dark, masculine, open-concept loft-style home

Open Vs. Closed Concept Which is Better?

Professional Advice for deciding if an open or closed floor plan is right for you

While architecture and interior design often go hand in hand and work together harmoniously, they can also end up at odds with one another. A prime example of this is the layout of your home and whether it should have a closed or open floor plan.

Read More: REFINING YOUR HOME DESIGN IDEAS WITH AN ARCHITECT

Modern, open concept floor plans are all the rage right now and are appealing from a design perspective, but they may not be the best fit for every structure and homeowner. The same applies for closed floor plans.

You might be thinking – can’t my contractor decide this for me? Even though we are a highly-experienced contractor able to provide a wealth of knowledge, when it comes to helping you make this decision, it’s important for you, the homeowner, to also have a solid understanding of the pros and cons of each floor plan option going into your custom home design project to help establish your expectations.

Read More: BUILDING THE CUSTOM HOME OF YOUR DREAMS: INSPIRATION AND DESIGN

What Is an Open Concept Home?

In open-concept homes, barriers are eliminated and traditional closed-off rooms are replaced by open spaces that aren’t separated by walls.

Such a floor plan can often exclude hallways, doors, and of course, walls, resulting in a more inviting, seemingly larger layout.

These types of floor plans have surged in popularity over the past decade as they are the epitome of contemporary design and offer homeowners a variety of benefits.

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Benefits of An Open Concept Home

Space

Open-concept floor plans are excellent for creating space in a smaller home. Because there are not many walls to break up the flow of your space and divide it into separated rooms, you’ll have one large open area that looks bigger than it actually is.

This not only allows people to move around more easily but makes your home feel more spacious.

Versatility

What’s great about an open floor plan is that you can turn your space into anything you want it to be, and you don’t have to commit yourself to one permanent layout.

The absence of walls makes it easier to re-designate certain areas for different purposes and come up with creative ways to separate spaces without closing them off.

Safety

Open concept homes can be a great option for families with young children, as it makes it easier to keep an eye on your little ones at all times.

This means you can be cooking dinner in the kitchen and still be able to keep a watchful eye on your kids watching television in the living room. Or if you’re the one watching that’s watching T.V., you’ll be able to see them sneak cookies from the kitchen. It’s a win-win for parents, really.

Accessibility

With an open concept home, you have more flexibility when it comes to furniture layout and room design, allowing you to create a better flow of traffic.

This can also be incredibly beneficial for people who require mobility aids, since there are fewer doorways, hallways, and narrow passages that can be difficult to navigate.

Resale Value

Open concept is a real estate buzz word, often giving these homes an advantage when it comes to resale.

Many buyers are attracted to these types of floor plans and are often willing to pay more for a home with an open interior compared to a similar home with a closed floor plan.

Whether you’re in your forever home or plan on putting it up for sale in the future, you may want to consider an open floor plan to boost home value.

Plenty of Natural Light

A significant advantage of having an open floor plan is the amount of natural light that fills your home. It’s no surprise that sunlight is a real mood changer, so having it flood through all corner of your home can have a calming, relaxing effect.

Without walls to break up space, sunlight is able to disperse throughout the home, making the entire house feel bigger, brighter, and homier.

Downsides to an Open Floor Plan

While there are many benefits to designing a home with an open floor plan, there are some drawbacks to consider.

For example, rather than designing several individual, distinct spaces as you would with a closed floor plan, an open-concept floor plan requires a cohesive design process throughout the space with the right décor and furnishings to avoid clashing styles.

Additional downsides to an open concept home include:

  • Less privacy
  • Smells can travel easily throughout the home
  • Noise becomes difficult to contain
  • May be difficult to heat efficiently

comparison of a closed and open concept living room and dinning room

When Would an Open Floor Plan be Recommended?

Open concept homes without dividing walls are ideal for smaller homes, as this helps to open up the space and makes your home look and feel larger than it actually is.

Here are some additional instances where an open floor plan may be recommended:

  • You have a large family with small children
  • You are frequently entertaining guests
  • You want the freedom to switch up your layout
  • You are eventually planning to sell
  • You or someone in your family requires better accessibility

What Does Closed Concept Mean?

A closed concept home has a traditional floor plan and layout that features multiple rooms or separated spaces enclosed by walls and doors.

Essentially, each designated area of the home becomes its own separate space or room, including the kitchen, dining room, and living room.

Benefits of a Closed Concept Home

While open-concept has been trending in recent years, some homeowners are starting to shift away from modern floor plans in favour of more traditional, closed-off designs.

Here are a few reasons to explain this.

Privacy

While having more open space can be great for bringing families together, sometimes, you may want a bit of privacy, which can be hard to come by without many walls, doors, or separated spaces.

Closed rooms in your home’s main areas that are separated by walls and doors help you to isolate the space if need be.

Furthermore, walls and doors offer an extra layer of soundproofing for the home, giving you even more privacy than with an open concept floor plan.

Sound Control

Any family with young children knows that sound travels, and with an open layout, sound will inevitably carry throughout the house more so than with a closed-off home.

Another benefit of a closed concept home is that sound is contained within a particular room and tends to not travel as much throughout the house and disturb other family members who may need a bit of peace and quiet from time to time.

Energy Efficiency

With an open floor plan, the entire space must be heated or cooled, while traditional, closed floor plans can allow you to heat or cool certain rooms.

This means that with a closed floor plan, you are likely to pay less for heating and cooling costs.

Tidiness

With a closed floor plan, it’s easy to hide clutter in less-used rooms or put off tidying up when life gets busy.

But with an open floor plan, it’s hard to escape and ignore messes and clutter, and you may find that you have to put more effort into keeping your home tidy.

Interior Design

A closed layout is often more appealing from a design standpoint, as it allows you focus on making each room unique and design it to match your own personal taste rather than having to pick one type of design or décor for the entire home.

For example, in an open concept home, the dining area, living room, and kitchen have to be cohesive.

But with closed-concept, you get to be a bit more creative and not worry as much about picking décor that compliments the design of other rooms.

Downsides of a Closed Concept Home

Some downsides to a closed concept home include:

  • Less natural light
  • Smaller spaces
  • Reduced accessibility
  • No line of sight

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Things to Take into Consideration When Choosing Open vs. Closed Concept

Do You Host A Lot of Parties and Events?

If you’re the life of the party and frequently entertain guests in your home or take pleasure in hosting extravagant dinner parties on the weekends, this is something you should keep in mind when designing or remodelling your home.

Read More: 6 TRANSFORMATIVE KITCHEN DESIGN TIPS

Having an open concept layout means you can be cooking up a storm in the kitchen, while still having the ability to interact with your guests in the living area.

An open concept layout also allows guests to move more effortlessly between the kitchen, living room, and dining area for a more inviting experience.

That being said, you’ll have to keep in mind that any messes you make in the kitchen will be visible to your guests.

Do You Prefer Smaller, Quiet Spaces?

If you enjoy having a study or other room to retreat to for some peace and quiet, and open floor plan may not suit your needs (unless you live solo, of course).

With open floor plans, everything is accessible, making it difficult to find a space to call your own and that is free of distractions.

Does Your Family Create a Lot of Noise?

Whether it’s noise from the TV, pets, chatter, the latest metal hits or clinking and rattling in the kitchen, open concept homes tend to elevate the sounds in your house. If you’re hard of hearing or don’t mind the background noise, open concept could still work for you.

But a closed layout will help to contain the noise and prevent it from spreading throughout your home.

Do You Prefer a Modern or Classic Look?

Open floor plans offer a contemporary and modern style, while closed-concept provides a more classic, traditional look.

Therefore, nailing down your own personal tastes and preferences when it comes to home design is important, as it can be a significant factor when deciding which floor plan best suits your needs.

Do You Spend a Lot of Time in The Kitchen?

If you cook a lot at home, an open concept kitchen means messy pots, pans, and dirty dishes will be visible to family and friends in other areas of the house. Not to mention, smells and sounds will inevitably travel from the kitchen out into the living room area.

