Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Horse Before House Part 6
Measure twice, cut once

The ridge beam led to rafters, and soon the walls were closed in. Once the rafters were in place and plywooded over, the roofers took all of two days, which was both amazing and frightening in equal measure. Inside knowledge: on the steeper parts of the roof, the roofers knelt on what turned out to be the foam pads from sofa cushions, which they referred to as their "cadillacs".  πŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜†

The windows went in next - not without a few issues. I had hoped to incorporate an antique half moon window I'd been saving for years, but sadly at the last minute my builder decided he couldn't make it work. Another lesson in being flexible and picking your battles. I decided to use the window decoratively inside the house instead.

Also - it's important to consider things like window height. Over and over I ran into specs in the plans that didn't make sense in the real world. There is a fire code that dictates size and height of bedroom windows, with regard to escaping, but where the porch roof meets the walls, i.e. where the bottom of the windows can start also has to be taken into consideration.  

When I checked out the window holes in my bedroom wall for the first time, I found that I would barely be able to see over the sills, much less reach the catch to open and close, or clean, without a ladder. I wonder what would have happened if I hadn't been living on the property, looking at the progress on a daily basis...

We ended up lowering the pitch of the porch roof from 6/12 to 4/12, (for every foot across the roof angles up so many inches), allowing the space for lowering the windows. I would have liked to do even a 3/12, but apparently in areas that get torrential rain like we do, you can't go lower than a 4/12 without risking leaking. Lowering the pitch would come in handy when it came time to paint too.

Above is one example of where I participated in modifying the plans to customize my home. Another change was the laundry facilities. In the plans, there was a pipsqueak of a closet with an apartment-sized stacked washer-dryer combo. Now - I had spent the last eight years carrying laundry to my dad's house every week, and therefore felt very deserving of a dedicated space for laundry. I suggested we convert a 10x10 block off of the porch, which runs around three sides of the house. This resulted in a spacious laundry + mudroom (!), with the added benefit of blocking the harshest summer afternoon sun, as well as much of the wind from the most used section of the porch.

Next post we'll tackle the painting. Enjoy yet more construction p*rn...

When the half moon window was happening...

Plywooding the roof + fireplace bump out

Tar papering

Roofers were here

Soon there will be rails and steps


Siding crew has been busy prepping...

Monday, February 11, 2019

Horse Before House Part 5
Shopping + Topping

At this point - about 90 days into construction - it seemed like a good time to line up what was going to go into the house - plumbing fixtures, lighting, doors, flooring. The kitchen and paint will get future posts all their own.

Although I was able to do a ton of research online, many items needed checking out in real life, so there were the prerequisite trips to Lowe's and Home Depot. They're located off island - a three hour round trip from here. I find box stores completely overwhelming at the best of times. Since an entire day would end up being sacrificed, those little jaunts required serious planning, multiple lists and all the documentation. Whatever did we do before smart phones?

Speaking of smart phones - I used mine to immediately text a recap of every meeting or phone conversation I had with my builder - hoping to avoid any he said-she said issues down the line. That proved to be a successful (although probably annoying πŸ˜‡) strategy lol...

Meanwhile back at the ranch, my framers achieved the ridge beam - aka "topping out." According to google:

"The practice of "topping out" a new building can be traced to the ancient Scandinavian religious rite of placing a tree atop a new building to appease the tree-dwelling spirits displaced in its construction. Long an important component of timber frame building, it migrated initially to England and Northern Europe, thence to the Americas. A tree or leafy branch is placed on the topmost wood or iron beam, often with flags and streamers tied to it. A toast is usually drunk and sometimes workers are treated to a meal."
The afternoon my framers nailed in the ridge beam, they graciously hung this handy flag for me. You can find just about anything on Amazon.

Year of the Unicorn!!!

We celebrated with a shot or two of Patron, and I sent them home with fresh eggs.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Horse Before House Part 4
Second floor + all the decisions

I anticipated the process of building a house would tax my ability + desire + patience for decision making, but the reality surpassed my wildest imaginings. I had also failed to envision the amount of push-back I would receive when my decisions didn't fit it with the ideas + schedules + budgets of others.

