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6th Month of Construction

Job Diary - Sixth Month of Construction


I got my drive and walks poured today. When I saw where they were going to set the forms, even with the width of the garage door, I didn't like it, and he agreed to widen it to the width of the garage front on one side. That makes it a lot nicer when you are getting in and out of your car, or unloading something, etc.. I won't have to pay any more on my concrete bid. I just have to pay for the extra yardage of mud they use. Also, I got my walks poured at 4 feet wide, rather than the three feet that is common in our neighborhood.


Now most of the prep work for painting is done in the house. Most of the baseboard is in. We hope to have a hardwood installer in maybe next week to put in the flooring. Also, I'm trying to schedule the master bath for tiling. We are going to do the other bathrooms ourselves. We are going to do all tile shower surrounds now instead of marble glass. My brother-in-law Johnny is willing to do that, and he knows what he is doing with the vertical tiling. I can do floor tiling myself, though Johnny will help me.

Dal-Tile has a special easy backerboard to use for floor tiles, and they guarantee the tiles and grout from cracking for five years for just 20 cents more a foot than if we use the other popular backerboard. With the Dal-Tile stuff you don't have do any special seaming, just nail down and put your thin set over it and lay the tile.

We'll probably put the wood flooring in before painting and try to protect it and the tile from overspray. The cabinets and countertops we'll wait until after painting.

With the good trend in interest rates, I have my mortgage locked at 6 3/8 percent. I might even be able to get it adjusted again if the fed rates fall again. This is going to save us significant money on our monthly payments.


There was more of the honeycomb in the edges of the sidewalk sections that we first saw on the corners of our house a few months ago. I got a settlement with that concrete man, but this one said that he had bent over backwards for us, and didn't want to touch the job anymore. It's disappointing, but one of those small details that I won't probably notice later on with all the good things that strike your eye.


I borrowed a tile saw from a friend today. We were late picking it up from his house because we spent a long time at the tile store picking out new floor tile. We had what we wanted picked out, but didn't really realize that they didn't have it in stock. They didn't get the order in soon enough, and the tile needs to go in now, so we have to go with second choice. I recommend to people that they choose their tile plenty in advance.

Jessica's father and brother were both there to help lay the tile in the laundry and the powder room. Unfortunately, I hadn't figured out the drain in the laundry yet, but I think we can retrofit it with cutting through the tile to the drain and adding a tray under the washer later. I didn't want to hold up the guys any further after the delay at the tile store. By the end of the day we had a really nice looking tile job in those two rooms.


We had our white oak flooring laid today. It really goes down nice, and very fast. The whole public area of the house including everything but bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs was laid in one day. More than 1,000 feet. I couldn't wait for the free help I was expecting, so I wound up paying $1.80 a foot for wood, $.80 for installation, and $2 for sand and finish, a total of $4.60 but still a good deal. Tomorrow they sand and begin finish.


They just finished the protective coat over the wood flooring this morning. We put down paper and went right in to do the small bathroom tub surround. The wood floor is gorgeous.

The tub surround took longer than we expected because of problems figuring out the bottom row and getting in the soap dish. The edges required a lot of cutting because walls are never perfectly square. We put in white tile with a yellow accent stripe. We also got the backerboard down for the floor tile in there.

Some lessons I'm learning: Everything slows down at the end when you are doing finishing work because it has to be so meticulous. Don't hire and depend on your friends to do much of the work. You may not be pleased with the outcome, and it's difficult to get friends to show up on time. It's very important to be on-site when trades are doing work so you can make sure it's what you are expecting. The biggest place to break the budget is in the last stages because you run out of time to do all of the self-work you want. And finish work is generally not cheap to buy.


Our vinyl fence between my property and our friend Kevin's is going in today, it will finish tomorrow. On that side of the property we'll have a very nice no maintenance fence that goes the length of the backyard and then turns and meets our house with a nice gate. These vinyl fences are absolutely no maintenance. Kevin and I are splitting the cost on this one, and he got a good deal on it. It matches the back fence the developer installed exactly. A lot of people put in cedar fences around here but they are expensive to maintain. A gallon of the protective coating is about $25, and it's easy to spend a couple of thousand maintaining your fence, and most of them look like they need it every year.


