Progress on the Home Front

We had another realtor set off our alarm in Phoenix on Monday morning. The panel is ten feet from the front door and it’s on a 60 second delay, so I’m not sure why they are having such a problem with it. I’ve confirmed that our realtor will be there for the inspection and appraisal, so we don’t have this problem again. The listing has officially been updated to “under contract,” so we probably won’t have any more people coming through. The Monday showing was scheduled before we signed the sales contract.

We’re flying back down to Phoenix in a week and I’m busy making a list of all the things we need to get done while we’re there. I’m trying really hard not to have a panic attack about it. Meanwhile, on the home front, our fur baby is back to his usual crazy antics. He seems to have recovered completely from his cold in near record time. Plus side – less long naps on my lap, minus side – back to being bitey.

The tiling of our new home is almost complete. Basement and main floor are done and covered with paper. We actually got a small bonus area of tile, as they mistakenly did the working garage mudroom. It’s only about 100 square feet, but they are going to eat the labor cost and we just have to cover the tile, which is cheaper than what we would have paid for epoxy. Grouting of part of the second floor was being done yesterday. The only areas not tiled are the (heated) bathroom floors and the laundry room.

Most of the interior doors have been installed. More drywall was delivered yesterday, although they have yet to start actually installing any. Hopefully that will start next week. We are buttoning down a few final selections. We picked the granite for our dry bar yesterday and we’re visiting a few tile stores this afternoon to finalize the guest kitchen backsplash and bathroom tile. Three months to the finish line.

Picking up the Pace

Work on our new house is finally starting to pick up some serious momentum. The trim guys breezed through and did most of the windows and all of the exterior doors in a few days. The tile guys started last week and have been hard at it. We received 14,000 pounds of tile, about half of the total needed. Yes, we are doing the entire main house in tile. The tile guys are all Russian and I’m starting to think they get paid in vodka and cigarettes. On the plus side, they were working on Saturday. These guys do not mess around.

After a prolonged absence, the metal guy doing our soffit and fascia work made a return appearance this week. He’s a real character, but he does beautiful work. After getting 80-90% of it done in mid January, he disappeared for several weeks, leaving his scaffolding in place and blocking off our dining room exterior door. It was good to see him finally come back and finish up. The scaffolding is now gone.

Also onsite this week were the spray foam guys, insulating the workshop. My husband got a front row seat to all of the bustle on Monday, as he waited hours for a technician to run a DSL internet connection to the house, which we need for the security system as well as to get our solar system online. It was a total shitshow of course, with the first guy being delayed and then another guy arriving instead, much later than promised. But they got it done just before dark.

We are now generating power from our solar panels! 156 kWh so far, when we checked it yesterday. That earns us a whopping $12.48 from the power company, in addition to providing the power currently being used for construction. At least the house is starting to make some money instead of just being a giant black hole. Less than four months to the finish line.

We’re Just Floored

This week’s house trauma is flooring. Like most of the interior finishes, we picked the flooring before we even started building the house. Our original desire was to use porcelain tile everywhere in the main house. That turned out to be way too expensive. The tile is relatively cheap, but the cost of installing it more than quadruples the price. And we have a lot of flooring.

In a cost saving measure, we selected some luxury vinyl tile (LVT) to use on the second floor and in the basement. Our understanding was that it would be less than a third of the cost of the tile. That turned out to be wrong, which sent our builder on a hunt for an alternative. What they found was engineered bamboo, which looks good, is harder than hardwood and is environmentally friendly.

So, problem solved, right? Not exactly. Our tile guy (who also quoted the LVT) really, really hates bamboo and doesn’t want us to use it. He’s currently scrambling to put together a quote for doing the whole house in tile at a price that’s competitive to the tile + LVT number. Still a bit more than we were expecting to pay, but giving us the material we really want throughout the entire house.

