July 1998, Construction Loan Closing
September 1998, Groundbreaking
October 1998, Ground work
November 1998, Delays, Delays
December 1998, Framing
January 1999, Still Framing
February 1999, Wiring, Central Vacuum and Plumbing
March 1999, Drywall and bricking
April 1999, Painting and more
May 1999, The End is Near
June 1999, The End is Hear
I've lived in two new houses so far in my life. Both were tract houses built by home builders in the area. The first was a General Homes home in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land. It was about 1500 sq. ft. in size and I lived in it for about 3 years. It was nice because it was the first house I owned.
The next house was a Pulte Homes construct in the Dallas suburb of Plano. It was nicer than the Sugar Land house because it was bigger and had some other features that we liked. Recently, we've been living in a 3 bedroom apartment and can't wait to exit this situation. We're all cramped together in barely enough space to turn around without bumping into someone else.
My lovely wife Patrice and I have already spent considerable time looking at about a million houses and floor plans so we think we know what we want in our new house. I'll keep this log updated as we progress. And I'll try to keep it more or less chronological.
We purchase 3.5 acres of land in Lucas Texas. Because the subdivision is relatively old, not all of the property is inside the city limits. Before we can get a city water meter, we'll have to be annexed. It's free but then we start paying city taxes. We'll delay annexation as long as possible.
Early Fall, 1996.
A favorite activity of apartment dwellers is to visit new homes. Plano is experiencing rapid growth now and has been for several years. I hear it is among the fastest growing cities in the U.S. That comes with some growing pains but also means there is no shortage of new houses being built. There are more than 30 developments we can visit within driving 15 minutes or just walking in our area. We have taken several ideas from all of this construction. And we've had the benefit of seeing custom houses under construction and been exposed to cool ideas.
Along with this, we have an old magazine of house plans. We spent many hours reviewing the contents of this magazine. From it, we took the basic layout of a plan we both liked and then added several features to it that makes it the perfect house for us (we hope!). I made a rough sketch on graph paper of what we thought we wanted. Our initial plan was a single story ranch style home, 4 bedroom 3 1/2 baths, 3 car garage with about 2800 sq. ft.
I purchased a computer drawing package called MyHouse. It has several quirks and blows up with great regularity but it did let me get our basic plan on paper. Once we had it in an easily viewable format, we could experiment with moving walls, arranging furniture and tweaking details. I call around and find an architect who will draw up our plans once we're ready.
Patrice starts nursing school in Collin County Community College. It's a 2-year RN program.
The land is finally paid off and we open a savings account specifically for our down payment.
Spring and early Summer 1997
I've been reading comp.home.automation for several months now. I have catalogs from Home Automation Systems, Home Controls, Worthington Distribution, window manufactures and tons of other stuff. I've also printed several articles from other web sites that have some great ideas.
We visit our local Home Depot and other similar stores. We look at plumbing fixtures, toilets, switch plates, tubs, sinks, cabinets and other stuff. We make a list of the things we like for our future reference once the sub contractors begin their work. We find a fantastic dining room table the seats 18. It'll be great for the holidays. And a nice buffet and hutch for additional storage space.
I spend hours in the public library reading books about hiring contractors and building your own house. I've done quite a bit of home improvement but the only construction experience I have is from shop class in high school. The research pays off. I am familiar with many of the terms I hear from contractors, other home builders, bankers, lawyers and the horde of people you contact when you try to do this.
Following more house visits, we decided to add a game room over the garage. We inserted stairs between the bathroom and utility room by stealing space from the living room, utility, and bath rooms. It has the potential of being a huge room if we make it the full size of the garage. This room adds several hundred sq. ft. to the house.
Patrice gets a home building permit package from the city. Because of all the reading I've done, I'm not surprised to hear we need a perk test before we're granted a building permit. I'm also surprised by the fees the city imposes.
We have enough cash on hand that I open a brokerage account and buy some Dell and Intel stock. They've been doing well for me and I can probably beat the 5% annual return while we're still saving.
We like our plans enough that we visit the architect. I take a copy of the plans we have so far with me. It's a large model from the MyHouse program on 6 sheets of paper, trimmed and taped into one big floor plan. He has some good suggestions so our "dream house" has already undergone another transformation. After talking with him for about 90 minutes, we leave him a pile of money as down payment. He agrees to provide plans for the septic system, electrical plant, HVAC ducting, framing specifications, and a material plan for soliciting bids from general contractors. His estimate: about 4300 sq. ft. under roof. That include the 3 car garage but it's still a huge house.
Patrice starts her final year of school.
I contacted the city to get annexed. For this service, there is no charge. I wish there were more things like this. All I have to do is get a notarized request describing my property on the city council agenda. Annexation is required for the city to install a water meter and is supposedly a formality. The only unfortunate side effect is that all of my land will now be taxed under the city jurisdiction as well as the county. Maybe that "no charge" should be changed to hidden charge or delayed charge. :)
We continue to save each month so when the time comes to borrow, we have to borrow less.
We still have to find a general contractor to supervise the construction. Our church is being built by a qualified man and he has also built several homes in Lucas. We hope he can find time for us as well.
Financing is an integral part of the plan and I need to contact a mortgage broker. I have several contacts for construction loans but I want to investigate all options so I can get the best deal. Rates are low and I hope the stay low until we can get ours locked in. Since we're rural, I may be able to use the Federal Land Bank. They have a nice one-time close program for construction of rural homes.
We're waiting to hear back from the architect.
I helped a work bud wire his house for TV and telephone. Read all about it.
It was a good experience before I do my own.
I could have done worse in the market crash, I suppose. But I'm surviving and can preach the gospel on the merits of diversity.
I've talked to the architect and he believes we'll have plans available to us by Christmas this year. He gave me the name of a builder he has used in the past. I'm calling several right now and getting references. Once we have plans, I'll want each of them to bid on the work.
The city council has met once to discuss my application for annexation so it's merely a
matter of waiting for the vote at the next meeting. I anticipate no problems with this.
