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On our last house we made a lot of quick decisions based on cost that we ended up regretting and not completely getting the quality of house we wanted. Was VERY happy to get The Owner-Builder Book this weekend that stresses the planning process and has so many good ideas to do the planning part of this right.
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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 4/2/2008

Where do you begin when you have not updated in over three months? My last journal entry was 12-22-08. I will give you the good the bad and the ugly. On the good we have been extremely productive. We went through 400 sheets of drywall. We mudded it. We sanded it. We mudded it. We sanded it. We mudded it. We sanded it. And it was about as fun to do as that was to read. We saved a bundle of money, and I can call myself a drywaller now. We primed it. We painted it. We put crown molding in every room. Just a quick note on that. If you have never done crown molding before, don't be afraid of it. Just cut it upside down on your miter saw at a 45-degree angle and it turns out fine. (We painted it so painter's caulk is my best friend now). Also you can buy an angle tool that shows you the exact angle on a wall if they are not 90-degree walls. I had a couple that were 50 degrees. So you just cut the crown upside down and at a 25-degree angle on the miter saw. (You always divide the total wall angle by two because there are two pieces coming together).

We installed slate in 6 rooms. And this weekend we start putting down hardwood flooring. We have two months until the construction loan rolls into our regular mortgage, so we are in good shape. Kitchen cabinets are ordered and should arrive in about three weeks.

Now about the ugly. We had a pretty large section of shingles blow off in early February. We believe we got defective shingles from Owens Corning. They are Estate Grey Duration shingles. We put them on in the middle of the summer, as you can see from my previous journal entries. They have a wind rating of 110 mph. We only had 50 mph winds at best. So Owens Corning is supposed to come out and inspect the roof to see if it needs to be torn off and put back on. As you can imagine, this comes as quite a blow to your morale when you put your own blood, sweat, and tears into the project.

Other than that we are healthy, happy, and working ourselves to death.


This is a picture of the section that blew off. We replaced it the next day even though it was about 12 degrees. We had to put tar on every shingle to make sure the replacement shingles did not blow off.
Slate in foyer before grout
The master bedroom became the cut room for the trim work.
Still have a little work to do on the outside. Mainly shutters, and landscaping.
My better half putting second coat of mud on screw heads in dining room.

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 12/22/2007

If you have ever wondered why some us only update every month or so--you haven't built your own house yet. This is literally the first available moment to update.

Electrical wiring was finished about three weeks ago. That of course included doorbell wire, phone wire, whole-house speaker wire, coax, Cat-5, most of which didn't really cross my mind but added at least a couple days to the project. Another thing that took up time is that we found recessed medicine cabinets from Pottery Barn for dirt cheap. Well recessed medicine cabinets are a little bit of a pain. Plus we have wall sconces that go on either side of them, so that adds even more fun. They should look really cool when they are done.

I have pictures of the outside meter base, 400-amp disconnect in the garage, and the two 200-amp service panels in the basement.

After a couple of months basically working alone, I decided I needed a short break so we hired out the insulation. We went with blown-in wet cellulose. It has a few advantages. First of all, I can't believe how few of our wall cavities were actually 16 inches on center. So fiberglass would not have worked well at all. Just about anything blown into the walls has a better R-value, better sound blocking, air blocking, and it only took four days. Supposedly the system we went with was about an R-25 because we have 2x6 walls. The only downfall I have seen so far is the stuff is crazy messy. It is on everything in the house. I wasn't too worried though because we will have drywall dust everywhere anyway.

Speaking of drywall, we started hanging it about a week ago. After tomorrow it should be about 75% hung. It always seems like filling in the smaller spaces takes twice as long as hanging full sheets, so I really am about half done on time. We used 1/2 inch 48"x12' panels everywhere except on the first floor were we used 1/2 inch 54"x12' panels. The 54" is of course 4.5, feet and we have 9-foot ceilings, so you only have one joint across the middle of the wall. I have a picture of the drywall truck putting the sheets right into the house. If you have a Best Supply near you, they are a no-brainer. They will stock the house by putting the drywall wherever you want it.

So that is where we are. Everyone have a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!


Drywall delivery truck
Drywall going into breakfast nook window.
Standing in kitchen looking toward foyer.
Standing in dining room looking through courtyard into living room.
400-amp disconnect in garage
Master bath recessed medicine cabinets and lights rough-in
320-amp meter base on side of garage
Before hooking up
After hooking up
Full Power!!!

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 11/15/2007

I feel like I have pulled a couple miles of wire. Oh yeah, I actually have pulled a couple miles of wire! It's gone a little slow, because it can only be done after work and on the weekends. I don't regret doing the electrical myself though, because I probably saved about $15,000. I probably still have about two weeks of electrical and then can start insulation.

Fireplace install is complete and my framer is coming back this weekend to frame around it. This is really good, because we have heat. Also, our geothermal contractor has loaned us a 15 kW electric furnace for job-site heat. Both of these are not a minute too soon, as winter is upon us.

Exterior is completely done for construction loan purposes. Next year, probably after closing, we have a deck to build, patios, and of course sidewalks and landscaping. Least of my worries right now.

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 10/26/2007

It feels like things are moving slower now. I have been working on the electrical for almost a month. I have it about half done. We have to have 400-amp service disconnect and then two 200-amp service panels. I have two Cutler Hammer 40-slot breaker boxes. I should never want for power! I should also have about 20 spare slots. The reason for the 400-amp service is each geothermal has a 15 kW electric heat strip in it which has a 30-amp and a 60-amp requirement. Then the compressor and fan of the furnace have a 40-amp requirement. So each furnace requires 130 amps. I hope I am not running on full power for very long or very often!  According to WaterFurnace, it has to dip below 7 degrees before the electric heat strips kick on, so we shouldn't be using that much power very often.

