Archive for the ‘green building’ Category

In Like Flynn!

October 13, 2007

We’ve moved in, though one of the disadvantages of living in the wilds of Florida is that we no longer have a high speed Internet connection.  No DSL.  No cable.  Nada.  So the photos accompanying this post will have to wait until I am at work and happen to have a free moment – ha!

Since I last posted, several things have happened, the two biggest of which are that we moved in and school started (I am a teacher).  The school at which I teach prepared for 1400 kids, though 1600 had enrolled; they clung in vain to the belief that 200 children would not show up on the first day.  What actually happened was that OVER 1600 showed up, and more continue to enroll, so class sizes are nowhere near Florida’s “suggested” classroom size of 22 children.  Boo.  Hiss.  The reason I mention this is that it accounts for the fact that I have not posted in about two months.  Poor blog.

Our moving day was not without its hitches, though we did remarkably well, considering.  My primary advice to moving families would be to inspect the tires of your U-Haul or Ryder truck BEFORE leaving the lot.  When we moved from New York to North Carolina, quite a few years ago, our move was enlivened by the U-Haul truck experiencing a blowout in BFE Pennsylvania.  On this move, we got up early, picked up the U-Haul, began loading our furniture into it, only to find that one tire was flat.   We then called the repair shop, and, between them giving the repairman the wrong city and the repairman experiencing a fear of storms (he refused to exit his vehicle until the storm had passed, a matter of several hours), we weren’t able to get going until around 2:00 pm.  The good news was that we made the move in two trips, and no further flat tires happened to disrupt our journey.

And now, a bit about life in the house, since being in a place and using appliances is always different in practice than in theory.

The house:

We love it; it’s solidly built, and the walls are very, very quiet.  My favorite feature is the 12′ wide sliding glass door, though the window treatments for this cost us an arm and a leg (always something to consider when determining the cost of the house: window treatments).  We have only purchased window treatments for the master bedroom and the great room, since these are fairly expensive things.

I also enjoy the library shelves; it’s wonderful to finally have a place to store all of our books.  The under-the-stairs closet was another stroke of genius on our part.  We have a lot of random crap that’s not fit to display, but that we are reluctant to discard.

The appliances:

Our washing machine leaked when we first ran it, but we called out the Appliance Direct repairman.  He came promptly and tugged on the front of the machine, explaining that it sometimes gets a little bent by the delivery men.  Sure enough, this solved our problem.  We like the front-loading washing machine.  When we began to use this appliance, we’d sit in front of it, enraptured by the swirling clothing.

Our  dishwasher is a mixed bag.  It is very, very silent, which is great.  We don’t even know it’s running, until it begins draining out the water.  On the other hand, it doesn’t clean terribly well.  We usually end up with 3-6 dishes, pieces of silverware, pots, etc. per load that need a hand washing.  These aren’t pieces that had baked-on food, either, so I’m mystified as to why it leaves so many of our dishes unclean.

Our refrigerator is good: easy access, especially the tilt-out freezer.  There are two features I’m not wild about.  The first is the French doors, because you have to give these a nice, solid press in order to close them all the way.  I’m used to a door that you just kind of swing shut, and off it closes on its own.  These definitely take a deliberate act of closing to fully shut.  The second feature is the alarm, which goes off after the doors have been opened after around 30 seconds.  This is extremely irritating when one is attempting to put away groceries, but I don’t turn the alarm off because of the aforementioned door closing issue.  Several times now the alarm has alerted us that we didn’t close the doors deliberately enough.  Other than that, we like the refrigerator.  It’s well-laid-out and is quiet and energy efficient.

The range is awesome.  No cons at all about it.  The small upper oven preheats very, very rapidly.  We actually haven’t used the larger oven yet, so this is a good energy-saving feature.  The gas cooktop is nice, and my husband enjoys the sear that he gets on the food, as compared to our former electric coiltop range.

The furniture:

We’re very happy with our American Signature Plantation Cove furniture.  The down cushions on our couch are nice and comfy, and the bedroom furniture is nice and solid.  No complaints there.

The yard:

I’m having so much fun with this!  We purchased an electric mower (zero emissions, baby!), and I have been cutting grass for the first time in my life.  I’m sure the novelty will wear off quickly, so I’m enjoying it while I can.

We rented a cordless drill and used some leftover pieces of Hardie board to make raised vegetable garden beds.  I’ve started some vegetables (peas, tomatoes, okra, and spinach), so we’ll see how that shakes down.

