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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 1/12/2009

While I'm on the site answering a forum question, I figured why not make a journal post? It's only been five months since I've done that!!! Here's the update - in the past few weeks we have just FINALLY started having non-family company over at the house. This is a big milestone for me. Ever since we've moved in, the unfinished state of the house has prevented me from feeling comfortable having people over. Well, we are finally at the point of completion (still not ENTIRELY done, though!) where I feel okay about it. The kitchen and bath cabinets are done (except for built-ins), we have closet doors (but no hardware on any of them), we have bar tops in the kitchen (but they still need to go through a final sanding) and the front door is scrubbed clean if not stained. For a while, Jason was really scooting along, but now things have slowed a bit again.

The most interesting thing to report is that my feelings about building again have actually changed. If you'll remember from previous posts, there was a long period where I said I would never build again. Jason would always say "when we build again..." and I would cut him right off - not a chance buddy! Now, I'll say "if we build again."

So far the main things are:

If we build again I would like to pick a plan that we can actually walk through before building it, so that we can avoid some of the weird idiosyncrasies of our house that we couldn't anticipate.

If we build again, we'll need a better project plan. Jason will need to understand what he can and cannot do and in what time frame.

If we build again, I am hiring out door and window installation.

If we build again, we'll not buy a lot with so many wetlands (but definitely would consider Wedgefield, especially because the new house's proximity to our current house would make life way easier than last time).

If we build again, I will do simpler and more contained landscaping (this is how I would have had it to begin with but Jason got out of control when the guy came with mulch sprayer).

For those who are wondering, we are awaiting our new arrival in the next three weeks or so. We'll be sure to post when he gets here!


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 8/26/2008

Below is a special post from Jason - he has never blogged in this journal before and he asked me to make a special entry for y'all. Enjoy!

A synopsis from the other half of the equation.

I believe this may be the first time I ever posted anything to this blog... I usually troll the message boards and help out there. But since this has been the top-rated blog for some time now, I will get more mileage out of my comments here. So here goes my attempt to bring you the journey of your life.

For many of you, and you know who you are... the simple idea of owner-building is exhilarating. The thought that you can be your own boss and save money on the total project, or use the saved money for major upgrades and keep the costs the same has got you convinced that not owner-building is the wrong way to go and I would have to agree. If you are a member of this board you probably already have your mind made up that this is how you are going to do it... I mean why not? Others have... and if they can do it well, so can we!

Well let me invite you into the dark, yet enthralling, world that we call owner-building...

Like all of you, when we started we came to this board for advice. Besides our local contacts it was the most significant source of information we had. One of the neatest things about this board was that almost everyone on here was concerned about quality of the build, rather than a builder's approach - quantity. Because of this approach, "green building", taboo with builders at the time of our beginning phase in mid-2005, was alive and well with O-Bs. Everyone wanted the best materials with the best results for the tradeoff of spending a little more for the product. Sure ICF, solid walls, aerated concrete, spray-foam insulation, R-board etc... were being used... but it was only widespread in commercial design or high-end consumer. We know, because we shopped it. No builder wanted to touch this approach to building because it was new, expensive, and not "proven." The most common excuse was... "...aah that stuff... it's only commercial." My thought was that the builder was either too stubborn to try something new, or did not have the aptitude to understand what was going on around them. This bad vibe and high price we got from the custom builders was all we needed to jump start our life-changing journey into owner-building. They made the decision clear for us. We will have to do it ourselves if we want it done right... for the right price.

In today's homes going up, you would be hard-pressed to not find at least one major "Green" attribute going into the home if not several of them. I guess the old industry standards were wrong... and it showed. Lots of closed businesses; the ones that survived were the ones that adapted. This is exactly what you will need to do throughout the owner-building process. ADAPT. If there is one word that describes the process, that is it.

I will not bore you all with the details of selecting subs, getting bids and all that jazz. There is a wealth of info in the Florida boards created by us during the course of construction. What I want to write about is how you will need to react to the inevitable. The problems with subs, the wrong materials delivered, the county inspections, the delays, the finances, etc. You must prepare yourself for this. If you don't, as we found out the hard way, it can strike a devastating blow to your ego, your relationship, your pocketbook, and your general well-being. Plan for failure. When it happens, you will not be thrown off your game. Remember, it's not just you who can drop the ball; in fact, it may never be you... anyone part of the massive team you will be in control of, or those outside of it can drop the ball at any given time causing setbacks or loss.

First and foremost take advice. But advice is just that. It is someone else's thought process projected on how they would do something. Remember though, in owner-building, it is only variables. There are no constants to lean on... well, there is one... you can expect to be let down on more than one occasion throughout the process. The advice you receive is always with good intentions but remember it is different. You have different subs, different knowledge base, cash flow, and a different house! Take what you can and... adapt!
 
In our particular case, I would say that I took on more than I could chew work/labor wise. It all ended up working out well for us in the end, but it was a very bumpy road. The main driving force to this was money. We wanted the biggest bang for the buck and if it meant me busting my tail for it, I had no problem. When I realized that I had grossly miscalculated what was expected out of playing general contractor the snowball effect had already begun. I attribute this to my personality and my drive to learn. Every time a trade was out there doing their thing, I felt compelled to be nearby and check up. There were two reasons for this. The first was to see if they were doing what they were supposed to according to our contract, and the second was to learn how to do their trade and its little secrets. This satisfied my personality type.

Now hanging around is nothing unusual for a GC to do, except most GC's do not have anything else. They just hang out, give guidance and go to lunch. Me on the other hand... wow... I had a massive workload for just me to deal with. I had to do the GC thing and all my other duties. I will list what I was responsible for so you can get an overview of how too much of good intentions can be just that. This is not meant to brag or show it can be done, but as a guide to how foolish I was to take on all this stuff. Seriously... if I do it again I will not do it like this.

My jobs during course of construction:

General contractor (this is a full-time job by itself)
Plan and land developer
Land clearing
Materials purchase dept.
Framing duties outside my framer's scope of work
Electrical work. Hang all overhead lighting (41 pieces).
Drywalled garage.
Hung all windows.
Hung sliding doors.
Hung all exterior and interior doors except roll-up garage door.
Primed and painted all of exterior and trim.
Primed and painted all of interior and trim.
Custom design and build from scratch all cabinets and built-ins.
(this includes kitchen, wet bar, and bathrooms and all installations)
Installed all appliances.
Set generator (had some help)
Install all base, chair rail, crown.
Install underground drainage system for gutter water control.
Final grading (had some invaluable help from a local neighborhood guy).
Dealt with local governing bodies constantly.
Constant clean-up duty (dumpster, sweeping, materials organization).
Irrigation system (did a little less than half the work on this).

Total landscape from scratch 3/4 acre (had a few guys help lay sod... other than that, everything else was us).
Massive floor prep and materials purchase and delivery for tiling.
Finished entire garage for shop.

Oh... I am adding this in after this was all written... I almost forgot!!! The whole time I was doing this I was working four days a week at my real job! Pretty reckless thinking, huh? Only in hindsight do you see this stuff.

I am sure I left out quite a few things here, and that is my point. I never really had time to do this stuff like I wanted because I was playing GC with all the trades making sure everything was going right and answering constant questions related to plan designs, materials, failed inspections and so on. The task of GC was daunting enough without all the above duties lying solely on my shoulders. There was really no one to turn to for help... unless you flashed dollar bills. It was a very low point in my life.

Now there are probably a few of you who are going to take on more than what I listed above yourself (remember that this is just my side... my wife had a side all of her own)... and all I can say is, beware. Your heart is bigger for the project than your mind's ability to see reality. I suffered from this. However, if time is on your side, and you are bankrolling the project, then these tasks and the time it takes will be of no consequence. Have at it! Ours was unfortunately controlled by a strict bank schedule that had no problems extending our timeline... for a fee, of course.

Like Cara mentioned in the last post... the house is still not yet "completely" finished. All that is left is just the rest of my trim work that is getting wrapped up on a weekly basis between my real job, my new side business, and planning for a child. It could have been done a long time ago if we had gone with the so-so standards built in every cookie-cutter home, but I am a perfectionist and take pride in my woodwork (meaning it takes me a long time to do these individual custom pieces) and all the custom trim has a high-end look that has really paid off. The house came out great and looks the part. We get nothing but compliments and we know we made it all happen. That's a great feeling of accomplishment, and hey ...YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE!

For the most part, this synopsis may sound mostly negative to those who read it and have not owner-built... and well... it kind of is. Those who are owner-building will see not see it negatively but as comfort, because they are going through it as well. Owner building is a hassle... it can even flat out stink. Even though we had a somewhat smooth process compared to other horror stories, it was not a fairy-tale ride. There were good days, bad days, and very bad days. If you add them all up... there were more bads than goods. But for those O-B's who had complete disasters... I sometimes wonder if it was because of improper planning and management.. or if it was just terrible luck. I suppose both play a huge roll in your completion. In the end, I would say that we had great success only because we planned like crazy and adapted the best we could.

If O-B'ing were easy, there would be no need for GC's. That's why they get paid lots of money. So for those of you who can adapt and compartmentalize, you WILL succeed... if you cannot do this with even the daily activities of normal life, I would say do not even attempt this. O-B'ing is not for everyone. Cara swears she will never do it again... I know I would give it another go. Things would be different this time around. Lots more knowledge about the process than before... it can only get easier, right...?

F.Y.I. My mind is scrambled after reminiscing on the days of construction. I don't even know how this will all read. If there is anything in particular any of you have questions about (not relating to which subs are better or stuff meant for the message boards) I would love to provide specific insight into the process.

Post comments and we will get back to you and hopefully give you a leg to stand on when they both get kicked out from under you.

