The Building Begins

September
7
2016

 

Delivering the Wood

Delivering the Wood

You can imagine that this was an exciting day for us.  Our house (now it’s actually called an “addition” – more on that later) was about to start.  After so many years and so many plans, and changes, and money… here it is….the day!  This guy – we named him Mr. Happy – never smiled.  We figured he hated his job…but we were ecstatic!

Three days later our builders arrived.

The Beginning

The Beginning

Little Choptank 2016 D April 127

Little Choptank 2016 D April 130

Every day there was some progress – all that took about seven days, not counting the weekend.

 

More wood deliveries

More wood deliveries

 

The plywood starts

The plywood starts

 

Meanwhile, John and I decided we wanted to build one of those mileage directional signs.  We had pallets around – some of them pretty beat up, but we were able to salvage a lot of pieces.  And using Pinterest as inspiration, he cut some into shapes, others just with a point, and I painted them and looked up mileage.

Little Choptank 2016 D April 090

He cemented the post down by our little beach area, I think it came out pretty good!

When the plywood was done, the next step was the walls!  I know, we’re getting a little nutty here, but this was thrilling!

Little Choptank 2016 E May 043

Little Choptank 2016 E May 046

With the framing going up, it really started looking like a house.

View from the water

View from the water

 

There’s the Crab Shack, cute, little Katrina Cottage.  If you’ve followed along you already know the cost of building the stand-alone house in the middle of the property wound up being too expensive. (You can read about that here) And if we wanted to do a stand-alone where this “addition” is now, we actually wouldn’t have been able to!  Rules have changed, and we would have had to build farther back from the water. There were also many more rules and regulations that would have to be met…such as sprinklers in every room.  Now sprinklers are a good idea, don’t get me wrong.  But we feel they should be the choice of the homeowner.  They are also very expensive, AND…down here, we all have wells for our water.  The well would not be able to keep up with the demand if there should be a fire!  So, some people (we’ve been told) have added huge tanks to hold water!  At great expense!  Crazy.  So, we went down to town hall to find out if it would be possible to “add-on” to the Crab Shack, and even though we all love it, we are changing it a bit inside and adding our “house” to it!  More on this in a future post.

So as the framing is getting worked on, we get this delivery….roof trusses!  The truck was gigantic, the driver was extremely adept at maneuvering, and then he just lifted the back of the cab and let them fall off!  I was shocked!  But don’t worry, they were fine.

Roof trusses

Roof trusses

 

He just drops them!

He just drops them!

 

Next post, we’ll see the trusses getting installed, and some more awesome drone pictures!  Come back and see!  Meanwhile, enjoy the white heron and a beautiful sunset.

Little Choptank 2016 G July 012.jpg cropped

Little Choptank 2016 G July 089

 

 

 

We Didn’t Know What We Didn’t Know

November
20
2015

 

First off, now that I’m “back”, I want to thank you all for hanging in there.  (Although truthfully most of the emails I got are questions about our Katrina Cottage – a/k/a The Crab Shack.)  It’s been a while, I know – but I just didn’t feel like writing.  And here’s why…..

As you may remember, we moved down to Maryland a year ago – and we were moving along nicely for a while with our house plans.  Then our draftsman got sick, and we didn’t hear from him for months (and months and months)!  It was very annoying discouraging.  When we did finally get them back, of course, there was another change or two we wanted done, and that took another few weeks.

House Plans

Finally the day came!  The plans were all done and we were going to give them out to three builders.  Two local regular builders and one modular.  Believe it or not, that process took much longer than we anticipated also!  The two local builders had to come to the property a few times to check out the road, or measure something, and the modular builder (who I dealt with only online) hardly ever wrote and didn’t even acknowledge receiving our plans for two weeks!

I’d say it took at least another month before we were able to make an appointment with each of the builders to go over their proposals.  When we met with the first builder, we went over each and every page, with them practically reading each page in its entirety.  When we got to the last page, our jaws dropped – over a million dollars!!  Yep, you read that right.  I mean, how stupid were we?  We never thought it would have been that much!

Now yes, this was the highest bid, and we knew it would be.  The other local builder was somewhat less, coming in around the $840,000 range.  (Between us friends – this was the one we secretly figured we’d be going with.)  And as expected, the modular builder’s bid was the least – however, they did not have a lot of things included in their price that would still have to be added in, like wood floors throughout, and granite counter tops – among many other things.

