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Lance in Buena Vista, CO0.002

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 7/24/2011

After the forms for the foundation came off, I got the foundation insulation installed. It was blue bead board in two feet wide by 8 feet long sections with an R-10 rating to meet code. The blue glue I bought was more like caulk adhesive and I applied it mainly to the top of the panel, with a nice filler between the foam board and concrete. The bottom of the panel was backfilled with a little dirt to keep it in place. Then I had the excavator come and backfill the foundation and the well trenches. I finished of the dirt work to make sure I had a nice path all around the structure. 

The week before last, my son and I installed all the vertical rebar and framed up the entry door and garage doors. The best price I could find on #5 rebar was actually from Home Depot and 150 20' sections was $1,576. I had to borrow a trailer to get it because it was so long and heavy. Then this last week we got all the rigid insulation panels up, tied together, and supported. They are three-inch Polyiso panels with half-inch OSB attached that I bought secondhand for $30 a sheet in Denver at a place called Extra Building Materials: I made several trips to get them and paid a total of around $900. They will exceed the R-value I am required to have and they were pretty economical. I would like to use them on the roof too, that is what most people use them for. The other thing I am doing is to install windowsill foam around all my doors to give a little cushion for expansion and contraction against my concrete walls. It is not good to have wood in direct contact with the concrete. 

I also had a load of sand and pea gravel delivered, and the pressure washing of the rock is still ongoing. It has taken as much time to sort and wash and stage the rock in pallets with fencing we made as it did to dig them up and break and haul them up to the house site. But it is the perfect summertime work with cool overspray in the breezy but hot weather up here in the mountains. Maybe another half a day tomorrow and it will be done.

Next step is to fill all the cracks in the Polyiso with foam spray (Great Stuff). Then set the forms for the structural rock wall on the exterior and start the walls. Also waiting on two more quotes for my lumber package. The first one came back very reasonable (Just over $12K) and that was a relief as I went quite a bit over on my budgeted amount for the monolithic foundation and slab. Getting a really good square, level, strong foundation for my rock walls was too important to skimp on though (It was $13K exactly).


Door framing and rebar
Insulation panels

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 6/21/2011 12:56:58 PM

May was really rainy and not much happened on my build except I did get my internet hooked up and my cell phone extender and it all works most of the time. Seems like the cell phone extender loses GPS lock in bad weather and can take an hour sometimes to restore the lock to where I can get a good cell signal. It was a good month for getting my garden beds in, and I also started two beehives. 

June has been much sunnier and productive. My excavator completed the foundation trenches and I hired a good concrete company to lay all the rebar and pour the foundation. First, the concrete guys put up all the forms and put in the foundation rebar. There were a lot of spots along the back wall that had to be drilled and rebar pinned to the bedrock where we did not have the 36-inch depth. Then, because I have a monolithic slab/foundation, I had to get the drainage pipe installed and the water line and the electrical conduit all stubbed up and inspections for the foundation and underground plumbing.

The concrete guys left for a few days and my son and I dug the drainage pipe ditch and glued and installed the drainage/vent pipe and also installed the gray electrical conduit. I had my first inspections and the setback and foundation passed on a Friday but I had used one wrong fitting (a 3x3x3 T needed to be a long 90, as it was horizontal) on the drainage pipe so my inspector stopped back by the next Monday and it passed the second time around after I put the right fitting in. I had it under test (water) all night long and no leaks! The concrete guys came back and filled the trenches about halfway with concrete last Thurs as the foundation trenches are quite deep (36 inches) and then laid Poly and clean gravel and rebar in a grid tied to the foundation under the whole slab, and did a really nice pour for the rest of the trench and slab on Saturday. They should be back today to remove the forms.

My well pump guy came back and cut a hole in my well casing 5 1/2 feet below grade and installed the water line from the well head into the carriage house. There was bedrock at about 2 1/2 feet down and I had decided to go with a constant pressure system, so he highly recommended installing the water line 5 1/2 feet under grade to ensure no problems with water lines freezing and bursting. I rented a 30 lb demolition jackhammer and it took my son a day and a half to get a narrow trench through the rock. I took a few turns too, but found it pretty difficult. However, I was good at keeping the loose granite and the power cord out of his way.