My uncle is finishing up the woodwork in the house, and I have been talking to painters. The woodwork in incredible. The detail and the craftsmanship are amazing. Little things like a wainscoting in the kids bath, and the cladding around the pantry shelves are really nice.

The painters are funny. One guy, again, somebody I know to be a good craftsman, wanted $6,000 to paint the house, even though we have most of the spackling, sanding, and caulking, out of the way. I decided it would be important to keep looking for better prices, because we only budgeted $3,000 for painting with us doing most of the work.

Another painter came back, the man I was going to use for woodwork, and possibly painting, but then decided to do it with my uncle and other relatives. He is the nicest, most honest man. He does quality work that I have looked at in another owner-builder's house. I told him that I was interested in quality, and some of the things he told me were that he would do a lot more caulking, including making a seal where the wood floor and the woodwork meet.

He also does something cool with windows. He sands the inside surfaces of the window enclosure of their orange peel surface from sheetrock finishing. Then he paints then glossy to look as if the window had been cased by carpenters, which is a nice way to "fake" an expensive look. He is going to use a Kwall-Howells premium wall paint that is 100% acrylic in the house. And I must have caught him at a good time, because he wants $2,400 to do the job.


Jessica and I went to check out our leads on appliances last weekend. We are going to get all the appliances for about $3,000 which was our goal. And they are all stainless steel units, an oven range, a nice quiet dishwasher, and a big fridge/freezer with ice and water in the door. The microwave we already own, and it's not stainless, but it looks good, and it will be in the island out of the line of sight. With the cherry cabinets, this is going to be nicer than we hoped for.


Today all the woodwork got finished. As I said before, I'm very proud of it, and appreciate my uncle's skill and patience. My painter is going to do some caulking in the next day or two, then put a heavy paper over the wood floor to protect it, and then put down primer all over on maybe Saturday. Tomorrow the guys come to put our travertine tile in the master bath.

The inspector told me that I had to have at least temporary stairs and rail leading out of the master bedroom to the backyard. I asked him if I could seal off the master bedroom to get around that for now. He was very nice about it, and said, I know it's been done on occasion before, but we'd really appreciate it if you could get in the temporary stairs. I would do anything for a guy like that, so I agreed and said it was no problem.

I also asked him about the pan the plumber said we'd have to put under the washer in the laundry room. He said I could skip it. That's a $300 savings.

Tomorrow we get aluminum soffit and fascia. On Saturday, my brother-in-law Johnny will be here to help me tile the kids bath. We are getting very close to finishing this house, I can almost taste it. Insulation is scheduled for the attic and for the basement walls. Cabinets are scheduled, also. The stucco guy will be here tomorrow to finish the back side of the house. I feel like we'll be in first of the month, which would make six and a half months of construction. Our goal was six months, and I feel like we would have made it if Jessica hadn't been so sick.


I had to leave work and come out here twice today to get the stucco edges where it meets the brick right. The guy called me with a question, and I went right out, and then I didn't really know what to tell him to get it right, so believe it or not, I called the other stucco guy who gave me a $600 higher bid for advice. This guy has been very helpful about things he saw at the property, and giving me advice, calling me and saying he noticed something, etc. He understood when I told him that I was trying to save money, and stilled called me a couple of times.

He told me how it should be done, came out and looked at it, and then I came out a second time, and we actually got it right in the end. I think it's pretty important how the outside comes together, and this looks right now.

We decided to go full brick on three sides of the house, but not on the back, where there is no view from either street. We are just about the only full brick in the neighborhood, so it would be overkill to do alo four sides. Also, I saved a good $2,500 by stuccoing the back. The brick was $12,000 for three sides, and the stucco for one side (the longest dimension of the house) for only $2,000.

4/13/01 My brother in law and I finished the tile in the laundry room, mud room and powder room today. It is a nice look, a good tile. Tomorrow is Saturday, but I'm going to have to go into work to compensate for today.


Those appliances I mentioned we got from the big furniture store in our area after getting prices from the contractor-type suppliers. They were very interested in beating the other prices. We got a "volume sales" designation on the purchase. The oven/range is a dual fuel (gas/electric) slide in range with an electric oven in stainless. The fridge is 26 cu. ft. in stainless. Dishwasher is also stainless, all from Frigidaire. We also chose the knobs for our cabinets and they are a smooth brushed stainless steel. The cabinets will have some fancy glass and the whole thing should come together very attractive.

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