Plus, keeping your kitchen clean becomes a constant chore (more so than it already is), as you can no longer put off doing the dishes by hiding them behind a wall until the next day.

On the other hand, if you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, a closed-concept design means you’re isolated from the happenings of your home. It’s all about your personal preference!

When it comes to deciding whether to choose an open or closed floor plan, you have a lot to think about.

Read More: HOME RENOVATION PLANNING FROM START TO FINISH

Ultimately, it’s important to consider your overall lifestyle and choose a layout that works for you and your family.

Before making this decision, ask for guidance from professionals to gain a better understanding of what each layout will entail so you can make an educated decision regarding what is best for your home.

At Sunter Homes, it’s our mission to build you the home you’ve always dreamed of
and work towards bringing your vision to life.
Give us a call!

marble and tile bathroom renovation

Factors to Consider When Choosing Bathroom Materials

A Guide to the Best Building Materials to Incorporate in Your Bathroom Renovation Project

When designing a custom bathroom, of course, you want your new space to be aesthetically pleasing and reflect your personality. But looks are not the only factors at play here.

Bathrooms pose a unique challenge from a design and building perspective, as all materials must withstand conditions unlike any other part of the home.

While you should have an idea of what your design will look like, your immediate preferences may not always guide your decisions since there are so many other non-aesthetic factors to consider that make up a successful bathroom renovation.

Read More: BRINGING LUXURY TO ANY BATHROOM

Read on for our guide on how aesthetics and function must work cohesively when it comes to bathroom renovations.

Considerations for Choosing Bathroom Materials

crisp, white bathroom with high-end building materials

Modern, Victorian, bohemian – the options are endless!

Design

Your design preferences will heavily influence your materials, so before jumping into extensive renovations, take a step back and think long and hard about what it is that you are looking for in your new bathroom.

When meeting with your custom home contractor, come to the table with inspiration images in hand and explain your vision as clearly as possible to help ensure both sides are on the same page.

Moisture Resistance

This is perhaps the most important consideration you will need to account for when choosing bathroom materials. From showers, baths, and running tap water, bathrooms are constantly steamy and damp. For this reason, it is absolutely imperative that every design element in your bathroom – including your vanity, flooring, and walls – is able to withstand moisture.

Heat Resistance

After stepping out of the shower or bath, the warmth that fills the room often lingers, as evidenced by fogged-up mirrors and windows.

So, besides just moisture, your bathroom materials need to be durable enough to withstand heat from steam and hot hair tools that may be left out on the bathroom counter.

Among the most heat resistant materials are:

  • Quartz
  • Granite
  • Marble
  • Natural stone
  • Ceramic tile

Easy to Clean

It’s no secret that bathrooms are breeding grounds for bacteria, so opt for materials that are easy to clean to help keep your bathroom germ, mould, and mildew free.

Some of the easiest to clean materials include:

  • Larger tiles with thin grout lines
  • Back-painted glass
  • Porcelain tile
  • Laminate
  • Quartz

On the other hand, here are some examples of materials that tend to stain easily and are difficult to clean:

  • Concrete
  • Stone
  • Small tiles

renovated shower with large and small tiles

While beautifully detailed, smaller tiles tend to be a bit harder to keep clean

Picking Out Materials for Your Bathroom Remodel

Now that you know what to look for in bathroom materials, it’s time to start narrowing down your list.

As award-winning custom home contractors, we’re an excellent source of knowledge and can help you with this next phase in your bathroom renovation project. But to give you a better understanding of what you should be looking for, here are our tips for picking out materials for your bathroom remodel.

Flooring

When planning a bathroom remodel, one of the most important decisions you will make is choosing what type of flooring to install.

Durability is an important factor in this decision, along with moisture resistance, and slip resistance is to prevent unnecessary injury.

To help ensure your bathroom floor is slip-resistant and has some traction, look for flooring materials that have some texture to them.

And when researching different materials, don’t forget to search for information on how it will perform under stress – i.e. heavy foot traffic, heat, and water – and think about how easy it will be to clean. For example, tile tends to be more difficult to clean because of the grout, so if you’re a stickler for super clean floors, you may want to avoid smaller, more detailed tiles or avoid thick grout lines.

For easy-to-clean tiles, your best bet is to choose larger tiles with thin grout lines.

With that being said, here are some of the most popular bathroom flooring options:

  • Ceramic tile
  • Natural stone
  • Vinyl
  • Laminate
  • Cork

Walls

Unlike floors, walls tend to be more forgiving when it comes to the elements of your bathroom. Because of this, you have a bit more flexibility when it comes to choosing wall materials.

However, you still need to make cognitive decisions when it comes to choosing materials that will make sure your walls are moisture-resistant to prevent things like mold, mildew, and rot.

Tiling is also a great choice for bathroom walls as it is often completely resistant to moisture and looks great from a design perspective.

Here are some common tiling options for bathroom walls:

  • Subway tiles
  • Mosaic tiling
  • Beadboard
  • Tileboard
  • Natural stone tile
  • Glass tile
  • Porcelain tile
  • Ceramic tile

bathroom with two types of materials for the walls

Mix and match your wall materials for a unique, layered look.

If you’re opting for a fresh coat of paint in a smashing new colour, always pick out a bathroom-specific paint that is both moisture and mildew resistant.

Countertops

Your vanity takes a heavy beating over the years, having to withstand soap, water, cosmetics, harsh cleaning products and hot hair tools on its surface. It also acts as a workstation during morning rush hour and likely won’t get a much-needed wipe down until later that day.

What does this mean for your bathroom renovation? Choosing a countertop that will hold up against whatever life (and your toiletry bag) throws at it. In other words, delicate, porous, easy-to-stain surfaces need not apply.

Some beautiful and durable options for bathroom counters that are also moisture resistant include:

  • Granite
  • Quartzite materials
  • Laminate
  • Thermofoil

Cabinets

Cabinets have a wonderful ability to dramatically change the entire look and feel of your bathroom. From two-tone to see-thru, they are the facelift of any bathroom remodel. While choosing the cabinets you truly love is important, you also want them to withstand the test of time, so durability is also key when narrowing down your choices.

Some popular options for bathroom cabinetry include:

  • Solid wood
  • Plywood
  • Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF)
  • PVC

Materials to Avoid

We’ve covered the basics when dealing with which materials work best in bathroom environments, but there are some that you should completely avoid at all costs.

Here are some examples of bathroom materials we absolutely do not recommend.

prohibited sign over a pink carpeted bathroom from the 70's era

Don’t be a bathroom offender, avoid these mistakes!

Wallpaper

Yes, wallpaper is super trendy and can really liven up a room. But how is wallpaper removed? You guessed it – with steam! It goes without saying that you should avoid using this material in your bathroom because it will not withstand the constant steam and moisture. Over time, you’ll notice that your wallpaper will start to lift and peel.

Hardwood

While incredibly appealing from a design standpoint, hardwood isn’t an ideal choice for bathroom flooring because it tends to warp when exposed to prolonged periods of wet and steamy conditions.

Slippery/Glossy Stone or Tile

As we previously mentioned, avoid any flooring that can become slippery when wet (unless you have one of those yellow wet floor signs), as this creates a major hazard. Simply put – you’re just waiting for an accident to happen.

Some of the most slippery materials you should try to avoid include glossy stone like marble and porcelain, and enamel-coated tile.

Carpeting

This isn’t the 70’s. Carpet has no place in bathrooms. By installing carpeting in your bathroom, you are setting yourself up for a number of problems, as it absorbs moisture and leads to mold, mildew, and rot. Just say ‘no’ to carpet.

Thin Laminate

Although laminate floors can look fantastic and withstand wear and tear from children and pets, if this is something you want in your bathroom, be sure to choose a thicker vinyl laminate that can stand up to daily heat and moisture.

Thin laminate gradually separates, while wood core laminate buckles or discolours, allowing water to seep in between the boards and leading to serious, costly damage. So, be sure to ask which laminate flooring is specifically recommended for the bathroom.

