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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 5/5/2010

Yep, it's been a while... If anyone is still reading this, we are just about done w/our second owner-build. In some ways, it has been easier, in other ways just as hard... Ha-ha... This photo was taken at the end of Feb. We still don't have a front yard, but hopefully with a little "sweat equity", we'll get something in in the next month!

Photos




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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 1/14/2009 9:43:36 AM

A few more pictures.

 

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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 1/14/2009 9:38:02 AM

A few interior photos.

Photos

kitchen
kitchen/breakfast area
entry
laundry
fireplace



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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 1/13/2009

We are so close, I can finally see the end! We think we will be able to close on the sale of this house in about two weeks. Most of the final touch-up has been done; I marked a few more things today. The final cleanup is underway. We just need the septic and final inspection to get done soon. We have an exception to do the landscaping after the house closes. (That includes gutters, sprinkler system and sod/landscaping.)

The drama of these past few months has been crazy. I'll just highlight a few:

Oh, Williamson County Health Dept...  XX##!!@$  I have some very unpleasant thoughts towards you... 

Lot prep/grading company who shall remain nameless... you too!!!

And I wouldn't want to forget to thank all those members of the plumbing profession for taking it upon themselves to teach us those important life lessons! (It just wouldn't be right if we made it to 40 without learning those!)

1. Working with the Williamson County Health Department on our septic tank design.
 
Now that we finally have our septic permit, we have heard from a few people about how tough Williamson County is and that we should have started 6 months ago on getting permits. It's funny how no one mentioned this prior. It must be some sort of rite of passage or "hazing" for first-time septic installers. (They were probably laughing the whole time.) Every time the septic engineer submitted a plan, Williamson County would say, "We don't like the looks of this, this and this, change it." This happened at least five times. And that does not even include the first outright denial because they said we built a duplex and we could not have a duplex on anything less than two acres. I am willing to bet that this septic engineer won't be doing any more septic design for Williamson County after this experience. He really earned his money!

2. Plumbing issues:
Plumber one, mis-measures: has to move around a few things in the foundation... then loses a toe to diabetes? Doesn't come back, gets fired/quits, not sure, but my husband mentioned today about how our lawyer needs to send him a demand letter for the three grand he owes us for the top-out he did not do. 

Second plumber: After a trip to Lowe's in my Expedition with my one-year-old and three-year-old, the plumber, who speaks very broken English, asked me for 20 bucks because we hadn't paid him and he didn't have any money. (At least I think that is what he asked me.) I called my husband and asked him "couldn't we just give him a little money?" Turns out we had paid him for the work he had done so far but he had told me he hadn't been paid? (Luckily he signed a receipt...) Bye bye, second plumber.

Third plumber didn't want to wait four days to get paid (we had to wait for the draw to get wired); so he ripped out the 200 feet of gas line he just installed, goodbye third plumber.

Fourth plumber was involved in a fatal car accident.

Fifth plumber: messed with a joint at the tankless water heater in the attic above the in-law apartment while doing some work on a drain line. Water gets turned back on and the joint breaks, flooding the apartment bedroom and garage. So we spent the day ripping out insulation, sheetrock and carpet.

3. Lot prep/grading company: Thanks for having a monopoly on the type of work that has to be done in Grand Mesa, using the natural materials found in the area. Then saying you'll do one thing, not doing it right, then recommending an easy fix, that in order to be done right ends up costing about $37K instead of the 12K we budgeted. (I will say the end product is beautiful, but completely different from original plan.)

I have some really nice pictures of the rock work and interior that I will get posted in a few days. 

We are just about done with this project, and I have enjoyed being able to detail for you some of the difficulties we experienced from my point of view. You should know that my duties in this little venture have been minuscule compared to the workload my poor husband has taken on.  \My job has been mostly to internet shop for deals, pick out furnishing and fixtures, pay a few bills, run a few errands, take care of the kids and nag a lot. I am very proud of the beautiful house my husband built while running three other businesses. (He has a few new gray hairs to prove it.) We are both looking forward to sinking our teeth into the next house project the moment this one closes - I think...


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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 10/29/2008

Well, this house is definitely sold. 

