Today we actually saw some progress on the home front. I stopped out after work and happy to see all the carpet padding was installed throughout the house. Tomorrow we get the carpet. After that it’s “shoes off” for everyone working out there, as far as I’m concerned.
In an effort to be productive and proactive we painted the boys bathroom today. Actually got one coat on. We’ll put the second coat on probably some time after we move in. If you’ve ever painted a bathroom you know what a pain in the butt it is to paint behind a toilet, so it’s best to paint before the toilet is even in. There is some significant drywall work that needs to be done near the shower so no sense putting the second coat on until this can be rectified.
I’m making progress. Thanks to our youngest son, I was being woken up at 3 am. I would then proceed to toss and turn worrying about every detail of our unbuilt house until about 5:30 am every day. Now he’s not even remotely sleeping through the night anymore and I get up at 1 am, unable to fall back a sleep. If I keep my fingers crossed we’ll keep working backwards to where eventually he gets up at 6:30 am and I can just goto work and not have to worry about insomnia. At some point the house has to be done, and the kids have to move out of the house……right? Unfortunately there is no reliable indication that either will happen in my lifetime.
We stopped out yesterday (Saturday) for a brief moment to check on progress. Still not much seems to have been done, but two major things look to be relatively done. The painters appear to have completed painting the hallways, and bedrooms. Also the stone is in on the fireplace.
In regards to painting, we’re really happy with our color selections so far. My only concern is there are several places, especially around the staircase that never received the drywall attention they needed. There are holes, gaps and exposed plywood easily visible. The trangle in-fill below the foyer staircase is an odd 1/8″ inset compared to the surrounding wall. Generally speaking the attention to detail and craftsmanship in this area is lacking and will need to be revisited. This is the type of stuff that keeps me up at night, but does not seemingly bother anyone else. That’s why god invented punch lists I suppose. As a home owner it’s the best part of the new construction process. It’s the only time you can roll through the joint and point out every flaw in hopes that someone will fix them. It’s an instance where you’re better off having a contractor instead of self contracting because that one person kind of has to fix your problems or he doesn’t get paid. It’s my impression, that when you’re self contracting each trade works in a vacuum and is typically focused on their piece of the puzzle. So when, for instance, you have big gaps in your drywall no one picks up on it and the painters just paint over them.
The stone fireplace is much the same. From afar it looks great. I could have never done half the job these guys did in a hundred million billion years. But of course I notice all the problems too. The look is supposed to be a “dry stack” look which means virtually no discernable mortar lines. I even left a note, but alas, the stone is fairly spacy. The weird thing is there’s no mortar between the stones so you can see the raw mortar scratch coat I’d put on previously, as well as the stone edges (clearly broadcasting that this is fake man made stone). Hopefully they’re coming back to squish mortar in between all the joints. If not, I will. This won’t be the look I wanted but at this point I need it done. An even larger problem is they stopped the stone short of the EDGE60’s metal flange. In reality they should have notched the stone to go over the flange. Now I have fireplace with bizarro exposed screw heads; I’ll have to figure something out (powdercoated metal covers with magnet fasteners), but you’d hope that it didn’t have to be that way. A minor lack of attention to detail. I have only myself to blame; I just assumed someone would’ve at least asked before making it so. There’s a certain degree of predictability as well too. It’s like watching a car crash happen right in front of you and you can’t do anything.
Which leads me to my insomnia.
While the house will look great, and from a structural, quality and performance standpoint it’s worth every penny and far superior to your average builder special house, there are a vast amount of design and finish details that were missed along the way (and ultimately need correcting). I suspect it’s easier to avoid in the future, but this is our last house we’ll ever build. So all of the mistakes were made on this one and a lot of effort will go into fixing them over the time we spend in the house. The attention to detail and simplicity required aren’t totally there. In a normal cookie cutter house a lot of the builder’s sins are covered up by conventional trim, and mass aesthetic conveyances. I guess to get it right, we should have done a lot more planning and counseling. Of course we’d know for the next time around to do these things. I think it’s important to have trades that are on the same page as the home owners,and each other, philosophically as well. I spend each night lying awake in my bed thinking about every detail I wish was different. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great house, but I’m just one of those guys that gets hung up on the details. I’m not saying I could do any better. I once turned a $5 water line install into a $300 debacle. DIY projects are not my thing. But I do know what good design and execution look like so my eye picks up on every little thing. And 99% of the folks visiting won’t notice anything amiss, especially after I shove a free beer in their hand. So it’ll be fine, but my subconscious knows no better so it feels compelled to build, teardown and rebuild this house nightly at three in the morning.
The key now is to get all of these people the hell out of our house so Christine and I can move in and start fixing everything to our liking. And so I can start getting a good night’s rest.
….or “What to Expect When It’s My House Being Built”.
