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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 12/9/2006


Here is my query: has anyone of you gone for bids with, and/or used "Quick Walls" by Manning Building Supply? I approached the Lakeland Branch. If so, what was the outcome, and has any O-B used them? Their website is precast-homes.com.

They came out under SWS and Nuwalls in Groveland, (Nuwalls poured walls is the same system as SWS); a new company getting off the ground, hungry and definitely beating SWS normal prices presently. Jim is a really nice guy, too.

I chose 5" Quick Walls because of 6,000 psi concrete, with double-poured walls, 3,000 psi, wind-tested up to 296 mph, the window sizes are not restricted and come within 1/8" tolerance, not 1/4"tolerance, with the pressure-treated wooden bucks already in, and they only take ONE day to erect, so less cleanup, etc... The installed price includes the crane etc... as needed. I didn't need to worry about getting separate lintels for the patio area and then how to attach them, which would be a problem with Nuwalls. They are plumb and square for electrical boxes etc... There's polystyrene within the walls, so they have the great thermal mass of poured walls, as well as an actual R-value of R-7. (Half the cost of Weaver Precast walls, although the Superior Walls by Weaver do have a higher R-value of R-15.3. But is that worth another $20K?) Plus, I was really happy with this decision.

Jeff was supposed to get back to me yesterday, but our phone was constantly on the go, so I got back to him at 16:50 hrs. He was still stuck in the field, but had bad news; one of his bosses said they can't deal with us because I an not a "licensed" contractor. So Jeff is having another meeting with another boss Monday to see if they can get around this, as I can't see a problem other than their own (in my opinion "outdated") policy. I am now ringing around people who are licensed to see if they can order them for us for a small fee, if the decision goes against us. It seems crazy, particularly as the industry is slowing presently. Building any concrete house is promotion for that way of building as opposed to block.

Have any of you guys hit this problem with this company, or have you used them despite this rule? I am so used to asking for contractor prices now, it didn't even occur to me that this would be a problem! Also, it's now the weekend and there is nothing I can do for two days.

(Big Sigh!) Lisa.


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By Del in Norcross, GA on 12/9/2006


Lisa! So glad to see you back posting, and to see that you're still plugging away at it. I just walked in from being in Polk City all week and checked this site first thing. I couldn't while down there, because it was just too aggravating at 45K dial-up. Jeeez. How do those people live with it? Anyway, I ran into the same thing last week when calling Hughes Supply to get pricing on the Infiltrator septic system that I'm considering. They said that only a licensed Florida contractor could buy it from them - confirming what was stated on the manufacturer's website. I was ready for that because of the forewarning.

My brother in Houston is a partner in a disaster-recovery company that specializes in oilfield and refinery reconstruction. I remembered that they had done quite a lot of work in Florida after the hurricanes, so I called and asked if they were licensed in the state. He said they were and gave me their number. I called Hughes back and made the same inquiry, this time with license number and company name in hand. Worked like a charm. I placed my order and gave them my Amex number. I'll pick it all up next week when I go back. If you want to try using that tack with these folks, PM me and I'll send you the company info and license number.

Del


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By Phillip in Tampa, FL on 12/11/2006


Lisa:

I agree with Del. Most of the time all these guys want is to fill out their "form" completely, including a license number in the license field. It could be their franchise or contract with the manufacturer (sorry I don't know much about this particular company) prohibits them from marketing to the general public. As Del mentioned with the Infiltrator system, they are only allowed to sell it to contractors, but as long as you give them a number they are happy (don't care who pays, picks up, installs, etc.).

If you're confident in your decision, I wouldn't worry too much about it. As you said, they are slow right now, and this is another great opportunity for business for them. I'm sure with a license number in hand you'll be fine...

Phillip


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 12/11/2006


Phillip and Del,

Thank you for responding. Sadly, "the man from Del Monte, he say No!". Yes, that's right. I got an email this morning saying No Go, and unfortunately the GC's license number is not the end of it. They have to run a credit application on the contractor too, and not us!!!

I have rung the Jacksonville branch, as the person listed as holding their license is based there. He is away until Jan 1st. So, I spoke with a controller who is referring it, once I explained they are closing their doors to an awful lot of potential business, particularly when things are slowing in this industry. 

There are 100,000 O-Bs per annum in the US, firms like UBuildIt, Owner Builder Network, COBS, etc., as well as people like us doing it on their own. The counties are geared to aiding us re: permits, so why not them? The controller listened, which I was grateful for. 

I have also put feelers out to see if any GC is willing to help us for a small remuneration and not expect to take over the whole build. Obviously we are talking hundreds and not thousands as otherwise we might as well upgrade to ICF, $4K more expensive. I mean we are talking about a credit check and one day to turn up, as they are erected in one day.

Here is hoping, but at this rate, it just might be quicker to go with my block bid and save ourselves $2K-$4K.

Any other ideas are very welcome, as my brainstorming has come to a halt now.

Thank you,

Lisa.


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By Del in Norcross, GA on 12/11/2006


Lisa,

Gosh. That just doesn't make any sense. Is their workload so heavy that they can afford to be so restrictive, or have they had to sue for payment a couple of times after the walls were up, or is their business model the one they started with and just never updated to reflect increased O-B housing starts? Makes you wonder. Makes you want to scream, too.

Do you have a backup installation crew for the ICF route? If so, it might be expedient and cost effective to go that way and just get it done. I seem to recall that you mentioned in a previous post that you didn't plan on staying in the house for a very long time, so the disappointment in not using poured walls should be mitigated somewhat. It's not like you plan on raising your family there and making it the "homestead" for them to come back to. In any event, I think that the resale gain you see between poured, ICF, and CMU will be negligible. They're all strong and energy efficient and if presented properly, impressive to a prospective buyer. CMU doesn't have the same wow factor that the other methods have, but it's a proven technology that people are familiar with.

Have you approached the developer who built those hundreds of horrible boxes on the left side of the toll road (coming from Wildwood) before you get to the Groveland exit? They might be willing to help you out. That's how I found the guy that I'm working with. I stopped at every construction site in the Lakeland area and asked to speak to the GC. After 8 or 9 stops I finally found a guy who is willing to work with me for $50 an hour as a consultant. He has been a wealth of information and contacts and has invoiced me for 200 bucks thus far, although I know that he's spent way more than four hours on my stuff.

Del


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By Cara in Orlando, FL on 12/13/2006


Hi gang, glad to see some activity 'round these parts. I did look into Quick Wall - in fact, that's what our designer was spec'ing originally. Problem was, I had a reaaaaaaal hard time finding their contact info! At any rate, I was pretty sold on SWS by the time I got in touch with QW. Our other front-runner was Epic Walls/Weaver Precast, but as I've said before, our truss guy really wasn't happy about their truss connection method.

I agree totally with Del about resale value - once the house is finished and painted, you won't necessarily see that a different material was used, and they do function pretty much as well as CMU or other wall systems. The real value is in the process being more turnkey (and faster) than traditional block. As with anything, you have to weigh what's most important to you.

As a side note, I think I did at one point speak with the manufacturer of those boxes... They are also headquartered somewhere south and west of us. They told me that they were JUST getting into houses and might consider doing ours at lower cost as a demo/practice project. Again, this was when we'd already pretty much settled on SWS.

Hope that helps!

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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 12/14/2006


Del, does your guy want some more work? Cara, thanks also for typing; it is sooooo appreciated.

Well, we have walls and not block at that. (Yes, I'm dancing, mentally.) See Journal "Little Lake Corner" for almost the full story! Basically I rang the company doing the slab, in case they had some contacts. They offered, as they have a builders license, to oversee up to the walls, and John (Jeff's boss) and Jeff have been great to deal with. Yet to get everything in writing, and I will do the contract this weekend as the brain is definitely off the boil now. I pay the slab company $500, they do the credit check and order the walls. So pleased with this earlier, but now just very, very, very tired.

Cara, to answer you (re: forms company) on looking for more poured-wall companies, post SWS, I approached PCW (Poured Concrete Walls). Sadly, we were out of area; they put me in touch with a knowledgeable salesperson and the forms company you mentioned, who in turn put me in touch with Nuwalls, a new company starting up in Groveland of all places. Jim, boss of Nuwalls, was great and very patient with me, the problem other than having to go with certain window sizes, was the lintels for the porch. They did not have the framing for them. I did get a bid from Epic Walls/Superior Walls. I was warned this normally comes in above ICF while I was awaiting it, and sure enough they were right - it was $40K. Definitely cost-prohibitive, as block was $18.3K, Nuwalls (poured walls) $22.5K, Quick Walls $22.3K (precast), ECO-Block (ICF) $26K. However, it was a great idea contacting the only forms supplier in the area, really thinking outside the box, so thanks for that, PCW just beat you to the suggestion.

Cara, Who did you get to do your stucco; you sound really pleased, and I have some really way out there bids? Plus for all the knowledge I've gained, there are naturally going to be some gaps, so a sad question but I had not thought of soffits until tonight. On speaking to someone, it sounds like that is another sub required that I may have missed. Any recommendations? It's actually not mentioned in any of my books either. It does make me wonder if there is anything else I may have missed.

Appliances, I found a cooktop that was on sale in Sears at $999.99, now an internet vendor I found is $893 with only 5% off. A few days ago the same seller had 15% off! Granite, need a prefabricator; met with Jensen Stoneworks, chose our slab, told them, and it works out to about $47.50 per sq ft. An unrelated company wanted $72 per sq ft for the same granite.

Again, thanks guys and lasses for all your input, it really is appreciated.

Lisa.


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By Lynnette in Orlando, FL on 1/2/2007


Lisa,

I am in Orlando, and yesterday while I was leaving Home Depot, noticed that "Expo" had their appliances (some of them) on the sidewalk out front. We stopped in to look and see what kind of sale they had going on and wow, were we surprised! They had brand-new, in-the-box, high-end appliances at 50% off plus an additional 25% off. We had been hoping to fill our kitchen with GE Profile appliances and thus far had only purchased the Advantium, but walked out with a built-in refrigerator only, range hood, and built-in wall oven for $4,400, including tax. 

Let me tell you, it was worth the time it took to go through all the stuff they had out there. Apparently, since the market has taken a downturn, people have been ordering appliances that they cannot afford, and have to return them or cancel them after they have been ordered. Expo does not return them to the manufacturer, and thus has to sell these items at a loss. 

My saleslady told me that in December alone they had $50K in appliance returns. They keep track of these items in their "green tag" notebook. They are classified by type, range, cooktop, dishwasher, etc. Usually they are only about 15% off or 20% off. I think the additional 25% was only yesterday, but they were already marked down 50%. I don't know if you have an Expo in your area, but maybe a drive into Orlando could be worth it to save a couple of thousand dollars. Also, you could call ahead and find out what they have available in what you are interested in.

