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Posted to StansTLH by Stan in Tehachapi, CA
The first 'storm' of the season has come. Of course, I was procrastinating on doing some prep. With the whole escrow on the new place thing going on, of course with some added delays of it's own. (Lengthy drives to sign, sign, sign and jumbling all the reams of paper)
I was feeling frustrated, so I started to mark out the lines of my proposed house's footprint on my lot. I measured and put a stake on each corner, lined out string and used some landscaper's spray paint to draw the lines. I had a lot of energy I needed to burn off.
It looked really cool. Not a surveyor-quality job by any means, but it was good for some giggles. As I stood looking at my real physical primitive sketch on the earth, I realized that I hadn't really checked out the roof on my new place in town. I jumped in my truck with the ladder and went and had a peek. Oh #$%$!!!!! I am sure glad I did!!!! There is a section missing some shingles, where obviously someone had 'borrowed' shingles from one section to patch another. What were they thinking??? Arrrrrrgghhhh! So, I formulate a quick plan. Get some plastic or a tarp, use my handy dandy cordless stapler/brad nailer and tack something water resistant over the bad area.
I go to Home Depot, sure enough, everyone else in town had a similar idea and all that is left is some painter's plastic drop cloth stuff. Expensive for how much I need and is really thin. I wonder if the staples will hold it or if the first breeze that comes will just tear it away. I decide that I will appropriate my not-so-nice but oh-so-thick shower curtain and just replace it with a new one in the house. It is heavy and should not easily rip at the staple points. The plan is formulated. I grab my staples, my staple gun and... where are the battery packs? Are you kidding me, in my rush to try to beat the rain I forgot to bring the battery packs (I have four, though I only need one!) and left them sitting on the table at the house in Hell-A, 100+ miles away. No problem, just hammer some nails through the grommet holes and on the edges. I own at least 10 hammers and the only one I can find is a rubber mallet. Now that's fine for nudging in certain items, but woefully inadequate to drive a nail, even a big flat head roofing nail.
It has just started misting.
I don't want to drive back to HD and buy yet another hammer. Then back to the house in town. Arrrrghh! So I look at what tools I had left in my truck. I have a pry bar, a Phillips screwdriver and a flat head screwdriver. Nope, no hammer. While digging through all the collected items that litter the floor and behind the seat of my truck, I find the most reasonable substitute. The tongue and ball assembly of my hitch. It's heavy and there is a flat spot under where the ball is bolted to the tongue. You should have guessed where this is going.
Yep. I climbed up on that roof with a pry bar to borrow loose nails for the project, a somewhat used shower curtain liner and a trailer hitch to hammer them into the roof. It took all of 5 minutes. The curtain was the exact length I needed with a couple of inches of overlap. The brass grommets held the nails nicely and the heavy as hell trailer hitch tongue drove those little roofing nails in with two shots.
No sooner than driving the last nail. I am standing admiring my improvised creation, when... yep. It starts raining. Now not like the hardcore downpours that crisscross the the rest of the US, but for the desert climates of Southern California this is a good one, especially since it's the first of the season and other than a few spritzes, we have not had rain in months. Everything is REALLY dry, so it is welcome, just not before I can fix the holes in my roofing!!!
Content that my little 'Frankenstein" approach worked. (Yes, it was also All Hallow's Eve) I zipped off to take my truck back to the lot and put her to sleep until next time. I get in my car, wonder what this rain is doing to my artwork. Decide to go and check it out. and.... All my stakes are laying in a muddy yellow paint stained puddle. Oh, well... it was just for giggles anyways, I am only disappointed since I did not take a photo of it before it got destroyed.
Now to deal with the time change.
I think I need a beverage...
Posted to StansTLH by Stan in Tehachapi, CA
on 10/27/2008 9:37:46 PM
OK, my last post was three months ago plus.
An incredible amount of stuff has happened. My head is still spinning. I am currently swamped as I try to sort through all.
From a failed romance, a few health issues, commuting issues and a whole slew of family related horse-pucky (not really cussing, but you get the idea).
So... I currently live 105 miles each way from my site. This makes for a not entirely unreasonable commute. But after the whole oil price roller coaster, I began thinking that maybe it would make better sense to live a lot closer to my job site. I started looking for rentals in the area and getting pricing information so that I could plan my budget effectively. While jumbling numbers, I began to think about my whole project's timeline. I played 'Devil's Advocate' and let Murphy into the equation. I thought about delays in getting materials. Having subs arrive and finish on schedule. Weather-related issues. The whole mess started to spin. This can happen when you over-think and over-analyze things. It really does separate the body from the mind.
I crunched the numbers, then crunched them again. It was not pretty. While I was meandering around the neighborhoods, I noticed lots of homes that were obviously vacant. Dead lawns and little white or orange "No Trespassing" signs in the windows are a dead giveaway. I decided to call a few of the agents and see what was up. No surprise when I learned that they were all foreclosures, most of them in the REO (Real Estate Owned, means that the bank is the owner and nobody bid on the house or redeemed it.) category.