Once my husband put the pencil to paper, and showed me the numbers, I came around pretty quickly. I have been busy packing up and we are moving to another rental house on 11/9. It's a lot of work, but I am excited about it, this rental house is in a great little neighborhood with a cute little park and nature trails just a few houses down.

The house is really coming along. The painters and stainers are starting tomorrow. I will try to get out there and get some photos once the painting is complete. We are about to order the countertops. My husband negotiated three cm granite and limestone to be installed for the best price out there! So if anyone in the Austin area is looking for the best deal on granite, go to Stone World in Lakeway. (Send me a message and I can tell you who to talk to.)

Home Depot has a sweet deal on some Shaw Frieze carpet right now. $XX and change a square yard. Which will bring us in under budget on carpet. I doubt this deal will be around when we are ready to buy carpet again for our next house, which is too bad, because it is really nice stuff!

We set the closing date for 12/15 and are going to push hard to finish sooner. We have already tied up another lot down the road and want to get started ASAP. We will be building the same basic floorplan, with a few changes, mostly to the exterior, in-law apartment and garage. I'll try to get some photos up soon!


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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 10/1/2008

When my husband first brought up the idea to sell our house two years ago, I was against the idea. We had a great big house with tons of room, on a cul de sac and we had already put in a pool.  We also had a good bunch of neighbors with lots of children in the same age range as ours and had frequent get-togethers in the street when the weather was pleasant. 

My husband wouldn't let the subject of a new house drop. We always said we loved our floor plan and with just a couple of improvements it would be perfect. What we lacked was a big covered porch/outdoor living space and I would LOVE to have my own craft room. He finally convinced me to just start looking around at other neighborhoods where our builder could have built the same plan w/a few modifications. We weren't finding any lots we liked and couldn't find any other builders w/a floor plan that worked as well. Then he came across the Crystal Falls/Grand Mesa neighborhood where you buy the land and then pick any builder to build whatever you want. I still did not want to sell my house. This neighborhood was farther out from all the convenient shopping, even farther away from our friends and family and there were no sidewalks!

Well -- after studying potential floor plans for a few months, he won me over to the idea, and we got our house on the market and sold it within a few months. (In addition, I had another baby in the middle of all this.) With all of our planning and delays with the architects and loan process, it was another year before construction began. And on top of that, the building process has been full of it own delays and frustrations. (The final floor plan design is really spectacular - IMO.)

When we started to build, my husband, who is a Realtor as well, decided to list the house for sale just to see what happened. We argued over that a little, but I just let it go since over the last couple of months, the home market out there has really slowed and I didn't worry too much that he would sell it out from under me. Plus this house is really specialized with the two game rooms and separate apartment, and I knew this would make it harder to sell.

Don't get me wrong, I understand how beneficial it would be to sell it, take the profit and roll it into another build project somewhere else in the neighborhood. But, I have a few issues -- this lot seems just perfect for us and I worry we won't find another as good. It is mostly flat, but still has better views than most other lots. It is also near the front of the neighborhood, so you get in/out quicker. Our floor plan was designed to benefit this lot, and because it is wider than most of the others we might not be able to build the same plan. Also, the land costs have gone up $20K to $30K since we bought and after paying taxes and factoring in the rise in the cost of building materials, I am afraid we wouldn't come out that much ahead. And the worst is that I will have to live in a disappointing rental for another year instead of "my dream house."

Where am I going with all this you ask?

I found out today that some other Realtor and his client have spent a couple of hours walking around our house. The interested buyer called my husband up to find out if he could put Viking appliances in the kitchen, wood floors in the master and he wanted to reconfigure the cabinetry in the media room to fit a big TV instead of a projector. My husband told the guy everything is negotiable and to have his Realtor give him a call. 

We'll see if he calls. This guy could be all talk, who knows? But now I am very nervous and am having a fit over here... 

That's it for now, I'll follow up later with any developments on this subject.


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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 9/29/2008

We started sheetrocking on Wednesday the 24th. It has come along fast. They are completely done hanging it upstairs, and only have the garages left to hang and a few minor areas in the downstairs. We have a couple of problems to solve before they can finish. Mainly the plumbing rough-out for the hand-held showers in the two master baths and my laundry chute. 

