February 07, 2005
Well Red (Day 33)

I told you we were going to have our house-in-progress painted red.

The Red House.The photos I'm posting today were actually taken last Thursday (Feb. 3rd), but I was unable to post them until today because of technical difficulties -- the cable I use to connect my phone to my computer is not working properly. As you can see in this photo to the left, the builder's first swipe at painting the big ol' beast hardly earns any points for staying within the lines. I guess they plan to fix it in post-production... I mean, they plan to let the trim guys handle it.

In the second photo (below), which gives you a look at our street, the house really does stick out every bit as much as I'd thought it might. It's brighter, taller, wider, longer. Keep in mind: we didn't know what our neighbors had picked for floor plans or colors when we made our choices. I'm optimistic that once the trim is painted and the rest of the exterior work is completed, the house won't look as... dominant as it seems right now. But it will nonetheless remain easy to spot from a distance. Easy for visitors to find. I hope that's going to be a good thing.

And no, I did not touch-up the photo using image manipulation software. This is the actual photo, as taken by my little cell-phone camera. Actual colors may vary, but there's no deliberate attempt here to exaggerate.

There's still quite a bit of work to be done on the exterior, and much of it appears to be behind schedule at this point, but there also appears to be much less urgency now with regard to the exterior. The paint trim (the shingles near the top of the front of the house, the corners, the shutters, the area around the windows, etc.) needs to be completed. The gutters and drainage need to be installed. Then there's pouring the patio, porch, and driveway, installing landscaping, and the like. These photos were taken prior to the work that was done this past Friday, when the exterior "electrical trim" -- the lights, doorbell, electrical outlets, etc. -- had all been installed.

One of these houses is not like the other....Work on the interior of the house, however, is mostly on schedule and proceeding quite quickly. The drywall work has all been completed and the walls (and, alas, ceilings) have all been painted. To my dismay, the ceilings were painted the same color as the walls, which was not what I'd had in mind. I'd expected the ceilings to be painted white, not beige.

Most of the electrical trim inside has been installed, as well. This includes the electrical outlets, the lights and light switches, the ceiling fans, the bathroom fans, and face plates for the surround sound speaker posts. Some items -- a few GFI outlets, the whole house fan, and a bathroom fan -- have not yet been installed. One light bulb is not working (hopefully it's the bulb and not the wiring), and a few of the light switches were installed upside down. (Up means on, you boneheads!) These minor issues aside (and they will all be addressed during the walkthrough toward the end of construction), it's amazing how some paint on the walls and installing some electrical trim makes the rooms look more like rooms and less like art projects.

All of the interior doors and door frames are sitting in the garage. Or at least, they were as of yesterday, when we were allowed to take an officially sanctioned stroll through the house. They've also delivered the kitchen cabinets, which were likewise sitting (in boxes) in the garage, awaiting installation. Much of that installation work should be completed this week, along with the installation of some of the flooring.

It didn't hit home until I toured the site yesterday just how quickly this is wrapping up. If all goes according to schedule, it's entirely possible that there will be only four more Sunday walk-throughs between now and when we take ownership of the house.

Yikes!

Posted by at 12:50 PM in the following Department(s): Building a House | Comments (0)
 February 10, 2005
On Having a Two and a Half Year Old

Practicing that Calvin smile.Alexander is just past two-and-a-half years old now, and continues to be growing at a fast and furious pace, both physically and mentally (and, presumably, emotionally).

When he was first born, I posted photos and essays all of the time about how things were going. This was largely because 1) we have lots of family and friends who don't live in the area but who wanted to know all about him, and 2) he was just so *interesting*; having him was such a fresh experience.

Having him around these days is no less of a fresh experience, even after two and a half years. Every week, there's something new about him and how he interacts with the world. Every week, I learn something new about myself because of him.

But I also have a growing suspicion that not everything that I find interesting about having him around would be as interesting to everyone else, especially after two and a half years. For example: it seems like every day these days, people ask me how the new house is coming along. Hence I post updates regarding our house-in-progress on a frequent basis. But fewer people ask for daily updates on how Alex is doing.

And those questions aside, much of what is going on these days with Alex is nowhere near as... romantic? idyllic? cute?

Mr Serious.There's a song by a Canadian band called The Arrogant Worms entitled "Baby Poo" in which the singer despairs: "I used to talk about politics, capitalism, socialism, I used to talk about all those -isms, but now I'm a dad and all I talk about is baby poo...." It's funny because it's TRUE. When new parents get together to talk, they not only talk about what their little tike is learning and doing, but also about the frequency and consistency of their children's bowel movements.

Dogs and new parents know something that most of the rest of the world doesn't: there's a great deal of information that is conveyed in bowel movements.

