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Posted to Homestead by Mike & Carolyn in Smithville, MO on 6/19/2007

The columns were finished today and we now have concerns about the design. It may be that we need to see them with the stone, which will add four inches to the base size, not sure, not sure! I just think they look out of scale, also wonder about the color. They are currently base coated with white sealer but they will be dark brown or black when completed. We may have to paint them to see if that changes anything.

The design called for four posts to be on top of a tapered stone base. The base frame you see will be four inches bigger when the stone is applied. We think the four posts on top appear out of scale for the column. We don't want to spend any more money, say on round columns, which may look very nice, so we have to work with what we have.We are thinking about the following options:

1. Do nothing until the stone is installed to see if the scale works then.

2. Move the four posts together to create one square 8"x8" post in the center of each base.

3. Move the four posts together slightly to reduce the space between them to about three inches.

Other opinions are always helpful, let us know what you think.


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Posted to Homestead by Mike & Carolyn in Smithville, MO on 6/16/2007

We had a small lumber order that was needed Friday. I had been calling all over town all week to get car siding for the ceiling of the porch. Schutte Lumber, who has the best price, was out but had some on order, so we were trying to wait it out. By Thursday, when Schutte didn't have their truck in, we had to go with the next company that said they had it, Owen Lumber. Most lumberyards that I called had been honest and said they were out but could get it and it would cost me a little more... I wanted to avoid this. I got all my lumber from McCray at a great price (final bill with returns credited is not in yet), but they were out as well. So I called Owen Lumber, who many of the owner-builders on the site have mentioned as having good service. I asked if they had it on hand and for a price. Amazingly they had what I needed, but the price was higher. I negotiated it down a little but they could not match Schutte (which didn't mater since they didn't have any). So, I ordered it for a Friday delivery (along with a few other items we needed to finish up).

Friday morning no lumber. By 11 the framer called me looking for it and he mentioned calling the salesman who said: "THEY HAD TO GO GET IT BECAUSE THEY WERE OUT." Funny how they had it the day before when I ordered it. 

Early afternoon... no lumber. I call dispatch and they had not even left the yard with it, said it would be on the next trip. 

FINALLY... 3:00 the truck arrives. backs up, tips the bed and DUMPS the car siding. NICE! If any of you have used this siding, it is a pine tongue and groove paneling (like bead board) that should be handled like trim -- NOT dumped off the back of the truck. Well, the dump broke or damaged a significant amount of the delivery. Owens said they would replace them, but who needs this kind of hassle? And who knows if they will have them, since it's been so hard to find lately. The driver knew better and didn't care. I know some of you have had good luck, but I'm sticking with McCray or Schutte, even if I have to wait!

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Posted to Homestead by Mike & Carolyn in Smithville, MO on 6/15/2007

The framing was scheduled to be complete on Friday, and they pretty much made it. There are a few detailed items left to do that are behind because of supplies more than anything and because of my inability to keep up with ordering things when they were needed. They will be back on Monday to complete the columns on the front porch (three of them) some various trim items and the installation of ceiling in the covered porch. They were waiting on the electrician to put in the outlets and light fixtures, but since I have not hired one, I told them to go ahead without it in. We will run string lines for the electrician to pull the wires with. All we can do. They will also have to stop back by on Tuesday to set the doors. I had neglected to order the frames from the millwork company and missed the 3 pm deadline Friday to get them on Monday. So they will send out the two door frames Tuesday with temporary construction doors in them... don't want the good doors getting torn up with the remaining work.

My framer was great, he worked with me every step of the way and was flexible about changes. We did a walk-through of the wall placement before they went up so we got them exactly where we wanted. He was also good about my last minute additions, like doubling some ceiling joists so we could add decking after completion for storage and a loft area; and he had the forethought to make a large access hole to the attic, not the 18” access on the plan. Ken also kept an eye on other subs when I was not there, ensuring that things went right, such as the concrete guys that were not going to flash the back seam on the suspended floor. The job site was kept clean and they swept out the house when framing was complete.