Out of morbid curiosity, I asked my bank if it were possible to get a mortgage. I know... shocking. Especially with the current credit freeze. I was just asking a simple stupid question, more of a hypothesis really. Imagine my shock and expression when my banker (Yes, I actually have a single person that I deal with at my bank. The same face and a long-standing relationship.) comes back to me and says "Sure... You're pre-approved for a $200K".
The next trip to Tehachapi had me looking at a rental and talking to a Realtor. After looking for most of September, I found a great deal on a 3-Bd 2-Ba house in town. Compared to my numbers on rent and what I am going to pay for a mortgage payment and it was obviously in my better interest to buy. I close escrow this week. It was under $100K, which in California is a rockin' deal.
'But Stan, we thought you were going to O-B your own house?'
I still am. I just will not be wasting money renting while I build. This did not touch my budget in any way. Mom still gets a comfy house to live in, while I build. It is about 30% of the cost of renting for the same time frame. And... this is the best part. When we move into the new place, this house will become a source of rental income. Overall, a much better modification to an ever-changing plan. It was an opportunity that presented itself and when I did an apples to apples comparison with and without my Murphy list, it was a smarter move. It also takes pressure off of me if things get sidetracked and certain tasks take longer to accomplish than planned. It's now an asset instead of a liability.
'Stan!!! We only read this far because you mentioned some juicy bits at the beginning!! C'mon... spill!'
Oh... Alright. It was politics. The polarization got in the way. I know people are passionate about their views. Rightfully so. But... when someone asks you NOT to talk about it, the polite reaction is to change the subject. DO NOT use any angle of the day's events or our interaction as a means to bring the damn topic back up. I asked, pleaded and then... I am gone.
The health stuff... too much... too freaky... and too personal for this space.
The family stuff involves a feud. In addition to me reading the Riot Act (metaphorically speaking that is...) to someone who deserved it. Actually a couple of someones. You could paraphrase and say that I put my foot down, stood up for myself, whatever phrase works. I just said ENOUGH of this @#$!@% and it will no longer be tolerated. Try again and face my wrath.
I am normally the happy-go-lucky type. Nothing really gets to me. But after a while, no matter what your outlook, you gotta stand and when normal conversation fails, sometimes it is necessary to spell it out and draw pictures for the extremely obtuse.
I will get back to my plan very soon. Moving into the area will make it much easier to get work done and to do it whenever time permits. It will also save money and that is never a bad thing.
|It's the green one.|
Posted to StansTLH by Stan in Tehachapi, CA
on 7/3/2008 2:34:16 PM
Ok, it's been a while since I last posted. Yeah, Murphy has been hangin' around me for over a month. I have had to deal with more distractions, difficulties, drama, distortions, deadbeats and other demented dilemmas this month than should be allowed. (I hope that was enough 'D' words, I got a few more, but this is a family forum!)
Several setbacks, nothing too difficult to overcome, but frustrating little roadblocks (sleeping policemen, as my auntie calls them) nonetheless.
What have I accomplished? A redesign of one wall to a 'prow' style. This gets me some strange angles for solar thermal transfer coefficients, this means that the Title 24 calculations will take a couple more pages. lol. I like that for the simple fact that someone will earn their paycheck and not just fill out a form with some simple numbers. I tied up several 'loose ends' that were not really all that serious, but I felt that these tiny things might seem and feel a whole lot bigger once the mayhem actually begins. I think the stress levels will be high enough on their own and I should get rid of the 'little things' before I take on this thing full time. (There is a line in a song from a band called 'Bush', it says "it's the little things that kill"). I got Mom through a rough spot with an infection, that was real fun. My server let out the 'magic digital smoke' and I haven't had the presence of mind to crack open the box and fix her. I need to, as most of my subs are requesting copies of stuff and I am getting a little tired of going to Kinko's to make copies. Plus, the stuff I have copied and have out for bids is not accurate now that there have been some changes. The server will make keeping everyone up to date with changes much easier and cheaper for both money and time.
Now, that my plans are mutating, I have got to get some more of the prelim stuff done. Greg, the engineer, has lots of good contacts. No other engineers have wanted to actually 'walk the ground', they just want a copy of the plat map and approximations of where I want the house. Greg wants the survey (finding the original is proving to be as daunting as something from 'National Treasure' films) so that he can check and verify elevation changes. Probably gonna have to hire a new surveyor and redo it, burns me a bit when it already exists, but the previous owner has lost or thrown it out and cannot remember the name of the surveyor. Greg also has a soil guy doing his thing Pro Bono and has recommended a hydrologist (well man) that he says will work with 'us' on the budget. Greg likes the ideas that I have presented and plans to use this project to showcase his work in the local area.
The biggest thing I have learned in the last month is actually a pleasant surprise. Don't dismiss anyone you contact on your project out of hand. You might just get a surprise or two when they know someone in a key spot that you need, they talk to them and get them to work with you for a great discount. Some of my 'help' has been haggling and negotiating some great stuff on my behalf. (The 'free' soils test is one great example! It's not actually 'free', I will be 'trading' a photo essay and a 'testimonial' for the services. He needs something to show the 'how' of what he does.)