Lynnette


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 1/3/2007


Lynette,

Thanks for the heads-up on that and good timing; I am going into Orlando tomorrow, so will try and visit Expo before meeting up with my family at the movies (eldest daughter off school so we wanted to take her out). Hopefully, my Orlando appointment will not go on too long (then again it may!) and I can race up there and have a good nosey. I was looking at Jenn-Air products, but will keep an open mind until we have to order.

Happy New Year, and thank you,

Lisa.


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By Lynnette in Orlando, FL on 1/3/2007


Lisa,

Please look at my post under the local forums for International Builder's Show. I included a link where you can get "FREE" (operative word here!) four-day passes for you and your spouse. It does not look like anyone has looked at that post I put up yesterday, and locals will be missing out if they don't take advantage. It is a huge show with all kinds of vendors and trades and such. This is the one that HGTV makes a special on annually. Anyway, I thought I would share that information to anyone in Orlando area. I sure will be attending. Also it gives you access to the New American Home that was just built in front of Lake Eola. Check out the link and look it up on the website.

Lynnette


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 1/5/2007


Lynnette,

The link you supplied does not work. Last year I exhausted all resources trying to get into the show, but found that only tradesmen and related fields could get in. I was unable to obtain tickets, because there were none available to the general public. If you have a working link that proves otherwise, I would love to see it.

As it stands now, according to the NAHB, and I quote: "The International Builders’ Show is not open to the general public. Building industry professionals and their affiliates throughout the housing trades are welcome to register by visiting the Show’s newly redesigned website at BuildersShow.com."

All other news sources that I could find also stated the same thing.

 


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By Phillip in Tampa, FL on 1/5/2007


David:

Manually key in buildersshow.com/vip into your browser. You can still get free four-day EXHIBITS ONLY passes to the show. I just got mine in the mail the other day.

If it asks for a company name, you can use your own name or your last name and company. It just states you need to have a construction reason to attend -- which of course all of us do!

Phillip


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By Lynnette in Orlando, FL on 1/6/2007


David,

I went back and used the link, and it takes you to the right place. Just click on the "Register" link, and it will get you started. Do as Phillip said, and you will get your tickets. I hope to see you guys there.

Lynnette


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By David in Ocoee, FL on 1/6/2007


Lynnette,

I did as Phillip said. Yes, it worked just fine. The key is that you must manually type it in, just as Phillip said. Thanks to both of you, I will be going to the show! Since I will be starting up a remodeling business, I will be focusing on those exhibitors.

Thanks again.

 


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 1/6/2007


Lynette,

Thanks for that. I have registered and will most likely attend on the Thursday. If you see a lady in her mid-thirties with "Mabley St." as a nickname on her badge, please say "Hi"; it would be great to actually meet you guys. I hope it does not sound corny like those from dodgy films; wear a white flower, then I'll know you are from The O-B Book!! Definitely had one too many glasses of wine tonight, (oops) so no more work tonight and off to bed, methinks.

Thanks again for giving us the heads up,

Lisa.


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By Frank in Orlando, FL on 2/4/2007


Is there a difference between any of these systems?

Nuwalls (poured walls)

Quick Walls (precast)

ECO-Block (ICF)

and Epic Walls?


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 2/4/2007


Frank,

Absolutely there is a difference. Although basically they all can come under the heading of concrete homes. Firstly, cost is in this order, least to most expensive: 

  • Quick Walls (precast) and
  • Nuwalls (poured) pretty much on a par, really like Jim from Nuwalls and Quick Walls, now I am using Howard Concrete to aid me getting them. On our house $20K-$22K.              
  • ECO-Block (ICF) (first quote through Southwick $31K, then reduced by using a different contractor) just under $27K.             
  • Epic Walls $40K.

The advantage of all these systems is greater thermal mass, and in most cases, a great R-value and much greater protection in a hurricane, some say hurricane-proof. I would never say that, because with the increased weather we seem to be getting, I don't think we've seen the biggest nature can throw at us, and well let's just remember the "Titanic", apparently she could not sink! I think NOT. 

Poured walls are poured concrete between steel forms on site. I takes four days on average, great thermal mass, no R-value calculated. Once concrete has set by day four, forms are removed. (6" walls.)

Quick Walls are concrete walls done at a factory and brought to the site. They also have a great thermal mass and as they have polystyrene inside, that gives a them an R-value of R-7 as per my bid. You choose between 4", 5" or 6".  The 6" was <$2K greater over 5" but we are trying to cut costs, so we went with a 5" wall. Our HVAC guy, who specializes in ICF so knows what he is talking about, has gotten together with Quick Walls and recalculated our walls on their info and our R-value has increased to R-11.33. It takes ONE day to erect those walls.

One person queried how they are attached to the slab, but on Quick Walls' website is a really neat picture of the only house standing (precast walls) while multiple foundation pads around it are missing houses. Has been tested for winds up to 296 mph. When a 2x4 is fired at it, the 2x4 shatters, not the walls. They cannot test higher due to the capacity of testing equipment. Having done a lot of reading and talking re: attaching them to the slab, we are happy. The only person to bring it up as a concern was trying to convince us to go with their differing wall system!! Go figure!!! Another thing, which is a minor difference, is the walls are better but thinner, therefore a slightly larger interior space.

ICF are poured concrete walls between polystyrene. They have a high R-value, but although I would thoroughly recommend this system further north in the US, Jason has pointed to research showing that if you have a wide range of temperature diversity it's great, but Florida does not. It rarely varies more than 20 degrees on either side of 75?, in central and southern Florida, at least. They did a study in southern Florida where they insulated the roof and did ICF on one house but not ICF on the other; these were identical houses. The electrical savings were in cents only over a year!!! So I guess it is all sales technique, as they tend to play dumb when you mention this. 

IF you are looking to spend money for a tight house, think in this order. Roof insulation, "Future Foam" looks good for us; then think windows: vinyl, low-E dual-pane and possibly argon gas, this naturally gives the glass a slight tint; then think walls. My husband and I went inside our neighbor's house the other week, who is also building. We had done some measuring on our land, then taken the kids for a bike ride and were very hot. This house is block with Suncoast Insulation (Polyurethane) and Pella windows. All the doors were open still as the foam insulation had been put in. The temperature difference, other than being a blessed relief, was amazing.

Our block bid came to $18K incidentally, and block has an R-value of R-4 and is 8" wide.

Finally, Epic Walls; more or less the same as Quick Walls except the R-value is in the R-15 area. Again precast walls, so made at the factory and erected in one day, if a larger house; ours may just go over the one day. That means with Quick Walls we get the free use of the crane for the next day, which is rather handy to put the trusses on. We liked this company, but could not justify the extra $20K for a slightly increased R-value.

Now I freely admit I am no expert, but these are just some of the reasons we made our decision. Our house is 5,918 sq ft under roof or 4,438 sq ft under air. We are building for approx. $86 per sq ft under air; that's everything: permits, designer, surveyor, engineer, all materials and labor, a 325x12 driveway and 64 loads of fill. But not including financing or the cost of land. I think the true cost post-build will be within $2 per sq ft either side of that, as I know some of the materials may go up or down and I am always interested in new bids for the smaller things.

Hopefully this has been of some assistance.

Lisa.


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 2/4/2007


One thing I must mention - it is really important you get someone who knows what they are doing re: HVAC. This was one of the biggest bugbears with me. I got lucky when a really decent builder (who I am sadly not using) recommended his contact. He is the first one of 21 companies I approached who I know really knows what he is talking about. Our tonnage before I found this wonderful man varied between 5 and 9 tons. That's huge. 

The important thing to remember with a tight house is a) never go overboard with the tonnage. Now I know this sounds the opposite of what you'd want in Florida, but if you over-AC you can have major humidity problems; then to get rid of the humidity you end up heating and cooling your home. My man is overrun with business and trying to finish off his own O-B house, he does not want me to recommend him, as he is taking on new staff and needs to train them. So maybe in a month. He ended up educating the county inspectors who keep asking him to do lectures now to educate everyone else. 

We are having an ERV. He is also working the system so the outside pressure and interior pressure are always in balance. Let me explain. In a tight house, if you switch on the oven hood or bathroom fan, they suck air out; this produces a negative pressure inside the house. Now in a block house it usually equalizes with the outside air, (and heat or cold, water vapor (and if raining, water) infiltrating, basically through the walls, roof, (which is why recess lights can pop out) and around the windows. In a tight house, this is not so easy, so you can get a great degree of diversity between outside and inside pressures. This infiltration will come from mainly around the windows assuming you've used polyurethane in the roof. This can force water in around the windows. To get around this, you need some way to equalize the pressure; so every time we take a shower the moist air is gotten rid of, but we control the temperature and humidity of the air coming in. It makes for very comfortable living.

Our bids ranged from $16K to $29K by those not really knowing what they were doing, and I just did not have an incredible amount of confidence in them. I do in our man, and so far those I have had confidence in to date have only  let me down (the other day, in fact) once. It's $2K per ton and $2.5K for the ERV, plus $4,000 for the zoning. We have been working with him to shrink slightly the glass area of a couple of windows and so to keep us down to one 5-ton unit.

If we had to go to two units we were going to use a mini-split ductless system in the bonus room, as we will only be slightly over the requirements. The energy calcs will be done by Monday. Sadly, we've had to muck him around due to ever-changing windows, as this has been a nightmare for us for three weeks now. It was his contact for windows that got us through this. See my journal when I have time to get to it. But having spoken with him on Friday, it looks like we may just need the one unit. Phew...

Now I must go fill out forms and catch up on emails etc...

Lisa


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By Frank in Orlando, FL on 2/5/2007


Thanks Lisa,

What stage of the house are you in now? Did you use DirectBuy for your windows/cabinets?

Frank


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 2/11/2007


Frank,

Finally got round to updated Little Lake Corner, a tome and a half, very cathartic though. We are itching to get it into permitting. So it still feels right at the beginning. But we are getting there.

After a huge struggle, Solar-Tite will do the windows, and the kitchen will be Kraftmaid from D & N Cabinetry in Clermont. That said, it is a way off, so we are going to try another company in Clermont to compare to and American Kitchens have been recommended. I did go to Lowe's, but the big boxes don't have a good reputation for installation. Although the cabinets are called different names, they are the same and D & N easily came in under Lowe's and HD prices. And being a small firm, they value their reputation and will keep coming out until you are happy. We saw a kitchen they had installed in a $1.8M home, and although not custom, they had done a good job. We spoke with the builder and he wished he had used a custom one purely because they had problems with the fancy hood, but other than that, if anything was wrong it was dealt with. This was good to know. Plus they were recommended by a good friend.