Meanwhile we are collecting stone for the exterior and I have hired my son and and a friend's son who needed a summer job to help out. We have about half of the stone at this point. The next thing I need to do is install R-10 rigid insulation on the foundation walls once the forms come off. I had the extra gravel from the slab dumped in front of my 5th wheel to keep some of the dirt out (and it looks nice) and the last bit of concrete was poured in a little slab where I can put my sand pile and keep it clean, so nothing went to waste.


Trenches complete and forms going up.
Drilling a hole in the well casing.
Rock collecting
Poly down and gravel
Ready for concrete
Finishing the slab, rebar stubbed up for walls.

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 4/20/2011 11:24:02 AM

I moved into my fifth-wheel RV on March 1st officially. It is a 93' Challenger (I paid $4,300). It is really not too bad as my home and construction trailer now that I have power and water. With the warmer weather, there have been a lot of nice days and I absolutely love living on my land. 

What I finally decided on the power was to install one power pole as I couldn't take power off the pole I wanted, because it already had a transformer on it. I had the power company set one pole partway up the back side of my hill. They put the transformer on it and a box for the meter. That portion was $3,472 and some change. Then I had my excavator dig the trench for the underground and he did the excavation for the carriage house at the same time so he threw in the trench at no cost. The underground portion with stub up was done by my electrician and ran me $2,100 and was complete and inspected March 4th. Then the power company came and snapped in the meter on the 7th. So total cost just to get power stubbed up was $5,572.  

I had the well pump installed a few weeks ago too. I haven't received the final bill, but the quote was just over $3,400 for the pump portion. I went with a Franklin motor with a Gould pump. The cost for the wire and PVC for my deep well was considerable. The pressure tank portion cannot be done until my structure is dried in and will be another $1,500. No more hauling water, yay!

I also ran the Qwest Cable for internet and phone in the trench. Qwest dropped off the cable and I laid it in the trench with the power line myself, so I could get the trench buried up. But at this point it is connected to nothing and I am waiting on the Qwest engineer to finish the job. They will have to get permission from the power company to run the Qwest line on my power pole, so it is taking some time. So I still have to visit my local coffeehouse and friends and family to go online and make phone calls. As soon as my Qwest line is hooked up, I can install a Verizon extender, which I just ordered a few days ago from my local Verizon store, ($250) that will allow my cell to work at the property. My neighbor has one for her house and for her great little restaurant that I go to almost every day to check messages in the morning, and it works pretty well.


Power Stubbed up
Sliding the PVC conduit onto the wire two sections at a time.
Power Company sets my meter.

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 12/29/2010 12:00:38 PM

Right before Christmas, I was able to get the septic system installed. The excavator I used for the driveway work gave me the best quote on the septic, (he is also a licensed septic installer). We have a good working relationship now, and he is easy to work with.

The excavation for the tank was a bit difficult, because it was located a next to a rock formation. The hole got widened out a bit to avoid blasting of any rock, and even at that they had to use a special rock-crushing bucket on their biggest trackhoe. The leach field had to be overdug by four feet and then filled back in for proper drainage, but that went pretty smoothly.

The whole system did require an engineered plan, which I had the soil engineers do when I had the soil and percolation test done, and it cost $700. The permit for the septic was paid upon the first visit by the inspector and was $1,023. He also required a copy of the engineered septic plan for his files.

Once the excavation was complete, the inspector came out again and looked at the hole for the tank and the big rectangular leach-field hole, which were both nice and level and ready for the material for his visit. Then I went and paid for the materials that my excavator had called in and they put it under his account so I could get the 16% contractor discount. Materials were $3,300 for a four-bedroom system, which included a 2,500-gal tank, 92 infiltrator chambers and ends, diffuser box, and a whole bunch of green plastic pipe and various fittings.