I'll be open with numbers. Costwise, it broke out to $7/sq. ft. for framing = $5,950, and this included installation of traditional lap siding (not speed lap) on most of the exterior.  Plus the large front porch at $1,500, including the installation of the tongue & grove car siding, installation of cedar shake shingles and the build of three custom columns (that were detailed after the bid). Porch was 12x14 with an 8x5 covered stoop; both had high roof lines. Then $600 for the framing of the down walls and frame-out of the suspended slab. We could have gone with a lower bid, but knew that there would be issues due to a language barrier (such as the roofer that gave his bid as $18,000 instead of $1,800), and that every change would cost me. And more importantly, I wanted it done right the first time. They did a great job and anyone building in the area should consider them -- Owner is Ken Knutter 816.516.6560.


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Posted to Homestead by Mike & Carolyn in Smithville, MO on 6/13/2007

The suspended slab of the porch and stoop were poured today. All went well, and after a few days the columns that support the porch can go in. The rafters were also completed, ready for roof decking. And the windows went in. The windows were late from the factory, otherwise they would have been in when the walls were raised.

Oh, forgot to mention that the contractor forgot to leave a check for the concrete delivery today. I happened to be there, so I paid the bill for them and got a deal on the porch... reducing the markup of the concrete. I would suggest hiring the labor and the O-B supplying all the materials. Or, do it yourself. We will be attempting concrete on some other areas. Even if we mess it up and have to tear it out and redo it, we would be ahead. We’ll share pictures of our concrete work once done and you can be the judge. Pictures below are of the suspended slab being poured.  More to come.


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Posted to Homestead by Mike & Carolyn in Smithville, MO on 6/13/2007

I mentioned before that we had a small swimming pool in the foundation due to all the rain and the grade not being complete. In order to get the concrete basement floor poured, we needed the water gone and the ground dry.

Silly us, we thought that a few hot days would take care of this -- all it did was give us a small swimming pool full of mosquitoes and who knows what else. So off to the rental shop we did go, for a pump. The water was only about was about 8" deep. Too low for a high-capacity cage pump, so we had to go with a 3/4" water pump hooked to a garden hose. We placed the pump in an area by the front footing and it went to work, slowly draining the water.  Since the ground was not flat, we had to move the pump around, no big deal - we'd just toss the pump further out. In theory, no big deal. First toss, the pump shuts off. We carefully pull it back in, careful not to have the plug come out of the extension cord. After about five minutes of thinking we broke it, we figured out that the breaker was kicking off, due to the plug on the 6-foot cord on the pump and the extension cord landing in the water.

After a short discussion, I end up with the short stick and had the task of walking out into the 'mud pit' with the pump and a rigged brace to keep the plugs out of the water. So here I am standing there with yucky, stinky WATER with an electrical device in one hand and wood brace in the other. How did I end up with this task?

Now, standing in the gunk I set up the pump, managed to not electra-fry myself and was walking out of the gunk when I see something MOVE -- something's ALIVE in the pool! Needless to say, I exited the water more swiftly than entering it. After some exploration we discovered that the moving objects, yes plural, were crawdads... pinchers attached. I could understand frogs, and there were a few of them in there, but crawdads, where do these things come from?

Regardless, we pumped out the remaining water, with no electrical incidents, and left the crawdads in place (sorry guys, no place to move you to). A week later we were able to pour the floor. Sorry, I didn't think to take pictures of the crawdads.

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Posted to Homestead by Mike & Carolyn in Smithville, MO on 6/7/2007

You can see the progress daily. We now have all the exterior walls up with the interior planned for completion this week. We wanted to get the roof on before the rain came, but we did not make it. It started raining today around 3:00 p.m. and has not stopped yet. The rain won't hurt anything, but we thought it would be great to get all the framing done and roof on without any rain inside. We'll try again with the main home.