Best of luck-

Jason in Orlando


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 8/25/2008

Nothing like feeling guilty for not responding to a comment to get the posting going again, right?! :) Just kidding, Grant, thank you for reminding me that I swore up and down to post here more often and keep you all updated on the completion of the house. First, a general update... the kitchen cabinets are just about all done, and Jason is now working on the bartop. He does have pics but I don't know which memory card they are on. It has been tough because he's been working a lot of hours. Gotta save up, as... drumroll... we've got a little owner-builder on the way, due in February! :)

I also want to let you all know that the house and property weathered TS Fay extremely well. I have never felt more comfortable in a house during a storm - it's just rock solid.

Grant, now I will try to answer your questions. The main limitation here is going to be my memory, but we'll give it the old college try.

Here is tough question #1: Did the DIY savings more than offset the financial costs or would you have financially come out better hiring in a few of the trades your husband is capable of doing and saving the fees and interest? Some yes and some no. Even though we both have business degrees, I think he found it harder to weigh those hidden costs against the value of doing the work himself. This is particularly odd because he's usually sharp at weighing return on investment, but I think emotions play a big part in how you PERCEIVE return on investment. Also, our house is still not entirely done, a problem (well a problem for me, anyways) that wouldn't exist if the work had been subbed out. That's not a financial cost at this point, but it's a mental health/well-being cost. In retrospect, I wish we'd subbed out a few things in particular: window installation, which took Jason and his family days and much stress, hanging closet doors, which still is not done (arghh!!!!), and the bartop, which could have been done in granite and looked just fine (we tried to save $1K or $2K and up the value with custom maple tops, but they are still plywood at this point).

Tough question #2: Did you do a project schedule showing critical tasks and mandatory completion dates required to avoid the added financial costs? I know you were very tactful in your posts, but it sounded like many hours were spent on items that wouldn't have prevented C/O while ultimately missing deadlines for the C/O cost you guys A LOT of extra money. Do you have advice for other O-B's from "hindsight" on what items need to be fast-tracked (and ideally in a logical order) and what kind of items can be finished, if need be, after C/O and mortgage closing? I think the fast-tracked items depend on your locale's code and also your inspectors. I've heard that some inspectors will let things slide while others will not - if you skimp on things that will come up in inspection, that will cost you a lot of time and money. It was really hard to judge the critical path because the target kept moving as we would find out little nuances in the process. Yes, I did initially have a critical path chart with completion dates and all, but it became a frustration more than anything because it kept getting pushed - even with tons of slack time built in. Also, I remember once when I was at my breaking point sitting down with Jason and reworking the critical path because I wanted to relay to him how much time was being wasted on silly things. That may sort of be the reason the closet doors aren't done... so what goes around comes around :). Again, Jason is usually as sharp as I am when it comes to project management, but I think he got wrapped up in the emotion and overwheming-ness of the project.

I hope this helped. Thank you for keeping me on track. I welcome comments and questions because that may be about the only thing that can suck me into posting again! :)


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 1/16/2008

Cara??? Is that really you???? Yes it is, dear readers. I have a particularly virulent strain of procastinationitis that I am trying hard to work through. Lest you think that I'm making that up, here's one for you - I'm just now getting around to getting my name change on my SS card and passport (for those of you who've forgotten, I got married in November of 2006) :).

So, where are we? Well, we're living in the new house, and we love it. To those of you who are wondering if insulation and energy efficiency upgrades are worth the costs, yes they are. Our electric bill, for roughly 2,700 sq ft under air, is hovering around $100 (keep in mind that we have a gas dryer, stove, and hot water heater that combined cost about $15/month. That's with me taking superlong/superhot showers).

Our kitchen cabinets (and the cabs in the rest of the house) are a "minimalist European design," meaning that, um, well, they're still not done. Also left on our (Jason's) to-do list are: stain the front door, finish window molding, hang closet doors, complete closet shelving, install all crown molding, paint garage door, install kitchen backsplash... the list goes on and on. Not that Jason's been twiddling his thumbs. He has built all the kitchen drawers (from scratch!) and stained them beautifully. He has installed paneling on the bar, completed one bar top (not finished yet though), and just finished building a media center (our pride and joy) the big flat-panel TV has been doing a precarious balancing act on our two end tables.

You will see pictures of all these wondrous changes just as soon as I'm home during daylight hours.

Other updates-
We hosted our first family gathering at the house on New Year's Day and the house came through like a champ. We really tested the room and seating capacity, as well as how well the design handles the kind of gatherings we like to have. We were both really pleased.

The carpet. Ah, the carpet. As if we haven't had enough issues with the Orange Store to last a lifetime... we got a very high-end carpet installed in both the dining and game rooms. Only a month or so after moving, we noticed pulls in the thread, which Jason pointed out were only in the "highlight" colors, not the main body of the carpet. At first I thought just maybe it was from the dogs, but I have NEVER had a carpet run like this, especially not a high-end one. I called HD and was given to "The Expeditor." Oh how I wish I had been journaling this whole time, as in the past I've used it as a record of when we made calls and what responses we received. We were bounced back and forth from the store to the manufacturer over and over again. Bottom line, we made the initial call probably in October and only just this past week were notified - no, strike that, we harassed them until they were forced to give us a response - that it is indeed a manufacturing error and that we'll need to reselect carpet.

Our marriage. Finally improving. Let's put all pretenses aside and admit openly that building a house is HARD on a relationship. In retrospect, I do believe that the push and pull, the digging in of our respective heels, and the interminable arguing was caused by the house. I'm only now learning how to back off and not get mad at all the minutiae, and Jason's productivity has skyrocketed since I removed the pressure from him.

Oh, and that couch we lost to the spider? We replaced it. We went to Ashley furniture and bought the exact same couch. I'll never forget that spider.

Looking forward to rejoining the journal crew and posting some nice pics!

Cara


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 7/15/2007

I am proud, no wait scratch that... Happy, hmmm, no, strike that... RELIEVED to announce that we are operational at the new house! After a nail-biting few days trying to get the power hooked up, the gas in, and the HVAC up and running, we are now on day two of our new life. I will post pictures as soon as the house is even remotely clean. We have been gradually moving things over, and finally today I think will finish that process. So all that's left now is (roughly in order of priority)...

Cabinet doors and drawers (kitchen, laundry, MBa, Ba2, bar)
Finish window trim
Finish crown
Paint touch-ups (and repaint MBa)
Build bar countertops
Paint garage door
Stain front door
Install closet doors and trim (MBR, BR2, BR3, hall)
Kitchen backsplash
Grout bar backsplash
Trim out outdoor kitchen
Finish porch and patio floors

Plus:
landscaping in three front beds, maintenance in remaining beds, spread mulch around
clear back 1/3 of property to lake
install permanent fence


I love the house, Jason hates it. I love the space, the serenity of the property, and the individual character that each room has. Yeah, there are some design flaws, but overall, it's great, in my opinion. He hates that there's so much still left to do, and he also gets very anxious that things are going to break, flood, etc. It's funny, because I don't think he'd feel that way if we purchased a "used" house. But somehow the fact that he watched it go up and knows what's behind the walls makes him nervous. I pretty much can guarantee that this house is better built than just about any that he's ever lived in, but there it is.

It's been a long ride. It's taken a big toll on our relationship and quality of life. We have learned a lot about building homes, each other, and can name more Behr paint colors than any sane person should. Will we ever build again? I'm going to go with no at this point. Maybe in a different state and with a better understanding of the scope of our self-work. But I doubt it.

I'll be continuing to post updates and pictures as things come together. But first, we're FINALLY going to take a well-deserved and much needed vacation. And cook in our awesome kitchen. And actually spend quality time together, not doing house-related stuff. Right after we just get a few more things done at the new house...


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 6/30/2007

Photos

The third bedroom
Dining room detail
The fridge



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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 6/30/2007

Well here we are over a week later and still no permanent power. Which also means no a/c, no septic, and no gas. We are hopeful that we'll be able to finally move in around July 4th. In the meantime, we're starting to move stuff in, finish closets, and scrub floors. Here are a few pictures of the latest look. I LOVE our bookcase (Costco, $200) so I included a picture of that. It's the first "real" bookcase I've ever owned. Many family and friends reading this may recognize books that you've given me over the years. Thanks! If you look really closely you may even be able to see the good old Owner-Builder Book there on the right-hand side. The couple in the "I Do" photo frame is, unfortunately, the stock couple that came with the frame.

I have a few more pics which will be added in a new post momentarily.

Photos




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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 6/23/2007

Yesterday morning didn't start off too promising. Jason's computer showed that we had passed our low-voltage final inspection, but mine showed a sad "n/a" under completion. Around 11 am, I stopped at Environmental Health to inquire about our operating permit. They magically couldn't find my papers, nor could they tell me what to do to complete our septic process. Joy. After about 10 minutes, a gentleman came up to help me. I told him exactly what I'd provided them with and asked what to do next. He was a slooooooow talker, which I was so not in the mood for, and couldn't give me a straight answer. Fantastic. Finally I ascertained that I needed to pay a fee (surprise). Why someone didn't call me to tell me that once I faxed in my forms is beyond me. I gladly wrote the check and asked him what the time frame might be to get the hold released. He hemmed and hawed some more and told me the entire process it had to go through to get cleared (I don't care! Just tell me how many days!). Tuesday or Wednesday was his best guess. Great. I left the office feeling a little sick, as that would be cutting it very close with our loan deadline.