OLD HOUSE PLANS 1st FloorAfter waiting ALL THAT TIME I was so disheartened.  And I’m not even just talking about waiting for the plans to be finished and the bids to come in.  I had been working on these plans for years!  I scoured probably a hundred house plan books in libraries and bookstores, I bought at least 10 of them, and looked at thousands of plans online to draw up what we wanted in our dream house.  Then we had the draftsman draw them up, and we changed them many, many times making these some of the most expensive plans you’ll ever see.  If we only knew then what we know now!   I was done.  I just couldn’t muster any enthusiasm to continue talking about house plans.  We told the builders the bad news, we were just going to shelf everything for a while and then see what we wanted to do.  John at first thought we’d start planning right away.  But I didn’t want to.  I didn’t have the enthusiasm for it.  It was our first full-time summer down here and I wanted to enjoy it, not only getting a break from all the house plan talk, but I also didn’t want people coming down to the property all the time checking on wetlands, and height requirements, and setbacks or anything else.

By the way, here is the best piece of advice I can give you…..if you are planning to build a house – buy plans that are already made up.  You can always find a draftsman or house designer or even an architect to change them.  But drawing up plans from scratch, and then making all the changes that will be necessary is unbelievably expensive. Trust me on this one.  And by the way, we have a full set of house plans for sale. :)

OLD HOUSE PLANS 2nd Floor

So we took a break.  And enjoyed the summer.  We fished, we went out in the kayak, we took sunset cruises, we toured around the area a little, we barbecued, we had company, and we relaxed.  It was heaven!  And then we decided to get back to business.

Come back next time to see what we’ve been up to.

 

In the Words of Etta James….

April
2
2014

 

AT LAST!

You probably know how many times I’ve mentioned our Metal Building.  Or our lack of Metal Building.  We bought the building back in early October from Diamond Pole Builders in Delaware.  And truly, they have been great.  But because of permits, and surveys, and soil testing and planting plans, oh and yeah,  the weather, our building has been delayed many, many months.  But now, we have a Metal Building.

We had to build up the soil by 2 feet

We had to build up the soil by 2 feet

This is looking towards our gate and entrance way

This is looking towards our gate and entrance way

I know it may seem a little crazy to keep talking about this, after all it is only a metal building.  Practically everyone down this way has one.  And all it will do is house the “toys”, the boats, the tractor, the ATV, etc.  But to us it represents progress.  Moving forward with our plans.  We will move stuff from the garage to this metal building, and then we can move the bins and boxes we’ve packed up here in New Jersey to the garage down there.

They dropped off stuff

They dropped off stuff

And then in snowed again!

And then in snowed again!

After we move the bins and boxes from our garage and living room, we can proceed with fixing up this house to get it ready to sell.  We’ve done quite a bit so far, but we need to fix up the garage, redo some sheet rock and paint it, and paint the outside of the house.

 

They started building on Monday, March 24th

They started building on Monday, March 24th

This is what we saw when we arrived on Thursday, March 27th

This is what we saw when we arrived on Thursday, March 27th

 

So finally, now we can start working again.  We originally thought we’d be able to move down there in May while we put this house up for sale.  How naive we were!  Everything has taken much longer than we thought, especially the permit process!

One cupola

One cupola

 

The other cupola

The other cupola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The company, Diamond Pole Builders, uses the Amish to build their buildings.  And they are working machines!

They arrived before 7 a.m. on Friday

They arrived before 7 a.m. on Friday

They wanted to get as much done as possible on Friday

They wanted to get as much done as possible on Friday

Late afternoon Friday

Late afternoon Friday

And by Friday night, March 28th our building was done!

The side we see when we come out our gate

The side we see when we come out our gate

The inside. We will still add some dirt and rocks on the sides to close it up

The inside. We will still add some dirt and rocks on the sides to close it up

 

 

John is happy it's finished!

John is happy it’s finished!

The front

The front

So now, back to work.  We are ready to move forward.  And our two thoughts, exactly how long is it  going to take to get the permits and soil testing and survey when we want to start the house? And can we get the Amish to build it? They were amazing!

