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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 4/17/2013

Short update:

Heard from the architect yesterday. He'll have the construction docs finished by the end of the month. Yes!!

It's been a long process, but finally get to see the details and start getting bids on materials. I can't wait!

Makes me want to move faster on the Houston "Barrel Race" project to get moved to NM as soon as possible - but I'm working as fast as I can - having a day job AND spending as much as 30-35 hours a week on the house.

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 3/19/2013

Been two months since my last post. Nothing much has transpired on the construction documents. Talked to the architect last week. He's calling in a marker with a local engineer to review his plans. Was waiting for him to review the curved wall section for shear support. Other than that, no more news. At this moment because of the project in Houston (Barrel Race blog) I can wait a bit longer, but in the not too distant future, I really want to get started on estimates and need the prints and material list.

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 1/25/2013

In between traveling to Colorado, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, California, Illinois and Nevada the past two weeks, I was able to take two days off and hit the International Builders Show in Las Vegas this past Wednesday. and Thursday. The Hoskens in the Domeville blog had mentioned it was worth going to - and was it ever! It must be what heaven is like for guys! And there are some things for the women as well. Like Kohler had a booth that was probably 30x60 yards. Seriously! The only thing it lacks is a lot of tool venders. THAT would be even more awesome! ;-)!! -for us guys.

My nephew in Austin who has a very successful green building company came as well as the builder in Angel Fire whom I've been trying to meet up with. We spent Thursday morning by starting out visiting the panel builder in Vegas who I had been thinking of using. The panels are EPS (Styrofoam) panels of whatever thickness you want, with steel framing inserted. The panels weigh 45 pounds for a 4'x12' panel, so really easy to put up and quickly. No crane required. No sheathing required, wire channels precut, termite proof. All openings framed in. Really neat stuff.

At the show the day before I had run into another company from VA, who build something similar, but I learned later as we went back to the show that there are some significant differences. I like the Virginia ones better from a structural standpoint, and they are supposedly about 20% cheaper, but they can't do thicknesses I'd like to do on the roof, and shipping will be greater. But they do things like steel trusses as well. I'll just send each the construction drawings and see what they come back with. Maybe I'll get the roof panels from one and the walls from the other?

Also spent a lot of time researching windows. As I'm in cold country, with a big house and a fair amount of glass, I need to try to find high R-value windows. Triple pane is what I probably need for the North-facing units. Double pane on the south will allow more solar gain. I've been looking at energy information for windows for a while. Turns out a lot of people say they can meet Energy Star, but that spec is still far from where I need to be. The salespeople at the show really knew very little for the most part about what their window performance is on both solar gain and heat loss. It's sad, or maybe most builders don't even pay attention yet, so the salespeople don't care to learn?

Went by the Intus window booth. They have windows that they say are R-12! They have massive frames and both tilt inward and open like a casement. I've seen such designs in Europe. And - that's where these are made. Unfortunately, that means you can't get then in a couple of weeks - more like 12. Why isn't anything simple?

Heard back from the architect this week. Had a few questions regarding the rest of the engineering. I told him that the sub suppliers (trusses, LVL beams, etc.) should provide any calculations and stamp the documents. Why pay for that?

I'm hoping that he gets done pretty soon, so I can send drawings out for bids on windows, ICFs, panels, floor joists, trusses and continue to determine costs.

Lastly, today I started, barely, on the "Barrel Race" - my daughter's house in downtown Houston. I'll start that blog tomorrow.

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 1/7/2013

Those of you who have been following this blog know that the Angel Fire house will be the last major building project that I'll do. It's large enough to keep me occupied for several years and by the time it's finished I'll be too old to start another.

But that doesn't mean that plans occur exactly as expected. While AF will be the last, I've decided to slip one more small project in before it. Our elder daughter at the old age of 27 is buying her first home in Houston. It's a 105-year-old bungalow that needs renovation, and a lot of it. But it's small, so that should help reduce time.