But egestion habits are not the topic of polite conversation, and so much of that kind of talk should be left out of one's updates on "How is the little one doing?" At two-and-a-half years old, however, Alexander's big events surround 1) sleeping (or, rather, resisting sleeping) in a "big boy bed", and 2) potty training.

Oh, sure, he's also learning how to speak in more complete sentences, and he's playing with his toys in more sophisticated ways. He's more emotive with each passing week, and is actually singing along more with his music. He has formed definite ideas of how he wants Mommy and Daddy to play with him or to leave him alone, and he is learning to handle cooperative play with his friends as well as possessiveness.

And it's always fascinating to see what Paulette and I obsess over and what we don't even give a second thought with regard to Alex and his growing abilities. I have taught Alex that he can use his step stool to turn on and off light switches, for example, but he has extended this knowledge to figure out how to get up on the kitchen counter and play with our set of knives. Clever kid, and not unexpected, but it just happened *sooner* than expected. With everything he learns, we learn that there are many more consequences that we have to deal with.

And even when we anticipate those consequences, it's not like we're not going to teach him how to solve problems.

Don't bother me, Dad, I'm watching TV.But at the age of two-and-a-half, Alexander's big news tends to center around the same two things as when he was newborn: sleep and poop. He is teething again (back molars), which combined with being removed from the crib and given a bed, has made sleeping a bit of an issue lately. And, we've begun potty training.

Potty training is really not as much of an ordeal as the non-parent might think. But that doesn't make it fascinating dinner conversation for non-parents, either. Which is why I didn't post on New Year's Day: "Well, today marks quite a milestone. Today Alexander peed in the potty, all of his own volition." And why I didn't post on subsequent days when he tried and missed, or didn't try at all, or managed to poop in the potty, etc. It's the kind of thing that parents of similarly-aged kids will compare notes on, because they want to make sure they're managing the whole potty training thing correctly, but they are the kinds of updates that not everybody necessarily would be interested in.

Potty training and sleep issues aside, Alex remains remarkably happy and healthy. As is common with two-year-olds, he tends to resist his parents' will at the most awkward of times, but he's nonetheless just a treat to be around. He's so much joy, in fact, that we may eventually consider having another. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Bwahahahaha.

Posted by at 02:42 PM in the following Department(s): The Boys | Comments (2)
 February 14, 2005
The Gutter (Day 38)

Over two-thirds of the way completed...As of last Thursday, which was Day 36 on the schedule, we officially hit two-thirds of the way through our fifty-four day building schedule for our house-in-progress.

The photo to the left was taken yesterday afternoon, and it reveals how schedule items are starting to bump into each other.

First, you'll notice that the paint trim has still not been completed, but the gutters have been installed. This implies that whoever does the paint trim work is now going to have to work around the gutters in some fashion.

Second, the contractors have started putting up framing for the front (and back) porch. That's what all that wood is on the left-hand side of the photo. As of yesterday, they hadn't yet framed the sidewalk or the driveway, and I think that is at least partly because of the big blower thingy that is sitting where our driveway is going to end up.

This blows.Third, the big blower thingy that is sitting where our driveway is supposed to be is being used to dry out the crawl space beneath the house (and, presumably, the floors above it). In our part of the world, winter is typically the rainy season, and that means the house was put up mostly in the rain and mostly over wet, wet ground. Sometime past the half-way point in the schedule, the builder takes humidity measurements in the house and, if they deem it to be too moist, they use this big portable forced air heater to dry out the house from the ground up. (These pictures of the blower thingy in action were taken a day before the gutters went up, in case you were curious.)

This portable heater/dryer-outer machine runs on its own generator which they have to leave running day and night. I'm sure the neighbors who have already moved in love it. Given how long this device was parked next to a house further up the street that is/was a couple of weeks ahead of ours in the schedule, I'm guessing that this thing will probably be done at some point this week.

Breathing tubes.The device forces dry hot air through long tubes that attach to the crawl space vents all along the house, plus a couple of windows on the first floor. This, combined with having the heater within the house running pretty much constantly, seems to be doing a good job not only of drying the place out, but also of taking care of the massive out gassing that has been going on with the fresh paint and vinyl and glues that have been applied throughout the house during construction. It may be hot and dry in that house, but at least it's not stinky.

Work on the interior is also starting to back up just a wee bit, but there's nothing to indicate that the schedule is in jeopardy. Most of the cabinetry in the kitchen and bathrooms is now installed, and much (but not quite all) of the millwork around the doors and windows has been nailed into place. They'll still have to prep and paint the millwork after it's all installed. This week (well, according to the schedule, *today*) should also see the hardwood flooring installed in the kitchen and entryway. The vinyl floors in the bathrooms and pantry are already in place and lookin' good.