We’re supposed to get the number on Monday. We’re also supposed to get the revised estimate for our new landscape plan. Meanwhile, the utility company finally showed up yesterday to run the power line from the street to the house and workshop. Of course it’s a different crew that actually moves the transformer and connects the power, but that’s supposed to happen next week. Gonna be a big week.

Really Great News, Finally

On the darkest day of the year we received some really great news regarding our new home. After an eight week wait and a lot of back and forth, we were finally issued a new permit for our revised stormwater management plan. This new plan eliminates the giant underground storage system and gives us credit for having a green roof, something the watershed district has never done in the past.

Beyond the (hopefully) cost saving of not having to bury a bunch of giant storage pipes, we will have significantly less maintenance involved with the new system, which will trap/filter stormwater in a more natural fashion by leveraging permeable materials under our artificial lawn and the gravel overflow parkingĀ  parking area. It also eliminates the need for a rain garden, which ate up a lot of space.

Now that the plan’s been approved, we can start developing a more detailed landscaping plan. The engineering firm will do the functional/structural components and then turn it over to our landscape designer to detail the material finishes and plantings. We’ve got all winter to work on it and get estimates. Fingers crossed we get a warm, dry, early spring for installation.

Just Keep Breathing

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year. On Wednesday I had a small meltdown. I’m not positive those two things are related, but I’m guessing my mental state had an aspect of cabin fever to it. It wasn’t one big thing, just a bunch of small stuff that overwhelmed me.

Mostly, it’s the house, of course. We haven’t been able to go inside it since they started the spray foam insulation on Monday, but we’ve been assured that the process is going well and they are ahead of schedule. That would be a first. It would be nice if they finished before Christmas, so the drywall can start in January. Bitter cold weather is predicted for next week and we really need the insulation to keep the house tolerable.

The stucco is done and it looks great, which is a huge relief. We really didn’t want to use stucco, but the metal panels that were our preferred choice proved to be outrageously expensive, so it was a compromise. We still have a few sections of circus tent remaining, which will eventually be covered with Hardie lap siding. Apparently, there is a lot of hail storm damage in western Minnesota that is driving up the labor rates for roofing and siding.

Consequently, our builder is having trouble getting someone to do the rest of our siding for a reasonable price. We may be keeping the circus tent look for a while. Meanwhile, we are anxiously awaiting for the utility work that needs to be done before power can be run to our house. The shortest day of the year is now over, so things have to start looking up, right? The photos of Nola playing on the splash pad at Legoland are here to help me keep things in perspective.


Careful What You Ask For

One week ago I wrote about how we were waiting for our builder to provide us with an updated estimate for the cost of our new home. Last Thursday he finally came through and now I’m almost wishing he hadn’t. That dream I had about the specific over budget number turned out to be frighteningly accurate.

I felt physically sick most of the day Thursday, trying to get my head around it. I almost canceled my planned dinner with my friend Jane, as I thought I would be in too lousy of a mood to really enjoy it. Of course it turned out to be the best thing I could have done, laughing and catching up with a dear friend.

The food was outstanding and we had a fantastic server. It made me forget that we now have absolutely no budget left to do any landscaping. The house itself is 15% over what we allocated when we started building and about 25% over what we originally wanted to spend. I honestly don’t know what we’re going to do at this point.

My current strategy is to not really think about it and pray for a big lottery win. Today I’m featuring some of the outstanding scenery we enjoyed during our trip on the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff. Because when you feel like shit is falling down around your ears, you need to hold on to the really good things.

Framed and Electrified

We had our framing inspection last week. It did not go well. The inspector found fourteen issues, all except one were due to the framers not following the plan correctly. The one exception was an engineering issue. I would have loved to listen in on the conversation between our construction manager and the owner of the framing company. I wonder if they’ll ever be doing business together again. The framers were back on Monday, making the required changes.