We have a massive kitchen and the units for it with the laundry room and three extra bathrooms come to approx $16K. The TT-shaped handles are very "in" at the moment, but IKEA opens in Central Orlando this summer and they do the handles for $2.99 for two (web) when everywhere else they retail for at least $7 for one. We need loads, so that is something I can do. Luckily I am a dab hand with a drill. My Dad taught me quite a few things that I have taught my hubby. :)  That said, he's got other knowledge to a degree as he once worked as a laborer pre-university days in the UK.

Lisa.


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By Frank in Orlando, FL on 2/11/2007


Lisa,

I am going to include an attachment for the listing of the suppliers for cabinets from DirectBuy. If you pick, tell me which ones you might be interested in and the style. Give me a kitchen plan, and I will go price it for you just to see how much if anything you might save. I have a friend who used them for her cabinets, although she used a contractor, and she thinks she saved a lot. 

Also, I have purchased a type of cabinet previously from Home Depot... it is a granite top with a sink already attached for about $200, comes in a couple of different colors. I used it for my rental properties and it looks pretty good.

Hope all is well and thanks again,

Frank


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 2/11/2007


Frank,

Thank you, what a lovely offer. A friend and I looked into Direct Buy a couple of years ago. One of us was thinking of joining and then we would both use it. We never did, as on digging a little deeper, we found out that they monitor the number of things, especially things such as kitchens, that members buy. If they think you are using it for friends or acquaintances, they restrict what you can buy, e.g. limit you to one or two kitchens over a set time limit. This obviously is how they get around groups joining and reducing the cost of the initial fee.

I would hate to take you up on the offer then you get stuck not being able to buy your own kitchen for your home. If you find out different, let me know. Thank you for your generous offer though, it is truly appreciated.

Lisa.


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By Frank in Orlando, FL on 2/11/2007


We joined about six months ago in anticipation of building the house, and haven't bought anything, so I'm unsure about what their long-term policies are. I did make it clear to them that we have several rental properties and are looking for stuff for them, one being in Utah and the other in Puerto Rico, and they didn't seem to care, although salespeople will often tell you anything to get you to sign.

Offer still stands; I'm not sure how much cabinets cost, although my friend (who built about a 6,000 sf home through a custom builder, and opted to used her cabinet budget to purchase her own since she didn't like what the builder offered her) thinks she saved about $30K on some very high-end cabinets she purchased. Again, I have never priced cabinetry before, so I am unsure of what prices are reasonable and what is a steal. In fact, I would be willing to do it for you just to find out if when I buy my own it's worth going through DB or using someone out on the market. 

I also read in one of the threads from this site "How to stay on budget" someone had posted something about buying cabs off the Web, how he didn't pay sales tax and was really happy with what he got at 70% off list. Since you have priced them and know the market, please keep us up to date on any intel you might pick up.  

Thanks,

Frank


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By Frank in Orlando, FL on 2/13/2007


Hello everyone,

I'm not sure if anyone may have some advice on this subject, but I am stuck with the Florida DEP (Department of Environmental Protection). I submitted my application for wetlands impact in September after getting a wetlands determination survey and plotting the location of my house on the property. I have been working with Steve Rich, a local environmentalist who has gone out to the property and initially marked off the area that is an upland.

Several weeks later I got a response from DEP stating that as of now my application was expected to be denied and that I should resubmit it after hiring an engineer to calculate how much fill and wetlands I would be expected to use/remove. Then at that time I submitted an extension to my application for 90 days, which would extend my deadline until Feb 14th. As per DEP request, I have had a topographic survey, and I hired an engineer to do my calculations. He has prepared a proposal and requested a meeting with Aaron Watkins at DEP, but we aren't able to contact him. My engineer has called him, I have called him and stopped by the office, I have emailed the administrative contact and left several voice mails. I didn't want to seem too aggressive with the application, keeping in mind that if I were easy to work with, that things in the end may progress a lot easier. 

I have included an attachment of a scan of my survey and changed the footprint of my home to impact less on the wetlands (despite the fact that most of what is growing there except the Cyprus trees are non-native plants) even though my original impact was less than the allotted .25 acres).

My questions are the following:

Should I be more aggressive with them? Anyone know if I am allowed an additional extension since they have been the source of the delay?

Am I allowed to build on this site if I impact less than the allotted .25 acres?

I also have a question as to my high-water mark... at the far south of the property I have a 30-foot road easement, then would be placed my septic tank at 20 feet, then my home about 110 feet deep, and then my high-water mark. Does anyone know how far away my home must be away from the high-water mark? Can I change this? I have only found a reference to how far the high-water mark must be to the septic tank (75 feet, 50 with a variance).

Since the entry road onto my subdivision ends on my lot (the neighbors have all deeded right of way) and my driveway would be on the easement, and the easement is wetlands, does the driveway that is a portion of the easement count as part of the wetlands I am impacting? 

I realize many of you have navigated these waters and any information you may have would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

Frank


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By Cara in Orlando, FL on 2/13/2007


There is a wealth of info on wetlands in the beginning/middle parts of our journal. Let me see if I can address any of your specific concerns here. I'm going on the assumption that you also need to work with Orange County, although you have not specifically mentioned them. As a side note, I believe your property is about 10 mins from our current home :).

I'm going to paste portions of your original post below with my answers highlighted:

I have been working with Steve Rich, a local environmentalist who has gone out to the property and initially marked off the area that is an upland.
We used Steve as well.

Several weeks later, I got a response from DEP stating that as of now my application was expected to be denied and that I should resubmit it with after hiring an engineer to calculate how much fill and wetlands I would be expected to use/remove.
Turning down an initial app is standard operating procedure, I think. I can't recall having to provide the volume to be filled, but we did have to calculate the acreage to be impacted. I think our surveyor did that.

Then at that time I submitted an extension to my application for 90 days, which would extend my deadline until Feb 14th. As per DEP request, I have had a topographic survey, and I hired an engineer to do my calculations. He has prepared a proposal and requested a meeting with Aaron Watkins at DEP, but we aren't able to contact him. My engineer has called him, I have called him and stopped by the office, I have emailed the administrative contact and left several voice mails.
We had a tough time getting ahold of Aaron too, but he is a decent guy once you get to know him. He is far easier to work with than Sheldon at County. I would advise getting Aaron's buy-in first and then have him help get Sheldon on the same page. Each dept. has to do calculations (UMAM score) that dictate your impact, and then they have to agree. Might be easier to get Aaron's numbers and then have him get with Sheldon. Steve should help you with this, if necessary.

I didn't want to seem too aggressive with the application keeping in mind that if I were easy to work with, that things in the end may progress a lot easier. Agreed. Definitely.

My questions are the following:

Should I be more aggressive with them? I tried every tactic and nothing seemed to work particularly well. I did have a good response from Sheldon's boss, Liz, if it is Sheldon who is giving you trouble. Anyone know if I am allowed an additional extension since they have been the source of the delay? I do not know, but I doubt they are actually good enough at record-keeping to know if the deadline has passed. Our negotiations took what seemed to be forever.

Am I allowed to build on this site if i impact less than the allotted .25 acres? Legally, you are allowed to build on your property regardless... However, the county/state could potentially force you to stop work if you proceeded prior to getting permits from both entities. I believe they can also fine you. Also, I think the UMAM is more of a deciding factor than the actual acreage, although my memory is failing me at the moment.

I also have a question as to my high-water mark... at the far south of the property I have a 30-foot road easement, then would be placed my septic tank at 20 feet, then my home about 110 feet deep, and then my high-water mark. Does anyone know how far away my home must be away from the high-water mark? Can I change this? I have only found a reference to how far the high-water mark must be to the septic tank (75 feet, 50 with a variance) Our lot is laid out like yours with a lake to the north and road to the south. I don't remember anyone ever saying anything about that, but then our house is placed pretty far away anyway.

Since the entry road onto my subdivision ends on my lot (the neighbors have all deeded right of way) and my driveway would be on the easement, and the easement is wetlands, does the driveway that is a portion of the easement count as part of the wetlands I am impacting? That is an interesting question. Our road easement is not owned by us, so we didn't need to count that as impact - only what began at the line. However, if the easement is an actual part of the property, I am not sure.

I realize many of you have navigated these waters - Kudos for the awesome pun, whether intentional or not :)

If you have time, check out the journal, as it has a better recollection than my sad little brain :)

Keep us updated!

Cara


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By Jim in Beverly Beach, FL on 2/13/2007


Frank,

I have dealt with St. Johns Water Management District and the FL Department of Environmental Protection with regard to a dock permit for a dock on an easement from a neighbor where the walkover was going to go over wetlands. If I remember correctly, you can only get one extension with the DEP. I got one extension, then I was told I would have to cancel my application and then reapply if I was unable to get done within the time frame of the extension. I ended up bailing out on the whole dock deal... long story.

This past weekend I saw an owner-builder in Orlando, his name is Jeff. His wife Tanya does a journal on this website 19225-ROBERTSON-ST, but I have not seen any forum posting and they don't seem to be in the O-B Connections section, so you can't PM them.

The reason I bring this up is they had to "take" some wetlands in the process of their build. They ended up paying a mitigation fee to set aside some wetlands in perpetuity in another location on a two for one basis. Jeff told me it took almost a year to get his permit because of this, plus the unhelpfulness of the Orange County permit people. I can email them and ask them to PM you to give you some insight. I just can't give out their email address. Or PM me with your email address and I will forward it to them with a link to your question. Jeff is a very friendly guy and I am sure he would be willing to help.

I also think that Jason and Cara, well known in this thread and other threads, had to pay a mitigation fee because of wetlands on their property. PM them to see if they can help. I think that they are also using a special septic system which may help them avoid some wetlands issues.

Best of luck. We are just finishing our design, then on to engineering and permitting with the county. The people there seem a little more helpful.

Jim


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By Joe in Ruskin, FL on 2/14/2007


Hi Frank,

I am over in Hillsborough County, and have worked with the local environmental agencies on two properties. I found that if I was getting nowhere with DEP or any other county agency for that matter, one call to my county commissioner would help dramatically. By the same token, I go out of my way when a county employee has impressed me by sending a letter to my county commissioner. That lets them know that you are not simply a whiner, so to speak. Since the commendation letter goes in the employee's file, you will be amazed as to how that word spreads and other county employees will make an effort to go above and beyond for you. They really appreciate the recognition.

Just my two cents worth.