That means I'll be able to get city water for the house.
We got our plans back from the architect and they look fabulous. He made a few minor
modifications and we made a few more but they're basically what we asked for in the
beginning. I'll get a new drawing out this weekend with the updated plans. We should have
blueprints by Christmas (ka-ching) after we pay for all of it. The final tally - just
short of 4,000 sq. ft. air conditioned area.
I've called several builders and am checking their references now. All who pass will get a chance to bid on the job. I've also called a mortgage broker to help me shop for financing. My biggest desires in this area are:
The Federal Land Bank offers all of these features so I may just end of with them. I
have property that fits their description of rural so I'm eligible for the financing they
provide for rural homes.
Well, it's been a bit longer than I would have liked to get plans but now I expect them in the next few days. Our architect got busy on other projects and we got pushed to the back burner. that's not all that bad as it lets Patrice concentrate on school rather than house stuff. And I've had a chance do more research on cool things like central vacuum systems, stereo distribution and additional pre-wiring ideas. I'll probably include wiring to each kitchen appliance location in case the utility company ever decides to do smart usage pricing. I probably would not have done this had I not had a few extra weeks to do research. So the delay is most likely a blessing in disguise. I'm sure the builders have forgotten about me by now but I'll renew my acquaintance shortly.
It shouldn't be long now!
Definitely longer than I would have wished but we did finally get our plans. The first advice I have is this: Review, re-Review, and review your preliminary plans again. I won't go into details but one half of the adult population in my household is not happy with the entire plan. But we're going to go forward and make do with it. The next advice I have is to ensure you have a closet for your automation and audio-visual stuff. This was a priority for me from the beginning and I'm already glad of it. I've sent plans out and am waiting for bids. Check out my preliminary wiring chart and my room numbering key. One really cool feature I included: The eaves have electrical outlets in them that are switched from the entry area. When I hang my Christmas lights, no extension cords will be needed and I'll be able to automate on/off times. I should be able to use this for Halloween too, somehow.
Wanna hear something scary? Yesterday I walked through a home under construction. It had the shell complete and all of the wiring was in. I was looking for ideas and techniques but saw this scary sight: Whoever pulled the coax for cable TV didn't give a flip about signal interference. Two dual cables were pulled from the garage entry point, along with about 15 runs of electrical wire from the floor to the ceiling of a two-story house! Talk about cross talk! I bet that house has sorry video reception and hum until it decays to dust. The lesson here? I'm pulling my own cable after the electrician assures me he is completely finished with all of his work. I care enough to run a few extra feet of cable to ensure a higher quality picture and sound.
Once again, everything takes longer than I would like it to take. We contacted three general contractors and got references for them, sent out plans with "promises" of getting back to us within two weeks for a bid. After 3-4 weeks and no bids, it's really frustrating. One bidder backed out citing too much work and not enough time to take on any more. But he was kind enough to refer to us to someone else whom he worked with. More references to check. I gave each bidder two sets of plans and asked for a line item break out of major portions of the work. One did not want to bid that way so we eliminated him. He gave us estimates based on total square footage of the house.
The other two bids were very nearly identical. Small differences in various areas cancelled each other out to give us two real choices in a contractor. The deciding factor turned out to be availability. One is not available to start until September. And wouldn't you know it, the winning bid is from the contractor we were dumped off to!
I called the city to arrange for water meter installation. $2,000. Ouch! Our subdivision was platted in 1970 and we are the next to last lot to be built upon. Too bad they didn't just go ahead and install everything then.
Called the phone company. They won't install until there's a structure of some sort.
The electric company is scheduled to install temporary power on July 20. They'll let me know how much it costs. But because of my "excellent payment history" on my current account, they won't require any security deposit. Small thanks, but thanks anyway.
I need to contact the gas company to get a propane tank. Last year, that was about $400 when I checked.
From here, it's getting permits, dirt moving, tree removal (how sad) and more waiting. My next personal task is to remove the barb-wire fence from the front of the property. I'll be visiting the site with the contractor to measure setbacks and layout the house. We'll see if we can't save the scraggly trees.
I should have shopped for a mortgage once everything was getting close to finalized. It took about a week of calling banks and other lending organizations to find someone willing to give me a construction loan. Turns out that most lenders will do either the interim construction loan or the permanent loan but not both. That's where the other lenders come in. For higher fees they make one set of applications and documents for both loans.
I ended up going with a bank right down the street for the interim loan and one in Irving for the permanent loan. They'll probably sell my mortgage right away so I'm not actually too concerned about that. Be prepared to show 2 years of W-2s, 2 months of bank statements, 2 months of any brokerage statements, 2 months of pay stubs, car titles for cars you own, a copy of your land survey, signed contract with your general contractor and 1 or 2 copies of your house plans, showing all details.
My wife and I went out and took down the wire and iron post fence that fronts our property. In doing so, I contracted poison ivy. Long pants and long sleeves from now on until the vegetation is cleared away. The contractor is to meet us out at the property July 3 and we'll stake out where the culvert is going to go. The city wants a culvert to protect the road edge from all of the truck traffic. We'll also measure setback and place stakes for approximate corners of the house.
I need to call the power company back because no one ever called and confirmed my order. I'd hate to get ready and then not have power. Also need to fill out that water meter application. I'm not looking forward to shelling out 2 grand for that but I really have no choice. For now, it's just a matter of waiting on formal loan approval to move forward.
And to complete the circle, Patrice took her state board exam, passed, and is now a Registered Nurse. Two incomes to support that mortgage!
Free advice: Be a pest with your finance agents.I have arranged interim financing with a local bank and permanent financing with a mortgage company. The interim loan won't approve until permanent financing is arranged. Here's where the pest part comes in. I gave the permanent lender a check that was supposed to be the loan application fee and cover the appraisal of my project. She agreed to work with the interim lender to find an appraiser acceptable to both of them. That's sounds great.
