A Journey Through Home Building

From the Blog

Jul
24
Posted by Mike at 10:01 pm

After a couple weeks of not doing much on the house, I’ve started working on the drawers for the kitchen cabinets. I built the base cabinets a while ago so we could get our granite installed, but I’ve been dragging my feet on finishing the rest of the cabinets up. But, Amy won’t let us entertain until they’re done so I’m on the job again.

I decided to use poplar for the drawer boxes because it’s relatively inexpensive and soft which makes it easy to work with; especially when making dovetails. Hardwood can crack and can be difficult to fit together. My supplier only had 3/4″ thick material in stock so I bought that and planed it down to 5/8″. They also only had certain widths so I got 5-1/2″ and ripped it down to 4-1/2″ for the upper drawers. The lower drawers will all be 11″ tall so I have 8-1/4″ material for those. Then I cut a 1/4″ groove a half inch from the lower edge to receive the bottom of the drawers. For that I got some 1/4″ melamine with maple coloring.

Once I finish the drawers, I’ll start work on the uppers and the panels for all the doors and drawers and for our built in refrigerator. Lots more fun to come.

By the way, here is a video of me routing the dovetails for the drawer boxes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4hgQyPNDt8

Jul
23
Posted by Mike at 10:43 am

We are just about done with our master bathroom. We opted not to put a bathtub in the master since neither of us really take baths (we do shower however once a week whether we need it or not. And, we have bathtubs in both of our other bathrooms if we really want to take a bath). We decided not to have a huge master since we just use it for a half hour each day. But, we did put in a pretty large walk-in shower. We also opted for a water closet for the toilet with a pocket door for privacy. Then we installed two separate hanging sinks with a hanging cabinet between them.

Getting the shower ready was a pretty big process because we needed a shower pan. Ideally we would have sunk the shower pan into the concrete floor, but that needed to have been planned months before and would have caused a week spot in the structural floor. No doubt there would have needed to have been some changes in the structural engineering which took place more than a year ago. So I poured the pan on top the regular floor. After pouring the concrete for the shower pan, installing a rubber membrane, and pouring concrete over that I was ready to tile the floor.

For the shower floor we opted for a cut river rock. We’d both stood on a full river rock floor and it actually hurt our feet. The material we selected is cut flat and affixed to a nylon mesh in 12″ x 12″ squares. That worked quite well and allowed the stone to curve with the contours of the shower pan. I installed that and grouted it in a couple days. For the wall we again used the 12″ x 24″ tile, but put it horizontally (unlike the bathroom downstairs). We went all the way to the 9′ ceilings which ended up being a lot of tile. Amy grouted all the walls, caulked the corners and cleaned the tile. Now all we have to do is seal the tile, install one piece of base trim and we’ll be done… for now. Amy would like to tile the entire north wall of the bathroom which I agree would look nice, but I didn’t have it in me to finish it now. It’s been added to the list of future projects.

Jul
07
Posted by Mike at 1:08 pm

Well, we did it!  I just picked up our final CO (Certificate of Occupancy). So as far as the city of Arvada is concerned, we are DONE!  No more inspections (and hopefully no more fees)! Now that does NOT mean we are completely done with the house. We have a long list of things we still need to do. So we’ll be busy for the next couple months, but at least we won’t have the city looking over our shoulders.

On a personal note, I must admit that receiving our CO was one of the proudest moments of my life. I’ve always had a dream of building a house. When I walked out of city hall with that piece of paper that proved that I’d actually fulfilled my dream, I became a little emotional. I obviously could have never done this without the amazing support and hard work of Amy. I know it was never her dream to build a house, but she put aside almost two years of her life to help me realize one of mine. I guess it’s only fair since I helped her realize one of her dreams when she met me.  🙂

I’ve been slacking on the updates lately since we’ve been dealing with this CO deadline. So I’ll try an add a few updates from the past month or so and add new ones as we move forward. Thanks for following along.

And one last note. Amy and I realize we didn’t do this alone and sincerely appreciate all the help, encouragement, and enthusiasm our friends and family have given us along the way. Can’t wait for you all to come and enjoy some time with us at our new house.

Jun
10
Posted by Mike at 10:14 am

Originally I had planned to pour concrete counter tops for the kitchen. I did it in a previous house and thought they looked awesome. But that was way back in initial planning when we were going to have hardwood floors. We ended up putting in concrete floors and we figured more concrete would have been too much. And fortunately we found some money in our budget so we decided to get granite.

We looked at a lot of granite suppliers in the Denver area and it was really hard to pick out a slab. It’s amazing how every store has just about the exact same stone and none of them really jumped out. Let me clarify, none that we could afford jumped out. There were lots of “exotic” slabs that were amazing. To make it a little more difficult, we had a long dimension on the south wall and I didn’t want to have a seam. So we needed a slab about 126″ long and most slabs are about 110″. After several days and many hours of looking at stone we finally picked a slab that was okay, but neither of us were super excited about it. Then on the way home we decided to stop in one more place we had been before and there was our slab. We were both really pleased. It has some really cool textures and we love it. On top of that, we could get all our counters out of the one slab and we even had extra for the window sills in the kitchen. I guess things happen for a reason.

Note: I made all the kitchen cabinets out of 3/4″ maple plywood. You can see the unfinished base cabinets here. I am currently in the process of making the drawer boxes and door fronts as well as the upper cabinets.

Jun
06
Posted by Mike at 9:38 am

Landscaping is expensive. I mentioned this in a previous post. We got a bid for about $20,000. That’s CRAZY!  Actually, I wish we could afford to hire someone for all it, but we can’t. Most of it I could do myself, but it would take a lot of heavy labor. So we decided we’d do some things ourselves like put in the irrigation system, put in plants and trees, and seed or sod some grass. But we decided to hire someone to put in some rock. And man am I glad we did.

