setting expectations

Every builder has two common documents they use for custom homes, a specification sheet and a contract. The specification sheet lays out the details for everything in your house including allowances for certain areas like appliances and flooring. The contract lays out the terms and conditions between you and the builder and also acts as a division of responsibility stating what other tasks the builder is responsible for as well as your rights as the customer.

One of the hardest parts of choosing a builder is trying to get an apple to apple comparison of what each potential builder includes in their pricing. In order to help with this, we created a spec sheet of our own for the builders that we provided along with our floor plans when we were asking for pricing estimates. Aside from trying to get a better comparison between the bids from the potential builders, this also helps to ensure you and the builder are on the same page regarding finishes. Here are some of the areas to consider:


  • Name of a brand or equivalent for oven, range top, dishwasher, fridge, beverage center, microwave, outdoor grill, range hood

Closet Shelving

  • White melamine or wood custom closets in specified rooms

Counter tops

  • 3 cm countertops – granite, quartz, quartzite, marble, concrete, metal, wood, etc.


  • Recessed lights in specific rooms like the kitchen, great rooms, dining room, hallways, master bedroom and bath
  • Decorative allowance for garage coach lights, dining room, kitchen, foyer, vanities, and fans
  • Pre-wire for surround sound
  • Pre-wire for security system
  • Pre-wire for low voltage for outdoor lighting

Exterior Structure

  • Type of finish – stucco, hartie board, brick, etc.
  • Type of roof covering  – tile, shingle, metal
  • Material for driveway, walk way, front porch and lanai – pavers, gravel, concrete, brick
  • Any other accent features such as gas lanterns, shutters, window banding


  • Types of floors for each room in the house – carpet, hardwoods, tile


  • 15 SEER or equivalent units with electric heat pumps and programmable thermostats. Depending on your house size and layout, you may want two units

Interior structure

  • Ceiling heights – 10’ ceiling is common for the first floor on a two story house but you could also explore going 10’8” as an alternative
  • Texture on walls and ceilings – knockdown is more common for ceilings, orange peel is common on walls but smooth is also a popular option for walls
  • Solid or hollow core doors – this may come down to a cost point as solid core doors are roughly $40 more per door than hollow core
  • Crown modeling locations such as common areas
  • Any ceiling treatments – tray ceilings, wood beams or coffered ceilings
  • Any other wall features – wainscoting or beadboard


  • Fireplace = gas, electric, wood
  • Tank or tankless hot water heaters and quantity
  • Plumbing for natural gas to appliances if needed


  • Double pane with low e-tint
  • Specify color if already known – typically dark bronze and white are similar in price but the cost of other colors can vary

Developing this specification sheet was important because it set the expectation of what level of finishes we were expecting in our home and helped the builder to provide more accurate pricing. It also helped us get our apple to apple comparison and select a builder!


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