I just wish they had done that. Instead, they found an appraiser that both of the agreed on and then neither of them did anything about getting an appraisal. After I week I called to check on my interim loan and they said they were waiting on the appraisal. Wow! And I thought that since they agreed to do it they would arrange to do so among themselves. I should have made daily calls to find the status of the mortgage and could have saved a week of waiting for this. Another drawback. The interim loan bank ordered the appraisal so I ended up paying for it twice. I don't like someone holding my money so I'm trying to get my fee back that I paid to the first lender.
Next pain: The survey. I had a survey of my lot that I provided to the interim loan bank. Again, I'm trying to save money. What do they do? Order a new survey! Some bogus claim that I have a survey of the wrong lot. That's hard to believe since their survey exactly matches the one I had already provided. So that's $378 I need to try to get back from them somehow.
More free advice: Don't believe any telephone service agent. The power company doesn't provide service to my address. They referred me to the right power company at least.
From here, we order the water meter ($2,000), contact the gas company to order a tank and installation, mow the lot so dirt moving is easier, wait for our culvert to be installed, and do a little landscaping. We have some cedar trees that I'm going to remove. A couple of dead trees that are firewood candidates. And some general pruning of the remaining elm trees. At least, I think they're elms.
There's finally some action!
|9||Culvert put in place. Some site leveling completed. Several loads of dirt hauled in to level front of house with the higher ground on the back. It looks like in the 90 feet from back to front, the ground slopes about 18 inches.|
|16||Builder obtains permits. Lumber for forms delivered to site.
I ask the city to send me yet another application for a water meter. They change this form more often than most people change their underwear.
|23||Forms laid out to define the shape of the house.|
|26||Site visit during daylight hours. Tommy and Jonathon pick up 70 nails from the work site. I pay them a penny per nail. It's cheaper than fixing a flat tire.|
|28||I mail the water meter application along with a check for almost $4,000. That much just for the privilege of receiving another bill every month.|
|30||Concrete piers poured. These will help hold up the slab and keep it from shifting down
if/when it ever cracks.
Trenching for the slab started.
|October 1998, Ground Work|
|2||It rains hard all day long. Wonder how the trenches held up?|
|3||Some of them caved in and will have to be re-trenched before any of the slab can be poured.|
|8||5 loads of dirt delivered. I think this is the base for the driveway.|
|9||The builder says they're supposed to pour the slab next week. Plumbing rough-in,
electrical rough-in, then cement. I need to get homeowner's insurance. I also told them to
order all of the windows with clear glass. Patrice wants to be able to see out of all of
them, even the bathroom. Looks like framing will take place soon. The water meter was
supposed to be installed this week, but, big surprise, it wasn't.
I'm going to contact dealers and select one for the central vacuum. This week I'm taking my final exam for MCSD. I hope I pass. Then I'll be able to concentrate fully on the house. I plan to lay out all of my low-voltage wiring runs and determine how much wire I need to purchase.
|23||The water meter has been installed and the house is plumbed. I can only see one
problem. The hall bath has two hot water sources and no cold and the toilet is plumbed
hot. It looks like it was just branched off the wrong line for this leg. We should be able
to get that fixed before any concrete is poured. In case you haven't guessed, no concrete
yet. I'm detecting a pattern that nothing happens as soon as anyone expects.
Still waiting to contact central vacuum dealers. I had to take an extra week to study for the exam again but I finally passed but I'm all done with studying. I'm devoting all of my time to the house.
The dirt is still piled in mounds on the lot. We picked up lots of trash on the site
|27||The temporary pole for electrical power has been installed. It reads 1kwH so far. Woo!! Woo!!|
|November, 1998 Delays, Delays|
|20||Three weeks have passed and not much action. After getting all of the ground work
done, the rains that were so absent during the summer drought have come back to spoil my
foundation schedule. All of the forms are in, plastic barrier in place, post-tension
cables laid, etc. It's pretty neat to see how all of the forms are placed for the porches
and garage steps up and down. We went out tonight and picked most of the trash out of the
foundation area. I really wonder if the concrete crew would have done that if I hadn't?
All of that dirt was what the concrete people used to level out the area and shore up the forms. They used probably 2/3rds of it. The rest will be spread out to smooth out the driveway to the garage and maybe some of the front steps. Monday is supposed to be the day now.
|23||Finally!! Real action. Concrete ran today and now we have a foundation upon which to
build. 14 trucks dumped their collective load. The crew was there at 8:00 when I arrived,
breaking down and altering some of the forms. Turns out they had set up for 2x4 walls when
I wanted 2x6 walls in my garage. That was straightened up and everything went ok. The only
problem was that the contractor didn't order enough concrete initially so we had to wait
for the last 3 trucks to arrive.
Trucks are heavy. They left deep ruts coming across the land delivering and pouring next to the foundation. One burst its hydraulic hose that controls the spout. They had to dump it and pull it around by hand. Which led to an observation: None of the concrete workers were fat. All lean and wiry.
The first truck arrived at 8:45. The last one left about 5:45. The workers left around
8:00 that night. Longs days I don't envy.
|24||The concrete crew is back removing forms. They also brought their little dirt mover
and are leveling out the ruts left by the trucks.
The dirt guy delivered the base for the driveway. It should be mostly in and ready to let the rest of the workers get up to the house without getting all muddy.
Projected completion is 5 months. Let's see .... That would be May of 1999. Looks like I'll have to pay for the storage locker again.
|27||More rain. More delays|
|30||Framing wood delivered. It's getting wet.|
|December, 1998 Framing|
|2||Some sunshine. Enough to layout the framing plate. The slab now looks like our blueprint, but life-size. We can see how doors are going to work, room sizes, step down the hall, etc.|
|4||I received the first bill for the concrete work, dirt work, termite treatment etc.|
|8||Framing has begun. It looks like most of the exterior walls have been erected. And a potential change on the horizon. The area under the stairs wasn't drawn by the architect and it looks like it's going to be smaller than we imagined (imagine that) so we're changing the stairs to exit into the hall instead of the utility room. That means another door in the already long hall. It also lets us move the landing to about the half-way point of the stairs instead of nearly the bottom.|
|11||More rainy weather but that didn't stop us from picking out our front door from the
trim place. So many choices. Neat term of the day: "Marine spar
varnish." Say it three times quickly and see how it rolls of the tongue.