Been skimming over the whole solar/off-grid posts recently. I know, I promised to write up solar and wind power, but I have been spread a bit thin lately. I will just comment and say that the quotes are REALLY high. My system is RETAILED out at just under $20K (multiple purchases from the same supplier gets a better discount!), that includes the panels, junction boxes, controllers, breaker boxes, dual inverters with 120/240V capabilities, remote monitoring and a battery bank that will provide four days of continuous run at full draw. Mind you that nobody runs their stuff at full draw 24/7 and you should never discharge your battery system below 30% of capacity. (Typically, you design to a 10-20% depth of discharge for a normal day cycle.) I will do the install. Not at all difficult, actually a bit easier than a car stereo system. Now, if there happen to be four days of no sun or wind, I can still hook up my little cheap PepBoys genny and charge the battery bank in a few hours' time. There will be no difference in my power usage or the perception of our usage, and we will still use an air conditioner during the summer and central heat when it snows, without any penalties.
I will break all this down more when I can free up a little time and am not 'shorting out'. When you are off-grid, you do not qualify for rebates, only the Federal tax credit. Most of the 'sales experts' that you will deal with only know how to quote inflated pricing for Grid-Tie systems that must be installed by 'qualified' installers to be eligible for the rebates. A prime example of when rebates aren't necessarily the best deal or option. Grid Tie also has to have an auto-cutoff circuit for when there is a major system problem (blackout, brownout), as your solar system will continue to provide power to the grid and could possibly kill the lineman trying to repair the major outage.
Electricity is your friend, but will bite you if you give it the opportunity to do so.
Also, to anyone reading this... If you know of a way to repel rabbits, please share it with me. (Other than #4 shot or poisons) I have set a few snares, but the little buggers still cost me over $600 in electrical wiring repairs to my truck. I hate to say it, but Elmer was right! It's Wabbit season...
Posted to StansTLH by Stan in Tehachapi, CA
on 5/22/2008 1:41:47 AM
After my meeting with the local engineer, Greg, I have gotten a few other calls from the Constructionbargain.com ad and found a couple more leads to check out from Craigslist for engineers looking for gigs.
I need to get back to work on my drawings, but my body decided to rebel over the last week. My back went out and has been a constant source of pain and amusement. This has left me a bit on the grumpy side of life. Today is the first day I could actually focus on the computer screen. It was also Mom's birthday. We had a nice steak for lunch and Chinese for dinner. Tough to be cheerful at a birthday party when no seated position is comfortable for longer than a couple of minutes, and I could not sneak off to go lay down. I tried.
Did more research for the plans this evening. After reading about some of the experiences that folks are having with SIPs, and finding a few log home companies that use them for roofing, I am debating on redesigning my plans to use them for my entire roofing system. Just scrapping the ideas that I already have. My design is pretty much the same kind of layered sandwich that SIPs are comprised of, just my design is hand-built layers and the SIPs are factory laminates. The idea of my roof going up in a few days versus a few week$ is very attractive for a few reasons. I am halfway through The BOOK, and I am already rethinking some of my approaches. I totally agree that my time would be better spent hunting down deals and managing people on the onset and during the dry-in. But I think I will still do much of the finishes myself. There are a few things that I want to do from a more artistic sense, than a just get-er-done approach. I know that if I do too much during the dry-in phases, I will probably be a bit burnt out by the time it comes to do the finishes. Those are the surfaces and textures that my family and guests will interact with the most, so I want to exercise my control freak there.
Got some other business to get started, too. In CA, anyone who does any kind of construction labor MUST be covered by SDI and WC (State Disability Ins. and Worker's Comp). Very HUGE fines and jail time if you get caught. You have to register as an employer with the state (and Feds) for the SDI payments and for the state WC fund. The only way around this is to hire a contractor that carries his own insurances or turn your immediate family into forced laborers. Anyone on an hourly wage with a set start time is considered an employee now; if they use any tools you provide, they are an employee. The new definitions close the old independent contractor loopholes. This is pinching the film biz, I am sure. I used to do some work on studio lots as an independent contractor, but now I would be considered an employee according to the stuff I have got from the State's website.
More complications. More amusements. Now, what to call my new little company? I will have to design a business card and other assorted paperwork so the illusion will be complete. Should make setting up Net 30's around town a little easier.
Posted to StansTLH by Stan in Tehachapi, CA
on 5/14/2008 9:55:20 PM
Wednesday, May 14, 2008 8:50:43 PM
Just got back from the site visit with the local engineer. All things considered, it went well. He looked at my images. Walked the ground with me. We talked about the basement and foundation, the framing plan and what hardware to use. (We both said "Simpson" at the same time, kind of funny, guess you had to be there). I showed him the roofing design and the overall lot plan. Of course, I have several versions of the files and opened a few of the wrong ones. He was VERY patient. He was also surprised at how much I had done. When I explained some of the finer details of this madness, he nodded respectfully, even made a few suggestions. Lots of information to share both directions. This could be a good fit. But then again, he is my first. lol. I must talk to at least 1-2 more at least to know if I do have the right person for the job.