The materials were delivered within a few days and the delivery guy placed the tank right into the prepared tank hole. Then the excavator dug the line for the trailer and a partial line for the carriage house and installed a Y fitting for the two lines, and put all the pipe together. I helped put all the infiltrator chambers in the leach field and made sure they were all locked together properly, and it went in really fast. The inspector had to come look at it again before it all got buried and we had no problems there. The labor for the excavator was $3,800 so all totaled, my septic system was $8,823, which I know is a pretty good deal and I am really happy to have it done before construction really starts next spring.


Digging the tank hole
The tank
Infiltrator chambers

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 11/30/2010

Well, I'm happily retired as of Oct 31st and I have made the permanent move to Colorado. Looking forward to spring and breaking ground. There are a few things that I can still do this winter to get things ready. I bought an older '93 RV trailer for the site, so I have a place to camp in the spring and had a spot leveled for it. What I found is that the used RV market is better for buyers in the fall and winter and better for sellers in the spring and summer. So although I don't really need it until spring, I was able to buy it at a really good price and hopefully I can sell it for at least what I paid for it the spring after I finish the carriage house. I also bought a nice old 3/4-ton diesel pickup truck. It was an old VDOT truck (nicknamed DOT), so it was well maintained and is in good shape. The truck has come in handy already for hauling trees and bushes to the site and I planted quite a few when I first got here in the fall.

I was fortunate to get a really good deal on a whole lot of large granite stones, 22 truckloads, to build up a nice base for my driveway earlier this month. I am going to wait on the top layers of the drive until most of the construction is done, as the big trucks coming and going will pack down the large stone and would mess up any top cover at this point. My son and I installed two 6x6 9-foot red cedar posts and hung the gates.

The septic is next, and I have selected a good quote and will meet with the excavator installing it tomorrow. I found out you can pull a septic permit without having the building permit if you are going to have a temporary trailer hookup. I do want my trailer hooked up to the septic for the spring and summer, so that works for me. Then when the carriage house is ready, the septic installer will come back and run the line to it. The trailer is sitting in the future house spot and sits well back from the driveway to ensure easy access to the construction site.

The other two things I want to get done this winter is a temporary well system for the trailer and the power run underground and stubbed up at the carriage house. I need to have power and water ready at hand for the construction to go smooth. I found out there is a special well-pump system for trailers or part-time cabins in cold climates where the water can be easily drained out of the lines when not in use so that they don't freeze in the winter and burst.


Driveway gate
Truck and driveway

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 5/21/2010

My last day here in Colorado, and wishing I could stay a while longer and do more. In the first few days I was able to meet the well driller, the excavator, and the power company rep. Then it snowed for the rest of the week, so I ended up rescheduling all the actual work to this week. The well drilling only took a day and a half, and was done this last Tuesday and Wednesday. 450 ft. and 6 gal/min. Depth was just what I was expecting, as I spoke to several neighbors about their wells. So good to have that done and to know I will have plenty of water.

I ended up just putting in the first 100 feet of the driveway to give me access off a public road, and will do the rest next fall. The access was the hard part, as a whole lot of dirt had to be moved from a convenient berm next to the road to my new driveway in order to fill in a drop, which gives me the shortest straightest route for the driveway. My excavator was really good and helped me line up the concrete sub as the county approved my access but gave me specifications requiring a 56'x4' concrete or asphalt apron at the road edge (with a minimum thickness of four inches). Concrete was a lot less expensive than the asphalt (by over a thousand dollars). I went a little thicker on the advice of the concrete sub, as the extra concrete added very little cost and would be less likely to crack if a big semi rolled over it. The edges ended up at 8" with the center 6" with lots of rebar and fiber in the cement.   

The meeting with the electric company rep went well also, and he brought a gadget that measured the distance from the electric pole to my future house from two of the poles, and we were able to determine the shortest route. To get the transformer and meter installed on the nearest pole will run me $1,750. Then I will trench and run underground to the house site.