Use it to help preserve the life of your front door.
Brick molds, jamb wood, different types of mahogany. Be sure to talk to your builder to see that you get what's needed. We're not having any side lights so our door selection was easier, in my opinion. We're having it pre-hung and double-bored by the manufacture. It should be easier to install that way. It also comes with a "throw away" door to use during the construction period.
I got the sales pitch for HomeSeal. Basically it's like making the exterior walls and the attic a Styrofoam cooler. It's a spray-on product that expands 120:1 that's supposed to drastically reduce drafts (eliminate is the claim), help to sound proof the house and add rigidity to the walls (although how is beyond me). They also spray it on the bath tubs to help them retain a warm bath. And on all of the cooling ducts and vents to seal any air leaks. It looks like a pretty good idea and it may even help pay for itself in lower utility bills.
|14||Better weather predicted for the entire week. The exterior is completely framed, as are the master bedroom, master bath and my office. They also have half of the main hall standing. Ten foot ceilings sure are cool!|
Funny thing about water when it gets cold. It freezes. And when it freezes
it also expands. Then when it thaws back out, any weak link in your plumbing
are now openings. We had several thousand gallons of water run through thje
busted plumbing in the house. The yard was flooded and muddy. But I finally
got the city to come turn the water off at the meter. It might be handy to have
a hand valve for use during construction and afterwards. The main valve near
the house has been "temporarily" covered up during construction. I need to be
certain I have access to it after all is said and done.
|29||Framing is well under way. All of the walls in are in place. The workers are putting the plywood sheeting around the exterior. You can really tell how big the doors and windows are now.|
|January, 1999 Still Framing|
I don't know how many days they worked over new year's weekend but most of the first
floor sheeting is completed. The roof peak has been set over the first
floor area and some of the rafters are in place.
The front door has been ordered and should be on the way in. I'll be staining and finishing it when it's available.
Tons-o-bricks have been delivered!! It sure looks like a lot of 'em laying
on the ground there. Most of the rafters have been framed in, except
for the ones around the fireplace in the bed room. There seems to be some
confusion over what the architect envisioned and how it's being built.
The first casualty of the design is the window in the utility room. It seems the stairs don't get up high enough soon enough to completely clear it.
The decking for the roof has also been delivered. And I had to get some money from the bank. It's finally debt time. We need to pick out the vinyl siding color for the small areas that won't be bricked so it can be ordered. And they're supposed to be installing the windows. If we can get the plumbing fixed, we'll be in good shape.
I'm taking tomorrow off to get bids on central vacuum systems, looking for wiring deals and determining how many J-boxes I'll need for my low-voltage wiring needs.
|15||I drove all over town visiting dealers and getting the "sales pitch" for various models. I decided on a VacuFlo unit (I was leaning that way anyway) because of the filterless operation. And Robert was a very nice guy that offered to loan me some of the tools of the trade to do my installation. That pretty much sealed it for me.|
|19||Still a mess around the house. Lots of ruts from where the workers have
driven through the mud and stuff. But framing is nearly done. If only we
didn't have that fireplace in the bed room. The windows are installed now
but still no stairs. The window openings were framed larger than the windows
so the original size was deceptive. The architect's plans didn't agree with
how the stairs worked so we lost a window in the utility room. It would
probably be a good idea to ensure your blueprints show details like
stairs, roof lines, and how the stories come together. In my case, I
have an eight foot garage attached to a ten foot house. Trying to make
the second floor match up didn't work out somehow. It would have been
nice to have a detailed spec sheet on that.
The plumber has been back and installed all of the exhaust tubing (for noxious odors :) through the roof. He was kind enough to leave a little rubber boot for each one as it's roofed over.
|21||The stairs are in so we have a real house now. Framing looks to be completed
until the inspector comes. He may "red tag" a portion of the house we have slated
for brick. If so, that will have to re-framed for siding. The eaves are
all framed and ready to be enclosed.
The HVAC guys have installed the attic units, three of them in all. All of the pluming lines for that have been pushed through to where the outside condensor units will set. They framed out the return air ducts for the units. The ceiling vents have mostly been placed and are just waiting to be connected to the ducting.
Shingles have been delivered. They're darker than I would have liked but I'm not going to fuss about them.
The roof has the black felt paper covering it and has the Tyvek house wrap all around. It's now considered "dried in."
|23||The fireplace installer works on Saturday. He's installing the fireboxes for both fireplaces.|
|24||They're in! We can take a picture of the house.|
|26||I meet the electrician at the house early in the morn.
The roof is about half shingled, they're really dark. Almost as dark as
the black felt beneath them.
Anyway, we discuss the wiring stuff I have for the house. I don't have any additions except adding some stairway landing lights. I ask to omit some lights that we don't think we'll use over the hutch area. And I moved to dining room light switches to the kitchen. They otherwise would have been behind the doors all the time and hard to get to.
The HVAC guys come to finish up their stuff for the rest of the house. It seems to have taken them some time to get all of the ducting, vents and return air stuff working.
The plumber is there and I make sure he knows about the two hot water outlets to the one tub. He said he fixed it weeks ago when he first heard about it. We'll see. He also runs the LP gas line inside the house. I told him about the gas cooktop and the moved oven location. Be sure to get one for the dryer, even though we don't need it right now. And I'm having a stubout for a gas grill. Should be nice when we get around to it.
And I think the roofers showed up to finish their job.
|27||The driveway has been graded and some of the tire ruts have been
graded away. Most of the wood trash has been picked up and we can now
drive all the way to the garage and park. Wow!!.
The electrician has been busy. Whoever cleaned up, cleaned inside the house, too. We can walk around almost carefree now.