 

 

Modular Construction Part 2

March
12
2014

 

We may, just may, be getting closer to getting our metal building built!  Hooray!  The “pad” is ready now, and a part of the building has been delivered.  They tried to deliver the whole thing, but the truck was too big to make the turn into our driveway and they had to take it back to the main store.  So now they have to deliver it in different loads, but hey, it’s progress!  We’ll be down there over the weekend, and we are hoping they’ll be able to start while we’re there.  We’re very optimistic people.

The "pad" for the metal building

The “pad” for the metal building

 

So, last time I talked about Modular Construction, I included an article explaining what it is, how it’s different from a “stick built” home, and the pros and cons.  You’d think I was working for a modular construction firm.  What I’m really trying to do is figure out of this is a viable alternative to building the entire house from scratch, or if we can incorporate at least “some” modular sections.

Now I’ve heard another term in addition to modular  -  panelized!  It’s similar to modular in that it is built off-site, but according to the National Association of Home Builders, it’s “a construction technique that uses advanced technology, quality materials and a controlled work environment to build floor, wall and roof systems to construct an energy-efficient home in less time.”

Picture from designbasics.com

Picture from designbasics.com

It sounds like the walls, and floors and the roof are built off-site, just like the modular homes, but instead of being trucked down in “modules” or whole components, it is trucked in “panels”. For now, it seems the most common use of these panelized firms is for the pre-building of floor and roof trusses.  Now that we realize the truck hauling the metal building couldn’t make it down our driveway, we might have to use a panelized construction firm instead of a modular one if we want to do part of our house this way!  I have yet to figure out, however, if they would be able to construct panels according to plans that I have, rather than having to use plans that they offer.  They do say they can customize the plans they offer, but we already have our plans.

Picture from designbasics.com

Picture from designbasics.com

There are panelized firms, according to Design Basics LLC. that will help you through the entire building process, but many whose involvement ends with the delivery of the materials.  Other manufacturers will provide a small crew and a crane to help your general contractor.

Picture from designbasics.com

Picture from designbasics.com

picture from designbasics.com

Picture from designbasics.com

Our previous builder, who, as you know, moved away and left us, would be able to find all this out, as he already dealt with a modular builder and incorporated even just parts of the house the modular way if you wanted.  He was very flexible and I guess he had a good relationship with that company, so he didn’t have to buy the “whole” house.  He would, I know, find out about these panel manufacturers and let us know if this was a viable way to go.  I wish he’d move back to Maryland.

Picture from designbasics.com

Picture from designbasics.com

I’ll be looking more into both these options and will report back.  In the meantime, if anyone has any experience with either the modular or panelized type of building, please let us know!  We’d love to hear anything about it from the consumer’s point of view!

Ten Things to Discuss with your Contractor

July
24
2013

I saw an article on Houzz today, written by Anne Higuera CGR, CAPS, that I thought was very germane to my blog. She lists things to discuss with your contractor before you start any job, big or small.  People wrote in to add their own suggestions, like discuss his or her clean up policy, and ask who will be responsible for minor fixes if any damage occurs during the job. Some people suggested discussing on-site ”behavior”, one crew brought their dog to the site, and others arrived at 6 a.m., and of course we’ve all had the workers who blast the radio the minute they arrive.  All touchy subjects, but if they are of concern to you, discuss them up front.  The main suggestion was the most important, I think: KNOW your contractor.  Get his license number and insurance number.  Get referrals and call them up! Check if your state posts licenses and complaints, see if you can learn anything there. You will have these people around for a while, and if you’re building a house, like we will be, they will be around for a long, long time.  Discussing issues up front, or as soon as they come up will go a long way to having a smooth, successful reno or build.  Here is Anne’s article:

Remodeling or building a new home is a big financial and emotional investment. It can also be a big investment of your time if you want to be closely involved in the decision-making. Knowing what to expect before the project gets started will help you better prepare for the process. Here are 10 questions you should always ask your contractor before starting a home remodeling project.

Little Choptank JAN 09 007

1. What is our schedule? A schedule is more than   just a start and end date. Having a schedule that outlines tasks and timing   will give you a big-picture view of sequencing and deadlines for things such   as tile and countertops. It will also give you a benchmark so that you know   if things are slipping by a day or two.With small projects such as kitchens and baths, schedule is everything. The   cabinet lead time determines the start date and sub-trades need to be scheduled in quick succession, for instance. Don’t start without a schedule that tells you what days and times workers will be on site.

