Katrina Cottage Makeover

October
29
2016

It’s a present day blog post.  We are still living above the garage in John’s office/guest room.  I have to admit it’s not as bad living here as I first thought.  The builders knew we needed the Crab Shack  makeover done quickly because we had friends from Florida coming for four days and we wanted them to stay there. John named this endeavor “Operation Jesse.”  Meanwhile we were settled in to the little garage apartment.  (Emphasis on little.)

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Well, they are not done in the Crab Shack, but it is finished enough so that our friends could be comfortable. Our “stuff” is still all around the perimeter of the rooms, but the couch and chairs and tv are usable, as is the bed and the new bathroom space.  There is still spackling to be done upstairs in the loft, and painting and electric work in the main room of the cottage, plus the big new closet has to be finished.

But, we’re moving forward at least.  I don’t have access to my computer – writing a blog on the Ipad (for me at least) – not so easy.  So, take a look around at how the Crab Shack a/k/a Katrina Cottage is evolving:

 

Our old kitchen

Our old kitchen

 

Wall is where kitchen was

Wall is where kitchen was

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Old bathroom

New bathroom with tub

New bathroom with tub

 

Mudroom then

Mudroom then

 

Mudroom so far now, with doorway to new "addition"

Mudroom so far now, with doorway to new “addition”

I set up the new closet space with a cooler and coffee maker:

Mini kitchenette

Mini kitchenette

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All the comforts of home, huh?  We’re thinking we’ll be in the garage another week.  Jesse and Pam are leaving Sunday, and we hope to be back in the Crab Shack ourselves by next Saturday.  I’ll let you know.

Enjoy the sunset!

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Wind Power

May
8
2014

 

Since our metal building has been built, we have made a little progress.  We’ve made room in the garage so we could bring down the bins and boxes we’ve already packed, and we’ve taken a truck load of those bins and boxes from our house in Jersey down to Maryland.

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I put Chrissy’s bins in plastic, just to make sure no little critters find their way in:

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Now we will start doing a few more fix-ups at the Jersey house, and also pack up more bins!  We’re finally back on track.  Target month to put this house up for sale is now July, so hopefully things will keep moving ahead.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d write about our wind turbine.  We’ve looked at it a lot lately, since the metal building is right next to it in the field that is right outside our gate.  To digress a bit, whoever cut up this property did a crazy job of it!  There are three properties down by the end of the peninsula, ours has the largest amount of land, but half of it is a field, then there’s our neighbor’s property, then the other half of ours is on the water.  We fenced in the area on the water where we are building the house (and where the garage and crab shack have already been built) but the field was just sitting there, really kind of wasted space. We decided to put the wind turbine there, mostly because it was out of our and our neighbors’ way.  So then, of course, we decided to put the metal building over there and eventually we hope to put some solar panels out there also.

This was when we first had it installed

This was when we first had it installed

Our windmill is a Bergey.  Bergey Windpower is the oldest and most experienced manufacturer of residential-sized wind turbines in the world.  John told me it makes about 1200 kw, which is more than we use right now down there.  Of course, after July, when we’re in the Crab Shack full-time we may use more, but paying a $20 electric bill is a lot better than a $200 electric bill! (and dare I say…a $400 electric bill!!)  And now, since we sometimes don’t use as much electricity as the windmill makes, we get a check back from the electric company!  This month they sent us $93!  Once the house is built, and the pool operational, our bill will be higher, but we’re expecting with the solar panels and the geo-thermal system, they will be quite reasonable.

We were getting the pad ready for the metal building

We were getting the pad ready for the metal building

The cost of the turbine is pretty high as you would imagine. They can run from $30K to $70K for a residential model.  We had a lot of cable to run since it was far from the transformer, which is in our garage.  And we put it up 100 feet, instead of 80, which is what a nearby family had.  So of course, that added to the cost.    You do get money back from the state, at least we did, and the federal government gives you tax breaks, so that helps to offset the cost.  John and I thought we would see a return on our investment in about six years, but it turns out it will be more like ten to twelve years.  But we’re still very happy with it.

The blades are 22 feet long each and weigh about 600 lbs. total!

The blades are 22 feet long each and weigh about 600 lbs. total!

One thing we were pretty happy about is that it is not really too loud!  It does hum when there are really strong winds, but of course the wind itself is noisy then.  Usually you don’t hear it at all, I guess because it’s so high up, and it turns kind of gently.  It turns itself towards the wind, and believe me, down there, the winds can come from every direction and turn rather quickly.  We’re very glad we decided to make the investment.  And being a little greener makes us happy too.