Now that we see the interior walls laid out, we are making a few changes. Since we are moving from 2,400 sq. ft. to 850 sq. ft., we need to incorporate all the space-saving ideas possible. We hope to only be in the carriage house for no more than two years, but two years can be a long time in a small space. To better accommodate our needs, we will be doing without a hall closet and using the space for the computer. On the opposite side, we will be adding built-ins with a bench and space for coats, shoes, and all the clutter that comes with life. We're considering space for baskets or cabinets with doors to store all sorts of things. We will also be taking some space from the bathroom to add to the living room and bedrooms. I meet with the framers at 7:00 a.m. for final wall placement. 

If the rain slows down, (June is the month with the most rain in our area just outside of Kansas City, Missouri), we should complete framing by midweek. The plumber will then be by to install his flashing on the roof and roofers will install. We are still getting bids on the roof. Part will be composite and part will be metal. We don't have many metal contractors here; it's not that popular. 

After roofing, we will slow things down to save for the next set of expenses. Retaining wall, HVAC, electrical, drywall, millwork/trim and doors, finish plumbing, and exterior stone work. Not to mention the additional GRAVEL and concrete.


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Posted to Homestead by Mike & Carolyn in Smithville, MO on 6/6/2007

I guess there are several infrastructure items that we haven’t talked about here, so I'll catch up on them now. Since we are building on undeveloped acreage, we are responsible for getting all the utilities to the property too. We are lucky, and all are close, so we just have to get through the red tape and have them run to the property. We started with the water meter in January, about $2,500. The water meter permit was required before we could get the building permit, even though the water meter would not be installed for another four months. The charge is not to run the lines to the home, just to put in the meter so they can keep track of how much we use to charge us -- I think this should be free.

We also need a driveway permit -- $95. They charge you for someone to come out and make sure there is at least 350 feet of sight line on each side of the spot you want to put your drive, go figure.

Then there was the electric and/or gas. We knew we would need electric, so we started there. $5,500 to run the line across the street to a new pole, then underground to a transformer for the two structures we are planning. WOW, didn't plan on that! Called the gas company. They had a main line just one block away, so gas was available or we could use propane. 

After talking with some builders and people online, I learned that the electric fee is negotiable and if you go all-electric than it is sometimes zero or significantly discounted, plus you get a discounted rate on the electricity. Since we are only building an 850 sq. ft. carriage house, we decided to go all-electric and the bill for installation went down to $2,104. I should mention that this would have been less if we have run the lines overhead (on poles), but we honestly didn't want to look at them. Of course the electric company would not schedule the work until they had payment in full... by certified funds -- where's the trust? 2 1/2 months later they called to say they'd be there!

Well, we had already had half of the drive put in (only half because we ran out of gravel -- from earlier entry), and we had called the Mo Dig Rite folks to mark the utilities, which they did, and nothing was out of the ordinary. And then the electric company called to mark before they began trenching for the electric line, and again, everything was fine, so we thought!

The phone rang about 8 a.m.: "Hi, this is Jerry with the electric company. We have a small problem out here with your utility line. I thought you said you didn't have gas installed." "What, we didn't!" "Well, we just cut through a gas line that is now leaking gas into the area. It's fairly new, you sure you didn't have one installed."

Okay, I do sometimes forget things: where I put the car keys, my sunglasses, but you'd think one would remember having a gas line installed, or you'd remember writing the check!

"No, we didn't know about it... no one's smoking are they? It could get worse. And is this going to cost us more?" "The gas company is on the way to shut it off and since the line is dissecting your property, they will probably have to remove it. We'll have them call you." Click!

You would think that they would keep track of where these gas lines are and not wait for someone to cut it in two to say: "Oh, that's where we left that." Things are not always that organized.

The gas company capped the line and reported that it was installed for our neighbor who sold us the land and forgot to mention the gas line. Since the line was placed without a utility easement, it has to come out and be re-run, luckily not at our expense. After the discovery of the line, we were okay with it staying, since it was within 25 feet of where we planned on building our main house. The gas company wouldn’t go for it, specifically because it crossed through another parcel without an easement. Come to find out, the neighbor that the gas was run to wasn't using it; they installed a propane tank instead.