Around 4 pm I called the county, just for the heck of it. And lo and behold.... "No holds on that permit." YES! I asked her what I needed to do to get my C/O and she said it was already done. Great, but I need to physically have it in my hands. She said I just needed to go to the building before 5 pm and it was mine! WOOHOO! Of course, I hauled out of my office and flew up there. I waited about 15 minutes, and there it was, a C/O in my hot little hands. This, I thought, would be a perfect opportunity to play the ultimate prank on my husband. I called from right around the corner (I didn't want him to suffer TOO long) to tell him that it would be two weeks, but unfortunately he was standing outside and could see my stupid grin from all the way up the block.

So here we are, all C/O'ed. We began moving things over, although we won't be able to actually move in until HVAC, electric, and gas are all permanently hooked up. There are also many tasks still to be done. But, we did it. We built a house. I have to say it's sort of anti-climactic. Disappointingly, I have nothing profound to say. Maybe I'm just buzzing from the disbelief of it a little too much to wax nostalgic right now.

I've attached a few mediocre pictures, please enjoy.

Photos




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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 6/23/2007

more...

Photos




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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 6/19/2007

Carpet install went swimmingly last Friday - what a difference it made in the "doneness" of the house! We are both disappointed with the game and dining room carpet - it just didn't live up to its high expectations. This is a carpet that I'd had my heart set on since the very beginning, too. It's not terrible, it's just not... WOW. The master bedroom on the other hand is a whole different story. It's plush, luxurious, soft, just perfect for a bedroom. The color goes perfectly and looks nice leading into the slate bath, too. The secondary bedrooms are fine - we'd chosen a less expensive and durable option for those rooms, and the office came out great too. For those who are carpet shopping, I can tell you that at the very beginning, I couldn't tell the difference between any of the brands or materials. But after enough hours of perusal, I can tell a nylon from a polyester, and even can differentiate the nylon "Tactesse" from the other nylons. In my opinion, the Tactesse has the best feel.

Jason has been temporarily hooking up central power so as to add a few extra work hours in the evening. What a difference! The house does look entirely lit up, and it's sort of odd that I have no idea what all the light switches do, even though I've spent many hours in the house, because they never WORKED before. It was really neat to actually see the laundry room in all its glory (it's the darkest room in the house). Jason is using the extra hours to wrap up doors and closets, and we've hired my brother to caulk and touch up paint. This is working out really well because we can trust him, and this keeps Jason focused and gives him fewer chances to get all spread out among various tasks. I have been spending goodly amounts of time scrubbing the grout: first by hand and then by machine. It has yet to be sealed, and I'm reluctant to do it, as it's very volatile and evil smelling.

When I left the property the other night, I was rudely initiated into the "country living" world. Upon pulling out of our driveway, the world essentially disappears. Man, it's dark. About 100 feet into the drive, a deer bounded by. It's probably only a matter of time until one ventures in front of my poor Corolla, given my luck. I keep thinking of the signs in Maine: "Watch out for moose, 61 lives lost this year." Their legs are so weak, if you hit them you will end up with their full bulk across your windshield. Made a left and immediately saw a (sorry, Mom) rather large snake in the middle of the road. I swerved around it and then decided to go back and check it out, since it kind of looked like a snake I'd narrowly missed stepping on during a twilight run several weeks ago. The snake from my run looked suspiciously like a Copperhead, so I wanted to observe this one. I pulled a U and shone my headlights on it... Stepped out of the car and towards the snake... And man, it is SO dark out there that you literally feel like the darkness might consume you, cloaking you to the point where you can't even see your hand in front of your face. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I was more freaked out by that sensation than I was the snake, so I hurried back to my car without reaching a solid conclusion as to the species of snake.

Getting back to the title of this entry... As of today we have passed our final inspections and paid our outstanding fees. All that is standing in the way of our C/O is a paper that gets faxed to septic, and a permit re-pull and install of our alarm system. Once those "holds" are cleared, the county will automatically issue a C/O that we can look up on their website. They'll contact our utility provider and hook up our electric. Tentatively, this will happen early next week.

Notice that I've said "begins to draw to a close." Once we C/O, we still have a long road ahead of us. Among other things:
- bar top (maple, built and installed by Jason)
- cabinet doors and drawers
- closet and pantry organizers
- crown molding throughout
- fence
- outdoor kitchen (not even started!)

plus all the shopping that needs to be done
- random things that we don't know we need
- bedroom set, office furniture, maybe living room sofas, assorted furniture for second and third bedroom
- art and other accoutrements
- a few palm trees, if we can find the funds
- patio furniture

I'm thinking I'll probably hang in there with the journaling, until it's DONE. We shall see. In the meantime, I'll try to get some new pictures up soon (I know, been promising that for weeks!).


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 6/13/2007

Well, the punch list really turned out to be more MY punch list - he had taped it to the front door, presumably so I couldn't miss it. I painted, cleaned, caulked, and more.

The subs are beginning to wrap up - our final electric inspection has passed and we are very close to finals on plumbing, gas, and HVAC. This puts us in a position to possibly C/O next week. Possibly. The conundrum I spoke of in the title is the carpet. The installers had shown up on their scheduled date only to inform us that they couldn't do an install without central air and power. However, we can't get power and air until we C/O. And we can't C/O without floor coverings in all rooms. Hmmmmm. There is a way to "pre-power" the house, but it's a convoluted process, leading me to doubt that it's a common practice among builders. Which, dear Watson, means that the problem lies with the installers. Sure enough, a little digging revealed that there was no policy at the installers regarding power and air. They simply didn't WANT to work without A/C. After a few minutes convincing the lady that there is perfectly good power on site and that yes, I would even allow them to open windows and have a fan blowing on them, she half-assured me that they would actually install on Friday. The truth of her promise remains to be seen.

Trim and finish carpentry is moving along, Jason has been steadily making a dent in door-hanging and baseboard install. The major holes at this point are our fence, cabinet doors and drawers, and bar tops.

So, that's really all there is to tell... Someday soon we will be moving in, although it's hard for me to imagine!


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 6/8/2007

Last weekend, I took a little time to work backwards from this month's C/O drop-dead date and figure out the requisite timeline. I reviewed it with Jason and basically said "OK, in order for so-and-so to finish their part, what happens before?" I gave him dates when certain things would have to be done in order to make the timeline work, and I think it sunk in. YES.

I can truly say we are making rapid and significant progress. This week both the electrician and the plumber wrapped up. Electrical inspection was passed today, our first inspection in quite a while. I have two parts on order for the plumber and then he can call in his inspection, too. Phone service and the all-important DSL have been ordered, and HVAC and carpet are tentatively scheduled. If you remember, carpet had refused to install because there was no A/C and no power to the house. Well, according to Jason (which is according to the electrical inspector), you absolutely cannot get power to the house until AFTER C/O. If you want it before, you have to do some sort of pre-power thingamajig, pay a $100 application fee, and get every trade to sign off on the app. Hmmmm. Sounds very fishy to me. Because we need carpet to pass the final inspection, and the carpet can't get installed without the A/C and power (per the carpet installers). Somebody is definitely telling me a fib here, because there's no way that every builder is doing one of these pre-power applications. We're looking into it and will let you know what we find out.

I've been thrown for a bit of a budget loop by IndyMac. When we got our extensions on our loan, I sort of just assumed (admittedly my fault) that the extension fee came out of interest reserve. That turned out not to be the case, as I found out when I checked our online loan balance remaining. They pulled it from our contingency line item, bringing us pretty significantly short of where we need to be. We will pull through, but will probably need to continue floating the carpet, stove, and micro on our no payment/no interest HD card. This is another reason I encourage people to use zero int/zero pay promotions - you might have ready cash to pay now, but if something unexpected happens, the float buys you time and frees up your funds.

This weekend is bathtub scrubbing time for me - significant because I have held off on scrubbing them until I could actually run water in them to scrub them out. I also have a bit of trim and windowsill painting to do, and then I think Jason will be about set to install the interior doors. Last I talked to him, he was piling various things in the middle of the living room that were minor punch-list things with the plan to grab something new and complete that task each time he walks by. He's finished almost all of the baseboards, with my brother and I coming behind him to fill and touch up the nail holes. It looks pretty great.

The yard and landscaping is looking fantastic. Unfortunately, some of our tree purchases have been put on hold until we see how bad the budget ends up. Trees are about the only thing we can cut out for now. I am glad that we set all the planting beds beforehand, although it bothers my perfectionist side to see an uncompleted bed.

Let's see, what else? Ah, yes, note to self to pay our remaining impact fees next week (and parenthetically please let them not give me a hard time about increases since we are only supposed to owe what the fee was when we filed our permit papers).

I'd like to have some pictures for you soon, gotta remember to get the camera out there.


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 5/24/2007

It's been over two weeks since an update, sorry about that! I've been busy with my job and also took a trip to NC to watch my brother graduate from UNC Chapel Hill (go 'Heels!). Things have been progressing at a moderate pace, and the stress on our relationship has eased slightly. We filed for a second extension, which was painful to do since it feels like money down the tubes, but we had no option.

We had a visit from Jim and Linda, who as many of you Central Floridians know regularly make their rounds and check out our projects to pick up tips and get ideas of things to avoid. It's always nice to show off our project a bit :).

Jason has been working on baseboards this week, and I am pleased to report that he's moving pretty quickly with this particular task! They look great - hopefully I can share some pictures soon. He's also completed the bar top and second bath counter with granite tile. Our master vanity top was installed last week, and while I don't love it, I don't hate it either.

I have been squeezing in landscaping when I can and am slowly making progress. This is something that would have been easier to do once we moved in, but that's just not the way things worked out, eh?

We had the carpet installers out on Monday, only to have them tell us that they would not be able to install without central A/C and electricity. Home Depot, who KNEW that our project was a new construction home, failed to mention this. Now they want to charge us a trip fee, which we will of course battle them on.