Driveway access excavation
Have a good stream of water now
The concrete apron being poured
Apron complete
A good well is a beautiful thing!


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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 4/8/2010

My March trip got pushed to May, so I am working on getting the well and driveway scheduled for my next leave period, May 9th to 21st.

I finished getting five quotes on the well-drilling and made my final selection on a well driller. The one I ultimately selected had a lot of experience on the front range, gave me a detailed quote, is a family business with a great reputation, and was the most professional. They also gave me a 10% military discount off the total, which made them the least expensive by almost a thousand dollars. It also showed me the importance of a detailed quote. It was helpful to see all the items broken down, so I could know what I'm getting and compare cost on the actual drilling, liner, surface steel and cement, etc. 

Still looking for the right driveway company and will get more quotes before I can make that decision.    

Almost all my spare time is going into getting my current house ready for sale, and planning the logistics of moving to Colorado in August!

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 3/4/2010

Floor layout is pretty much complete. I may replace the shower with a bath tub shower, though. I thought about how convenient it would be to have a bathroom in the garage workshop area. There was already a plan to put the laundry facility in the garage area along with a deep sink, so putting in a toilet under the stairs next to the deep sink would not cost much more. The framing plan is also complete, and I will be shopping it around for quotes on a timber or timber hybrid roof-truss package next.


Carriage apartment floor layout
Garage workshop floor layout

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 2/19/2010

I've been in Guantanamo Bay (GTMO), Cuba with my Mobile Communications Platoon for the last month in support of Operation Unified Response. For a while, there was a lot of relief goods and other "assistance" being flown into GTMO, trucked to the ferry, floated across to the sea ports, then loaded onto barges to go to Haiti. Who designed this base anyway? Not a very efficient way to go, but it worked in a pinch. I hope the Haitian people actually get a new school or hospital or sanitation system out of all the money being poured in from donations. So political, it's a shame. Haitians are a happy people though, and are bouncing back fine. In a few ways, I think they are better off than many Americans, as most grow their own food, raise livestock and are in debt to no one, which has enabled them to bounce back so quickly. But without clean drinking water, health care, and very little education, they die from completely preventable diseases and work hard just for the basic necessities of life. So God Bless America, I want to go home! 

All the barges and planes are able to go straight into Haiti now, so getting ready to redeploy back home in the next week, and realizing how impossible it was to do any planning on my Colorado property after working long hours 7 days a week. Just goes to show how important it is to start planing at least a year in advance, as you never know when something in your life will cause you to completely lose a month or more...

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 1/5/2010

After downloading and playing with the trial version of 'Chief Architect' and reading a lot of the instructional material, I decided to get the full version. So far just having a great time getting my design documents started, and have laid out my plot plan as completely as possible. I'll still have to sanity-check it when I go out in March, but it should be really close. My son helped me to get the terrain data from the USGS site and import the data into my plot plan correctly.

The terrain data is not on my final plot map, but it was really necessary to get accurate elevation views and helped to ensure the prospective driveway would take the shortest fairly level route. I also used actual photo images of my plot from the county to locate the exact landmark closest to the structure (as it is a smaller rock that doesn't show up on the terrain map) to place the actual structure and also to place the driveway around and through the rocks. My plot map is in color, but when I print it to the PDF converter, it comes out black and white... even though I have color selected in the printer preference.... I'll have research that to see if it is possible to convert it into a color PDF. Attaching the terrain view.


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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 12/19/2009

I still have no survey or site map, and with no word from my designer after a string of excuses and errors, I am forced to contemplate the distinct possibility that I hired the wrong guy. Disappointing for sure, but I have learned some important lessons and I have made progress in that the soil, perc test, and septic design is complete and paid for.