Well the electricity was completed, water meter installed and gas line capped, all is well. We have electricity to drain the water from the foundation, and for the framers, who charge extra for generators.

Next we'll tell you about the electricity, water, and the crawdads!


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Posted to Homestead by Mike & Carolyn in Smithville, MO on 6/5/2007

We now have a garage floor poured, so framing can begin.  We still have more concrete to pour; but they can wait for now, and the hope is to pour them later to keep the truck off them and lessen the cracks. After interviewing several framing crews, we hired one who seems easy to work with. The total cost is slightly higher than my original budget but I probably wasn’t being realistic. We could lower the bill some by doing some of the work ourselves but we are not seeing a big return. For example, everyone was talking about the detail work needed on our covered porch and that if we did it differently then it would save us money.  But when we asked them to break it out and we would hang the tongue and groove car siding ourselves the reduction was only $300. Given the time it would take and the arguments we'd avoid, we hired the framer to do it.

When the framing actually started and we could see the structure taking shape it became more real. And it sunk in just how small 850 square feet really is! It's okay, it will only be for a short time and we have lots of space outside to enjoy!  So far, the down walls (lower level walls on the stepped down concrete walls) have been built and the two beams have been set.  After the beams were set the main floor was constructed and the framing for the suspended slab for the front porch has been done. The west wall is up; this is the side with the covered porch, which is also up.  There is still tons to do and in the next week the framing will be complete.  It's exciting... until the bills come! 

We will complete the roof to protect the investment and then may slow down for a while. The foundation walls, lumber, and framing are the bigger expenses and we will need time to recover from them. We forget all about it when we see the views. We have neighbors but they are on acreage too; and the way we sit you have to look for them. One of the pictures is the view from Summer's (our daughter) window. The barn and silo came with the property along with the small timber area, which makes for a picture perfect backdrop.

More to come... with photos.


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Posted to Homestead by Mike & Carolyn in Smithville, MO on 6/5/2007

Ground rough plumbing went in without a hitch. If you’re looking for a new career and want to make some bucks, go into plumbing. A good plumber, while they work hard, is paid well! We have a good one and he is working with our extended schedule. It may be two months before the framing is done and we're ready for him to start the top rough. The picture shows the 8 inches of water we have to pump out before the concrete floor can be poured. It's been raining a lot and since the final grade is not complete, all the water runs into the foundation. Excavator is planning on finishing up with the backfill and grade the first week in May. 


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Posted to Homestead by Mike & Carolyn in Smithville, MO on 6/5/2007

It took a while, and the weather didn't help, but we finally started the process. The foundation was poured in March and we had walls! And a bunch of dirt! Oh, and half of a driveway. I did not budget enough for gravel. I did learn that you can set up an account at the quarry and you'll get a discounted price. With a 550-foot long drive we need all the discounts we can get. Then it got cold again... and then it rained, and rained, and rained. And we had walls and MUD. Plumbing rough-in is next. I’ll bet the plumber will just love the MUD, hope he doesn’t charge extra for it.


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Posted to Homestead by Mike & Carolyn in Smithville, MO on 1/13/2007

With the land fiasco behind us, we went forward with the process. I had a plan that I'd been carrying around for about a year, dreaming of being able to build some day -- now is the time. We purchased the plan rights and found a local company to make our changes, plan the guest house, and engineer the plans.

The land we own is outside of the city limits, which allows us to have a secondary structure, or guest house, on the property. Given this, our plan is to build a guest house first to live in for a while before we start and during the build process. The strategy is to save money by doing this, but we are finding out that this will be adding a bit more than we hope to add to the overall budget. But in the end we will have a nice estate, and since we are close to a lake and far from our friends and family, we think the guest house will be used regularly.