Jason has calls in to both our plumber and electrician, who need to wrap up (yay - toilets!!). After that, the gas sub can tie everything in, carpet can get installed, and we could... possibly... maybe... C/O and move in????? Oh wait, we still have no cabinet drawers or doors. Ah, the life of an owner-builder - you build a house and then move into a fixer-upper. :)

Because I can, I am going to put in a plug and throw something out to you all. My new job is as Executive Director of an organization called Helping Others Make the Effort, a nonprofit in Osceola County. We have a five-acre campus that will provide apartments and supportive services for homeless women and children. The first two buildings are near completion, but I need about $200,000 to C/O. We are in the process of signing a $417,000 grant that will help, but we are short because our original budgets were submitted just before hurricanes Charley, Jeanne, and Frances (yes, it takes that long for grant funds to come through). I am searching for donated materials, labor, etc. We have pre-purchased a lot of the materials, but still need things like carpet, a portion of metal roof, and more. I also have naming opportunities for the buildings, campus, and even the entry road that leads onto campus. It's a great project, so if you can think of anything that would help, please P.M. me. You can also message me if you would like to sign up for our newsletter, the first of which should be going out in the next few weeks. Here's more about the project (the picture attached to this post is a model picture of one of the buildings):

Right now more than 850 school-age children live in motels in Osceola County. Osceola County’s tourism industry is our double-edged sword: it attracts revenue and stimulates growth, but at the same time is kept alive by service-based jobs that keep many families on the edge.  Many of these families have no permanent home and must resort to pay-by-the-week motels.  They can’t afford to put a deposit on an apartment and have little to no savings.  If the earner in the family becomes ill, has no transportation, or loses their job, they will be just days away from living on the street. With just a little support and a decent place to live, we can empower these women to become self-sufficient and improve their family’s well-being.

HOME is a transitional housing campus that will provide a path to self sufficiency for homeless women and their children.  On our five-acre campus, we currently have two apartment buildings under construction.  When the campus is complete it will be joined by six additional apartment buildings, a playground, and a community center. Families will reside at HOME for 12 to 24 months as they get help with employment, education, financial management skills, and more.  HOME is unique because it’s a social service project that offers an amazing return on investment - women who graduate will have little or no need for ongoing financial and social service support.   Instead, the tables will be turned, as the women become able to give back to their community.

The program itself is probably best understood when explained in terms of how a typical family might progress through the HOME program.

“Betty” is a single mother with two school-aged children.  Betty works in the hospitality industry and makes $7 per hour, classifying her as extremely low income.  Her take-home pay is approximately $896 per month.  Until 2006, they lived at an apartment complex, but had to move out after Betty became ill and lost her job. Betty could not afford the deposit on another apartment, so she moved her family into a weekly motel rental, which costs $676 per month. 

Between rent and other costs of living, Betty is barely able to make ends meet.  She would like to go back to school to receive a certificate in nursing or another medical field, and also needs help with one of her children, who has a slight learning disability. Betty will be screened by HOME staff in order to assess her assets and barriers.  If she is determined to be appropriate, she will receive life skills classes, links to vocational services, and tutoring assistance for her children (among other services).  She will be required to deposit money in a savings account every month and will need to accomplish incremental goals as she works towards self sufficiency.  A case manager will work with her on a continuous basis to reassess her family’s progress and goals.  Betty will be responsible for maintaining her own apartment and providing for her family. 

The process of becoming re-empowered as a person and a parent is powerful, and Betty will take pride in her abilities and role within the HOME campus.  In 12-24 months, Betty and her family will be ready to move into an apartment in the community.  After “graduation” she will continue to receive case management services in order to ensure stability in her new environment.

Thanks everyone, stepping off my soapbox now!

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 5/6/2007

Uncle Larry, do you approve? :)

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 5/6/2007

By the way, I am trying to get some pictures of the interior this afternoon, but we'll see how they come out.

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 5/6/2007

Jason spent most of this week out at the site, unfortunately doing just about everything but cabinets. OK, not quite true, he did a bit of what he needed to, but mostly he went around fixing minor unimportant things. This is a big point of contention between us. I feel that he should be focusing solely on jobs that only he can do that are required for CO. However, I think he's just so overwhelmed that he sees something small that he can tick off his list and gets distracted. Honestly, I'll be glad when this project's done, because it's starting to wear on my patience.

We ordered carpet this week, HD is running 20% off STAINMASTER (we'd been eyeing that sale for a while) so we ended up with STAINMASTER in all of our carpeted rooms except the secondary bedrooms. While we were placing our order, Jason brought up the idea of carpeting the office, which had originally been slated for bamboo flooring. I thought it was a fantastic idea, since it's one less thing for Jason to do, and flooring is necessary for CO. When the installer came out to measure, he pointed out that our master bedroom really needed a 15' carpet (rather than 12', which is standard) because the seams would show. Back to HD I went to change our selection. Of course, there wasn't another single carpet in the WHOLE place that was quite like the original one I'd chosen. I settled for a similar carpet, and we're tentatively scheduled for install the week after next.

Another change on the fly: Jason's been working on cabinets for the bathrooms, but we've encountered some hiccups. For the second bath, I'd chosen a vanity top with a light color tile in mind. It's a beautiful gray Swanstone (Jason doesn't care for the material, but I liked it) that doesn't match the dark tile at all. :( We contemplated ordering another vanity top when we had a great idea. The wood Jason's used for the cabinet in that bathroom has come out beautiful. What if we made the top out of the same wood and just dropped a porcelain sink in? We decided to try it out. If we hate it, we'll fix it later.

For the master bath, we have the black oak "zen" cabinet with the frosted vessel sinks. Plan "A" was to tile the top with granite, but of course, there's a problem. Jason can CUT the granite tiles for the top, but not drill the holes for the sink and the faucet. So he's decided to call our granite installer and see what they can do (I plan to do that on Monday).

The biggest news of the week, in my opinion, is that landscaping has begun. We had about half of our sod delivered on Friday, and I started planting the various beds. I'll attach a bunch of pictures. So far we have the front left "tropical" bed, the back right "hide the well/palm/jurassic" bed, and the "whimsical butterfly garden" bed. The sod was delivered and installed, the plants were transported by yours truly in the trusty Corolla, and the mulch was delivered by Jason- the best Publix has to offer. I'd visited a local mulch place and although I had doubts about the salesperson's competency, went ahead and placed an order (He had shown me cypress and told me it was pine, so I just pointed at the pine bark I wanted and said this one, please). I probably should have known when I was on the phone with him and told him I wanted the MINI PINE BARK that we'd looked at together and he said "oh, the red one?" At any rate, the delivery guy brought white playground mulch (huh????) which we hadn't even looked at!! Needless to say, I refused the delivery and will have to call tomorrow and decide what to do. I could change the order to have it blown in instead of dumped, but there's a two-week waiting period for that. Also, there's no longer an immediate need for mulch, since the Publix special will tide us over for now.

More on the plants: I am really enjoying learning the taxonomy of the various plants. Having never done anything more than small gardens, the task at hand seemed pretty immense. I've read a few Florida-specific gardening books that also have plant descriptions, but it seems as though the descriptions vary quite a bit- one book says 24" tall, another says 6'. One says full sun, another says shade. So here's what I did. I just got what I wanted, and if it dies, I'll replace it. I've gotten 95% of our plants from Lukas, a local nursery that has an incredible selection and knowledgeable staff. I made my first trips on Friday because I knew how busy they'd be on the weekend. I planned to attack the front left bed first, and had a general idea of the layout and foundation plantings. I purchased the "foundation plantings" that were the larger plantings, vertical elements, and background hedges. Then I made another trip mid-afternoon, when the sun was at its hottest, and purchased "fill-in" plants to complete the bed.

Here's some pictures (two per post, as usual) for your enjoyment!

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 4/28/2007

The living room, sans grout.

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 4/28/2007

Jason's sister and nephew- his first trip to a bar! ;)

That's our brother-in-law working on the front painting; we also hired him for irrigation. He has a landscaping/fencing/etc. business, so if you are in the Orlando area and need work done, we highly recommend him!

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 4/28/2007

Things are moving along: Jason has been working hard on the cabinetry, tiling is wrapping up in the next week, and irrigation is done/ready to be sodded. Here's some pictures!

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 4/24/2007

Today was the much-awaited countertop install day! Everything went more or less smoothly (see picture). I had planned to leave work early to go take a look, but I'm just beginning a new job that's demanding a lot of hours. By the time I got to the site, it was too dark to really appreciate the kitchen (Jason took this pic earlier in the day).

The tile has also come a long way - all that's remaining is two small hallways, the laundry room, and grout for most of the living area. We estimate that she'll be done early next week.

Irrigation is done (I think) so sod is next.

Our brother-in-law has also been hired to finish the trim painting on the exterior, so that's coming along.

Really not much else to say... I'm pretty exhausted and have an early day ahead of me tomorrow.

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 4/22/2007

Part of the idea of this journal is to share with you, the readers, both the good and bad sides of owner building. Yesterday started off fine, I met Jason out at the property with marching orders to paint the door trim. As I have mentioned before many times, I'm not good when it comes to physically detail-oriented work. Writing, budgets, etc., I can complete to perfection, but give me a paintbrush and I'm a mess. So I had reminded Jason of this, telling him that I'd do my very best, but that my very best was likely to underwhelm him. Maybe it's a combination of stress and time running out, but when he "inspected" my work, it was not up to par, as you might have guessed.