I've put more time and effort into completing my own design as much as possible using Punch AS 3000, and have come up against its limitations. It is a nice tool to start with, but was not designed to be much more than that. You do get what you pay for... so I've been thinking about getting Chief Architect (CA) and producing the construction documents myself. I know a lot of my fellow O-B's here have used it successfully and have given it high marks. It would have been be less expensive to get a designer to draft up the construction documents for the carriage house than the cost of the CA software, but if I can't get a good designer then there are new considerations. If I would have factored in the risk, time, and aggravation of working with a designer, I might have gone a different route to begin with. Also, considering the cost of design work for future planned projects (i.e. the main house, greenhouse and barn) then I stand to save a lot of money in the design process if I invest the time and money now. Plus, I actually enjoy working with design software so much that I often have to force myself to hit the save button and close it at midnight. There was a part of me that was thinking: "leave it to a design professional, you'll get a better product", that is now saying "design professionals are an overrated crapshoot".

I have the time, the skills and can justify the cost of the software now to just put together my own design documents and I could even post it here and get feedback like another O-B I read about in one of The O-B Book Special Reports, which was very encouraging. I know I could even produce a pretty accurate site map using the official survey I had done when I bought the property. The site map is not that complicated, and would take me less than a day to put together if I put my mind to it. I did slope calculations in the build area last time I was out there knowing I would need that for the design so I even have that. I will just have to verify and fine-tune my measurements when I go out next March. Where there is a will there is a way!

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 12/5/2009

I received the soils report from the engineering company that did the testing and called them to discuss the results. I needed them to make a correction, too. The correction wasn't a big deal. In the report it says I will be building a wood-frame structure, and specifies the foundation load in kips per lineal foot and column load, but I am not building a wood-frame structure. They never asked what I would be building and just assumed wood frame because that is what most people build. So in order to alleviate future concern by the structural engineer who will need to stamp my plan, I explained that I will be building a structure with a heavy rock face on one side and and rigid foam insulation on the other side with 4-5" steel reinforced concrete in the middle. The soil engineer said it would be no problem to change the write-up and will be resending the corrected pages.

The report is 16 pages long and has a lengthy description on the soils and perc test, as well as a depth chart with soil characteristics down to where they hit bedrock at 15 feet and had to stop. Also, a site sketch of the area showing the future house site and carriage house garage and where they drilled and took samples. The decomposed gravel gets more dense as it goes down, but he said the future basement should be able to be excavated with normal excavation equipment. Normally anything they can drill through can be excavated with a backhoe. This also tells me I am going to have to drill through some rock to get my well in, and my well budget has been adjusted to the high end of the range now.     

The site sketch done by the guy who did the drilling threw up a big red flag and told me I am not on the same page as my designer. My designer met them at the site in order to show them where to drill. He got the future house site close enough to the right area but the carriage house was on the WRONG side of the future house. I don't understand how he could have this confusion after all the sketches and layout diagrams I provided to him. All I can figure is that he didn't look at them before going up to meet with the soil engineer. That also means he didn't look at them before going up and doing the site survey last Thursday. How is this possible?

I have a loss of confidence in the designer I have hired, but will continue to work with him and see if I can't get him straightened out, because I have already paid him for the site survey, site map, and meeting with the soils engineer. I am not going to give him any money for the construction documents until I have reviewed and approved every last one of them. Needless to say, so far I'm not too impressed. I called him and told him it wasn't looking like we were on the same page with the layout and I needed to see his survey sketches as soon as possible and that he needed to LOOK at my layout sketches and get it straightened out. Now it is going to cost me more money as I will probably need to have the soil engineer come back and assess the right location of the carriage house. The soil engineer said this wouldn't be a problem and they would probably not have to re-drill the sample as the correct location of the carriage house is within about 50 feet of the drilled location of the future house and the soil looks consistent in the building area, but they will need to come up and look at the soil once the carriage house site has been excavated. 

