March 21, 2005
One of the worst aspects of buying a new house is moving. Okay, not one of the worst. THE worst.
Moving into a new house is like writing a novel. Everyone *says* they want to write a novel, but nobody really does. Rather, they want to *have written* a novel. It's the same thing with moving into a new house. Oh sure, we wanted to *be* in a new house, but that didn't mean we wanted to actually do the moving part that is necessary to get from House A into House B.
Luckily for us, we could afford to pay professionals to move the big heavy furniture, and we had a few Very Good Friends willing to help me move my books. As the saying goes: friends help you move, good friends help you move bodies, and really good friends help you move books. Paulette and I are blessed to have so many very good friends that it only took a week to get that particular job done (Friday night saw the last box of books leave my old den in my previous house and enter the new house, and last night we saw the last of the interior of that house entirely).
Aside from the PITA factor of packing boxes and physically carrying them from room to car and then from car to new room (this is especially a problem when moving into this particular new house -- the rooms are so huge that carrying boxes from the driveway to the "library" involves changing zipcodes), there's the problem of stirring up all the dust that had accumulated in the old house.
I am allergic to dust.
Our new house had the option of including a dust zapper (which we chose to get), so that should be less of an issue in the future. Not that we ever plan to move again. But stirring up all that dust at the old house wreaked havoc with my sinuses and gave me a sore throat (and a crabby disposition). My voice became unrecognizable on the phone (perhaps not such a bad thing, given that most people think I sound on the phone like that Moviefone guy and refuse to talk to me because they think I'm some automated telemarketing device thingy).
New houses, like new cars, have a distinct aroma that is produced by the "outgassing" of the new components -- particularly the paints, glues, and most especially the carpeting. In the case of cars, there's also the plastic parts, but our house doesn't have too many plastic parts as far as I can tell.
The best way to handle the "new house smell" is to open the windows and run the fans (whole house, bathroom, and any ceiling fans) for a while. We were having absolutely perfect weather for just that kind of thing right up until moving day (well, the day the hired help came to move the big pieces). That's when the temps dropped by about fifteen to twenty degrees and the Seattle sunshine began to drizzle down in the way it absolutely hasn't done for most of the winter (which is why we are now facing drought conditions, even with this most recent spat of drizzle).
What do you call a drought in Seattle? Four hours of no rain. Har, har, har.
So, with my dust-addled sinuses and lungs making for general upper respiratory ickiness, I'm unable to find much relief just yet because the paint and carpet fumes at home are still a little bit thick.
But my aching back (from the move) and wheezy lungs aside, I'm glad we're finally getting settled into the new place. It's a nice house, considerably larger than the townhouse we lived in before, and the neighborhood is pleasant and quiet. I'm looking forward to meeting more of our neighbors and exploring the nearby trails with little Alexander. We've already taken a stroll down one of them, and Alex really seems to enjoy it when the trail veers away from the houses and streets.
So there you have it. We are officially out of the old house, and now we're unpacking boxes and setting up shop in the new joint. Also, I'm starting to put in full days at work again, which is a good thing (just ask my boss). Paulette has already mentioned a couple of "if we had to do it again" observations, and I agree with every point, but I don't even want to think about doing it again. Not for a long, long time. I'm optimistic that we won't have to. Even if we have several more kids, this place should hold us.
Speaking of having more kids....
March 09, 2005
Well, we've come a long way since we decided to buy a house made-to-order from a production builder. The photo you see here shows our minivan (yes, tres suburban) in front of a plot of land where we decided to have our new home built. It took quite a bit of imagination to get from there to where we are now.
Here's how the 54-day construction cycle came to an end.
I received a phone call yesterday from the escrow company. It turns out that the lender had a few more papers they wanted us to sign, and they had to be signed by noon today or we wouldn't be funded in time to "close" today. So I told them that we'll be there by 10am, and then I phoned Paulette to see if she could make it by 10am.
In the meantime, all of this running around has cut into my work time, and both my employer and I (let alone the bank that wants to lend me money) would like me to remain employed. So I went into work early this morning just so that I could get *something* done.
I meet Paulette and Alexander at the escrow company's offices, where we sit with our closing person and are presented with the forms that remain to be filled out.