At which point I reminded him that at the outset of this project, we had a long conversation revolving around the fact that he felt bad that I would be shouldering the majority of the financial burden. No problem, I told him, since you'll be responsible for labor and sub management. Well here we are, down to the wire, and the rules of the game have changed. I'm not helpful on the site, but I feel guilty if I am off doing my own thing while he's working. It's a catch-22. To make matters worse, he's a perfectionist (in my opinion) to a fault. If you have limited time and limited manpower, perfection is simply not an option. Something has to give. I ended up leaving the property for greener pastures after the "discussion" about the trim (I ended up spending 4 hours- no joke- cleaning our current house). On the drive back, I passed a tabebuia exploding with color, its golden blossoms littering the ground below. I though wistfully about the tabebuia Jason gave me as an engagement present- over a year later still sad and droopy in its pot, waiting to be planted at the new house.

When I got home, I glanced outside and noticed one single vibrant flower on our engagement tree, with several more blossoms just about to open. Maybe it's anticipating its new home. It can see there's an end in sight, and so can I.


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 4/18/2007

"Hi."
"Hi. Ummmmmm are you going to Publix?"
"Yeah, what do you need?"
"I dunno, maybe some Neosporin or bandages? I think I might have to go to the ER."
"WHY??"
"It's not as bad as it sounds. I drilled a hole in my thumb."
"WHAT?!?! I'm at the exit to the house now, I'll come by."
"No, no. I'm sure it's fine. I don't need an ER."
"Pack up. Come home. NOW. I'll decide if you need to go to the ER."
---------------------------------------------
Ah the never-ending joys of owner-building. Post script: we did not end up going to the ER but I did send him to his family doc, who prescribed antibiotics, took X-rays, and gave him a tetanus shot which he needed anyways. It was a gouge, so it couldn't be stitched. I'm still not entirely sure how it happened or how deep the drill bit went, and as tough of a stomach as I usually have, I can't even look at it. Power tool injuries creep me out.

House related: I approved our slabs today, boy are they gorgeous! Incidentally, I never heard back from either Jensen or the place out of Longwood. They either REALLY don't want my business, or got sketched out at the fact that I was shopping around (in which case I definitely don't want their business).


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 4/15/2007

I'm just going to crank out some updates, since I'm not feeling particularly creative.

Final Grading: Complete

C/O requirements: RST wants to see basically everything in place. So we are extending our loan. No way around it.

Tiling: Master bath is complete - it looks incredible! I'm posting a pic, but it really doesn't do it justice. I'll try to get better pictures soon. The foyer is also complete and looks nice. 

Countertops: We signed with Stone Giant on Friday, but it appears as though we are not going to get the remnant for our island. Apparently (according to the stone warehouse), that piece was never actually for sale. Or, alternately, we were mistaken and it wasn't Labrador Antique (um, okay). I am bummed, but no one besides us and you will know that it's supposed to be there to begin with. Stone Giant gave us a good price, has been up front, and will be able to fabricate in just over a week. That should be pretty exciting to see, since that's sort of a "finish" item.

Irrigation: We've hired a family member and his partner, they'll start Monday. We need to get sod and landscaping done ASAP.

Sorry this entry is so lackluster, just not feelin' it today.

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 4/9/2007

Things are rockin' and rollin'!

We heard back from Ranger Drainage- there are a few minor fixes they want done, and we are still waiting on word from the engineer, but once they approve we are good to go with irrigation and landscaping.

I have a call in to Orange County- all I need to know is what I HAVE to have in order to c/o. Why is this such a difficult question??? IndyMac is really on our case to make a move with regard to our loan, so we want to see if there's any way possible to c/o and close the loan.

Tiling is moving right along- the master bath (so gorgeous!) will be done by midweek most likely, and then Linda will move on to the main living area of the house. Her work is really high quality. She moves slowly because it's just her by herself, but I highly recommend her to any of you searching for a reliable sub for tile.

Countertops, ah, where do I even begin. First of all, I NEVER received an estimate from Jensen, even after calling twice (sorry, if you don't follow up after that you have lost my business). I stopped into Stone Giant in Oviedo on Friday afternoon and was immediately impressed with the woman I worked with. I told her the situation and how we were uncomfortable with the other company's price changes. She said she'd be happy to work with us and would check with CNL stone on our slabs (happily, this company has a good relationship with CNL).

When I checked in with Jill (Stone Giant) this morning, she said that she'd called CNL and they didn't have anything held for me... Hmmmm.... So I called over there and spoke directly to Alex, my sales rep. He explained that they did have the slabs tagged, but weren't we working with 5 star? I delicately explained that we'd chosen another fabricator, and he seemed a bit put off. Apparently he is the rep for 5 star but not Stone Giant. I apologized, but he agreed that I needed to do what was best for me. I called Jill back and told her the slab was still there, no problem.

Not five minutes later, I received an email from 5 star and became enlightened as to why CNL couldn't locate our slabs. 5 star had already taken them to the fabrication place!!! Keep in mind that we have NEVER signed a contract with 5 star, nor placed a deposit. We're not at fault at all, but the 5 star rep wanted to know why CNL requested that they return them. So I have a fun phone call to make to her tomorrow a.m. Part of the job I guess.

Incidentally, Stone Giant has located another slab of Imperial Brown for $59/sf, which is in our price range. Pleeeeeease let this deal go through. I'd hate for something silly like this to hold up the project (though I admit it wouldn't be the first time!).


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 4/5/2007

Ladies and gents, meet our new washer and dryer. By now you should know that I have champagne tastes and a beer budget, which means that if I walk into a store I will instantly select the most expensive item that I have no chance of being able to afford. However, I am also a bargain shopper extraordinaire.

We went to Appliance Direct intending to just have a look-see. I already had my eye on the "Glacier Blue" Frigidaire which was still in the thousands, even marked down. Jason said it was ridiculous to get a washer/dryer because it was "pretty" and said he didn't even really care if the two appliances matched at all. We walked around and had sort of settled on an LG washer and dryer, when we found it... The very same LG dryer, but in FIRE ENGINE RED. And best of all, it was the same price as the dryer in white. We were both madly in love. Well folks, it was our lucky day. The salesman managed to find a washer to match, and the rest as they say, is history. We walked out with both appliances for the retail price of one. Both are top of the line front-loading super capacity (4.0 for the washer and 7.3 for the dryer). I checked the retail prices and reviews as soon as I got home (of course) and was pleased to see that we'd made a good decision. And they're FIRE ENGINE RED! Yay for being impetuous and shallow (yet wildly cost saving)! Pics attached, of course.

In other news...
We attempted to pick up our final grade survey from Geomarks on Tuesday, only to discover that it was totally and completely wrong (apparently our neighbors don't exist, since their lot was marked "vacant"). This was critical because we need to submit that survey to Ranger Drainage for final approval. They send it to their engineer somewhere else and also have someone local come and physically check our culvert. Once that's been approved (we've heard it usually takes a few tries), we are good to go on sod and landscape. Geomarks actually did come through and make things right within one day, so it hasn't set us back too badly (so far).

The tile work continues. I haven't been out all week, but Jason says the shower is wrapping up and our third bath is done as well.

I am still struggling with countertops. I am in contact and waiting on a quote from Mike Jensen (recommended by Lisa). I checked out his warehouse this morning and found a few colors that might work. I am also having him price out the Labrador and the Imperial. At this point, I'm not trying to get a million bids to save a buck, I'm just annoyed at the other vendor for essentially bait and switching on me. I have one more place to call, and then we REALLY need to make a final decision about color and vendor.

PS, the "thanks Rosy" in the title is for my aunt, who, as a wedding present, gave us a check to purchase appliances. Money well spent!

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 4/1/2007

the slate being installed in the master bath.

Confession time: I sat down in the tub and daydreamed about the day I'll actually be able to take a bath in it. :)

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 4/1/2007

more pics...

Staining is better, it goes on last and colors the wood...

Noooo, conditioner is better, it goes on first and leaves the wood silky and smooth!

(adapted from Billy Madison for you Adam Sandler fans)

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 3/31/2007

I have many fun pics for you fine readers today. We spent the day at the property (Jason's dad came out and helped too - Thanks Jim!) staining and finishing cabinets (Jason and Jim) and painting the exterior detail (me). The pictures are pretty self-explanatory; it will probably take a few posts to get them all up. The kitchen is now completely tiled and grouted - it looks fabulous. There's more shade variation between tiles than we had anticipated, but it looks great. The master bath is coming along nicely, and I think the slate will really be worth the trouble.

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 3/30/2007

We received the bid for the countertops (now based on our choices and exact measurements). Well, here's how it shakes out. The initial bid they gave us was as follows:

81.35 sq ft.                 

 Level A Total Project Cost: $3,970

 Level B Total Project Cost: $4,561

 Level C Total Project Cost: $4,887


This works out to Group A $49 psf, Group B $56 psf, and Group C $60 psf. Now here's what was emailed to us after our selections were made:

73.81 Imperial Brown 3cm                  $4,429

12.40 Labrador Antique 3cm                                                        $880

01 Under mount Sink Construction                                         $249

Total Project Cost:                               $5, 558

There are several problems with this. One, we are some how now at 86 sf. Two, the costs on this proposal (allegedly a Group B and a Group C) are Group B $60 psf and Group C $71 psf.

By my math, assuming the new sf amounts are somehow right, we should be at $4,133+$744+$250 = $5,127. Although this is only a few hundred dollars different, it irks me, because it seems like a bait and switch. The salesperson says that the groups are "general" pricing and that it can vary, but the price she gave us for the Imperial is a Group C price! She also claims that the Labrador is very pricey (and another bidding company confirmed this) but still, it's irritating. What to do, what to do?

Has anyone experienced this pricing issue?


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 3/29/2007

Thank you all for your input regarding countertops. We found a company called Five-Star Granite that had reasonable prices and a professional staff, but most importantly a quick turnaround.