Unbeknownst to me how I’ve done it, I have seemingly garnered the ability to slow time to a standstill.
I became acutely aware of this relatively useless super power today while standing in line at Starbucks. I stood there not paying attention, in a line that consisted of approximately one person, give or take none; namely it was just me in line. Patiently I waited while the barista’s bantered on about some trivial nonsense to each other, rubbing their implements (not a euphemism, they were literally rubbing some sort of metallic objects used in making coffee). A couple of ladies soon followed me in line. Not thinking I jumped out of line, for what I thought was five seconds, to ask a colleague or two if they’d like coffee, (“I’m buying”), but alas they had already gotten coffee elsewhere. This was fortunate for them, for I unwittingly was practicing my new craft as I jumped back in line. The two previously mentioned ladies in line were nice enough to save me a spot directly behind them. Cool. Thanks ladies. I know, I was gone a long time…..I didn’t write.
That’s okay, things were picking up with our baristas, they had resumed servicing live people as opposed to coffee-making implements. Alas if I’d stayed in line I’d be getting serviced myself at this time. Then after standing there for another three minutes, no one was moving. I mean they were moving of course, this isn’t some hollywood concoction where everything literally stops, but everything was moving without much purpose or result. I have no idea but one barista was stabbing away at a smart phone. The other had taken up shop fiddling with an empty coffee cup. Even the patrons just stood there. I shit you not, I literally stood there a total of about ten minutes start to finish, with only myself in line for the most part, and I saw no reasonable or logical hope that I would be able to utter a word to another human being, let alone order a Grande Cinnamon Dolce Latte, or whatever the hell it is I order (I always have to look at the damn menu).
Literally I had inadvertently stopped the Earth from spinning on its axis, (or else I had rendered myself invisible. I’m pretty sure people could see me….I did look at my shoes just to make sure I wasn’t invisible.)
I never did get that Latte today. As soon as I left Starbucks the world returned to its normal pace.
Slowing time is essentially what has happened on the house project. Each day I say “I am done stopping by the house after work” and each day I roll down I-77 in the Rabbit with less and less hope or faith in my heart, and begrudgingly turn up the gravel drive to the house. And each day it appears that the Earth has stopped on its axis for a majority of the day.
We’re getting about 1-2 things done a day during a week that was supposed to be the last of the project. Today they painted one room and grouted 1.5 showers. We have managed to turn an eight month project into something that feels more along the lines of a thirty-seven year project. At one time this week we had eleven trucks in the driveway, but beyond that everything has come to a screeching halt.
The Silestone countertops are on back order until next week. Then it’ll be a week to fabricate them. I’d be surprised if the painters are done before we get into the four letter months. The fireplace has no stone (was supposed to be today). Of course I guarantee the masons will show up tomorrow because the fireplace shop guys are supposed to be out to fire up the unit and mount the thermostat. Then I’ll get a message telling me masons couldn’t do their job cause fireplace guys were in the way. Next week is carpet, but if you saw the place you know there’s no way they can put carpet in yet.
The wife and I went out to the house Wednesday looking for something to do, even dropped the boys off so we could really work. I think we swept up a little dirt and then went shopping at Target for cat litter. Not much we can do out there at the house.
We just need it done. The novelty wore off a long time ago. We’re slated to blow right past our due date with the bank which means we’ll have to start that process all over again. Which actually isn’t a bad thing; rates have gone down a lot in the last eight months.
Of greater concern is selling our existing house. To say the market is weak and prospects of doing so are dismal, is to put it nicely. I keep saying put ’em both up for sale and see which sells first. That’s met with a cool reception. I don’t really mean it….. (okay, actually I do).
I mean, what can I do if some one made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, right?
(wink, wink, nudge, nudge.)
We’d be fine, I have latent super powers after all, and we can take our little guy’s ceiling fan with us. It’s still sitting in a box waiting to be installed.
Just pics tonight. I quit on doing the fireplace stone myself. Worried it won’t turn out okay, therefore easier and more effective to have a professional bang it out in a day at a cost of $600. One of life’s secrets is to know how to pick your battles. I’m good at many things, but DIY projects are not in my wheelhouse. Our (the wife and I’s) contribution to the project will be design and a lifetime of debtor’s prison. I’ll leave the craftsmanship stuff to the pros.
Last night I had the “house” dream. No, nothing fun like a fanciful dream of marrying a princess and being whisked away to a large columned mansion in the hills. Rather the “house” dream is a lot like the “college” dream and the “flying” dream. See, the house dream is a direct result of the stress of building this house. The stress overtakes my subconscious and therefore rules my sleep hours, in addition to all my awake hours.
