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We want to build a better house for less money. I'm a stay-at-home mom, but our youngest is almost in school. I'm taking this on as my next "job." I have previous professional experience as a manager and lots of budgeting and frugality experience as a "home manager" from these last years staying home. Plus, we have definite ideas of what we want for this next house and want to be in charge of the whole process.
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Try one of our new Construction Bargain Strategies for free. Coupon code: CBS. One strategy could save you $1,000 or $10,000 or maybe $50,000 when you build or remodel.

Terry in Hayfork, CA's Journal Entries

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Posted by Terry in Hayfork, CA on 11/21/2007

During this weekend warrior work period, we took an extra day off for our son Vince to visit and help with the construction of two fireplace hearths (but he didn't know he'd be working... ha ha). We got both of them completed but it was a long last day. Vince learned a lot, but knows he doesn't like laying tile. Can't say I blame him, as it's pretty hard on the knees and really dries out your hands, but I on the other hand enjoy it.

While waiting for Vince to arrive, I worked on a couple other projects like installing a puck light under the shelf at the computer/phone center, and I also installed the glass in the kitchen cabinet doors that I butchered up from their original design. They originally had clear glass with wood mullions in the middle vertically and across the top and bottom of the glass. I removed the glass, cut off the mullions, sanded and filled any holes and scrapes, added wood tape (real wood veneer) around the inside of the cabinet where I cut off the mullions, sanded again, stained and sealed to match the Cherry finish and then installed vertical Reed glass. Now the cabinet doors match the cabinet doors in the vanity I built for the bathroom and also the bathroom window... it's all starting to make sense now.

Lori painted a couple interior doors and I painted a couple of window casings. The slate tile was really easy to cut but sure is messy. We choose West Country Slate from Africa and its really dark -- a lot like graphite, and when you cut it, the water and fine grindings are almost black. The whole thing came out great I think, and Lori came up with another idea: to use the leftover slate on the wall behind the wet bar. So, I'll need to order a few more pieces and once again do yet another tile job. I think this will be the last one though.  :-)


Posted by Guy in San Luis Obispo, CA on 12/16/2007

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Hi Terry, what an awesome project you have.  Do you have any costs/sf you could share?  It looks like you built your own casework, how much do you think you saved doing that?  Do you have any tips regarding buying the hardwood from Indonesia?  Thanks and Happy Holidays.
Posted by Terry in Hayfork, CA on 12/17/2007

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As far as cost per s.f., we should come in around $100 s.f. when its all done.  We do as much as we can ourselves.  I didn't build all the casework myself, only the vanity in the bathroom.  However, I will be building the Entertainment Center myself.  Just finished building the countertop for my Wet Bar - I used Ipe' (iron wood from Indonesia) and put a dark stain on just for a few minutes before wiping off..... it looks awesome!  I had a bid for building (3) cabinets for the Entertainment Center, just birch boxes with Cherry face frame, they would be basically large drawers.  The price to build and install, but not to stain or finish was $1200 - $1500.  I know that in the end it would be $1500 if not more, so I decided to buy a nice cabinet saw ($1150 on sale) and build them myself.  After buying the saw, paying delivery, a few blades and a mobile base it was about $1600, then I will buy the material for the cabinets (about $300 or so) and when its all done I"ll have about $2000 into it, but I"ll also have a really nice saw I get to keep and use for future projects, or I could sell it for $1000 and still come out $500 ahead.

Other costs are as follows:
Travertine floor and wall: $6.49 s.f.
Porceline Tile in Kitchen, Laundry & Pantry:  $1.99 s.f.
Slate Tile: $6.29 s.f.
Santos Mahogany Handscraped Flooring (engineered):  $6.49 s.f.
Red Balau Decking: $1.99 l.f.

We did the most of the plumbing ourselves and a lot of the electrical too.  You can't even buy the insulation as cheap as they can buy & install it so that was a no brainer.  We did all the painting, both interior and exterior.  I still need to install the hardwood flooring and build the railings for the deck and then that will about finish it up.

Hope some of that helps!
Posted by Guy in San Luis Obispo, CA on 12/17/2007

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Thanks for the info.  That's great you are able to build for $100/s.f. in California.  Your finishes are terrific.  I understand that ipe is a bear to work with though and weighs a ton.  Looking forward to more photos as you finish up.  If you plan on building some more for spec, you should contact the guys at  They show how to import direct from China and do fantastic work themselves.  Cheers, Guy.
Posted by Terry in Hayfork, CA on 12/17/2007

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FYI, the hardwoods I'm using come from Atessco Fine Wood Specialties (, here in Santa Rosa.  One nice thing about their products is that  they are all basically knot free and straight as an arrow.  The wood can be a little difficult to work with, but I don't mind.  Yes, its heavy, but like furniture, the heavier the more durable.  Its tough as nails so it will stand up to lots of use.


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