So we're slipping in a barrel race (for those of you familiar with the sport) before we begin the last rodeo at AF. I'll start a new blog on it. It'll be fast moving I hope, as that will mean we are making fast progress. We want to be out of Houston before fall and up at AF.

Yes, that means we won't start AF this spring - but there are a lot of loose ends, I mean a lot, before we can start it. Perhaps fall for the foundation? We'll see. Stay tuned as the blogs continue!

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 1/7/2013

Now what could a trip to Vegas entail that would be relevant to this site? Well several things actually. First it is the site for this year's International Assoc. of Home Builders show Jan 22-24. Another blog on the OBB site had suggested that one should attend this show if possible as it is held every year. A nephew of mine, who is a green builder in Austin also said it was very worthwhile. So I paid my "non-member" fee before they went up again in early December and made plans to attend. Looking through the exhibitor list, there are a lot of companies I want to check out. Windows, doors, cabinets, and heating systems are at the top of my list.

Second, the builder in Angel Fire who contacted me last fall after seeing the plans will also attend and we'll use this as a venue to finally meet up with each other. 

Third reason is that the company, (K-tect), whose product I have planned on using for the upper two stories, is not attending the show, but is located in Las Vegas, so I am making plans to visit them along with my nephew and the builder from AF. I am surprised that they aren't exhibiting, especially since it's in their backyard. I'm hoping to see the product firsthand and discuss logistics and construction practices.

Looking forward to the show!

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 12/26/2012

Architect Mark emailed in early December, shortly after my last post. He could go no further until he got the foundation plans from the engineer, who was now over a month late from his estimate. After another week of waiting, he emailed again saying he had to pick up another project, as the foundation plans were nowhere in sight. I certainly couldn't blame him. Gotta make a living.  

After another week's worth of waiting and non-answered emails and phone calls to the engineer, I finally, in total frustration, gave the engineer a drop dead date at the end of the week or "I'll find someone else", ultimatum, not knowing whether he cared at this point or not.

The next day, I got a response that they had been slammed with last-minute work from locals that were needing stuff done before the snow started flying. That's fine, I'm still a way out from starting, but when you promise something, don't communicate anything about having to change dates, whatever, I just think that it is an abominable way to treat a customer or to run a business.
He was able to get a preliminary drawing to me at the deadline, and finalized plans with an AutoCAD file the following Tuesday. Sent the bill as well. Not bad, in my mind. ~$3,500 with drafting taking up 3/4 of the amount. A small but significant step forward. They are off to the architect and he has already responded that he'll begin reviewing as soon as he can get some time off the new project. If all looks fine, he'll move on with finishing the construction docs.

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 12/2/2012

I had made a trip to Angel Fire in early November to meet with the engineer. At that time, he said he'd be done in a week with the foundation design. Let's see, it is now the 2nd of December and I still don't have anything even though I was promised again on Friday that he would get me something this weekend. I guess this is just one of the reasons I've tended to do things for myself and not have to rely on others. Even the architect is now waiting before he can go any further.

At least I finally did hear back from the engineer. It took me three weeks of emailing and calling for that. He says he's very busy. I understand that, but give me a real date and at least respond to my inquiries when you are not making the dates! Is that too much to ask?

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 11/14/2012

I'm bored! While the engineer said he'd be done a week after we met, no word yet, even with an email to ask about progress. I really need his work to send out to the ICF guys and get bids. I jumped the gun a bit and sent off to one company who quickly responded with an estimate of the current soon-to-be a bit modified basement floor plans. They are pretty complete with the exception that the buttress wall are not shown as they weren't yet designed. The current plans have 90% of what I need as far as ICFs however, and to my surprise the estimate had not only the ICFs but also the steel and concrete for them calculated as well! With these numbers in hand, I thought that it was probably time that I could start putting together a spreadsheet to begin calculating costs.

In projects past, I was always old school and would run a pencil and pad to do my calculations. But with a project of a size larger than I had ever attempted before, and planning on going out for bids on all materials, a spreadsheet properly constructed allows me to change the various inputs such as amounts and prices and automatically everything on the sheet is updated. Besides, I wanted to show my daughters that an old dog can learn new tricks.