The first form we need to attend to is to initial a change to when the deal would expire if we didn't complete the deal today. Essentially, there's a form that notifies all parties that if we don't close the deal on time (ie, by today), then the offer to lend us all this money expires on a certain day. The escrow folks filled in March 11th for the day, but the bank wanted them to put in March 10th. In other words, if we didn't close the deal on time (today), the ability to close would expire tomorrow.
So we had to go in and acknowledge the change in that date, or they wouldn't let us close today.
THE IRONY OF THE WHOLE THING was that if we didn't initial the form by noon today acknowledging what would happen if we didn't close today, we wouldn't have closed today. Whereas, if they hadn't required us to come in and initial the form that told us what would happen if we didn't close to day, we could have closed today without signing it.
They made us come in to initial a form that would only be relevant if we didn't initial it.
Is your head spinning yet?
Okay, there were other forms, too (all very minor), but that one just cracked me up.
On our way out the door, someone shouted, "Wait! We need one more thing!" Good thing they caught us before we'd left, because we might not have been able to return to home (Paulette) and work (me) and then gotten the message and then gotten back to their office in time to make this other teeny tiny change.
But, as you might guess, they did not require us to come back yet again, and all we had to do then was wait until it was time to go back and check out the house. We arrived at our house for the final walkthrough with the site super, checked off everything from the list (one repair that hadn't been made yet, the fellow made right on the spot. Pretty cool.) and then we were done.
Well, except for getting the keys. The builder won't give you the keys until they know they have the money. So I called escrow and asked if everything was squared away. They said they'd call me in just a minute, but they were pretty sure we were good to go.
Then I get a call from our friendly builder's representative, who said that the money had gone through, and she'd meet us at the house to give us our keys.
She had already phoned our mortgage broker and our real estate agent. Which means, essentially, that when we officially became home owners, we were the last to know.
After she kindly delivered the keys and we loaded some stuff into the house that I'd had sitting in the van, we locked up. We tried all of the keys in the locks, and they all worked. In our mailbox, the mail carrier had left a form saying that the post office wouldn't deliver any mail for us until we told them whose mail to deliver. Accompanying this form was junk mail from the cable company.
We locked up and got ready to leave. I got a phone call from the escrow company. "You can go pick up your keys now."
All throughout this process, even with the last-minute back-and-forth, the one thing I kept in mind was something a friend had noted:
Everybody involved in the process wants this deal to happen. The real estate agent. The mortgage broker. The lender. The builder. The escrow company. Us. Everybody.
When you know that everybody wants the deal to happen, it's easier to find a way to make / let it happen as little challenges pop up. And we did, and they did, and now we own our new house.
You might think that's the end of the story. But, no.
Now it’s time to move into it.
March 08, 2005
Yesterday, on day 52 of the 54-day building cycle, we visited our house with the site super and determined the final punch-list before they complete the job and we take possession of the house.
As you can see in the photo to the left, the builder did, indeed, manage to finish (most of) the exterior paint job. They also finished work on the downspout (the one on the right), as well as some other cosmetic issues that you can't see in this photo. The paint job on the garage door wasn't quite finished (although it's very close), but you can't tell because the door is up in this shot.
Inside, the house was also very nearly completed. Most of what remained are little things: touch-up paint here, a door adjustment there. One earlier problem with the guest bathtub was patched and you can't even tell there was ever a problem at all.
Yesterday, we all noticed a crack in a window that wasn't there during our previous walk-through, and I'm pretty sure that's the biggest outstanding issue as far as the builder is concerned.
(The biggest issue as far as *we* are concerned is that the soaker jets don't work in the master bath, but that should only take the builder two minutes to fix. Nonetheless, we've told them that if they don't fix it, they can keep the house, we don't want it.)
Much to my and my employer's chagrin, most of yesterday was spent signing papers at escrow. For those of you who have never bought a house, here's what you have to look forward to: hours upon hours of signing papers, catching mistakes, signing the new papers, asking questions that never occurred to you before but are dreadfully important, signing more papers, filing for social security because you've reached retirement age, and signing more papers. Little Alexander, who had the most amazing disposition of any two-and-a-half-year-old when we went into the office, became surprisingly crabby because he missed his nap as well as most of his formative years and the application deadlines for college.