Working on this project with my designer long distance is certainly a challenge. In hindsight, I should have either provided my sketches to the soil engineers and saved the cost of having my designer meet them at the site, or I should have rescheduled the soil test until after I had reviewed the site survey and draft site map from the designer. The original scheduling plan was to have the site survey and site map done well before the soil test, as there certainly was enough time and I had coordinated the soil test date with my designer to ensure he would be ready. But for one reason or another, he just did not get the survey or the site map done. Then I assumed he could understand the approximate position and layout based on the sketches I had provided, which were clearly labeled and quite detailed. In fact I thought my drawings would make the survey and site map quite easy for him to complete.

Anyway, I'm not feeling very good about my project management skills right now, which I thought was a strong point. I think the key to a smooth project will be to recognize problems early on and adjust my management technique as needed to move on intelligently.

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 11/25/2009

I hadn't received my soils report yet, so I did a followup today and talked to the soils engineer. He said he would get the draft done today and I will get it early next week, as all the admin staff have a long weekend starting tomorrow. I have a long weekend too, so I totally understand.

I have a couple of feet of soil and then it is decomposed granite, which he said is nothing unusual and is fine for a foundation. I just need to make sure the foundation bears fully on the decomposed granite and not the soil, as the soil did swell a bit. But that won't be a problem with only a couple of feet of soil. I looked up decomposed granite and found it is used for fill, driveways, hiking trails, soil mixtures, landscaping etc. It can be excavated, so I will proceed with plans for a future walkout basement!

The perc test did reveal that I need an engineered mound system because of the decomposed bedrock in the septic area, and he said the typical approach to installing septic absorption fields in those conditions is over-excavating the decomposed granite to a depth of about 6 feet, breaking up the excavated materials, and replacing them - thereby developing a zone of 'suitable soil' in the absorption area. The engineered septic plan will be another $700 and I will have to budget more for excavation.

Once I get the septic plan, I can shop it around and get a better idea what the cost will be. The septic field will be on the downslope of the walkout basement, so I am wondering if I can excavate down maybe three feet and then put three feet of excavated soil and decomposed granite from the future basement area on the septic field to level out the slope for a little backyard area. That would put more actual soil in the mix, which would be better for the waste-processing, since septic systems rely on micro-organisms in SOIL to break down waste. I have to do something with the soil from the basement area anyway, so it makes sense to me. Getting all the elevations right could be tricky though since I'm building the carriage house and septic first. 

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 11/18/2009

With all the snow that came in last weekend, I ended up rescheduling the soil and perc drilling to today in order to give the snow a little time to melt off.  I don't have a driveway yet, so the drilling rig had to safely drive up the side of the mountain. It's really not that steep, having about a 5% grade, but there are sizable rocks that could do some serious damage to the underside of a vehicle. They will come back to finish the perc test tomorrow. Also, my designer was going to finish doing the surveying on this trip so the site plan should be getting firmed up too. Should know more in just a few days. 

I updated my exterior design for a wintery view, and I've flipped the top sidewalls inside out in order to have the stone on the inside for thermal mass and stucco, to match the dormer, is now on the outside. I think it looks better and it will be more energy efficient this way. 

I've also been giving the roof construction a lot of thought and am now thinking I would like an exposed vaulted timber roof to stay true to the Craftsman style. There is a vaulted timber roof in the "lodge" room for the main house, and it would be cool to keep the design elements consistent between the carriage house and the main house.


Carriage house in the winter

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 11/11/2009

Soil and perc test has been firmed up for Monday Nov. 16th, and my designer will be there to meet the engineers. Expecting good weather there for it in Colorado, as I hear most of the snow has melted with all the sunshine. In the middle of a Noreaster here in Virginia. My site plan should be about done too so I am looking forward to getting that.

This is the time to keep in mind, and develop, the style elements of the house. Since I'm starting off with the carriage house the living space is really quite small, 865 ft., so I was inclined to ignore the interior style elements altogether thinking of it as temporary housing and guest quarters. Not anymore!