As I started to put the very initial numbers together, and start obtaining pricing, I was a bit in awe of the volumes of material and yet the pricing was within a SWAG that I pulled out of the air a few months ago - for the lower two floors. I haven't even thought about the upper floor and a half. A few examples:

The ICF walls will require 225 yards of concrete. Even more when the buttresses are in the mix.

60 yards of concrete in the footer

50 yards in the slab

335 yards at $150/yd. + the buttresses

There is over 2.5 miles of steel in the walls

There is 1/4 mile of steel in the footers

There is a mile and a half of steel in the slab


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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 11/3/2012

Flew to NM this weekend to meet with the engineer and the draftsman (who is actually a very good designer) to go over a number of questions I had and discuss questions they had. Prior to traveling, I had the architect send the AutoCAD files over so they could start physically working with the design, double-check the validity of dimensions throughout the design, and allow them to make any modifications necessary. When I arrived at the office, he had printed out the floors plans on D size paper. That's the big blueprint size. Wow! What a difference from looking on a computer screen! You can read dimensions AND look at the whole drawing at the same time, instead of enlarging only a section at a time. It's a little thing, but it seems much more real now.

So the discussion:
Frost line is 42". Do I need to carry that depth all the way around the house or can we use that in the front, where there is no backfill and then step the footer as it extends into the hillside and is backfilled?
We'll step the footer as we move back into the hill to save a few $.

Is he considering to pour the footers neat? (Dig a trench, pour without forms). Yes, but we still need to excavate the pad down about two feet to get down to the bedrock he wants to hit.

What does the footer look like at this time? Turns out much larger than I expected. I had expected 24" wide and 12" thick with three rebars. He has 36" wide and 24" thick. And six rebar. I have started to put together a spreadsheet with formulas for building up costs. Guess I need to change a few things. Looks like I've got another 40 yards to add in for the footer. Ouch. There's another $6,000.

Beams over garage doors: Turns out they were assuming I would take the ICF to the top of the door and then frame for the rest of the height on that level as the second level will not have ICF in the front. That's why he was insisting that a steel I-beam be used. That's something I hadn't considered, and still won't. I'm trying to build a tight house, and frame it up in the short summer we will have. I don't need distractions of trying to tie in another framing material over the top of 2/3 of the front wall, when we still need full height ICF for the other third. Create a frame knee wall 15" wide and tie it to the steel and make it meld with the ICF surface? Naw. Keep it ICF and it will become its own beam. The cost won't be that much greater once you consider the cost of the steel, AND the crane to set the three. I guess we could try to manhandle them into place, but, naw.  

Discussed radon control. We will go ahead and place perforated pipe under the slab at two ends. One as intake and the other as exhaust, as well as using plastic sheeting. If the sheeting and sealing doesn't mitigate, we'll use the vent method.

Buttresses. We have two internal for the lower floor, and two external for the second level. We discussed how to excavate and create the external. The architect also had not taken the ground all the way to the top of the first level on the curved section in the front. Instead he had stairs from that come from deck down to where he left it off. He also had a retaking wall coming off the left front corner at 45°.

I suggested taking grade all the way to the top of the first level for most of the curved section. I will then use landscaped stone steps over a long gradient to reach the entry, which is on the second level. The retaining wall now is moved right, a few feet from the large garage door, and also serves as an external buttress to brace the curved wall. Good collaboration to arrive at the final design that fits form and function.

We set how the garage floor will be drained - two drains, one centered between the two smaller parking areas, the other centered in the large parking area. Piped to the foundation drains and taken to daylight.

Meeting took less than two hours, but we got a lot accomplished. They should have their work finished by the end of the coming week. Then get it sent off back to the architect.

A great day!

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 10/22/2012

It's been three weeks since we were up at Angel Fire and met with Engineer Steve and his draftsman. I'm beginning to wonder when I'm going to get the foundation and buttress details. Sent an email to them on several items last week trying to get things moving. 