We spent several days hoeing a patch that will be our butterfly garden eventually, also.   Right now, I have in it one hosa, two Mexican heathers, and a few very, very tiny Orange Cosmos plants.  I’ve got some seedlings that are still too small to be transplanted, of dill, milkweed, and mistflowers, and we purchased two coral honeysuckle vines: one to climb around our well’s lattice work and the other to climb around the fence by the butterfly garden.  We will see how that works out also.

We also bought two Walter’s Viburnum bushes and planted them in a clear area by the fence that separates us from the neighbors with the aggressive dogs.  The dogs are getting better, but still not enough where I trust Hannah outside alone with them.

Hannah loves the clumps of palmettos and oaks.  She can happily spend 20 minutes at a time crawling through these thick patches.  I’m afraid that she’ll be bitten by a snake, but there’s not much I can do about it, short of razing the yard, which I’m not willing to do.

So that’s about it for us.  We still haven’t finished unpacking and organizing everything.  Perhaps that will be a task for me during winter break.


So close!

August 12, 2007

We have a yard! With actual, factual sod: Bahia grass in part. We just sodded the small area in front of the house and in the backyard area behind the house. We’re leaving the clumps of oaks & palmettos, and have big plans for the backyard area that is farther back: a future vegetable garden and butterfly garden.

Here is the backyard with the sod:

And here is the front yard area:

We have the front of the house surrounded by a layer of pebbles, than have a layer of pine needles between the pebbles and the sod:

Our plants are mostly natives, with one glaring exception: my indulgence, the gardenia. I love their smell, so we planted a gardenia bush next to our back porch. I’m hoping that it will fluorish, so that we will enjoy those heavenly breezes as we sit out on our porch. Ah…

The painters were hard at work today. They stained the library bookshelves:

And painted the wainscoting in the downstairs bathroom:

The kitchen installers had come in and finished up. They attached our door knobs and pulls, and they also installed the onion & potato baskets:

Then we got to work, installing the backsplash. We’re actually quite proud of this. Our back splash is the ACP thermosplastic panels, which look an awful lot like real stainless steel. They were very easy to install; we were able to do them in about 5 1/2 hours. Here is a photo of me hard at work measuring:

And here is the finished product: huzzah!

We’re very proud of ourselves 🙂

Our LG dishwasher from Appliance Direct came in on Monday, though it’s not very photogenic:

And we got a delightful new toy: Roomba! He is such a good boy; he vacuums our upstairs bedroom for us with very few complaints. Occasionally, he gets caught in the deep pile, or else he gets a plastic thread from the new carpet cuttings tangled in his bristles. When that happens, he calls for help, very pitifully, then shuts himself down and waits for us to heed his cries. I can only scratch my head in bemusement: why didn’t we get one of these before? I am a mediocre housekeeper at best, so Roomba is going to save me a good deal of work.

Since the carpet is new, there was a lot of loose yarn, so we had to come to Roomba and empty his bin several times today. When he got tired, he returned to his docking station for a recharge. Hooray for Roomba!

Now, back to the house. The fencing people will be coming out early next week (not this coming week, but the one after). We are getting a 4-rail fence on 3 sides, and are sharing our fourth side of fence with our neighbors, who are amenable to that idea.

We’ve passed all health and code inspections, so we are ready for our Certificate of Occupancy. There are just a few hoops that our builder, Woody Dortch of Classic Structures, Inc. has to jump through, and then we are done. Our furniture will arrive on Saturday, August 18: a red letter day for us. It will be our first set of matching furniture, not mishmashed giveaways.

Plumbing the depths of our plumbing

July 7, 2007

Pretty much all that we’ve gotten done this week is the plumbing. The hold up? We can’t get the electrical inspection until the surveyor comes out and gives us a report that the HVAC units are above flood level. So…

We did have a welcome addition to our kitchen: our 50-bottle Magic Chef wine cooler. Home Depot gave us the run-around, when we tried to purchase this, but we finally got the wine cooler that we wanted, at the price we wanted (it was on sale because they will no longer be carrying this item). Here it is in our cabinets:

And here is a shot of the inside of the wine cooler:

Also in the kitchen, our new faucet fixtures have been installed. All of our fixtures are Moen, and this one is in stainless steel:

Our fixtures in the bathrooms are Moen Monticello, in platinum finish. Here is the downstairs bath (notice the new pedestal!):

Here are the bathroom fixtures in the upstairs master bath:

And here is the Roman Tub fixture for the whirlpool tub:

Our showerheads were installed, though the body jets have not been installed yet:

One of our green building features was to install dual-flush toilets in both of our bathrooms. We chose the Toto Aquia EL (elongated) model, because we’d read good reviews about its flushing power:

The dual-flush toilets offer two options of water usage: a .9 gallon flush and a full 1.6 gallon flush:

Because Florida is in such a water crisis, and especially because there’s no need for a full 1.6 gallon flush each time, we spent the extra money on the dual-flush toilets. The Toto models that we purchased run approximately $250, though Home Depot now carries a Pegasus Tulip model for $199.

Next steps: Getting the electrical inspection this week!  This will allow us to get our flooring installed.  The driveway should still be on track to be poured this week, unless something comes up, and after that, the landscaper can come in and do his thing.  The yard has been leveled nicely, so that it’s ready for some sod.

Climbing the stairway to…

June 30, 2007

Our second floor! We went out visit our house today, and saw that we’ve now got part of an actual stairway. The stairs were a bit of a splurge for us, and we ran several hundred dollars over budget, because we wanted the treads, newels and railings to be maple. The risers and balusters are pine, so they will be painted white, but the maple portions will be stained a natural maple color:

One of my favorite parts of the house is the large, screened back porch, with two – count ’em, two! – ceiling fans. Today, upon arrival at our house, we saw that the back porch had been screened in. This was a surprise to me, since our builder Woody hadn’t mentioned it in our conversations that week:

The hole in the backyard is all filled up, and we found the cause of this sitting in our front yard:

Actually, while we were at the house, Woody came out and told us that he was working on a Saturday, because the site guy was going to be back out that day, and Woody needed to meet with him. We were surprised to find Woody working on the weekend, but it was a lucky chance that brought him there, since he helped us solve the riddle of our wheelbarrow. We’d bought a wheelbarrow from Home Depot, but there were no accompanying directions. Before Woody arrived, we’d put the entire thing together, except that there was one extra piece that we couldn’t make fit. Woody very kindly bent the metal for us, so that it would fit exactly where it should. Crappily made Chinese wheelbarrow!

We got the barrow, though, so that we could haul the last of our compost pile into our compost bin. We’d been composting in the silt fence area for the erstwhile gopher tortoises, but now that we have the bin, we needed to move this pile into the bin so that our landscaper, who is coming this week, can remove the silt fence and mow that area. Our compost is coming along nicely and is moist, rich, dark brown, and, generally, everything that a compost should be.

Another surprise was that we got the handles for our interior doors:

The exterior door has the temporary knob on it still, and when I asked Woody why, he said that it was because he didn’t want any of the sub-contractors to have the keys to our actual lock. Very smart!

Our LG microwave/hood has also been installed:

We purchased this at Appliance Direct, new in box, for about $15 less than it would have cost us to buy it new from other stores at which we’d shopped. Not one of our better bargains, but every little bit helps!

Some of our light fixtures were put up last week, and I don’t think I’d posted pictures of those. Here is our front porch light:

It came with regular bulbs, and we just haven’t bought the candelabra base CFL’s yet. We do have the energy-saving compact fluorescent lightbulbs up in all of our interior light fixtures, as well as in the lights outside our garage:

And, finally, we saw something pretty cool today. On our way to have lunch at the Country House Restaurant in Lake Wales, we spotted a mama & papa sandhill crane with their baby, on the side of a busy highway. The baby looked too young to fly, because he was still really downy, so I can only assume that they are raising him in the parking lot of a shopping center! I wish them luck in their endeavour, and hope they manage to keep that baby safe:

What is next for us, you ask? The electrician is coming on Monday to finish the electrical work, so that we can get an inspection this coming week and have the electricity turned on. Once this is done, the flooring can be finalized – halleluia! This will probably happen not this coming week, but the one after. The painters are coming this week to paint and stain the stairs, and, once the lot grading is complete, the landscaper will come and do his thing. Then the driveway will be poured next week, though I would think that the driveway should be poured before the landscaper lays the sod? The propane guy has to be sweet-talked into coming and hooking up our range, and the cabinet people need to install our potato & onion baskets. After that, we are pretty much done! Woody is going to have someone come in to give the place a thorough cleaning, since there are about 10 million dead lovebugs inside the house, and he’s hoping to have it ready by the end of July. We’re keeping all 20 of our fingers (are we aliens?) and all 20 of our toes crossed that this is the case, since it would be really nice to have a bit of summer time to settle in before school starts for me in mid-August.