I chose to go with Price Pfister bathroom fixtures because 1. They have a lifetime guarantee. 2. The Tuscan bronze finish is my favorite out of the the major brands. 3. The price was good. We have gone round and round with the plumbers on how the rough-out needs to be installed. My mother and I went so far as to print out all the instructions from the Price Pfister website with pictures, in English and Spanish for her bathroom. Why it is still not done is beyond me... The last plumber "lost" a $70 rough-in valve, $40 mounting kit and a small part from the $300 dollar hand-held shower for my bathroom. So, I can either wait 4-6 weeks for Price Pfister to get this part back in or just go and order a whole new fixture and the valve and mounting kit from an online site and have it overnighted for around $400+ dollars or we can scrap Price Pfister all together and see if some local plumbing place has the Delta stuff in stock, but that means I will need to switch the two sink faucets to Delta too and their sink fixtures were over 100 dollars more each and the tub fixture even more than that! 

I'll probably just order everything online and have it shipped overnight for delivery tomorrow.

I think I have mentioned the laundry chute issue in one of my last entries, but here is a refresher... Somehow, when the house was framed, the distance from where the laundry chute was framed upstairs is about two feet from where it was framed downstairs. I don't know whose fault it was. The architect might have not drawn the measurements correctly or the framer built it wrong, who knows, but it can't be moved because there is a truss and a bunch of wires in the way. So they moved it to an unused AC chase. But the problem is now it is very small and it can't be sheetrocked inside. We are going to have to figure out how to line it so the clothes don't get caught on the studs, plus it is really small. Any suggestions?

On another subject, we are trying to choose a new stucco color. My husband picked out a color while I was out of town. He did not test it or anything, he just had the painters slap it up. The color came out really light and kind of yellow and does not go that great w/our stone. I have bought some sample sizes of different colors and we have been testing them out, but I have been told once they mix in the stuff that makes it the right paint for stucco, the color changes anyway. So we will still have to buy a $120 five-gallon bucket and try that out before painting. We have tried out 6 colors and I am still not happy, I will try to go back in after nap time today and see if I can find a shade somewhere in between what I have already been trying.

Hopefully I will be posting again soon with pictures of my beautiful bathroom and newly painted stucco. In the meantime I am leaving you w/a picture of all our test colors...

BTW, I have gone back and updated the end result of some of the stuff I talked about in the comment section in some of my previous entries.

Photos

This photo shows the original stucco color and all of our test colors. I am going back to the paint store and see if they have something in between the bottom left color and the two bottom right colors. This is the chimney on the in-law apartment.



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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 9/4/2008 1:56:07 PM

Latest photos.

Photos




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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 8/25/2008 1:20:15 PM

Here is a photo of the radiant barrier house wrap taken in July.

Photos




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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 8/25/2008

We’ve been busy, encountering many challenges...

 

After a lot of problems, our plumber has quit/been fired? I am not sure which, but I at least our relationship is ending amicably. We’ve hired another and he is just about finished. The new plumber had to chip out some of the foundation in a couple of places and move various pipes and drains. If we ever build another house, we might pay a little extra and let the plumber provide all the materials needed, including the fixtures. What a pain it has been trying to figure out what valves and various parts are needed and then chasing them down all over town and/or the Internet. Who knew stainless steel tubing was so expensive and that each plumbing store in town would carry only one of the 10 parts needed, or that if you are not careful, you could almost slice off a finger handling it? (The new plumber's finger, not mine.)

 

Also, I am surprised at how difficult it turned out to be to frame out for a laundry chute. From upstairs to downstairs they missed by about a foot. I don’t think our dirty clothes will be able to transport from one floor to another using the “beam me up Scotty” method. So we had to move the laundry chute to where my built in ironing board was supposed to go. I guess it is a good thing I don't really iron.

 

It looks like we will be repainting our stucco since the color is more yellow than tan. The color looks like it belongs in a kitchen. (My husband picked the color while I was out of town, I'm just glad it wasn't me that chose it.)

 

My master bathtub is incredibly luxurious, unfortunately it is 72 inches by 48 inches uncrated and 450 lbs. The freight carrier delivered it to the front yard five minutes before a monsoonal downpour occurred and no one around to help us get it into the house. Luckily my husband is pretty friendly w/the neighborhood excavator and his crew, and for an extra hundred bucks, these guys will work through hurricane-like conditions, traipsing through mud and four inches of standing water to help move a 450 lb. tub around various obstacles and into the house.