I was planning to burn him copies of the files on CD to take after the meeting, but I realized that I still have a bit more tweaking to do on the images. He said they were fine, but I want a last shakedown to make all the changes ripple through each version. Less work for him to do, and hopefully will be reflected in a lower bill. He told me he was going to do a proposal that will have stages of the project. He said it was a place to start and that we would modify it as we apply it to my situation. He does need the original survey or a new one, so I will be burning up the phone lines to track the original down. I really don't like the idea of paying for work that already exists somewhere. Since we can't do anything until a water source is in existence, I do have a little time and wiggle room. He said he will contact the local office of the building inspector and see about any special requirements. He doesn't think a soil test will be necessary, but the county may require it, even though the county gave me reports and type information when I went to EHS for the septic information. He has a soils guy and THE Title 24 guy. Literally, the guy who wrote the codes. Thi$ make$ me think it could get expen$ive, but he said they were friends, so you never know. This is a rural place, the good ol' boy network is alive and kicking out here.
I had to ask him if the idea was feasible or was I just following a crazy figment of my imagination. He said it was elegant (Engineer speak, translation: Cool, good design) and that not only is it feasible, but a classic choice with a timeless appeal that will bring a good resale value for the area, should I decide to ever sell. He said my tech upgrades and plan for the building envelope were in line with what needs to happen. The tech upgrades were something that he really liked. A lot. He said that I was definitely 21st century in my thinking.
Huge sigh of relief on my part. Now I can detail out my drawings. Something I was holding back on so that I wouldn't have to do it over, and over, and over... That is my normal status quo on the day job. Got to love movie people, they spend other people's money like it's water and like it's their own. I don't mind multiple revisions on my day gig. But now that I am the one controlling the purse strings, I want value for every dollar spent. I need progress. I have got to try to kick Murphy out of the game. Never going to happen, but maybe I can delay the next guest appearance.
On another note:
The California Poppies are in serious bloom right now and the hillsides are splashed with 1/4 mile long streaks of orange. Also, Spanish Broom is blooming and there are several larger ones that are spectacular (we are talking humongous, 25' diameter and 15' high, thankfully not touched by our recent wildfires.). Huge explosions of electric yellow line the roadways and ridgelines. The trip up and back was visually stunning. Thought about having lunch at the Poppy Reserve, but the temperature was climbing still at 3 PM so I scrapped that idea in favor of air-conditioned bliss. (I'll add a few pics later, too tired to dig out the camera dock).
Think I will sleep better tonight. I will definitely be more confident when I talk to/show the next candidate my plans. The initial "Dog and Pony show" jitters are gone. (D&P shows are basically pitch meetings, don't know how much the slang is used outside of the movie biz, we love 'em and we hate 'em, depends on what day it is!).
PS: I went caffeine-free this morning, but I was still wired while waiting for the meeting to begin. Once we were done and Greg took off for his office, my whole body sorta just relaxed and I found myself needing a Starbuck's drive-thru stat.
Posted to StansTLH by Stan in Tehachapi, CA
on 5/14/2008 2:28:23 AM
OK, so... tomorrow at 2 pm I meet with the local engineer on site. At least he is the only one of 10 that responded to my little ad that actually wants to meet at the site. I placed a request on Constructiondeal.com for a civil or structural engineer (which I may use again for some of the trades). Gave a brief, very brief description and the responses started rolling into my mailbox. Some close, a few that were a 200+ hundred miles away. Talked to a few on the phone and a couple by email. With fuel prices what they are, and the interaction level I would like, I think the closer guys will get the consideration. Not that doing this over the Internet would not be possible. I am a visual person, I got to show what my ideas are. It would take hours to describe verbally and volumes if I actually wrote every single thing down. It's definitely a 'boots on the ground' thing. If I can show the drawings, show the spot on the ground and babble coherently long enough, then maybe he will get what I want to do and it might make this whole process go smoothly.
This is my first real step. Someone else other than me is getting involved. I have got to talk to a professional and get the feedback. This is the first person to get the whole thing in one blast. I have rambled a bit here, but I haven't really shared all my plans with anyone. As I have only just started attempting to make the dream a reality and this poor guy will get the whole spiel. Gotta watch the caffeine tomorrow. Once I am assured that my idea will work, then I can get started on the well and water system. No water, no permit issued.
It's on! And I don't think I could stop now, even if I really wanted to! Uh... what kind of cheesy quote can I end with... oh... Never give up! Never surrender!
... really need more sleep...
Posted to StansTLH by Stan in Tehachapi, CA
on 5/12/2008 8:44:57 PM
I need a break from the tech drawing and research. Some of the features
are fighting with me and I am just too tired to read the help file.
So, I thought I would blog a bit. This is cheap therapy. lol.
are a couple of real quickie drawings done in Microsoft's Visio. Not a
really cheap solution (about $200 if you shop), but... you can download
a free 60-day trial version that is fully functional from the Office
2007 website. It has templates and objects that you simply drag and
drop then use the handles to adjust size and shape. The appliances have
a section in the object properties to add all the pertinent data like
price, model, make etc. The really cool part and exactly the part I am
arguing with, is that it has a "magnetic glue" function that ties the
walls and other objects together. This feature is great when you resize
rooms, as all the glued items come along for the ride without needing
to reposition. It has some caveats though. If you group some objects
and structure and one end of an object is free floating and not
anchored or glued to another part of the structure, you get some funky
angles on your interior walls. The first one I goofed up looked kinda
cool and for about a minute I thought about leaving it that way; then I
came to my senses.
