Build Update #1

Readers note: there is an infant in my arms and a toddler down for a short nap. All of my posts have some errors in it – but this one may take the cake 🙂

Shovels broke ground November 1st! It has been a ride.

The first 3-4 weeks were fast and furious. We were really impressed with the pace of work. Things that were accomplished:

  • We saw the budgeted line item for site prep and knew it wasn’t enough to get rid of the big (and dead) trees – so we did it ourselves prior to the start of the build (well, we hired someone to do it).
  • The team came in and drilled the sewer and water connections. This was interesting as they had to go under the historic retaining wall.
  • The diggers came and dug out the basement. We had to shore on the west side due to the proximity to the neighbor’s house. It was interesting to watch this process.
  • Footings were poured
  • Foundation was set
  • The historic retaining wall was cut and temp stairs added

All things considered, the first month of work went off well. It was well scheduled and managed. We had three hiccups, two major.

Hiccup 1 (major): Dave and I had so many discussions with the builder about where we would connect the sewer to the garage. Dave and I lost and we went with the builder’s location. This would have been fine, except the sewer was dug and laid before we looked at the notes on the city permit approval – notes which said our garage was too big. There was also an error on the survey that placed the garage 5.5 inches further west than it should have been… Really, a compilation of stupid mistakes… So what is the consequence?

We want our garage butted up against the east side of the property to fit an extra parking spot to the west. In our neighborhood, extra parking = gold. The builder’s sewer location was all the way to the west wall of the garage (which, per errors above, was staked nearly six inches west of a “too wide” garage – a.k.a. staked in completely the wrong spot). So now with the smaller garage, we’ll potentially end up with a garage centered on the lot instead of butted to the east, and lose our parking space. It’s frustrating. It’s a dumb mistake. The builder still hopes he can place the garage in the right spot without making adjustments. We sure hope he’s right. We all agreed to stop talking about this until we start the garage as the hypothetical conversations make tempers flare.

Hiccup 2 (major): Our house is too tall. In the pre-construction meeting, I noticed a note by our fancy screen porch door (more on this later) that said “6 inch drop.” I was very confused as this door is super expensive – and with littles running around, I thought I would have either noticed this on plans or remembered the conversation. I looked through old plans and realized this detail showed up on the most recent ones. A conversation with the architect and builder resulted in learning they were trying to avoid railings on the screen porch. This error begins a long winding road all the way back to a one off comment by an HPC staff member that we need to add a step to our front porch. Again, without looking at the details of the lot survey, we adjusted this by raising the trusses above the foundation, therefore raising the first floor height. This sucks as the more we dig into it – not only are railings required on the screen porch, but also, most likely, the back deck. We were going for a walk-out feel into our outdoor living space and have spent a ton of time designing this part of the house. So to have the flow disrupted stinks. We caught the error in time to lower the house by about 6-10 inches – but this is not enough to alleviate the problem. And it’s too late and expensive to change the truss design. You’ll see in the pictures, our first floor height is about 18 inches above the neighbors… and we have about 6-7 feet to step up from the sidewalk to our front door. Our house is high. We wish it wasn’t.

Hiccup 3: The diggers and back-fillers didn’t finish clearing all the shrubs and old fencing on the east side of the lot. We told them about the miss – they said they needed to hit contingency to finish the job. This is fine, but frustrating, as they should have surveyed the lot / the work before quoting their fees (and they should have not tried to skip doing the work. Without Dave checking, it wouldn’t have gotten done at all). Anyway – it’s good we caught it when we did. It was less than $500 worth of work now, but would have been four times that later.

And then…

Around Thanksgiving – work nearly halted. Our framer was finishing another job and there would be a significant delay in starting our framing. Of course the weather is +40 at the time – perfect weather to frame a house. A crew is sent out to frame the basement and cap the first floor in early December. A wall is put up to the west to place the electric hook up. And then we sit and wait. And wait. And wait.

Hiccups with the electric hook-up led our builder to ask the neighbor to borrow electricity for heating the capped off basement. They thankfully said yes (they have been GREAT through this process ever since we broke ground). Framers are finally free the week after Christmas, but it’s -20 degrees with a worse windshield. Some days are just too cold for the equipment to work properly. So it’s been slow going, but they are progressing. First floor is framed, and they are starting on the second now.

Here are some pictures with descriptions – enjoy!

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Framing Pic Details

From the street view, you are looking in through the bay window. The hole you see on the top is a viewing area from our upstairs hallway to the main level. This area is one of the most beautiful architectural details of the house. We are excited about how it looks!

From the east view, you can see the big opening for our fancy door to the screen porch. Even with the railings, I’m still so excited about the screen porch. We did SO MUCH research to find the best door to keep up to our green standards. Marvin Windows for the win! Even though this is a large opening, it shouldn’t be drafty.


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