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Owner-Builder Journal Entries

Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 3/3/2006 10:51:46 PM

Just a few more miles and another 500ft up to go...


Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 3/3/2006 10:49:10 PM

Entering Woodleaf, 3200 ft. a perfect scene.

This is why I moved here...



Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 3/3/2006 10:44:53 PM

Good thing I put my chains on. No sooner did I get up the road and CHP was at an accident scene - too fast - no chains - truck and trailer in the ditch.  Sat for half hour.  CHP citing and lecturing folks without chains. Good thing I had mine on... just a few more trecherous uphill miles to get  to the lot....


Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 3/3/2006 10:37:44 PM

Up the road a couple more miles to Challenge (2400ft) the roads, which are in bad shape on a good day, were becoming challenging as the name implies.  Just outside Challenge is the chain installation area.  I put mine on since the road soon becomes steep and narrow....


Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 3/3/2006 10:33:38 PM

Another cold March storm brought snow to unusually low elevations here in NorCal yesterday.  Snow being the reason why I bought a lot in the hills - I couldn't resist going up into the mess to see it.  With snow on the ground as low as Willow Glenn (1500ft) I knew it would be a good day.  At Brownsville (2000ft) there was several inches....


Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 3/3/2006

The use of the logs was the coolest thing. The guys who did the site prep and tree removal incorporated them into a retaining wall, and also used them to line the driveway for erosion control on the slope. Smaller brush and debris was mulched in the bulldozing process and buried under the back of the lot (there wasn't much left anyway; no hauling, no chipping, no burning). There are a few smaller trees left on the ground which I will probably just incorporate into landscaping/terracing.

I'll be planting Aptos Blue Redwoods - which grow quickly and are very stately trees - along the side and back border of the property. In 10 years, I'll have a very handsome estate-like lot. I'll use assorted ground covers elsewhere, especially Eagles Nest, and assorted vines and mosses. Also, Ice plant, which many people don't like, but I love. Around here it blooms 9 months out of the year.



Posted to H3brewing by Kerry in Cleveland, MO on 3/2/2006 7:46:20 AM

Well after four years in planning, the surveyors are heading out today to stake my house out on our land.  It has been a very educational four years with me learning a lot along the way.  Some of the learning has been nerve racking if  not downright painful a few times.  I will keep everyone appraised of my progress. 


Posted to 85-Hall-Ln by Shelly on 3/1/2006 1:03:16 PM

A contractor from Warner-Robins called to inquire about building our home. He said he could do it for approx $65 a sq foot. He said he would get with Eric to look at our plans and call me back.

Posted to 85-Hall-Ln by Shelly on 3/1/2006 1:01:33 PM

Spoke to Eric today to ask if we have gotten any bids. He suggested one person (I forgot his name) in a neighboring town. He wanted to know if we want to get a couple more. I told him we did. He said he would check and call me back. If I don't hear from him in a couple of weeks, I will call him back.

Posted to 85-Hall-Ln by Shelly on 3/1/2006 12:57:35 PM

We finally did it!!! We have an address! YAY!! Woooohoooo! Our address is:

85 Hall Ln. Eastman GA 31023


Posted to 85-Hall-Ln by Shelly on 3/1/2006 12:54:48 PM

Bobbie asked how I would feel about the housing facing the road. I thought that would be ok. That way you would go through the garage to get to the pond and wouldn't track through the house.

Posted to 85-Hall-Ln by Shelly on 3/1/2006 12:31:02 PM

We finally received the deed to our land.

Posted to 85-Hall-Ln by Shelly on 3/1/2006 12:30:13 PM

I purchased the building constructions sets.

Posted to 85-Hall-Ln by Shelly on 3/1/2006 12:29:04 PM

We made the final payment on the land to the Bankof Eastman. We went to Cplpny Bank to see about a VA loan. We also went to the 9111 office to get an address.

Posted to 85-Hall-Ln by Shelly on 3/1/2006 12:27:08 PM

Bobbie and I decided in September of 2003 to purchase some land in his hometown of Eastman GA from his brother Henry. We got a loan the the Bank of Eastman to purchase 2 acres of land. Henry gave us 1/2 acre as a wedding gift. We purchased the land for $1500.00 and acre in October. In 2004, I began searching home plan books and several websites for the kind of home we wanted to build. We considered mobile homes, manufactured homes and homes built from the ground. We (rather Bobbie) settled on a home built from the ground. In the early part of 2005 I found a home plan that we both liked. I began looking at home decoration books and magazines. Mostly for kitchens and baths. I went to Home Depot and Lowe's and began pricing lights, ceiling fans, faucest, cabinets, tubs, etc.

My initial thought was to be an owner-builder and hire sub-contractors. However that was not possible since one of us would have to be there almost every day to make sure things went smoothly. On November 25, 2005 we paid the land off. We wanted to purchase more land to build a pond. We didn't get the piece of land we wanted because Henry's friend, Wes Jenkins made a road through it. So we asked Henry about the land by the creek so we could put our pond there. He agreed to sell us 4 acres for $1,00 and acre. And thus begins our journeyto start building. We plan to start sometime in April.

Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 3/1/2006 9:01:23 AM

Wetlands: We received a letter and UMAM sheets from the state wetlands guy yesterday. It said that the state recommends that we purchase .2 credits from TM Ranch Mitigation Bank. Recommends. Suggests. Not Demands. Not Requires. So this got us thinking. Is this purely a recommendation from them? We found some equations scribbled that seem to point to .09 acres of functional loss (meaning if anything we should buy .1 credit). Or maybe we are reading too much into this. Any attorneys out there want to take a stab at this?

Loan: Our lender told Jason that our proposal was the best he'd ever seen. If he only knew... If you remember, we sent it out the door sans letters of support, Gantt chart, and statement of self-work. And we still blew him away. That feels really really freaking good. The lender says that we are good to go pending our appraisal, which should occur this week. The appraiser will also pick up a copy of the plans. This is the final puzzle piece we needed to make the project work. Or the only puzzle piece, depending on how you look at it.

Bids: we are still working with various subs, but we think we have found a good plumber and electrician, smaller guys that are willing to do one off type work. I have a feeling that with the housing market cooling, some of the others may change their tune. I'm REALLY eager to pick a truss company and move forward with finalizing the plans, but we have one or two bids outstanding. A note to future O-Bs, particularly perfectionists like us. It would be helpful if we would JUST STOP LOOKING for subs and move forward (particularly truss co. b/c we need them to finish out the plans). It seems like we are always waiting for one more bid to come in. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, but it is a hold up.

Oh yeah, and for some reason the site only lets me post one pic at a time, and I really don't want to bog down the journal with a bunch of empty posts, so maybe pics will have to wait until Jason launches

Posted to 85-Hall-Ln by Shelly on 3/1/2006

We 'walked' the land. We wanted to see if the ground was hard and level enough to build a house near the creek. We found a spot to build on. We decided which way the house would be facing. We wanted the pond behind us. We wanted to be about 500 yards from the road. Bobbie went in search of the last stake. We found three of them, but couldn't find the last one. We called Mr. Moore, the surveyor, and he told us in which direction to go. Before we left, we placed two poles with a bag and some ribbon tied to it to mark where we where going to put the driveway. The 911 office needed to have that information to give us an address.

We went to Colony Bank to talk to Scooter Harrington about the VA loan. After we left there, we went across the street to the 911 office to see about getting an address, again.

When we left there, we took our plans to Eric Landin of Champion Mortgage so anyone who wanted to bid on the construction could view the plans at his office. We went over some figures for the construction loan and the mortgage. If we borrowed $150,000 our mortgage would be about $750. I think we can build it for less. Eric said he may even build it.

We left there and went to the Bank of Eastman to pay for the four acres of land we agreed to buy from Henry. When we got back to Dot's, Bobbie called Charles to have him meet us at the land to get his opinion as to whether that would be a good place to build. He though it would be.

Posted to 85-Hall-Ln by Shelly on 3/1/2006

We went to Atty. Harrington's office to sign papers and pay him for researching the land and filing the deed. We found out that Henry had two liens on the land. Mr Harrington told us we could come back that afternoon to get the deed. I went back later in the afternoon to pick up the deed. Mr. Harrington didn't have it, but called the courthouse to see if it was ready. It was. He told us to come to him if we needed any help with anything. I left his office and drove next door to the courthouse to go to the county clerk's office. The county clerk himself was working on getting it registered and signed. We left Eastman after Dot got home to head back to Florida. On our way home, we were the first ones on the scene of a fatal accident.

Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 2/26/2006 1:41:15 PM

Pictures: I'm attaching pictures, with the following caveats: 1) I am a crappy photographer, and 2) I was too lazy to unpack most of the items from their boxes, so wha you actually have is a photograph of the box :) Enjoy. Livejournal readers will have to go to and look for my journal to see the pics. Soon we will be putting all multimedia on our website:

Consultant: met with Susan G. on Friday, and it went very well. She will do 3-4 site visits with reports and pics to go along with each. She is very detail oriented and smart. And the prices are reasonable. If we only use her for those visits, we will come in 1k under budget for consultant costs. She gave us a lot of helpful information. She say the permitting process will only take a few weeks. YAY! Also, note to self, ask her if she would mind if we came in and used her library (she has a wealth of binders of materials and so on).

Lender: hopefully he has received our packet, we are expecting an answer very soon. I am pretty anxious but at the same time I know we made a good case. We submitted a loan proposal book with property description, resumes, features, comps, etc. And a full budget in their line item format. I would have liked to add letters of support, team members, and description of self-work, but we wanted to get it in the mail.