The builder is trying to find an inexpensive window for the utility room. It will need to be octagonal and he's trying to avoid getting something wood framed. Hope he's able to do that before they brick!
|February, 1999||1||Ok, this was really last Saturday but I'm lazy with my HTML. I started
installing my my central vacuum system. The architect layout was most helpful but I
ended up moving 3 inlets due to how the plumbing, framing and electrical stuff was
built. It shouldn't be a problem though.
I started out by marking each inlet location in the top plate so I would know where to drill the tubing holes. The dealer where I purchased my Vacuflo 560 was generous enough to loan me a Milwaukee right-angle drill and a 2 9/16" wood boring bit. This worked out well except that the bit was a little dull. This made drilling quite slow. I ended up using my drill bit that was shiny and new. It was smaller but large enough that I could fit the pipe through the opening.
After a couple of holes, I ran into one where the right-angle drill wouldn't let me reach the spot. So I got out my trusty DeWalt 14.4V cordless drill and went to town on it. Drilling the holes went much quicker after that since I didn't have to worry about dragging the electrical extension cord around. In all, I drilled 10 holes. The battery pack was good for about 6 holes so it's good I had both of them charged before I started.
Once everything was drilled, I started in the upstairs location and dropped some PVC through to the garage. This inlet tub aligned almost perfectly with the inlet in the garage so I joined these two tubes and ran them to the power unit location. I used some steel plumbers tape to secure the tubing to the trusses in the garage. I suspended the tubing below the floor but above the garage ceiling to help avoid any nail hits.
From there, I made a rough layout of the "main" run where everything branched into. Then, I worked from the farthest end toward the unit. In all, it took about two days to run all of the PVC.
For the switch wiring, I used 20 ga. 2-wire thermostat wire to each inlet. I drilled a 5/16" hole near each tubing location and threaded the switch wire through it and attached it to the tubing. I used electrical tape and some clips made from left over PVC to fasten the wire along the tubing. And each spliced I made sure to loop the wire around both ends to avoid any possible pulling of the wires.
This was a fairly easy, if tedious task. Tools required are a hacksaw, wire cutters, powerful drill, ladders, extension cords, screwdrivers and large, sharp bits. A 2 9/16" bit is plenty large for the 2" vacuum tubing.
PVC is easy to work with. I used my gloves to de-burr the sawed ends of it. It seemed to work well. Be sure to get and read the installation instructions for the unit. Layout the runs in advance and be sure that every tube that joins the main does so either by dropping into it or by making a 45 degree level turn in the direction of the air flow. I made one mistake but was able to correct it by cutting the joint out, using an inline coupler and reversing it. After that, I was very careful to look before gluing.
I worked all day Saturday, Sunday morning and Monday to do this. Tommy helped me on Saturday and Sunday. I worked by myself on Monday.
I would probably run the wire at the same time as the tubing next time and it would have gone faster.
This was my first day of wiring and the electrician were still pulling Romex through
the house. The plumbers were also installing the tubs in both bathrooms. So we
had a real house full of people.
Since the electrician were still pulling wire, I did my security wiring first. The wire I used to each exterior door and window was cat-3 2-pair (4-wire) phone wire. I started with 2000 feet and used most of it. Basically, I put each room on a separate zone so when I install my security system, that's how it will be monitored.
Once we got all of the wire pulled to each location, we drilled holes for the magnetic sensors at all of the doors and windows. I spliced in the sensors to make completed electrical circuits and tested all of the with the magnets in place. Amazingly, they all worked.
I drilled holes in the steel trim of each window and smeared on some silicon caulk to affix the sensor to the window. It makes a nice clean installation. I used the short 3/8" stubby sensors so I wouldn't need such deep holes in my windows. Got 'em from HAS for about $4 each, a little pricey but got them when I needed them.
The other security wire I pulled was for motion sensors in the hall, bedrooms and some other places and some glass break detectors at strategic locations. All of this type of wire is for security applications so it should be easy to find it when I'm ready to hook it up. I labeled each end with a Sharpie. Every zone is home run to my wiring closet.
The closet has an opening to the attic that I cut about a 2 inch hole to pass all of the wires through. That was plenty big for about 25 wires of this size. This was a full day's work.
|3||The electricians were still not finished on Wednesday. Some excuse about
never having pulled this much wire in a single house before. They promised to
work overtime to get it all pulled tonight.
We finished up the security stuff and stapled all of the wires to the middle of the studs to keep them out of harms way (the drywallers). The brick people showed up to install the brick tabs before inspection. So they were all done poking holes from the outside. Hopefully, everything will work when I need it to later.
Since their still pulling wires, we located all of the J-boxes for phone, computer, TV and speakers. Then we drilled all of the holes through the plate so we'd be ready to drop wires. We finished this and knocked off early.
I had some trouble finding my RG6 cable. I ended up calling Belden to find a local RETAIL distributor. I found Interstate wire and Cable Co. in Dallas and they had all I wanted for $90/1000' spool. My calculations called for 3000' so I made my purchase. It turns out I forgot I was running 2 coax to each drop so this was only half of what I needed. See Saturday for what that meant.
|4||Electricians still here, now very irritating. Yes, all of the wire is pulled but
they still need to wire some of the switches and outlets. They seem to be mostly out of
the way now so we can get started.
I stopped by the home entertainment store and picked up two boxes of speaker wire. I got 500' each of 2-wire 14 gauge and 4-wire 14 gauge wire. I pulled the 4-wire to my volume control and to each of the living room speaker locations. I'm planning on either having 2 pair for each terminal or having a pair and a spare at each location there. I haven't made up my mind yet so I went for flexibility.
In the game room, I pulled the single pair to each location. I figure the kids may just have to put up with less fidelity (as if they would ever be able to tell).
Finally, I pulled a 4-wire to the eaves out near the patio for that party sound. In all, I used about 350' of the 2-wire and 460' of the 4-wire.