2. Who will be here every day? Depending on the size and structure of the company you hire, the answer could vary widely. Many remodelers use a  lead carpenter system, where a staff member (sometimes called a superintendent) is responsible for day-to-day work on site, and often swings a hammer as well. Ask your contractor direct questions about who will be responsible for opening and locking up, who will supervise subcontractors on site and who to call on a daily basis with any questions.

3. How will you protect my property?This is a conversation best had before demolition, not after you come home and find dust all over the house.There are a number of dust-containment measures that can be taken, and talking about it ahead of time will provide you will a clear idea of how the construction area will be cordoned off from the rest of your home and how you’ll be able to move through your house.

There’s also the issue of stuff — all the books, furniture, drapes, delicate vases and paintings on the wall.It’s helpful to remove them all from the construction zone. This includes anything hung on walls or sitting on shelves in adjacent rooms, since they can shake loose from persistent hammering.If you leave them as-is, it will cost to have them moved and moved again to keep them out of the way, and you risk damage in the process.It’s better to move it all at once and know it’s safe and sound.

4. How will you communicate with me? With every   mode of electronic communication at your fingertips, you may have some ideas   about how you would like to receive information about your project. Your   contractor likely has specific ways he or she likes to communicate, too — daily emails, cloud-based schedules or maybe just phone calls.Make sure you   understand how you will be contacted and receive information. If the contractor’s format doesn’t give you what you think you’ll need, agree on a   method and format so that you’re not in remodeling limbo on a daily basis.   Weekly meetings at a specific time are an effective way to make sure you see   your contractor in person to get your questions answered.

img073

5. What part of my project concerns you? There’s always something unknown about a project, or an area that is most likely to trigger an immediate change order. Odds are, your contractor already knows what that is. Talking about it upfront and running some worst-case-scenario numbers or doing some early, selective demolition to get more information could be the best way to get a handle on what may be ahead.

6. What will happen if there is a change order? Change orders can be easily handled in your construction contract. A common way to document change orders is in writing, where the change in scope of work and the price are noted and signed by the client and contractor. Some contracts also note the change in schedule, if applicable. Make sure you have a plan in place to document the unexpected and expected changes that happen along the way.

7. How will you let me know I need to make a decision? There are many ways to organize a list of decisions — from spreadsheets, to lists, to notes on a calendar. But all of these methods focus on the same outcome: giving you clear direction about what and when you need to make a decision on something. Asking for a list and deadlines will help you keep organized and ensure you are able to shop for materials and make decisions in time to meet your contractor’s schedule.

8. How do I reach you after hours? Knowing how to reach your contractor on an emergency basis is just as important as your contractor being able to reach you. Exchange all your numbers — work, cell and landline — so that contacting each other won’t be a crisis in itself.

Little Choptank Feb 18, 09 007

9. When do I need to be available to meet? Even if you set up a regular weekly meeting, there may still be necessary additional meetings.We usually schedule an electrical walk-through on the day the electrician sets boxes and can lights so that everyone can review their placement and function before wires are run. Another key day is when the tile-setter works on layout .There are a number of ways to set tile, and having an on-site meeting is the best way to make these decisions. It’s also possible to have your architect or designer attend those meetings in your place.

10. What kind of documentation will I receive when the project is done? Contracts frequently call out end-of-project paperwork — lien releases, marked-up plans with as-builts on plumbing and other utilities, copies of inspection reports, etc. But there may be additional items you will find valuable: a full set of mechanical photos before insulation is installed, the operating manuals for installed equipment (and a personal lesson in their operation if you don’t know the basics), a list of subcontractors and contact info, care for things such as countertops and tile and a well-marked electrical panel. Confirming that you will receive these things before you get started will help ensure   that you finish the project with all the information you need.

 

We were very happy with our builder for the garage and crab shack, but since then he and his family decided to move to Vermont!  So, when we start the house, we will be back to interviewing and vetting new contractors, and this information will be extremely handy.

Do you have any other advice, or any good (or bad) stories about your contractor to share?  We’d love to hear them.