My designer suggested several books based on my comments and the exterior style I selected, so I found them on Amazon at a really good bargain. The first book has arrived already, Inside the Bungalow: America's Arts and Crafts Interior by Duchscherer and Keister. The Bungalow style takes a lot of the Craftsman elements I like. It really emphasizes hand craftsmanship and embodies the solid values of practicality, simplicity, and individuality I am so drawn to. It makes use of every bit of space with lots of built-ins, which is something I had asked my designer for. There is a beautiful example of where they opened up the wall between the dining room and the living room, with a half wall capped with beautiful warm wood and wood posts, and in that half wall is a built-in bookshelf  that would be so perfect in my carriage house. And to think I was just going to build a wall. 

Knowing what style I am aiming for also makes it easier to select the windows, doors, appliances etc. while I'm working on the budget. I really think it won't cost much more to get a great design inside and out. What it will take more of is time and thought in the planning stage. I need to consider the design and how it can be incorporated into the actual structure and finishing elements. But I have lots of time to design the house plan as I wait, saving my pennies, until I can make the transition to civilian life next year.

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 10/31/2009

I contacted five soil test companies for quotes. One thing I found out quickly is that not all companies that do this geological testing deals with residential. Several were strictly commercial, but they sent back replies and suggested where I could go. The other thing I learned was that the perc test could be done at the same time. So I ended up getting quotes for both the soil and perc tests, as it made good economical sense.

The company I went with was the least expensive and was also recommended by my Realtor. I found out they had done a lot of work in my neighborhood. $1,450 for both the soil and perc, they even gave me a 10% military discount to make it a little more affordable. The next closest quote was more than DOUBLE at $3,250! They admitted they wouldn't be the cheapest, but said they were the best. So I thought maybe they bored more holes or something, but no. Same two holes, one for the detached garage and one for the main house and the perc test is same.

I'm working on getting it scheduled for the 16th or 17th of November, weather permitting. Colorado has had record snow so I will have to be flexible and wait until the truck can safely get access. I have a few actual costs to plug into my budget now... need to work on the budget!

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 10/25/2009

My third designer quote (the one I picked) finally came in last week. He said he was waiting on hearing back from his structural engineer. I was really glad to see his quote was very reasonably right in the middle of the other two as far as the site plan and construction documents go. They were all really close (within $200), but they all said they could get the plans stamped and the two I didn't pick had much lower estimates on the structural engineer. I told my designer I wanted to wait on selecting the structural engineer as I wanted to shop around a bit more. I see now it's a bit of a difficult situation, as my designer may have to work with someone he is not familiar with to make corrections if I don't pick his guy. But I'm certain we will work through it and get the plans stamped somehow. He is a pretty nice guy and is open and honest in his communications. I need to get a soils engineer up to the property to take some core samples to see what kind of challenges I'll have with my foundation. 

My designer really needs to see the soils report to ensure the foundation he is designing is going to be adequate. He also is sure the structural engineer will need to see the soils report before I get a stamp. It is a costly test but it will include the future main house and is crucial to moving the planning along at this point because there may be a layer of rock under the first layer of soil, which could change the design requirement for my footers. 

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 10/11/2009

Still waiting for the quotes to come back from the three designers I've contacted. Is it customary for a designer to take weeks to put a quote together for what is certainly less than a week's worth of work? It's just a rectangle garage with a small one-bedroom apartment above. I'll have to re-read The O-B Book, maybe I need to present my project differently. Should I have given them a due date for the quote?

While I am waiting I went ahead and bought Punch Home Design AS 3000 as it was on clearance for 74 bucks at OfficeMax. It is so cool! I loaded my topo map in and traced it and laid out the pad and foundation and walls and threw a roof on it. And now I can fly around it and visualize it better on the land. I haven't figured out how to do a dormer yet though, and haven't tried to do the plumbing or electrical. There are wizards for most of it, though. I actually went to OfficeMax to buy a  portable file folder so I could organize all my O-B and property papers. They were  already starting to get out of hand. Now it is sooo organized!