I finished stoning the chimney. That was a hard weekend. My buddy John and I put the stone on and then I did the mortar between the stones by myself. I have no idea how much I saved doing that task, but I am guessing it had to be a couple thousand.

Meanwhile the fireplace company came to install the Regency fireplace. They didn't have the right elbow with them, so they left. They ordered the part and should be back soon to finish.

Well was drilled and pump and pressure tank are in. We went with a 20 gallon per minute pump and a 62-gallon pressure tank. They drilled 100 feet deep. We have a really great water table where we are building. Cost for everything was $4,442.

Septic system was installed. 1,500-gallon tank and 900 feet of leach field. Curtain tile around the leach field for drainage. Total cost $6,300. Can't complain about that.

So that is about it for now. My plan is to have electrical done by mid-November and have it insulated by the end of November.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 9/26/2007

Well, first of all, Julie drug me off to Maine on vacation. That was really nice. We drove up the coast to Acadia National Park. Of course we were enjoying the New England architecture as much as nature. If we had taken this trip before building, we agreed we would have incorporated some New England style in it.

So the siding is finally done. We had to rent a man lift to reach the top of the big gable on the front and the back. Here is a bit of advice to anyone crazy enough to put 58 square of siding on themselves: Save the gables for the end of it and rent a man lift. It cost $200 for the weekend. But I saved that because it was only me and one other guy doing it. Normally on the tall stuff it takes at least three people and four is more like it.

We also got started on the chimney stone work. This is hopefully going to get finished next weekend when again we rent the man lift.

Garage doors are in. We found it cheaper to have a local company who does nothing but garage doors cheaper than if we had bought the doors ourselves and installed them. So there was a no brainer.

So the house is dried in. Locks are on all the doors. Now the real fun begins. finishing the inside. I have been hammering up outlet, ceiling, and switch boxes, as well as can lights for about a week. I should begin pulling wire by the weekend.

Two 4-ton geothermal furnaces are totally installed, ducted, and the loops are in the yard. They ran into major drainage tile issues. 50 years ago my grandfather installed a lot of field tile. Well needless to say when the geo loop is 4 feet deep they broke it in about 25 different places. so they ended up fixing everything as far as we can tell for now. If the front yard ends up full of water we will know they didn't.



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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 9/8/2007

Plumbing rough-in is done and health department approved. That was by far the easiest part of this project. Our plumber is amazingly good.

Wenig's Heating and Cooling is installing two Water Furnace brand geothermal furnaces. The ductwork is done for the one serving the second floor and master suite. The first floor and basement one will go in on Monday. We went with two four-ton units instead of one 6-ton which was about $4,000 more, but I think zone heating and cooling is going to work much better. $36,900 is the final cost for it. The horizontal ground loops should start next week as well.

As for siding, I am beyond happy to say it is almost done. Probably another two days and it will be finished. Doing it myself was an unbelievable savings, but It did turn out to be an extremely large job -- 56 squares. I did it for under $3,000 in labor and about $5,000 in materials.

I built our own front porch deck and wrapped the post and headers in cedar. We are painting all the trim white and probably staining the floor almost black.

The wife is dragging me semi-unwillingly on vacation this week. I have no idea where we are going. I guess I will find out when I am at the airport tomorrow morning. I have been working on this house 7 days a week for about 6 weeks so I guess I need the break. And it is my 30th birthday present from her. Ironically, we have not really been on vacation since our honeymoon 7 years ago. This is really odd timing with the house under construction. I will feel much better about it if we have rain here and good weather there (wherever there is).

Next thing on my plate when I return is: finish the siding, soffit, and fascia. Stone the fireplace chase. Build a deck off the living room. This will complete drying in the house. And then I am the electrician. Yeah.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 8/23/2007

It looks like we are going to be on siding for a while. The worst part is the necessary prep work. The soffit, fascia, J-channel, F-channel, inside corners, and outside corners all take forever to put up. Luckily our windows had built-in J-channel, which saved a ton of time. I think it just feels really slow because this is only day five of actual siding even though almost two weeks have passed since the roof went on. Hopefully the weather turns mild soon.

Yesterday we finished the front porch deck. I just need to get cedar to wrap the band and headers and then bead board for the ceiling.

I believe we may be a little over budget on materials at this point, but way under on labor. The reason is, at this point we have not scrimped on the materials. And good materials are a lot better to use, which saves time.

The only thing we are not totally happy with is our windows. The Jeld-Wen rep is coming on Tuesday to look at a couple issues with the windows. There were a couple of quality control issues that should have been caught before they left the factory. Mostly cosmetic stuff, but a couple are a mechanical issue. All of it, I believe, is fixable.

At this point I am never going to run out of things to do. Just the time to do them.

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 8/21/2007

Framing wrapped up on Sunday. Just one guy put all of the hurricane straps on the trusses. Siding is going slow, as it has been raining cats and dogs here the last few days. On Sunday, my brother, one of my friends, and I nearly got the front porch decked. We decided to build it out of wood for the look. Julie and I don't like how concrete looks on a porch. I should be able to finish it tomorrow.

I can honestly say I can't believe how well our framing went. I could not be happier with the job they did. They did so many extras I would not have even thought of. For example, blocks of wood on either side of window headers for curtain rods to be hung on. Our kitchen is full of blocking, so we don't have to try to hit a stud when we hang cabinets. Plus they Tyvek'd the house, even though it was not in the bid. I ended up paying exactly what the estimate was. $23,000 for the framing, windows and doors installed and Tyvek for a 4,300 sq. ft. house.

Plumbing rough-in started today. And geothermal begins next week. As far as we can tell we are ahead of schedule. I just hope to get the siding and stone work done before the HVAC is in so that I can begin rough-in of electrical when HVAC is done. I am doing the electrical rough-in myself so that is going to take quite a bit of time.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 8/12/2007

Wow, what a difference a couple of weeks makes! Today is two months from groundbreaking. We have the roof on. Tyvek is nearly finished. I have a few pieces to put on while I side it. Started siding last night for a couple hours. I did the roof myself with Julie's grandpa, uncle, cousin, and one of my friends. $1,300 in labor, and about a week to put down about 45 squares. Hopefully the siding goes as good as the roof.