A giant hole in our yard

June 23, 2007

Yes, there is a giant hole in our backyard. Here it is:

“Oh, no!” you exclaim. “Just when things were going so well!” Not to fear; this giant hole is actually a necessary part of the circle of life. It enables us to get through the day. We can use now use the bathroom in our house – or we could if we had toilets. This, my friends, is part of acquiring a septic tank.

I was lucky enough to catch the tank before it was inspected and, thus, buried:

And here is our unburied drain field:

Here, in contrast, is the drain field once it’s been inspected and buried:

The giant hole is still there, just waiting to be filled. The reason for the hole is that the septic tank people needed to build up the land, before they could get the septic tank inspected. In order to build it up, they took dirt from right in front of our back porch. Now that the inspection is finished, Woody can bring in fill dirt to – you guessed it – fill the hole.

And now, a brief rant on our propane company of choice. The one fly in our ointment, throughout this process, has been the proprane company we had the misfortune to choose. They were scheduled to come the week before last, but, without calling Woody or giving him any indication why, they just didn’t show up. So he rescheduled them for Wednesday of this past week, June 20. Part of the crew showed up: the part the brought in our hot water heater. The part that was supposed to bury the tank, however, called in sick. So we will try again, this coming week, to coax them out to our lot.

The tank is yet another thorn in our sides.

It is not a good tank. It is a bottom of the line tank. We told the propane man, repeatedly, that we’d like to pay more to upgrade to a better insulated tank. This would save energy, which is our goal. It is not, however, his goal. The more energy we save, the less money we give him for propane. So he went ahead and installed the bottom-of-the-line tank. We will foil him by wrapping it in a tank blanket. But we’re still disgruntled.

And, finally, the third problem, which, again, we must attribute to the propane company. We told him that we were having an electric dryer. He decided to go ahead and put a propane drop in for our dryer. What can it hurt? Maybe it will help for resale value. Good point, EXCEPT – the electric guy, on seeing that we’re having a gas dryer, then doesn’t install the necessary wiring for our electric dryer. Result: our electric dryer is delivered, and there is no plug. Woody now has to rip out drywall to put in the correct wiring. Thank you, propane man.

Here is a picture of our washer & dryer:

It’s not a good picture, because we couldn’t really get in front of them, but you get the idea. They’re both good, and very energy efficient. We are happy with everything but the propane man.

Our range was delivered today, and, since it’s a dual fuel range, we will need the propane man to hook this up with a special liquid propane kit. Dare we trust him to do this? Will we, in the words of the Flying Hawaiian, David Kala’iki Ali’i when confronted with propene, say to ourselves, “I thank God everyday … that I didn’t get exploded.”

We also now have a bar; the rest of the Silestone has been put in:

The beadboard is going in, in our downstairs bath. This will be painted white when the painters return:

Next week, Woody will return and work on getting our stairs in. The maple has arrived, and is chilling in the garage right now. Unless he thinks up another excuse, the propane guy will return and bury our propane tank. And, once the range is hooked up, we can get the electric inspection and get temporary electric turned on, our first step to getting the bamboo floors installed.

A note about living in Florida: you see a lot of sad things. I saw a gopher tortoise get exploded on the road this week, when a dump truck just tore right through him. Very sad. It always stinks to see an endangered species, or, indeed, any species at all, die a nasty road death. Today, while we were driving from our house to the recycling center (we recycle all the cardboard, cans, bottles, etc. from the construction site), we saw another sad road death:

He was nowhere near a pond or lake, so I’m not sure why he was out where he was killed.

But then we came home to our apartment, and the waterfowl were frolicking in our pond, and that was nice:

Let there be lights!

June 10, 2007

Our house now has lights, fans, cabinet boxes, and a garage door. We go to New York for the weekend, and look what happens!

Our builder, Woody Dortch of Classic Structures, Inc., is now on vacation visiting his son at the Air Force base in Texas, so things have slowed up until he returns from his visit this week.

I actually got a sneak preview of the house before my husband did, since he had to work all this week. One of the benefits (maybe?) of being a teacher is that we get laid off each June. Sure, we get a nice, long unpaid leave of absence, but in what other profession do you hear society grousing that they get the privilege of being laid off so frequently? Ah, the joys of an unsteady income! Seriously, though, I do enjoy the summers, but that is only due to the fact that I am fortunate enough to have a spouse who does, indeed, have a constant paycheck.