There’s a catch to the guest house though -- we have codes that we have to go by with the first being that it can only be a maximum of 850 sq. ft. Since we are moving for more space this seems insane, but the plan the architect came up with looks livable. Open living area, two bedrooms, and a single bath. Plus a loft (which doesn't count as living space because of the ladder access method), and a large covered/screened porch. I’ll guess we’ll see… the main house may come sooner than the original plan.

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Posted to Homestead by Mike & Carolyn in Smithville, MO on 1/13/2007

Bids are starting to come in and I'm in a bit of sticker shock. Honestly I had an unrealistic budget to start with. With the hopes of building around $50 per sq. ft. I was only counting the main floor sq. ft., as the guest house is above our 3.5-car detached garage making it a small raised Ranch that is a full walkout. All I can say is get several bids and get them in writing, spelling out what is included. We are getting bids that swing $2,500, which obviously don’t cover the same things; but some contractors don't like to give you a written bid. I've simply learned to tell them that I trust their word but I can't take that to the bank. No bank, no money, and no house -- so no job for them.

But with even some of the written bids, like lumber, there is a $2,000 difference between suppliers... and they quoted the exact same list. I've also learned to go back to all the bidders and ask for a better price, worst they can say is, "You have it," and if none of them come down I can go with the best one I have. It's a process though, and takes some time, but in the long run should keep the cost down.

My two biggest price surprises so far have been on plumbing and kitchen cabinets. Plumbing has been coming in high and I am also having trouble finding subs that will work for owner-builds. I have had two companies tell me that they strictly work for builders and one that said they cannot compete, so they won't bid the job. I am in need of at least two more plumbing bids before I can make a decision. On the kitchen cabinets it seems ridiculous. We have a very, very small kitchen in our 850 sq. ft. guest house and the cabinet estimate was $7K. I was floored and they weren’t even my first pick. There is no way the budget will allow for this, so we will come up with another solution.

More to come, and we will start posting pictures as soon as I take some...

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Posted to Homestead by Mike & Carolyn in Smithville, MO on 1/13/2007

1/5/2007 -- We are on our way.  We had the site for the guest house staked today and started bids for excavating, foundation walls, plumbing and flatwork.  Silly me, I thought that there would be one company I could hire to take care of the foundation... not the case.  One company to dig the hole, another to put in the walls, and a third to do the floor (flatwork), who knew? 


This is a learning process, and I've been around construction as a new homes real estate agent.  Which I'm taking a little nagging from the builders I work with as to why I am not using them.  For anyone else that may ask the question: why or why not a builder, I simply have to say that there are many VERY GOOD builders in the Kansas City area and they're not out to retire on your project.  They do a great job and stand behind the job.  For me, I work with too many builders to pick one over the other.  It simply would not be good for my career.  I can report that they earn their money.  There are so many steps to the process and worrisome decisions... but so far I'm enjoying most of it.


We may have made our first oops in the process.  It's not a big oops yet.  I am having second thoughts on the placement of the guest house, which has already been staked and the plat map drawn.  We are getting some second opinions from some friends before we go any further and if we move it, will simply have to pay for a second staking and new plat map.  I wish it wouldn't have happened, but I'd rather be sure now than have the structure up and wish that the house was in a different stop.  We should know this week.

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Posted to Homestead by Mike & Carolyn in Smithville, MO on 1/13/2007

We're playing catch-up in our journal, as we just started using the site to learn and share with others undertaking an owner-build. We bought our beautiful 12-acre parcel just outside of Kansas City in September, 2006. I hope the remaining steps of the build go a bit smoother than the purchase. We had planned a timed sale of an 8-acre tract that we owned with the proceeds going to the purchase of the new land. Well as things go, the sale of the 8 acres fell apart the night before close and we either had to buy the 12 acres or lose it. We were fortunate and could complete the purchase, but were now very stressed to get the 8-acre tract sold and closed and the money back in the bank within 60 days. We did it, but have a few more gray hairs from the process... we only had three days left before the 60 days expired.

Photos to come...

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