One of these houses is not like the other.If I understand the schedule correctly, the rest of the bathroom and kitchen fixtures (sinks, toilets, faucets, etc.) should be installed by the end of this week, as well. Likewise, the driveway should be poured by then. My guess is that they'll wait on the porch and patio and sidewalk until they can do the driveway at the same time. The schedule appears to have originally called for the porch and patio to be poured a couple of weeks ago, but that didn't happen.

In the meantime, we're scheduling movers and keeping in touch with our financing folks on pretty much a daily basis. Then there's setting up our independent inspection (which our real estate agent has taken care of quite quickly), and details along those lines. There's always room for more stress, even when the construction itself seems to be going along okay. I can only imagine how much more stressful it is for new construction with a builder who is not as good about hitting deadlines (which, I'm told, is the vast majority of builders).

As fun as watching the house go up is proving to be, I don't imagine we'll be in a rush to buy any other new homes in the very near future. I'm not looking forward to the move, but I most definitely am looking forward to having the move completed.

Posted by at 03:38 PM in the following Department(s): Building a House | Comments (0)
 February 15, 2005
Sometimes I'm Wrong (Day 39)

All decked out.Well, I had guessed yesterday that the folks building our house-in-progress would probably wait to pour the front porch and sidewalk and back patio would wait until they'd gotten the Big Blower Thingy out of our future driveway and framed the new driveway, as well.

And later in the day, I headed out to take a look and, lo and behold, I had guessed wrong. The Big Blower Thingy was already gone (I had thought it might still be there for a few days, yet), but the new driveway was not yet framed... and the patio and porch and sidewalk were all poured.

A quick peek through the windows yesterday afternoon revealed that they had started work on the hardwood floors, but no other changes were evident. When I swung by at the end of the day today (Day 39), there were a whole bunch of guys doing work inside and making all sorts of noise, but I have no idea what they were working on and had no desire to interrupt their efforts. There were no noticeable changes to the exterior since yesterday afternoon, so I'm using a photo that I took yesterday.

When choosing which photo to use, there was one that showed off the new front porch but that also reveals in its full splendor a "Honey Bucket" port-a-potty. Another angle cleverly missed the port-a-potty, but it had two distinct disadvantages: it not only made the new porch look almost invisible, it also showed the long and very wide shadow of the photographer.

Does this port-a-potty make my house look fat?

Mmmmm. Vanity....

Posted by at 07:19 PM in the following Department(s): Building a House | Comments (0)
 February 21, 2005
Home Stretch (Day before Day 43)

Concrete evidence.Paulette and I drove by the house yesterday and took a look inside and out, with the builders' blessing. As you can see from the photo, they've cleared away the debris in front of the garage and begun framing where the driveway is to be poured.

Inside, they had installed many (but not all) of the remaining electrical fixtures, many (but not all) of the plumbing fixtures, much (but not all) of the millwork (baseboards, framing around the doors and fireplace, etc., etc.), and had even managed to paint most (but not all) of said millwork.

Today (Monday) is Presidents' Day, and thus it is a scheduled non-workday for the builders -- which is why my entry today is listed as "Day Before Day 43". Today is not on the schedule, but tomorrow is Day 43. Of course, just because today is scheduled as a non-workday doesn't mean no work has been done at the site.

We are, however, a mere two and a half weeks away from the end of the 54-workday building cycle. The schedule calls for carpet to be installed this week. Next week? Well, I don't think "installing blinds" can possibly take up the entire week, but that's pretty much all they have listed. Rather, I expect that next week is pretty much entirely spent in inspections, fixes, more inspections, more fixes, and so on. Oh, and installing the window screens. That might take a few days.

Okay, and landscaping the front yard is also on the list.

Of course, there are also things that should have been done, according to the schedule, that haven't been done yet. Like finishing painting the outside of the house. Like finishing installing the guest bathtub. That sort of thing. My guess is those items are also going to be occupying the bulk of what appears to be an otherwise non-busy week.

We're in the home stretch, if you'll pardon the pun.

And even if you won't.

Posted by at 07:13 PM in the following Department(s): Building a House | Comments (0)
 February 22, 2005
Good Weather for Building (Day 43)

Concrete evidence.As you can see in this photo, the driveway for our house-in-progress has been poured. In fact, it was poured yesterday, even though yesterday was a scheduled non-work day.

Weather has been an interesting non-factor throughout construction. Because we had to sell our current, er, our first house (we are still living in it, insofar as we are renting it back from the new owners, but it's not ours any longer) before we would be able to close on the new house, we opted to ask the builder to delay building until we got the situation with the first house squared away.