Joe H


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By John in Lake City, FL on 2/14/2007


Good afternoon Joe,

As a former county employee who worked in the Environmental Department, I can honestly say that your tactic works. There is always a way around the issue. You just need to be creative. You may have to spend some time reviewing other permits that have been granted and the basis they were approved on. Once you have this information, you can approach the powers to be and lay out the facts. When you have information in writing, it speaks for itself. You may be surprised what you find. Especially if you find that someone in your same situation received approval and you didn't. You cannot make assumptions, you have to have the facts.

There were developers all over the county I worked in that impacted wetlands. They ended up mitigating (paying $$$) for the impacts. However; as a small homeowner, the powers that be think they have the upper hand, since you are not well connected, do not have a lot of money, and are not knowledgeable. 

This is just my two cents also...

John


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By Joe in Ruskin, FL on 2/15/2007


Good points, John.

Additionally, I have found that a lot of environmental staff appear to be difficult mostly because they really care about the environment and see the big bucks companies make mitigation promises and then not following through with maintaining the mitigated area years down the road as invasives start creeping in. 

I know that many years ago, I wanted a permit to remove primrose in a wetlands area and was only allowed to initially remove a small amount. There were also all kinds of stipulations about having to replant native vegetation if I removed too much of the primrose. A couple of months after the removal, the head of the department made a surprise visit on a day that I happened to be planting about a hundred native plants along the shoreline. His first reaction was "Who told you to do that?" My response was no one, I was just doing it to create a more natural environment. After that, I never had a problem with a permit request on the property. In fact, since I am near the perimeter of an area where the county routinely sprays, they occasionally bring the airboat into my cove to help keep the invasives at bay.

My point to this long story is, that if the powers that be see that you are not doing the bare minimum to get by, and care about accomplishing your task in the right way, they can become more sympathetic to your case.

Joe H


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By Frank in Orlando, FL on 2/16/2007


Cara and Jason, Jim, Joe and John:

Thank you all for your advice, again, it's encouraging that someone else has had some experiences and is willing to take the time to help. 

Cara, my hope is to actually meet up with you and Jason today and get some input from you into the process. I will have my son with me as he loves to "hunt bears" out where your cypress trees are. I have read your journal in detail and it has been very helpful and encouraging. 

Thank you Jim, for your response. I would love to hear from Jeff and his experience and try to get some strategies from someone who has been there before.

I expect to pay a mitigation fee somewhere along the line, but again, this whole process seems to be sort of a mystery to me. My understanding is that you start by having .25 acres available to you... by my calculations that's about an area of roughly 100x110 feet that you are allowed to impact. In my situation and as I have read in many others' situations, the wetlands they are impacting is likely not inhabited by native plants that help the wetlands thrive, but by nuisance species that would be better removed. I know that the government often doesn't follow a logical thought process, but why would I have to buy wetlands so that I can impact other wetlands that aren't inhabited by native species in the first place? I suppose that part of that UMAM score is for that, but it seems like the formula they use is more difficult to figure out than a credit score.

Thank you Joe, for the suggestion about contacting the county commissioner if I run into trouble. As I'm sure most of you have run into this experience, I would much rather compliment a worker about what a great job he did than to complain about him, but I guess you gotta do what you gotta do. 

John, I think that's a great idea about reviewing other permits to see what they've "got to do", and I think I have an idea what Cara and Jason were allotted (curiously enough it seems like they were sort of able to negotiate, which I think is helpful, especially if you can cultivate a working relationship with these guys to let them know that this is your home, not a lot that you are hoping to turn into a strip mine). Hopefully I will get a chance to hook up with Jim's friend Jeff and pick his brain. Do you have any suggestions about how I could go over anyone else's submittals? Is there a location somewhere in the county or state that's public records to see what other people have been allotted? I'm not afraid of a little homework; please let me know if you have any suggestions.

The last post mentioned about letting the enviro dept. know that you are trying to be eco-friendly... which brings me to my final question of this post. Does anyone know of a program or business that is able to transplant wetlands trees from a project that is being built, and remove them to a project that is finished? Example - if I had to remove a Cypress tree as part of my wetlands mitigation, and someone else had finished their house already and wanted a mature tree planted in their yard, is there some way to accomplish this? I have sometimes seen a machine that sits on the back of a flatbed truck that looks like it is made to scoop out the tree and leave a ball at the root system to transport... I have looked into finding this, but have been unsuccessful.

Thanks again for your time,

Frank and Donna


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 2/27/2007


All,

Can ANYONE help us or give us some urgent advice? Apologies, I have posted this in finance too, but need someone to see this who may be able to help.

We have just landed in a major Catch-22 situation. We were pre-approved, no worries, with CPT Loans; great people. We have great credit, lots of equity in the land, and have been in the U.S. five years now. We were about to go to the next level, delaying it due to loads of delays in putting the plans into permitting. However, we have just found out that both IndyMac and CPT Loans cannot help us because we are not U.S. citizens (yet). We were stunned, as we had no problem getting a lot loan four years ago, and if we were going for a permanent loan there would not be a problem??? However, for the construction loan there is (even though we only want it for a year and are IN status presently until Sept., 2008 (and in the meantime we will hopefully have the green card, but the cogs of bureaucracy turn slowly).

Does anyone know of a company who could help us (ideally without ripping us off, which happens to loads of immigrants, sadly)? We need an interest-only permanent loan, for self-employed, stated income loan for an O-B not using a GC.

Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. I don't want to have to put this baby on ice for the next 9 months (min.)

Thank you so much for all and any ideas.

Lisa.


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By Frank in Orlando, FL on 2/27/2007


Hey Lisa,

I'm really sorry that you got caught in this situation; I know how frustrating this must be. I have purchased some property outside of the continental U.S. and found some similar problems.

I thought about your situation and came up with three suggestions.

First, as I am in Orlando myself, I have come across several people, either builders or construction managers who do building consulting. Would it be possible to sign them up to your project and have them act as your GC on paper while you actually O-B? This option actually might be beneficial in that you may not have to stick to the traditional "O-B lenders", and you might get a better rate/terms/closings. The second benefit is that it may provide you with some further oversight for your project and another inspector to provide you with a set of eyes and ears. From your previous posts, it sounds like you already did this with your foundation and wall subs.

The first person I thought of owns a company called Build Aid. I think his concept was sort of like a UBuildIt, but he is really more into commercial construction and sort of dropped the idea. I talked to him once and he seemed like a nice guy who was genuinely interested in helping. I got his information from ProSource in Orlando. I went there to buy some tile, and saw his Build Aid company name in the sign-in sheet. I talked with him at length about my project, and he told me that he sort of gave up on the idea of helping the O-Bs that he had had contact with, because it didn't seem like they really wanted to get involved hands-on with their own project.

The second guy I had in mind was a GC who sort of seemed very flexible in the projects he did. I know this GC because one of the guys I work with had a spec home built by this guy out in Wedgefield (where Cara and Jason are building). My friend also had his parent's kitchen remodeled using this guy as the GC. I met with him, and he seemed like a decent guy.

Please let me know if you could use either of their names.

The second suggestion I had was to look on this website:   byoh.com

It is another self-contracting book that I purchased in my preparation for my project. If you notice on the bottom of the page, it has some suggestion for finding loans and it even gives the author's phone number should you have any questions. The author says that he has been a construction loan consultant in MI, but somewhere in the book he wrote he says that he has contacts for construction loans for O-Bs in all states. It may be a long shot, but sometimes long shots turn up leads.

Finally, I wonder if it would matter to your banks (CPT, and IndyMac) if you had a co-signer who was a U.S. citizen.

Sometimes I have found with bank and bureaucracies in the U.S. that the first three guys you talk to are all designated "naysayers" and that it often takes talking to a true decision maker and explaining the situation.

I also included a comment on your journal. Should you need any help please let us know.

Good luck, and I hope this helps.

Thanks,

Frank


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 2/28/2007


Frank,

Thanks for that. After lots of (slightly panicky) calls yesterday, and scouring this site's finance section, I called Bismark. They cannot help us directly; we need to go through a broker, but they do have a product which we fit (as in they deal with immigrants who are here completely legally, Yay!) They gave me a couple of names of people who have recently closed in this area with them, one in Tampa, and one in Ocala. The guy from Tampa was gracious, but also thought it would be a good idea to use his construction company for a mere 5% and was trying to convince me I could not do this. (Err… do I attract these people or what???). Been there, done that talk so many times now. After doing all the work for this stage, I don't want to hand it over and then pay someone $20K+ for the privilege. 

The second guy was purely a broker with "Anchor Mortgage Services"; surprisingly he did not run for the hills and advised us he may be able to help us, but thinks another company does a better product for us. Has anyone heard of "Transland"??? I found their website, so filled out the application last night. They do construction-to-permanent loans (for us). Bismark only does the construction loan (no perm mortgage) and the thought of paying to “close” again at the end of build - I don’t want to do that if I can avoid it. Bismark is very competitive with their interest rates, but they do charge higher costs at the outset to close. Apparently that is not the case with Transland.

I also called Ken Duffy yesterday, a lovely guy, recommended on this site by another O-B. He explained IndyMac cannot help us (see the  PDF below, as supplied by CPT Loans who tried to help us with IndyMac, as my contact was slow and lax). It has no logic. I would understand more if they were worried about the perm loan for 30 yrs, but not the construction loan, which will last a year, where we are in status and beyond, regardless of the green card, (which is pink by the way!) I digress. His father (I think) called today and he may be able to help us using Chevy Chase Bank (I thought he was an actor, anyway). Anyone heard of Chevy Chase Bank?

So I am hoping, with fingers and toes crossed, that all is not lost. It was definitely worth scouring this site and calling and emailing everyone and their dog yesterday.

Thank you for your suggestions and response. It is appreciated. The major shame is the quickest this will come through is in 30 days now, with oodles of paperwork, which I thought I had already done : (. But that is better than starting all over again in a year’s time.


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 2/28/2007


Oops, forgot to add that PDF, mentioned above.
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By Bill in Callahan, FL on 2/28/2007


Try Peoples First Community Bank (now Hancock Bank). I have a  stated, self-employed CTP with them. I do not know about the immigrant thing, but they are very helpful, and are looking to make construction loans right now. Very fair people.

peoplesfirst.com/home

I went with them after troubles with IndyMac, and wanting to actually see the person I was working with.

Bill


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 3/1/2007


Bill,

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You and this amazing site come through again. We have a branch in Clermont : ). I have had a long chat with their mortgage person who was a delight; they think they can help us, plus the bonus is they are close to where we are building and know where I am talking about, which is really good, as North Clermont is really up and coming (wasn't when we bought, who knew?)  We just loved the rolling hills, as we missed hills since landing on these Floridian shores. Since Bella Collina was planned a few years back. I am meeting with her on Monday.