The Takeaway

While designing a bathroom is not as cut and dry as other rooms in your home, with help from home building experts, you can achieve the bathroom you’ve always wanted without sacrificing your vision.

To help you design your dream bathroom that withstands the elements,
contact Sunter Homes today!

marbled tile bathroom walls with ceramic counter tops and gold detailing


An architect planning a home.

Refining Your Home Design Ideas with an Architect

From Concept to Construction Drawings and Administration, Learn How Architects Help Bring Your Home To Life

So you want to build the home of your dreams—fantastic! Custom home design and construction is a big investment, but one that’s definitely worth it. After all, how often do you get to experience a home that’s tailor-made for your family and lifestyle?

Chances are you’ve got plenty of ideas for the design and layout of your home in mind. Still, translating those ideas into concrete plans for contractors and home builders is a challenge.

That’s where architects come in.

Architects take your ideas, dreams, and inspiration and create real-world plans. They help bring your dreams to life, translating your vision into a tangible reality.

If you’re just starting down the path of custom home construction, architects can provide a helping hand along the way, keeping the creation of your home on track.

Let’s take a closer look at how architects can help you!

An architect discusses project inspiration for a custom home design.

Architects translate your dreams into a concrete plan.

What Do Architects Do?

Let’s get the basics out of the way first: architects are individuals who design buildings, frequently overseeing their construction, as well. Architecture, after all, is the art, science, and business of building.

Equal parts designers and engineers, architects are versatile people who work with clients (whether they’re businesses, families, individuals, or organizations) to create buildings based on their needs and specifications.

Architects have extensive knowledge of not only the art of creating a building but the regulations, processes, and technical details needed to get the job done.

Architects frequently supervise teams of engineers and contractors, or they may simply be a consultant—it depends on the project.

Basically, commissioning an architect to design your home means you’re getting access to a wealth of knowledge. At Sunter Homes, we regularly work with several architects, but we’re just as comfortable working with one of your own preference.

Architects vs. Designers: What’s the Difference?

By now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Architects sound a lot like designers—so what’s the difference?”

The short answer? A lot.

The long answer? Architects typically focus on the bigger picture, but that big picture can also encompass some of the design features of a home.

Architects are most often responsible for the structure and façade of the buildings they work on, but the designs they come up with for a home may also influence the interior design.

A contemporary living room with a modern couch and chair, as well as abstract paintings.

Designers focus more on interiors and materials.

Designers, on the other hand, are almost entirely focused on the interior. While they may be able help create the spaces you’re after, their scope and expertise can be more limited.

For example, if you ask designers for two additional bedrooms for your kids, they can do it for you, no problem, but an architect can help you create additional bedrooms with enough soundproofing that you can sneak more gifts under the tree at Christmas without being heard.

What’s more, architectural services go beyond the design of your home. They help you prepare plans, handle construction documents on your behalf, and can even administer and organize the construction of your home, always making sure everything is up to code and abides by local zoning bylaws.

Do You Need an Architect for Your Custom Home?

In Ontario, it’s not necessary for an architect to design a house, but whoever designs your home and makes a submission for the building permits must be a licensed architect, a certified professional engineer (authorized b the Professional Engineers of Ontario), or a province-accredited house designer with a Building Code Identification Number (BCIN).

That being said, an architect will typically have a BCIN. What’s more, they can help you navigate the design process all the way to breaking ground and through to the finished home.

Understanding Design Phases

Perhaps one of the best ways to understand how architects can help you is to take a closer look at design phases and how they inform custom home construction.

These four phases start with high-concept, big-picture ideas and progress all the way to detailed plans used by contractors and home builders.

Conceptual Design

Conceptual design is almost exactly what it sounds like: the design of loose, even freehand, sketches and designs to help map out what you want your home to look like.

These are preliminary sets of drawing to help narrow down what you’re looking for and to rough in the basic shape and structure of your home.

During this phase, architects will likely ask about a program: a wish list or description of what you’re looking for in your home. This is your opportunity to send your architect every idea and concept that’s caught your eye and to share all your inspiration!

An example of conceptual designs.

Conceptual designs let architects mockup ideas quickly and develop a theme.

Schematic Design

Schematic design refers specifically to more precise sketches, getting the rough conceptual ideas into something a bit more concrete that reflects exactly what you’re after.

By this point, your architect has likely developed a parti, short for “parti pris.” This is a French term that, to architects, refers to the big idea, concept, or theme behind your project. The parti informs the project and tends to fall into the schematic phase.

Design Development

This is typically where contractors and designers get a bit more involved. Design development is the phase wherein materials and details are selected. This is fairly standard practice: at Sunter Homes, we help our clients select all materials well in advance of construction.

All these decisions help create a plan of attack for building the home of your dreams. Architects can help streamline the entire process, or you can choose to work closely with your contractors when it comes to material selection.

An example of construction drawings, sometimes called blueprints.

Construction drawings are the roadmap to building your dream home.

Construction Drawings

Finally, construction drawings are the full plans and designs that accurately describe exactly what will be built.

These drawings are the final design, and incorporate everything from exterior elevations (profile views of the building’s design), floor plans, sections (quite literally cross-sections that can help contractors create framing and other structural elements), and details (the specific elements where a designer or architect wants to convey greater information).

Construction drawings, in fact, are blueprints. “Blueprint” is a somewhat outdated term, as most construction drawings are done now on white paper, with no need for the chemically treated blue paper that construction drawings were once created on.

Construction drawings are the roadmap to creating the home of your dreams.

Architects Work with Your Contractors

It’s easy to get a bit lost in defining the roles and responsibilities of architects, designers, and contractors, but it’s important to remember that architects work with your team. After all, everyone you’ve hired to build your home is after the same goal!

While there is no stipulation that you must hire an architect for your custom home, they’re an incredibly invaluable resource to draw upon. From the initial design phases straight through to construction administration, they’re ready to help with every aspect of custom home construction—and then some.

At Sunter Homes, we have the pleasure of being able to work with some very talented architects. We’re always happy to make recommendations and introductions, but we’re equally at home working with an architect you’ve contracted ahead of time.

Our goal, as always, is to create beauty built to last.


Beautiful custom home on top of a gentle rise, featuring large vaulted roofs and big windows.

Building the Custom Home of Your Dreams: Bringing Your Dream to Life

Putting the Finishing Touches on Your Dream Home—Ahead of Time

So, you’ve designed the home of your dreams, you’ve broken ground, and you’re knee-deep in the building process. The roof is up, the floors are roughed in, and it’s time to start considering how the home will look and feel once it’s finished.

Some contractors wait until this moment to discuss ways to customize and personalize your home, roughing in a few basic ideas during your initial consultation but waiting to finalize until a later date.

There are two sides to this: yes, you get a better sense of how your home will look in the moment, and it takes out a lot of the guesswork, but this can come with added costs.

It’s understandable why so many people want to wait to settle on these things. After all, it can be difficult to imagine how your finished home will look while it’s being built. What’s more, self-doubt can creep in. How can you be completely certain the materials you’ve chosen will look good together until you see them side by side, in your home?

Simple: you work with experts who’ll help you navigate the design and construction process from start to finish.

At Sunter Homes, we make it a priority to help our clients choose the materials that best reflect their style and what they want, well before we break ground. You could say we help put the finishing touches on a home right at the start!

With that in mind, here are a few things to keep in mind while putting the “finishing touches” on your custom home—and how your custom home builders can help.

Choosing Finishing Materials

Again, if you’re waiting until the end to choose materials, you’re in for a bit of stress. We recommend choosing finishing materials well in advance to take out the guesswork.

Trusted contractors will provide you with a wealth of options and styles, including samples, to help you better visualize how your home will look once it’s finished.

Beautiful Flooring

Flooring provides endless potential for further customization and personalization in your home. While hardwood floors remain popular for their versatility and timeless appeal, there are several other options you can consider.

Unique tilework in kitchens and bathrooms allows you to create patterns that please the eye. You can even use these patterns and designs to compliment (or even offset) other materials and backsplash tilework.

