General

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.

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.

Apr
22
Posted by Mike at 3:00 pm

We finally got the driveway poured today. This is one if the biggest steps we’ve had so far. No longer must we cringe when rain (or snow) is forecast for fear of a muddy, mucky, gooey walk to the house. We have a nice new concrete driveway and sidewalk. It runs all the way out to the road which is over 100 feet (32m). It’s 16-feet wide (5M) and has a 20′ x 40′ parking and turn-around area. They also poured the sidewalk up to the front porch. It all turned out really nice.

The guys started to form everything Monday morning around 6:30. They had to move a lot of dirt. In fact, they trucked out 3 tandems full. Most of this was the recycled concrete tracking pad we had to put in. They were done forming about 1:00. The next morning the crew showed up about 10 minutes before the first cement truck at 7:00am. They were done pouring around 1:30. All told, there was over 3,000 sq ft of concrete which was just over 40 cubic yards. This marks the last of our concrete on the house project. Here are a few pictures of the forming and pouring.

Apr
13
Posted by Mike at 11:05 pm

We finished the drywall and texture a couple weeks ago so started getting bids on interior painting. We got bids from five different companies and were rather shocked to get prices ranging from $5,000 to over $7,000 to prime and paint the interior of our house. Clearly I’m in the wrong business. After some discussion with Amy, we decided to paint it ourselves. We were thinking rollers and cans of paint. But after mentioning this to some friends in the trades, they said they’d come and help… and when they said “help” they meant more than showing up to with rollers and brushes. So when Rick (Amy’s brother-in-law) and Sean a friend said to be ready to paint on Sunday, we got at it.

Thursday and Friday Amy caulked the corners around all the windows so we had a nice smooth surface to tape to. Saturday morning we went to Home Depot and bought primer and paint, plastic and tape and started getting ready. We taped plastic over all the windows and then we covered all the floors with rosin paper. It was a long day but we got the main floor done. We headed up early Sunday morning to finish the taping and paper. A bit later Rick showed up with his paint sprayer and Sean with a borrowed pair of stilts from his drywaller friend. And then over the next 8 hours they sprayed 25 gallons (95 liters) or drywall primer and 35 gallons (132 liters) of paint.

It’s pretty amazing to get this done in one day. We might need to touch up a few places, but for the most part we’re ready to move on. Now we can put all the electrical in, install cabinets (once I build them) and get the floors ready. We’re moving along…

Mar
10

So we finally passed our inspections for rough-in plumbing and rough-in mechanical. We’d failed two previous inspections, much to the anger of our plumber. But as it turned out, our inspectors might have been right. There was a long list of things to correct, but the two main items were the gas line and the water line. I’ll go into more detail below, but the short story is we got them corrected and all is well. Now we’re on to fire-stopping and then rough framing inspection. Once we pass that, we’ll be doing some insulation and drywall, and then we’ll be close to the end.

So the story with our water line was interesting to me. The water line from the city main to our water meter is a 3/4″ line. Then we were required to put in a 1 1/4″ line from the meter to the house, which was over 100 feet (over 30 meters). And we had to do it in copper. Those of you that buy anything in copper know that it’s very expensive. That cost us about $1,000. I asked one of the city’s guys when we had he water line tapped how it worked that a 3/4″ water line goes into a 1 3/4″ water line. He said it didn’t make any sense to him. Anyway, where the 1 1/4″ line comes into the house the plumber put a 3/4″ water line on it. The initial inspector said that was fine but our urinal had to have a dedicated 3/4″ line to where the water line entered the house. So our plumber did that. When the second inspector came, he said we had to have the 1 3/4″ line run all the way into the middle of the house. So our plumber did that. I guess that was enough, because our inspector passed us on that area.

The other big area was the gas line. Our plumber had put in 1″ flexible CSST gas line into the house. The inspector felt this was not enough volume to run our boiler, gas range, and a gas fireplace on the patio. So he said the plumber had to increase the size. Our plumber pulled out that 1″ line and replaced it with 1 1/4″ black pipe. That appeared to be more than enough for the inspector so we’re good there too.

The one last thing we needed to do was tell them how big the exhaust fan for our kitchen will be. If it’s over 400 CFM (cubic feet per minute) we have to add a dampener with access to the outside for “makeup air.” As near as I can understand, this helps to offset the negative air pressure that develops with a large exhaust hood. We’re hoping to stay under the 400 CFM limit since we don’t have any duct work in the house. We’ll see what happens there.

Off we go to the next stage.

Mar
06
Posted by Mike at 8:32 am

Well, it’s that time of year in Colorado; Mud Season!  We had a nice example of this today. Here’s the video and story below.

