Home Expansion – What We’ve Learned so Far Selecting a General Contractor

Great news on the home expansion, we’re moving forward and we’ve signed with a general contractor! After a ton of interviews, five to be exact, and hard decisions while learning about what we can or can’t do on top of budgets, we are starting!

We found someone that is already starting the tear down this weekend and project completion will be by February 1. So fast! We thought maybe it would be late spring. Of course I’d love it by Christmas but I think we’re too late on a start with that and I’ve let that idea go. It’s OK.

We’ve saved for this project unglamorously for the past few years and it serves to prove that you can pay off, down or save up for anything if you put your mind to it.

I look forward to sharing this space with you as we work on this project through completion. It’s going to be a little crazy as in not so attractive images I’m sure but it’ll be some content and you’ll also be able to see the behind the scenes of this space.

Things we’ve learned already regarding this expansion

  • A space planner is worth it – it’s a space planner/designer really can talk through design and flow of a room. I wanted a female and Celeste Wilson from Form 180 was fantastic. Thank you Caitlin for suggesting her.
  • The cost of a space planner, someone to draw out the space and the permits, PRICEY. We spent $7k on just paper, designs, and permits.
  • Get 5 general contractor quotes. At the recommendations of our friends who have flipped over 200 homes. It was exhausting, I got annoyed retelling plans and taking meetings, but in the end, it was worth it. We went with #5 Trinity Homes. He went to our church and we just feel at peace over it. It was a difficult yet easy decision if that can ever make sense – we liked everyone who came over, really, we wanted them all to work on it, but a budget and an understanding the quotes we were given which showed exactly what we were paying for was one of the reasons we went with Trinity Homes, very experienced. I could tell you all the reasons we knew Slade was the right one (he wasn’t the cheapest either) but it seemed fair and we moved fast.
  • Ask when the project can be completed by. It was helpful to know a timeline. Our project will be done by Feb. 1, the soonest date we got – but that wasn’t the reason we went with him.
  • Take your budget and multiply it by 2. As always, what you think you should spend isn’t necessarily going to be reality of what you will spend. We had a budget because we thought we could do this expansion for that amount and then realized because of our finishes (so every GC reminded me) it would be more – like the roof shingles we had picked from years ago, to the siding I wanted. Yes higher end, but quality! Anyway, it is what it is, doors and windows are expensive.
  • Get a quote with line items. One of the reasons we went with #5 quote was because Slade was on top of it, all of it. Our first meeting he asked questions of every finish and detail for floors, windows, matching flooring and gave us a good accurate quote from all the trades. For each fixture he asked for what I was looking for and we put it in the line item for my budget so I can control how I spend. If I want to go fancy, I can, if I want to save money in one area, I can.
  • General Contractors have their own crew. We thought we’d use our own guys for plumbing, electric and drywall to give them some business but in the end, it’s much easier let the general contractor use his crew. He has them on speed dial, they’ve worked with him, he already has a relationship with them. He also knows their quality of work and can communicate with them to get the job done in a way. We met lots of GCs who wanted to use their own crew because of branding and their reputation was on the line, and some didn’t mind. We didn’t have a strong preference, we just wanted the job done. The other service guys we love we can use for smaller projects or tune ups.
  • Sometimes the way you think it’s going to work out, isn’t. You just have to be flexible and know that there will be changes, from the way you thought things will go or look to what the reality is. The fun part is you get to use your creativity and luckily Benjamin and I, while both Type A are very flexible and have easy going personalities.
  • Have a separate budget for furniture. I forgot how much rugs, a couch, TV, all of that costs. It all adds up.
  • Have a spreadsheet to keep track of costs. We are very Type A first born people. This means spread sheets, organizations, budgets, labels, we are always on the same page.


It was hard to make a decision realizing that you have to let people down but in the end by not using their services but you are spending ALL this money, YOUR hard earned money and you are trusting people to create what you want without going over budget.

You can check out what I’m pinning for this expansion here on Pinterest. From flooring to furniture choices, I’m working on it daily!

I look forward to sharing more about what we’re learning as we continue this project.

In personal news, I have to say a big accomplishment is that my computer desktop is organized and cleared. Digitally I am organized. In my brain, a few things going on at once but that’s OK! The reality is the next two months are the busiest for all bloggers – like INSANELY busy, it’s the holidays. My break time will come in January/February as brands are organizing new year budgets. Knowing this, means I have to say no to a few things I wish I could say yes to – because you know how that goes, something always has to give.

I may have to enlist some help and I have to realize that I just need to do it! Do you ever find asking for help difficult? I do. I think it’s because I assume I can just do it myself at my own pace but then I realize with help I can go even faster. Sure it costs a bit but it’s worth it!

There will be a lot of sponsored content coming up with the holidays and I appreciate your support of what I do. I hope each one brings value to your life and time. I am constantly dreaming in my head ways to better serve you through this blog.

As always, thank you for being here. xx

Diana Elizabeth is an author, photographer, and obsessive thrift shopper. You can typically find her in the garden wrist deep in dirt, at a local estate sale or planning her next creative themed party. She continues to blog weekly.



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