Sunday, September 28, 2008

A big hole

The excavator made good progress on Friday, but he didn't quite finish. He ran out of room to stack fill on the lot, and had to start trucking it out to another site. He did finish excavating the basement for the house, and he'll finish the garage excavation on Monday. Anyway, we now have a pretty big hole in our yard:

Zeke and I went to explore the hole on Saturday. He had a blast running around and sliding into the column footings:

The foundation guy might not be too happy that the column footing excavations have caved in a little bit, but it kept Zeke happy for a good half hour.

We did get a bit of bad news on Friday. It turns out that Sebastian, the standard poodle who has allowed us to live with him the last eight and a half years, contracted a rare condition that results in severe anemia. Basically, his immune system has decided that his own red blood cells are evil, so it's attacking them. He's in the hospital now, and it doesn't look good.

Partially to keep our minds off of Sebastian, Megan and I decided that we wanted to be sure that we were happy with our plumbing fixture selections, so we traveled up north of Sheboygan to the Kohler Design Center.

It's a great showroom, with displays set up to highlight Kohler's latest designs. A three story building, with about 20 or 30 bathrooms and kitchens, all containing the latest and greatest from Kohler. If you have the chance to go, I highly recommend it. This is our third trip.

We've spent a lot of time over the last couple of years going to builder models to decide what we did and didn't like. We almost always dragged Zeke with us. Last year, he would open and slam shut every cabinet door in every house. I figured he was kicking the tires for us. This year he graduated. Now he doesn't bother slamming cabinet doors. Instead, he does the toilets. I'm sure you can imagine a 2-year-old running around a building with 3 stories full of toilets... But this time, he encountered a little bit more than he could handle.

I refrained from allowing him to climb each stack.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The ground has been broken

It's official. We are now proud hole owners. Quite a bit happened so far this week:

- I traveled to San Francisco for the OpenWorld conference. 
- Megan picked up (and paid for) our building permit.
- Excavation begun: we broke ground!

Megan and I talked about the road leading here today. I actually started looking at plan books and thinking seriously about building more than 3 years ago. After three years of researching, planning, budgeting, and quoting, our house is finally getting started.

Here's the excavator digging the hole: 

And here's me standing in it:

So now we can start seeing some real progress. The foundation will be excavated by the end of September (hopefully). The foundation contractor starts on Monday, and should finish in about a week. Then it's time for the fun to begin.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The site is cleared

On Thursday, the excavator started the process of transforming our lot into a construction site. The first steps are to install a silt fence, and scrape topsoil from the lot. So I was sitting in the car in front of the lot, expecting him to show up with a little bobcat, when this appeared:

Needless to say, he didn't have any trouble digging. Here he is, taking the first shovel-full of dirt:

The silt fence prevents dirt from washing away from the lot and clogging up the storm sewers or eroding onto someone else's yard. He dug a 6-inch deep trench, installed the silt fence into the trench on wooden stakes, and then back-filled the trench.

Once the silt fence was installed, it was safe to start moving dirt around inside the fence. The next step was to scrape the topsoil from the site into a couple of piles. That way, when the excavator digs the foundation, we can reuse the topsoil. Here's what the site looks like now:

We don't have any more weed problems on the lot, and the top soil is ready to spread again after the foundation hole has been dug.
So late last week, our lot became a construction site. On Friday, they'll excavate the basement. Then the fun begins...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A slight delay

...but it wasn't my fault. The excavator needs another day to finish up his current job. So we'll scrape topsoil on Thursday instead of Wednesday.  But they're able to dig the hole on the 26th instead of the 29th, so that more than makes up for it. 

I found out why the permit was delayed. The inspector wasn't happy with my heat loss calculations. I asked the HVAC contractor do re-do them. I did the original calculations myself. This time, I'll have somebody who knows what they're doing. According to the inspector, that's all I need to get the permit. 

Megan and I had an appointment with the local plumbing distributor to pick out fixtures. The quote from the plumbing contractor included "builder-grade" fixtures. We upgraded just about everything, but within reason. It looks like we'll even come in under budget on the plumbing fixtures. 

Megan, Zeke, and I went out to the lot this afternoon to plant survey flags on all the stakes. Most stakes were bent out of shape and many were missing. So I planted new flags (after crawling around on the ground to find some missing stakes).  And Zeke followed behind me to harvest them.  So I planted them again. 

Monday, September 15, 2008

One more day

The building permit was supposed to be ready on Friday morning. I didn't get a call, so I called the building inspector this morning: "Permits aren't ready yet. I'll get to them in about 10 minutes and call you back in an hour".

Four hours later, still no call. Hopefully tomorrow. I can't bug him too much. No sense getting the building inspector pissed at me before I even start building. In the meantime, I verified that the excavator is ready to erect the silt fence and scrape topsoil on Wednesday. I know, that's just over a day away, and I still don't have a building or ground disturbance permit. He's ready. I'm not. Hopefully tomorrow.

Dad drove out to the lot yesterday with Roger and I to get a "before" picture of the lot. So here's a picture of the house. It looks kind of bare. Of course it does--the house doesn't exist yet. (The house at the right of the picture is my next door neighbor's).

That brick building behind the lot is a water pumping station for the village. It's the reason we got our lot a little cheaper than the lot down the street. Megan and I talked about building a red brick house so that when people came over we could tell them it was our "guest" house. Nobody would have believed us anyway. If you look closely at the picture, you might be able to see that the lot is staked out for our non-brick house.

I'm continuing to shop, even though the quotes were finalized (for budget purposes anyway) last week. I found a special at Lowes on Saturday. Twenty percent off special order windows and doors. Even though I'm a little nervous about spending that much at Lowes, it will save us a bunch of money. So we can spend it on something else. We'll probably upgrade the furnace to a more efficient model for about $1000, and maybe even the interior doors from maple to cherry for another $1000. Maybe. There goes the window savings.

Look for more tomorrow.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Today's the day...

...that we close on the construction loan. It's a pretty significant milestone. 

It was a bit hectic getting all the quotes that the bank wanted.  Unlike a "normal" construction loan, for an owner-builder loan, the bank wants a quote for everything. The rationale is that if I die, they want to be sure they can build the house for the same price. The problem with that logic is that I plan to do a lot of the finish work myself--saving about 10% of the cost of the project. So no, they won't be able to build it for the same price.  Regardless, the bank wanted the quotes. So we had to choose things earlier than expected: door & cabinet hardware, closets, etc. 

Anyway, I was able to get all the quotes pulled together in time to get approval. That meant I had to get going on accepting quotes and writing contracts. We've chosen contractors for most of the early phases of construction: excavation, foundation, framing, plumbing & hvac. Still have to pick an electrician.  I have quotes on everything, but I might want to do some more shopping on later activities. 

I did apply for the building permit on Wednesday. They are supposed to be ready for me today, but I haven't heard from the building inspector yet. Since I have the excavator scheduled to install the silt fence and clear topsoil next Wednesday, I guess I better check with him soon.