Rough-in of plumbing and septic start in about a week.

One thing is for sure, when you are one of the subcontractors as well as the general contractor, it makes things a little difficult. We have had to spend any spare moment of time making general contracting decisions, because of all the time we spend being the roofing and siding subcontractor ourselves.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 7/29/2007

Amidst rain showers Friday they put the trusses up and sheathed over the second gable roof. These guys appear to be afraid of nothing. They were walking on wet OSB on the roof.

Julie and my friend John continued the stone work around the foundation Saturday. The worst is yet to come on that. I believe stoning the chimney chase will be the hardest thing we do ourselves.

Don't remember if I mentioned this before, but last Saturday Julie and I went to Newark and bought our clawfoot tub. It is five feet long. Cast Iron, built by the Standard Sanitary Corporation in 1938. We plan on refinishing it like we did a pedestal sink. $250 for the tub, about $30 for a refinishing kit and about $200 for a new faucet, and we should be good to go.



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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 7/26/2007

Thursdays seem to have a pattern of downtime on the job site. This is only the second rain day. Hopefully we can pick back up tomorrow. The trusses are up and sheeted on the south side of the house. The house has three gabled roofs. One down, two to go. They have half of the second gable trusses already set. I don't think I could have found a better framing crew. I offered to get a crane to take the trusses up. It would have been about $1,000. They said forget about it. They carry them up by hand. They stand them on end and hand them up to a couple guys standing on the top plate of the second-floor walls who then lift it over the wall. I can honestly say I have been going over their work with a fine tooth comb and can't find many mistakes. Mostly just minor stuff that wouldn't matter anyway. They have also been remarkably concerned with saving on material. They will search for scrap to use before they cut a new board or sheet of plywood. And this is a bid job. I'm not paying them by the hour.

In other news, my roofer (Julie's Uncle) is really excited about roofing it. He is ready to start at the drop of a hat. I think we may start roofing this weekend on the gable that is already set.

I have ordered all my windows and doors. Jeld-WEN windows and doors. Fiberglass on the doors. Windows are vinyl.

I just need to order our siding and we should be good on materials for a while.

And I can't resist sunsets. I grew up out in the country and moved into town almost 10 years ago, so I miss seeing them.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 7/19/2007

We broke ground a little over a month ago and we had our first rain delay. We have been in a mild drought here. Yesterday the framers finished the second-floor deck and started putting up the master suite walls. One word of advice to all those future owner-builders out there, it really pays to be on the job site as much as possible. It really helps to catch small errors before they become huge. I have arranged for a crane to be on the job site toward the end of next week to set the roof trusses. As long as the walls are up, which I think they will be.

And in case anyone was wondering, the old barn and the old shed in the background are going to be fixed up after we get the house done. We don't want to spend any money on anything not essential to the house being completed.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 7/18/2007

The first-floor walls are up. Master suite is on its own level and it is decked. The second-floor deck is half done as of last night. So today, weather permitting, we will start putting up master suite walls and second-floor walls. So far it has been extremely important to be on the job site. Our prints had some errors on them that caused some confusion. But nothing major. They start every morning at 6 a.m. sharp. I have only been able to beat them to the job site once. Usually, I have to stop at Lowe's and pick up materials. We had a no-interest no payments for a year promo, so I have been buying quite a bit from them.

While I am on the materials subject, I should mention that again I wasn't able or didn't want to break a load apart and count every piece. We fell about 10 pieces short on band board Monday. I called the structural company where we purchased all of our I-Joists, LVLs, and band board. They said I had everything I needed. I said no way, you didn't deliver any band board with the second-floor load. I finally said I don't give a s*#% why it isn't here I just have to have it to build my house. So he said he would call me back. Sure enough, he called back and said it would be "re-shipped" on the first load out the next morning at no charge.

So far we feel everything is going pretty good.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 7/5/2007

Our framers started promptly at 7:00 a.m. on Monday, July 2nd. They had the sill plates bolted down in about an hour and had the garage walls framed by the end of the day.

One thing I ran into on my first day of framing was not having all the materials I needed on the job site. Between myself, Carter Lumber, and my framer, we were not communicating efficiently. The result was I had to make three trips to Lowe's on Monday and one on Tuesday. My biggest downfall was assuming the right materials were on my Friday delivery. So I learned my lesson on assuming.

We started to put on the stone veneer on our foundation walls. We had talked to and read a lot on how to do it. We tried to follow the salesman's advice from the stone supplier and attach metal lath to the foundation first. Well, this isn't happening. Hammering nails into the concrete would have taken a year. So we went with option two, which is where you etch the concrete with muriatic acid. This gets the form release oil off of the concrete surface and makes the concrete absorb the cement better. We love how it looks.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 6/27/2007

Since my last post, Williams Concrete brought in about 13 dump trucks of stone for around the perimeter, inside the garage, and inside the front porch. Then Monday, they did the rough grade backfilling. And yesterday, they poured the concrete for the basement and garage floors. My framer doesn't think he is going to be able to start my house for a couple of weeks, so it is just going to sit there awhile. My plan is to put the stone on the exterior foundation walls while we are waiting for him.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 6/19/2007

They removed the forms from the walls on Monday and put the two basement windows in. Today they sprayed the walls with a 30-year waterproofing and put two-inch thick fiberglass insulation on the exterior basement walls. I believe they are bringing stone for backfill above the footers tomorrow.