But the papers are now signed (by us, at least... I don't know about the lender, yet), and we are scheduled to have one final walkthrough of the house with the builder tomorrow before they hand us the keys.
These past fifty-three scheduled-workday days have not been stress free, but they certainly have flown by. And contrary to what most of our friends and family expected, the stress has not come so much from the building process but from other matters behind the scenes -- financing, coordinating the move, selling our previous house, etc. But it all seems to be coming together, and it all seems to be happening right on schedule.
Tomorrow, then, is Day 54. The day we take possession.
March 02, 2005
This morning, exactly one week before we are supposed to close on our new house, we had our "independent inspection" of the house-in-progress. "Independent" in this case means "represents the buyer", which is us, as opposed to all of the other inspections that are now, already have, or are about to be taking place on behalf of the builder.
Most of the potential problems that the inspector came up with were pretty clear cut ("there's a chip in the tub" or "the ceiling fan wobbles when it's turned on"). He tested a lot of things we would never think to, nor be able to, test ourselves: the water pressure for the house (it's fine), for example, or the presence of insulation in the attic (it's there) and the crawl space (it's missing). He also noted a couple of non-obvious things, like the missing light switch outside the master bedroom for the hall light. There are two other switches for that hall light, which is why it didn't occur to me that there would be a third switch outside of the master bedroom. But, as soon as he said it, I recalled seeing the box there for the switch before the drywall went up.
With the exception of the tub (which *may* be fixable, but it may have to be completely replaced), most of the items on the list seem pretty routine. Finishing the painting (both interior and exterior), caulking the millwork, and addressing the other items shouldn't require major effort to complete.
As you can see from the photo taken this morning, they've already installed the "fifth column" under the front eve (although they still need to put in the downspout that will run along that column) and have painted more of the trim below the eve. The shutters on the second floor still need attention (as does the front door, not pictured).
...and they still have five full working days to work on all of that stuff that remains. Not bad. Not bad at all. Especially given what they've managed to do in the 48 working days they've had thus far. My confidence is high that they'll take care of the issues that remain right on time.
The next major milestone is Monday, when we have our "new owner orientation" and have a last chance to note any items that remain to be addressed before we take possession. This 54-work day schedule is absolutely flying by.
February 25, 2005
What 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....
February 24, 2005
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.
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!
February 22, 2005
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.
February 21, 2005
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.
February 15, 2005
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?
February 14, 2005
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.
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.
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.
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.
February 07, 2005
I told you we were going to have our house-in-progress painted red.
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.
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.
January 28, 2005
Unless there has been an unscheduled non-work day that I'm not aware of, the builder working on our new house-in-progress closed the books today on Day 27 of construction. This is officially the half-way point of the schedule.
The crew appears to be pretty much on schedule. Some things appear to be a little bit ahead -- mostly on the interior, where the sheetrock has been mounted and the mud and tape and the sanding appear to be well on their way, if not completed. The scrap from the drywall has been removed, which means the rooms look more like rooms than they do construction waste bins. Not, mind you, that I've been inside the house to notice such things.
As you can see from this photo, the garage door has been installed. Other than that, one doesn't see much work being done on the exterior. Painting the exterior should have started, according to the schedule, the day after the siding was mounted, and before the shutters and garage door were installed. Likewise, the gutters should have been installed by now.
However, other houses at the same stage of construction as ours also appear to have been delayed. I suspect that the weather has been the culprit. This past week (the past two weeks, by and large) has (have) been mostly dry and warm, but the painting crews may be behind schedule because of two weeks of pretty much daily precipitation before that. Judging by the houses that are just ahead of ours on the master schedule (three of them are right next to each other, one block down), one of which received its first coat of its primary color today, I reckon that ours is maybe a week away from getting its first coat.
From what I've seen of other houses going up in this development, the painting and trim process of the exterior won't be wrapped up anywhere near as quickly as the other exterior work has been thus far. Interior work, on the other hand, will be picking up pace dramatically.