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We’re Getting a Metal Building

October
3
2013

 

John wants to put up a metal building.  Yeah, I know, not very pretty.  That’s exactly what I was thinking.

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Kind of plain, kind of boring.

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I think the term I used when I was trying to talk him out of it was ugly.

Yeah, yeah, it has some advantages.  We have three boats.  And we have a tractor.  And a four-wheeler. And a Gator.  (future blog post on the Gator.)  And where do these things sit?  The tractor and other vehicles are now in the garage, BUT, when we start bringing down our bins in anticipation of our move to the Crab Shack, the bins will need to go in the garage, and the vehicles will be out on the lawn.  Along with the three boats on trailers.  That’s a LOT of STUFF!  It’ll be a mess.

So yeah, I get it now.  All these things can go in the metal building (also called steel buildings) and be nice and neat, out of the way.  And if you want to know the truth, the building will be on our property, but outside our main gates, over by the wind turbine. (Also future blog post on the wind turbine.)  So we’ll really only see it when we’re driving in or out on the shared road.  That’s not too bad.  And here are what some of the nicer metal buildings look like:

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I can hardly believe this one even IS a metal building!  Ours will look like the previous one, only with one big door in the front and one on each of the sides.  But it will be green and white, and the green will run along the bottom like this one has the red.  Also we’ll have two cupolas on the top and quite a few windows with shutters.  So hopefully it won’t look too commercial.

While doing some research on them, I found out there are some benefits to them; they are very durable, being both heat and cold resistant,  they are very cost-effective compared to a conventional building and there are virtually no labor costs, since it is pre-fabricated and just assembled on site.  Also, there is no waste, it is 100% recyclable.  They are also insect resistant, although I wish there was a product in general to keep insects from flying inside open doors!  But that’s another story.  And maybe the biggest benefit, you can design a metal building to fit your needs exactly.  If you need an extra large door to accommodate your boat, or a complex interior to fit farm machinery,  you can choose from a wide variety of options.  Here’s an odd one:

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Almost everybody down on the Eastern Shore seems to have a metal building.  When you have a lot of land, you need a lot of “stuff.”  Lawn equipment, boats, trailers, horses, there are tons of reasons to have a metal building.  And I guess we’re going to have one too.

Building Advice and Tips

June
19
2013

 

After John read my blog on Monday, he thought it would be useful to have some specifics about the garage and Crab Shack, and about building in general.  So I’d like to share some of our experiences with the hope that they’ll help you make more informed decisions.  We were total novices.  We’ve remodeled.  We’ve put on additions.  But we had never taken on a job of this magnitude.  So in other words, we knew nothing.  And we made mistakes.  Maybe this will help you avoid them.

Before we even began doing anything, as mentioned in a previous post, we had to take down two buildings.  We found out, through a contractor, that our local Fire Department would consider burning them down, and use the experience as a learning session for new recruits. We gave these wonderful people a donation, and it was a win-win experience. I’m not sure if they do this in other areas, but if this is at all a possibility for you, it’s truly a great way to go.

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We began to “design our retirement” with the stand-alone garage.  I like to say we started the building process backwards, doing the “out” buildings first, and leaving the house (which we won’t start probably for another year) till last.  But we had our reasons.  (We needed a place to put the “stuff” from a PA vacation home that we sold, and we knew we wanted this garage for the tractor, and the other vehicles right away.)  For this building John found plans online that he liked, and we had them tweaked a bit by a draftsperson.  (Also known as a Residential Designer.)  After we decided that Thom Huntington (of Huntington Construction) would be our builder, he drew up a contract (Time & Materials) and he built it.  It was a very smooth operation and there were no surprises and no cost over-runs.  As for the structure of the building, we went with 2×6 lumber for strength, regular roll insulation, a large propane heater, an on-demand hot water heater (more on this another time) and because we are building on the water, we needed to raise the garage up, which meant building up the soil all around the building to allow for a gradual incline – expensive, but a necessity for a place where hurricanes and flooding storms are likely.