If you’re keen on sticking to wooden flooring, then you might want to consider exploring different wood grains and stains. Parquet flooring can let you create subtle (or bold) patterns, too.

Renovated and finished basement with beautiful wood flooring.
Flooring can be subtle or bold – the choice is yours.

There are also many varieties of synthetic materials, like vinyl, that allow even greater customization for the exact look and feel you’re after.

Custom cabinetry around a washer-dryer stack.
Never overlook the benefits of custom storage!

Custom Cabinetry

Custom cabinetry is an amazing way to provide a beautiful finishing touch to your kitchen, bathroom, or closet. Built to your specifications, these cabinets provide elegant storage solutions throughout your home.

Most cabinet makers provide a range of materials and design options for you to choose from, but you can go a step further and have completely custom cabinets made for your home.

Even if you’re sticking to basic shaker-style storage options, cabinet hardware presents another amazing way for you to add a personal touch to any cabinet.

Stunning Countertops

Marble countertops remain, in the eyes of many, the gold standard of high-quality countertop material, but with the wide variety of materials now available, customizing the look and feel of your kitchen has never been easier.

Countertops are an often-divisive topic in home décor and design; what’s beautiful to some will be a “what were they thinking?” decision to others, so at the end of the day, remember that it’s about bringing your vision to life.

Many new home builds use plastic laminates like Formica as stock choice, but you can absolutely go to a higher-end marble or quartz. We’ve discussed the pros and cons of various countertop materials in the past, but let’s take a quick moment to recap:

  • Quartz offers the stone look of marble with greater durability.
  • Granite offers truly unique appearances and is durable but needs regular resealing.
  • Soapstone, limestone, and marble are classic looks that can’t be beat but are more susceptible to nicks, scratches, and heat damage.
  • Butcher block countertops are a classic, warm look with practical functionality, but need regular maintenance.
  • Laminates are low-cost and infinitely customizable (and look great, these days) but cuts and scratches will cause visible damage.
  • Concrete’s industrial look is durable and customizable but needs sealing to prevent staining.
  • Recycled glass is an ultra-contemporary style, but heat-resistance and durability may vary depending on the manufacturer.

Basically, you’re spoiled for choice!

Crown Molding—Don’t Skip the Details

Crown molding can be thought of as the finishing touch on any beautifully constructed or renovated room.

This fine molding generally caps (or crowns) walls, creating an elegant and refined transition from wall to ceiling. Molding helps give greater depth and definition to a space, subtly influencing its appearance.

There are many classically influenced rules of thumb for designing crown molding, but generally speaking, it’s important to balance angles and contours with neutral space in the design.

Side-by-side galley-style contemporary kitchen with shaker-style cabinets and crown molding.
Crown molding is a subtle detail that adds character to any space.

There are three key things to keep in mind when designing crown molding: the design should be proportional (think about the Golden Ratio), should provide neutral spaces for the eyes to rest, and offer simple, complementary contours.

Crown molding is a highly detailed finishing touch for any home, but one that’s worth the time and investment to create a unique look that you can enjoy for years to come.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

Your home is fully built to your exact specifications, you’ve got all the materials and features you’ve been after… now what?

It’s time to paint!

This is perhaps one of the easiest ways to truly personalize your custom home, but it’s also arguably one of the toughest decisions to make. After all, there are any number of shades you can use to create the look and feel you’re after.

So, what colours should you choose?

Let’s cover a few basics first. How familiar are you with the colour wheel? It starts with the three primary colours—red, yellow, and blue. Red can be found on the wheel at the 12:00 position, yellow at 4:00, and blue at 8:00.

All other colours are made from various combinations of these primary colours, and fall at different positions on the wheel, cycling from warm colours to cooler colours and back again.

Colours next to each other on the wheel pair well, in most cases, but one will always be prominent. Colours directly across from each other, meanwhile, are complementary and play off each other nicely; for example, blue and orange are complementary colours.

You may want subtle, understated tones in one room and cooler tones in another. White is a great way to make a small room feel more expansive, and touches and pops of colour here and there can draw the eye and create unique focal points.

Making Your Custom House a Home

Really, we’re only scratching the surface of what’s possible with these finishing touches. A huge part of how your new custom home looks and feels will depend on the furniture and décor you choose, too.

The above tips are a great way to get started with these finishing touches to truly bring your dream home to life, but they’re just that: a starting point.

If you’re looking to create something truly beautiful that stands the test of time, get in touch with Sunter Homes today to discuss your vision.

We’ll help show you how we can bring it to life.


Building the Custom Home of Your Dreams:
Breaking Ground And Building

A Look at the Construction Process for Building Custom Homes from Start to Finish

You’ve decided you want to build the custom home of your dreams.

You’ve found designers, architects, and contractors you’re excited to work with.

Your designs and plans are ready to go.

Now it’s time to break ground and start the build!

This is an incredibly exciting time in any home construction project. It’s where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, and you can actually see your vision come to life before your eyes.

As exciting a time as it is, it can still feel a bit overwhelming. It’s your home, after all, and you want to be involved in every stage of construction.

Chances are, you’re going to have a lot of questions for your contractors, and they’re going to have a lot of questions for you.

That’s why we’ve put together this helpful guide that you can use to track the construction of your home, and to give you an idea of what to expect during the entire process.

Let’s take a look!

Site Prep and Foundations

Unless you’ve got a lot prepped and ready to go, it’ll need to be cleared of debris before you can properly break ground. This means hauling away stones and uprooting vegetation that’ll get in the way.

You’ll also need to level the site, which is typically accomplished with a backhoe and bulldozer.

Once that’s done, though, your construction team can break ground.

While the team here at Sunter Homes will always handle every aspect of construction on your behalf, we definitely understand when our clients want to be the ones to break ground.

An excavator sits on an earth-covered field.
Site prep usually means the big toys come out.

It’s a special moment, after all—this is the very first step you take towards building your dream home, after all.

If you want to take the first swing with a pickaxe or be the first person to use a shovel while digging out foundations, let your contractors know. You don’t need to do the whole job, but it’s a fun moment that’s worth a photo, at least!

Once the crew levels the site, they put up wooden forms to create a template for the foundation of your home, dig holes and trenches, and install footings. They’ll also dig a well or space for a septic tank if needed.

If your home has a basement, this is the point at which it’ll be dug out.

From there, it’s time to form and pour concrete footings before forming and pouring the walls of the foundation.

For slab-on-grade, the crew digs, forms, and pours footings, levelling the area between them. They’ll fit this area with utility runs and pour the slab.

After concrete’s been poured, it needs to cure. Construction typically stops at this point while the concrete sets and dries.

After the concrete is cured, your contractors install a waterproof membrane for the foundation walls in addition to drains, sewer and water taps, and other necessary plumbing features.

They will also backfill excavated dirt in the space around the foundation wall.

At this point, an inspector will check out the site to ensure your foundation is up to code. Once they sign off, your contractors remove the concrete forms and move onto the framing.

A contractor measures plywood in a custom home build.
It’s always amazing watching your home come together.

Building Framing

Think of building framing as the skeleton of your home. This is what gives it shape and supports the building as a whole.

Your home builders start by creating rough framing, including floor systems, walls, and roofing.

Plywood and oriented strand board (OSB) sheathing are commonly used for exterior walls and roofing.

The sheathing gets covered by a protective barrier—what’s known as a house wrap. This keeps water out of the home during the construction process while letting water vapour escape.

Windows and exterior doors often go in at this stage. Once the framing and shell are complete, you’ll get another visit from an inspector.

Next, it’s time to install plumbing, electrical wiring, and other features.

Plumbing, Electrical, And HVAC Installation

Usually, while the roofing and siding are being installed, electricians and plumbers will start running wires and pipes through the ceiling, floors, and interior walls.

Plumbers will install sewer lines and water supply lines. This is also when tubs and showers are brought into the home.

If you’re worried about having to hire more contractors, rest assured: the contractors you’re working with will bring in the experts they need for certain tasks if they can’t do them on their own.

