Monday, August 27, 2012

The Foundation and Framing

We broke ground in the middle of June.  The foundation was poured a week or so later and took a few weeks to be completed and for the concrete to cure.  We went with a 9 foot pour in the basement. 

The framing started the week after the Fourth of July.  Our builder used I-Joists (engineered joists) for our house as they can carry a greater load and are less likely to sag and are not prone to shrinkage which can lead to floor squeaks.  We also have two steel beams supporting the house.

The subfloor goes in...

The outside walls are up...

The roof is installed complete with faux dormers.  We asked about making them real, or having some way to have the light from the dormers come into the house, but it just wouldn't work with the way the rooms inside are laid out.  I still wanted to keep them though.  I think they do a good job of breaking up the roof and keep it from overpowering the look of the front of the house.

Here is the rear view of the house with the roof and covered deck in place.  You can also see the bay window to the left for the master bathroom.

Below is the view from the kitchen looking into the great room.  You can see that the vaulted ceiling comes down to 9 feet on the left side and roughly 11 feet on the other side.  The ceiling in the foyer, den, and dining room are all 11 feet, so the original plan was to keep the hallway in front of the den at 11 feet as well.  We didn't want to have the two sides be uneven, so we were going to bring the vault down to 9 feet and put in some columns with arches where the vault came down on the right hand side.     This would leave the "hallway" in front of the den (right hand side of the picture) to the master bedroom (back right corner of picture) at 11 feet, but allow us to even out both sides of the vault.  

However, once the house was up, we felt the columns would take up too much space on the floor.  Our first thought was to leave the ceiling the way it was, as it is shown in the picture above.  We really didn't want the view from the foyer to be of a bulkhead hanging down two feet.  But, then again, we didn't like how unbalanced the ceiling looked as it was.  

My husband's uncle came up with a really good solution to the issue.  He recommended that we bring the vault down to 9 feet everywhere except the area leading into the foyer and leave a cut out at 11 feet in that area.  So, the view in from the foyer would be unobstructed, but the vault in the living room would be even on both sides.  It actually turned out really well as is shown in the picture below.

Another suggestion from my husband's uncle was that we ask the builder to install truss straps.  Truss straps are metal straps that are attached to both the roof trusses and the top of the wall.  They provide for a stronger tie between the roof and the walls of the house, to protect against the roof being blown off in high winds.  Given how inexpensive they are, we thought it best to go ahead and ask that they be installed.  

Here is another photo of the framing, showing the view from the living room into the kitchen.  The wall for the island has been framed up and can be seen in the picture. 

And one last photo showing the framing in the garage.  I am excited to have a garage this big.  Our garage at the old house was a 20' X 24' standard two car garage.  This one is an oversized 3 car garage (27' X 32').  It's actually larger than the apartment we are in right now.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Plan Modifications

Once we found a builder, we started discussing what changes we wanted to make to the plan.  As I said before, the plan was almost perfect.

The first change we had to make was to flip the entire plan so that the garage would be on the left side of the house.  This needed to be done because of the layout of our lot.  The next change we made was to push back a wall two feet to make the second and third bedrooms bigger.  This also increased the size of the closets for both bedrooms.

We also reconfigured the Jack and Jill bathroom area so that both vanity areas opened into the tub / toilet area.  We have also changed the doors to the tub / toilet area to both be pocket doors.

In the Laundry Room area, we moved the door to the laundry room to the wall by the door to the garage.  I wanted to be able to go directly into the laundry room from the garage to avoid someone tracking in a lot of dirt.  To accommodate this change, we had to move the entryway system to the opposite wall.  More info to come on the Entryway System.  While planning out the entryway system, we also decided to change the door to the garage to swing to the left instead of the right so that we can make the entryway system longer without having to worry about the door swinging into the system.

Other cosmetic changes we made include:
  • Remove the set of doors to the den that are closest to the front door of the house.  
  • Straighten out the walls for the Master Bedroom Closet entries.
  • Reconfigure the island to put the sink in the middle of the work triangle. 
  • Move the fireplace out of the corner and make it into an indoor / outdoor see through fireplace.  This was suggested by our builder and we thought it was a great idea.  More info to come on the fireplace.

We made several energy efficient upgrades to the house as well.  We have decided to go with a Geothermal HVAC system, blown in insulation, and Low-E glass windows.  The Geothermal was an expensive upgrade, but we should get some of the money back due to a tax rebate from the Federal Government.