 

We had our sheetrock delivered a few weeks ago because we wanted to get it before the next price increase. We have piles of 4x12 ½ to 5/8 inch stacks spread all around the various rooms. I guess the temptation was too great, because someone backed their truck and trailer right up to our garage and helped themselves to about $1.5K to $2K worth of sheetrock. It is shame that they won't close the gates at night in our gated community.

 

We got a great deal on a beautiful wrought iron double door w/a transom. Unfortunately, the cornice guys broke the transom glass while installing it. I just hope the replacement glass we get matches the rest of it, but at least they are paying for it, I think.

 

The exterior stone has started; it is going to be very pretty. We decided to do almost the entire house in an autumn blend flagstone. The blend is about 20% chocolate, 20% gold and the rest shades of khaki and tan. We are just doing a little stucco around the second floor on the sides, back and chimneys. When it is done, I will post a picture. As soon as our fire protection system is complete, we will be able to move on to insulation and sheetrock.


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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 7/10/2008

The framing and cornice work are just about complete. The inspector is coming on Monday. I hope it passes the first time. 

We had just a few minor issues. Whoever designed our trusses made a couple of errors, the worst being they somehow didn't account for proper support at the staircase, and the framer put a big post at the end of the stairs instead of it being an open space, so the framer is having to go in and redo/reroute a couple of the joists/support beams. 

The lumber supply place underestimated the amount of lumber needed by about $5K to $8K. (This is after the 15% increase.) We only made a couple of changes while framing. (Adding a window, moving one wall and expanding our upstairs deck.)

We also ran out of roof decking and it was on backorder at our lumber supply place! What? 

They started wrapping our house with a radiant barrier housewrap. We are excited about the energy savings that we should see. This house wrap looks like aluminum foil, I hope we don't blind anyone as they drive down the hill by our house!

That's about it for now other than the prices of everything are going up!

Photos

I took this picture a few days ago, the framing is just about done now.
My shower.
View from our upstairs deck. This photo does not do it justice. We have about a 270-degree view of the surrounding hill country from the edge of the deck.



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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 6/19/2008

Foundation is poured finally! We had a few delays... We had decided to build up the pad to make it level, which cuts down on the foundation costs and would increase our view. To do this, we had to hire a soil testing company to test the compaction with every 8 or so inches, so this added a few weeks to the grading process. So the pad was supposed to be level with about a one-foot fall.

The grader told us to send out the foundation guys, that the pad is ready to go. Everything looked good, and we were excited to "get going." As the foundation crew was halfway through forming, we find out that we have a five-foot low corner. WHAT? We had to have the foundation guys come back out and wreck their forms and then we had the grader come back. We could not lift that low corner any more, so he had to cut the entire lot to be even with the low corner. By doing this, our high side driveway became obsolete, and we had to change up our driveway configuration. The re-grading took a good three + weeks. 

We got the foundation guys back out and they went to town getting it ready for the plumber. But before the plumber got started, we had some hard rains which turned the fill to mush so the plumber could not work for about four days. Then our plumber failed a couple of inspections because of minor oversights. All the plumbing inspections passed on Tuesday and we poured the slab today.

Framing is scheduled to start on Monday and is estimated to take two to three weeks. Anyone want to place a bet on that?

Photos

The foundation company had 24 workers on site. I think it was overkill.



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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 3/3/2008 9:57:18 PM

We are finally getting started!  And we are really getting an education in the building process.  Permits are in place, the only hiccup there is that we have to install a sprinkler/fire protection system, and that is going to cost more than I would like!

Our lot slopes a little, so we have decided to dig down just a little for one corner of the foundation and build up a little on the other corner.  It was reccomended to us to hire some sort of lab company to test the compaction of the ground at different stages of the grading.  We went ahead and did that, better safe than sorry.  We hope the grader will finish by Thursday or Friday.  The water line needs to be hooked up and inspected before he can finish.  I am posting a few pictures of the lot.

Photos

Before the lot was cleared...
Lots of dirt, and more coming...
This will make a pretty view off our upstairs balcony.