One question I have is whether I can create a concrete beam over the garage doors instead of using a steel I-Beam. Also had a question on what buttressing I need to do for the curved wall in front. Could I use an external buttress and use it as a retaining wall too? Take care of two things at once? Finally heard back today, saying I need to have steel I-beam over the garage doors and I'm thoroughly confused on his comments about the buttressing. Didn't seem to answer my question. I really do not see what issue there is with creating a concrete beam. There are two span widths - 9 feet and 16 feet, more or less. I know that it can be done. Downloaded some calculation information today. Will study it and see if I can come up with a reinforcement schedule. I do not want to incorporate a steel I beam into an ICF design. Anyone have any ideas?

Didn't get an answer about when I might see some footer and wall designs. My architect is waiting. I think a visit is in order again. ;-(

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 10/8/2012

Finally! I tried to upload as a PDF, but it never worked. Converted to JPEG and it seems like it finally took. I'm sure everyone was confused by the earlier post (below).

I've been holding off on posting this, as although the design has been done for us and we paid for it, it is copyrighted by the architect. I understand this and support it. I believe in copyrights, much to the dismay of those much younger than I. I asked for and received permission today to post these. But I do have to include the disclaimer regarding the copyright: Gravitas, Inc. State Design by Gravitas, Inc., Copyright 2012.

You can see the elevation we have to overcome with 26 feet of subterranean back wall on the two lower levels. You can also understand that due to the heights involved, I don't plan on doing everything on the exterior! ;-)

The third level is the main living area and will be finished (as much as necessary) first to obtain a CO. Then the top level, and if we have the $$, the second level.


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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 10/8/2012

Well - not so much came - as he was in NM and I was back in Texas - but he did call. Friday afternoon the 4th, I'm at work in Houston (we have temporarily relocated since selling the house, but not to the final destination). I see a Santa Fe number on my phone. My first thought is it's the geophysical engineer calling to say he never got my check. Thoughts are running through my mind about having to dig through canceled checks to prove blah, blah, blah. No! It's a builder who recently won the local Parade of Homes in Angel Fire 2012. We had only heard about him during the trip to Angel Fire a few days before, and he had been recommended by a couple of people. Hmmm. 

He had been visiting Structural Engineer Steve after we had left the area on our recent trip and the draftsman was working on our plans. He had a look at what we were planning to build and really liked what he saw - enough so he wanted to be a part of it! Why?  He was delighted that we were looking at something different than what has so often been built in the area. There tends to be a very common design theme through the resort of a shallow-roofed A-frame with lots of windows on the one end. It is repeated in various similar iterations so often that I would venture that 20% of the homes are of this design. Not that saying this is a not a good design, but we like individuality. So much so that we have heard more than once from past Realtors - "It'll take a special person to buy this home..." Gulp! But apparently this fellow is of the same mindset.

I began to explain that the ONLY way we might be able to afford to build the house is for me to not only act as GC, but to perform much of the work as well. While I had been thinking of subbing out the entire frame, after our recent trip, reality has set in and I think it'll take more elbow grease. I'm going to have to have to spend a lot of effort on the frame too. I explained all this to the fellow, expecting him to hang up. Much to my surprise, he didn't! His comments were that he understood, and that he would be happy to work with us in any way we wanted. From just doing individual items like foundations to setting the roof (tall and too dangerous for an old guy like me), windows (big and heavy), siding, whatever. He'd like to participate in the construction. He was a hands-on guy, not a normal contractor who acts as a GC and subs everything out.

I was flattered that he liked the design; I was surprised that he didn't denigrate my idea of owner-building. In fact he mentioned that a number of people in the area end up doing it in order to afford to build there. I have found the first builder to sit down with. But not to let things get to my head, when the time comes, we will interview a few other contractors, get bids and make decisions.