Today was one of those long days (and it's only 1 pm!). I woke up at 6, logged on to our bank accounts and budget (again, thank Heavens for Google docs) to make a draw and check the ol' budget. Still pretty much on target. I left the house at 7 am to deliver grout to the property and unlock the house for our tile installer. Got a peek at the kitchen tile - it looks great, although there's more shade variation than I'd anticipated.

Turned around, got back on the highway and headed to the slab warehouse. What a neat experience! Now I'm glad that we encountered problems with Lowe's, because it truly was enjoyable to see all of the beautiful pieces of stone. I was a bit worried that Jason and I wouldn't be able to agree on a color, but we quickly identified four that we liked (and that was just in the front display room!). We eliminated one because it was a group C (old habits and expensive tastes die hard) and another because it just didn't have a whole lot of character. It was nice, but the kind of countertop you'd see anywhere. We found a slab of Imperial Brown (see pic) and were pretty sold, although we still walked around and looked.

Since the color was a group B, we had a little bit of play in our budget and decided to do something a step up for the island. I loved one - my description: "it looks like a tree that exploded," but Jason said it was marble and not a good surface for a kitchen. We sorted through the remnants while our sales rep looked around and gave us additional suggestions. He pointed out a remnant that looked very similar to the brown, but with large flecks of opalescence. Nothing too showy, just different enough from the rest of the kitchen to really pop. Of course, it's group C, but we figure it's a small amount of square footage and will probably be marked down because it's a really small piece. I've posted a sample pic of that one as well (the color is called Labrador Antique).

We also really liked Black Galaxy, a high-end sparkly black, for the bar, but it's not really in our budget. I told Jason to cross his fingers and I'd see what I could work ;). I spoke to our fabricator rep and gave her the names of our selections (the slabs are now on hold for 15 days at the warehouse), and also mentioned the bar countertop. Apparently she has a few remnants hanging out that are left over from a large job in Apopka and thinks she can work a deal out. Yay! I have to say that picking the countertops out really got me stoked again.

I have decided (and this may or may not be true, since I have never been pregnant before) that building a house is sort of like pregnancy. The job at hand (at least in our case) falls primarily on one individual in the relationship. He or she is there every step of the way, lives every milestone, and constantly is making decisions regarding the well-being of the project. The other partner is less involved, but is there at critical points and oftentimes can offer nothing more to the process than moral support. He or she also may feel disconnected from the project - it doesn't seem "real" because they are not living/breathing/sleeping the house.

Make sense? Anyhow, that's my rambling for the day. The pics are about as close as I could find, but I promise you it will be even more stunning in person.

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 3/27/2007

The paver work is finished.

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 3/26/2007

Let's see, what do we have for you today? Doors did get hung as planned, tile has commenced, albeit slowly. We went with a coworker's roommate - she works solo and is slow, but her work is of very high quality and the price couldn't be beat. The driveway is complete - it may actually be my favorite thing in the whole house - it looks amazing!!! The crew was also great - fast, efficient, polite, and cleaned up after themselves. Grading is at the fine-tuning point, gutters are up, and as you can see by the pictures, I am finally covering up the hideous green we originally chose for the front window frames.

Jason has been hard at work supervising various subs (which unfortunately means not too much time spent on cabinetry). I'm nervous that we're down to crunch time, and there's a lot left to be done. We have yet to pass final grade (we have heard it will be no easy feat), complete irrigation, flooring, cabinets, plumbing, etc.

And for you, fine readers, a request for opinions. We went to Lowe's tonight to get an estimate on our Zodiaq countertops, only to find out that the lead time actually exceeds the amount of time left on our loan. Also, Jason is very perturbed at how they figure square footage and cuts, as it's very wasteful (my opinion is that it's something beyond control - a fixed cost - and although it stinks, there's no way around it).  Part A of my request: anyone know of a good countertop dealer/installer in Central Florida?

Part B: We are reconsidering countertop surfacing partly because of lead time and partly because Jason's had it with the waste (he's had a long and hungry day). What do you all think about the following options (write in answers are acceptable, too):

a) Get the Zodiaq. It may cost you $1,400 to extend your loan, wasted materials, 4-6 week lead time, and $440 for a sink cutout, but it will look smashing. Besides, you probably will need to extend your loan anyway.

b) Try elsewhere and pray like heck that they can get the job done faster (we think this a moot point since the lead time is a Zodiaq problem, not an install problem). Maybe a smaller installer will work with you on waste conservation, too.

c) Get granite instead. Even though you haven't been able to agree on a color, try hard. (By the way, lead time on granite from Lowe's/HD is four weeks, so that still isn't a timely option.)

d) Install granite tile yourselves, at a cheaper price. It will work for now, and in a year or so you can tear it out and upgrade to whatever surface you prefer.

e) Install plywood with a coat of varnish and hope it passes c/o muster (um, yeah, Mr. Inspector, this is the latest trend in kitchen surfacing...). Install whatever surface at your leisure.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Flames?

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 3/13/2007

As my 9th grade algebra teacher used to say: nothing is impossible, just highly improbable. And as improbable as it may be, we are still 7 weeks out from move-in (for those who don't get the joke, this is the same exact journal entry title as LAST WEEK'S.) Argh. Mark, if you are reading this, you can tag this entry "things in your life that are out of your control and really stink." Clearly we should be well aware by now that nothing ever goes according to plan.

J's coworker, who we love dearly, is taking maternity leave in a few days. "But Cara," you ask, "what does this have to do with your house getting completed?" Well, fine readers, because J's department is small, all the shifts have to change in order to accommodate having one fewer person. So instead of working 3-9 (meaning J can work on the house in the mornings), his shifts are now all 11:00-7:30-ish (meaning no time to be on site). The only days he'll be able to do work or supervise subs are on his days off. Joy. And I, unfortunately, am still more or less useless, other than being able to earn money and manage our loan and invoices. IndyMac has been sending letters asking whether we are rolling or extending our loan, and I'm just not sure what to tell them.

Notwithstanding the above, there are some good things going on. Doors are getting delivered and installed tomorrow. Driveway work begins on Monday, as does the tiling. We should be settling on an irrigation bid soon and then moving forward with that as well. There's still a list of about 5,000 little things that need to be accomplished prior to c/o and move-in. Tomorrow should (and darn well better be) a brighter day. :)

P.S. This post was originally much better, but the computer ate it. When will I ever learn to hit ctrl-c before posting?!?!


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 3/8/2007

Yesterday I had one of my days. The kind where I wish we never started this project; that we'd just flipped the property and walked away. Luckily for Jason and I, we take turns having these days, so the okay one bails the depressed one out. So, after a 45-minute morning pow-wow, off to work I went.

I had a bookmark as a kid that went something like "Eat a toad first thing in the morning and nothing worse can happen to you for the rest of the day." It had a picture of a toad on it and a green tassel. I think I probably still have it somewhere (along with my copy of "What Good Luck, What Bad Luck," a fantastic and apropos book that sadly has been renamed "Fortunately, Unfortunately. But I digress).

Having eaten my proverbial toad, things were bound to get better. Jason went to American Millwork and Door and was able to secure an excellent deal on interior doors AND installation (thank goodness!!!). I received several call-backs regarding gutter and irrigation bids, both of which can be commenced at any time, really. We secured our driveway materials order (50% retainer - ouch!). Feeling much better by the time dinner rolled around, we decided to go out to dinner at Outback and then to Lowe's to look at bathroom tile. While J was hung up in the wood stain section, overwhelmed by the 50 different stainable putties, I moseyed over to the countertop section. I came across the Zodiaq display, which we had previously ruled out due to price. The price has come down significantly! Within five minutes we were able to settle on a color - in group B no less, maybe my expensive tastes are changing??? and talk through it. If we open a Lowe's credit card (c'mon, you knew it was coming), we could get 10% off on at least a portion of it. We'd be within our target range, plus solve the issue of Jason and I not really agreeing on any granite colors. Then at dinner, Jason had the final a-ha. He can build the bar top out of wood. We were already planning on doing this for the actual bar, but now that the idea of a wood bar top has grown on me, I think it might lend a nice custom look to our kitchen bar tops and help provide some delineation to tie the whole room together. Plus it would be less money.

Things are markedly better than they were yesterday and you should be seriously thankful that I didn't post yesterday morning. :)


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 3/6/2007

As Jason continues on the cabinetry and other tasks, the electricians have been wiring everything up and installing more lighting and the recessed baffles. I emailed our drywaller the final punch list, as he has been requesting that for a few weeks.

After thoroughly research faucets/sinks/vanities, we ended up using various ebay vendors for the majority of those items. I think we got some fantastic deals, and am really pleased with the price and quality of the items (pics attached).

This next part is really more for other owner-builders who might be wondering about budget planning, etc. We've been fine-tuning the budget now that we're getting close to the end, and it's going to be tight. This project will end up costing more than originally projected, primarily because of the site issue with the clay excavation and additional fill imported. We are very lucky that I was able to pull in some extra revenue last year or we would have been in the hole right off the bat. Also, Jason and I both have absorbed some of the random costs we've incurred by paying for them as we go out of pocket rather than using loan $$- this really bothers my OCD side because those costs are not captured in our actual budget (because the cash cost never flowed through our house account). I was keeping track of the "off-record" expenses for a while, but it just became one more thing to try and stay on top of. Sooo, our recorded ending costs will actually be a few thousand lower than what we really spent. C'est la vie, I guess. It really DOESN'T matter how much it cost down to the dime, but it still bugs me. Our on-record expenses will be within two thousand of our loan amount plus additional cash we have poured in on our own. Not too bad, although the budget is actually a working budget that I adjust constantly. In case we get into desperate trouble, we both have retained our individual lines of credit and maxed them out prior to beginning, so we have a lot of access to funds (albeit interest-ridden ones) if absolutely necessary.
 I am still using google spreadsheets for me budget, and although it's slower than excel and not as functional I REALLY like having remote/shared access. I highly recommend all things google. :)

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 3/3/2007

This week the septic was completed, we chose our driveway, and Jason has about all of the cabinet carcasses built. We also got our next-to-final grade done today. There's 5 gajillion little tasks that need to be done, plus about 2,000 big tasks. Yes, I exaggerate. But it sure as hell feels like there's that many tasks remaining. I also think that part of the problem is that we are down to the final rush of lots of little stuff, as opposed to the first half of construction when one step relied entirely on the completion of the previous one. When that was the case, "frustration" was the operative word. Now, it's "overwhelmed."