Here at Sunter Homes, we’re able to handle every aspect of custom home construction, and we love finding elegant solutions to wiring and plumbing layouts.

Typically, this is the point at which HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) contractors will install vents and ductwork for your home’s new HVAC system. They will install vent pipes through the roof, and they will also install a furnace.

Once the roof is installed, the house is considered “dried in” and safe for electricians to install receptacles for outlets, lights, and switches, and run wires from the breaker panel to these receptacles.

One of the best benefits of a custom home is that you can get it wired up in a way that works for your needs.

An electrician working on wiring in a home.
Custom homes give you an opportunity to personalize things down to the wire.

This means custom wiring solutions for home theatres, home offices, telephones, and even power outlet placement.

Assuming it’s up to code, there’s no reason you can’t customize these aspects to your heart’s content.

Once it’s all done, it’s time for—you guessed it—another inspection before moving onto insulation and drywalling.

Insulation, Drywalling, And Interior Textures

Home builders will install insulation in the floors above unfinished basements, walls, and ceilings, including the attic.

There are several types of insulation used in new custom homes, some with better thermal performance than others.

Before you break ground, your contractors will discuss your options with you and how they’ll impact your budget.

Once the insulation is installed, home contractors will hang the drywall and complete the interior drywall textures if applicable. They will also apply a primer coat of paint once the drywall is hung and taped.

During this time, interior doors, baseboards, door casings, window sills, mouldings, stair balusters, and other decorative trim can be installed.

The walls will get a finishing coat of paint and/or wallpaper at this point.

Finishing the Exterior

Your contractors will install exterior finishes such as stucco, brick, stone, and siding.

Exterior driveways, walkways, and patios are installed during this stage. Exterior finish grading is completed to provide proper drainage away from the home.

Next, it’s time for interior details!

A hand runs a modern faucet, causing a glass of water to overflow.
It’s these details that help bring your home to life.

Flooring, Counters, And More

This is one of the biggest parts of building a custom home, though not necessarily due to the amount of time it takes.

Interior design details are, after all, features that homeowners put a lot of time an energy into.

At this stage of construction, your contractors will install hard-surface floorings, such as ceramic tile, wood, or vinyl.

It’s also common for countertops to be placed at this phase, and, by extension, sinks and faucets.

Next, it’s time to complete the electrical panel with light fixtures, outlets, and switches. HVAC technicians will install the HVAC equipment, and the registers will be completed.

During the final stage of home construction:

  • Mirrors, shower doors, and carpeting will be installed.
  • Exterior landscaping and/or cleanup will finish, including planting trees, shrubs, and resodding grass.
  • You’ll get one more building code inspection.
  • Finally, it’s time for a final walk-through with your contractors.

During your walk-through, your builders and contractors will take you through the home and offer detailed explanations of all features, systems, warranties, and offer maintenance tips.

This is an opportunity to ask questions, inspect your home for yourself, and address any minor issues you may notice, as unlikely as they may be.

And, lo and behold, you have your brand-new custom home!

Getting Through Home Construction

As with any construction project, it’s totally normal to feel stressed during custom home construction.

You may be trying to coordinate moving out of your current home on top of staying involved with progress with your home, not to mention a day job and family commitments.

You need to know you can trust the contractors and experts you’re working with, which is why we recommend soliciting recommendations from family and friends before making a final decision on your contractors.

Your contractors, designer, and architect should all understand your vision and work towards it in tandem.

At Sunter Homes, we make your vision for your home our number one priority and are dedicated to making custom home construction more than a project; we want it to be a memorable, enjoyable experience for you and your family.

We know how important consistent communication and reliable planning are. We’re ready to help you with everything from suggestions and recommendations to timelines and budget insights.

Building a custom home can be overwhelming. But with the right team, open communication, and realistic expectations, the home construction process can be more exciting than stressful.


A contractor examining a checklist.

Navigating the Building Permit Process

Before You Build or Renovate, Get Your Permits!

You’ve got a vision for your home in mind, you’re working with an architect or designer to refine it even further, and you’ve picked reliable, trustworthy, and experienced contractors to work with.

Have you got the necessary permits?

Building a new house or renovating your existing home to bring it to dream status requires a lot of planning and attention to detail.

One of those details is ensuring you’ve got all the necessary permits in place so you can continue with your project unobstructed.

If you’ve never dealt with building permits before, don’t worry: you’re not alone.

An architect planning a home.
An architect planning a home.

Plenty of homeowners looking to build an addition or undertake a significant project (even custom home construction) have no experience with the permit process when they start planning their project.

Reliable contractors and construction professionals can handle this task on your behalf, acting as your advocate and representative to successfully navigate the permit process.

If you’re not sure what you need or where to start, we’ve got you covered.

What Are Building Permits and Why Are They Necessary?

Building permits are official approvals of your proposed construction or remodelling project, issued by your municipality.

Permits give municipalities a way to ensure project plans comply with land use, zoning, and construction standards and laws.

Building permits are necessary to ensure a home is built to code, ensuring it meets standards for safety, energy consumption, occupation, and much much more.

Basically, the permit process is a way to let your community know what you’re doing and to ensure it’s all above board.

An in-progress home build.
An in-progress home build, paused during construction.

What Happens if You Don’t Have a Permit?

If you don’t obtain the necessary permits prior to breaking ground, you’re setting yourself up for massive headaches.

Not only can your municipality issue a stop-work order, but you’re also at risk of having any progress deconstructed or torn down.

For example, if you just had your kitchen remodelled but an inspector finds you didn’t have the necessary permits in place, they could issue an order to tear out all or part of the work done.

You may also be on the hook for additional fines.

What’s more, since the work wasn’t inspected by a professional and objective third party, there is no way to know for sure the work is safe and was done in accordance with building codes.

It's far better to be proactive and get the necessary permits before any ground is broken or walls are knocked down. If you don’t apply for building permits, you are likely inviting trouble.

Do You Need a Permit for Your Renovation Project?

Even if you’re not building from scratch, you’ll still need to secure permits for renovation projects.

While it’s a lot of work to fill out the applications, pay the fees, and deal with all the rest of the bureaucracy that comes with construction, you’ll thank yourself in the long run.

Here are a few of the benefits of applying for permits:

  • Ensures you don’t receive shoddy work in exchange for your hard-earned money.
  • Work will be done in accordance with Ontario’s building codes and municipal bylaws.
  • Offers protection for both people and property because certain standards must be followed.

While many contractors will help you navigate the permit process, it’s still important to note that the ultimate responsibility falls on you, the homeowner.

How Do You Get a Building Permit in Ontario?

Homeowners in Ontario must follow specific steps prior to initiating any construction work.

Your permit application must have the following:

  • Completed application form. Double check to make sure everything is filled out appropriately.
  • Any applicable building permit fees. Building permit fees must be submitted at the time the application is filed.
  • Two sets of plans outlining all plans. These plans should show specific, detailed illustrations of the project in question—think floor plans and the like. One set will be kept in the municipality’s file, the other goes to the job site.
  • A site plan or property survey. This information helps officials see everything in context before they make a decision.

Once the application packet is received, it will be reviewed to ensure the project complies with the Ontario Building Code, zoning, grading approval, and other local laws.

Once your application packet is approved, officials will issue your permits. At this time work on your dream home can begin.

Permits and Your Project Timeline

The average cost of building permits for a 2,000 square foot home is somewhere around $2,400 in Ottawa. This will vary by municipality and project, however.

As for how this impacts your project timeline, though, you can generally expect a wait of 10 business days.

Again, this will vary from municipality to municipality, and according to your project.

Getting permits for water and sewer service connections, for example, depends on the scope of the building’s use, and the price may vary, as well.

Once the permit(s) arrive, make sure they are visibly posted in accordance with provincial and municipal law.

Water connections in foundations.
Water and sewage permits can take longer to process.

If your application is denied, officials should explain to you why and provide detail on what changes need to be made to qualify for approval.