I have been busy talking to material suppliers. I also went to a couple of stone suppliers to pick out the stone veneer for the top 2.5 feet of the foundation walls. Looks like the stone is going to be about $1,500.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 6/16/2007

I have never seen people working as hard or as fast as the guys from Williams Concrete. Wednesday, they used a stone slinger to put the gravel around the footers and under the basement and garage floors. Thursday, they put up half the forms. Friday, they finished putting up the other half of the forms and poured all the walls. Five days and 90 cubic feet of concrete later, we have walls.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 6/12/2007

Yesterday the basement was dug. Today they dug the footers for the basement and front porch. And by this afternoon the footers were poured. It took just two concrete trucks with about 17 cubic yards of concrete. Finally some pictures of progress!


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 6/9/2007

We closed on the loan on Wednesday, May 30th. We of course have passed our tentative groundbreaking by a week. We will be breaking ground on Monday, June 11th. In the meantime, we have just been twiddling our thumbs for the most part. We did put fence posts and caution tape around the septic area and where the well will be. Just so no one drives over those areas.

Brian from Williams Concrete staked off the area to be excavated yesterday. They had to delay us for a 6,000 square foot house that the general contractor had been dragging his feet on, and now of course he wants it done yesterday. I can honestly say, in talking to all of my subs, they have a million bad things to say about at least a couple of general contractors in the area. But they have never said anything bad about an owner-builder they have worked with in the past. Julie and I could not imagine not being our own general. At least if something goes wrong, we only have ourselves to blame.

I have been talking with our material suppliers to get accounts set up.

Everything is a go for launch.

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 5/26/2007

Health department finally put their blessing on everything so we can start. We are breaking ground June 4th. I have talked to the concrete people, and the framer and they both think we are right on track. Next thing to do is sign our loan paperwork on Wednesday and then get the job-based accounts at Carter Lumber and Menards set up.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 5/23/2007

The last couple of weeks have basically been spent getting all the information to wrap up the loan. We ran into only one holdup. The lawyer who handled our land transfer, deed, etc. did it wrong and we had to have a new lawyer draw up some paperwork for that. We tentatively will close next Wednesday, May 30th and then break ground soon after that.

I put down about 600 sq. feet of ceramic tile for a friend the last couple of Saturdays. This gave me a nice amount of practice on it in preparation for putting down about 1,000 sq. ft. of slate in our house. I really can't believe how easy it is to do.

Our job site is ready to go. I put in a new well pump and pressure tank in the existing well pit that will serve as job site water. Job site electric outlet is in. I just have a few little things to do there but overall, we are ready to roll.

I go to the health department this morning to pull all of our permits with them. Hopefully what we have in order will make them happy. I at least have plenty of time in the next week to make them happy, should we need any additional information.

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 5/12/2007

We have a single closing, hopefully in the next couple of weeks. As you've heard before from other O-Bs, the interest rate is a little high. We will probably refinance it after it is done. We have a single closing, so we don't have to worry about taking care of that before we move in. The way they are doing this loan, we only had to come up with $300 out-of-pocket, which was for the appraisal. We own our land, which is just under three acres so they used that for down payment. The next step is meet with the appraiser, pull all our permits, and hopefully break ground before the end of May.

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 5/4/2007

All of the planning and preparation is done. We went to the bank this morning. A more accurate description would be we went to Ag Credit (aka Country Mortgages). We met with the branch manager, since he was one of my Boy Scout leaders as a kid. He was impressed with our project book and said he could tell we put a lot of time and effort into it. Truth be told, we felt like it was only about half complete but we were tired of the paperwork! We will know by next week if this dream will become a reality.

We were very busy the last couple of weeks. The biggest headache was again dealing with the health department. According to our site evaluation, we had to have a professional engineer put his OK on the field tile that we will tap into for our curtain tile around the septic system leach field. The only one in the Yellow Pages for this area wanted $1,500. The bid for the installation of the system is only $6,300. And that involves real work! So I made an appt. with the head of the health department to plead my case that I had done the same thing as a P.E. would have done. He said the only way around the rule is to get on the Marion County Board of Health agenda, plead my case, pay $100 and hope for a variance to the rule. Then he gives me the name of another P.E. and says give him a call. So I called him and he only wanted $300. So we went that route. Got his blessing on the tile Wednesday. So all of our ducks are now in a row to pull our permits.

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 4/17/2007

Our project has become a little stagnant. Truth be told, we are tired of getting bids. Our electrician came in as follows. 250 openings at $10,000. Main service, $2,000 and $3,000 for finished electrical. For a grand total of $15,000. This of course is labor and materials.

We had an unexpected surprise on Thursday of last week. The power company showed up to install a new pole and transformer. The existing ones had been there since the 50's. My only concern was that they mess up the temporary electric I had buried right next to the old pole. Amazingly it was unscathed. So I am in good shape on electric. I did find out from them that if you take an aerial drop to the house there is no charge. But if you go buried drop, I have to have a trench dug and they will lay the wire in it. The engineer estimated that to be around $10 per foot and I need about 100 feet. So there is another $1,000 unexpected cost unless I can figure out another way.

I also dug down to the county tile (by hand). It is about four feet deep. That was no fun. The good news is the tile looks large enough to handle the additional water loads we will be putting into it. This weekend looks like the sun might shine and get above freezing, so I plan on making the hole large enough to get a section of the tile removed and look in it. Then I will have the health department come out and put their blessing on it, obtain all the permits to build the beast, finish our project book, go to the bank, and hopefully break ground in May.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 4/1/2007

First of all, we are going to break one of the owner-builder rules. We are only getting one bid from a general contractor. The reason was, we decided if we did use a general (which we are not), we would use the one that has built several houses for people we know.

Well, it took him about a month to finally come back with a number. For those who have not read my posts before, the house first of all is 4,300 sq. ft. His bid is $350,000. Which is about $81 per sq. ft. This, in my opinion, is a pretty good bid. Then we sat down with him and found out that septic, well, painting the inside, and all permits are up to us. (We told him we would do these when met with him a month ago.) So, if we would have used him as our general I think the project would have easily ended up being $400,000. What I have added up on all of my bids is only about $250,000 or about $60 per sq. ft. Now, that would be with us putting in quite a bit of the work as well.

