The average size of homes in the United States has been steadily decreasing – down 13% since 2015 – in response to the high demand for affordable housing.* This has helped many buyers enter the market and purchase homes in their desired price range, despite mortgage interest rates being higher than we’ve seen in decades.

As builders of new homes, the pressure to cut costs has many looking at millwork – including doors, windows and moulding – as a potential area to save. However, it is millwork details that can help motivate and excite buyers to purchase smaller-footprint homes. As Paul Evans, our VP of Millwork and Innovation, likes to say, “The millwork makes the house.” Buyers don’t fall in love with two-by-fours and drywall.

So, what millwork should you prioritize, and how can you maximize your return-on-investment?
“Just a little bit of excitement on the base and a little bit of excitement on the casing ” goes a long way, said Evans, in his recent interview with The Build Show's Matt Risinger. It finishes and ties the room together, adding a touch that no home feels complete without.


Crown moulding also adds elegance and sophistication, and is available in contemporary styles to match today’s tastes.

“LS50 is as contemporary as they come,” says Evans, “and it’s been around for years and years. It’s simple, and you can do one or two rooms in that and maybe even paint it a different color, which costs nothing to do. What a difference that makes.”

He also recommends that you always ask your sales rep what moulding you can get in your desired price range that looks similar to the desired style or that otherwise fits the personality of your design. Oftentimes, you’ll uncover great “look-alike” options that are still excellent quality, but may cost less because they were bought in bulk by your provider.


Door and window casings are also essential to define the character of a room and complete the polished feel of the home. You may also choose to add appliques in dining areas or master bedrooms to add a special flourish and pop, especially when square footage can’t accomplish the “wow” for you. Remember that small spaces require fewer appliques to achieve a grand effect that impresses many potential home buyers.

Built-ins are also an excellent option to consider. “It’s amazing the number of people who have dropped the built-ins over the years because their houses got so big, they couldn’t afford it,” says Evans. “Well, now houses are smaller, put in those built-ins. Have your cabinet company come up with a built-in, or have your jobsite cabinet guy build it for you. Huge, huge difference.”

Built-in cabinets are a perfect way to make smaller spaces feel more substantial and functional. From elegant kitchen and bathroom cabinetry to well-organized bedroom closets, custom-built shelving combined with sophisticated millwork finishes lend a feeling of quality and value that buyers appreciate, both at first glance and throughout their time in the home.


Custom doors are also a fantastic opportunity to broadcast elegance and improve curb appeal – or to say “welcome home” with inviting touches. Decorative glass, paneling, even the superior feel and quiet of good hardware as you first open the front door to a home – all make an impactful first impression. Interior doors can also add essential livability to small spaces by reducing sound that might otherwise travel between living areas and bedrooms.


Builders can also utilize millwork outdoors to maximize their potential. The bids you receive for things like painting and plumbing are often based on square footage, so listing a smaller square footage can automatically lower those bids - leaving you more ability to upgrade outdoor spaces with grander windows and patio doors. Columns with stately or charming details add appealing character to the home, while keeping the interior footprint – and your budget – lean.

“Everything has more budget room if you build 20-25% smaller,” says Matt Risinger. “I’ve always been a big fan of ‘build smaller and build better.”

It’s details like millwork that reinforce the value and quality of the work that your reputation is built on. With just a few strategic touches, you’ll be able to create affordable homes that measure up to buyers’ expectations and your own professional standards of excellence.

As Evans says, “Don’t give up on the millwork.” Do ask if your millwork provider does turnkey – with a guaranteed price upfront. Companies like Builders FirstSource don’t accept payment until you’ve passed inspection, so they’ll always be motivated to work with you to ensure the work is done right.


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