It also looks like Chevy Chase Bank may be a goer, but ideally I want to compare conditions, rates, etc., etc... Transland would like a GC or maybe a site supervisor, they are getting back to me this afternoon. What was the mantra of at least three bids!?!. I do like the idea of meeting the people we are going to deal with, apparently they also help people who do this new construction who have run out of money. I know the mantra is to not do that, but of course it happens. That said, they don't like any of their own loans to do that, (they budget enough excess) but you can go to them. How refreshing to hear that!

Fingers crossed - it is another hump in the process surmounted. Their origination fee is .25%, which is certainly the best I have heard to date. I'll keep you updated and put this in the forum finance section, as people need to know about all possible alternatives.

Thank you again, Bill, for taking the time to blog; most appreciated.

Lisa.


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 5/2/2007


QUESTION

Hoping someone has the answer to this?

Our permit was put in and rejected, on three relatively minor points. We then submitted the extra details they were asking for on Wednesday, 25th Apr. On asking the assistant how long before it was likely to come through, they said (and our letter from them said it would be expedited) probably Friday or Monday, 30th Apr. It is now Wednesday, 2nd May and they have not processed it yet. Reluctant to call them, as we don't want to hack them off and they are probably very busy. But I have arranged for the guy to clear the site this afternoon (take the top 6-inch organic layer off) and supposedly have 50 loads of clean fill coming tomorrow and start the compaction of the pad. The idea is the form boards can be done on Monday.

We are pushing this to get the roof on pre-rainy season. A friend of ours thought we should not do anything until we have the permit until I told him we had got through the health dept. and have the environmental permit. Basically, does anyone know how far we can go if anything, or do I call the whole thing off today, which will put us back big time?

A quick reply from anyone would be GREATLY appreciated.

Yours panicking,

Lisa.


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By Brian in Dome-ville, FL on 5/2/2007


I BELIEVE you can do all the clearing and filling you want, as long as it's not wetlands. I would ask the permit people, but GO IN PERSON. Bring all the stuff they requested, since they may have lost it; have extra copies of everything. I always go in like that and start by thanking them for all their help: "I'm building my own house and have never done this before, I really appreciate all the guidance you give... etc." Then ask about the permit and "...did they get the extra info I sent?" If not, hand it to them then, and ask if they have any idea when it will be reevaluated. If it's an "I don't know" or "a few weeks", ask if you can start clearing and filling, and let them know you are have your environmental permit. They will likely say sure, go ahead.
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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 5/2/2007


Brian,

Thanks for that. I did go in person last week and physically handed everything to them and get on with them really well and I did ask exactly what you stated in fact. Unfortunately they have a standard answer on this one, which is basically they can't advise us in any way, the girls scan it all in and it's sent immediately to Tavares. Sadly, the Clermont office was closed permanently on Friday, so it is a hike to Tavares. We are going to try and call them at 3 pm to 4 pm when we are allowed, and ask another question then casually add, "By any chance, do you know when the permit might be ready to collect?

Fingers, toes, in fact everything, crossed.

Thank you again,

Lisa.

P.S. No, it's not wetlands that we are building on :)


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By Brian in Dome-ville, FL on 5/2/2007


Good luck! I did our clearing long before I started the permit process, mostly because we couldn't even see across the lot - it was so wooded and overgrown. We put in the permits a year after we had it cleared somewhat, if they had said anything at that point I would have said, "What clearing?"
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By Jim in Beverly Beach, FL on 5/2/2007


Lisa,

I asked the inspector for the (small) town of Beverly Beach about doing a culvert and clearing before permitting. He said it was okay, but that I should let them know at the city office; so that when nosy neighbors called about it, they would know in advance what was going on.

Jim

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By Bill in Callahan, FL on 5/2/2007


In Jacksonville, you can do everything up to pouring the footers/slab. Many builders will call for a slab inspection the day they get their permit.

Bill


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By Del in Norcross, GA on 5/2/2007


Hi Lisa,

It was good to see yours was the first post that I saw when I logged on after such a long time. Seems like things have been moving along for you. I'm glad.

In Polk County, as in J'ville, you can pretty much do anything to your property before obtaining your permit as long it doesn't involve anything that is regulated, e.g. wetlands impact. I'd go for it and plead ignorance if anything comes up.

I brought Regina home from the hospital last Friday and will be heading back down to Fla. to resume my construction this weekend if she continues to recover at her current rate. Let me know if I can help with anything.

Regards,

Del


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 5/3/2007


Thanks everyone,

I have privately messaged you, but wanted you to know your timely comments are really appreciated.

Loads have happened, but it's 0530 hrs. and I have to fly out the door, so it'll have to wait.

Update soon on journal.

Sincere thanks again,

Lisa.


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By Scott in Brandon, FL on 5/3/2007


Be careful on how much you do on your property before you post your permit on the job site. Any fill placed on your lot should be properly compacted before you begin laying out your foundation. A compaction test is usually required if more than 18" of fill is added to the pad. You will need to have that "sticker" on the permit card before you will get a slab inspection. Most jurisdictions will allow you to set form boards and dig the footers. Anything more will be considered "construction." Any placement of rebar in the footers could possibly get your job red-tagged. Be safe, be sure... get it in writing.

Good luck,

Scott


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 5/5/2007


Thanks for that Scott,

We brought the fill in it has been compacted, I scrabbled around for a firm to do the clean-fill sample, and they will come back for the compaction test when I call them. Had a major headache with the truckers, thought they were nice guys until I caught them slacking off.

Sat down last night and worked out how they have basically been doing it for the whole two days. We needed one more final run and I called the pit to arrange it. Was told they left two mins. ago, waited 15 mins. --nothing, it was 4:05 p.m. at this point. Raced to pit to see if there was a problem, turned up at the pit 10 mins. later and they were just leaving. They had been parking up in this case for >25 mins. when I was paying them by the hour! Seriously not happy and cannot recommend WFF Trucking Inc. Run by the Juman brothers/cousins. I have withheld their check until I spoke with my contact J.J., and they did not even apologize.

Basically it is theft, and it easily totals up to 16 hours over two days.  Met J.J.. Gave it to them all written down; my times, pit times, (he did not want it) and he tried to feed me a load of B.S., and did not realize I'm not completely stupid! They had been spotted parking up lots by the pit workmen. The pit was not busy, other than my trucks. There were only three other (single trip) trucks for the whole day. Basically I was paying them for trucking, not having "Mothers' Meetings". They still wanted the full money or knock $90 off.

I was outraged and so will be contacting our attorney for advice Monday. As per contract, we will end up in front of the American Arbitration Assoc. They threatened a lien, and frankly I was so angry with having been lied to and them attempting what is basically theft, I did not care. They did not meet the spirit of the agreement to provide trucking services for the whole hours I was paying them for. I even stopped them on Thursday to feed them pizza on our time as we want to treat everyone well. I will carry on treating everyone as well as possible, but it leaves a nasty taste in your mouth. I truly wonder how some people sleep at night. All I can tell anyone and everyone who looks them up on Google: do not trust this trucking company. They are partly in Winter Garden and partly in Gotha, from what I can tell.

Anyway, them stringing out the fill has put us back a little. So, site work and compaction will now finish on Monday, then form boards. They started work on our permit Wednesday; there are three lines to complete from the rejected ones. Don't fully understand it, but one was complete Thursday, the second on Friday, and the third is still waiting? Please be Monday, please, please, please. We will stop after form boards if not; but it would be lovely to get form board survey done, then underground plumbing. 

Question: When are they supposed to do the compaction test exactly? Everyone seems really relaxed about it and has a slightly different answer. Is it post rough plumbing or post footers, as that soil is heaped on and compacted, again. Anyone know? SO, lots of drama and me standing my ground. Rup has been working, so hopefully he'll forgive me for being so angry with them and the fallout. That said, I was very, very angry, but did not swear, shout, but certainly told them some home truths. 

Lisa. (With her blood still up! But I think you guessed that already.)


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By John in Lake City, FL on 5/5/2007


Good evening Lisa,

As for the compaction, how much in height of soil did they put in? As a general rule of thumb, it should have been compacted in two-foot lifts as the fill went in. For example, if you filled in four feet, then you would have compacted the site at the two-foot level and again at the four-foot level. A lot of air gets entrained into the soil. 

A good way to compact soil is to run water on it (if it is a well-drained site). In the past two projects, we always did the compaction test after footers and prior to rough plumbing. That way, you don't have to worry about breaking any piping, and you know that the fill within the hole should be the same amount minus any plumbing. 

I feel your anger about the trucking guys. By mistake, I used a family member to do my fill on one of my projects. Big mistake. After two weeks of delays and more money and fill then originally quoted, I was pretty steamed. However; since he was family, my wife did not want to start any problems, and I paid him what he said I owed. 

As for the building department, you may want to ask for Steve Gladwell. He was the plans examiner in Clermont. I don't know if he will help, but he helped me.

We are in the initial stages of getting our plans drawn up. I talked with several builders in the Lake City area to gauge prices, and they must think I am stupid. The prices they are quoting are outrageous. It is more than Orlando prices. I give them another 6 months and they will be changing their tune.

John


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 5/6/2007


John,

Thanks for the post. We are on a slight slope, so the NE corner has just over one foot of fill and the SW corner has (NOW) just over four feet of fill. The surveyor was off by over a foot in the SW corner, (three feet was what we thought we needed) so the site worker had to re-shoot it and suddenly we needed more fill. We just got enough in, by end of Friday. HAD they been consistent hard workers, we would have had it all in by Friday morning. Randy was compacting after each set of loads on Thursday (5) as they came in together! And Friday (2), and wants a 98% compaction rate, which is what our contractor friend would insist on and higher than 95% required.

We used a sandy clay mix, which he assessed on the initial five truckloads, and he said he could not have hoped for better. If it had too much clay in it, we would have switched to clean sand, but it was mainly sand with just enough clay in it. However, he has warned me the plumber may not be my greatest fan! It compacted down and feels like you are walking on concrete. In fact, as I was parked to its south as it was reaching the three to four foot height and Randy was re-shooting it, it felt like boarding the "mother-ship;" and as he was busy and I did not want to get in his way, so requested permission to "board", to our mutual amusement. : ) 

We agreed he was going take it out at the same height and then slope it and not slope it immediately from the wall edge. Basically the compaction was going on constantly. 

Good luck with your plans. I was going to call you; I actually took your email to the site but arranging everyone for the next five weeks I have not been off the phone. My ear is permanently hot? Hoping it calms down as when up to week five is sorted, I will be purely organizing one week per week.