Watching the house go up is, in many ways, similar to watching Alex grow up. Alex is two and a half years old now, and every week (at least) there is some new behavior, some new physicality that presents itself. Some sign of progress, of growth. He's closer and closer to becoming an adult, which is freaky considering that he's still got a few years to go. Likewise, with each passing week (at least), the house has some new feature that makes it more and more like a complete house... although it still has a way to go, as well.
Of course, the house will hit maturity in 27 work days. The same can not be said of Alex... thank goodness. Then again, the same can not be said of me, either. :-)
January 24, 2005
Work continues pretty much on schedule on our house-in-progress.
Inside: the drywall is up. All of it! You might even catch a glimpse if you look inside the garage.
Outside: the siding is complete (or at least, it appears to be), and they've even put up some of the window trim and shutters.
I'm curious about why they install these ornamental shutters. Clearly, they have no practical value at all. They are in no way going to protect your windows in case of severe weather. So why bother?
January 21, 2005
Inside of our house-in-progress, they've installed insulation.
Outside, they've installed ladders. Lots and lots of ladders.
They were an expensive option, but we didn't want to leave anything to chance.
January 20, 2005
Sometimes I can be a real idiot.
I went today to check on the progress of our house-in-progress. Today is officially Day 21 on the schedule. (Note: I'd originally posted an entry on Monday the 17th and referred to that as Day 19, but it turns out that Monday was a scheduled non-workday because it was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Alas, since I was working that day, I didn't register that the construction crews might have the day as a scheduled day off. The fact that they were actually on site working didn't alter that impression, either. I've update the heading for that entry to read that it was the Day Before Day 19. But that’s not what I was referring to when I said that I can be a real idiot....)
Day 21, according to the schedule, is when the crews are supposed to wrap up getting the siding installed. As you can see from today's photo, they were still working on it when I dropped by at around 4pm. They were working on the area beneath the front eves while I was there, and there's still some space above the top floor windows that need to be taken care of. The other sides of the house appear to be all done.
While I was there, I had a chance to meet one of my future neighbors. This is where my ability to sometimes be an idiot comes in.
By way of background, I should remind you that I once studied Tae Kwon Do (back before I turned into a blimp). TKD is a Korean martial art, and one of the things that one learns at a good TKD school is rudimentary Korean language skills (how to count in Korean, the Korean names of various techniques, etc.) and rudimentary etiquette. Nothing super fancy, but enough to at least show some respect for the traditions and the practitioners of the art.
One of the things we were taught is that it is polite, when shaking hands or when handing something to another person (or taking something from another person), to bring up your left hand and hold it (palm down) below your right elbow as you extend your right arm in front of you. That sounds more complicated than it is. It's a subtle gesture, one that you might not notice if you had never been taught it -- although you better believe that your instructor will notice if you fail to do it!
There's a deli nearby where I work that is owned and managed by a family of Korean-Americans. I noticed that whenever I give them my payment or accept my change or my purchase that they automatically offer this gesture. Noticing that they do so, I reciprocate. It's a little thing, an attempt to acknowledge their culture and their politeness.
So as I mentioned above, I had the chance today to meet one of my future neighbors. And when we shook hands by way of introduction, I noticed the gesture. Involuntarily, I said, "You're Korean?"
Even as the words came out of my mouth, I felt like an idiot. What an awkward way to introduce myself, by starting off asking about their ethnicity. Stupid, stupid, stupid. What an effing moron I can be sometimes.
"How did you know?" she asked politely. Yes, this future neighbor is a she, and no, I did not ask, "So, you're a woman, too?" I sorta mumbled my way through my answer, about how I'd learned the preferred handshake when I took Tae Kwon Do, and I was all stupid and awkward about it. I don’t even know if my answer made sense. (Would *she* know that TKD is a Korean martial art? Just because she’s ethnically Korean doesn’t mean she knows Tae Kwon Do...)
I'm inclined to think that my future neighbor wasn't offended; at least, I *hope* not. We had a pleasant enough (albeit brief) conversation. She did notice that Paulette’s and my future house seems relatively large. I should have told her that I hate, hate, HATE backyards, but that didn't occur to me at the time. (That *will* be my response from now on, however.) Instead, I just mentioned the kid thing, and was otherwise non-committal. I didn't want to get into the whole indoor swimming pool issue, the bomb shelter, the mad scientist lab, and how it's not the size that matters, and all that.