Wetlands: We received a response to our scathing letter to the county about (once again) not receiving the documents we requested. The county guy says he is working on it (once again).  Then on Friday we received a call from the state rep, requesting that we reduce the wetland impact to 7,000 sq ft. He said he would use that figure to run his UMAM. He also said that we would have to put a conservation easement on the remainder of the property. Fine, whatever, let's just get through this already.

Plans: we are waiting to submit final changes to Ragina along with our truss package, but we have some goooooood ideas and I think you guys will like the changes :) Expect to see the final version in about 2 weeks, if all goes smoothly.

Impact fees: 1) if we submit intent/contract by March 10, we will be exempt from the new parks impact fee (approx $1,000)
2) As owner-builders, we are allowed to defer payment of impact fees until we get our c/o.

Subs: mostly it's been hard to get bids. People act so interested and then crap out on us. So annoying.


Posted to TheWillemsHome by Ben in Galloway Township, NJ on 2/26/2006

We have to have a DX Geothermal system for our new house.

Posted to TheWillemsHome by Ben in Galloway Township, NJ on 2/26/2006

We have chosen a design from that fits what we wanted. A little on the largish side of things, but still very much in accord with what we were looking for:

   The Waterford:

I had done some research on different construction methods and to me, ICF sounds like the way to go.

Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 2/25/2006 12:52:14 AM

Posted to TheWillemsHome by Ben in Galloway Township, NJ on 2/23/2006 4:59:33 AM

As you can see by the date of this entry I am really catching up with things that we have done so far.  We met with a loan officer from Weichert in Northfield, New Jersey.  We explained our plans as owner-builders, the fact that we currently own a house, etc., etc.  He was quite helpful and we sent him the paperwork he asked for.   No response for a while though.

We also got in touch with IndyMac.  Bob Biguette (sorry Bob if I butchered your last name) has been reminding me to send him the paperwork he needs to see if we qualify for a lot loan.  So, Lourdes (my wife) sent out a bunch of stuff.  My other signifcant 75% is much better than I am at keeping on top of things!  She spoke with Bob about the things that were still missing and gave him that information.  So, we are waiting to hear back from him.

Posted to TheWillemsHome by Ben in Galloway Township, NJ on 2/23/2006 4:54:32 AM

Some time ago we decided we should.  Of course, in the meantime the prices for buildable lots have gone through the roof in South/Shore New Jersey!  We are looking at four locations, 1, 1, 3, and 5 acres respectively.  We like the 5-acre lot, because we can nicely set back the house we are thinking of building.  Asking price for the lot is too high, though.  Can you believe the asking price is $225k?  The seller mentions that all offers are welcome.  So, I assume s/he is just fishing with such a high asking price, but my internal calculator is working overtime:  If I offer $150k and the construction is going to cost $200k, will I be building a $500k house?

Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 2/23/2006

You would think that with more progress, there would be more journal posts, but it's quite the opposite. We've been so busy that I really haven't had time to post. Here's a quick update:

Wetlands: still getting the runaround. Got a call from Sheldon this past Monday suggesting .25 credits of mitigation. I asked him to fax the UMAM score, but he has not as of yet. This morning we sent a lengthy email to the county documenting our progress (or lack thereof) with regard to development. I am going to be a bit less candid than usual here and not expose all the gory details, but if you live in Orange County, Florida and are having difficulties, please feel free to P.M. me.

Subs: having difficulty getting responses in a timely fashion, particularly from electricians, drywallers, and surveyors. Still looking for recommendations if any of you know anyone.

House plans: we have some minor changes to make, including eliminating the costly arch transoms. No biggie, we will just be going for craftsman rather than Mediterranean.

Purchases: Costco, the nirvana of cheap but nice house things. We bought: bathroom light fixtures, outdoor light fixtures, fans, and scaffolding.

Tomorrow we are meeting with our consultant and picking up bids. Also we are hoping to receive a call from our IndyMac guy. Hmmmm, I think that's all for the moment.

Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 2/22/2006 11:31:19 PM


Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 2/22/2006 11:30:16 PM

After many ups and downs and lots of doubts about whether it was the right decision to leave my apartment in The City by the Bay, and build a home I will barely be able to afford in the mountains in the  middle of nowhere-- I went up to see the lot after a recent snow, and was reminded that I am gonna love it.  call me crazy but I love winter weather.


Posted by James in Fresno, CA on 2/22/2006 5:56:29 PM

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Found a 5-acre parcel for sale in Squaw Valley that's just gorgeous, loaded with potential, and priced right:

See aerial photo, which I found on GoogleEarth, where I marked the northern corners of the property, based on the parcel map drawing that my agent provided.

Visited this property twice so far with family, the second time spending about 2 hours walking it thoroughly, envisioning how we would live there...

Now I'm beginning to research site planning and development requirements; lack of power to site and long steep driveway are biggest obstacles.

If we conclude this week that the property is definitely buildable within our budget, then we will make an offer this weekend.

In the meantime, we are busy trying to find the best construction loan program; currently working on an application with IndyMac Bank.