The first is a work in progress, I am
redrawing my previous work using the templates and objects. This is
about an hour's worth of work. No, I did not read the manual. It is
fairly simple to use. Note the butt and pass of my corners to represent
the log style. Visio fought me hard on that one, but I triumphed. It
outputs in every format you would need including AutoCAD and HTML.
second drawing is of a flow chart for a typical solar and/or wind
system, extremely simplified. I was thinking about writing a
semi-rant/edu-torial on off-grid solar power and how to properly size
for your needs. After a few conversations with some vendors, I was
shocked at how I was treated until they found out that I know quite a
lot about electricity. It actually felt a bit slimy on more than one
occasion, sort of like a used-car sales approach.
appeal to this group? How much detail would be enough? I would share a
couple of approaches, and my own system and why I chose it. I am a big
fan of low-maintenance, heavy-duty bulletproof systems. (A dream, I
know... but I can still try).
|This is the WIP. I love how the window objects allow orientation of how you want them to open. Makes ordering the correct version easier.||
|This took about 45 seconds to create. Visio is almost a no brainer for this stuff.||
|Same WIP file about 30 minutes later. I am really starting to like Visio. Wish I would have played with it sooner.|
Posted to StansTLH by Stan in Tehachapi, CA
on 5/12/2008 2:31:20 PM
OK, ready to go, got the car loaded up with some stuff to transport to storage. Got my keys, got my DVD-Rom, got Mom ready, laptop... check! Just about to load Mom up and hit the road and... my cell goes off. It's the engineer. He has a family emergency and asks me if it is alright to postpone. I tell him that it is not a problem. My schedule is flexible, since I have yet to actually plot a timeline for the project (I got the scheduling DVD to watch yet,) and there is no loan or other clock ticking. He thanks me and we reschedule for Wednesday the 14th at 2pm. He told me he went and looked at my lot, I figured he would when I gave him the approximate address so he could Google it. It is kinda fun when you don't actually have a street address yet to use the satellite map of Google or Yahoo! and type in approximate addresses until the little marker sits in front of your lot.
He told me the street sign is gone. I kinda knew that it might disappear. We get some pretty high winds and the last time I saw the sign it was already dangling. It's in the unincorporated area of the county, so I wonder how many years until it is fixed. This means I need to make an accurate map for subs and others to be able to find my place and get some temporary signage like I would do for a location shoot. I don't want delays caused by people getting lost when the actual work starts.
It's almost like the "Magical Mystery Tour" tailor-made for my foray into O-B. lol. Yes... a Beatles reference, but something that gets a chuckle out of my circle of friends. And Murphy has already made a guest appearance.
I am not really bothered by this, actually I am relieved. I get two more days to tweak my art. I get two more days to scribble more data into the meta tags of the objects. Things like manufacturer, model number, pricing, sizing and color information. I already redid my decking from a straight vanilla into a modified herringbone and diamond pattern. It looks great on the screen, definitely adds character and gives a strange sort of mystical-like feel to the overhead. My plan is literally oriented to the compass points just like Giza (Actual true North, not magnetic N). This makes it fit into my weird-but-cool requirement for my dream home and gives me optimum orientation for my roof-mounted PV panels.
I also cut 2' off of the N and S porches and the W deck. I did the math and will save a fair amount in materials and will not need the additional support that the larger span would require without losing the functionality of any of the areas. The W deck alone saved over 150 sq' and the porches saved another 168 sq'. They also require less roofing material in the same sq' as well. The E deck remains unchanged, though the stairs from the porches are now on each end of the E deck and the wheelchair ramp has been rotated 90 degrees to face E and the parking pad. The symmetry of the overhead led to the changes, including the deck pattern.
I got up early, I actually did sleep. some. I did get some stuff done, I wasn't twiddling my thumbs. lol.
Oh.. While I was playing with the calculator, I did some numbers for my little lighting plan. I will be able to light my entire house, including exterior accents and interior accents as well as task and safety lights, for around 210 watts total. These Luxeons are so incredibly bright that I had to put a frost diffuser over the kitchen fixture (my prototype), with the clear lens, if you look at them directly, you can't see for about 5-10 minutes. Minor miscalculation, my mistake. My kitchen fixture has four 3W units, for a total of 12W @ 12Vdc or 1 amp. About 10 times brighter than a CFL of comparable wattage. They are a bit more expensive, but the 100,000+ hour lifespan sorta negates the cost. If I left them on, 24/7/365 it would take about 11.4 years to burn out, and then only maybe, since they like to be on. It's the on/off current spike that actually shortens their life. They also come in .5W, 1W, 5W and the new 10W. The 10W actually includes a heatsink since it tends to generate a bit of heat. The cool factor about these is just that. They are cool to the touch. The higher wattage modules do get warm, but not like a CFL or Incandescent and definitely no where near Halogen. And... clear, clean, artifact-free illumination with no flicker at all.
