Archive for April, 2007

Drywall is done!

April 29, 2007

Our drywall is finished, and we are ready for painting. It’s amazing what a difference it makes, to have the walls all up and finished. It really looks like a house, and I think it’s a lovely house. I’m very excited that we’re going to get to live in this beautiful creation.

Here is a photo of our great room wall, all drywalled up:

And here is a better photo of our finished door with matching transom window:

In our upstairs shower, the tub surround upstairs, and the downstairs bath, the builders used Durock:

This picture is of our downstairs bath, with octagonal window visible.

When we came to visit our house on Saturday, the drywall was all up, but had not had the spray sealant put on it. However, when we came back on Sunday morning, it had been sprayed, so the texture was visible. This was the sign that the drywallers were completely done and we are now ready for paint!

The reason we came by on Sunday as well as Saturday was to drop our paint choices into the Doc box. I thought we did this rather cleverly, though I’m sure millions of other people have done the same thing! We had an earlier draft of the floorplans, not showing the ICF walls, but that would be suitable to use for this purpose. We color coded every wall, showing which colors we wanted, so that there would be no possibility of error. Can you tell I’m a teacher? I anticipate confusion arising, and try my best to prevent it. We stapled the sheet with our various color choices, including manufacturer, color name, and color number, to the front of our color-coded floorplans.

We wanted our trayed ceiling in the master bedroom to have a ring of the iceberg blue wall paint around the tray area, so that is what’s color coded at the top of this page. And, of course, as part of the green building process, we are using low/no VOC paints.

Our builder, Woody Dortch of Classic Structures, Inc., has been hard at work continuing to install the James Hardie Board siding onto our house:

The first floor is almost done, and, on one side of the house, he’s finished the siding entirely. Huzzah!

Woody said something which really struck me this week, and I thought I’d mention it, since it’s indicative of the type of builder he is. I was telling him that we’d heard horror stories from other people who had new construction homes, about what a difficult and traumatic process it was. Woody said, “When you’re building a house, you have to expect that problems will come up. It’s how you handle it that makes it a good or bad building experience.” I thought that was remarkable, since it was exactly TRUE.

For example, Woody spoke with the propane guy, who said that the ugly propane vent on the front of the house could be moved, but that he (propane guy) was not going to move it (jerk). So Woody told us that he would move the vent himself, and was going to pay to replace the entire sheet of metal for the roof, so that we don’t have an ugly patch job. His pride in the finished product, as well as his dedication to us as his customers are truly remarkable. As a teacher, I generally have a low opinion of people’s integrity, but Woody’s honesty & integrity are striking!

Finally, we resolved the issue of our overly expensive floors. Woody found another vendor for us, who is going to give us just what we want: brown tiles for the kitchen & master bath, black & white subway tiles for the downstairs bath, frieze carpet for the master bedroom, and bamboo flooring for everywhere else, for very close to our budget. Here is a photo of the exact bamboo flooring we’re using: Columbia Flooring’s Ivory Bamboo.

Next steps: the interior will be painted; Woody will continue installing the Hardie Board siding; our garage door will go up; the flooring will go in; our cabinets will be installed.



April 22, 2007

We’ve begun purchasing appliances, which we enjoy doing, because it seems to be the only area in which we’re coming under budget. We (well, to be honest, I) get extremely excited when we get a bargain.

Our first purchase was a refrigerator, an LG model LFD25860TT. It is 25 cu. feet large, is titanium colored (I didn’t want that smudgy stainless surface), and has French doors. It also has a water dispenser on the front, not water and ice. Why, you ask? Or maybe you don’t care, but I will tell you anyway. This is because we drink LOTS of water. We usually go through several bottles every day. On the other hand, we are not big on ice. Our current ice maker tends to collect bugs, which is probably the reason for our distaste of ice. The ice dispenser on the door seemed to be an energy consumer that we could do without. Because the freezer is on the bottom, on this particular model, that is another big energy saver. This refrigerator uses only 499 kWh/year.

We saved money on this model by buying it from Appliance Direct. This model was no longer carried by Home Depot or Lowes, because they’d replaced it with the ice-dispenser-in-door model. However, we found it for a lower price than we’d paid at Best Buy, and Appliance Direct did price matching, so lowered our price to beat the Best Buy price. Good deal #1.

Our next purchase was an LG dishwasher, model LDF6810BB. This was another energy efficient model, because it allows for Upper Rack only washing. Since there are only 2 of us, we sometimes run the dishwasher without having a full load. We are hoping that this will help us save energy on those times when we have to run a partially-full load of dishes.

It’s a fully integrated dishwasher, and we got a bargain on this one by going with the color black. For some odd reason, the black model cost a full $300 less than either the stainless or white model. Home Depot was offering free delivery and a gift certificate with appliance purchases, so we also took advantage of these opportunities and their unusually low prices for this color model and purchased from them.