I have a contact who may be able to help you get better prices. I came in contact with him in Feb. His name is Dennis Grover and he subs subs. Sounds crazy, as the book says cut out the middleman, however that said, he and his contacts have beaten lots of the good bids I had. Some people I wanted to use were not negotiable, such as Howard Concrete and Quick Walls. The only thing to watch is one of them I was considering to go with was unlicensed, on my checking, (a framer) so check that out yourself as Dennis asks them, but does not check it. He is based in Palm Coast, which is two hours from you. But it is also two hours from us and some of the subs have barely worked in weeks and some cases months (especially on residential) so are happy to get work and are more competitive.

I am not using any of his subs in the first third of the build, as I was happy with who I had, so I will give a proper recommendation once his guys actually complete their portion of work. He personally guarantees their work and if you do have problems rather than sorting it with just them, he also deals with them, to the subs he provides future business, so they don't want to hack him off. I believe the subs pay him if they get the job. I will private message you his number rather than post it yet. I will post it later when I have actually used his subs.

Most of my bids he beat with the exception of roofing, and Collis Roofing came highly recommended from several people personally known to me. 

Hope that helps, and I know how you feel; many people saw I was not a GC and so assumed I was ignorant to real costs of things. That said, because I have not picked them and work is slow now, so who's the "shortsighted" party! Plus we have put up our Doc Box, something I would now recommend to do earlier and so many subs have dropped their details in it and approached me and we are only in week one!!

Kindest regards, and thank you for taking the time to type.

Lisa.


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By Frank in Orlando, FL on 5/9/2007


Lisa,

How many loads of fill did you end up using? I was also curious about the time that it took for them to make runs from the gravel pit to your project. I was under the impression from one of your previous posts that you were paying for the fill by the load, or is it paying for the fill by the load and the dump truck to deliver by the hour? If you had to do it over, would you try to arrange for a straight payment per load from the dump truck? I am asking because I think that our properties are similar in the sense that in one corner I need a significant amount of fill... about 6 feet, and in the other about one foot. Enclosed is my engineering site survey, I was just hoping to use your experience with WFF as a learning experience.

I also wanted to let anyone who is interested that I found a supplier that has 18x18 medium-light travertine tile in the Orlando area for about $3/foot, I am told they will deliver. I also have a contact for someone selling 36"x6'8" used doors, solid core made of light birch, for sale at $30/door. Finally, I have a contact for a wholesaler of Spanish roofing tiles. This contact has told me that he will contact several roofers for me with my plans and basically help me with my bidding. Tiles should run about $100/sq. and labor and other supplies should be an additional $175/sq. 

If any of these contacts would be helpful to anyone, please let me know and I will get them to whoever needs them.

Thanks again everyone for your time and effort.

Frank


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 5/10/2007


Frank,

Definitely not enough hours in the day. Where we went wrong was to agree to pay the trucks by the hour, not per truckload. I fell into this one, as they would not come out to check the distance. I was bang on with the number of loads; we would have been under, but the surveyor was off by 1' 2" on the depth at the lowest corner.

For the bank, I have slightly over-guessed everything. Sadly, I did not count on the truck's dishonesty and they always have an excuse! Even after being caught out, they never did apologize, and it still makes me sick to hear they actually say they are honest when we feel they could not be farther from it. My husband put to them that we should have followed them but expected them to act like men, not babies. They tried to say that is illegal, however we are not buying it, we have every right to be anywhere we please, in our vehicles.

My advice is to get it per load. They will judge "over" to compensate any delays, but it will give you a finite cost per load, and they may be less able to put their costs. I am sure there are other downsides to this, but at least they will do you a quick job. Plus hopefully, it's less easy to cheat you. I did deal with the pit directly, and they were great. 

Hopefully by posting this, others have a chance to avoid the pitfalls as we encounter them. 

We did take legal advice on Monday and because they did not work in a workmanlike fashion, (one of the clauses), and we have our own log and that of the pit, and the pit workmen seeing them park up, we did have a good case. But there is a hassle factor, and because I was so angry Rup stepped in, which was needed. He was so reasonable and they were not, in my opinion, plus they were rude. However, it needed Rup's objectivity. We were talking about a 16-hour loss, so I would say we met in the middle, but we moved a lot more than they did. That said, the cost compared to the build is not huge, it's just the principle of the matter.

Arbitration is always a compromise, and we certainly owed them money, that we would never dispute; we just feel cheated. If we were multimillionaires, we would have taken it on out of sheer principle. Money is freedom, as they say. We are not, and due to the relatively small amount, made a choice to get rid of them, together with the hassle, and chalk it up to experience. The strange thing is this is such a role reversal for Rup and me; maybe it shows we complement each other as needed.

Great idea with the doors however, we have lots and although the widths vary, all are 96" tall. Stock Building Supply is probably who we are using. I will private-message you the times it took tomorrow, if that helps at all.

Really must dash.

Lisa.


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By Joe in Ruskin, FL on 5/11/2007


Hi Lisa,

I must jump in here with a little about my ongoing experience with concrete contractors. I signed a deal with one company for grade beams, pile caps, columns, lintels and slab. They turned around and signed a deal with another sub to do the work, a common practice in this area, so I am told. The sub has been, in my opinion, totally incompetent. They put the steel in and pulled it out four times before they got it to a point the inspectors approved it and, in hindsight, I should have checked every measurement. After pouring the grade beam and pile caps, the steel is so far off in a number of places that to do the columns, they could not bend it and had to cut it away. They will now have to epoxy new rebar into the pile caps.

I have been repeatedly told that they would be on site working when they would not show, and I was trying to deal with the sub. Now I am dealing with the contractor I signed with and still hitting frustrations, as my panels are supposed to show up in about a week and I don't think we will have this work complete, allowing space to even store the SIP panels.

Although I am in the Tampa area, the sub is out of the Orlando area. I will wait a few days to see if he makes things right; otherwise, I will be providing his name and my experience to this site, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, local Better Business Bureaus, and anyone else who might listen.

Sorry for the rambling, but the moral of this story is to not only be certain you are dealing with someone you can trust, but also make sure they are the ones who will be doing the work.

Joe H


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 5/11/2007


Joe,

Really, really good point. I am adding that clause to my contracts now stating: "The CONTRACTOR and that specific company named above only, who is under contract and nominated to complete the work described. The CONTRACTOR cannot under any circumstance subcontract the work specified or otherwise to another company without getting the express permission of the OWNER in writing."  Hopefully that will do it?

Thanks for that. Got permit today, HOORAY! Form boards tomorrow -- fingers crossed.

Lisa.


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By Jim in Beverly Beach, FL on 6/20/2007


Hey Lisa,

We enjoyed our visit to your work site and meeting you last month. Unfortunately, since Quick Wall was not too quick, we did not get to see your walls. We hope to make it down to FL in July to take a look; we'll let you know when our plans solidify.

Since I am interested in using Quick Walls, let me ask you a few questions:

If you had to do it again, would you do the embedded truss straps, or would you go with the wood top-plate system that QW likes to use? I realize that Jason had concerns about strength of the wood top plate and that was one of the reasons that he went with SWS and that you went with embedded straps. It seems it would be simple enough for them to get the straps embedded in the right place but apparently there were a few problems for you with respect to that. The top-plate technique seems a little more idiot-proof as far as getting the truss straps in the right place. Let us know what you think.

I wondered if you would use Brevard Truss again, also. I mean the truck driver running into the gate, give me a break; or was it that tight a squeeze? Anyhow, I think that QW offers a sort of shell program where they can do trusses as well as the walls. In retrospect, might it be a good idea to have QW do the wall and trusses so that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing with respect to strap placement, trusses, and scheduling, etc.? Or were the savings so significant by going with Brevard Truss that you would still recommend that way? Let us know what you think, now that you have been through it.

By the way, the pictures are great... huge changes and progress just recently, congratulations.

Jim and Linda



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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 6/23/2007


Jim and Linda,

I was a pleasure to meet you both. I would absolutely use precast walls again, I am very pro the QW system. I love our walls. Sadly, not keen on certain of the company's employees; covering their bums comes way before customer service!!! That's because they could have been so helpful (no I am not talking financially either) and instead were rude. There is another company who was going to use them (three big companies coming together) but were so appalled with their attitude they are considering setting up in competition, so we would use this alternate company next time unless if does not come off. (Coming 2008, we understand.) I hope they do, because competition is healthy and their attitude is fab. The system is great and I will bring it to the attention of the CEO of Quick Walls, when I get time at the end of build, but now its just tooooooo hectic.
 
As for Brevard Truss, would I use them again? Absolutely; yes, there have been mistakes, but they are very considerate. I believe they are going to pay for the gate being fixed, the cost of Elton getting towed out, and they have rectified everything as fast as humanly possible. The designer Danny who has been helping us has suggested next time we go to them and view the truss plan in 3-D, as it will be easier to pick up everything and they can talk us through it. This is something they have done for others and we did not know they did that. Plus, as we are going to be building this house again with minor modifications, we now know where the errors were!!! I truly applaud their great attitude and being O-B's, they are very considerate and easy to deal with. Usually that is half the battle.

You are more than welcome anytime if you are coming down in July. Hopefully the trades will be doing their thing by then, and despite everything and the emotional ups and downs, it really is very exciting : ) I think we will laugh about the myriad of Elton's (driver) problems for many years to come, and I did have major problems on the second time he got stuck, with the giggles. Just when you think this cannot get any more ridiculous, it does : )
 
Regarding the straps, having them embedded not only makes sense to us but also to Central Florida Truss, who had the concerns over it with Jason and Cara, as well as to so many trades we have spoken with who really know what they are talking about. The alternative is only easier for Quick Walls; it is the easy option and not necessarily the best in the long term. I would like to think (my parents live in a 400-yr-old house) that long after we have gone the house will still be there, and I like and agree with the view that O-Bs are probably building better houses because cost and sheer profit is not our only motivation. Just my two cents' worth. Despite the perceived impression of O-Bs being a hassle, actually they are a pretty stable and a growing area in the building industry. Of course, your choice, but doing it all over again, embedding straps would be our choice.
 
As to using Manning Building Supply for lumber and trusses, no I would not, following our experience with their (loosely-termed) "customer service ". Plus, putting all your eggs in one basket with an unknown company would for us have been a disaster in hindsight. Easier, yes, but at least I know the people we are using are helping us pick up the ball, so to speak. I made the decision on trusses way ahead of time, one we were already with Brevard, but also I was warned off Manning Building Supply when discussing lumber by no less than three separate framers (all unrelated). When they knew we were using them for the walls, the first question was "Are you using them for lumber?" I had truly not decided, but when three separate companies say 'please don't', they have a bad reputation - allegedly the standard quality of wood is poor compared with others. 