Kitchen lighting was on my list of things I was not satisfied with in other places I have lived. A lot of thought went into what I would do to solve some of my pet peeves. The fixture I built is probably a little overkill on the brightness, but a gloomy kitchen was something I hated. Makes it hard to keep clean when you can't see all the little splatters and things. I also have undercabinet lighting that is more direct but those are still only sketches.
I will babble on more about lighting and some of the fixtures I will be using. I will organize my supply links and provide them in a future installment. This is one of things I am most adamant about in my designs. Lighting can make or break a room. Can make it comfortable and functional or no-mans-land. I may even put together some kits for the DIY types that don't want to meet minimum order quantities. It is really not that hard to assemble a fixture. Took longer for the glues to cure than for actual assembly and it was another excuse to play with power tools. lol.
Posted to StansTLH by Stan in Tehachapi, CA
Monday morning just after midnight.
12 hours till my meeting.
I can't sleep. My mind won't shut down. I keep thinking about my artwork and wondering if it is good enough. It will be the first time a professional will look at my scribbles and tell me if my fantasy can be made real. A little unnerving; as I am allowing someone to look into my mind's eye.
I know that it will all be changed in some way. All projects of large scale are destined to be changed.
I think I approached it the right way. I hope I did.
I started with an outline of the basics. I took some notes on things I didn't like about the places I have lived. I took more notes on things I liked from other peoples houses and places I have visited. I thought about conveniences and how to conserve energy. I did all this without ever looking at an actual floorplan design. I did not want to influence these decisions by becoming enamored with only one specific design.
I drew on my skills as a filmmaker to draw up a budget. I approached it like I was making a movie. I just substituted electrical, plumbing and HVAC for things like makeup, sound and visual effects. I used a previous budget I had done and started hacking and slashing until I had something that looked reasonable for my purposes. This was before I discovered this site and it's file download section. And it was only something to play with until I could plug in real numbers for an actual plan.
Then I decided on what things would I ultimately live without and things I just had to have. That was a real mind twister. Arguing with yourself could be a sign of mental illness or extreme need for a vacation! Maybe both. I had to balance cost with anticipated use. For example, a sauna had been on my list of cool things I would like to have in my house, but cost and the technical requirements made it unreasonable to accomplish. Maybe a portable unit at some later date. But not for now, as I figured that after the initial Wow! factor wore off, it might become another dust experiment.
After all the pre-plan stuff, I found the domes. I liked domes from the first time I saw one. It was a futuristic vision that appealed to the sci-fi nerd deep in my heart. I envisioned connecting several in a sort of moonbase configuration. I know, not very conventional, but I just don't care. I wanted what I wanted and that was that. But I am also a realist. I know that the stuff I get paid to do is really just illusion, fun to play with, amazing to get paid for and not something that is easily summed up in a title, and that my imagination can get in the way of 'the rules'. I also know that if I should decide to sell at some future date the funky moonbase might not go over so well. Then, after talking to my neighbor about his problems with the dome, I knew that I had to find another style that was still different from what I see being built in tracts. (He has proved to be a great neighbor and a wonderful asset to my team). Something that had a timeless appeal,
I know I am probably just nervous about nothing. The engineer will look at my stuff and probably tell me it's fine. I just hope he doesn't fall over laughing. I also hope that his fees will not put a damper on my quest.
The other guys gave some very interesting figures that had a wider than anticipated range. Not jaw-dropping, but knee-jerk for sure.
One thing I know, is that things happen on their own timeline when they are ready to happen and no matter how detailed my plans are Murphy will show up eventually.
Wow... that feels better... now to try to sleep.............
Posted to StansTLH by Stan in Tehachapi, CA
<WARNING - This is REALLY long>
Let me introduce myself and give a bit of background on my project.
I started out on this journey, and what a ride it has been so far, since about November of 2004. I remodeled and sold my childhood home and moved out in July of '05. Since then I have been checking out areas where I have been interested in living and going there to rent for a while to see what life is really like there before I commit to buying land and investing my funds, blood, sweat, and tears into my dream home.
Due to some unforeseen circumstances, health problems, and other life events, my plans were put off for a while as recovery became the first priority.
Then, in December of 2006, while looking at some auction lots that I was thinking of bidding on, I stumbled across it, the exact piece of land that fit my needs and that felt like it could be home. It wasn't for sale. I found another that was even more breathtaking, then I got sticker shock and began to get disgusted. So I go to bid at the auction, turns out I only have one competitor. By coincidence, I happen to know the person. He is a former employee of mine, actually my first one. He and I play catch-up and I find out that his plans have a more urgent need than my own, so I stop bidding and he wins the auction. I figure that I will find something that will appeal to my insane standards.
Off I go to look at more property, I go back up to the area and start looking around again, this time for signs on vacant land. I go back to my little dream lot just to take a peek. I find something nearby that looks cool, but will need quite a bit of site work, my dream lot is still not for sale. Then... on December 26th, I am surfing on Craigslist and stumble across a listing for land in the area of my dream lot. It has a link to an eBay listing. The listing has photos. So I go and look. Something is interesting about the photos and grabs my attention immediately. The pictures are of MY DREAM LOT and it is for sale on eBay!!!