If you’re still struggling, though, your experienced contractors may be able to help.

Work with Contractors to Streamline the Process

While you can plan everything down to the precise detail, sometimes things might not go as planned.

But by working with skilled professional home builders you can minimize those unexpected changes and keep on budget. A good contractor will help make this process smooth and stress-free.

Getting all your permits in place helps keep the construction process as smooth as possible, without delays or disappointments.

Inspections will take place during key parts of the project which will ensure the work is properly done, keeping your project closer to projected completion estimate.

Either you or your contractor can book the appropriate inspection appointments.

Working with professional home renovation companies for your major home projects help to streamline the process from start to finish They’ll ensure the job is done right and according to your specifications.

Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying your newly completed home!


An empty walk-in closet, ready to be filled with clothes.

Behind Closet Doors: Creating Unforgettable Walk-In Closets

Design Ideas to Help Inspire the Creation of Your New Favourite Room

Once upon a time, the walk-in closet was an item exclusively for the upper crust of society, a feature in mansions around the world that most people could only dream of.

Thankfully, times have changed. These days, walk-in closets are an incredibly popular feature in many homes. They’re a common feature in most custom homes, and more homeowners looking to transform their house include walk-in closet renovations in their to-do list.

These spaces create a sense of luxury in addition to offering practical benefits—and there’s plenty you can do to add even more to this space.

No matter the size, a walk-in closet is a room of its own. Designing its layout to make the most of the space will enhance your experience with this extra room in your home.

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with planning tips, layout ideas, and other considerations to help you make the most of this space.

What Is A Good Size for A Walk-In Closet?

This is the big question! Some people will say a walk-in closet or wardrobe can never be too big. Others simply want that extra little bit of space for storage.

The average minimum size for a walk-in closet is 4 feet wide by 4 feet deep. A closet of this size will use the back wall and a side wall for shelves, hanging rods, and drawers, but might get crowded fast.

While that’s the minimum size, the standard width of a walk-in closet can range from 5 feet to 12 feet or more. And the depth can range from 5 feet to 17 feet or larger.

A beautiful walk-in closet with central island and glass doors for all items.
What size closet is right for you?

Keep in mind that most walk-in closets are at least 6.5 feet wide, allowing for easy access to everything you need.

Choosing A Style to Match Your Space and Needs

The style and physical shape of your closet will depend on the amount of space you have to work with.

That being said, there are three common shapes and styles to work with:

  • An L-shaped closet, which uses two walls and provides ample floor space.
  • A U-shaped closet, which uses three walls for a wealth of storage space.
  • A straight walk-in closet, which typically uses one wall, or two parallel walls, and is ideal for smaller closet spaces.

When it comes to choosing the style of your closet, find a style that suits you and your home. For example, contemporary closet designs are ideal for clean, uncluttered spaces in modern-style homes.

You might also want to consider including a center island to free up some storage space on your walls. The sky’s the limit when it comes to style, but read on to learn more about designing your perfect storage space.

Design Considerations to Keep In Mind

The design of your walk-in wardrobe should be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. You want to create a room that you can use easily and that you enjoy spending time in.

With that in mind, here are a few tips and ideas to keep track of as you plan your closet:

Functionality

Your closet layout should provide easy access to everything in your closet, but especially to the items you use most often. Place shelving, drawers, and hanging rods in an easy-to-reach location.

Store your shoes on shelving near the entrance door of your closet. Shoe storage near the front of your closet makes it that much easier to put them away at the end of a long day.

Consider using a hidden laundry hamper that pulls out from a bottom drawer, so you can easily store and hide your dirty clothes.

A large closet and mirror face onto a bed in a modern bedroom.
Lighting and mirrors are important.

Lighting

Lighting not only enhances the functionality of a walk-in closet by improving visibility, but it also enhances the aesthetic of the closet’s design. Natural lighting from a window is always a bonus to have.

However, you can make the most of lighting with lighted closets, spotlights on shelves, and a central light, such as a chandelier.

Mirrors

Having at least one mirror in your walk-in closet will make dressing and trying on outfits a whole lot easier. Whether you have a vanity, a full-length mirror, or a mirror covering an entire wall, don’t forget this closet must-have!

Focal Point

Create a focal point in your walk-in closet using a built-in dresser or hutch. If you’ve got the space, you can place an island dresser or bench seating area in the centre of the closet. Ottomans and chairs are also useful for sitting when putting on your shoes, as are window seats.

The dresser can also have smaller shelves and drawers to store small items, such as jewellery, watches, belts, ties, and scarves. Surrounding the focal point and along the walls, place shelving and hanging rods for an open feel.

Storage

The more storage space you have, the better. Make sure to include dedicated storage space for all your clothing, accessories, and seasonal items. This designated storage will make it easier to find what you’re looking for. This keeps all your items better organized and dust free (if in drawers or cabinets).

Use the space above hanging rods for storage. Purses and folded items can be stored on shelves above the rods. The very top shelves can be used to store items you don’t use as often, such as seasonal clothing and luggage.

You can also use adjustable hanging rods to double your storage space and keep similar items together.

Accents

The variety of custom accents for closets is almost limitless. Consider crown moulding, custom cabinetry and hardware, light fixtures, art, and décor.

Organizing A Walk-In Closet

Obviously, you can organize your closet however you wish, but if you’re not sure where to start, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Shoes located near the entryway of the closet.
  • Most frequently used clothing and accessories hanging or stored on shelves and in drawers within easy reach.
  • A dresser or vanity as a focal point.
  • Seating near the centre of the floor.
  • Small accessories in small drawers.
  • Purses and hats on shelves.
  • Top-shelf storage for items not in use at the moment, e.g., seasonal wardrobes and luggage.
  • Adjustable shelves and hanging rods to maximize storage space.

Shirts hang on the rack in a walk-in closet as a man looks for clothes in front of a mirror.
How will your organize your closet?

How Much Does A Custom Walk-In Closet Cost?

The average price for a custom, professionally-installed walk-in closet ranges from around $5,000 to $20,000, depending on materials and the scope of the installation project. Keep in mind this is a ballpark figure and creating a walk-in closet could mean more extensive renovations to a room. It all depends on what you’re trying to achieve!

When in doubt, reach out to expert renovators to get a more exact quote.

You don’t need to live in a mansion to enjoy a luxurious walk-in closet. Whether you live in a 12-bedroom mansion or a more modest-sized home, the pros can help you design the walk-in closet of your dreams—a walk-in closet that suits your home, your personal style, and your lifestyle.


A beautiful custom home.

To Build or To Renovate? That is The Question!

What’s the Best Way To Get Your Dream Home?

Getting your dream home takes work. Custom homes give you an amazing opportunity to create your dream home from the ground up, but they’re a big step to take, especially if you’re fond of your current home.

Many people only get one opportunity to build their dream home, so it’s understandable that they’re a bit apprehensive about taking the plunge.

As such, many homeowners focus more on renovating their current home to add the features they’re missing or the style they’ve always wanted.

Of course, this raises an interesting question about your dream home: can you simply renovate your existing property to get it to where you want to be? Or is it time to build something completely new?

Renovations or New Construction: What’s the Big Deal?

There are countless reasons why you may want to stay in the home you’re already in.

You could be in a good neighbourhood that’s already on the way up, you may already like quite a bit about your home, or you may have already invested a lot into making your home just right.

Still, it’s easy to outgrow a home. Even if all the other stars align, you could find yourself needing or wanting new space.

It’s tough to choose between both options.

A beautiful modern kitchen renovated by Sunter Homes.
Renovations offer unmatched luxury.

After all, your current home is your home; it’s comfortable, you’ve put time, energy, and money into making it your own, and it’s full of memories.

Let’s take a closer look at your options to help you decide whether it’s time to build new or not.

To Renovate: Luxury, Style, and Space

Is your main issue with your home that it feels a bit out of date?

The main case for renovations is that you get to keep the things you like about your home while fixing the things you don’t. Still, sometimes, it’s not enough. Let’s look at the case for and the case against:

The Case for Luxury Renovations

Renovations are a great option if you want to update style and refresh your home’s design.