I may be wrong, and people have done it before, but I think you are kidding yourself if you think you will not be living, breathing, sweating, and bleeding this project for a year in order to maximize savings. But if I can pull it off in reality, the way it looks on paper, it is going to be a good feeling at the end.

Some of our most recent findings were:

If you live in or are going to drive through Ohio on Route 71 between Cincinnati and Columbus you have to check out Pottery Barn Outlet. We got four medicine cabinets for the bathrooms. They are huge! They are regular price of $239 on the Pottery Barn website. I will try to put a picture on here of them. We got them for $35 apiece. And they are brand new in the box. The reason is, it is all of last year's catalog stuff that they have left over every year. And we got some other misc. junk that we don't even need until the house is done. My wife is an interior designer, so I had to pull back the reins, so to speak, on a few things. I told her that we really need to just buy stuff right now that we need to build the beast before we can decorate it.

Our concrete bid was $42,147. This bid is everything from breaking ground until we bolt the sill plates on and start framing it. This was our last big bid.

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 3/20/2007

Williams Concrete is an all-in-one foundation company based out of Findlay, Ohio. They do the excavation, footers, poured concrete walls, and the flatwork. We found out about them from a local lumberyard. You might remember me mentioning them before when I checked out some of their work. So I met with the owner's son on Monday morning at another job site they are working on now, to drop off a set of prints and get a bid. Well, after several minutes of him not getting his mind wrapped around how he was going to build our house, he pointed out the confusion. The "professional engineer" who did our blueprints had the elevation measurements totally messed up. So I told Mr. Williams to give me a bid based on these prints, but I will get new ones ASAP and get them to him. So I called the engineer and he said he would correct them and send out new ones.

I met with our electrician this morning and dropped off a set of prints. He said he really needs to sit down with us and go over exactly what we need and where. Truth be told, I plan on doing the rough electrical myself anyway.

Most of the employees at Menard's now know my wife and me by name. We set up a contractor account and have our own salesman. He is a retired general contractor and we have already learned quite a bit from him. They have approved us for a healthy amount of money on a contractor card acct. and will bump it up with a job-based account once we have our construction loan. For those of you who have never heard of them, check out

I am meeting with an American Electric Power engineer tomorrow, which is the electric company in our area. Hopefully, since I have power to the barn already, they won't want to charge me to hook up to the house. We shall see how that turns out.

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 3/19/2007

The first thing I want to say is: it's easy to cross off a potential subcontractor when they don't show up for the initial meeting! I was glad to learn this now and not later. I was supposed to meet another septic installer Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. He never did call, so I can cross him off my list.

I received our first well bid. 5" water well with an estimated depth of 80 feet for $1,590. Hookup of 3/4 horse submersible pump, pressure tank, all the fittings, trenched, etc., including the $310 permit: $2,360. For a total of $3,950.

Insulation bid came back as well. Nu-Wool blown-in cellulose insulation is $8,961.21. I believe we will be insulating ourselves, as I think it could be done for about $4,000 in materials. We will know for sure when Menard's come back with their bid. They have an estimator who is really thorough.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 3/14/2007

Don Herron Plumbing bid: $5,975 for rough-in labor/materials/permits. And $1,495 for finished labor/materials/inspections. Total is $7,470. We buy all the fixtures except one tub/shower unit. We decided to have him provide that because it will need to be put in with rough-in. Which means we pay no markup on faucets, toilets, sinks, and our master bath tub. The only downfall is if a faucet that we buy leaks, he won't fix it unless we pay him to. He is super nice and highly recommended by many other tradespeople and customers.

I met with our first potential septic installer this rainy Tuesday morning. Larry Smith Excavation. I gave him copies of house plans, site evaluation, and survey of property with septic, well, and geothermal loop drawn on the survey. He estimated it will come in around $6,500, but will send written bid to know for sure.

Our first experience of a contractor mess-up happened already. We had 70 tons of stone delivered for the driveway. The first two loads were delivered with no problem. So, I thought this guy knows what he is doing I can go home and do some accounting homework. Well, I get a phone call from the delivery guy that he ran into a problem on the third load. He somehow got the dump truck stuck and had to dump the 18 tons of stone way out in the field. I have no idea how he ended up where he did. The fourth load was placed where it should have been, so I am happy overall. I just have to see if my brother can borrow a Bobcat so I can move it out of the field and into the driveway.

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 3/12/2007

$32,500 for a 6-ton water furnace, horizontal closed loop, 135,000 BTU aux. propane gas furnace, and whole-house ductwork. At first glance it seemed high, however, everyone who we have talked to says go through Wenig's Heating and Cooling in our area. They are a little higher than others, but we are afraid you get what you pay for on some things. The house is 4,300 sq. feet and has 36 windows, and four 36" doors and one 6-foot French door, so there is a lot of heat loss. Our plan right now is to get bids from who we know might be a little higher-priced first. Then, after we get our bank loan, consider alternatives.

Our lumber bid also came back from one supplier. Carter Lumber is $60,000. That includes roofing, siding, windows, doors, and all the wood to frame it. As a reminder, the framer is $23,000 including installing windows and doors. We plan on roofing and siding ourselves. The window bid we were extremely impressed with. It is only $10,000 for 36 windows with low-E glass, six 9/16 jam extensions for our 2x6 exterior walls, and with the grill built into the glass. They are Jeld-WEN builders' vinyl series.