Aaaaaagggghhhhh! My credit card limit is not high enough to even place a bid!!! No! This cannot be true. So I drive up to the lot and sure enough, there is a for sale by owner sign and an email address and phone number. I write it all down and go home and look at the auction again. Drat! His opening bid is $45K with no bids. This is not a bad price for 2.5 acres in Southern California!! So, I wait as the auction ends in a day.
December 28th, the auction ends. No bidders, I think to myself that maybe it is too high. So I send the seller an email with an offer to buy the parcel for $30K and we split the fees 50/50. To my surprise he emailed me back within 20 minutes and accepted my offer. I was floored! I got the exact piece of land I wanted at a 33% discount from his asking price. (One week later the parcel across the street, same size, sold for $78K no improvements) I got a really good deal! My lot was already surveyed, fenced, with a separate fenced lockable storage area and a driveway and access roads already cut. I guess Karma really does work, by giving up at the auction, I got exactly what I wanted, and at a better price than I could have gotten at the auction!
We closed escrow at the end of January '07. I was officially a property owner and I was happy. My original plan was to build a dome home from Timberline Geodesics. They come in kit form and I had spent many hours designing and dreaming on this plan. The hours would number into the thousands. Although there were always doubts about whether or not my designs would actually work, due to the non-square nature of dome exterior walls. To my delight, my nearest neighbor had built his own dome home just down the road a few hundred feet away. I met him the first day I was the owner of the property literally as the previous owner was handing me all the keys and filling me in on the good ole boy network. The neighbor's dome is almost exactly what I wanted to build and he was forthcoming on all the 'fun' he has had building the dome. He has been O-B'ing for 10 years due to scheduling and only recently got the C of O.
After talking with him and looking over all the details of his dome, I decided that my plans were not really going to be realistic as he pointed out several of the difficulties he has faced. He then pulls out a catalog for log home kits. I look it over and am impressed with the designs. The photos look amazing. But I am not easily fooled by slick marketing. I am in the entertaimnet field and deal with this type of stuff all the time, in fact, sometimes I am the designer and artist.
So, now I've got the lot. My plans are changing and I do not know what I want. Not the best way to actually start building. I am back to square one plan-wise.
I spent the next month wrapping up some business and buying a truck and 5th wheel that I planned to live in as I worked on my new house. I figured I would move into the trailer, put all my stuff in storage and spend some time redesigning for my actual ground. I would do sun trajectories, wind studies and a whole array of things that most would not bother with doing. Why not? I have the time. My plans always included alternative power as there are no power lines or other utilities in the area. I plan a hybrid wind/PV panel system with a generator backup for long periods of no wind/sun. Not likely to be used much, as one of the world's largest wind farms is just a couple of miles away. But I believe that having a backup plan is critical for most things in life. Propane, well and septic systems complete the mechanicals.
The move was hectic by myself. Funny how friends with good intentions evaporate on moving day. That really didn't matter, as I knew that this adventure would only be realized by me and that others would only be along for part of the journey. The savings from not having to pay rent to anyone anymore was worth the slight inconvenience of roughing it. Not really that rough, the trailer has just about everything a house does and is bigger than my first apartment. lol. I even solarized the trailer, so I am not even using the genny except for occasional power tools.
All of my stuff was now finally in one place. I was living on my land and tomorrow was St. Patty's day, I decided to get a beer.
I meet a guy, who offers me a job. Turns out he is a bigwig at the wind power company and after a very informal interview over Guinness he thinks I should start on Monday. So... I'm in my new place, getting ready to find a new plan, and get a new job offer. Not a bad start. I go to the office on that Monday, talk with a lot of folks. Next day, I get a call, I got the gig. Going to start the following Monday. $85K a year to start. (I am also an IT geek starting in the mid 1980's). I am thinking that I can bank quite a bit to help my budget when I actually start to build and that I can be somewhat flexible with the hours needed for both jobs. This is going to be great.
On Thursday the 22nd, my Mom is going in for knee-replacement surgery. She had the surgery and everything was great. No problems, no pain, and she was really happy. The next morning, I get a wake-up call from a doctor at the hospital where she is staying and I am informed that this morning my mom suffered a major stroke. I tell them I will be right there. The hospital is over 100 miles away and I walked through the doors 70 minutes later,
Her stroke changed everything that day. Her chance of survival was minimal and recovery to any extent was even more remote. I resigned myself to the possibility that my plans were now changed in a radical new way. She and I are all each other has, my father passed 15 years ago, so I am it. I refuse to put her into any kind of 'home' unless it is my home. So I moved down to her place that day to take care of her. Did not take the job. Did not start up a new plan. Mom was left unable to speak or walk. Although she makes progress every day and it is very noticeable, it is slow and frustrating for her and me.
