week 19: holidaze...

I figured that nothing much would happen this past week with the holidays and all, but I figured wrong!

we have door (frames)

The front and back store-front doors arrived (although we haven't seen them yet...), which apparently allows the store-front men to install the frames. No glass, no doors, but still coo as poo to see entry level progress!

an electrifying meeting

Had a sit down with the builder and the electric sub to go over the sub's (shocking) cost proposal on changes to the electrical plan. Several of the items that had me the most miffed were simple mis-understandings and went away and the builder assumed responsibility for several items, but there's still a big (additional) bill to pay at the end of the day for change orders. It is what it is.

One goofy thing was that the sub was working off the old electrical plans, the ones with the words "NOT FOR CONSTRUCTION" on them. So a sizable chunk of change orders was related to differences between the final and draft plans (something the builder is going to take care of). Then there's change orders due to changes to meet code (a number of additional plugs [including one in the stairwell!] and additional smoke detectors).

Other charges were due to honest-to-goodness change orders we asked for such as adding lights to the top shelf of the bookcase (to perhaps hi-lite my antique electric fan collection...), adding a recessed plug for the flatscreen tv, installing a data cabinet, moving a light fixture in the master bath (too close to the tub spout), changing phone lines to CAT5e, dealing with can locations at the rear entry, adding a plug below one of the counters in the laundry room (builder: "Why do you want a plug under there?" me: "So the cat can see when he's pooping." [uncomfortably long silence] sub to builder: "Don't ask questions you don't really want to know the answer to."), and moving the wires for the main service from the back of the house to the side. We were able to talk this latter cost down substantially when we noted that none of the home runs (long lines that go to the main electrical box) would have to be pulled and rerun.

One interesting discussion was the cost to change out the single-junction electrical boxes for the smoke detectors to double-junction boxes. The specs list the smoke detector, which requires double junction boxes, but the sub doesn't look at the specs. Essentially, according to the sub, if it's not on the electrical plan, then they are going to assume it's just like everything else they've ever done. I kinda find this amazing, but the plumbing sub (and to a small degree the framing sub) were the same way. The other item of note was that if the electrical plan doesn't show exact measures of where electrical stuff is supposed to go, then the electric sub is not obligated to put it there (makes certain amount of sense: they'll place stuff like plugs to the nearest stud).

lessons learned: Spend time on the electric plan to make sure it is exactly what you want, call out anything non-standard on the plan, include measurements on items you really want in a certain place, show where you want the electric box to go, and insist on a walk-through with the builder and the sub to discuss the electric before the sub begins work. This all will (hopefully) minimize change orders. Trust me: This will save you thousands of dollars...

electric (work ) back on!

With the sit down done, the electric sub is back on the job finishing the work. Regardless of the wee bit of drama, it feels good to have it resolved and be moving forward!

Electrical work is not terribly photogenic, but here's a photo of the moved electrical service:


sound and security

Our wee bit of sweat equity is to install the sound and security wiring, something we did this past weekend. I would say we ran about 500 feet of speaker wire and 350 feet of CAT5e wire in addition to  installing speaker guides.

Here's a neat resource on installing speaker wire. The key is installing in-wall wire, which meets fire code requirements (and is quite a hefty wire, thicker than coax!).

Media wall:

Kitchen ceiling:

Looking up at the kitchen ceiling:

Looking up at the master bathroom ceiling:

Looking up at the master bedroom ceiling:

Aimed to center the speakers on stuff they could be centered to.


It was rather chilly this past weekend. Whilst working at the house, the cold and working-at-the-house bit brought back a memory from when my folks were building a house back in northwestern Illinois (in John Deere country). It was the dead of winter and cold as popsicle. Ma and pa were inside working (no heat in the house at that time), so they left my two brothers and I in the International Harvester Travelall (example below) to stay warm. One of us was playing "Drive the Travelall" when someone disengaged the parking brake, which sent the IH rolling backwards down the hill and into (and across) the neighbor's fence.

We didn't destroy any fences today!


one man's trash...

Great news: Our trash is being recycled! Jeez loo-eeze is that a giant relief! Apparently the builder sent over an email showing the log from the men o trash documenting what's been recycled, and I didn't get it (my email has been unreliable lately for some reason...).

Five stars are not guaranteed at this point (need to do some sweet talking on the HVAC), but at least they are still a hope.


house numbers and the fence wall (aka the mies wall)

The wall in front of the entrance to the house is noted on the plans as the "FENCE WALL":

We call it the Mies wall after Mies van der Rohe although we could just as easily have called it the von Doesburg wall (although Mies Wall has more of a ring to it...). The final elevations of the house don't show the wall (the architects had to put on the X-Ray Vision to allow the builder to see what the front door looks like, you know).

The cover sheet and the electrical plan shows the location of the wall:

Since I've been wondering what size house letters to order, I wanted to see what they would look like proportioned with the wall. So here's what I come up with with the wall:

In case you are wondering how I do this stuff: The architects sent over the plans in PDF. Fortunately the plans are in vector format. "Vector format" is fancy-schmancy talk that means that each line in the diagram is represented by it's own graphical element. If the plans were in "raster format", the plans would be uneditable. Because the plans are in a vector format, I can then load the PDF into Adobe Illustrator and have my way with them (bwah! ha! ha!!!).

So let's zoom in on that Mies Wall:

Much better...

So this is the light we chose for the wall:

Rather adorable, really. That sucker measures 6 inches on a side (and sticks out an extra 0.75 inches).