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 10/3/2012

This past weekend we traveled up to Angel Fire to meet with the engineer we hired. While we could have chosen one close to where we currently live to make it easier for us to meet, or one close to our architect to make it easier for them to converse, getting an engineer close to the building location was important for us. A local engineer who operates in the same village, he has experience with local conditions, building codes, weather conditions, geology, etc. That knowledge may aid him when making decisions, when making the structural calculations or looking for way to get work out a problem. 

We have a difficult lot to build on. We are building into a hill with a 26-foot subterranean depth on the back wall. This depth is split into two floors, the lower one 14', the second 12'. Above these levels lie the main floor and upper story, which look out onto the landscape of the resort. The first challenge is how this wall needs to be constructed. Structural elements as well as drainage need to be well-designed to ensure the wall doesn't collapse.

The lower floor will use 12" ICFs. The next level, being less deep will be able to use 8". Two advantages come from this. One - less concrete is used. The other - we now have a ledger to lay the second floor joists upon without the use of hangers.

The design that engineer Steve and his draftsman have arrived at for bracing is novel. On the lowest floor which is mostly wide open as garage, mechanical and storage, two internal buttresses operating in a compressive mode will be employed. Structural calcs call out a 45-degree buttress extending laterally for half the height of the wall (14') it is bracing. We have decided to make it into a complete wall extending vertically the full height. A little more concrete, but it's more pleasing and can be incorporated into a wall in the future.

The difficulty came in the second level. This level's floor plan has already been finished. It would be very difficult or at least necessitate much redesign. Instead, external buttresses will be employed, operating in a tension mode. Like below, two will be required. Unlike the lower floor, these will only be constructed as 45-degree structures as they will not be visible. A tension buttress is something I had never thought of, but really similar to earth anchors of the various types employed in construction projects which although they look totally different, operate in tension.

For drainage, it was decided to set drainage at two levels, one at the bottom of each floor. Perforated pipe and gravel are a minor cost overall. Take a safe approach due to the height of the wall.

There is a rectangular inset in the wall at one point. To mitigate the possibility of water collecting there at the base, in addition to the French drain, we will run a drain line underneath the garage floor to daylight some distance away.

We also discussed the results of the soil test done earlier this year, frost levels at this elevation and latitude, and radon. Soil test as expected, frost level - 42", radon - heavy in the area. We need to design with a membrane barrier to mitigate it. 

Steve's office will begin to produce drawings for the foundation and buttresses and garage floor. He was a bit surprised when I explained that I've given the architect the go-ahead to start the construction docs. But - from the top down :-). He seemed a bit relieved, but we need to start moving forward. We need the construction docs to start nailing down the costs. What will they be? Can we afford it? How will we afford it? The same questions most people go through.

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 9/17/2012

A few posts ago, before I got tied up with the move, I was reminiscing about how we had found our architect, but that he was in Idaho while we are in Richmond VA. 2,500 miles between us, for a site that was near to neither of us. When I read through the Tanglewood blog, I am jealous that Steve was close enough to his architect to spend numerous sessions with him over the course of the design. I was certainly wondering if that was the only way to accomplish the task. While it may be easier to sit face-to-face, with the use of today's technology, I'll say that it can be accomplished over a long distance as well.

Mark (our architect) is well set up to do live reviews over the Internet, doing redlines as we discussed items in real time as though we are sitting next to him instead of 2,500 miles away. We could watch the changes, notes being made and comment as they were done. We would finish a session and leave him to clean things up, think about the changes we wanted and figure out those that weren't able to be accomplished online. In our mind, he has come up with the perfect structure to put on the lot. It was a difficult lot to work with with the elevations necessary. But he brought forth a mix of styles and textures that yet had symmetry in the overall look. At the same time, we of course had suggestions and needs for the indoor space which he listened to and worked into the design. I'll post some of the stuff in another chapter.

All that sounds like it has been an ideal relationship, and it has for the vast amount. As we move on toward the construction docs, I look forward to continuing the experience. However, whether it is this exercise or the future construction, I will make a few suggestions to ensure that the process goes along as smoothly as possible. One is - set goals and timelines and if they change, discuss with him to see what he might be able to commit to going forward.