The last year was filled with many frustrations, achievements and with many battles. Some won, some lost. Since situations are constantly evolving, circumstance thrust another complication into the mix. The monthly expenses are eating into my homebuilding money. So, after much deliberation, and carefully weighing all the possibilities we could come up with, analyzing all the variables including some of the touchier subjects, we decided that the only way to not lose all, would be to invest in building my dream. Spend it on what we want and will keep versus giving the money away a little at a time to someone else.
On March 18th of 2008, I began again in earnest to find another plan almost one year to the day from when I had to leave. I contacted the company that my neighbor recommended and got a couple of other information packages from other log home companies. After receiving the information and some careful study and some VERY pointed questions to sales reps. I discovered that the kits were the lowest possible quality factor that could be put together for the lowest possible price (Actually cheaper than the domes, more complete, but still lowest common denominator). Not exactly what I had in mind for my dream home. That no matter what plan I chose from their catalog, I would have to have it redesigned for my local conditions and that the planning department requires that non-standard construction be stamped by a licensed civil or structural engineer.
So... being the crazed computer geek I am, armed with an array of software that would make most people's heads explode, I started to design my own version of a log home. I like the log home's rustic style and it fits right in with the surrounding environment. (In the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains) And I have sort of had a soft spot in my heart for them, ever since I was a kid playing with my Lincoln Logs.
Using Photoshop, several hundred megabytes of PDF downloads of codes and design examples, most of April and a fair amount of artistic license, I have come up with my plan. A complete floorplan, measurements, call-outs, cross sections, elevations. It has the tech drawings from the manufacturers scaled correctly and installed in the floorplan. I have cut-sheets and complete specifications for absolutely everything. I even designed a completely solid-state lighting system (Luxeon, for those that are curious) that will exceed California's new Title 24 restrictions. Not content with the 2D information, I fired up my 3D software that I use on film/TV projects and built my house complete. The beauty of this is that I can zoom in on any section and render from any angle with or without photo realism and with the ability to strip out layers and show cross sections of any surface or substrate. I can do walkthroughs, and fly by's in any resolution I want. I could even do Hi Def. This has the ability to suck time from your life very easily. lol. But I digress...
It is a three-bed, two-bath, 1 1/2-story with full basement, two covered porches and two decks. It has a simple but elegant layout with a total of 1,260 sq' for the first floor and 420 sq' for the master bedroom/bath loft. The ceilings are vaulted in the great room and it features a window wall for the wonderful sunsets and nighttime city lights. The basement will be unfinished, for now, with a vault to contain the batteries needed for my off-grid lifestyle.
I have used the Web to find local suppliers for just about everything. I have found a mill that makes the logs, siding and T&G and sells the supplies for erecting them. Hans is an owner-operator truck driver with several trailers and has volunteered his services (just expenses) to go and transport the materials to my site.
Now... Here is where I am today. I have redone my plans in three different software packages. I have my Photoshop drawings, LightWave 3D files, AutoCAD, 3D Home Designer, and Visio. I have an appointment tomorrow, Monday the 12th, with an engineer who happens to live nearby and is looking for a local project to showcase (he just moved up there in the last 6 months). He drives by my place two times a day on his way to his office and back. He likes the idea of the log-style and after sharing some info about the electronics, my specs and designs, he is excited about working on this. He is not the first I have talked to about doing this project. I have been given quotes over the phone from two others. He is the first to want to see the site and submit a proper proposal. I can respect that.
After 25+ years in the entertainment industry, we only take people with proper paperwork and proposals and budgets seriously. Everyone has a great idea that they want to see made, few are serious enough to put it down on paper so the scope of the project can be accurately estimated and therefore budgeted realistically. Unless you have very deep pockets, a detailed plan is a necessity in any industry. I judge my vendors (subs) by how well they play the paperwork game. It tells me lots about their experience and what they expect from me and vice versa.
This site has been a revelation. I have learned much and hope to share the wealth of new knowledge I am accumulating with this community. I will post more as the project progresses and will have video and photos to link to on my server. I am just that much of a tech geek. Really.
If you read this far, you have my respect. I didn't think it would be this long when I started to write. I left out lots of stuff that I will probably ramble about later, but thanks for staying with it this long.
I would appreciate any comments, suggestions, rants, advice, warnings or encouragement that may be offered.
P.S. Yes, I have The O-B Book and a few others. More weblinks than one should try to manage. I have been self-employed for over 20 years, so the management, paperwork, licensing, insurance and contracts are all handled. It also helps that one of my good friends is an attorney, and that we deal with digital construction of all things on the planet. What we make does not exist except in the creator's imagination until we render the images. I thought I knew what freedom was like being my own boss, until I began this project. I then realized all the implications and iterations available to me. I now have to redefine the word for myself.
P.P.S. After a discussion with my banker, I find that as a business account holder I can get more than enough to finance the construction if I need it, with only my signature. Sometimes waiting and sharing information with those you already deal with in business can yield some nice surprises.
|This is Hans scraping the weeds off of my lot. He did it for $30 to cover fuel costs. He had so much fun playing with his 'toy', he felt guilty charging me for the fuel. I made him go with me to a nice lunch since I got off so cheap!||
|My view to the north||
|Base Camp |
|My first helper.||
|Just one of many sunsets... this is why I went with a some west-facing windows.|
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