So far, I've met maybe a half-dozen of our future neighbors. They have all been very friendly and welcoming, and I expect that we're all going to get along just fine. Still, I hate the idea of making an awkward first impression.
Secret Korean handshake: dumb white guy opens mouth, inserts foot.
January 18, 2005
I was just speaking with one of my avid readers (Hi, Mom), and she observed that it appears from my photos that our house-in-progress has no front door.
Au contraire! There *is* a front door... you just aren't looking hard enough. Here's a photo I took a few days ago (before they started putting up the siding):
Watch out for that first step... it's a doozy.
Now, with this photo and the other photos I've posted, you should be able to figure out where the front door is.
January 17, 2005
Work continues on our house-in-progress. Day 19 and Day 20 are on the schedule as just being catch-up days for the items we caught during the frame walk-through while the siding continues to be installed. [Note: this entry was written on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It was not on the schedule as a work day, although I'd originally assumed that it *was* a work day, since people were there working. Hence, although I had originally thought this was Day 19, I was in error.]
As you can see in this washed out snapshot, they've started attaching the wooden planks at the bottom of the house and are layering them up the walls. The planks are a kind of off-white. I'm assuming that simply means that they came pre-primed.
You can't tell it from the photo here, but it was raining here as the crew finished up for the day. So I thought it was kinda funny when they took out a hose in the midst of all this rain and sprayed the siding they've installed so far. Like, how much more wet could it get? (I know, I know, the rain wasn't cleaning it off the way a good hosing down did, but it was still funny.)
For the next couple of days, the wood plank siding will continue to creep up the outside of the house, while not much will be happening inside (except for taking care of those aforementioned small issues). Work inside the house resumes in earnest in a couple of days, when they begin putting up the drywall.
At this point, we are over one-third of the way through the construction schedule. Wow, is time flying. Yee-ha.
January 14, 2005
I ended my previous entry by musing, "What kind of paper are they using to wrap our house-in-progress?"
Even though today is Day 18 of construction on the house that we are having built, we had our Day 19 walk-through this morning. That meant touring the house with one of the site supers (superconductor? supercollider?) and reviewing what has been installed so far versus what was on the plans.
There were only a couple of things that shoulda been done thisa way but instead were done thataway, but they are simple things that should be easy for them to fix before the drywallers start drywalling.
But I also learned something I hadn't known before, which I'm sure any of you who have ever paid any attention to construction already knew. The purpose of the paper that they wrap around the house before they put up the siding is to act as the true protection for the house. ie, even though it's called paper (as in "tar paper", even though they don't really use tar paper any longer), what it really is is weather proofing. It's a moisture barrier to protect the outer walls. This is where all the real work is done -- or at least, so I'm told.
So the paper protects the outer walls. The purpose of the wood plank siding that goes on top of this paper is simply to protect the paper. The purpose of the paint that goes on top of the wood plank siding that goes on top of the paper that goes on top of the outer walls is simply to protect the siding. Apparently the paint itself is not worth protecting.
January 13, 2005
No, our house-in-progress is not going to be green. I've said that. It's going to be red. Unlike every other house on our block, which is either going to be green or beige (with green trim). That said, however, they wrap up the house in green paper before they put up the siding.
Today is day 17 of construction on our new house. Yesterday, there were all kinds of vans from So And So's Electrical Hut parked in front of the house, and the schedule had called for them to be wiring the house, so I'm guessing that's a good sign. This week has been the week for wiring the electrical, plumbing the gas pipes, finishing up the heating ducting, and inspecting the results.
Tomorrow is officially Day 18, since last Friday was a non-scheduled non-work day, but we are still scheduled to go in tomorrow for our Day 19 walk-through. Then we'll get to officially see the inside of the house for the first time. Remember, according the schedule, each day so far has been a "red" day, which means we're not allowed to go it. So, of course, since I haven't gone in, I haven't observed that they put in the wrong tub in the master bath, and then later replaced it with the correct one. Nor have I observed that the thermostat is being wired for the wall we asked them not to wire it on. That last item is something I'll have to make sure to notice tomorrow.
But all in all, with everything I've seen both outside and in (not that I've seen anything inside, mind you), it's exciting how everything is coming together. This is going to be a great house.