The stucco guys were hard at work, as well. We’ve got good weather this week, so they are trying to get as much done as possible before they have to get back under the plastic tarp. Unfortunately it was windy yesterday, so that limited what they could accomplish. Meanwhile our project manager met with a commercial metal fabricator to discuss our staircase. He also talked to a rep from the motorized shade company. We are meeting with him this morning to discuss the results from both of those meetings.

The electrical inspection also happened yesterday and, unlike the framing, we passed that on the first try. The electrician still has a few things to finish up, not the least of which is my husband’s workshop. The finish line is definitely in sight for completing that rough-in, however. Spray foam is scheduled to happen tomorrow. I think this is the third time it’s been scheduled, so I’m not holding my breath.

Our builder promised to have all of our financials updated in the new construction software by the end of the day yesterday. He just sent me a text that a few of the actuals need to be updated before he releases the results. I am waiting anxiously. Last night I had a disturbing dream that we got the total number and it was significantly over our current estimate. I hope that’s not prophetic.

Progess, Not Perfection

We met with our electrician on Saturday morning. Yes, you heard right, Saturday. He’s got the inspection scheduled for tomorrow, so he worked over the weekend to finish up our rough-in. Even though it seems like we’ve talked through everything multiple times now, somehow he still had outstanding questions, hence the meeting.

Everyone is super paranoid about the (supposedly) upcoming spray foam. Once things are foamed, it’s really hard to make changes/additions. One of the electrician’s question was regarding the height of some exterior sconces that we weren’t really comfortable answering, so after the meeting we went to the lighting store for advice.

It turned out to be a good thing, because our lighting designer mentioned that he had the housing for one special recessed fixture in our house. We purchased it and brought it back to the house. We had discussed this fixture with our electrician during our first walkthru back in July, but somehow he just thought we changed our minds about it.

We were pleasantly surprised to see the stucco guys had been back at work on Friday and completed the scratch coat for another large section of the house. It’s starting to look more like a real house every day. Apropos of nothing, today’s photos are prairie dogs from the Minnesota Zoo. Because they’re cute and I’m in a good mood.

More Reflections

I’m starting to think our solar panel install is being done by the three stooges. There’s two young guys and one older guy. The young guys are just muscle and the old guy will talk your ear off if you give him a chance. He did that to the ME from our builder as well as myself.

The panels were delivered on Monday and they spent a good chunk of the day just carrying everything up to the crow’s nest. The panels and racks are fairly light, but it’s a ballasted system, so everything is weighed down by concrete blocks. A lot of concrete blocks.

When we stopped by the house on Wednesday afternoon, they didn’t appear to have made significant progress from the prior day. Some of the concrete blocks were sitting on the second floor, otherwise all of the materials were crowded into the crow’s nest. It didn’t leave them much room to work. Of course it only looked like one of them was actually doing anything resembling work.

They get paid for the job, not by the hour, so in theory it doesn’t matter how long they take to get it done. But it still drives me crazy. Hopefully we’ll see more substantial progress this afternoon. Today’s reflections are courtesy of Lake Agnes. This was our reward for making the grueling hike up from Lake Louise up to the Tea House.

Stop Making Waves

Yesterday’s moody photos were from our Alaska cruise. With all of my bitching about our builder, I forgot to mention that. Today’s images are also from the cruise. We went for a short walk yesterday morning, prior to our meeting. While we were walking back home, my cell phone rang. It was our builder calling to tell me they wouldn’t have all the numbers they promised us ready in time for our meeting in the afternoon.

Color me not even slightly surprised. I honestly spent the morning just expecting to just get a text telling me the meeting was canceled.

As it turns out, we had the meeting, we just didn’t really talk about the numbers. Or any numbers, except for the stucco estimates.

They gave us a quick preview of the new software, using a different client’s project. Instead, we used most of the meeting to talk about a bunch of other stuff. Then we drove to the site to have a low voltage walkthru. At least there were a bunch of people working. The stucco brown coat was in progress under a giant plastic tarp and the installation of the solar panels had started. Things continue to move, although we still don’t have an endpoint. Or a final number.