Our third and, thus far, final purchase was that of the range. It’s a Jenn Air range, dual fuel, model JDR8895AAB. It has the gas cooktop that my husband wanted, while having electric double ovens. The lower oven is a convection oven, while the upper, smaller oven pre-heats in half the time for still more energy efficiency.

By purchasing this range in black, we saved $200, and the black model still has stainless steel door handles and silver knobs, to coordinate with our refrigerator. My husband looked on the Jenn Air website and was able to find a $75 rebate that wasn’t mentioned at any of the appliance stores we’d been to. So sometimes it pays to see if the manufacturer offers rebates or incentives. We bought this range from Home Depot, to take advantage of their free shipping and gift card.

Home Depot also had a 20% off sale on their fans, so we decided to buy them now. We had done some research online about energy efficient fans, and we’d found this page, giving us information about the Windward III model. We chose this model for our great room, and we found another model, almost as energy efficient, called the Covington for our master bedroom. The 2 downstairs bedrooms got the Quick Connect fans, which were also Energy Star rated, and we purchased 2 fans for our back porch: the Gazebo Plus Indoor/Outdoor fans. This model was the most energy efficient indoor/outdoor fan that we could find, so that is why we went with it.

I will post more as we purchase more appliances. We have our eyes on a built-in wine cooler, and we are planning on purchasing our washer and dryer from the scratch and dent section of Appliance Direct, since these are appliances whose appearance isn’t nearly as important to us as their affordability and energy efficiency.

Will it be a house when the siding goes up?

April 21, 2007

And the dispute rages on. I maintain that it’s more than a lot, but my husband maintains that it’s less than a house! Things are really moving this week, though.

The first news is that our builder, Woody Dortch of Classic Structures, Inc., has begun putting up our siding. Which is why I say that, once it no longer looks like a gigantic foam ice chest, we should call it a HOUSE! Here is a shot of the front of the house, with the bay window partially covered with Hardie Board siding:

One interesting fact about the Hardie Board is that the white trim pieces are apparently extremely fragile. Woody told my husband that he just lifts the trim pieces onto his shoulders, and they snap. They’re quite expensive, about $15 each, so he’s lost some money because of the fragility of this material. Woody said that, if he had it to do over, he’d probably have used PVC trim. He demonstrated for my husband by hitting a piece across his thigh. It broke in two pieces: a $15 demonstration. Yikes!

And here is the side of the house, with siding up to the top of the first floor. Notice the ladder-type thingie (to use a highly technical term) that Woody and his worker stand on to put up the siding:

This is the part I think looks the coolest, because it really shows me what the house will look like. The first floor of the back side of the house has the siding put up. Notice the white chair, one of two chairs that we bought for the workers to sit in while eating lunch or taking a break. After a few minutes of sitting on concrete myself, I felt pity for the poor souls having to do that every time they wanted to rest!

We’ve also had big things going on inside the house. The Icynene insulation was sprayed in on Monday, and we passed our inspection Thursday, so the drywall hanging has begun. Huzzah!

Here is the Icynene inside the 2nd floor trusses over our library:

I think it looks really cool, like a big foam cloud, to use yet another highly technical description. This is how you know the blog is really written by an ignorant consumer, rather than being an ad for a construction company! Here is another shot of the Icynene, this time trimmed off. It’s the insulated wall dividing our dining area & kitchen from the garage:

Since the entire shell of the house, garage included, is ICF construction, we needed a very well-insulated wall dividing our living area from the garage area. Icynene, from everything we’ve read, makes for an extremely well-sealed, energy efficient home, so it fit our bill.

Because we passed our insulation inspection, the drywall hanging began Friday. The workers were still working over the weekend, when we went out to the house, so we felt bad poking around and taking many pictures. Here is a shot of the drywall in the Great Room area:

And here is another shot of the area, this time showing the foyer. Notice the new transom window has been installed, so it now matches the door:

We got our flooring estimate back, and found out that Brazilian maple is wildly out of our price range! So we went back to square one, did some more reading of reviews of bamboo, and found nothing to say that bamboo would be a problem in a humid climate like Florida. Because our HVAC system has been appropriately sized for our ICF home (roughly half the size of an HVAC for a normal home of this square footage), humidity within the house itself should not be an issue. The other thing was that the flooring contractors we were using only carried carbonized bamboo, not non-carbonized bamboo. The carbonization process makes the bamboo weaker, so that could have been why they didn’t recommend it. We found a supplier for them who carried non-carbonized bamboo, horizontal grain, so we are hoping that will re-align our floor budget.

We are now waiting for the drywall to finish being hung (approximately 8-9 days, according to Woody), and then it will be ready to paint. Woody and his worker will continue installing the Hardie Board siding, and when he is finished, the septic tank will go in. Huzzah!