Menard's opened up this week. I have been there about five times. I went straight to the commercial sales desk. Told them I was a new general contractor in the area and needed a commercial account. They set me up in no time. I just have to send the last two years of tax returns because, of course, I have only been in business for one day. If I can pull this off, I have a feeling I will save thousands over buying from Lowe's or Home Depot, and maybe even Carter Lumber. We bought Broan bathroom light/fans, for example, for $19.99 each. They are reg. retail at Lowe's of $42. One bad thing is that since they just opened, they don't know what they are doing. Their estimator said it could be a couple weeks before I have a bid from them. The good news is we are still about two months from groundbreaking. Hopefully they know what they are doing by then.

At this moment we seriously are considering making a business out of this. But ask me if I still feel that way in a year!

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 2/28/2007

$23,000 for framing the house putting in windows and doors, the front porch and a framed chimney. We are very excited about this bid. This guy usually frames houses in Columbus that are bigger than ours. He actually was a little bummed that the house was not more complicated. When we designed it, we intentionally tried to make it easy to build. We feel very comfortable with him and I work with his sister-in-law.

We also met with the general contractor who built my sister's house. He obviously wants to do the whole project, not just pieces here and there. We should have a bid from him in about a week.

Our plans are with two lumberyards right now, so it will be about a week and we will know what our materials list looks like.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 2/23/2007

Julie picked up the blueprints Thursday, so we hit the ground running. I dropped off a set at Carter Lumber and we meet with at least one framer tomorrow. The prints show the house at 4,300 sq feet. We have about three months left for bidding and planning. 


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 2/4/2007

First off, thank you Lori and Cara for your comments on my last blog. I had posed the question, what is the deal with only 5 or 6 draws. I need to check with Ag Credit to see if they can set up an account like you guys are saying or just find another bank that will.

The temporary job site electrical consists of two 12-2 UF-B outdoor electrical wires run through the 3/4" conduit. Unless you are super cheap like me, if you ever have to run two strands through conduit use the 1" conduit, it would be much easier. I had to go 60 feet from the barn to the electric pole. My dad and I dug the trench by hand about 18" deep. This was before the midwest deep freeze by one day. The top few inches were frozen but a pickax went right through it.

So, for about a hundred dollars we have rough temporary drop electrical done. I just have to hook the two strands up in the service panel in the barn and put a couple of outlets on the pole. The whole idea here is that I we will have 60 less feet to get electrical cords to the house. And I plan on planting some evergreens in the front yard so I can use the outlets for Christmas lights.

The attached pictures show the barn and the electric pole. The electric poles were put in about 40 years ago and the barn is about 150 years old. My wife and I debated about tearing it down, but have decided to restore it. That is going to be one of those never-ending lifetime projects. For now, we don't want to put a lot of cash in it. After we have built the house we are going to put metal siding over the heavily-worn old barn siding. For now, we might just paint the roof and primer the wood.

Our architect emailed us and said it should be the beginning of this week for our final plans.

The house is going to sit to the right of the last electric pole in the picture with the wheat in it.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 1/27/2007

Went to the county engineering office on Tuesday morning to get my address. Wednesday morning I had my address. All you have to have is the site evaluation from the health department and the exact location of the house staked off. I didn't even stake it. I just put flags where it is going to be.

I was wrong about the snow. It is going to be here awhile. So it will probably be a few weeks before I get stone hauled in for the driveway.

Final inspections and walk-through for our current house is today. And we will be closing Wednesday on it.

One interesting tidbit: I had our local stone quarry send me an application for starting an account with them. They included the cash price list for you and me, and also the contractor price if you have an account. Most of the stone is $3 per ton less for a contractor! The only downfall is there is an extensive credit application, which means another hit on my credit report. The contractor price for the stone that I am getting is $8.90 per ton. My hauler will be charging $13.53 per ton delivered. So on my 68 tons he is making $314.84. My brother reminded me, of course, he has to pay for fuel, a driver, maintenance on the truck, insurance, etc..

My next project on the job site is to put up a mailbox (I know this usually comes last). And I am going to dig a trench from the existing pole barn over to a power pole to put an outlet on it for job site electric. I am putting one 20-amp GFCI outlet on the pole. Then once the house is framed, run some underground 12-2 over to the house and put a temporary outlet in the garage. (I can't stand seeing $50 extension cords laying out in the rain and mud).

Last Saturday Julie and I went to three building supply companies. Our goal was to compare window prices. We have about 40 windows, so this is a high priority. The long story short is, Carter Lumber is where we will get most of our building supplies. The reason? Henry Lumber normally only gives 30 days to repay. Carter gives 60 days and will sometimes go 90. This problem in my eyes is the biggest challenge of the owner-builder. For you previous owner-builders correct me if I'm wrong, the way draws work from the bank, you have to try to hold off payment on people for potentially months. Especially if your lender typically only does 6 draws.

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 1/22/2007

Canceled the dump truck guy. I mentioned to my brother that I was having stone brought in for the driveway. He said he wanted to check with a buddy of his before I did anything. So my brother called me back today and his friend will haul 17 tons per truck load and only charge $230. That is only $13.53 per ton. So I am having him bring in four loads when the snow melts. One good thing about Ohio is if you don't like the weather, wait a couple of days.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 1/20/2007

We sold our house! What a huge relief. We are supposed to close by the end of January. We are renting a house from a friend of mine that is only two streets over from ours. There was just no way we were going to be able to have two mortgages. So we will be moving in February. Groundbreaking could possibly move up to April now.

My wife's best friend's husband is an electrician. I spent last Sunday helping him wire a house. He got free labor and I got free knowledge. He is an perfectionist at the electrical. I am very impressed with his work and look forward to working with him on our house. The house he is wiring right now is about 3,000 sq. ft., and interestingly enough, it's being built by an owner-builder. The owner was there while we were working, so I learned quite a bit from him as well. The biggest thing is the draws are the biggest pain in the butt. This guy is nearly out of money. He said they made the mistake of only asking the bank for what they thought they could build the house for ($200,000). So what happens is the bank only gives a percentage of that for the percentage the house is complete. And naturally at this moment, he is way over budget. Luckily this guy is having a lot of favors cashed in so he is staying afloat. Julie and I are taking this guy's advice very seriously and wondering what sort of cash flow problems we might run into. 