We had many tons of cobble stone delivered before the driveway was poured so heavy trucks didn’t need to drive on it. Then a few weeks later a crew came in and went to work. They installed a “dry” river bed in the front of the house. I put dry in quotes because when those afternoon monsoon rains come, it is no longer dry. It is however extremely functional and channels the water away and around the house. We also had about 40 feet of 2 foot high retaining wall built on the south side of the house where the lot sloped  pretty severely. Then we had them install a three foot wide band of cobble around the entire yard. Lastly, they graded around the house and installed three feet of cobble there too. All in all, it was definitely worth the price.

This fall we’ll hopefully be planting a lot of vegetation. We plan on taking advantage of the sales and getting lots of plants and a few trees to put in the ground.

Jun
03
Posted by Mike at 9:56 am

The basement bathroom has been up and running for a while now. I had a couple friends come out and visit the first week of June so I had to get it ready. That meant tiling the shower and getting the sink, toilet, and urinal installed. I worked a few long days and the plumbers were able to come the day before my friends arrived to get everything hooked up.

For tile I originally bought 12″ x 12″ slate for this bathroom but then I discovered that almost every tile was not square; one end to the other was off by 1/8″. That makes it impossible to have straight grout lines. I called the tile store and they said there was variation because it was a natural product. BULLSHIT!  I’d buy that with color and thickness, but nature didn’t cut the stone into 11-7/8″ x 11-3/4″ (almost) squares. So I returned all that and went with a 12″ x 24″ porcelain tile installed vertically. It is called metallic brown and is meant to look a bit like rusted metal. You can cover some area pretty fast with such a big tile, but it is a bear when the wall isn’t flat, which was the case in a few spots. Oh well. It’s in now.

By the way, the urinal is one of my favorite things in the house. I work at home so it’s pretty nice to walk across the hall and have a urinal to use.

May
26
Posted by Mike at 1:04 am

Since we got screwed by our stairs contractor, we had to come up with our own stair treads. I ordered material from a mill in the mountains, but I chose to finish the material myself. It ended up taking three full days. I had to cut the material to length, plane it smooth and to thickness, sand it smooth, and then mount it. Fortunately the 12″ ( 30cm) treads fit in my planer so I was able to make at least two sides smooth. Then I sanded the other two sides which wasn’t hard until my belt sander started smoking and almost started on fire. I ended up using my random orbital sander to finish up the surfaces and the my router to round over the edges. In the end I think we got a great staircase at fraction of the cost of retail staircase with similar features. Take a look…

May
20
Posted by Mike at 12:46 am

If you read our post about our stairs a little ways back you saw the contractor we hired bailed at the last minute. He seemed like a nice guy, but he pretty much screwed us. We were a few days from moving in and getting our CO (Certificate of Occupancy) and all of a sudden he said he couldn’t meet the deadline he’d promised. And we couldn’t move in without our stairs. So after scrambling to find an alternative, we found a guy that would to build the steal part of our stairs but not the wood treads for us. We clearly needed steel and wood to make the stairs work. The I remembered a while back I’d found out about a lumber mill in Kremling Colorado (70 miles in the mountains from us) that would make dimensional lumber at a very reasonable price. So I called them up and ordered 50 feet + (15.25 m) of 4″ x 12″ (10cm x 30cm) of douglas fir. It came rough cut so I had to plane and sand it all and Amy put a coat of polyurethane on it. In the end it took about 3 full days the get them ready and installed, but I think it was worth it. You be the judge.

May
18
Posted by Mike at 10:41 pm

We’ve moved out of our apartment after 2 years o n May 2nd. But, we’re not in our house yet. We were able to get a temporary “stock and store” certificate of occupancy that allows us to move our things into the house, but we are not allowed to live in the house yet. There are a couple more things we need to do. The main thing is we need our permanent stairs and railings around those stairs to be installed. We should have had those installed several weeks ago, but got screwed by our stairs contractor.

I’d been in touch with Matt Dodd many times over the past three months. Every time we talked I asked him if he was on schedule. And every time he’d respond, “I am really busy, but we’ll make it happen.” I should have found someone else right then, but he was always really nice, had been out to the house to measure and made some really nice stairs. We’d even picked out materials and styles and had a date set for the install. So about a week before our lease is up and we are about to move, I call Matt and ask if he’s ready to install our stairs this week. He responds, “I’m not going to be able to do your job. I’m just too busy with my other projects.” I of course let him have it, but what can I do… other than send someone to break a kneecap or two.

So here we were a week before we were supposed to move into our new house and we don’t have railings or stairs, so we can’t get our CO. Fortunately Amy’s sister and brother-in-law offered to let us stay in their basement. So this is where we have been the past 2 weeks. I found a new guy to build our steel stairs and I found a place to buy the timbers for our stair treads. Now I just need to get it all together. Hopefully we’ll get this taken care of this week and be able to move in. Just one more problem in the joy of home building.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve been busy. I’ve spent at least 12 hours every day up there working and Amy has been coming after work on nights when she can. I tiled the guest bathroom (pictures to come) and built the kitchen cabinet bases. I also built a cabinet for the guest bathroom. We got our cooktop hooked up and the kitchen sink up and running in a temporary plywood counter. So I think we’re close. We are supposed to get Internet installed from Comcast 3 weeks ago, but that hasn’t happened either. That will hopefully be taken care of tomorrow and I can upload some pictures. Check back!