The last time I had the house dream was just after the foundation was in. Last night’s version was fairly unique and current. In the dream we were wrapping up the house and racing the clock. I’m going to assume the final inspection was the same day as my dream took place. I was wandering through a frame-work of a house, the fireplace sitting on its own, pulled out of the wall for the umpteenth time. There was trim nailed directly to the framing, with no drywall. I’d look at the fireplace cavity and wonder aloud to myself, why are we trimming out the inside of the fireplace chase…..no one will see that once the drywall goes on. I ask around as to when the fireplace is going back in, along with some other assorted questions, and Tony (of blue foam fame) pops up and says he’ll get on it.
Continuing the dream I walk to our Master Bathroom and the glass tile is done. It looks great. My brother informs me that he has a bunch of tiles left over so he put them in the other bathroom. Much to my dismay, in this other fictional Master Bath, is a bunch of glass tile. I flip out, saying if we had extra tile just put it on the opposite wall in the real Master Bath (we actually plan on doing this some day by the way). I raise holy hell and storm out, seemingly teleporting myself to another part of our “house”.
The (virtual?) reality is the house in my dream never looks like our real house. I suddenly find myself in a grand ballroom with all kinds of gaudy fixin’s like gold leaf chairs and ornate furnishings. I step in and notice a hot tub in the corner and then step up one step to one of two landings that flank a grand platform. The platform hosts a large dining table, and each landing hosts a few ornate chairs, tables, lamps and……get this……two black afghan hounds. Each dog is done up in some sort of regal garb and are very nicely trained.
As I approach one of the dog’s steps forward as if to beckon me to pet him. I oblige, and all I can think of is the dogs, which I don’t particularly like but in this room they look pretty cool, are part of the decor of my new house. Turning back around I take in this huge room, and think to myself “What an awesome f*cking room this is. I can have a party for like a hundred people in this room.”
I quickly teleport to another part of the house and there are a bunch of house keepers cleaning up the place. Washing windows, sweeping floors, getting ready for the inspection. In my dream, I’m thinking this is pretty cool way to prepare. Now that I’ve woken up, it still sounds like a good idea. But back to the dream. I quickly jump to a place down the street and turns out there are a whole bunch of houses going up and being finished today. Each one is uniquely different. Christine’s there so we stroll down the street back to “our” house. On the outside it looks like an old English cottage with a bunch of additions or an old warehouse, but with charm and interest. Tough to describe, I’d have to draw you a picture. I’m thinking ours looks the best, though in this dream just like all the others, the house inside and out doesn’t really look like ours. Regardless though there isn’t much time to waste. And, without a real plot or conclusion, that’s it for the “house” dream last night.
As you can tell, we really, really need to get this house put to bed, lest I lose my mind along the way.
Yesterday we bought pretty much everything left on our list. I think we’re down to just one mirror and four cabinet knobs that we still have to buy. We bought some slim two light spot lights for outside that should allow me to light up the joint, like a summer afternoon, in the middle of the night. We got two mirrors for the Master Bathroom at Home Depot. They are blackish brown, but a bit too black for the bathroom; we’ll make do with them for now.
All the trim is painted in the house generally speaking. There are still some areas that need drywall attention, and if we put down any shoe molding, that’ll need to be painted. Most of the master shower is tiled, including a 6″ shelf that runs along the back wall.
I got back to work on our fireplace today. My brother showed me how to mix mortar so I proceeded to spend two and a half hours putting a “scratch” coat over the metal lathe that I’d installed a week or two ago. This was my first time doing it, but I think it turned out okay. I’ll let that dry overnight and then tomorrow after work I’ll start putting up stone.
I mixed the mortar to the consistency of pudding, maybe a little thicker at times. I made small batches, starting with one inch of water in a five gallon bucket. I then alternated between adding mortar material and running a drill mixer until I liked the consistency of the mortar. I then took it upstairs and emptied out the bucket into my wheel barrow. The wheel barrow made it easier to get mortar on the trowel. I then applied the mortar to the metal lathe, working it in against the grain. The lathe has a grain to it if you run your hand across it lightly. Be careful, it’s sharp. It’ll feel sharper in one direction versus the other. That’s the grain. In reality I just put the damn stuff up as best I could.
At times a lot would drip off the trowel. So I made sure the hardwood floor was covered up good. In theory the floor is prefinished so cleaning it up where I did drip, should be easy. I hammered the painted base boards pretty good so I’m sure the painters will hate me. I’m to blame but they’re gonna have to fix it.
So far so good. There will be a lot going on this week. All the trades need to finish up. My counter fabricator better call me or get in there too, as I have no time to wait. A toilet goes in, and a sink is already installed elsewhere in the house, so we should be all set for septic and cistern inspections this week. Beyond that it doesn’t seem like a lot needs to be done but it is a lot of work. Trim wise alone, we need a ship’s ladder, tile, kitchen cabinets, and numerous other tasks completed in very short time.