When we first contacted Mark, we were just embarking on an exercise without a firm time of when we would start construction. We indicated as much and gave no set schedule that we needed. But two things happened. One is the nature of the beast so to speak, and the other - changes in our build schedule. The nature of the beast is that once you start down the road, you become excited about seeing progress and you want for things to move faster from your end. From his end, other projects get scheduled as - remember - you told him you weren't in a hurry! So schedules when given may slip. He was probably looking at it and thinking he was keeping up with what we had originally said, which he was. 

Our build schedule also changed. We were originally looking at starting construction two or three years out. But since I decided last winter to relocate earlier and keep working, we are now looking at trying to get ground broken early next year. Two years earlier than before. I didn't relay that at all, thinking he'd read my mind, I guess!

Open communication from yourself needs to be there. Set expectations, set goals and if they change, whether because the build timeline has changed or because you've simply become excited and want things to move faster - discuss it and see what changes in schedule can be worked it to the process.

After every meeting, repeat any design changes that were discussed through an email. It is amazing how much can slip from the minds of both parties. And it slows the process for everyone to go through an iteration and find changes were made that shouldn't have or vice versa, possibly because the parties had a different idea of what may had been said. Set the expectations. Set goals. Repeat. Gee, I guess that's going to be a theme throughout the whole build process. (I guess that can be applied to things like work, or marriage?) ;-) 60 years old and this is just now a revelation? Darn, I'm thick-skulled!

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 9/12/2012

We've only had movers for a long distance move once before and that was 20+ years ago. And that was handled by my employer. The numerous ones over the past few years, for ourselves or our kids, we handled ourselves with either a rental truck, trailer or PODS. None of those latter ones were out of state.

My wife and I came back from two weeks of business travel in the middle of August and realized we had three weeks to vacate and hadn't decided on what method we were going to employ in moving 1,800 miles. We decided against getting a Penske truck with an auto trailer and hiring loaders and unloaders, and decided to get "professional" movers. BIG mistake. Now if we really had hired professionals, we would have paid somewhat more than doing it ourselves, but probably would have had a decent experience. Now, I mean the big van lines. Unfortunately, I hooked us up with a quote from an internet response. Without going into the details, which would take a very long time, look up The script is the same for all of the gypsy movers out there. At each step it's like I walked into quicksand a bit more. You think that's the last time they can stick it to you, but it never ends. Unlike many, we did get our belongings delivered. Except, it appears that perhaps we are missing all my tools which I so stupidly labeled for my future reference, but was a perfect signpost for the thieves. As we had it put into storage, wife and I are headed back up the end of Sept to remove all and do a recount.

After that it will be a call to the Georgia D.A., as that is where the company is based. Driver tried to talk me out of counting several times. When I came up short, he simply said I miscounted. Wouldn't let me make a notation on the BOL. On top of that, these guys are running a 2/3 cash business. I think a call to the IRS is in order.

Word to the wise - NEVER use an independent mover unless you thoroughly check them out. Even then, beware. They can use names that sound like reputable companies, so when you search, the reputable ones come up. Better to stay with a large van line that has been around for decades - and get a binding quote from someone who has actually visited your house and taken inventory.

It's been so long a time for a long-distance move, we had forgotten about all the thinks one needs to change, like addresses on all the cards, insurance - (twice as high in Texas), driver's license, tags argh!

And then closing on the sale of the house. Happened right on time, right? Not! I had extended my homeowners policy a few extra days in case a glitch happened. Unfortunately it wasn't quite long enough. Had to purchase a new policy for a couple days, and the original company would not insure a vacant house. The realty company we used was a large one, however, and they had an insurance group specifically to handle things like this, which they did very well. Kudos to our Realtor! She also pushed on the lender to keep things moving and finally, five days late, they closed. Things are finally going in the right direction!