Also researching site planning in general, studying solar power systems, well water systems, septic systems, greywater recycling systems, and porous paving systems.

Anyone out there sorting through the same issues???

- James Tomlin



Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 2/17/2006 10:42:45 PM

...and one pic of interior stuff ive started to collect including pendant lighting for the bar, "bulkhead" lights for the exterior front door, studio track lighting for the kitchen, and 550 sf of maple pergo flooring on closeout for half price.


Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 2/17/2006 10:01:15 PM


Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 2/17/2006 10:00:15 PM


Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 2/17/2006 9:59:33 PM


Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 2/17/2006 9:58:42 PM


Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 2/17/2006 9:58:18 PM


Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 2/17/2006 9:57:04 PM


Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 2/17/2006 9:56:40 PM


Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 2/17/2006 9:54:53 PM


Posted by Jim in Plumas Lake, CA on 2/17/2006 9:50:51 PM

After a long and stressful January ( and my stress levels have been and will probably continue to be through the roof for the next couple of months)  I got the construction loan closed, and my inital draws dispursed.  We started tree removal the same day, Thursday, Feb 9, 2006.  the 2 guys from "Force10 Construction"  Brayton and Matt worked straight through for 7 days.  In 7 days they got the trees removed, the driveway and house pad graded, a log retaining wall built, gravel delivered for the road, the septic tank in place and leach field trenched.  Now we are on hold for the permitting process to finish.  It is amazing what they accomplished considering there are only two of them, and the lot was both thick with tall trees up to 100 ft, brush and very sloped.  Check out the before and after pics.

I am already over budget however, by about 4000 dollars.  due to the cost of hauling road base up the mountian, the equipment rental, and additional county fees that were higher than expected.

I will post my budget for those interested in seeing it. some of the numbers such as the materials package are double the actual cost while other numbers are considerably short.

The weather was perfect, sunny and 70* for the 7 days they worked and on the day they finished it started to snow.

The pics are worth a thousand words.




Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 2/11/2006

You know the Wendy's commercial where they talk about the prices of things in terms of Wendy's menu items? Well, that's how my brain now operates. Whenever we price something out or buy something on sale, I'm like "woohoo, that's another square foot of countertop," or, "yeah, that pays for the bathroom window!" Very amusing. Not too much to actually report this week, we have been making tons of phone calls mostly about quotes. Finally got one wall quote, but we are having a heck of a time finding additional wall and foundation bids.

Financing: we think IndyMac will work with us after all. Our consultant (who was on board with us anyway) will sign on as our site supervisor.

Need to do this week:
Find drywallers, framers, and electricians.
Convert our budget to IndyMac budget style.
Ask zoning the follow questions: how do I get a street address, what's deferred payment of impact fees and can I do that please?
Call Susan and set up initial session.
Take plans to Dunn Lumber (so much for having a plans day at our house and making them come to us...)
Start collecting requisite loan documentation.
Follow up with Xtreme Foam.
Check in with wetlands people...again...

And, by popular request, I will attach pictures of the flooring, vanity, and faucets. I think the bamboo wasn't a crazy good deal, but we like it, and it is good quality.



Posted by Kari in Colbert, WA on 2/10/2006 12:47:43 PM

I have been offline for about 6 months with occaisonal forays back.  Our house is about a few weeks from completion.  Whew!  It has been a long ride.  Finally I think I can breathe.  It was a  more difficult than imagined and I really am glad I didn't know that before I began - we wouldn't of done it.  But ultimately I am pleased.  I want to add some images and comments to my next journal entry and sort of a retrospective if it will help anyone.

Posted by Leonard in Colorado Springs, CO on 2/9/2006 8:30:11 PM

We've been pricing saltillo tile for the main level floor and have found out that Lowes has, what I think is a pretty nice type.  It's about a buck and a half per square foot and is unsealed, so I think we can make it a darker richer brownish red.  Has anyone out there stained saltillo tile?

We have also decided to put in two gas free standing fireplaces/stoves.  They are pretty efficient and should, by code, be able to double as heaters.  What is efficent for a gas fireplace/stove?

We are sending our plans out to an electrician for an estimate.  I have no idea how to ask for the estimate except for a breakdown of labor and materials.  We found a really efficient water heater by Marathon, and a 240 volt timer that we can use to set it back at night to save energy.

We also are doing the same for the plumbing.  I think that the plumber does the gas also. 

We need to get many estimates together to apply for our loan.  It's a slow process for a novice.

Posted by Leonard in Colorado Springs, CO on 2/6/2006 12:28:00 PM

My wife and I looked at bids from six different SIP manufacturers, and decided to go with one from Minnesota, that included all hardware needed, and still at a good price.  This company also supplies a SIP panel designed to be used as a basement wall, which we will do.

Most people I've talked to, fans of SIPs are shaky on their support of basement wall SIPs and can't say exactly why, they just don't know about them.  With concrete walls you have much less insulation, interior penetration of moisture, and you have to frame out on the inside to sheetrock and install insulation.  SIPs can have sheetrock nailed directly to the inside surface.  Insulated Concrete Forms used for below grade walls are a good option, but much more expensive, and need special attachment of any interior treatment.  So scary as it may be, we are going with SIPs below grade.