One framer said if I were going to use them, even they had no problem with us, they were adamant they would not want the job as it would be Not what you want to hear, so I was going to use Stock Building Supply. But CBS in Clermont, when they realized they had lost out to Stock, got very aggressive with their pricing and they are more local, so I know I have saved quite a bit. OSB was coming out 30 cents cheaper than Stock alone!!! Yes, I am pleased with the service I got from CBS, plus if we have any excess they have waived the restocking fee for me. With Stock it was 25%.

I will upload more pics this weekend, and we now have windows, felt on the roof, framing sadly not finished, but hopefully next week, power (at last) due next week as we passed our tug box inspection on Thursday. HVAC starts at the end of next week. Very chuffed. 

We look forward to seeing you in July. If you let us know when we'll set up the barbecue in the evening if Rup is home.

Take care, and all the best of luck with everything.

Lisa.

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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 7/11/2007


Hi All,

Wonder if anyone can help. We were let down badly today by Heritage Propane, Dan Vines (DV) Sales Rep. Has been mucking us around a wee bit, acts like your best friend, but every time we see him the bid creeps up. We faxed our contract together with his bid to him on the 4th of July, however I did query a line item which I was not happy about, two separate charges for the makeup air (dryer), low vent and high vent. Originally this was a low charge, less than $50 but then it was $59 and then when he came out again on the Harley he stuck a 1 in front of it and said hang on, it may be less. The final figure was $138 (big deal)!! 

I did at the time gently query again why this bid had escalated so much; back in Oct last year it was a total incl. tax of $1,096, now it was $1,601 - more or less a 50% increase. (Oh yes, their annual tank-rental charge has also increased from $48 to $96, double again). I queried what a high and low vent was, as we have already done the exhaust vent for the dryer. I spoke with Suburban and they told me only one vent was needed, I then got a load of BS that worried me from DV that the high vent goes into the ceiling but again on querying whether it was vented as we wanted the shingles on ASAP "No it is not vented out the roof". 

Well, call me stupid: we are putting in Polyurethane Foam, so the roof will be sealed. There are no roof vents. SO even my limited knowledge knows it cannot draw or vent air. No, No, No, Lisa, I am told, we just put it there to please the inspectors. Yeah right!!! Well I am acting GC as an O-B and the buck stops with me and that excuse was just not going to fly, so as we are getting on really well with our inspectors so far and we have their cells. I called Billy. He was great and also not happy with what I had been told and put me onto another inspector who knows a lot more in this area and no, it would definitely fail if we did that and that we should vent high and low through the wall. 

Okay, called DV last week and his men would be there Fri or Mon, as they did not turn up Fri, I was quite pleased as I had slept on it and thought "bugger this - let's take the LP Dryer off the quote to get it down". Plus we’ll not worry about hammering into these guys the LP issue. We advised DV first thing Monday and I re-did the contract to reduce it to $1,454 for the four drops. Emailed it off having told him to expect it same as before, which he told me was fine, just new figures.

Nobody arrive for gas piping Monday, nobody Tuesday, and at 2:50 pm today (*Wednesday*) people from All Gas turn up to do the piping. They had no piping plan, (bearing in mind they were not expecting me on site they would have put in the five drops!!!) I've not seen the Construction Site Safety Policy, no contract had been sent to me by email or fax (so far if that has not happened the workers bring it with them.) Not their fault, and DV not available, luckily a kind lady at their office was. Sadly, she got the brunt of it, but was very understanding. I snapped when Cris, Larry's boss said on the Nextel, if she sends you away that will be another trip charge!!! At this point I had not mentioned sending them away, but my gut feeling was there is something very wrong here. 

After 20 minutes, DV was located. He told me he never got my email; well what about the fax and you saying the contract was fine, when I asked on the phone if you were happy with it? Okay, I'll sign it and fax it through tomorrow morning, he says. Not happy, as they will have done the work by then and no contract means the laws are all on their side, plus at this point they had already chipped the paint off our new pool storage door by walking through a closet the wrong way and banging said door open into our generator and roof vents, (that we do not need) rather than walk the extra two feet to go through the OPEN slider next to it to view the summer kitchen!!!

Just about to call Rupe who was driving up to Columbus, knowing what he would say but needing to hear it anyway. I explain to the men what was going on and they had found another problem. Dan had quoted 3/4" pipe. Well my Dears, over 100' you need 1" pipe, so there would be an extra cost, oh no, there will not be, my contract is fixed the only extra I pay for is the tank to house line at $6 per foot. Plus there is now less piping, so they might be able to do it if they bring the pipe up behind our bed, this means the outside line gets longer. 

Then I see the proposed marked point by Dan, where it's coming in at; no not what we had on the plan for the permit, but all the way to the rear of our master bedroom, adding 30-40 ft to the outside line or >$180 plus tax. Not pleased as I spoke with one of the people who recommended him and apparently when they used him it was fine until the end (recently) and they got all these extra costs on top and he fell out with him big time. The other recommendation also said something similar. 

The devil is in the details, as they say and I for one think our bid has escalated too much and so why would I trust someone who seems to be the worst kind of salesman. I knew I would have to tell them to walk. Luckily the decision was taken out of my hands, DV called back: I've just read your contract, (so I'm guessing they got it after all!!) and it all favours you. We have to get this through corporate, and that could take weeks, plus we use subs... DV, you've had it a while now, why not mention this before, it protects me as the law is totally on your side and I am aware of that... Lisa, no one would sign this contract, and on and on and on... actually everyone has signed this contract; one-man companies, small companies, medium companies, large companies such as Collis Roofing who do >50% of the roofs in Florida. (This is totally true. The only change I had to make was for Solar-Tite who wanted something that did not affect them removed.) In fact, people have actually mentioned how completely fair it is. Plus it stops the costs going up as I always put in "a maximum of $xxx.xx." Anyway, DV said the men had better leave until this was sorted, and I passed my phone to them and he told them this. Hey he told them to go, not me, wondering if I get a trip charge??? If I do Rupe wants to bill them back for a new door!!!

So I am shopping for a new gas contact who can do the work quickly and is professional. And does what they say they will do, in our area Groveland, Lake County. Any recommendations would be most appreciated.

The office called me back later on to check if I was happy, oops, wrong question: “Err No”. This person kindly asked me to speak with the director for the area, I politely asked if it was worth the effort as I was going to shop around, they said absolutely, but I have lost all trust, so he would have to pull a rabbit out of a hat to get our business back. I have emailed everyone at Florida Propane tonight, hopefully they’ll call tomorrow; emailed our framers and we’ll see, but the electricians finish up next week and then the framers finish off, then we have a six-way inspection. If we pass - as that is one massive inspection. The insulation on (hopefully) 23rd July. So I do need someone competitive as we are over budget; however, I also need someone reliable.

Well done if you made through this diatribe, I starting typing and it all poured out. Can you guess Rupe is away?

 

Thanks. Lisa.


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 8/9/2007


Question: looking into garage doors presently and found a little info on the Web, but no comparisons between vinyl and metal garage doors. I never 100% trust the salesperson, let's face it; the more costly something is, the more they are going to push it. I understand R-value, what I am failing to grasp is the point of it when that area is not A/C'ed and frequently opened to let the exterior temperature influence the ambient temperature in the garage anyway. Plus, we are having polyurethane foam in the floor system to help prevent the hot temperature affecting the bonus room above it. How can a greater R-value in the garage doors keep the high temp of a garage down on a hot day when it has to be opened anyway? I can understand it may aid the garage reaching the heights of temperatures on a really hot day, but let's face it, it is still non-A/C space.

All thoughts appreciated.

Lisa.


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By Jim in Beverly Beach, FL on 8/9/2007


Hey Lisa,

From a common sense point of view, I don't think spending money on garage door R-value is a cost-effective idea. The only exception might be if your garage door faces south. In that case, the sun pounding on the garage door will make a solar oven out of the garage. Of course, then you could bake crumpets in there. Otherwise I don't think there would ever be a return on your investment, especially since you plan to sell this house and move up.

Linda, I, and our two girls may be passing through Groveland on Friday near noontime. We would like to stop by. I'll ring you up.

Jim

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By Dorothy & James in Tampa, FL on 8/13/2007


Lisa,

I agree with Jim completely. Don't go for R-value in a garage door. I would be more concerned with strength. We do live in a hurricane state. We are building in Tampa, and are only two or so miles inland from Tampa Bay. I will be buying the strongest garage door I can find. Our door is also oversized, 18'x7'. Your garage door, if it fails in a hurricane, is one big way for wind to come in, possibly breach your envelope and lift your roof. Even with a bonus room above the garage. That could be very bad. So go for strength. Try and find one you like that meets the Miami-Dade County code (131-150 mph) and reinforce the tracks with an aftermarket product. You can always add rigid foam panels to the interior of the door, they attach very easily, if overheating the garage becomes a problem. Hope this helps.

Dorothy


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 10/17/2007


Thanks for the advice. We ended going with the mid range of the doors, so not just the steel, but steel and vinyl with insulation. The next level up was steel with steel inside and insulation, so the door has an R-value of 7, but not 12. This cost us $100 over the basic door, but not another $400 over that for the all-swinging-and-dancing one, so a little splash. Now we are really pleased we did, we are doing a lot of work in the garage storing paint, etc. and the garage is east-facing and gets very hot in the morning. Now the garage doors on it are as cool as the rest of the house, which is not A/C'ed yet but the Polyurethane foam is doing a great job keeping the temp down. So we are really pleased, and Metro Garage did us a good job too.

So here's the new question: We are ordering kitchen cabinets tomorrow and torn between two companies; one is KraftMaid cabinets, particle board, NO frills like drawers slowing down, plywood or no-slam doors. If we had the frills, it would add $4K. The second one is custom cabinets 3/4" plywood, and the above "whistles and bells" and is $4K dearer. Both companies have a good reputation; the custom one's ex-customers positively glow. But $4K is $4K. Both are Shaker maple (natural) which we love the look of, as we did not want a cottage kitchen look. So basically, if we had the frills on the KraftMaid they both would be the same price!! 

Now we will be selling the house in two years, so this is not forever for us, so I rung a Realtor. They basically said on selling the house having the custom cabinets does not alter the final cost so we cannot supposedly "recoup the cost". Now who agrees with this, or not, as the case may be? All views are welcome.

Save $4K or not??


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By Frank in Orlando, FL on 10/18/2007


I'm not sure if thinking will be helpful to you Lisa, but I think what you are debating is whether you should spend the extra $4K because it will make your house more appealing when you go to sell it, and want to know if in your level of home that is sort of an expected or standard feature. I sincerely believe that a potential buyer's decision on a purchase of a home will be made within the first three minutes of their initial visit. Wow factor is important in this... so I would think that sinking that $4K into landscaping and a home warranty policy that will assure them their HVAC and appliances won't need to be replaced within the first year of moving in would make more sense.