The one major concern we had about delaying was that we would be asking for construction to take place during the three nastiest months of the year in our part of the world, weather-wise. The heart of winter is the heart of the rainy season in the Northwest. This can interfere with roofing and painting, etc., etc.

I realize that ain't nothin' compared to building in February in, say, the Boston area (our former residence) or Buffalo, and I don't even know if builders *would* construct a house in those areas at this time of year. But home construction continues apace in the Seattle area during the winter months, rain and occasional snow notwithstanding.

But aside from a couple of weeks where it was overcast and generally drizzly for maybe five days out of seven, the weather has been remarkably favorable throughout the construction process. I'm told that it's brutally cold in Boston and Buffalo. It's raining (raining!) in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Torrential downpours have led to murderous mudslides in Anaheim Hills, CA. But here in the Seattle area, it's sixty degrees (F) and sunny.

Of course, we're going to pay for this weather, later. If it doesn't rain during the rainy season, that doesn't bode well for our water supply in the summer. In weather, as in economics, all news is bad news.

But not so in construction. In homebuilding, sixty degrees and sunny is good news. If this weather holds for just a little bit longer, they might even finish painting our house-in-progress before we move in.

Yee-ha.

Posted by at 06:10 PM in the following Department(s): Building a House | Comments (0)
 February 24, 2005
Tick... Tick... Tick... (Day 45)

Mmmm. Heavy moving equipment...As you can see from the photo to the left, they finally installed a backhoe loader in front of our house-in-progress. This will allow us to joyride around the neighborhood and smash stuff. Oh, and it will allow Alexander the opportunity to get a better understanding of the laws of physics... while we joyride around the neighborhood and smash stuff.

All seriousness aside, I had expected that there wouldn't be many opportunities to show changes to the house on the outside as we near the end of the construciton cycle, but I was wrong. There's still plenty happening every day, and plenty more yet to do.

The most obvious changes in the past couple of days on the outside are the grading of our yard(s) and the installation of some of the landscaping in front (none of which is visible in the first photo because of the backhoe sitting in front of our yard). They've also begun installing the completely functionless columns on the front porch (there's another one yet-to-be-installed on the right-hand side of the front eve), and they've poured the concrete for the steps outside the "man door" that leads out of the garage on the right-hand side.

What's a nice backhoe like you doing in front of a house like this?In this second photo, you might just barely be able to make out where the "man door" is on the side of the garage. Notice that the yard is nice and smooth. Notice that there's some small lumps of green bushy things in front of our porch. Those may some day be recognizeable vegatation of some kind. Some trees have also been planted, but aren't obvious in either of these photos.

Inside, they've installed carpeting, the stove, the microwave, the dishwasher, and continue to work on bathroom fixtures and the like. Yesterday was the big push to get the carpeting in, and they were still working on it well into the evening when I had stopped by. Today, on the other hand, nobody was around, and it looked like pretty much all of the flooring was taken care of.

At least, from what I was able to see through the windows.

While all of this work continues on the construction inside and out of the house, there are two other major tracks happening parallel with the entire process. One, of course, is the financing. Talk about joyrides and smashing stuff. I'll comment more on that delightful process once the ink is dry on all of the documents we have yet to sign.

The other is, for lack of a better term, "outfitting" the new house. Instead of buying a refrigerator, washer, or dryer through the builder, we opted to find our own that was more to our tastes. So we've had to make our own purchases and arrangements for delivery on that score. Then there's moving over the phone service, switching over the gas and electric, etc.

As you can imagine, it's all keeping us very, very busy.

And there's only a little over a week left to go. Eeek!

Posted by at 07:05 PM in the following Department(s): Building a House | Comments (0)
 February 25, 2005
House in Red and Gray (Day 46)

House in Red and GrayWhat a difference a day makes.

I don't know what the builders were working on inside our house-in-progress today, if anything, but they were *supposed* to be putting in the grates on the heating ducts, installing handrails for the stairs, and working on a drywall punch list. (A punch list is a list of things to do in contractor-speak.)

But on the outside, they've made a great deal of progress. As you can see in the photo: grass and other plants are in and exterior paint trim has begun. Notice some of the shutters are now black, the garage door is now red, and the top portion of the house is now gray. Some of the white trim has also been hit, although much of it remains to be done. Not visible in the photo: they've also installed the new door locks and handles on all three exterior doors, the house number by the garage, and other miscellaneous hardware.

It seems to me that the exterior paint trim should only take another day or two of effort to get wrapped up. That is, of course, a rather uneducated guess.

So, wouldn't you know, I heard the weather forecast on the radio as I drove away... rain is finally expected to return to the area on Monday.

I wonder if the painters plan on working this weekend, even though the next scheduled workday is Monday....

D'oh!

Posted by at 06:59 PM in the following Department(s): Building a House | Comments (0)

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