I’m sure I’ll be dreaming the “house” dream all week.
I’d better bring dog food.
P. S. In case you didn’t get enough zaniness, last night was a two-for as I also had the “flying” dream. I have to fly soon for work, and of course the stress of flying is hitting me about a week and a half early. In this installment I had the pleasure of the airliner I was in flying about thirty feet off a long two lane dirt road with trees on either side and electrical wires above. The pilots come on the overhead and explain to the passengers that they’ve just realized the plane we’re flying on is really old and is at 700 hours (my mind makes this up) which is, I guess, a bad thing. So while they figure out what to do, they’re going to fly really close to the ground at about 300 mph; that way if we crash we won’t plummet that far.
So while I’m freaking out about life, and googling “mental health therapists”, you can sit back and live vicariously through my life, both sleeping and awake.
We made our first snow man last weekend.
Mother Nature is making up for the mild, snowless winter by pounding Northeast Ohio this weekend with snow. There is still a lot to be done at the house so no one is really letting the weather hold us up. Saturday I slated my time to work on the fireplace. I’ve never done any stone work before but I was looking forward to the task. With all the snow I decided to take the Wrangler; packing it with some tools and a couple more light fixtures to drop off at the house. I swung by Lowes on the way out to the house to pick up some metal lathe. I’d never worked with this material before, but knew it’s pretty nasty stuff. Basically welded metal that comes in sheet form, it’s sharp as a razor so work gloves are an absolute necessity at all times. It folds easy, which is exactly what I had to do to the three 2×8 foot sheets I bought, to squeeze them into the Jeep.
Arriving at the house, I parked and got to work unloading everything. I was working solo so I’d be getting the walk through via phone to my brother if I had questions. First order of business was to get the fireplace covered in the metal lathe. The rough framing was covered with 1/2 inch OSB previously. Upon further examination of the Quadrafire EDGE60 I tried to figure out what the three bent steel trim pieces were for. Not surprisingly we’d taken the installation manual home so I had to call the wife and she talked me through it. The fireplace needs 1.25″ of air space between the door front and the protruding stone, so these metal flanges will provide just that. I took a marker and plotted out where the flanges would go. No need to lathe these areas.
I started by cutting 13″ wide strips for the sides. Using regular tin snips it was fairly easy to cut the mesh to size. It’s imperitive to wear work gloves; like I said, it’s razor sharp. I then tacked it up on top of the OSB using simple roofing nails; trying to hit studs as best I could, and nailing into just the OSB if I had no other choice. I’m pretty sure it’s important to keep it all flat against the plywood. It was slow going, but really just because I don’t work very quickly and take lots of breaks.
It’s amazing how long ago is feels since the bulldozer first ran through the brush, tracing what would become our driveway, back in June, or July. I guess eight months is a long time, though about average for building a new home; fairly quick for a custom home. As we approach the end of the project, the amount of action at the house is picking up significantly. After a few weeks of only one or two trades on site we’re back to where it’s not uncommon to see three or more at a time. Phone calls, texts, and emails start to dominate the day as final preparations are orchestrated. The land looks completely different, 180 degrees different, than it did in mid summer, but the magnetism has only grown stronger. Tonight, after dropping off tile, I stuck around to snap some photos and found myself, as usual, unable or unwilling to readily leave. There’s something about the stillness or potential to the land and house as it transforms that fixates me to the sense of place that is being created. And with every trip, either at night or as I lock up after everyone has left, I have to break myself away; forcing myself back into reality.
In many regards this will change once the pitter patter of little (and big) feet move into the house and life’s needful things are scattered about the yard, but hopefully not completely. Hopefully, for as long as it stands, in the calm of Spring mornings, the buzz of late Summer nights or the solitude of an empty Winter day that magnetism will still be there, beckoning and calling myself, our family, or whomever has the genuine fortune of being there.
So to serve this purpose, or because of it, we’re doing everything we can to pay attention to all of the details. We’re striving to finish the house with items that delight the senses. For the most part this has gotten us into hot water budget wise, but many of the items will never be replaced or even remodelled. I can honestly say and believe this. There is a permanence in the land and structure that we are working to instill, even if it’s subconscious. In an ever-changing world, this house will provide safe, comforting, harbor for all who come in contact with her.
Or at least that’s the idea.
Of course it’s eleven o’clock at night and I’m getting slap happy as we approach the finish line so take it for what it’s worth.
Worst case scenario the door bell is pretty cool.
Pics for your enjoyment below. HVAC, gutters, electrical, septic all start the beginning of the end to their journeys next week. This weekend I’m tackling a list of odds n ends including the fireplace stonework myself. We’ll also be going on our last shopping spree to get towel racks, door knobs and even house numbers. There’s so much to do, even I’ll be ready to leave at the end of the day.