And here are the our address numbers of choice:

although we're hoping the address-number makers will be able to do this to highlight the up and down rhythm of the circles:

Those numbers come in 6, 8, 10, and 12 inch heights.

And here is what the whole mess looks like up on the wall with 6 inch height numbers:

I think anything bigger than 6 inches might look wonky, so perhaps this is it!

Once last check: Is there a tree in the way of seeing the address when looking dead-on?

The answer is "Maybe...". May need to move the light and address over to the right a bit...

And if we want the same light but with longer dimensions... They have one!

Not sure which one I like better...



xmas eve...

Well, I had grand plans to hang some lights in the house today but quickly learned that you can't find Christmas lights on Christmas eve (looked at Fry's, Target, and Walmart!). However, the neighbor saved the day by giving us a wreath (right after he saw me fall into a hole in our front yard)!

I wasn't expecting anyone to be working today, but the concrete floor finishing people had been there in the morning sealing the concrete.

And check out the evening shadows on the drywall they set outside so they could do the floors:

Merry Christmas eve, everyone!


week 18: the holidays!

the last of the lathe

Tis the holiday season, so work has slowed a wee bit. Most of last week was dedicated to the stucco sub finishing the details on the metalwork (more metal to pick up...).

speakers of the house

I also spent some time placing speaker guides for the living room:

Still need to install speaker guides for the kitchen, master bath, and master bedroom. Something to do this week during a day off...


Still no front or back doors, but I bumped into the storefront door sub at the house last Thursday, and he said that the doors were just shipped in and will be installed soon (this week?). He was there to measure the entries to make sure plans and reality were the same (good idea!).

electrifying news...

The electrical sub did a wee bit of work this past week. And he sent over an itemized change order list that was a little disturbing in that the changes cost about half of what it cost to install electric in the entire house. Now don't get me wrong: We fully expect that we would pay for changes, but some of the charges are serious head scratchers. The biggest cost was associated with the fact that what he bid on wasn't the final electrical plan for the house. His guys installed the stuff on the final plan, but then he appears to have assigned change order level prices on the difference between the two plans. hmmm...   Then there are the few things I've noted his gang did wrong that he wants to charge us for fixing ($175 to replace improperly sized junction boxes for the smoke alarms; $225 to move an improperly placed plug 16 inches). Huh? And then there're the changes I agreed to in order to make his job easier (not having to drill larger holes through 1/4 inch plate steel; not having to fur out a wall) to which we've been awarded a change order charge of $600. WTFb??!?!!!?  (What The Frog butt??!?!!!?)

After talking with the builder, we're going to meet with the sub this coming Friday to discuss the change order. Should be an interesting meeting.

the kitchen cabinet

Met with the cabinet lady to discuss the details of the cabinet package for the house. It's been nice working with someone who appreciates modern and has a lot of great ideas to boot. Below aren't the finals, but close. And the initial bid is about 10 percent over our budget; however, we did have her bid out floating wall-mounted bedside tables for the master (the reason we're so particular about those plug locations in the master bedroom).

There's some coordination on the electrical that needs to happen (the cab lady noted that the wires are too low at the moment for our higher-than-standard wall cabs). We'll also have some additional charges to get the master bathroom cabs to float. Two options: (1) metal angle iron or (2) a short pony wall along the back. We'll need to discuss approach and cost with the builder. Ms. Cab also suggests floating the guest bathroom cabinets. Hmmm.... We'll see what the cost is on that.

i can see the light!

Met with the light guy early last week to start putting together the order for the house, and it was an enjoyable two-hour meeting (and that was having pre-chosen 90 percent of our lights!). He was able to find all of our lights except the blue sea anemone:

which we'll pick up on our own (He: "Do you want to see alternatives?" Me: "No. That fixture was closely negotiated.").  He thought it was odd that we wanted the same fixtures (or family of fixtures) in each bathroom. He said a designer the day before had told him that the new trend was consistency in fixtures through a house. He said he didn't believe her. "And here you are, one day later!"

Despite all the pre-selected choices, he was able to help us find a good pantry light and an alternative to our chosen light for the laundry room (what we now call the "Buds & Suds Room) We need an alternate light since the exhaust fan was installed too close to the fixture of choice. Lightman was able to find a thinner and longer version of the one we had chosen that I actually like better. We'll use it (no photos yet) in the master closet as well.

Despite our careful room-by-room approach, we missed choosing a light for the closet upstairs and the indoor lights for the garage (doh!!!). And I'm wondering if our ceiling fan choice for the upstairs bedrooms (8-foot tall ceilings) will hang too low...

trash talk

A potentially troubling development is the fate of our trash and, along with it, the fate of our five star green rating. Is the trash being recycled? This discussion got kicked off by the architect noting that there wasn't any onsite recycling. After checking into the requirements, it *appears* that on-site recycling is not required for a five-star rating, but offsite recycling on the order of 50 to 75 percent is required to get more than one star. I say appears because although the city posts a rating sheet and guidance manual, it says the online only-accessible-by-an-architect-or-builder governs the rating. I've noted 50 to 75 percent because the spreadsheet and guidance document report two different goals.

The builder hasn't responded to our inquiry (the holidays?) on whether or not his trash sub recycles his waste stream, so we're getting a bad feeling that our trash isn't being recycled. If that's the case, we can only hope for a one-star rating, a serious bummer. One of our goals was to get on the Cool House Tour (to give back, if you will...), but the tour only (seems to) accept fivers, not onesies.