They can also help address structural issues, create amazing additions, and make the most of your current space.

If you’re feeling particularly bold, there’s nothing stopping you from gutting your home down to its bones and renovation from the ground up.

If your home's market price is on the low to mid-range of your neighbourhood, luxury renovations can easily improve your property value.

Granite counters, hardwood floors, and spa-style bathrooms all increase your enjoyment of your home in addition to its aesthetic impact.

If it's just the style of your property that's holding you back, an update may be in order.

A beautiful modern living room.
Renovations can transform your home, but there are limitations.

The Case Against Renovating

Renovations can only do so much.

After all, at some point, your vision for your home has to reconcile with the facts of your home.

For example, an older build might mean that the luxury bathroom features you want to add require significant updates to your plumbing.

Knocking down a wall to make space might not be feasible due to your home’s bones.

You’re also stuck with the history and age of your home.

For younger builds, this isn’t as much of an issue, but a home that’s already 30 or 40 years old can start to show its age in labour-intensive ways. It’s to be expected, but can still be frustrating.

It’s also harder to add spaces to an existing home. While nothing’s impossible, at some point, the cost is so high that you might as well be investing in a new home altogether!

It all depends on your goals. If you’re willing to pay the price for your comfort, there’s no reason not to renovate.

Custom Home Construction

If you’re going to be spending so much on renovations that you might as well be getting a new home, why not put that capital into a home tailored to your exact specifications?

A custom home is exactly what you want from the ground up, with the added benefit of having all new components.

The Case for Custom Homes

A custom home gives you absolutely everything that you want in a single package, built to code and your exacting specifications.

Simply put, it’s the most direct way to get your dream home.

A custom home in the process of being built.
Custom homes are built according to your specifications.

Rather than remodel or renovate an existing property, you control absolutely everything: the layout, the features, the style, and the floors.

And since it's a brand-new home, everything will be under warranty and will last much longer.

Best of all, you’ll have a complete history of what’s been done on your home, where everything is, how it’s wired, where the plumbing and heating run, and who did the work.

You’ve got total control over your home, from top to bottom. It’s truly yours.

The Case Against Custom Homes

There’s not really much of a case against custom homes, beyond the cost.

Still, if you’re having this debate with yourself, the cost is something you’re likely already considering.

A custom home will also take more time than renovations, though with extensive renovation work, it’s possible that a custom home can be finished sooner and with less money spent overall.

Again, it all depends on what you want.

Your home’s design depends on what you want and need.

What Are Your Needs? What Are Your Dreams?

Remember, you may only get the one opportunity to build a custom home. It’s a chance to align your home with your dreams and your plans for your life.

Take some time to consider what you want out of a home, and whether you think you’d be satisfied with renovating your existing property, or if you’re ready to take the plunge and break ground on a new project.

If you’re still on the fence, take some time to speak with professional custom home builders and renovators.

They’ll be able to answer any of your questions and can provide quotes for both options.

At the end of the day, the decision boils down to what you want and what you’re willing to compromise on.

Remember, Renovation is Always an Option

While many people only get one chance to build a dream home, renovation is always possible—even on a custom property.

Renovations are often necessary to refresh your home and make sure it still fits your lifestyle.

Think about your priorities ten years ago. Were they the same as your priorities today?

As your family grows and changes, you may find yourself with different housing needs.

Even if things change in your life, a custom home can change with them. Renovation makes it possible!

Take a Third Option—Remodel and Rebuild!

Remodelling and rebuilding is also always an option, especially if there are fairly extensive renovations that you want.

You can rebuild large sections of your property to your own desires, creating the perfect custom home.

You don't always have to start on your dream home completely from scratch.

This is the best of both worlds, as you can retain many features of your current home while starting fresh.

Determining whether you want to renovate, remodel, or rebuild really starts with figuring out your idea of a dream home.

You need to identify where your current home fails to meet your desires—and exactly what you want in a property.

So are you ready to get started? We're here to help! 


A view of a finished basement, giving a glimpse of a rec room, bathroom, and additional storage.

The Suite Spot: Creating an Income Property at Home

Creating an Income Property with Clever Basement Renovations

Looking for additional income, or want to fund other projects in your home? Developing an income property such as a basement apartment or suite is a fantastic way to add a bit more comfort to your home while putting a bit of money in your pocket.

If you’ve been eyeing an unfinished basement for a while, unsure of what to do with the space, creating a comfortable space to rent out might be the solution you’ve been looking for.

Basement finishing, upgrades, and renovations can transform your basement into a luxurious suite, perfect for renting out to students or young professionals.

What are the Benefits of A Rental Property?

If you’re not using your basement, or you rarely use it, you can transform it into a useful and profitable living space.

With your new basement suite, you can:

  • Earn extra income;
  • Pay off your mortgage faster; and
  • Get a fast return on your investment. With rental income, it may only take a year or two to earn back your investment into renovations.

Keep in mind, you can renovate part of your basement to create an income suite while reserving more space for a rec room, storage, or a luxurious laundry room.

A woman kneels by an outlet to test electrical wiring.
Income suites often wind up paying for themselves.

What’s more, if you find that playing landlord at your own home isn’t for you, a basement suite is perfect for hosting guests for longer stays and ensuring everyone’s extremely comfortable.

Must-Have Basement Apartment Features

The more features you include in your basement suite, the happier prospective tenants will be to rent your unit, and at a higher price.

It goes without saying that you’ll need at least one bedroom and a full bathroom, as well as a kitchen area. But beyond that, there are plenty of additional features to consider:

  • Bathtubs can be a selling point for potential tenants. A full bathroom with a shower is great, and the standard, but a tub adds a touch more comfort and functionality to the space.
  • Some living space is expected in any rental, even if it’s a basement suite. You could include a dedicated dining area close to the kitchen you install, too, expanding on the available space to make it more appealing to your tenants.
  • If this is going to be a person’s home, they’ll need a fully functional kitchen. Consider installing a microwave and dishwasher to add a few more comforts.
  • An exterior entrance means that you and your tenants get some privacy from each other; sharing your home’s front entrance isn’t exactly ideal for people who likely lead very different lives. If you don’t plan on connecting your basement suite to the rest of your home with an interior entrance, this is an absolute must. Your tenants will need a means of egress for safety reasons, too.
  • An independent heating and cooling system can prevent headaches related to bills and gives your tenants more control over their home.
  • Laundry machines are a huge selling point for renters. Consider finding some space for a stacked washer and dryer set. Alternatively, if your basement suite doesn’t take up the entire level, install a doorway so tenants can use your laundry machines. Just set a few ground rules first!

Design A Rental Suite

An income property in your basement should be more than a place to sleep. As much as it’s a home for your tenants, it’s also a reflection of your design tastes and styles, especially if you plan on using it to host guests in the future.

Consider these design tips when creating plans for your basement renovations:

High Ceilings

Low ceilings in basements will turn off potential renters. Basement apartments should have ceilings no less than seven feet for more than 75% of the space. And the higher the ceilings, the better.

Adding height to ceilings is a matter of digging down into the ground to lower the basement floor. Also, consider using recessed lighting to maintain the ceiling height.

Open-Concept Layout

Open-concept layouts are ideal for basement apartments, whether you have separate bedrooms or a studio apartment. Keep bedrooms as far away from the entrance as possible. Keep the kitchen and living space near the entrance to maintain an open-concept layout.

A basement bedroom in an income suite.
Basement bedrooms can be very cozy.

Bedrooms

The total square footage of the basement will determine how many bedrooms you can create. While building walls and separate bedrooms takes more time and money than creating a studio apartment, you will be able to earn a higher rental income with each additional bedroom.

Flooring

Consider adding heated flooring in the bathroom, laundry room, and entryway. Heated flooring throughout is even better, especially if you have hardwood flooring and tiles.

Paint

Keep the paint colours warm and neutral to please all prospective tenants and avoid the need to repaint.