We plan to seal the exterior surface as specified and much more with membranes that we have found for that purpose and the backfill and french drains have to be very carefully placed and backfilled afterwards.

SIPs have an R rating that is a good bit higher than stick construction, which in itself is reason to consider them, but the R rating of the total wall with SIPs is probably twice that of a conventionally constructed wall because of the very few seams it has to allow penetration of the cold and heat.

Also SIPs are much stronger than conventional walls because rather than supporting loads on a point to point basis, their support works in an evenly distributed manor.  In many cases storms have destroyed most of the houses surrounding a SIP house that was virtually untouched.

For a owner/builder, the fact that all panels can be pre-cut in the factory to the angles of the roof and joints, and for rough openings of windows and doors is a dream.  With a small crew the walls and roof can be constructed in a third to half the time of conventional construction, so I found in research.

We have now had engineering reports done for our septic field and foundation.  We have had our engineering design, as required done for our septic field and have just requested a design for our foundation.  We've requested electrical service and have staked out where the pole should go and recieved a cost to place it.

We have gone through a number of changes in our plans and have submitted the finals to the county for approval and a building permit.

I have drawn up a site plan with all proper setbacks of house, garage, septic field, drive, well, and utilities marked and the county has accepted it and granted permits for septic and drive.

We are now in the process of getting estimates for the excavation, drive, septic, masonry, electric, and plumbing.  We are also applying for a loan, which will require all of these estimates and more. 

Does any one know of good sources for an Owner/builder loan and what the going rate is?  We are now applying with IndyMac.  Any experience there?

We plan to use a corrugated tin for the roof because we like the look, once faded, the longevity is fantastic, installation is easy and the price is the best.  Any thoughts about that?

We want to use a stained concrete floor in the walkout level covered with area rugs and insulated (2" styrofoam) beneath.  Has anyone had experience with this floor on grade with no covering?

We also plan to use Saltillo tile on the main floor, thick stuff, with the thick backer board, all for look and solar massing.  That floor is most exposed to the many southern windows.  The wieght is more and also thickness, but the passive solar effect should be worth it.  Any ideas on this?

We want to use IKEA cabinets in kitchens, baths, and bedrooms.  They are very high quality, look great, and are priced well, but there is no store near Colorado and we will have to pay a good bit in shipping.  Has anyone used IKEA?

We will finish the exterior in stucco, once again for the passive solar advantage, look and low maintenance, in a rich reddish brown.  Has anyone considered solar advantage in using stucco?

Another different technique we want to use is metal studs in our interior framing for straightness and ease of mechanical installation.  Has anyone used metal for interior residential framing?


Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 2/6/2006 12:26:40 PM

First, let me say kudos to Liz Johnson @ Orange County's environmental protection department. She called us on a SATURDAY to talk through the county side of the wetland stuff. She was super helpful and said feel free to call if we have any questions.

Wetlands: Today we met with Aaron (state environmental protection) and Steve (environmental consultant) at the site to discuss our situation. I was glad Steve was there, he really advocated for us by pointing out the nuisance species, etc. Today was the first time I walked the whole site, believe it or not, and also the first time I have seen the lake from our property. It's just a beautiful piece of property, and it seems SO big! Anyways, the result of our meeting with Aaron was that we need to resubmit to him a plan for on-site mitigation that includes preservation and enhancement of easement area. So Steve is going to email us the names and locations of nuisance/exotics and we wil add them to our little site plan. We will show removal of species with one pattern and new plantings with another pattern on the site plan and resubmit to Aaron. We will accompany this with names and numbers of new plantings. Aaron will be sending us a letter detailing our meeting. He said that he thinks we can do on-site plus eco-bank credit as opposed to on-site plus TM ranch credit. I hope so. Please god let us get through this part soon before I stab myself in the eye with a cypress branch. lol.

Trusses: got a bid in from Central Florida Truss- 3k less than Space Coast Truss. And he knows some framers and drywallers that are good to work with. Sweet. He's going to drop our stuff in the mail. We have also asked Home Depot and 84 lumber for bids, but I like CF Truss's terms- only 10% retainer and then 30 day net on delivery. I want to choose a truss company by the end of next week.

We have plenty of ballpark bids in the works- seriously lacking in the foundation and walls department. I am waiting and waiting for an estimate from Epic Walls, and it's sort of telling how slack they have been in even getting us an estimate. Oh, and ditto for our surveyor. We are dropping him- after promising same day response several times, he has lost our business, even if he is cheaper by a few hundred dollars.

Speaking of dollars. I finally had an epiphany- the choices we make now dictate whether we end up with a $400k home or a $675k home. And if it costs us $20k more for the latter, well, do the math. Obviously it's a massive return on investment. In truth, I think our budget is very safe anyways, and we will likely come in 15-20k under what we ask for. But better safe than out of money with an unfinished house.