Not sure if this is par for the course with single-woman construction clients everywhere, or just here on my island - where unattached women are often cause for fear and suspicion. How can she live without a man - the horror! She cuts her own grass! Operates machinery! (And the ever popular - She might be after my man!!!) I've been challenging the world view of some of the less open-minded folks around here for a while lol. I wish I were kidding.

It started with how to site the house on the lot. My plan was to face the house into the property, at an angle. With covered porches, this would take advantage of passive solar. It would also square the house to the cardinal compass points. The winds that tend to be harshest in hurricanes and winter storms - NE, NW and SW - will hit the house at the corners rather than the walls directly. While I have yet to find research online to back this up (that isn't full of physics equations beyond my comprehension), after living on the property for eight years, through multiple storms, I believe this will mitigate the effect of wind somewhat.

As to the view - while it might be conventional to orient your house to the street - the thought of pointing the front porch at my neighbor's house, and the comings and goings of their parking area, didn't thrill me. I prefer to look out onto the garden, Val's paddock and the woods. It's amazing how much effort was expended explaining and justifying these choices - to the builder, the surveyors, the piling guy, etc...  #becauseisaidso

One of the pitfalls of having to say grace over so many decisions in such a short time, even with months of research prior to building, is getting overwhelmed and saying whatever - f*ck it - I can't deal. Especially when you're not sharing the responsibility of the decision making with a partner.

Balance that with the stress of knowing that many choices are time sensitive and can't be taken back which = bad choices will surely cost $$$ in the future - let's just say there was a maximum amount of pressure. Most of the selections for building materials were based on long term value. Architectural shingles, premium windows, Smart Lap siding, Duration paint. I bought into the theory that quality materials on the front end will payoff in the long term. Fingers crossed. I'll dissect interior choices in a future post. Meanwhile enjoy more construction p*rn 😎

Starting the porch roof and upstairs floor joists

The beginning of much ladder climbing - the only way to access the house for months

Setting out 2x4s to mark the interior walls

The view! Itty bitty Val in the grazing pen...

Looking down from the future stairway

Wrapping around!

Upstairs walls - it's starting to get exciting 😍

Monday, January 21, 2019

Horse Before House Part 3
Floors, Walls and Rooms

Once the pilings were banded, the pace picked up considerably. My framing crew was a super group of guys - by far the most professional and talented of all the trades who worked on the house. (it certainly helped that there wasn't much good surf when they were here)

Early on, right after the property was purchased, I met with a potential builder. He walked the lot with me, answering questions about siting the house, clearing the lot etc. I happened to mention the plan was to live in the Shimmy Shack during construction. He basically implied he wouldn't take a job when the client lived there. Once the project got going - because I lived on site - it was apparent when work started and stopped, who was there (or wasn't), and how far things progressed. I no longer wonder why in my landscaping business, I've run into so many off island clients over the years who seemed suspicious of local contractors...


There were a couple of comments asking for details - one was about costs outside of the mortgage. Here's that breakdown:

Plans - $1800
Surveying - $2000
Lot clearing - $1200 (not including my labor)
Stump pulling + grading - $2400 (not including my labor)
Permits/inspections - $1000
Water impact (county water) - $3000
Running 350' water line - $300 (not including my labor)
Electric pole - $200

The other question was about pilings and elevation. Two years ago hurricane Matthew brought flood waters of +/- 9'. My property is 7.5' above sea level. It had never flooded here since anyone could remember - one of the main reasons I bought the property. I raised the first floor 10' above the ground - so 17.5' above sea level. There are codes regarding elevation, as well as requirements from the bank, and better deals on insurance the higher up your first floor is. I wanted to be able to use the space under the house for parking and storage, and figured 10' would allow me to eventually close in a little shop once some time has passed.

First floor pano

View from the future kitchen (!)

Raising the walls

It's crazy - all that held those walls up for weeks were a few 2x4s...

...and some wall jacks

Laundry room with a view ❤️

First floor walled in

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