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The second, and more “exciting” building was (going to be) the Boathouse. (Blog post here.)  This was where we made many of our mistakes.  We had a dream, a vague vision, and needed to have someone draw up this vision for us.  Of course, we again used Michael, the Residential Designer we used on the garage.  Now, because of our inexperience, the costs of these plans (in total) were sky high.  We kept changing things, and having the plans re-drawn.  Many, many times.  (At great expense.)  Then, in one instance, Michael was doing “due diligence” making sure the ground would support our Boat House, and had our soil tested.  I can now tell you what our soil looks like for 16 feet below sea level. It’s interesting, but we weren’t expecting that charge.  And, as already mentioned, this all happened during the collapse of the economy.  So, $20,000 later, rather than scrap all of our plans, we scrapped the building, and bought plans online from Lowe’s at a cost of $500!  (The Crab Shack.)  I’ll speak more about house plans another time, but here’s another tip:  if you can find plans you like online or in a book, use them.  Believe me, you will be saving yourself a ton of money.  Even if you just use them as a starting point.  Or cut out parts from different plans. You’ll thank me later.

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For the structure of the Crab Shack, we again used 2×6’s, but went with the spray insulation.  And I can definitively say this type of insulation is excellent. The building cools down instantly when we need the air conditioning, and heats up and stays warm in the winter when we need the heat.  For both buildings we decided on the strongest metal roof available, which has many, many benefits.  It’s great against the elements, being rated to withstand over 200 mph winds; it saves in home heating and cooling energy costs;  there are energy tax credit incentives available; it’s good for the environment , (considered a “green” solution) and comes with either a 30 or 50 year warranty – depending on the roof you buy.  All this, and of course it has that “coastal” look.   In the “con” list, the only thing I could say is that it costs more initially to put in than a traditional asphalt roof.  But it pays for itself in other ways.  I was worried that it would be noisy, especially during a rain storm, but I can tell you honestly, it’s absolutely not.

We also built it up high, knowing the area could possibly flood if there was a bad storm, (like Hurricane Irene and Super Storm Sandy) and built it with flow through vents in the foundation that allows the water to literally flow through and prevent any structural damage. (You can see them in the photo.)

We used vinyl siding on the Crab Shack, for one reason, to keep the costs down, but next time – for the house – we’ll go with Fiber Cement.  It will be stronger and better looking.  We’ve had a few pieces of the siding come down in both storms, and although not a huge deal, we had to have someone repair it.  We went with Anderson windows that are strong enough to withstand hurricanes and have shutters inside just in case anything should come flying through.  On the house, however, we’ll look into getting something installed on the outside of the windows also, either workable shutters, or hurricane screens.  The decks are made of composite material; we want our semi and real retirement to be as low maintenance as possible.

I hope some of these ideas will help you, and if you have any tips or ideas you’d like to share with me, I’d love to hear them!

 

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The Garage Stands Alone

April
26
2013

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Right after the barns were burned down, Thom, our builder started on the garage.  We started with plans we found online, but then had a draftsman modify them a bit.  After all, it was just a garage, and we weren’t going to go too crazy.  Yeah right.

 

Little Choptank from John, some early 001

 

It does seem, even to us, that we had started our building and designing of the property backwards, starting with a garage, rather than a place to actually live and sleep, but we were still in the process of selling a vacation home in PA, and needed a place to store whatever furniture we were keeping from there.

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So we built the garage without a bathroom, reasoning that we’d have a guest house and a main house with plenty of bathrooms, who needed one in the garage.  Let’s say we’ve learned from our mistakes.  We would have been able to sleep in the garage (it did have hot and cold running water and furniture from the PA house) and save ourselves many hotel bills had we added the garage right away.  We did rectify the problem since then however. And, I’d like to go on the record right now to say:  one bathroom – even for just the two of us – but especially because we frequently have overnight visitors, is NOT enough.

 

downstairs

downstairs then

 

downstairs now

downstairs now

Some of the vehicles needed on a property…..

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upstairs then

upstairs then

 

bathroom, and you can see some of the inside

bathroom, and you can see some of the inside

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We have the upstairs decorated a bit more now, there’s a day bed, with a pull out trundle-bed for extra guests. It’s very comfortable up there with a couch, chair, mini-fridge and a tv, you’d never know it was a garage .  There’s also a lot of storage tucked away behind doors on both sides upstairs, so it’s a useful space, but not messy.

From the water

From the water

I know, I know, it IS just a garage. But even this brought dozens of decisions, not the least of which was the placement of the building. We have a dream, a plan, a vision.  And this was the beginning. It was the first thing we built on the property, we were starting our journey.  It was all we could talk about.  The project still dominates our conversation, which is why no one wants to talk to us anymore.  Just kidding.  Now, I don’t want you to hold your breath…. but next time…… we build the dock!  Enjoy the sunset.

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