The House Plan

I started looking at house plans at least 3 years ago.  Ok, probably more than that.  Here is the wish list we started with:

  • Open Concept Ranch Style Home
  • Walkout Basement
  • 3 - 4 Bedrooms (3 Bedrooms Plus an Office Space)
  • 2 1/2 Bathrooms (the Half Bathroom was a Must Have)
  • Oversized Three Car Side Load Garage
  • Split Bedrooms
  • Large Master Bedroom and Bathroom with Separate Tub and Shower
  • Good Size Second and Third Bedrooms with Walk in Closets and Jack and Jill Bathroom
  • Main Floor Laundry Room
  • Walk In Pantry
  • Separate Dining Room and Breakfast Nook
  • Gabled Roof with Dormers
  • Front Porch
  • Covered Deck
  • Craftsman Look for Front of House

Given our extensive list, it's probably a good thing I started searching so long ago.

There are tons of websites out there to search for house plans and I probably visited them all looking for what I wanted.  I used their searching capabilities with various degrees of success.  Usually I just ended up putting my basic requirements in because most of the time if I put in everything I wanted in the search engine, I got back no results.  I searched and I searched and I searched some more.  After sifting through hundreds (thousands?) of plans, I found it.  The one.  It has every single thing I wanted.

Here it is in all it's glory:

It's perfect.  Well, mostly.  The bedrooms were a little small and I prefer the laundry room entrance to be by the garage door, and the jack and jill bath needed some minor configuration changes.  But that was all minor stuff.  Overall, it checked every single box on my long list of requirements.  

Of course, being the thorough researcher that I am, I bookmarked this plan and kept looking.  But, no matter what, I kept coming back to this plan being the one for us.  As an added bonus, my husband liked it too.  I'm not sure what would have happened had he not liked it.  I'm just glad we didn't have to deal with that.  

The Old House

When my husband and I got married almost 10 years ago, we purchased a spec home while it was being built.  With us both having no experience in the home building process, we really didn't know what to expect.  We would come out every few weeks and take a look at the house while it was being built and we had the opportunity to pick out a few of the finishings like the light fixtures.  Beyond that, we weren't really involved except to sign the paperwork at the end of the process.  This time around has been completely different.  

We had known for a while that we wanted to move.  Actually, the original plan was to only stay in our first house for about 5 years.  But, given the fact that both my husband and I are world class procrastinators, we ended up staying in our first house for almost 10 years.  Late last year we started working on fixing up our existing house.  We didn't have a lot of work to do, but needed to at least replace the flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms, paint most of the interior of the house, and do some other minor repairs.  Oh and the decluttering.  Did we ever have a lot of decluttering to do.  With my husband's collector-itis and the fact that my daughter is the only grandchild on one side of the family, we had a lot of "stuff" to deal with.  

With us both working full time and having a very active 6 year old, it took us much longer to do all the work for the old house than we had hoped.  We literally ended up finishing the work to fix up the old house about 20 minutes before the realtor came to take pictures to list the house for sale.  In the end it showed really well and we ended up getting an offer from the first people who looked at the house.  Yay!  We sold our house (for less than what we paid for it - thank you horrible housing market) and we moved into an apartment in the town where we are now building our new house.  We definitely didn't want to start the building process until we had at least a firm contract on our old house.  It turns out that we actually moved into our apartment before we even signed the contract for the new house.  

The apartment is small (it's smaller than the garage on the new house) and a bit dated.  But, it was in the right location, it allowed pets, we could get a 6 month lease, and most importantly it was available on fairly short notice.  I just have to keep reminding myself that it's only for 6 months, especially when I've tripped over a box on the floor for the third time in one day, or as I am duck walking in the tiny space between the end of the bed and our dresser to get through to my side of the bed, and even when the occasional sewage smell emanates from the laundry / kitchen area.  Ick.  Being in this apartment will definitely make us appreciate the new house so much more though.  :)

Friday, August 3, 2012


So, I'm officially a Blogger.  Not sure how I feel about that.  But, I decided to start this Blog because while searching for ideas and real world pictures of products I intended to use in my new house, I found very little out there.  So, I figured why not help out the next poor soul who decides to take on the task of building or renovating a house.  Of course, this will really only help you if you choose to use the same products as my husband and I chose, but then again, but I happen to think we picked out some really nice stuff... :)
Anyway, I'll try to keep this up to date with pictures and as much information as possible about the products we used.  Since we are just now to the plumbing stage and my husband has already taken close to 200 pictures, I don't think there will ever be a shortage of pictures for me to choose from.