Loan proposal book: I have started on this, and it's coming along nicely. I have just started making calls to lenders to see what they REALLY need from us, but I think I will do the proposal book regardless, cause it's a nice thing to have.

Any other OB's reading this: anyone have sub recommendations for Orange County? Anyone have a lien waiver form they'd be willing to share?

I think that's all for the moment.

Posted by Leonard in Colorado Springs, CO on 2/6/2006 9:46:54 AM

My wife and I bought a four acre piece of property about a year ago in mountain valley, about an hour west of Colorado Springs.  We have a southern view down the valley toward Eleven Mile Resevoir.

We have always wanted to build a weekend getaway and maybe future retirement home and this is a really nice site for it.  I've got a fair amount of experience at swinging a hammer and home repair over the years, so we decided to do our own general contracting.  We also have good friends in the area who are builders and have signed on to advise us novices.  They also can recommend trustworthy and good suppliers and sub-contractors.

After attending a home show and talking to a rep from a Structural Insulated Panel manufacturer, we decided to do much deeper research and get quotes from six different manufacturers.  We have defintely decided to go the SIP route for many good reasons.

If any out there have experience in how to have proper air exchange in such tight structures and therefore avoid the penetration of moisture into the seams of OSB panels and to avoid mold, please let me know.  I am apprehensive about that property of SIPs.

Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 2/4/2006 3:12:15 PM

I just want to see if I can upload my floor plan for you all to admire :) Apologies in advance if it doesn't work.


Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 2/1/2006 10:00:10 AM

That's how many hours we are putting in :) Not that that's a bad thing at all, but we have been working a LOT. On Sunday and Monday we worked on windows and finally feel pretty comfortable with both our knowledge base and budget. We had budgeted high on windows, so that's a good thing. Unfortunately we lowballed drywall and septic, but I'm pretty sure we've arrived at a number that won't fluctuate too much (other than downwards for big discounts, etc.).

Wetlands: meeting scheduled for next Monday on-site. Would be nice if I could get a surveyor out there before the meeting to flag our impact line, but we'll see. Jason is going to hand-deliver the state app tomorrow.

Designer: Ragina and Dave are awesome. Jason picked up full size partly-engineered plans from Dave that we can now use for subs. We're keeping one plan to mark up which we will then turn back in- they will make any final changes while we hire a truss company and have them design the trusses. We could potentially be looking at completed plans within two weeks. Depending on how fast we get a few more truss bids. Things are almost final- just being tweaked. We made some changes to the plan that take us from a mid-range custom home to a super-high end custom home. I think the greatest opportunity for this is in the kitchen. Jason is doing all of the cabinetry himself with the help of his dad. They will be maple with mitred corners and all sorts of custom features like a built in wine rack and crown moulding. Maybe some underlighting. An appliance garage. We're also doing a wall oven now, with a cooktop separate. These are the little things that make a big difference.

Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 1/29/2006

I'm prone to not being able to turn my brain off when a lot is going on- last night was the first night that house-related stuff kept me thinking. I'm slightly stressed about the budget, but not too bad, and Jason is not concerned at all. Here's the usual updates... Also, Jason informed me that he read the journal and even though he is actually doing the project, he didn't much understand it... Something about scrambling his brain. Sorry about that. I'll do my best to be a bit more explanatory. The thing is, this journal is half for you and half for me... so the me parts tend to be pretty stream of consciousness.

Wetlands: When I spoke to the state wetland guy the other day, he was more than willing to sit down and have a pre-app meeting with us. Hell, he even offered to fill out the ghastly application packet! Ok, just kidding, that's a total lie. Truth is, he had about as much personality as, well, a cypress stump, and with his busy important state environment wetland enforcer job does not have time to meet with us until at least Feb. 6th. Lovely. Keep in mind that it took me precisely 5 days to even get him on the phone- apparently he is too busy to answer voice mails as well. We also had been trying to get ahold of Sheldon, the county guy, to see if he had reviewed our lovely and very intensive site proposal AND THREE YEAR MAINTENANCE PLAN. He hemmed and hawed (amazingly, I got in contact with him at 4:30 pm on a Friday) and said what we were doing was unique and he wasn't sure. I pressed him for a timeline and will be calling on Tuesday after he runs our ideas by his boss. So by Saturday morning, Jason and I had worked ourselves up into a slight government environmental guy feeding frenzy. We called Steve, the environmental consultant, to ask some questions. Our main beefs are:
- we have to jump through all these hoops for less than 10,000 sf of impact?!?! What about the developers that are flattening everything in site? I bet THEY didn't get jerked around.
- How can it possibly be sooooo crazy to propose on-site mitigation and preservation? It's like we are the first people ever to do this!
- What the hell is a UMAM score and why can't we see ours? Yes, I know it's a complicated formula, but we are pretty educated people, and frankly, the lack of transparency makes me more than a little suspicious.
- How can it possibly be that two mitigation banks, both alike in dignity (grin), in the same basin etc. etc. a) can have such different prices and b) not both be eligible for us to use. And isn't it funny that the one the state is pushing for is the expensive one. Furthermore, Jason has talked to the mitigation broker, and she says that she has sold many a credit to Wedgefield residents.