Your house showing will likely be their second or third house viewing that day, and their decision will likely be made on major needs, less on smaller details. 

I think many times as O-B's we torture ourselves with details that we need to attend to, but that a person who has not built a house would not notice. Think of all that you learned in the last two years and the information you gained. Now you go to an open house and are able to critique with an educated eye. Most people do not have that expertise. Most people won't distinguish between plywood and particle board, between custom and mass production cabinets, between vinyl and aluminum windows. 

They will, however, notice the grand front entrance, the granite countertops, and the landscaping. 

I might also add that in two years your neighborhood will be much more developed, therefore there is much more to take in, less to focus on what you may believe is a negative.

Here is a link to a ConsumerReports.com article:

consumerreports.org/cro/home-garden/kitchen

As a final note, I just wanted to add an experience. I recently went to an open house for a multimillion-dollar lakefront home. I was trying to see if the cabinetry was real wood or particle board with laminate and was having a very difficult time. I finally asked the builder and he told me that it was particle board. The point of my story is that I would not have known had I not asked.

Just one guy's opinion, hope it helps.

Frank


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 10/18/2007


Frank,

Thank you for all that. Greatly appreciated, and you really made me laugh too! : ) You are so right, most people don't know the difference between what to us is now basic stuff. I was at my sister's wedding drinking on a balcony overlooking the pavilion in the Grand Floridian pre-reception and once you've started this O-B route you can't switch it off. I took one look at their shingles and thought, cheapskates, they only used three-tab as opposed to architectural shingles. Rupe's eyes went to heaven when I mentioned it, which made me laugh, (although that could have been the drink), but it is difficult to switch off when you've made so many informed decisions.

So yes, in our own house, the third one where I hope we'll stay, I'd go with the custom one, but this time KraftMaid is the sensible decision. Plus, I also visited with a Realtor or two and posed the question, and they said it would not make a blind bit of difference to the price, as long as the initial impression is good, that is the best gauge. So a big thank you for your answer, one does get bogged down in the minutia and forget to look up and see the forest for the trees.

Thank you,

Lisa.


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 10/18/2007


Apologies for the spelling, yes I have had a Margarita tonight! Note to self: Only type, if wishing to make any sense, when zero alcohol in system. Well I guess that would be never then (only kidding for those who don't realize we Brits get very sarcastic). That said, it's well deserved this week! Must go to bedibyes, more painting (inside house tomorrow). Must get two rear rooms finished and bamboo flooring down before Monday, as our Pac Van is being collected Tuesday and I need an office. At least the weather should be cooler soon. I will update the journal as soon as I come up for breath having done the above.

Lisa.


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 11/17/2007


Okay another question for your guys. In HD today, and sadly the guys I know who know what they are talking about all seemed to have the day off. I was looking for elasticized PVA (Polyvinyl Acetate) glue as I still have not done the bamboo and wanted to do it this weekend!! Well I had the HD crew who thought they knew everything and frankly had not a clue but were never going to admit it. 

I don't mind ignorance, but I loath it when they keep you hanging around 40 mins and then you realise they are talking crap, but they will not admit it. Please, HD, if you ever read this in a thousand years, say you really don't know and don't waste my time, but look it up later. The guys who I mainly do deal with are a wonder; some managers have a lot to learn still and would, if they realised bluffing is not on. Go learn for the next customer!!! Anyway, being short of time (for life in fact) I raced to floors today to quiz them and lo and behold they have closed down for good. It was getting late now, so I will tear out to search tomorrow. 

In the meantime, does anyone know of where and the brand name of any make of elasticized PVA? HD wanted me to buy Gorilla, but nowhere was a list of ingredients and as wood breathes and expands and contracts, I am guessing that is why it has to be elasticized, the Elmers wood glue also had little explanation of it. Lanza bonding agent I believe may be PVA, but who knows whether it is elasticized. It is going over a concrete floor on a moisture barrier and foam as per the instructions, and I am just gluing the tongue and groove. Any brand names or where to get it would be great.

Thanks,

Lisa.


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By Scott in Brandon, FL on 11/17/2007


Have you tried lumberliquidators.com?

 


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By Randy in PB, FL on 11/18/2007


Titebond II at HD has PVA in it. I used it to glue my bamboo together. Recommended by my floor salesman.
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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 11/22/2007


Thanks for that, guys. I called Titebond, and they recommended Titebond for molding and trim (gray label). They have had a lot of enquiries and asked me to speak to Wellmade, the manufacturer of the bamboo we bought at Costco. Well folks, despite most likely selling 10's of 1000's of boxes of bamboo through Costco (and the rest) I spoke with a guy called Bruce who apparently wrote the instructions!!

Well apparently, they have changed the instructions now, although the boxes being sold still have the old instructions. The new instructions now say to stick the planks down with (another non-recommendation) a urethane glue!!! Oh yes, forget the moisture barrier. Sorry to sound flippant, but this guy was so so patronising and rude, he actually was warning me against bamboo which really annoyed, me as how are they going to stop people using the hardwoods which destroy the precious forests left, if they do not promote alternatives??

Anyway, on reading the original instructions it was quite patronising (surprise, surprise). It basically says "if you don't know what an elasticized PVA glue is you should not be doing this - get a professional". Then on the phone they ripped into the number of non-professionals and basically said they were trying to protect the homeowner from themselves (balls, they are trying to protect their own reputation if you ask me. People who frequent Costco tend to be proactive; so get used to it).

Well, the installer is only as good as the instructions for whatever particular product!!! The new instructions will be going into the new boxes, (my suggestion to provide Costco with leaflets to display over the old boxes went down like a lead balloon) so don't hold your breath. They were written in the spring, but of course that was all Costco's fault!!! Frankly, we have decided to ignore this guy because we are big fans of Costco and he was a jerk. We will use a moisture barrier and should the foundation crack, which they all do, we would have problems if they were stuck down; plus, if we change our minds later it will be easier to get up.

I am being advised to take it up with the CEO and Costco, which I will do in time, but just now it is way too hectic. We have talked to several O-B's and installers who frankly were great. Bruce also said in the most rude tone of voice you can imagine, "Well, the new instructions are on our website," easy for him to say, as he had to direct me to it as I had looked at it many times after searching Google, and if you use its initial recommendations end up on the old site with the old instructions!!! Great move, Wellmade! NOT.

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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 11/27/2007


Scott, I tried calling Lumber liquidators - not much help. But iFLOOR.com was better. Calling the glue manufacturers really helped, as they have had loads of these calls already so we were instantly on the same page. Thank you for responding with the suggestion, I did try.

Lisa.


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 12/5/2007


I don't know if anyone can help. Our rude, unprofessional tiler walked off the job today. To cut a long story short he wanted another advance, having already had 80%, and I said "No" and told him to finish this segment as per our contract and he threw a massive wobbler and said he was leaving and I think he is still reeling that I made no attempt to stop him. He's been so rude already; life is just too short.

Anyway I need a reliable tiler and quick to finish up, if anyone can recommend anyone, it would really help me out. We are in Lake County north of Clermont. If so, please message me on LittleLakeCorner or private message me, as I've got to spend tomorrow hot on the phone finding a replacement to finish up, plus my little one has a temp of 102 F so everything is sort of conspiring against me. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks,


Lisa.


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 12/14/2007


Well "John Morelli" (the tiler from HELL) from Palm Coast well and truly has ripped us off, and so far I am only encountering vultures who when they think they have the job jack up the bid, so it works out as $12 per sq ft or they don't have the experience needed, as per Loy and John Morelli, to do anything but floors.

HELP!! The question is: Are there any honest, experienced and sensibly-priced tilers out there??? Any recommendations PLEASE????

Thank you, Lisa.


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By P in North, FL on 12/18/2007


Lisa,

I hope you are able to find a replacement.

What are you going to do about John Morelli? He sounds like a rotter.


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By Lisa in Groveland, FL on 12/18/2007


Phil,

I have rated him on Palmcoast.biz, but I need to update it, as I now know although his floor work was "adequate" as described by the many bids I have had, his wall work leaves a lot to be desired and the master bath has to be ripped down and redone. John Morelli did very little tiling. He got Loy "Palmetto Tile" and Mike to do the actual work while he did everything to avoid it. They took two weeks to basically do two days work as per my new bidders, and left the intricate stuff. That said, I've seen far more intricate work with Travertine and unique stuff in model homes and the street of dreams. I will do a full writeup in my journal when I draw breath, so hopefully anyone researching his name on Google before hiring may think twice. Any further action will have to be considered after we have moved, which will not be until early Jan now. 

Other than the tiling, the wrong colour granite slabs were sent from Miami. Luckily our granite pre-fabricator was on the ball and rung me before cutting. I ran down to his shop and confirmed it. We want "Sapphire Brown" but there is a surplus of "Sapphire blue" on the market which anyone selling granite is trying to tell anyone is actually Sapphire Brown; it is not. We have seen both and "Sapphire blue" would not work with our colour scheme. There is a lot of blue in it and the red colour is more light pink and not a deep dark pink towards terracotta colour, with lots of deep brown. All advice would be appreciated. 

Dennis Grover is also not to be trusted in our book either, and his guarantee is as good as useless for us. He encouraged us to pay this guy due to his money problems and he obviously values this guy's business (he gets 10%) of all jobs, far more than an O-B who is not a big builder. I spoke with him regarding this and gave him the chance to offer assistance with other tilers obviously he knew the little left in the pot so we would have had to pay more, which we are having to do anyway. I asked him to call back and needless to say, he obviously has no intention to. The only reason I paid John Morelli is because I had faith in Dennis Grover. Anyone else I would not have gone there; sadly, I let my defenses down and in fact used Dennis very little as I had so many in place already and found it relatively easy to get less expensive bids.

But it is three strikes for Dennis. First, I also was going to use one of his framers, but found out despite claims they were not licensed, Dennis asks them but does not check, so I could not use this framer. The second was Roberto, the glass block man who was going to do the tiling. My framers had not finished the shower wall so I paid him in full, as only 15 glass blocks were outstanding and we agreed he would do it on returning for the tiling. He skipped town to NJ and Dennis (to his credit) did call me and explain he'd been let down too, he even offered to pay for the 15 blocks if I used one of his tilers. When it came to it as I sent him the Morelli contract pre-signing, he protested until I reminded him of his offer. So, third strike with this dodgy tiler. Lights look nice in the house and Pikes have been great, the cabinets look good too as do toilets, but we still have so much to do. Still not found a tiler, tiler seems to be a code for 'we want to rip you off."

Still looking, all suggestions appreciated.

Lisa.


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