Laundry Room/Kitchen

If you already have a laundry room in the basement, consider converting the laundry room into the kitchen since the plumbing already exists there. And to save space, get a stackable washer/dryer and a combo heater/boiler.

Other Tips

  • Use kitchen cabinets that open upwards to save space, or use open-concept shelving.
  • Install a vanity mirror to add lighting to the bathroom.
  • Add storage to the bedroom.

Once you’ve decided on the general layout of your basement apartment, it’s time to create a floor plan with the help of trusted contractors like the team here at Sunter Homes.

Adding Lasting Value with a Basement Suite/Apartment

To ensure your tenants are happy and your basement apartment is in top condition, make sure your renovations are 100% safe and legal. Check with your municipality first to see what the requirements are for building a rental unit in your basement.

Hire an engineer, architect, or a qualified person with a Building Code Inspection Number (BCIN) to create the plans for the project and ensure the plans are to code. You will need these plans to apply for the required building permits before you start your basement renovations.

To add lasting value to your basement apartment:

  • Use updated quality finishes, such as light fixtures, cabinet hardware, and faucets. These should be modern, clean, and properly installed.
  • Use easy-to-clean, low-maintenance materials and surfaces that will wear well and still look good after years of renting.
  • Install window treatments so you don’t have to worry about how your tenants will install them—e.g., putting holes in the window frames.

Other ways to add value to your basement suit include:

Installing a Fireplace

While a fireplace is not a must-have for a basement suite, it sure helps to add luxury appeal. So consider installing a gas fireplace to impress renters and make the unit feel cozier.

Universal Design Ideas

Consider making your basement apartment accessible for tenants who are elderly, in wheelchairs, or who have other physical disabilities. Universal designs include:

  • Building a ramp to your basement entrance;
  • Wider doorways;
  • Even flooring—i.e., no steps or separate levels;
  • Lower countertops and light switches;
  • Zero threshold showers; and
  • Grab bars by the toilet, tub, and in the shower.

Installing A Basement Entrance

All basement apartments must have a means of egress—a safe, unobstructed exit in the event of a fire or other emergency. Most tenants would also prefer to have a separate entrance to their apartment than have to use the house’s main entrance.

The entrance should be the first item on your to-do list when it’s time to start the renovation. A separate entrance to your basement will save you and your contractors time and energy since you won’t have to go through your house each time you want to enter the basement.

It also saves you from having to clean up a mess each day in your home and in your newly renovated basement.

A shower with a bench for better accessibility.
Never ignore accessible design.

To install an exterior asement entrance, your contractors will need to:

  • Excavate earth next to your home at the entrance’s chosen location. This will need to be removed from the job site, too.
  • Use a concrete saw to cut the concrete foundation from the inside and outside along the doorway lines. You will need dust protection in your basement before doing this step.
  • Use a jackhammer to remove the cut concrete slab.
  • Pour concrete footers and install a drain.
  • Install concrete block walls.
  • Pour concrete steps and tie in the drain.
  • Parge block walls and install a door.
  • Install guardrails 36 inches above ground level to prevent children, animals, and people from falling into the basement entrance way. You may also want to consider installing a gate at the front of the entrance and landscaping around the entranceway.
  • Once you finish the basement, you may need to adjust the entry door using a jam extension.

Of course, you might also simply install a staircase in your home and another entry way by that staircase. Talking to renovation experts can help you determine the best plan of attack and find a solution that works for you.

While a lot of work goes into planning and executing basement renovations, the end result pays off when you start earning a steady monthly rental income. So transform your barely-used basement into a useful, comfortable living space that will make you money for years to come.


A man wearing a hard hat and holding plans walks towards a custom home.

Building the Custom Home of Your Dreams: Inspiration and Design

Planning and Designing Your Dream Home, From Budget to Floor Plans and Beyond

Where do you start when designing your dream home?

There are likely a hundred things running through your head when you start down the path to a custom home. It can seem overwhelming, but taking it step-by-step and building up inspiration can help.

Ultimately, your best bet is going to be getting involved with an architect or designer early on. Here's what you need to know about the entire process.

The Benefits of a Custom Home

Believe it or not, a custom home can actually be less expensive than purchasing an existing home.

When you purchase an existing home, you often need to renovate it to get it just the way you want it.

Whether you're putting in floors or just painting each room, that's both time and money being spent on getting the home "just right."

When you build a custom home, not only do you get exactly what you want, but you get what you want the first time.

Further, custom homes are also new homes. That means a new HVAC system, a new roof, and new appliances.

You won't need to worry about anything breaking down, the way you might need to worry about an older home.

Not only does that save you money, but it also saves you frustration.

Of course, it all starts with your vision for your home.

Designing Your Custom Home

Designing your dream home requires a lot of work, but it’s a rewarding process.

You likely already have a general idea of what you want in a property, but to create a custom home, you’ll need to develop a complete home design.

You can begin by collecting inspiration from magazines, the internet, and television shows.

Here are a few things to consider when you start the design process:

Space for Your Family to Live and Grow In

The size of your property and its layout is going to be the first thing you need to decide on. Custom made homes can be built in any layout to match your lifestyle.

Many luxury homes today have an open floor plan, but there are decisions to be made such as whether to place a master bedroom on the first floor or the second floor, how many bedrooms and bathrooms to have, and whether to have multiple living spaces or “bonus rooms.”

Consider what you and your family need now and what you’ll need in the future. How much space will you need to live and grow in?

A beautiful custom dining room with a stunning view.
Create the space of your dreams – get inspired!

Unforgettable Kitchens

The kitchen is undoubtedly what makes a dream home a dream home for many people. The heart of the home, the kitchen is usually where people tend to congregate.

Still, everyone has a (strong!) opinion about what they want in their kitchen, from the colour of the granite to the style of the cabinets.

An older kitchen looks extremely dated, while newer kitchens may still not have the layout or amenities that you want.

 

Adding a Touch of Luxury

Custom home builders give you the opportunity to add a real touch of luxury with unique upgrades.

Maybe you want a specialized loft space, a built-in library, or a complete spa-experience bathroom.

All of these features can be added to your property during the design phase, depending on what's most important to you.

Building a custom home is often about prioritizing: you get exactly what you want, and can highlight them with amazing materials and craftsmanship.

A pencil and ruler sit on top of a set of blueprints.
Architects take your ideas and translate them into tangible plans.

Should You Work with an Architect and/or Designer?

Let’s cut to the chase here: yes, you should absolutely work with an architect and designer for your custom home.

Your focus needs to be on the vision and feel of your home. When it comes to translating that to actual plans for construction, architects and designers are there to make it happen.

They’ll work with your custom home builders to bring that vision to life.

It’s up to these professionals to handle measurement details, zoning considerations, and the permit process.

Architects can create amazing spaces for you, nestling closets in the perfect spot, or finding great solutions for windows and layouts.

Designers, meanwhile, work to help create each space within your home, making recommendations on materials and styles.

You’ll work closely with them and your contractors to find the best options for your home.

Budgeting Guidelines

Setting a budget from the beginning is important. Start with your total budget, the total amount you’re willing to spend on your home, all-in.

Next, try breaking things down room-by-room.

Once you have a complete budget, you can prioritize how much you want to spend on bathrooms, kitchens, flooring, appliances, and the other critical aspects of the project.

This is another area in which professionals work closely with you because they can tell you how much every upgrade is going to cost.

You might want something fairly minor that's very expensive, or you might not realize that something that seems like a large and dramatic change actually won't cost much more at all.

Establishing a Timeline

Once you've figured out exactly what you want your property to look like and how much you want to spend, your custom home builder is going to establish a timeline for the build.

From the groundbreaking to the final walkthrough, you'll know exactly how long it'll take to create your dream home. If you're selling a property in order to buy your dream home, you may need to plan accordingly.

By working closely with an architect or designer, you can pull together different aspects of your inspiration and design into a workable budget and timeline. Knowing what you want is one thing, but it's a professional who will tell you how to achieve it.

To get started on your home design, contact Sunter Homes today.