And the thing about it is, I am totally useless. Not only useless, but a reluctant worker even. For this I feel very guilty. I just can't help it. I would rather be off doing the planning side of things, earning money, or (shhh) off on a run. I think I'd be less reluctant if I was actually helpful, but it seems like Jason has to fix everything I do. It's not his fault at all- the problem is that I am very very poor at detail work. It's weird, because I'm near perfectionist when it comes to writing, budgeting, etc., but give me a paintbrush and I'm a mess.
Sooooo, I feel sort of helpless right now. I want to just not go out there altogether, but that hardly seems fair (even though I don't accomplish anything while I'm out there). It STILL does not feel like we'll be living there in a matter of months. I don't think that will become real to me until we get our c/o.


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 2/28/2007

I don't often do shout-outs, but I heard a rumor that my uncle was commenting that we don't update too much these days, so here you are, Uncle Larry! :)

Jason has taken this entire week off from work to concentrate on cabinetry and other necessary finish work- trim painting, etc. Our septic is in the process of being installed, and we are just about ready to go with our driveway. We're also about ready to (finally) order and install flooring. Immediately after that we can do finish plumbing and water treatment system! We also made a very exciting purchase tonight- our refrigerator. Anyone who knows me knows that food is my priority. Thusly, anything kitchen-related is a Big Deal to me. We got the fridge at (where else) Costco on rebate (100 dollars off original price of 1100). It's side by side with water and ice in the door, lots of bins, and just everything a girl could ever want.

It's hard to believe we're just 8 or so weeks from completion. It just still seems like a far away mirage to me. I will say, however, that I daydream often about having a "normal" life, where building a house just isn't part of the daily vocabulary.

I have attached a few pics for your enjoyment.

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 2/18/2007

The cabinet-making is coming along nicely- all of the carcasses are pretty much built and we'll soon be ready to tile. Jason's dad has been helping him, and this has really sped up the process. Our septic install is slated for this upcoming week, and then we are on to final grade, driveway, and irrigation. I am wrapping up interior painting this weekend so that electrical can complete the fixture/outlet installations. It's funny, because the move-in actually feels farther away right now than it did in August/September. I have no idea why. That's relly all the news that's fit to print. I am attaching some better quality pictures (i.e. pictures taken by someone other than me).

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 2/5/2007

The painting continues- more embarrassingly crappy pics attached. Our wood is also in- it's gorgeous! We've got maple, mahogany, and red oak (which I'm not a fan of, but even that looks good!). Jason's having some equipment difficulties at the moment which are slowing him down considerably- certainly something we'd not anticipated.
I probably have one more solid weekend of interior painting, plus touch up. I REALLY want to get septic and electrical in next week.
That's really all that's fit to print this week! Seems slow going after the flurry that was 2006.

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 1/21/2007

I spent the majority of the weekend painting, and feel somewhat accomplished, even though I still have a looong way to go. Just me 'an the old boom box, rockin out to some lite 105.1. And I made a great discovery. Singing in an empty house is even better than the shower. Damn, Journey and I sound good together! The only down side is that I think if I hear John Mayer sing "Waitin' on the World" one more time I might be physically ill.


In addition to the front BR (completed last week), the office is done, the "play room" has 1 coat on the top half, the living room has a try-out section that we ended up liking, and the half bath has one coat. I've attached pics, but have to tell you that they are not anything like the actual colors, with the exception of the front bedroom, which is fairly close. Bummer.

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 1/15/2007

The painting has begun in earnest... About 80% of the house is primed, the exterior patio ceiling is now complete, 5 of the ceilings have their first coat, and the front bedroom is completely painted! We are also the proud owners of, count 'em, FIVE no-go colors that fall under the category of "but it looked good on the chip..." Funny how that happens. Also, please, people, do not choose your colors at Home Depot. Take all paint chips home and assess them from there, in their true light. I say take ALL home because just as you might like them in the store but not at home there may be colors that look unattractive in the store but nice in your house. Color selection is currently as follows (mostly for my own reference and of course subject to massive and frequent changes.

Bedroom 2 (done!): Gobi Desert
Bedroom 3: Fresh Water (chosen by our 3 yr old nephew, since it will be his, his sister's, and his cousin's playroom)
Bath 2: Sandstone Cove
Bath 3: Raffia Cream
Office: Sagey
Living Room:TBD taupe color
Game Room: TBD blue
Dining Room: Quiet Moment + Living Room color
Kitchen: TBD
Master BR: Koala Bear (Jesse- it will be the cutest infestation of a room, ever!)
Master Bath: TBD light spa green

We have also more or less settled on a tile. It's a 20" porcelain, almost limestone looking. It's between that or a grayish one that might be too dark (but hide dog dirt better). We shall see. Hmmm what else. I need to call an irrigation company or two and get a few quotes. We'll probably do it ourselves, but I want to just price it out first. Ahhh, remember the days when I thought owner-building meant we ONLY managed subs but didn't do any work ourselves?? HA! Honestly, can't wait to get done with this project and get some nice newlywed down time. Like normal people. :)

Regarding Lisa's comments in the previous entry:

Good News with Home Depot, very well done.  I noticed in the piccies Jason was using te DeWalt painter spray and roller set sold in Costco.  Is it any good?  In the pics of outdoor painting, he is using a Wagner paint crew.  Here's the scoop (might be a little more elementary than what Jason would say, since I don't really do power tools): He purchased the wagner paint spray machine, a spray nozzle, a 4 foot extension wand, a "squirrel" pain mixer upper, and Floetrol, an additive to thin the paint.  He had read many reviews saying that the machine breaks quickly and is really for weekend warrior projects as opposed to heavy duty work.  With that said, the sprayer has (knock wood) lasted just fine so far, spraying the entire exterior x 2, plus priming the majority of the interior. It seems to be fairly simple to use- you have to prime it and the hopper only holds about 1.3 gallons, so you have to refill it fairly often. Also, using it indoors creates a massive amount of probably toxic dust. This is particularly true with the primer, which is reaaaaally stinky. Jason is wearing a professional grade respirator, ski mask, and plastic suit. There is quite a bit of setup and breakdown time involved, but the work does go a lot faster than hand rolling. I don't know how we could have done the exterior without it. With all this said, I think I know why lower grade paint sprayers have gotten such terrible reviews- people don't clean them correctly. Jason happens to be particularly compulsive about cleaning all of his tools, and the sprayer is no exception. You have to run all of the paint out of the system (duh) or it will clog. Also, he filters it with the included mesh bags before pouring into the hopper. I think that the extra care he's taken has been what's kept the machine alive. I will find out from him what the total investment has been so far. 

 Do you mind me asking who you used for your Stucco, it looks great, are you pleased? I will have to look up his info... On the whole, we are pleased. There is one spot (you'd never see it unless you were looking for it) where the frieze band doesn't come together exactly at the peak of the roof. Stucco is very expensive, by the way, and this company was the low bid.

I am guessing you wouldn't recommned your garage door suppliers now "Eek!!", especially after trying to dodge the bullet and make out it was what you had ordered!!!  Unbelieveable nerve. Actually, they were good about promising to make it right... I think we just got a bad salesperson on the phone when we initially tried to rectify the situation. I will let you know after the final resolution what grade I give that supplier :).



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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 1/10/2007

First, something positive:
I had received a call from HD corporate on Friday regarding the letter I'd sent detailing our window issues (among other things). I had attached an invoice for the window install as well, since the store had agreed to cover that cost.  Corporate said they'd contacted the store, who was also in receipt of our letter and would be working with us to resolve the issues. On Monday I received a call from Corrina at our HD letting us know they'd opened up a resolution file and in the meantime was there anything she could do. I said nope, not really, damage has already kinda been done. On Tuesday, she called again and let me know that not only would HD cut us a check for the window install, but would also send an additional amount of money for our troubles. Nice! They have won me back as a customer, for sure. That's good customer service, right there. In the original letter, I had detailed the daily cost (in interest accrual) of our project being held up by the window. So, maybe they derived our compensation from that. Either way, the two amounts together just about cover an appliance. The lesson here? Document everything and speak up if/when there's a problem.

Now on to the not so positive:
Today was Garage Door Delivery Day. Jason, who is still not 100%, called me from the property at around 10AM: "I'm about to blow a gasket. My blood pressure is through the roof. I went around back to paint and when I came back to the front they were installing the wrong garage door!" Crap. He called the vendor, who insisted that's what we ordered. After several calls we were able to get in touch with our salesperson, who confirmed that they were in fact installing the wrong door. The resolution? Install the wrong door for now, and then they'll bring us the new one when it arrives... in three weeks. Even though this stinks because we wanted to paint the garage door, I guess it's no harm no foul.

