anyone can do this in an intelligent way, it’s you two. Seeing in person the way that you marked everything so carefully for the electricians was impressive. I understand exactly what you mean about having too many options. I got to the point when I was making decisions where I just poured a big glass of wine to help me be less picky about choosing stuff online, LOL. You guys are doing a fabulous job. Carry on! (And your oysters…wow!)

    • We are quite fascinated by all the details and choices that go into creating a house, as it gives us whole new perspective on places we have lived before. But I am also a little relieved when we find out that the next steps (e.g., insulation, HVAC) do NOT require much input from us. I’m still dealing with ordering bathroom faucets and kitchen cabinets! We are pretty satisfied with all the choices we have made so far, but we have also intentionally adopted a philosophy of NOT second-guessing decisions once they are made. Otherwise I think we would have a lot more angst.

  3. Enjoyed the laugh as I read your post. The problem is it seemed all too familiar. Recently we undertook the task of replacing our floor and kitchen cabinets. The floor tiles tented last Christmas so we began the journey of deciding what material should replace it. Wood? More tile? What about tile that looks like wood? Surely there aren’t many varieties of wood look tile, right? We couldn’t have been more wrong. So visiting a tile warehouse would narrow down the choices, right? Wrong! Now we have more choices than ever. Don’t you know how many colors wood look tile comes in?

    The next task was choosing new cabinets. Because naturally if the floor is torn up you need to replace the cabinets because even though tile that looks like wood is “in” but cabinets that look like wood are “out” these days. So that’s settled… white cabinets because they go with everything. Now what style cabinets? Shaker definitely. With an insert? Without an insert? Raised interior? Plain? My brain is now fried.

    So color was easy because we know we want white. Never go into a paint store unless you have a bottle of aspirin handy. They have an entire pamphlet of whites!

    Ok, linen white was the final decision. Now we can concentrate on the backsplash. More tile decisions. These can’t match the floor tile or clash with the linen white cabinets. Subway tiles look nice until you realize that the varieties include plain, pillowed, beveled, glass, grungy,.. the list goes on and on. We settle on gray.

    Appliances were the first ordered item, but oddly enough the last to arrive… or we hope they arrive. The microwave and cooktop needed to be replaced. Both items were ordered in late August and were to arrive October because Covid has backed up manufacturing. October comes and the delivery date moves to mid-November. Just kidding, now late November.
    Wait, they have arrived in the US but are in Texas! Thanksgiving dinner was made using a makeshift cooktop and a dorm microwave borrowed from a neighbor.

    Good luck! Can’t wait for 2021! It is coming whether we choose it or not.

    • WE FEEL YOUR PAIN! We went into this process with a pretty strong idea of what we like (e.g., dark granite countertops, shaker cabinets, modern/industrial style) and even with those key items anchoring the process we still have dealt with So. Many. Choices. I didn’t even get into our decision making process for our front door (back ordered), interior doors (on order), door hardware (sitting in the spare room awaiting installation), kitchen sink, bathroom sinks, faucets, etc. And while we think we want white or gray tile for the showers, we already know that doesn’t really narrow things down very much and I am sort of dreading having to finalize that. One thing at a time…

      I am sure you will all be very relieved when your appliances show up and you can finally say that the kitchen is DONE. And what a story you will have to tell.

  4. LOL. I love this post and think Laurel is absolutely right that people will be interested in this stuff. There’s a reason HGTV is a thing, you know!

    I was also laughing because this made me remember this stupid kitchen renovation we did in our house years ago, It was – I thought – a small project of taking a wall down and installing an island type counter top with cabinets underneath. I distinctly remember talking to the contractor and her asking how many inches we wanted the backsplash to extend beyond the counter and where exactly the outlets should be placed and how the edges of the countertops should be angled and I was like “Dude. I don’t care. I just want counter space and a cabinet. Do whatever you want.” But they WON’T just do whatever they want. They make you decide. So I cannot even imagine having to go through that for every single decision in a home. As we know from RV life, “decision fatigue” is real and it is exhausting. I feel for you guys.

    On the other hand, the house is coming along beautifully and I LOVE the huge glass sliders all along the front. You’re gonna get so much light in there! Swoon!!!!

    • Speaking from personal experience, I think that building a house ranks right up there with backing up a travel trailer into a tight spot in the list of Things That Will Test a Marriage. 🙂 As much as the constant decision-making is taxing, we are really enjoying seeing exactly how our house is constructed, piece by piece.

      I have also been really happy with our builder and his subcontractors. They take our requests and follow our instructions, but also provide their own input — which is great, because we have not dealt with zillions of construction projects like they have. For example, on their own initiative the electricians added a switched outlet for a garbage disposal and an extra hallway light for an area they thought would be too dark once the interior walls are built, both of which were valuable additions to what we included on our original task list.

      We are very happy with how the house is turning out — it is meeting all the expectations we had when we designed the plans — and now the only question is when it will be done…

  5. Exhausting process for sure! It’s so hard to think ahead of how a house is going to get lived in and guessing then second-guessing can be mind-numbing. But it’s a good problem to have, considering. And you’re almost to the best part (in my opinion) of all the interior decorating. I hope we’ll get to have a look at it when we come through the area!

    • Working on the plans was particularly hard because we had to visualize what a 3-D version of the plans would be like. Now at least we have the physical shell to work with, which is making it a lot easier to make decisions like the size of the vanities and the locations of lights. Blue tape for the win! In many respects the interior decoration part is already locked in; for example, for the electricians to seat the junction boxes properly we needed to specify exactly what thickness of materials we were using for our walls and ceilings. Even though the house still looks like mostly lumber and plywood, I feel like we are in the home stretch on making decisions.


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