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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 1/29/2008

We have good news! We are set to close on our construction loan on Thursday, 1/31. We also have the surveyor staking the corners of our foundation on Thursday and the grader will get to work shortly after that. Hopefully we will get through the permit dept. with no issues. I have been told that takes about 10 days. We would have liked to have already gotten our permits, but we had to wait for the $$$$. I will update soon.


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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 12/14/2007

     Just a quick update on our progress: While the architects took their sweet time on our plans, the mortgage industry took a nosedive and we have been having trouble securing our construction loan because they "tightened" up on the criteria. The good news is that we are getting close. Once the one-year anniversary of our land purchase passes (Jan. 4th), we will be able to apply the equity in our the land ($40K) to our down payment and we will have equal to 20% down and then we will have several programs to choose from. More good news is that a company that my husband has a long relationship with due to his insurance business is going to do our roof with some fancy 50-yr. shingles for cost.

     I will post more when there is something good to post!


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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 10/23/2007

Well... not a whole lot of progress report. The architect has finally completed the plans and we have an engineer working on the foundation plans. We are working on our loan as well, it should close in another few weeks. 

I just asked my husband for an update on the loan process and he told me the loan processor needs a contract between us and our contractor. (My husband's stepfather.) We could have our lawyer write one up for us, but that will just cost more money. I also found one on a site called urgentbusinessforms.com that costs $15.95. Has anyone seen a copy of one for free anywhere?

I have visited a couple of cabinet retailers and am shocked at the price of cabinets. (Kitchen Craft and KraftMaid) We do have an acquaintance that recently had their kitchen redone and cabinets made by a custom cabinetmaker that they said were half of the cost of cabinets from Home Depot. I want to meet w/that cabinetmaker and see how they compare.


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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 9/24/2007

We haven't made too much progress in the last couple of weeks.  The HOA had questioned how the driveways and retaining walls were going to look in front, so we had to get a landscape designer to draw up a plan to submit, but we have gotten the approval from them. We are still waiting on the architects and hope to have the plans complete in two to three more weeks and maybe another two more weeks to close our loan. 


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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 9/6/2007 10:26:21 AM

Floor Plans and front elevation

Photos




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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 9/6/2007

   We finally got the elevation drawings back from the architect and submitted the plans to the HOA for approval this morning. We were told it takes about a week for them to review plans and either approve or request changes. Hopefully our plans will go through the committee without any issues. Our exterior looks similar to some of the other homes going up. 

   Meanwhile, we are still trying to get bids and estimates on all types of materials and labor. While we were still in the "dreaming" phase, we used an online cost estimator called building-cost.net to come up with an estimated budget of around $XX per square ft. Based on the bids we are getting back so far this estimator is high on masonry, framing, roofing, HVAC, insurance, and permits. It did estimate low on flooring, appliances and bath fixtures. (Of course I want travertine, granite, high-end appliances and a premium whirlpool/airbath tub.) I am doing my best to find deals on the Internet and local vendors who deal directly from the manufacturers. I am also planning to put together a spreadsheet with at least two choices of various fixtures/appliances/flooring/cabinetry with best prices I can come up with from dealers on the Internet and then I want to visit with DirectBuy and see how they compare to shopping the Internet. I stay at home with my two-year old and 8-month old and have plenty of time for this research. Just curious, did anyone else do this? How did it turn out?

   The loan is not secured yet; the plans must be approved before we can finish that. My husband wants to break ground by the end of the month, I think that may too ambitious. We will have a year to complete once the loan closes. We have a tentative family vacation planed for August next year and I hope to be finished, otherwise my husband might have to stay behind...


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Posted to crystal-falls-home by Jamie in Cedar Park, TX on 8/26/2007

   We bought a one-acre lot in Grand Mesa at Crystal Falls in Nov. of 2006. We sold our house and moved to a rental in May of 2007 and have been working with the architect to customize a stock floor plan since then. (This process has been much slower than I expected.) The architect is currently revising the side and back elevations and hopefully we will get the lot fit done next week. We hope to have the plans completed, loan finalized and plan approved by all and begin some site work within the next two months. My husband's stepfather will be acting as our GC. (He had to re-apply for his license since it expired, but that should be coming in the mail in the next week.) He has 15 to 20 years experience in the building industry and will be mainly acting as a consultant. My husband and I plan on doing the bulk of planning and supervising.

   That's about it for now, If all goes smoothly, I will update soon.


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