We've settled into temporary digs in Texas till the end of the year while we take care of business things. Then it's time to start looking in the Santa Fe area for a rental so we can be within a couple hours of our property. We'll put the horrible move behind us and move on towards the future. With some luck, we'll get the engineering done by year end and look forward to starting to get bids together for the first section of work.

Moving really stinks!

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 8/17/2012

Finally, a chance to post a few pictures that I haven't been able to due to PC issue.


View from the "back deck" (when built of course)
The Führer Bunker
Demo pics
Jaws of death to the left of the bucket
Finished for now

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 8/8/2012

Going back to previous history, trying to get caught up to the present may take one post but I should get there pretty quickly.

Over the past four years since we purchased the lot, I've spent the time trying to update myself on new building techniques. Codes have changed, especially on energy requirements, as well as some of the electrical, since my last build. And there are a lot of products beyond the stick building that has been traditional for probably 99% of homes built in the last 50 years. ICFs, SIPs, foam, dense-packed cellulose, blower door testing, ERVs, HRVs, heating systems, multi-ply-coated, multi-pane windows for specific climates and orientations etc, etc. Just thinking about it all makes my head spin!

A great site to do some research this is While there is a good amount of simple opinion, which may not always be correct, there are several regulars who are very knowledgeable that contribute to several of the forums.

Over the four years, I have changed my choice of basic construction method from ICF to Rastra, then to a steel stud/foam block construction for the above-grade levels.  

My wife and I subscribed to Log Home and Timber Home Living magazines, looking for design ideas, decor ideas, designers and builders and plans. The layout of the lot is difficult in that to get the main level to lay "level" with the ski slope and get the view that is on the blog, that level has to be elevated 26 feet from where you drive up to it. We didn't want open stilts, and we didn't want it to look like a high rise. We were looking for a "modern rustic" mountain look as well. Nothing really piqued our interest in floor plans that could be used until last summer (2011), when we saw a plan in Timber Home Living that looked very promising. The designer is in Boise, the property is in New Mexico, and we are currently in Virginia. Hmm. How is this going to work?

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 7/24/2012

In order to get to Angel Fire and build, we have needed to do a few things. One was to retire, and the other was to sell our current house. I travel extensively around the U.S. for my job, generally about 40 weeks a year -  full weeks. Much of the travel is from TX, LA, and NM north to the Dakotas through the Rockies. My wife and mortgage have been in VA.

Last fall, I asked for (and received) the OK to relocate to Santa Fe, which would allow me to be close to Angel Fire for the weekends to work on it, remain employed to help pay for construction, save some of my airtime, and the company to save some expenses. The trick now was to sell the house for a price I could accept in a market such as it is (terrible).  Last Friday we got an offer after 60 days. One we can live with. Next day, inspection.

Got the report back today. 42 items. Absolutely nothing structural. Things like caulk around the outside of the shower and Jacuzzi. A few loose electrical sockets in their boxes. Get an electrician to fix - huh!? To fix a loose socket? Tighten the Greenfield adapter at the disposal. A half day at most doing things that were never done by the builder six years ago. My agent is ticked. Me - no big deal. I guess the inspector had to make it look like he was getting paid for doing something. C'est la vie.

My wife wants to start packing. I want to make sure the appraisal comes out okay and their loan comes through. These are crazy times we live in. Hold off packing until we both come back from two weeks of business travel.

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 6/27/2012

Been off for a couple weeks, just finding time to continue.

So we found the perfect piece of property at Angel Fire. Ski in-ski out. A bit challenging from a construction standpoint due to the terrain, but it also came with something a little more than we needed.

Some years ago, a previous owner has started building on the site. Exactly how long ago, I really don't know. The structure was cored block and concrete floors and when construction ended it was three short stories tall, bringing it to where I assume the main living area was going to be. This placed the living area elevation correctly to access the ski slope and also obtain the correct view. But the layout of the structure was just awful. Lower floors were disjointed to each other, and there were what appeared to be horizontal bracing elements stuck far into the spaces (26' of subterranean height on the back wall).