Jason began the accent painting today. Being the smart cookies that we are, we chose two colors from the same paint chip to be our primary (lighter) and accent (darker). You would THINK that since they're on the same chip, next to one another no less, that they'd match. They matched in the store. They matched when we held them up against the house. But would you believe that they don't match on the house???? Luckily we only bought a few gallons. Another lesson learned and back to the drawing board to choose a new accent color. My self-confidence in my color-picking ability is totally busted, and there's only 1 more day until we purchase interior paint. Great :)


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 1/7/2007

Notwithstanding Jason's stint in the hospital, we decided to paint the exterior of the house this weekend... With the help of our handy Wagner "paint crew" we have one coat on the house after about 1.5 days of work (most of the time spent being prep time).  Products we're using: 3M blue painter's tape, 3M window masker. Both fantastic products- the window masker is a static clingy plastic sheet that completely rocks. And you all know the blue tape, I'm sure.
Behr Premium Plus Exterior Satin Enamel with NanoGuard: Jason and I are admittedly suckers for technology-based products, but the word on the street is that this new Behr product is fantastic. We used it as a stucco sealer/primer/paint, and with one coat it would be passable (we still plan to add another). Our house is now a fine sparkling new shade of "Mississippi Mud."

Movin on up... This is probably too much information, but we had two "firsts" in the new house today. No, not that!! Get your minds out of the gutter!!!! We had our first hot meal, courtesy of our old tiny microwave that we brought out and plugged into our extension cord. Ate our frozen meals on the floor of the living room. Classy, I know.
 The second first (this is the TMI one) is that I peed in our master bath for the first time. Yes folks, the porta potty has become (to me, anyways) so decidedly unpleasant that I took an empty paint can (convenient!) into the master bath. Much less scary.

You might remember that we have an occasional issue with our neighbor (that is to say that our neighbor has an occasional issue with us). Most recently, it was because our culvert was a bit clogged and so the water was not flowing like it should have been. No problem, we dug it out.
As we were prepping and painting, our neighbor found a suspiciously large number of mindless outdoor tasks that needed doing, forcing him to wander back and forth and back and forth, puttering around and trying to catch a glimpse of what we were doing. This got my imagination going, and as we were painting we were very tempted to paint the wall facing his home half fluorescent orange and half neon pink. We'd say: "we're so undecided- we love the pink, but the orange is so different... Which one do you think we should use??" Hehehe.
Below are a few pictures for your enjoyment (mom, note that Jason is wearing a respirator for safety purposes, of course!!).

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 1/3/2007

Thank you for the well wishes... It is completely amazing how one's condition can change in a period of just a few hours. When I returned to the hospital yesterday morning just after writing the last entry, Jason was sleeping soundly. When he awoke, he was in much better spirits and appeared to be in a lot less pain. We spent a very long day watching WE ("hospitals make me watch chick TV," he said) and talking to our drywall and septic subs via speakerphone. Such is the life of an OB- it never ever stops. The hospital even had  wireless internet, so I was able to be moderately productive and get some work done. We waited all day to see his doctors and they let him go conditionally- labs on Friday, 2 dr. appts. next week, and a follow up CT scan in a month. But most importantly (in Jason's eyes), he could eat again. We finally got out of there around 7pm, came home, and then I ran back out to Publix to get sustenance for both of us- at this point I was starving too. At any rate, all's well that ends well and it appears that this was some bizarre fluke and will be far behind us soon enough. I can't help but think that if he wasn't under all this stress from the house his immune system would have been plenty strong to fight it off.


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 1/2/2007


One minute we're looking at paint colors...
"Quiet Moment"
"Koala Bear"
"Sandstone Cove"

And the next minute everything is topsy turvy. This post really isn't directly about the house but it is important and writing is pretty therapeutic for me. I don't know how Jason feels about me blogging this, but I feel like I need to.

We began our weekend on Friday afternoon by writing a strongly worded invoice dispute to our drywaller- nothing out of the norm for us. By 1:00 AM, Jason was sick with either some terrible flu bug or food poisoning- we aren't sure which. He had planned to go get the stucco sealer this weekend and tape off the house, but that was looking less likely by the minute. On Sunday evening, still completely laid out and miserable, I took him to the ER.We watched the ball drop from a  waiting room, him with an IV drip, me with a blanket I'd gone home and nabbed around 10. Sometime around 1AM they came back and told us his bloodwork was out of whack and they would be admitting him. I'm sorry, what?!? Admitting him? My healthy strong as a horse 28 year old husband?? He doesn't belong here with the the old, the ill, and the drunk by products of a particularly hearty New Year's Eve.
 And there in the ER he sat, waiting for a bed, with no answers. 8AM came, the shifts changed, but still, there we sat. Getting any information was like pulling teeth- we still had no idea what was wrong with him. Finally around 1PM on Monday he was seen by a GI specialist and a hopitalist, both, thankfully, with the news that he would likely get to go home on Tuesday, once some more tests were done. About an hour later was moved to a "real" room in the med/surg unit.

In a period of a few short hours, I have seen my always optimistic, forever clever husband transform into a man whose day consists of tests, crappy hospital food, and alternating moments of apathy and irritability. My life has been relegated to endless trips back and forth to the hospital, on occasion with a few hours of thankful but not restful sleep. In between, I am trying to take care of the dogs, clean up our house, and figure out what the hell I will do if he doesn't come today and bounce right back.

Last night around 9PM I began bargaining with myself: "I can stay here with him for just a few more minutes and still get 8 hours of sleep..." So it goes... The 8 hours becomes 7:45, 7:30, and soon you are dragging yourself home in a daze, committed to the idea of operating on no sleep the next day. It reminded me very much of when we first began dating and I would go to Jason's house for dinner, which turned into dinner and a movie, then dinner, a movie, and a trivia game (I always won, of course). It was the same then... "I can stay for one more round and still get 8 hours of sleep before work tomorrow."

I am hoping with every fiber in my body that today's doctor visit brings the news that this was just some crazy flukey thing, and that I can take Jason home and have my sledgehammer swinging, spider fearing, window installing, cabinet-building, hard working partner back.


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 12/28/2006

The drywall is up and mudded... It should be textured today. The elliptical arches look great, and the house is a beaut, architecturally (in my humble opinion). Yes, there are still things I'd design differently, but overall it's just so damn liveable. And great for entertaining, which was the number one priority, along with a high end kitchen.

More on the drywallers. Man, are those guys messy!!! There is mud everywhere, including in our window bristles and on our new stucco. There's drywall piled all next to (but not in) our dumpster. Even our porta potty was left disgusting. I spent 6 hours yesterday vaccuming up all the morsels of mud, drywall, and nails from the perimeter of the house... And I'm still not done. The super has a punch list of these issues (as well as a few other fixes that need to be made) and I am hoping to return to a clean and textured house this afternoon. Please, please, please.

We have picked out interior and exterior colors, and Jason is working on caulking the soffit and windows so we can begin sealing, priming, and painting the exterior. We are going with darker craftsman browns and a lighter tan accent. Can't wait for the rewarding feeling of smoothing that paint over the walls! I'm sure that happiness will be fleeting as the thousands of square feet of wall loom ahead, lol. My dad and brother are hopefully coming up next week to help out, which would no doubt make the job go by faster in both the literal and psychological sense.

For Christmakkah, Jason and I got a number of items we wanted for the new house, including kitchen acoutrements, the quilt set for our guest bedroom, and bathroom towels and rugs. Of course, I took them to HD to assist in the selection of paint colors (my new favorite hobby). They all have such yummy names. I can't remember all of them, but a few are: koala bear, sandstone cove, gobi desert, quiet moment, and raffia cream. :)


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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 12/19/2006

We have drywall! The guys are hanging it today and tomorrow, and then the taping/mudding will begin. Man, are these guys fast! It's very rewarding to finally see walls, but when they hang they initially cover the windows, so it still doesn't look quite right. Here's some pictures for everyone to feast their eyes on! :)

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 12/16/2006

Good thing #1: we passed insulation inspection after receiving the revision sign offs from county in record time.I placed a call to the drywaller to let them know to go ahead with materials delivery on Monday, but was unable to reach them. Hopefully my voice mail/email gets through!

Good thing #2: we have stucco! I'm trying to post pics, but I think that's what keeps freezing up the entry submission. I'm giving it one more shot.

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Posted to QuarterlyHouse by Cara in Orlando, FL on 12/13/2006

Seriously. I thought to myself, "How shall I title this, ooh, how about 'Murphy's Law'?" Nope, done it. Ummmm.... "Conservatively Optimistic?" Nope, that's been done too.

Here's the deal. It took our designer NINE business days to get us a very simple plan revision with engineering stamp. Totally unacceptable. He finally delivered it to my husband's work today, grudgingly and apologetically. I raced to county this afternoon to try and get them to sign off on it, but they told me that our original plans examiner had to sign off on it. I begged her to pleeeeease ask Martin to fast track it and explained that without her help we would get no drywall until January. She promised to get with him first thing in the morning to expedite it. I am to call her at 8:30 and hopefully go pick up the revisions. From there I can reschedule our insulation inspection for Friday and get drywall delivered on Monday. At the very least, that will give the drywallers time to hang and tape, if not finish, the drywall before Christmas. Then they are off until new year's.

Some good news - our stucco is being applied this week; unfortunately I have not had time to get out to the property to admire it. We need to go paint shopping soon - we are going with Sherwin Williams for exterior (and by the way, if you sign up online as a "preferred customer," they will email you a 15% coupon. It's only good for the next 6 weeks, so wait to sign up until you are ready).

Also to-do: send Home Depot letter and get out to property to clean up. I'm hoping to take the last week of the year as comp time to do house stuff - I have gobs of extra hours from my event this Saturday (Home for the Holidays in Osceola - if you're local, check the media on Sat/Sunday for a recap!).


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