This day ended with a trip to Home Depot to order the bath tub that we're going to get. They were offering 10% off your first purchase if you opened up a charge account. We bit to save the bucks.
|6||The big day finally got here and I'm ready to pull some wire.
My plan is to pull 2 RG6 and 2 Cat-5 cables to each outlet. To facilitate this, I
made an axle from a scrap board and put both cat-5 spools on it. For the RG6, I used
a broom handle suspended between some scrap lumber from the stair cut out. This way,
all four spools unrolled relatively neatly. The only problem was the weight of the
RG6 spools made the free-wheel after I pulled some of the cable out. We got Holly to
be the "brakeman" and she provided just enough resistance to make them stop when I
didn't pull on them. Pulling this much wire filled up the attic pretty quickly.
I snaked the wire bundles up over some of the rafters and suspended them using some of the ladder hooks fixed to the joists and rafters. This made it pretty easy to put cable ties around everything when I got done. The first 4000' of wire all ran out within a foot of each other. I guess Belden is pretty good measuring their stuff. The problem here is that I figured my length pretty closely but forgot I was pulling two of each wire to each location. So I ended up running out of wire by 12:30. All of the cable shops were closed. I had to go to Home Depot and pay nearly twice the price for 2000' of Carol RG6 cable. We came back on Sunday and finished up.
For anyone curious about wiring a security system, it's really pretty simple. In a pair of wires, I did my sensors like this cheesey text picture:
|12||We spent most of this week appreciating not working for a living and being back at my regular job. Tomorrow, I need to go out and pull the last few that I forgot. The plumber should be fully complete and the inspector should have been out by now. Next week, we're expecting the insulators, followed by the brick layers.|
|22||The inspectors passed everything so it's clear from here to final inspection.
I'm still missing the window in the utility room and the wind has ripped the Tyvek off
the house in several places.
The great news is that the insulators arrived and began their job. This spray-on insulation is really cool. It's water-based and sprays on like a wet layer of water at 150 degrees F temperature. It dries nearly instantly and expands 120 times its "wet" size into an insulating layer that fills all gaps and nooks and crannies. Pretty neat stuff. It's sprayed on all of the exterior walls to form, in essence, an upside down styrofoam ice chest around the exterior of the house.
It's trimmed where it exceeds the depth of the studs. These left over pieces are chipped and right now are stored up in the attic. They will be added to the insulation in the attic at the appropriate time.
This stuff was sprayed around the tubs so a hot bath will stay hot longer. All of the pipes in the walls have this extra layer of insulation. And every HVAC outlet has it sprayed around so all of the air reaches the room. And every HVAC ducting joint is sprayed as well as the air units themselves. I won't be losing any air in the ducting.
It's a good thing all of the wiring is done, too, because there's no way a wire could be easily threaded through. This stuff looks like it will be a true barrier to air flow. And walking around the still incomplete house was noticeably quieter with the insulation.
The brickers came and bricked the garage, too. The part of the garage that was bricked is away from where all of the insulation was done. It's really looking like a house now.
|11||The sheetrockers have been and gone by now. It took about three days to do the whole house. They left a pretty good bit of dust behind them but seemed to do an okay job. Lots of spackling, tape and bed. The texture was completed on the 18th or so.|
|17||Saint Pat brought the doors and trim today. The brickers are
making steady progress when it's not raining. I just wish whoever is
opening the windows would close them before they leave each evening.
The cabinet maker called today and said he would be installing cabinets
We visited Sherwin Williams and got lots of "free" painting advice. We'll be ready to paint in about 2 weeks. Filling nail holes, sanding and priming the trim, 2 coats of enamel, masking everything else then priming the walls and 2 coats of paint over about 16,000 sq. ft. of wall and ceiling area. Tons-o-fun in my future.
|27||This has been a productive week around the homestead.
The bricklayer is making steady progress. The front door has been delivered
and installed. The trim guy has been busy installing interior doors,
crown molding, base board trim. Cabinets were delivered on Monday.
The hidden ironing board has been installed and now awaits electrical
The vanity for Patrice was too low so it's being rebuilt as we requested.
The dining room base board trim was installed without considering that we're having wood floors. It had to be removed and rehung.
We visited a tile dealer and Patrice picked out a nice mural to go over the gas cooktop and under the vent-a-hood. It looks nice. Also looks like I'll be putting up some vertical tile.
One door collision had to be solved. One bedroom had a door collision with the closet door. No matter how much we tried, we couldn't avoid this somehow. We made a compromise and settled for half doors on the closet. It's still a problem but less of one. We couldn't just reverse the bedroom door because that would have left the switch behind the door and impossible to use without closing the door. And the closet door has a pocket switch so moving it would be out of the question!
Now our only problem is the bathroom light switch is behind the door. It's going to be hard to use. I'll see if we can't get it moved.
In the kitchen, there's some kind of outlet or switch right where I want to hang the mural over the cooktop. That'll have to be moved too.
After lunch we spent several hours filling holes in the trim and cabinets. Every little bit ahead we can do makes our time off be that much more productive. Patrice brought home several drawers to stain as well.
Somewhere along the line, we also acquired a microwave oven and trash compactor. Our already-small apartment is now even more crowded. Also here are five ceiling fans, various borrowed tools, several drawers that are being stained, left over wiring supplies and more I'm afraid to list.
|29||There certainly are a lot of nails that go into the trim. After all day Sunday and this evening after work, there are still holes left to fill. Today they installed the hand rail for the steps, medicine cabinets in the master bath, the magazine rack in the water closet and more base trim. Still waiting for the door to my office.|
|2||Good Friday. We spent this day sweeping, filling still more holes in the trim and getting ready to paint. We're convince that gremlins come in at night and make more holes because we're always finding more of them. This is pretty much how the whole (no pun intended) weekend went.||5||I have one word for anyone considering painting their
own house: Don't. After spending all
morning screwing up the walls in the game room, I punted and called the
pros. I was very fortunate in that they were right in between jobs and came
right over and started caulking.