Whatever the previous builder was designing, it was not going to work for us. It was a liability, as it was obvious that kids would hang out there and it was anything but safe from a fall standpoint --it needed to come down. We had tried to work it into the contract as the owner's responsibility, but it didn't fly. So we closed on the property and started to look for a contractor to tear it down.

We normally would like to work with local contractors to keep $ in the community, so we contacted a fellow who does excavations and asked for a quote. We were stunned with what he came back with. $50,000 to rip it down and dispose of the material at the site as fill. Two days work - $50,000. With the help of the Internet, I located another company in Albuquerque that put us in touch with another fellow about 1.5 hours from my site, who took a look at it and said: "$12,000 - and for $2,000 more, I'll haul it away for you." Done deal. Mid-November, weather ready to turn any day and he was out there with a massive excavator and crusher jaws as tall as a person, ripping it down. Took four trailer loads to get the metal and wood out, and the rest was buried.


The "Führer Bunker"

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 6/13/2012

Still on the history-

March 2006, I woke up one night at 2:00 AM and couldn't get back to sleep. So I get up and flip channels on the tube and I find one that has some really pretty mountain property for sale and a familiar voice narrating it. Old Erik Estrada from the 70s show Chips. Advertising lots at really nice prices. A couple months later we make a trip out there to check it out. A nice little ski resort where one wouldn't feel out of place wearing blue jeans instead of all the fancy stuff. In other words, it was not Aspen or Vail, but looked like it had some great potential. The only thing was that all those $59K lots that Erik was pushing were fit only for mountain goats or those cattle with legs shorter on one side than the other. Those lots were STEEP!

We spent the next two years researching available lots making a few trips to walk those that might be interesting. Actually, it was also to reacquaint my wife of the beauty of the area. She'd get to the point where she would lose some enthusiasm, but once back at Angel Fire she fell in love with it again. When all hell broke loose in the economy in 2008, we finally decided on the lot with the view that accompanies the journal site, settle on price and close the deal. Unfortunately along with the view, also came something else...

Next time: What may have been a Führer Bunker?

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Posted to The-Last-Rodeo by Larry in Angel Fire, NM on 6/12/2012

I've been a member of The Owner-Builder Book website for several years now, periodically stopping in to view the journals and look for any posts on the New Mexico forum. There have never been many, perhaps in keeping with the low population density. But as I plan to return there, I keep looking.

As I start this journal, a little background is due, or at least will be given as to the circumstances of this build. It may not be necessary for the reader, but as a journal is for the writer first, it is for me.

A transplant there back in the 70s, NM was where I first owned-built a house, a small one of 900 sq. ft. with a same-sized garage (never can have too large a garage) under the instruction of my then father-in-law. That effort gave me not only the starting knowledge, but, in my mind more importantly, the confidence to be able to repeat such efforts in later years. A house in Houston, then two major additions in Richmond,VA. All with no outside contractors except for dirt work (those guys have always amazed me how they can operate equipment, digging, grading with such ease, like a kid with a video game).
I've got one last build in front of me, a retirement home at 9,000 ft. in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of northern NM. The site is located in the small resort town of Angel Fire, on a ski in/out lot of about 1.4 acres.

Now most people on the East Coast first ask, "Mexico!?" and then, "Why there!?" The first is easily corrected, but still commands an answer to the second. To make a long story very short, we decided on not following our kids around now that they are on their own. We've always been pretty mobile ourselves and the kids will most likely follow in the same vein. Instead of chasing them around, we'd create something, somewhere where they would be enticed to come visit. Where when long after we got to the age where we didn't want go, go, go, showing them the sights, (and NM has plenty). There would still be something here that would entertain them.

One of our favorite pastimes over the years has been skiing. The kids starting out when they were just tiny things. Years ago they passed my wife's and my abilities and continue to enjoy the sport today and I am sure they will pass down the love of it to their future kids. This site is perfectly located slope-side for the winter, and we hope a great place to send the grandkids for the summer where they can hike and explore all day.

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