Even if we couldn't avoid that obnoxious Northwest insistence on using green to envelop the house.
It's going to take an awful lot of paper to wrap up this box. What kind of paper are they using? Construction paper?
January 07, 2005
Monday was a "scheduled non-work day" with regard to building the house. The construction crews also had last Friday off. Two days off for the New Year's Day holiday that occurred on a Saturday. Sheesh. Don't these people know we have a house we want to move into?
Construction proceeds apace on our house-in-progress. Today was officially work day number 14, and they are wrapping up getting the shingles on the roof, the plumbing in the walls, and they've started putting in ducting for the heat. The front, side, and rear doors have been installed (kinda).
I was curious as to why one of the second story windows has been sitting in the garage instead of being installed in its wall. It turns out that this window space is used as the major port of entry for the sheet rock which will be delivered the week after next. I'm sure that beats trying to carry it all upstairs.
The construction schedule includes an opportunity for us to meet with the site super (supervisor? superintendent?) to inspect the progress before the dry wall goes up. This also gives us a chance to take photos of the wall studs and the wiring and the ducting and everything in the walls that will be hidden by the sheet rock. This will be very useful when we want to make little renovations down the line. We'll meet with the super next week.
In the meantime, a couple of my faithful readers have asked for pictures from some other angle; something to give more of a sense of what the house looks like in context. In the coming days, I'll give you some other angles of the front of the house.
For now, however, let me show you the back of the house.
As I had mentioned in an earlier posting, our house is a little bit bigger than the houses on either side. This photo shows just how much farther our house extends into our back yard than our neighbors' do.
This is purely an accident of timing. Paulette and I had picked out this particular floor plan as being the best suited for us from among the many plans that the builder makes available. Because we got into the game so late in this community, there was only one lot left that could accommodate the house we picked. There were several larger floor plans (and several smaller floor plans) available, and there were still a couple of lots left to accommodate those larger plans. However, they didn't want to sell us the larger lot to put our puny house on. (Naturally, they wanted to sell larger houses for those larger lots, because that way, they'd make more money.)
So instead, they sold us the smallest lot left that our house could fit upon. Most of the houses on lots of this size have a smaller footprint (I don't know what the construction term is, so I'm using the computer geek term), and therefore a larger yard. As a result, our house looks much bigger than it is because it's next to smaller houses rather than being next to larger houses. Had we our preference, we'd have gone for the larger lot if only to get a decent size yard.
As with everything, there have been trade-offs each step of the way in our choices. Since we are not independently wealthy, cost *is* a constraining factor. This builder gives the best value of square footage for the buck, and if that means we get a smaller yard, then that's the way it goes. And so, here we are.
But all that said, you can imagine how psychologically weird it is to just look at the arrangement of houses on the one hand and say, Oh, My! That's one big house! And, on the other hand, to then look at the back yards and say, Oh, My! That's one tiny yard!
Earlier, I had joked that we were going to paint our house white with red polka dots. Well, that's a little family joke (my paternal grandfather once maintained a family cottage in Ontario in the sleepy town of Crystal Beach that was, indeed, white with red polka dots), but the truth is not too far off.
We had to pick the color scheme from a list of pre-approved schemes assembled by the builder. We opted for red with an off-gray trim, because we wanted something that wasn't effing green. Of the thirty color schemes available, twenty-five of them or so were some shade of green. It's like some cruel Northwest joke. "The Evergreen State" my butt. So, we opted for the least green color available. It was red.
If you think our house is a little bit taller, a little bit wider, a little bit farther forward and a lot farther back compared to the other houses on our street, just wait until you see it in Red. Holy cow, is our house going to stand out.
We didn't plan it that way -- it never dawned on us that our floor plan was larger than the houses next to ours. They hadn't even poured the foundations for our neighbor's houses at that time. But while we didn't plan it, is it any surprise to anyone who knows me that our new house is, like it's owners, going to stand out just a wee bit?
(Yes, I know. I need to go on a diet. But that's not what I meant....)