Well, well, well…

April 14, 2007

We have a well! And here it is:

This is the only real development from this week. We got the propane permits (finally) and passed all of our framing inspections. On Monday, the Icynene guys are coming to spray in the Icynene. On Thursday, the drywall hangers are coming to start hanging drywall. And, also on Monday, our builder Woody Dortch of Classic Structures, Inc., will begin hanging the Hardie Board siding. It has been delivered and is sitting in our front yard:

I went to Celebration this week, to meet up with my husband for lunch. We had a nice picnic, and then I fed some bread to this lovely family of Muscovy ducks. They are a couple, with 11 children, and we’ve been watching them grow up. The 11 babies are quite large now, and they are very tame & friendly. They piled around me, begging for bread:

The father duck was very funny; if he felt I hadn’t given him enough food, he began vibrating. He’d raise up the feathers on his head, open his mouth, and start hissing. My husband caught him in the act, with his tongue sticking out:

And now for the bad news. I’ve been outwitted by a squirrel. We saw this man feeding the squirrels peanuts on one of the walkways through the woods at Celebration, and I thought, “Hey! I have some shelled walnuts at home. I’ll bring those and feed the squirrels, too.” Bad idea. I used to have a pet squirrel as a child, but these squirrels are nothing like our Trouble. They are a lot smarter than Trouble. They are a lot smarter than I.

Here is the squirrel, happy, jolly, eating his food:

Here is what I was trying to do with the food: set it out on the posts like this.

But the squirrel was too smart for me, and much too fast. Every time I’d move to another post, he’d beat me there. I could have sworn the squirrel had 12 little paws and a Turbo engine, because he seemed to be everywhere I was, grabby grabby:

That is the squirrel reaching out to grab my hand and wrest the walnut from my grip. But what you don’t see is Mr. Squirrel sinking his incisors into my thumb, poking a hole in my nail and in the top of the thumb.

The good news is that I don’t have to get a rabies shot, because, according to the CDC and the FL Dept of Health, there are no known cases of a squirrel transmitting rabies to a human. Since the bite was a “provoked bite,” (yeah, I freely admit it was provoked- I was eager to feed him, and the cute little squirrel with the big teeth was too much for me), which is apparently quite common in Florida and other states, no rabies treatments are recommended. If I hadn’t had a recent tetanus shot (within the past 5 years), I would have had to go get one of those. Luckily, I had mine in 2005, so I should recover just fine from my provoked squirrel attack.

Flooring Choices

April 11, 2007

We had our hearts set on bamboo, throughout this entire process. But far be it from us to go against the recommendations of local suppliers. Presumably, they know more about a product’s fit for our climate than we do, so we bowed to our supplier’s knowledge and let our dream of bamboo floors go. Sigh.

Our supplier is a company called Absolute Flooring, run by 2 men named John and Brad. When we need to choose floors, John and Brad drive up with their trailer full of samples. They give us samples within our price range (ostensibly!) and then we borrow them, think about them, photograph them, and make our final decisions.

Right now, we have a few choices, depending on how the pricing shakes down, but here are our first choices.

This is a photo of our first 2 flooring choices. The tile, which is Bella Porcelain by MasterCraft, Himalaya, color Brown, would be for our kitchen, master bath floors, tub surround, and shower walls. The hardwood floor, which is Johnson AMZ-E12509 Brazilian Maple (Ivorywood), with a natural finish and 5″ wood, would be for our great room, dining room, foyer, downstairs hallway, and 2 downstairs bedrooms.

We like this hardwood flooring for 3 reasons. 1. It looks beautiful, and it has an aluminum oxide coating for durability. 2. It is engineered wood, so it is more durable in our humid Floridian climate and it uses less Brazilian maple. 3. Johnson, the manufacturer, farms their trees in an environmentally sustainable way, getting 1/3 of their wood from fallen trees and another 1/3 from old or unhealthy trees that prevent the younger trees from growing.

This next photo is of the carpet we’ve chosen for our upstairs landing and master bedroom. It is by ShawMark, from the Home Again series, and the color is Going Abroad. I made a red circle around the color we wanted, which may or may not show up in this photo!

If you can’t see the circle, it’s the brown swatch just to the right of the green swatch.

Finally, for our downstairs bath, we have a distinct vision. That vision involves black and white tiles, pictured below on the bottom left:

We also met with an interior designer, Tim Rounsaville of Avec Designs. He was very helpful to us in choosing our colors for the house. I lugged the flooring samples out, and he mixed, matched, and came up with something that we think we will be happy with. Without further ado, here are our choices:

Sherwin Williams, SW6435, Gratifying Green, Guest Bedroom

Sherwin Williams, SW6798, Iceberg, Master Bedroom

Sherwin Williams, SW6498, Byte Blue, Great Room, Dining Room, and Kitchen

Sherwin Williams, SW6147, Panda White, Foyer & Hallways

Sherwin Williams, SW6800, Something Blue, Downstairs Bath

We now sit back and twiddle our thumbs, while we wait for pricing estimates for our flooring choices. We will then probably be back at square one, trying to find something affordable that we can love!