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Help me with our two remaining home bldg decisions!

We are going to be breaking ground on our new home in the next few weeks. We need to have most of our big decisions made by Wednesday. There are two biggish decisions we are still struggling with.

1) geothermal vs. conventional heating and cooling

I have heard lots of raves on here and from others about the cost effectiveness of geothermal. However, it is so hard to guess how much it will actually save us monthly on our home. Our builder builds very, very energy efficient homes to begin with, so not sure if it will make as much of a difference? We do have a lot of windows, though, which might make heating costs higher overall. I think that with current gas prices, it would take us at least 10 yrs to pay off the difference between geo and conventional, and while we plan to be there that long at least, it is always hard to predict, and that is kind of a long time for our investment to break even. However, since prices on gas will likely rise, it may not take as long....

2) Stubbing for a bathroom in basement. DH really wants to, I do not. I honestly don't think we need one down there. Growing up we never had a bathroom in our finished basements and it was not a big deal at all. He thinks it would be nice to have an extra shower when the kids are teens and both getting ready at once, and I do understand that. However, to me, the cost of the bathroom would be better spent elsewhere.

Also, if you have built recently and have other tips or must haves, I would LOVE to hear them! Thanks! 

Re: Help me with our two remaining home bldg decisions!

  • We are in the midst of building a house, too! Well, we just bought one that was a month into being built so we get to make all the inside choices but missed making some of the big decisions relative to the house. 

    My brother-in-law & in-laws both have built houses in eastern iowa in the last 2 years. They both opted for geo-thermal. I don't know the specifics of why, but both are very happy with why. Our house is not going to be geo-thermal, and we are ok with that. So no help really there...

    As for the bathroom, I think I am with your husband. But if you want to save money now, I would opt for having the bathroom roughed in. It could even be in the unfinished side of your basement. That way down the line if you wanted to finish off a bathroom you could. A shower could likely be added later but probably not a bathtub/shower if you went with the standard giant fiberglass pre-formed tubs that have to go in before the house is done. We are opting to have a 3/4 bath finished in our basement. We will have an extra bedroom in the basement along with a large rec room/family room, so I think it will be nice to have.  

     A couple little things we just recently discussed with our builder as thoughtful extras.... we are adding an outlet on the roof that will be switched in the garage for xmas lights. We want to have both hot & cold water into the garage faucet so we can get warm water for car washes, filling the kiddie swimming pool, and other odd reasons for wanting warm water! 

    There could be other things but I have been on house overload for the last 8 days as we went from buying a pre-lived in house to new construction in a day!!

    Good luck in the decision making process! 

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  • Go geothermal. I assume you'll be in this home for a while. You get a discounted rate on your Mid American bill and with rebates at tax time it comes out to about the same cost. We needed a monster of a geothermal and it still didn't cost that much extra. Our energy bills are almost nothing. One thing to consider though is that they're a little bigger than a furnace so you might need extra square footage in your utility room. Do check around for prices. We found they varied a bit. We used Citywide because they fit what we needed at the best price. There are others that will do geo too though.

    I also agree with the bathroom downstairs. In the grand scheme of things I think you'll wish you had it even if you don't think so now and it's not one of those things that you can go back and do very easily. 

    Nobody said life would be easy. Just that it would be worth it.

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  • Mrs Reem... our additional cost for geo over conventional will be a little under $13,000 (of course then we would get back about $5200 at tax time, so in reality it would end up between 7 and 8000 more) Does that sound in the right ballpark? It is a friend of ours who does the heating and cooling for our builder, so I am pretty sure he is giving us a decent deal. Tell me more about the monthly discounts MidAmerica gives you... I have not heard of that!
  • We recently built a new home - the basement is unfinished, but has stud walls.  We had them go ahead and put in the toilet in the bathroom so that if we're outside playing, our son can quickly run in and use that bathroom (we have a walkout ranch).  Eventually, it will have a shower and sink, but for now it's just the toilet.  It has already come in handy quite a few times! 

     Whe we did all the planning with our builder, we added in a few things that we thought were the "nice to have" things.  It's easier to do and add it on your mortgage than to try and come up with the money later.  (1) we also have an outlet in our roof for our Christmas lights and we just turn them on with a switch hidden in the coat closet.  VERY handy!  (2) we had the house wired for security - we have not called ADT or anything to turn it on, but we do have the door beep feature on right now.  It's great because we always know when an exterior door is opened - that way we know if our son is going out a door that we can't see. (3) added sliding drawers in one of our pantry cupboards - love it! (4) outlets in the garage for the shop vac, radio, tv.  I think we also have a tv hookup in case we ever want to add into the satellite.  I'm sure there are other things that I'm forgetting.  Our whole process was pretty simple and we had a great builder to work with. 

    If there are things that you're considering, do it - you'll be very glad later that you added them on during the building process! 

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  • I'd put the bathroom in, or at least the minimum plumbing you need to add one later. I hate not having one in ours, especially with a potty training kid. My ILs had the builders plumb & frame the bathroom in their basement and then DIYed the fixtures & walls, so it didn't add a lot to their building cost.
  • I don't have any info on geothermal so I'm sorry I can't help there.

    I'd definitely rough in the bath. It can't be too expensive to just have the fixture hook ups there, is it?  I'm sure much cheaper than doing it later. I think it would really help resale even if you don't finish a bathroom. My parents have a very nice finished basement, over 2000 feet in the basement finish alone, but not a single bathroom. :(  It would be nice not to have to go upstairs when we are having a family game night, and especially nice not to have to trek upstairs in the middle of the night when we are staying there.  They finished it before having lots of extra bathrooms was popular.  These days it might just be a deal breaker for me if the finished basement didn't have a bathroom.

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  • They are quoting us $950 to stub in for bath w toilet, shower, sink, etc... That seems pricey!
  • I guess I am in the minority on the basement bathroom, but when we finished our basement we didn't put a bathroom in.  Its one large family room/play area and its not a big deal to run upstairs to use the restroom to us.  Our friends who have the same floor plan as us finished their basement to include a bedroom and bathroom and every time they come over they wish they would have skipped those and stuck with a family room as the bathroom only gets used about twice a year and otherwise is just another thing to clean.  
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  • I cannot offer anything as far as the HVAC, however definitely stub in the bathroom. We are home shopping right now and even in an unfinished basement, a stubbed bathroom is a big plus. Plus, if you were want to add it later, it is PIA to chip up the concrete and add it.
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  • Thanks for all of the great insight! Lots of good things to consider. One of my concerns with the stubbed in bath, is that the "pipe" sticking up would be in our family room area that we will be finishing until the bathroom is actually put in someday in the future. I don't really like that idea... I totally see the resale angle of stubbing in, though!
  • If you are planning on finishing the basement, I would definitely recommend stubbing in for the bathroom now even if you're not sure you will want it later. We did the rough in for our basement bath before we finished anything when we moved in to our current house, but then ended up having to cut into the concrete to move the shower drain a foot when we finalized the bathroom plans. It was loud, dusty, and costly, and frustrating to have to deal with later. Although $950 might sound like a lot, I agree that once it's rolled into your mortgage you won't notice but you'll definitely notice having to do it later. 
  • Go with Geothermal.  Like Ms. Reem said, you will be in the house a long time.  The savings will be significant even with an energy efficient home.  Even with the expiration of some of the federal tax credits for geothermal, it should still be a good investment if you guys will be in the home at least 5 years and is a good resale point for when you do choose to sell.

     Stud the bathroom.  $950 to stud sounds really cheap to me.  We're having 2 bathrooms built into our finished basement.  It will cost you thousands to add it later. 

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