December 30, 2004
I started writing a long essay about the problem of stalkers and the Internet; decided that maybe that's not such a good idea right this second. Instead, here's a photo of how our house-in-progress looks on Day 10 (attention stalkers -- there's nothing to see here. Move along.):
As you can see, the big difference as far as the exterior is concerned is that the windows are now going in.
When Al Gore invented the Internet, I wonder if he had any idea that it would be used to create millions upon millions of virtual slide shows on subjects as exciting as watching some family's house being built. *You* may not find it exciting, but *I'm* having a wonderful time watching this thing go up. Thanks for letting me share.
December 27, 2004
The crew that has been framing our new house is roughly four days ahead of schedule. Aside from some pick-up work here and there -- getting the white siding up for the porch eves, etc. -- the framers are pretty much done.
However, because this is a production builder that's running the whole show, that doesn't mean that the house is going to be ahead of schedule. A production builder coordinates the assembly of dozens upon dozens of houses (if not more) at any given time. Just because our framers are ahead of schedule doesn't mean the next crew to work on our house is ahead of schedule on whichever house they are currently working on.
ie, The plumbers will most likely come in to work on our house on the day they are scheduled to. Likewise, the roofers will show up when they are scheduled to show up. Just because one crew finishes early doesn't mean that the rest of a given job moves up. It simply means that the framing crew has a little bit of slop time now between this and their next scheduled house to frame.
Still, it's nice to see things moving along. Any time one crew gets their job done correctly and on time (or early) is one less potential roadblock to our house being completed on time. Near as I can tell, this crew put up the correct number of walls for the correct number of rooms . . . not, of course, that I'd know, since I'm not actually allowed to go in just yet. Safety reasons, you understand.
All that said, there probably won't be much new to see for the next few days, as the house sits and waits for the roofers and the plumbing crew to work their magic.
Yes, it's true, I'm still excited.
December 23, 2004
Before, I'd thought it was an optical illusion, but now I'm sure of it: our new house-in-progress is taller than the houses on either side. It also stands a little further forward and extends further back into the yard. This means that our backyard is teeny tiny (and, as you can tell, the front yard ain't much larger than a postage stamp), but in this day of Barry Bonds and other steroid-taking heroes, why get hung up on consequences?*
As of today, the new house has a roof. Framing is very near completion. I think the eves over the porch and in front of the garage are the only things left.MORE...
December 22, 2004
...but the framing guys are way ahead of schedule in putting up the walls on our house. When I went over to take today's photo, they were using a crane to start lifting up the roof triangle thingies (I believe that's the technical term, but I may be mistaken) and piling them on top of the second story walls, which are already up.
Again, I know that they won't *finish* ahead of schedule, but it's nice to know that at least we're not experiencing any delays just yet.
December 21, 2004
When we had our most recent meeting with the builders of our new house, they gave us a schedule that outlined Days it is Unsafe for You to Enter the Property, Days it is Okay to Enter with Supervisor Permission, and Days it is Safe to Enter.
The unsafe days are all in red, the safe with permission were outlined in yellow, and the safe days in green.
The schedule was pretty much entirely red.
So I don't dare step foot on the property while it's a red day. What if the site super is nearby and catches me? I'd be violating the terms of our contract if I were caught in the house on a red day. They might throw me in jail! They might stop building the house altogether!
Or maybe not.
So they now have the second floor atop the first set of walls, and that's cool. The main stairway is in... but, of course, I haven't dared to actually enter the property to inspect it (or climb up it). Walking around the perimeter of the property, there's the smell of lots and lots of wet wood. New house smell, of a sort.
Man, I am such the giddy little suburbanite, all excited about our new house going up. The proximity to schools and parks and trails, the family-oriented community, and the many neighbors who live there already who have kids the same age as Alex.
Buying the mini-van was nowhere near as thrilling as all this.
December 20, 2004
It's amazing what a difference a couple of days can make. For example, compare this picture below with the one I took on "Day 1" of our house being built:
The first and most obvious difference is that cleaning the lens on one's cell phone camera produces a much better picture than if one just lets it stay gunky and dirty.
The second most obvious difference, of course, is that they -- the ubiquitous they -- finally got around to painting our next door neighbor's house. Interestingly, the house on the other side of our neighbor's is also green (albeit a darker green). Ours is going to be white with red polka dots, so at least we won't have the problem of having three green houses in a row.