To get back to my point, though, when I was out at the house by myself, I encountered a fox in distress. (S)he was painfully thin, rheumy-eyed, and was staggering around alongside the road. At first, I thought the fox was just hunting something, since its head was down, and it appeared to be giving all its attention to the ground:

When I got out of the car to take pictures, though, I realized that it was either hurt or sick. My first thought was to try to bring it to the vet, so I got out the towel I carry for just this purpose in the car. My legendary towel has also been used to wrap up the likes of a possum with a head injury I found in Charlotte, so I was hoping to put it to use on that day. However, as I approached the fox, the possibility that it could have rabies came through my mind. Could I guarantee that, even through the thick towel, the fox would not be able to bite me? No, I could not. (I often have such conversations with myself on a lonely summer’s day). Having approached the fox, I then began to back away, but he’d caught the interesting smell of my towel. He walked toward me, sniffing the towel. I held very still while he gave it a sniff, visions of attack squirrels dancing through my head, but the fox lost interest and walked away. Berating myself for my cowardice, I nonetheless decided to retreat and live another day rabies-free.

And now, enough digressions – I will get right to the good stuff. Here is the exterior of our house, avec garage door:

And now, for your viewing enjoyment, I will proceed to attach photos of our lighting choices. First is the kitchen, a good place to begin, since the majority of our lives revolves around food. Here is a photo of the cabinet boxes for our kitchen island:

And here is the fluorescent light in the kitchen:

Here is a photo of our kitchen pendants and the matching dining room chandelier in the background. These are all from Home Depot:

One of my favorite parts of the house is our big back porch, that will be screened in:

We got the same fan and lighting fixtures for our guest bedroom and for the library. First, the guest bedroom:

And the library:

We purchased the same vanity fixture for the downstairs bath and the upstairs bath:

Here are the sconces for our master bedroom:

And here is the fan for the master bedroom. This is the Hampton Bay Covington model fan from Home Depot; it was very energy efficient, and we thought it would go well with the furniture for this room.

Next steps: the cleaners will continue clearing out our lot; Woody’s assistant will finish up our library shelves; the electrician will install the great room fan and foyer chandelier; finally, we will get temporary electric, so that the HVAC system can be installed and the house can begin acclimatizing for the bamboo floors.

In Glorious Technicolor!

May 12, 2007

That’s what we are! I’ve been dying all week to see how the paint colors look, and, if I do say so myself, they look really good. The light colors that our interior design consultant, Tim Rounsaville, helped us pick work very well. The entire house looks light, bright, and airy, with the exception of the master bath and library. Go figure – these are the two rooms he didn’t help us choose colors for. But we wanted a darker look for the library. It’s actually not as red as it looks in the picture; it’s more of a dark berry cobbler color, not a real red.

So, without further ado, here are the photos.

First, the exterior continues to get its Hardie Board siding in Boothbay Blue. It looks like Woody, our builder (Classic Structures, Inc.) should be finishing this up this week:

This is our foyer, done in Panda White. It’s not as yellow as it looks in this picture; it’s more of a very pale cream. I actually can’t tell it’s not a true white, unless I see it against an actual white:

Since our great room, dining area, and kitchen are all open to one another, we painted them all the same color, Byte Blue. Here is the kichen:

And here is the great room, with the entertainment center painted white:

We have big plans for the downstairs bath. The floor will be a black & white, octagonal subway tile. The tile around the tub will be plain white, and the blue walls will have white beadboard around them:

The spare bedroom, which we’ll use as a guest bedroom is in a pale green. Tim helped us choose a color that wasn’t too minty; instead, it’s got more of a grayish tone to the green:

Directly across from the guest bedroom is the library. One wall will be solid shelves, to hold our enormous collection of books.

As I said, the red is not as bright, nor is it as red as it appears in this photo.

Upstairs, our master bedroom is a very light, ice blue. We had the sloped part of the tray ceiling painted blue to match the walls, while the flat parts of the ceiling are white, providing a contrast and showcasing that tray ceiling:

Our master bath is very dark, because it faces a few of the large live oaks, and so it’s getting a lot of shade this time of year. Also the whole no-lighting-yet thing isn’t helping, but you can at least get the idea of its color, from this photo:

Our interior doors have now been unpacked, and have been painted white. Here is a photo of them in the garage, propped up to let the paint dry:

Because we used low-VOC paints, the interior of the house really doesn’t smell that bad. It’s not as overwhelmingly painty as I expected it to smell; last week, the primer really blew us away.

