Phase One Wrap Up

The excavator has started to back fill the house and garage.  This will make the property look a bit different and closer to what it looked liked about a month and a half ago when we cleared out the brush.  With the exception of the wood and cement rectangles that are the house and garage.  In my mind I kind of consider this to wrap up Phase 1 of the project.  Now we switch over to rough framing and selections.  We’re past any of the major deal breaking hurdles at this point.  Knock on wood.  (With my luck the foundation will collapse just to spite me.)

The garage is backfilled inside and out. It also proves to be a convenient lumber yard, freeing up space for the excavator and bulldozer to move around. You can't really see it but by the trash cans, I added a rain barrel. We don't have any water on site so this will give the workers a source for clean non-potable water. We got ours from Woodland Direct for about $115.

The Superior Walls require special consideration when back filling including gravel bottom to top to minimize pressure against the walls.  We also have to brace up the stair opening during backfilling.  Our blue clay necessitated a 45 degree dig so backfilling involves stepping the dig first then back filling.  Overall, the amount of gravel required in prepping the footers and backfilling the cast cement walls decimated our excavation budget.  This means that we’ll have to forego any landscaping and need to accept the push back from our building helpers on the cost of engineered rafters and other performance & sustainable features.  We’ll be over in other areas such as cabinetry, appliances and fireplace as well.  Savings will come from rebates on the windows and my ability to find fairly good pricing on the metal roof.  We’ll see where else we can save.  I have to be careful because many products out there appear to cost less up front but typically are of inferior quality or performance, or the product cost doesn’t factor all the costs associated with that product.  For instance I didn’t factor in the amount of gravel when comparing foundation options or engineered lumber performs better than traditional lumber so it may be money well spent. 

Also I’m not sure we’re getting a discount for some of the labor-saving methods we’ve employed.  For example our architect designed the home so everything is divisible by 4, which is what most building materials are sized in (e.g. 4×8 sheets).  Also he spec’d 2′ on center wall studs to reduce material and save costs.  I have to look so I’m not sure if the lumber yard picked up on that and laid out the framing accordingly.  I do know there was very little scrap left over after the rough framers built the first floor deck; virtually no OSB cut offs left over.  Not sure if our rough framers reduced labor costs because of the minimal cutting and lighter weight engineered joists.  It definitely makes their job easier.

We did push the lumber yard to provide us with trusses for the garage even though they’re a little more expensive.  This will avoid wasting old growth 2×12’s to hold up drywall in the garage ceiling.  What a waste that would be to rip some old growth forest in Canada down so I can hang drywall in my garage ceiling.  I’m assuming there are families in Canada that like forests as much as we like forests here in Ohio.  As I said before, I had to cut and run from using engineered lumber in the main house roof to appease my “builder” and to offset the cost over runs for the excavation.  We’ll be using 2×8’s which will give us 95% of the performance of the engineered rafters, and save us about $5,000.

I’m saving a lot by self contracting but it’s an uphill battle because no one really has the same perspective or philosophy as I do, so I have to do the best I can to at least sway their thinking for the portion of time they’re working on my house.  If you’ve got the money and interest, hiring a contractor familiar and sensitive to the triple bottom line may be well worth it.  The other advantage is having a contractor increases, in theory, that someone’s looking at the details 24/7 vs. my situation where a handful of people all take a small part, myself included.  Save money my way, but you have to live with imperfection, and inefficiency.  Also, cost avoidance is still hard to come by.

Who knows, maybe I can start a new career as a green builder.    Of course if we don’t sell the house we’re in now, this one we’re building will be for sale. 

And we can start all over from scratch again.

I got to walk in my basement. It was AWESOME. I do love the inside of the Superior walls and can’t wait to finish them off. You can see the bracing necessary though around the stair opening.

Say goodbye to the outside of the Superior Walls, they're being backfilled. Kinda sad because I've gotten used to seeing them. Here you can see the filter fabric we laid down first, then there will be 2' of solid gravel, then a channel of gravel up along the wall. The sloped walls will be stepped and backfilled with conventional material. There will be so much gravel in this area that I don't think we need a drain under the window. It should naturally drain down to the drain tile. We will have to build a retention wall on the far side of the window though. My dream is to finish this area in stone.

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