I was really expecting to lose it with Steve, because I feel like he has not really been lobbying on our behalf. But, he answered all of my questions appropriately and suggested a meeting of all parties at the site. I will call to do this tomorrow. The whole thing is so ridiculous. State and county shouldn't even be allowed to have dual jurisdiction to begin with! Honestly, I think this part will be the hardest part of anything. No wonder pre-cleared lots sell for so much more. Whew.

Various subs: Friday was a day for making phone calls and running around. Jason and I are splitting the burden and each taking parts that we will be "experts" in. So far, I have talked to subs about or researched: foundation, walls, trusses, drywall, windows, septic, plumbing.
Jason currently has: generator, propane, cabinetry, designer responsibility, framing, clearing and filling, and something that's slipping my mind at the moment. Most of the subs have been very responsive. One word to the wise- if you are talking to a sub and want to get referrals, don't ask if they can reccomend anyone, because they will say no. Instead, ask if there is anyone they work with on a regular basis. My foundation guy gave me plumbing, electric, and a bank reference, just because I asked! At any rate, we are getting plenty of pallpark estimates- we have been too high or on the money with our initial guesses, but the budget is still high IMO.

I researched windows almost all day yesterday, and wasn’t able to find out too much… It’s all greek to me, really. Plus, I don’t have window sizes yet, and even if I did, you can only find MANUFACTURERS online, not distributors. I do have a few company names that have come up frequently: Marvin, Harvey, Jeld-Wen, Kolbe, and Alside among others. Don’t forget, we have to have up to Florida code windows. If I just had my window list I could at least fax it our, but I guess I won’t get that till construction docs are done.

New Purchases: most importantly, pics pending, soon. For now I will have to link them to shutterfly, but soon this journal will be moving to the owner-builder site, and they will have the capability for me to upload pictures directly. YAY! Our purchase of the week is a vanity set for the powder room bath. Includes Vanity w/ doors and drawers, sink, faucet, and mirror… Home Depot, original price $299… Drumroll…. Our price $99 on clearance plus 10% with coupon. Yay! It’s very nice, easy to install, etc. I see storage at our current house quickly becoming an issue if we keep this up ? On the other hand, if we can realize 10-60% savings on EVERYTHING we purchase, I can be a bit less worried about the budget. We also looked at countertops. Primarily, our 3 choices are: granite tile (self installed, least expensive option, also least visually appealing), granite slab (most expensive, most visually appealing), or Silestone/Zodiaq (mid-range price, pretty appealing). It actually turned out to be less for Silestone than we thought. Also, we are thinking about removing one side of our peninsula which would then make it an eat-in-kitchen. This would also be huge for cabinetry and countertop costs, since that area alone makes up a good portion of the counter, between the bar top and countertop. So I’m pretty sold on removing those features as a trade-off for silestone. We’ll probably also do Silestone in our bath. I really thought I wouldn’t like it, but it’s only slightly less visually appealing than granite, and it comes with a warranty. And, it’s less expensive. Oh, the best part: they were running a 10% off sale on one of the color groups. That’s easily $500. We learned from the guy that you need to do an install within 60 days of purchase, so we will just keep our eyes open when we get close to that point. Note to self, and others: go to HD and Lowe’s ALL THE TIME and check the websites, because sales are HUGE in terms of savings on this expensive stuff. At HD, we also saw some faucets like the ones we purchased from Costco- for twice the price! It’s a good thing I love shopping and am a good bargain shopper. Jason usually hates shopping… But he LOVES shopping at HD or Costco, so problem solved ?

Whew, that’s a lot of information! To do this week:
get bids on plumbing, septic, drywall, elec., clear/fill, framing
Hire a surveyor.
Set a meeting date w/ evil wetland people.
Send in state DEP app

Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 1/25/2006

Wetlands: we sent our site proposal to Sheldon @ the county and Steve... They are supposed to get back to us and let us know if we need to make additions or change anything. Then hopefully Sheldon will tell us it will cost 1/10 of a credit in mitigation. State wetlands: received the massive bureaucratic application packet from them, and a handy helpful booklet. Jason has been talking with them, and I called this morning to see if I could set up a pre-app meeting with them on Friday. I'm hoping we don't ACTUALLY have to fill out all of the stuff it seems like we have to fill out. Also, they told Jason that we can't use eco-bank (our mitigation bank of choice). However, Jay has spoken directly with eco-bank and they have assured us that our property is in their service area. I think that these state and county people just posture a whole lot because many people simply don't question them. However, Jason and I can't afford to not question them, soooo.... we shall see.