This week I also visited the Johnston Plumbing Supply Company and Van Atta Supply company. These are both local companies that mostly sell to contractors. The plumbing company won't give me an account (yet). They only deal with contractors. This only encourages me more to make up a business name and get a tax ID. They were helpful in terms of who they recommend for a plumber. Don Herron was who we were thinking of going through based on our electrician's advice, and Johnston Supply concurred.

The electric supplier will let just about anybody open an account, so I picked up an application for that. I don't plan on filling it out just yet. I want to wait until we decide whether to get a tax ID or not.

This Wednesday we are having 24 tons of #57 crushed limestone hauled in for our driveway. There is already one there, it just hasn't had any stone added in about 20 years. It's about 9 feet wide and 600 feet long. It's going to be $175 for each 8-ton load. And he will "gate" it for us. Obviously that is about $22 per ton.

Julie sent the architect an email that we have sold our house and are basically just waiting on him for the plans. He said he sent them to engineering and we should have them in about two weeks. We'll get moved and then hit the ground running getting bids.

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 1/2/2007

I have not posted anything since Dec. 8th. City health department sent the official copy of the site evaluation which details the requirements for the septic system. They are slightly different than what I remembered the sanitarian saying, but it looks like it is for the good. Our leach lines have to be between 18-24 inches deep and the curtain tile has to be 6 inches below the leach tiles. I spent about a couple of hours trying to find a tile to tap into. I need to go to the soil and water conservation office to see if they have more details on it. Either that, or I need a longer tile probe.

I'm not sure if I have mentioned this before, but our property has an existing 100-year old post and beam barn on it. About three weeks ago, I ran all-new 100-amp electric service to the barn. The old electric service was in such bad shape it had kicked a breaker in the electric company's transformer about a year ago. They came out and hooked it back up with no problems about a week ago. This past Saturday, Dec. 30th Julie's dad and I spent about four hours working on the barn. We ran a new electric line to the existing well. The existing well pump broke several years ago when it froze and cracked the pump housing. I plan on replacing the pump later this spring. The barn is going to serve as our temporary job site electric and water source.

Our preliminary plans came back from the architect about three weeks ago. They looked awesome at first, as we enjoyed seeing the house from all four sides and the exact floor layout. Then we realized they had quite a few errors on them. We made the corrections on them and sent them back to the architect about two weeks ago. He says we will have actual blueprints by the end of January. I'm not holding my breath.

We have had our existing house on the market for about three months now. We finally got our first offer tonight. It was a pretty good offer so we countered pretty close to what they had offered. We will be moving in February if this deal goes through. Our plan is to find a house to rent near the job site once our house sells. And hopefully break ground in May or June.

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 12/8/2006

Here are some more pictures.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 12/8/2006

My brother borrowed a backhoe and dug two soil sample pits for the health department on Wednesday, December 6th. The health department sanitarian came out today and determined the permeability of the soil. We have good draining soil and can put in a 900' leach bed and a 1,500-gallon septic tank. There was one downfall to having the holes dug three days before we needed them. The water table seeped into them. This fact prompted the sanitarian to require a curtain tile 4' deep around the perimeter of the leach bed. I guess this is pretty common. The sanitarian told me that had we waited until January or later to get our site evaluation done we would have had to have a mound system. He said it would have been at least twice as expensive to install. I have to give credit to this website for finding that out just in time.

I also went to the County Engineers Office to try to locate field tile that can be tapped into. My cousin Jeff works there and showed me some pretty good aerial maps that show the locations of tile. There are two about 130 feet behind my property. I will have to get a 20' wide tile easement from the adjacent property owner (my Dad). So when the ground thaws I will be using a tile probe, a shovel, and some elbow grease to see what size those tiles are. From what I have heard they have to be 6" or bigger.

Home Depot delivered the slate floor tile. Julie and I could not be happier with it. It is exactly what we wanted. I am going make my first attempt at attaching some pictures.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 11/30/2006

I don't know if I mentioned this in any other posts, but I have been watching a house go up from the excavation all the way up. Tony at Henry Lumber gave me a tip to check out a high-end housing development being built nearby in "The Reserve." This was about three weeks ago. I talked to the owner of Williams Concrete, out of Findlay, who was doing the excavation, footers, 9' poured concrete basement walls, and the flat work for the basement floor and garage. He was a super cool older guy that was extremely informative. I actually went to the job site on two different days to talk to him. Well today the framers were on site and putting up the first walls. There were about five people assembling a wall and two other people off to the side. So I of course approached the two who were off to the side and lucked out talking to the owner of the framing business. Bryan White Construction out of Cardington.

I told him I was owner-building and he didn't even blink. He said he was just doing the framing on this particular house but is also a general contractor if needed. He said about $5.50 per sq ft for the house and about $3.50 for unfinished garage. He off course said as soon as I have the blueprints back from the architect to get them over to him and he'll give me a quote. Best thing about this guy was this: he said he didn't care who bought the lumber as long as it was on the site when it is needed.

Other than that, I will be getting slate delivered from Home Depot December 2nd, and health department site eval. on December 8th.

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 11/21/2006

Health department site evaluation is official after meeting with the Waldo Township Inspector at the lot this morning at 7:30 a.m. And for those of you in sunny FL, AZ, CA, etc., it was 25 degrees this morning! After his blessing on the site, I dropped the form off at the health department and shelled out the $150 for the site evaluation.

That is all for today.

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 11/20/2006

I made my second trip to the health department today only to find out there is more to do. The third trip should be the charm, I hope. Turns out you have to have a backhoe on site to dig soil sample holes. At least I have a couple weeks to round one up.