Next steps: Woody will be hanging the interior doors, and the flooring guys are coming this week. The baseboards are in and ready to go, but I don’t know whether those get put in before or after the flooring. And we will be returning to the house tomorrow, to lay down at least part of the stick-on vinyl flooring that we’re using in the laundry room and under-the-stairs closet.

We’ve turned our attention to the yard. We have a line of trees & palmettos providing a nice demarkation between the area that will be our “lawn” with the areas that we’ll use for other things, like a vegetable garden. One of our little clumps of palmettos & small oak trees has a clear area running through it, almost like a path, that we will probably use to build a tiny pond, in order to provide a water source for the wildlife we’re hoping to see in our yard. Since 2 of our acres are conservation, we won’t be fencing those in at all, obviously, but our backyard will have a fence for our dog, little Hannah. The neighborhood has wandering packs of dogs in it, and I’d hate for her to be killed.

I purchased a compost bin and a kitchen compost bucket, from Gardener’s Supply Company. Luckily, by doing a search online, I was able to find a 15% off coupon. The compost bin is on backorder until July, which is a bit of a pain as we’re planning on beginning our compost pile soon, but I guess we could always transfer it to the bin when it arrives. And the bin will probably make it in before the house itself is ready for habitation.

I’ve been reading The Omnivore’s Dilemna, so have been bitten by the gardening bug. Thus far, we haven’t found a good source for local farm products, but the book gave me a few leads on groups I could contact, like the Weston A. Price Foundation. I’m hoping that they will be able to point us in the right direction. I’ve also been doing a lot of research online, regarding what vegetables to grow here in Florida, and when, so we’ll see whether I can put this into practice once we’re in the house.

And that is all for now! We have big plans and high hopes, so we’ll see how everything works out. It’s incredibly exciting, watching our first house grow up before our eyes.

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.

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!

The good, the bad, and the downright ugly

March 31, 2007

Our news this week is a mixed bag. On the bright side, the white metal roof is nearly complete. The roofer was short four sheets of metal, so he will need to order those before he can complete the roof. Our builder, Woody Dortch of Classic Structure, Inc., told us that this is normal. The metal is so expensive that they want to be sure they don’t order too much.

The bad news, for Woody, is that the windows supplier ordered a transom window. Woody told him not to order it, but he did it anyway. So the transom window installed here is not actually the correct one. Woody has already ordered the transom window that actually matches our door, so that is on the way. I think it’s pretty low of the windows supplier to buy extra pieces, though, and stick our builder with the bill.

Here is our front door, seen from the inside. Keep in mind that the transom will be changed to match the decorative door glass.

And now, the downright ugly. This is our first real problem in construction – we knew something was coming, and could probably have told you in advance that it would be caused by the propane supplier. Our particular supplier chooses not to return calls. He first offers you a 325 gallon buried tank and then changes his mind and says his offer includes a tiny tank and, if you want the large one, you will have to buy it for an additional $2000. He will tell you that he’s faxing something to you and then he just won’t. He will do this five or six times in a row. And then he will tell your builder that he is actually waiting on YOU to send his fax back. He is a bad egg.

Here is what he did to our beautiful roof:

Woody pointed this out to us this week, so that we wouldn’t be horrified when we got to the house. He doesn’t know why the propane people chose to just go out there, when his people weren’t around and, without asking, knock a big hole through our FRONT facing roof and stick this ugly pipe up out of it. I know why they did this; it was the most direct vent and, thus, the cheapest for them. They are bad eggs.

Woody said that he will call the propane guy on Monday and take it up with him. We’ll see how that goes, but we are NOT PLEASED with the propane guy. I am sensing that a complaint to the BBB is imminent, if he doesn’t rectify his stupidity and cupidity.

What is next, you ask? We are still waiting on one more bid from kitchen cabinet suppliers, and, once we get this bid, we will make our final decision and order the cabinets & countertops. Woody hopes to get the interior framing inspected this week, so that he can call in the Icynene guys and then begin putting up the drywall. And our Hardie Board siding in Boothbay Blue is coming this week, hopefully. That will take about 3-4 weeks to hang. Our garage door has been ordered, and it is INSULATED! This is good, as it fits in with our energy efficient theme.

We will see how it goes with the propane man, though; he is one bad egg.