Patrice and I went ahead and stained the kitchen cabinets. This turned out to be a week-long job in itself for the two of us. We used one coat of natural stain, followed by 3 coats of clear polyurethane. It's truly amazing how big something becomes when you're going over it with a three-inch brush. We stained inside and out, one coat of urethane inside and 3 outside on everything. Even with all the cramps and strains, it's worth it to say we did it ourselves.
The painters swooped in and got nearly done in just 3 days. Now it's just the touch-up stuff left. The office door finally came and they promptly took it off so it wouldn't get painted.
In addition to cabinets, we did the stair way handrail, both mantles, the office door, the crown moulding in the kitchen, the pantry door and both door frames from the kitchen to adjoing rooms. It took 2 gallons of stain and more than 3 gallons of urethane.
In addition, we put spar varnish on the kitchen window sills.
The front door has been stained. The bricks leaked some of the concrete and mortar onto the brick mould and stained it. Sanding still left visible marks on it. After a coat of the natural stain, they were only more pronounced than before. So we asked the painters to put some darker stain on that. They swooped on that one too.
As far as painting, all that remains is 2 coats on the kitchen crown moulding and spar varnishing the front door. The spar varnish is slower drying so it's likely to take more than a week to get 3 coats on it.
Today is Patrice's ?? birthday. I took her to Chili's to celebrate.
While we were chased out of the house for the painters, we picked out some more ceiling fans. Lowe's had several last-year's model on clearance prices and we picked up some Harbor Breeze fans that were usually $50-$80 for $20-$30. There were such bargains that we went ahead and bought most of the fans for the house. Too bad they didn't have any all-weather fans for the porch.
We also delivered our mailbox and got the specs for installing it. No more than 18" from the pavement, bottom of box 42-48" high. We gave it to our bricklayer along with our tiled numerals to install. He fills the mailbox tower with bricks so if anyone ever hits it, their car will still be there to see who damaged it.
I'm picking up the central vacuum unit on Thursday.
I'll be hauling the wood planking to the house this weekend in preparation for installing it. I'm going to put down 9 mil plastic, treated 3/4" plywood, more plastic, roofing felt and my flooring in the office and dining room. That's the first project for next week. I'll be renting a nailer for that from Taylor rent-all. My dad is custom making the thresholds for all of the rooms.
Once I finish nailing, I'm going to trade for a wet saw and lay tile in the bathrooms, utility, around fireplaces, down the hall, in the kitchen and entry way, and some near the back door. Before that, I'll clean the floor with muriatic acid and get all of the gobs of gunk off so it'll be nice and level.
Somewhere in there, I'll be ordering tile, installing garage door openers and someone will be urethaning the crown molding and varnishing the front door. I also ordered a third Medeco double cylinder deadbolt lock. I already had two from my prior house so that saved me $300 for them.
I'm also nearing the end of the lease on my storage closet so every trip will be loading something from storage to garage.
|18||I loaded up the suburban with the wood that's been sitting in our dining room for months. 25 boxes that weigh about 80 lbs. each. One trip to the car, one trip to the living room in the new house. Ugh!|
A day off of work but no flooring delivered. Something about trucks and
back orders. Double Drat!!
The marble people have come and gone. Somehow they got the wrong measurement for the shower and the pan they brought is incorrect. So, one mess later, they'll be back in a week.
I spent the day looking out lights, picking out some more fans, some shopping and other odds and ends. Not really what I would have preferred but at least I made small progress. I installed a few vacuum inlets and started hanging one of the garage door openers. My dad showed up about 3:00 or so and ready to work. The subfloor should be here tomorrow.
The brickers finished everything up, including the mailbox. They'll be back tomorrow to take down scaffolding and carry everything off. The only thing left is that pile of sand.
Subfloor here. Time to work. We put 6 mil plastic on the floor, then cut
3/4 inch plywood to fit each room. We shot the plywood down the concrete
using a Hilti gun to shoot 1 1/5 inch nails through the wood and into the
concrete. That makes it a pretty solid floor. It took all day to get both
the office and dining room subfloors installed. I ran out of nails and had
to finish up the next day.
The electricians came today and started wiring switches and outlets. They also hung the lights in the hall and some of the closets.
The first thing we had to do was position the threshholds my dad made.
We got the office threshhold placed and went right to nailing the planks
down. The first 4 rows of 2 1/4 inch planks we had to face nail since the
nailer was too big to fit on them. I probably could have rented a face
nailer but we just hammered them in.
I was hoping to get 16 feet of floor laid but it didn't work out. We got about 8 feet laid (about 80 sq. ft.) the first day of work. My hand is tired from holding the mallet to strike the nailer and my arm from swinging it. Ow.
Despite our best efforts at counting, we're short some light fixtures. Another trip to Lowe's.
We got right to work this morning and finished up the office. We started
exactly right and the planks in this room came out exactly right, no
ripping required to make the last row fit.
It's not quitting time so we went to the dining room and started laying it out. We got about the first 3 rows installed and ready to use the nailer.
Lunch today was at Home Depot to get concrete anchors and brass screws. This was how we secured the thresholds in place. The office took 3, 7 for the long door in the dining room and 3 to the kitchen. Drilling holes with a masonry bit, install the anchors, then insert the screws.
The electricians assembled and installed several fans today.
Tommy and Brandy got to skip school to help out with the flooring today.
I'm not sure of the wisdom of that choice but it was nice to have some
help. Still tired of swinging that mallet though.
Somehow, I'm short several downrods for fans. Patrice is able to make an emergency visit to Lowe's and save me a 45 minute round trip to keep the electricians busy. We keep banging away. Almost all of the room is finished today.
The painter showed up today to touch up the bathroom trim that somehow
got painted all beige with the walls. More paint on the floor.
Patrice and Holly join us. Now we officially have too much help. But we persevere and finish. The closets prove to be a challenge from a close quarters point of view. We ended up having to rip a 1 inch board to make it come out close enough for the trim to cover all of it. We ran the flooring under the buffet area 90 degrees to the rest of the room because it was easier to nail. It'll be covered so noone will ever notice.