Plans: will be ready to be picked up on Friday for final review of elec plan, etc. In the meantime they are supposed to email me docs.

Budget: We took our first trip to Home Depot to look at pricing. We know HD has high prices comparatively, but we'd rather go into this project overestimating rather than underestimating the budget. Plus, we have 10% off coupons, we'll shop sales, etc. We just wanted to start ballparking. Here's some notes on potential subs so far, so I can find my notes in case I lose them :)

Epic Walls- on S. OBT spoke to on phone, can ballpark me if I bring plans by (Friday!)
Solid Wall System- 321-633-7511- in Brevard, sister company of space coast truss, have not called yet

Florida Terrazzo- 407-422-0721- spoke to on phone, can ballpark if I bring plans in (Friday!)

Central Florida Truss- works with Florida Terrazzo, contacted Billy 321-259-7507 or can give me an est with plans (email him when ODG sends them)They require 10% down to do the truss work for the construction docs.
Space Coast Truss- Recommended by Dave @ ODG; they work with Solid Wall System. There's a thing on their site to do an email quote

Tropical Plumbing- left message 407-841-0400

I need to drive around and look for window warehouses- maybe try john young or OWG road. also window classics 522-9264. i really need to find out when we can get a complete window list.

Porta Potty (let's be honest, it's a necessity): $69.95/28 days plus a $15 delivery fee; includes weekly service

We have done a LOT of work this week!
My Friday to-do list includes:
possible meeting w/ state DEP
Visit Epic Walls
Visit Florida Terrazzo
Look for window and door places
Pick up plans from ODG
Go to Julie's house and say hi
Possibly go to Brevard for Truss/Wall bids

Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 1/20/2006

Wetlands: After finding out the going rate for mitigation 1/10 credits ($2,750-$4,500), we decided to see if we could bring that 3/10 number down. So I called Sheldon and asked if I could meet with him. He said yes, but it was probably not going to budge. Then I called Steve and asked steve to put in a good word for us with sheldon. When i got to sheldon's office, he said that he didn't know we wanted to do onsite enhancements, etc., and that we could probably lift the UMAM score to get at least 1/10 credit taken off. He gave me a bunch of options- saving existing trees, adding new plantings, making a berm, fencing, etc. He asked that we prepare a proposal including a three year maintenance plan and submit it along with a letter from Steve. So I'm working on that now. Once he approves us at 1/10 or 2/10 credit, he will write a letter stating his decision.
We found out that we are also supposed to go to the state DEP. Jason researched this yesterday and the application is on its way to us. When we get it, we are to fill it out (not Steve, it will be better received by the state if we do it ourselves). They will then look at the county's decision and most likely concur. Once they sign off, we can purchase our mitigation.

Ranger drainage: requires certain grading of the lot, we are supposed to provide them with a topo survey and a $75 app fee so that they can make sure we grade the lot correctly. Also, we need a culvert at the front of our lot and supposedly they are the ONLY ones allowed to do it. For the low low price of $1937. Oy vey.

Septic: I called the health dept. and we will need to do the following to get our septic variance: Hire a septic contractor/geotechnical engineer who will site our system and draw it on our site plan. Then we take that and the house plans (and a $195 check) to the front desk, or call Nancy Smith at x78203 and they will approve our variance.

Clearing/Fill: Jason spoke with some people who will take a look at the site and give us a clearing estimate. Jason and I will be responsible for fencing off any trees we want to keep and also for hand clearing the wetlands.

Surveyors: We need to retain a company to do our survey package (to include all necessary surveys, like topo, foundation/formboard, final, etc.). Jason is on this too.

Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 1/17/2006

Sorry for the pending non-sequitirs, but I'm really busy and need to just hammer this out in a few minutes.

So, we have flooring! Costco got one lot of bamboo (real bamboo) flooring, so we bought enough to do the kitchen and office. It's very nice, high quality stuff. Bamboo is harder than oak, and is also a renewable resource, which is nice. We got it for about 1/3 of the usual cost. Jason will be doing the install- we still need to purchase underlayment for it. We also bought a few faucets since we liked them and figured that we need them at some point, why not just buy them now. So we got two for our bath, and one for probably the bar.
This is our first actual purchase of "STUFF" for the house. I am thinking that storage space will be a real issue as this project moves forward...

To do list: Change budget to have total est. cost, cash cost, and financed cost side-by-side. Begin developing material lists and codes by type and room. Get Jason to scan and print all receipts, file them with invoices. Start collecting materials from potantial suppliers and file in the file box. Update resumes. Finalize bid request form. Start creating lien release waivers etc. Research worker's insurance policy.

Wetlands- got a call from Sheldon, the updated plan is a go, we will need to buy 3/10 of a credit in mitigation. I am about to call Steve and find out how much that will cost.

Plans- Ragina has the plans to work on electrical- I need to talk to her about adding some inoperable windows above the cabinets in the kitchen.

Sorry, will write more later.

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