The third most obvious difference, which is probably lost because of the other two, is that our new house now has a few walls. I'm told that this is a feature, included in the purchase price. A friend of mine came out with me to survey the progress, and after noticing that all of the other houses in our new neighborhood are two stories tall, he asked how tall ours is going to be. I told him that it will be six stories tall. We are, after all, planning for the future. Twenty-seven bedrooms and a dumb-waiter-style elevator.
We're still waiting on word from the home owners' association for approval for the extra four floors, of course (just as they have to approve our color scheme), but I'm sure it'll come through.
In the meantime, though, it's clear that our new house will have at least one floor, if not two.
PS: if it looks like the first story of our house is already taller than the first floors of our neighbors' houses, that's because it is. We paid $.39 to "Biggie Size" our house. Either that, or our foundation sits a little higher for some reason.
December 16, 2004
Even though they actually began framing the new house yesterday, today is officially "Day 1" on the construction company's calendar. As of this morning, they had the joists and most of the floor down for the covering over the "sub-basement". In the photo below, you can see that where there used to be a hole in the ground, there is now something of a floor on top of the foundation.
You can also see from this photo that I need to clean the lens on my cell phone's built-in camera.
The next task on the list for today is to begin framing the garage walls. I assume that that's what those many piles of wood are all about.
Although Paulette and I particularly enjoy living in our current house in our current neighborhood, it has become obvious that we have outgrown the house and that the neighborhood is not terribly kid-friendly. We decided to look for a place where we could fence in the yard for Alex, where our house wasn’t attached to our neighbor’s, where there are more neighborhood kids near Alex's age, and where we had more rooms in the house to allow Paulette and I to each have an office in the home (which we haven't had ever since Alex arrived) and be able to accommodate various future needs.
There were a number of homes in nearby neighborhoods that met many of our criteria, but they were also outrageously priced and most needed the kind of repairs that we just didn’t have the energy or the money to contemplate making. We decided that, for the money, it would make more sense to buy new construction (like we did with our current house) and make sure we get everything that we want right from the beginning.
We ended up choosing a neighborhood where there is an elementary school being built roughly two blocks away, where there are a plethora of parks and trails scattered throughout (most of the parks having all different kinds of jungle gyms and swings and the like; very kid friendly), and where there was a good solid sense of family-friendliness.
The builder that designed the community is a “production builder”: something between a speculative builder who builds the house and then tries to sell it, and a custom builder who builds the house exactly the way you want it. What these folks do is sell you a lot, let you pick a floor plan that will fit on that lot, and then let you customize that floor plan with a few set, specific variations (like choosing a loft versus a closed-in room, for example, or having a fireplace installed in the family room, etc.). You can’t customize the floor plan the way you can with a custom builder: no moving around where a doorway goes, or widening the stairwell, or anything like that. You can’t add a fireplace just anywhere; only where they have it specifically listed as an option. That kind of thing.
Once you’ve picked your floor plan with you choice of variations, you can then go to town customizing options like cabinets, bathroom fixtures, moldings, door styles and door wrap styles, exterior colors, light fixtures, carpeting, etc., etc., etc. They even have a showroom where you can go to see most of the available options. In many ways, it’s like buying a car: they get you with the options.
But then, it’s those options that truly give a house its character. Unlike our current house, which we bought from a developer after it was already being built, we had a chance to truly customize our new home. So we splurged on cherry cabinets in the kitchen, skipped getting an air-conditioner, and so on. Picking the options was not stress-free: we were constantly confronted with the battle between economy and “doing it right the first time.” Nonetheless, Paulette and I benefited from being able to work harmoniously in making our choices, and we’re both happy with the choices we made.
Alas, this builder is selling houses faster than they can build them. So we made our choices for the options (a multi-week process), and then we waited. And waited. And waited. And, of course, tried to sell our current house in the meantime.
But now, our current house is sold and our new house is being built. The calendar calls for a 54-day building schedule, not including weekends, holidays, and “non-scheduled non-work days” (meaning weather delays).
Today is day 1.
December 15, 2004
...you still wouldn't be home by now, because they just started building it.
The construction crews started framing our new house today. Yee-ha!
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