I have been researching polished concrete as a finished green flooring choice. Concrete functions as a large thermal mass and is ideal for radiant-heat tubing. But I can't find much DIY and actual cost info on polishing it. I like the idea, as it fits with my goal of keeping things simple and minimizing unnecessary inputs to the process, but there is the cost of polishing to consider. There are all sorts of cool colors, minerals, glass, shells, etc. that you add to the top when it is wet and then it gets exposed as you polish using finer and finer grinders and polishers. Anyone know how much it costs per sq. ft. to get polished concrete or better yet anyone polish their own concrete? Lots of nice countertops too, but sealing against stains and durability is hard to overcome and would probably not justify the cost of a concrete countertop contractor or attempted DIY project. Well, maybe a DIY basement or garage work bench for my pottery or seed sorting.


This is a similar design for the exterior. Mine will have reinforced concrete walls with a rock face, though.
Here is the Carraige House I designed with Punch Home design AS 3000.

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 9/25/2009

Build a simple garage/carriage house with a small apartment above first (so I have a place to live) store my household goods, then get through the learning curve before I build my main house. The garage will be built using a modified slip-form technique for exterior walls, which would best be described as steel-reinforced concrete with a rock face. Light-gauge steel for joists, trusses and inner walls. 

Will do the well, plans, driveway, septic and garage on a pay-as-I-go budget so it will be tight, as I blew my saving on the land (really happy with the land though). I still have one more year to save big. I will sub out only what I really can't do myself. I will build with sustainable "green" choices where possible and keep things as simple and efficient as possible. Nothing fancy, but will still be very comfortable and will function very nicely as a guest house.

I have the basic design of the house and garage done, and have laid the site plan out using Google Earth sketch in order to provide info to my prospective draftsman/design engineer. I am only asking for a quote on the garage and the site plan. I got two contacts from ServiceMagic Pro for a draftsman/designer pro in my local area (CO) and they provide free quotes. One sounds extremely promising and has put quite a bit of effort in already, asking me pointed questions and even made a trip to the site. He has a structural engineer that he uses and can get the plan stamped. The other guy I am not even going to consider, as he is listed as having been in the business since 2009 and I don't want to be his first project. I would like to get at least one other quote though before I make my final decision. I have sent private messages to two contacts on this site asking for referrals.  

The slipform information I have is from a book I ordered on slip-form construction called Living Homes: Integrated Design & Construction" by Thomas J. Elpel.

Read this if you want to know more about the slip-form technique I like best: (I thought it was quite entertaining)

Please feel free to comment on smarter, more efficient, less expensive, environmentally friendly design and material to help me through this process, which I am really enjoying.


House site standing just to the west and looking to the east. There is a good 150' between boulders and that is where I want to build.

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Posted to Carriage-House by Cheryl in Ft. Collins, CO on 9/20/2009

I will be retiring from the Navy next year and starting my own organic farm. A hobby farm to start, as I believe in slow and careful growth, but eventually a profit-making venture where I will be running a biz full time after I finish building the house and using my GI Bill.  

Buying just the right piece of land was the first critical step I took. I found a wonderful Realtor who really listened to what I was looking for and showed me a lot of good possibilities. He was able to dedicate his time to me while I was on a very limited leave period. He was very knowledgeable and answered all my questions without any pressure to buy.

I had my favorite from all the listings and was pretty darn sure that was going to be it. However, he called me as I was racing down the road to get there from Virginia, where I am stationed, and told me he just put it under contract for someone else. I was crushed at first, but it all worked out when he showed me the property adjacent to it that was even nicer! I hadn't considered it because it was way out of my price range. The owner had to come down quite a bit and I had to take out a small loan, but it was so worth it to get just the right piece of land. It was one of the last ones I looked at, and as soon as I stepped onto it the heavens opened up and I could see my future home and business. I bought it in February '09 and just made my last payment on the loan September '09! Now that the land is paid for, I can save for construction. The only other thing I have done is get the well permit, which is good for two years. 


35 Acres with a stream winding through it complete with meadows, a southern exposure for the house site and no covenants.

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