 

American Flag Houses

July
4
2013

We’re going to be out of the country on July 4th this year. It’s sad in a way, because I love July 4th!  I love watching the fireworks, any fireworks, but especially the TV shows from Boston and New York.  I can be in the comfort of my own home and have a great view!  Yes, not the same as in person, but I love it anyway.  Which do you prefer?  Watching in person, or on TV?    Anyway, John has a business trip to Prague, and I’m going with him.  I couldn’t pass that up, could I?  So in honor of the holiday, here are some interesting flag houses I found for you to enjoy:

Patriotic_house_#1

 

Patriotic_House_#2

 

Patriotic_House_#3

Those three pictures came from www.rogersfamilyco.com.

This next one is from www.bicycletouringtales.com:

Patriotic_House_#4

 

And from carolyncholland.wordpress.com:

Patriotic_House_#5

 

This one is from www.thegazette.com:

Patriotic_House_#6

 

And last, the American Flag house that is probably the most famous, right from our future retirement city!  There were many stories about it around the internet, supposedly the owner, builder Brandon Spear painted it this color in protest because he couldn’t fly the flag on his house.  But that story is not exactly true.  He wanted to restore the home, but the windows he chose weren’t up to “historical code”, and the local building inspectors wouldn’t let him put them in.  The windows he was supposed to use would have cost one-third of the restoration budget!  So, since the building code didn’t say anything about what color the old Victorian should be painted, and as a sort of protest against what he said are unfair regulations, he painted one of his homes black, and one this way, with an American flag theme.

Stars and Stripes housewtmk

It’s my favorite!    Hope you have a wonderful holiday!

We own it!

April
23
2013

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

John and I were like two little kids!  The negotiations got a little difficult at the end, I actually thought we lost the property.  Then Eva called me up a half hour later, all the while I was thinking we didn’t get it, and said, “Congratulations, you got the property!”  The sellers relented and accepted our offer, providing we would close quickly.  In two weeks!  We scrambled, but we did it!  And never had one second of buyer’s remorse!

So, now we had to deal with three buildings we didn’t want, and start thinking (and dreaming) of our plans.  House plans, garage plans, guest house, landscaping ideas, what to do with the pool on the property, rip rap, and life plans.  We found this place a lot sooner than we actually thought we would, so in one way, we had time to make a lot of these decisions.  We both decided (separately) to get binders and fill them up with our ideas.  John did his in “phases”, the order in which we would do our projects.  I did the different aspects of the ideas: floor plans, outside of the house, landscape ideas, inside design ideas, appliances and furniture, like that.  I think I had more binders than he did, but as we made decisions, I pared them down.

We also found this advice in a book by Susan Lang, entitled, “Designing Your Dream Home.”  I’ll review this book in a future post, but I will tell you now that her bylines are, “every question to ask, every detail to consider, and everything you need to know before you build or remodel,” and she wasn’t kidding.  She suggests twelve binders, and she tells you what each one is for.  But, I did it my way, John did it his, and it has worked for us so far.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The first thing we did was hire a builder.  We decided to interview three builders at the property, so they could see the old house and get a feel for the place. (This was at the time “Designer’s Challenge” and “Landscapers’ Challenge” was on HGTV, so like them,  we went with three.)   We met in the house  – it’s a mess, isn’t it?    All three said, although it was a shame, it would be so expensive to fix up the old house, which is exactly what we wanted to hear, if you want the truth.  We wanted to build a house, and we wanted it closer to the water, so we were happy to know the three of them felt the same way.

We met with each builder, two in one day, the third the next day, and we walked around the property with them discussing our ideas.  We showed them our plans for the first building we decided to build, the stand-along garage and asked them each to submit a proposal.  As it turned out, we did go with the builder with the best price, but that wasn’t our only consideration.  We actually liked this builder the best, we felt we had a rapport with him, and that he “got” what we were going for.  He also had another point in his favor, which is something we didn’t realize at the time would be so helpful…. he was local to the town we were building in!  So in fact, we had somewhat made up our minds even before we got his proposal.  If he was way too expensive, we might have reconsidered, but as it turned out, he was the least expensive.  And his knowing everyone in town, especially in the building department at town hall, was a very good thing.  So, now we had our team!  Next time….. getting rid of two of the buildings!