We made our trip to Home Depot on Sunday. Bought 1,000 square feet of 16" slate tiles. They were a special buy at $98.5 cents per sq foot. We learned quite a bit from the head of the flooring department. First, for those of you thinking of slate or have already done it, here is what we where told. Most of the inexpensive slate that is out there is from India or China (no surprise there.) It is obviously not as good as slate from the UK, Canada, or if you are really lucky, Vermont. We looked at some other slate choices that were up to $8 a sq ft, and they were even from India. So - buyer beware. I have a hunch there are companies touting that their slate is better and it probably comes from the same quarry. Here is some more info:

1. Power wash the slate before putting it down. It is dirty and this will remove loose pieces that would have fallen off anyway after installing.

2. Seal it before installing it. This will make sure that any thinset that might get on it won't be absorbed. We plan on doing step two on the garage floor.

3. Make sure subfloor is 1 1/4" thick. He suggested 1/2" OSB, then 3/4" plywood. This way you don't have the added expense of concrete backer board, etc..

4. Install using thinset.

5. Seal it again. This will make sure that grout will not be absorbed by the tiles.

6. Grout it.

7. Seal it again, this time making sure that the grout lines get plenty.

8. Seal it once a year to maintain it.

Sounds like a lot of work, but I think it will be worth it. Steps one and two could be done prior to construction as well to save time down the road.

That's it for now.

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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 11/17/2006

First of all, never trust that someone will do what they say they will do. I called the health department initially and they said they would mail my site evaluation application... I had to drive to the county health department today to get a site evaluation application. I did get a lot more information by going in person. First of all, I have to agree with The O-B Book that you don't want to make the people mad who have the ability to make or break your project. So when I was in person talking to the very person who said they would mail me the application, I didn't mention it. He remembered the conversation we had on the phone so he was extremely helpful (I could tell he felt bad for forgetting to mail it). So he told me he would make sure we get it evaluated the beginning of December. He also told me about the well and plumbing permits, as well as the occupancy permit that would have to be pulled from them later on. He also let me know that Marion County has no building code, so we can build our house out of mud if we want to! That is kind of scary.  

I also found out who the inspector is for Waldo Township. Turns out he is a neighbor just two roads over from me! In fact, he drives by where I am building on almost a daily basis. This guy is going to be invaluable for information about permits and inspections; so I plan on seeing if he would sit down with me sometime and talk about my plans.

I scoped an awesome deal on slate. Home Depot has it on sale for 98 cents per square foot. They are 16-inch tiles, so I am thinking less grout to put down as well.


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Posted to Where-is-Waldo by Mike in Marion, OH on 11/16/2006

Waldo is smack dab in the middle of "flatlanders" Ohio.

First I want to issue a warning. I am writing a book. Not literally. My co-worker Evan has told me I have to write a book. He is undoubtedly tired of hearing me talk to him about building so I will put it out there to people who might benefit from my ramblings.

We are building on what is arguably a hill, on 2.5 acres. We have had the land free and clear for about five years. We originally were going to build a Cape Cod modular home in 2001. We decided it was not going to be the home of our dreams, so we decided to wait.

We have decided now is the perfect time, since Julie and I have both finished our bachelors degrees and she is working full-time. Our target groundbreaking is May. Julie is a Retail Interior Designer and I am quite handy, so I think we are going to make a great owner-builder team. Plus we love to bargain shop! We have been designing the house ourselves for about a year, and just handed our floorplan design over to an architect about a month ago. About that same time we purchased The Owner-Builder Book. Smartest thing we ever did. It really got us fired up. I read it cover to cover in about three days. Then decided to buy The Complete Guide to Contracting Your Home. Another good book for other O-B's to read. As soon as I finished the first book, we hit the ground running. We have spent in the last few weeks just under $1,000 dollars and saved around $3,000. For you other O-B's, here are some suggestions that we already took advantage of.

1. Got lucky and found all of our interior and exterior door hardware. Bargain Outlet had all of its Schlage locks on sale on top of being on clearance. We bought four deadbolts, our main entry lock, all bedroom, bathroom, and closet doorknobs in brushed nickel. We spent $350 for all of it. I looked it all up on and found that we would have spent over $800 for the exact same stuff.

2. Julie, being in the design field, knows about places that you and I would drive by and say, that place looks scary! One such place is Lowendicks (owner's last name). This is a home improvement junkyard in Newark, Ohio. He has antique clawfoot tubs, sinks, old doors, fireplace mantels, and mountains of junk! We found a cast iron pedestal sink for $75. We have to refinish that. Any suggestions on that would be appreciated. We are planning another trip over to get a clawfoot tub as well. They run between $50 and $250. We also unbelievably found our main entry door. It is a brand new fiberglass door with two sidelites for $250. This was a rare find, as most things there are used. We had previously priced this door at Lowe's and it was $983 through them. Sorry, no website. Just a phone number for these folks. 740-323-3127. And by the way, they are cash only! No checks, credit cards, etc.

3. Another scary place that can be a gold mine is the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. This place takes donations from contractors or people remodeling their houses. Some things are new and others have huge gaping holes in them. We went to the one in Columbus, Ohio. Check out their website for other locations. They take credit cards!

We bought two double doors. (I call them French doors, but Julie always corrects me.) They were $75 apiece. I don't know who donated them to Habitat, but the store sticker for 84 Lumber was still on them. I have yet to go to 84 Lumber and price them new. I am guessing they are about $200 apiece.

4. eBay! We bought our cabinet knobs from eBay. A dealer had 50 brushed satin nickel knobs for $43.50. That's only 87 cents apiece and they are $1.97 at Lowe's. And they had a deal where you pay no shipping on them. We received them in three days and were delighted with them. We also found our drawer pulls on clearance for $.97 apiece at Lowe's. They were normally $3.97.

That is all for now. Many pictures to follow.


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