The carpet guy came and measured for carpet (or was that yesterday?).
To celebrate finishing, we go to Tanner's catfish cafe. From there, we go to several places and pick out a front door light, towel rings and TP holders. We spent way too much.
|25||My hands hurt to drive a car or touch anything. Most of my
knuckles are swollen.
My dad used some wood filler and filled in the long threshhold. It looks pretty neat. I deliver the microwave and trash compactor to the garage. We're getting some serious space back in our apartment now. Space that will soon be filled with packed boxes. I load up some left over pieces of wood for my day and say goodbye to him.
The decision has been made to have someone else do the tiling. I get the number of a good person from a church member.
I took yesterday off. The trim guy didn't. He installed lots of
door knobs and things. I finished installing the one garage door
opener and hung the other. Lots of work for one.
I should have called the tile guy yesterday. It's going to be a week before they can get to me. Sigh.
|28||We just visited on our way to our bible study group. More progress, the doors that needed it were trimmed and rehung. The light switch in the hall bath was installed incorrectly. Sigh. Temporary power is on.|
I filled out the paperwork for the permanent loan. Lots of signatures.
For some reason I feel dirty.
It's a good thing I called the appliance people. They have totally botched my order. I get it straightened out before they actually order anything. But everything is back ordered. Sigh.
|30||Another interest payment. They're starting to hurt. Another draw, hopefully next to last. We have to extend our construction loan which has come due. Delays put us behind on our schedule. Carpet is scheduled for installation on May 22. That should be the last thing, if all goes well.|
I found someone to lay tile for me since the wood floors took a week.
He worked around the electricians and the vinyl siding people. Once again,
the crew outperforms the single man and his assistant (father/wife). It seems that as I
get older, I can't do as much as I used to when I was younger. And the things
I do do, take longer to recover from.
Surprisingly, this was on my slab checklist but I failed to verify that it was usable following the concrete drying. Don't make the same mistake when you do yours.
Today, they did the fireplaces, entry way, guest room bath and master bath. There are some "problem" spots near the threshhold to the dining room from the entry.
|5||I visit at lunch time and it's a good thing. They had forgotten to do the small area near the living room door. Only nine tiles, but important to us to keep dirt out of our house. The upstairs wet bar area and most of the kitchen, hall, bath etc are complete. It's all done when we visit back in the evening. Those "problem" tiles still look like a problem.|
|6||The grouting is completed. The "problem" tiles look 100% better following the grout drying. I guess the pros know what they're doing after all.|
Ouch! I think everyone knows that electricity needs a continuous circuit
to be of any use. So I was quite surprised to find a 6 foot gap between
our island (containing the dishwasher, trash compactor, and disposal) and
the nearest electrical line. And they just tiled there too!!
We hung shelves in the pantry following the obligatory two trips to Home Depot. Patrice put the final coat of stuff on the front door and Brandy and I installed lots more of the blank cover plates of the low voltage outlets.
I express my displeasure to the contractor who passes it on down to the
electrician. The electrician knew of the problem and was supposed to fix
it prior to the tile being laid. The PVC conduit installed appears to
have been crushed by the concrete. Go figure.
They will bust out the tile, chisel
and channel and pay for the re-tiling.
The dishwasher, cooktop and disposal are delivered by the appliance company. Still on backorder: the LP conversion kit and vent-a-hood.
|12||It appears we have power in the island. But the mosaic has not been installed. They are digging a HUGE hole for the septic system. Two tanks and 480 feet of lateral line. While the backhoe is out there, they're also supposed to trench a line for power and dig a hole to bury my propane tank. Three giant piles of rock delivered for the driveway.|
|13||The propane company says the tank is here. Installation is scheduled for next Wednesday, the same day the Phantom Menace opens.|
It looks like that rock wasn't for the driveway after all. They used it
to cover over the septic field.
The tile guy installed the mosaic over the cooktop area. It looks mighty fine.
More nobs to install. More cover plates, too. Some of the towel racks have
been hung and the faucets are installed in the master bath. The
plumber is making slow progress in getting everything installed.
The backhoe dug a trench from the power pole to the house. Two feet wide, three feet deep, about 80 feet long. He also dug a huge hole for the propane tank to be buried in. (Music from Jaws begins.)
|17||It rains. How many cubic feet of water will that trench hold?|
Yet another Home Depot trip. This time for the under-counter flourescents.
(Climax from Jaws theme)
The trench is full of water, 100%, all the way, totally. Except for the part where it caved in, that is. Same for the propane tank hole.
|19||The Phantom Menace opens. I view it twice.|
day. I finally go get the giant
we ordered back in February.
John and Butch come down to haul and unload it. It's so big, the fork
lift can't get far enough under it to pick it up. John and I sit on it
will the fork raises it. We're just enough extra weight to keep it on.
On the way to the house, I called my brother-in-law Greg to help us unload
it. He's home from college and is house bound. The four of us lift it
out and onto a dolly to roll into the house. After all this time,
I find out the hoser salesman didn't sell me enough parts. The feet for
are not included. Several calls to several dealers locates
a set so tomorrow I have to run and tote 'em.
Snag two: The faucet for the Tub isn't high enough to clear the rim. Looks like yet another trip to Home Depot to pick out another spigot.
In the better part of a week, not much water has drained from either hole. This clay soil holds the water well. I rent a pump ($25/day) with a two-inch hose. One pair shoes and a couple of hours later, the water is on its merry way downhill again and the trench is basically empty of water. Now let's just hope I get the power line buried before it rains again.
Quite a bit has happened since I last updated this log. I'm actually
writing this on July 8 so that's a good idea of just how much has gone on.
were to keep a daily or so log of what was going on but too much
happened to make that possible. Let's just say that at the end, it
gets really hectic.
Here are some really good ideas for building your custom home:
Last saved on July 8, 1999