So we’re getting close to starting drywall and I figured we were going to have a lot of drywall to throw away. Our roll-off dumpster was getting pretty full so I decided to have it swapped out with an empty one. Amy called the company and got it scheduled for Tuesday. All set! We’ll one would think so.

So Tuesday is a perfect day to pick up the roll-off. It hadn’t snowed (or rained) for a week, it had been sunny, and the ground was hard as a rock. But 4:00 Tuesday rolls around and no one has come to swap out our dumpsters. I get a call that they weren’t able to make it today and they’d try tomorrow. I said no way.  There was a storm moving in and we were expected to get a few inches of snow. Then it was supposed to warm up and melt everything. That would make a mud pit our of our land. So I said just cancel the roll-off swap. I’ll order it next week when it’s dry again. She says fine.

So Wednesday I make sure to be up there in case someone shows up to swap the dumpster. Sure, I know I cancelled it, but by now I also know how communication works in the construction industry… it does not work. There is no communication. So I’m up there all day Wednesday and no problems. Then Thursday morning as I’m taking care of some office work, I get a call from my soon-to-be new neighbor Dave. “There’s a truck stuck in your front yard,” he says and texts me a picture to clarify. Sure enough, some idiot hadn’t cancelled the order, and some poor young kid tried to back his truck down to swap out our roll-off.

So I of course stopped what I was doing and cruised up there to see what was going on. The damn fool had almost slid into our house. Thank god he had the sense to stop and call for help. I had to raise some hell with the company. There was some “he said, she said” about the cancelled order. They got a tow truck out there and pulled the truck out, and I wasted half my morning dealing with an issue that should never have happened. Now I’m left with some huge muddy ruts currently filled to the top with water and snow. Just another day on the job site.

The huge tow truck:

Feb
24
Posted by Mike at 6:41 pm

Great news!  We passed our rough electrical inspection today. This is a milestone as I wired the house. I of course did not do it alone. I had lots of help from my friend Mark who came out from Pennsylvania, my friend Scott who came out from Minnesota, and my dad who came out from Arizona. Everyone was a tremendous help and I couldn’t have done it with out all the help. Thanks guys!

So what’s the next step?  The inspector said he would notify Xcel Energy (our utility company) that we passed the inspection. Tomorrow I’ll need to call Xcel’s builder’s hotline to request they install the meter for the house and hook up our service. I’ll be able to hook up a couple outlets in the house for use during the remainder of construction. That means no more running my extension cord out the door and 40 feet (13 m) over to our temporary power pole. I think I can hook up some lights too. That will make it much easier to work. I’ll check with my electrician friend to make sure.

Hopefully more progress to report soon.

Feb
23
Posted by Mike at 8:01 am

I just noticed the other day that our house is finally showing on Google Maps. Before and after below. If I knew I was being watched by a satellite, I would have given them the finger. I think that’s even me standing next to my truck. The blue is a tarp over the decking for the garage structural floor. The white of the house is basement slab. Looks like our roll-off dumpster is there and our trusses are there too. Ahh, good memories… now.  Like they say, time heals all wounds.  🙂

Google Maps 2014-02-22 07-54-15Google Maps 2014-02-22 07-55-18

Feb
22
Posted by Mike at 8:52 pm

We’ve got stucco… well at least the first part of it. It looks great. After looking at OSB sheathing for a couple months, it’s nice to see a somewhat finished surface now. Here are a few photos and below the story of how we got our stucco.

A couple months ago I met with three different companies and reviewed their bids. On several occasions, picking a contractor was really difficult. In this case it really wasn’t. One guy (let’s say company C) showed up without any paper or a pen to write down the details. He was out from the start. The other two were both very friendly and professional. Company B offered an option to tent the house if it was too cold (under 40F or 9C). Since we often have warm weather in the Colorado Front Range even in winter, and we weren’t really in a hurry, that wasn’t really a factor in my decision, but was nice nonetheless. The third company, (we’ll call them company A) offered fiber mesh at no extra cost in their scratch/brown coat to reduce cracking. Company B offered this too, but at an additional charge. Also, our framer had miscalculated the width of our overhang and left a 3/4″ gap from the wall to the soffit material. The final stucco is only 1/2″ think so we’d have 1/4″ (6cm) crack all around. Not a huge issue, but not good for moisture, dirt, and bugs. Company A offered to add a band to cover this space at no extra cost, for Company B it would have been a significant add-on. When the bids came back, both bids were over the budget our building consultant had suggested (a common issue). I asked company A if they would match our budget and they did. So that was it. We had a stucco contractor. We met again, signed a contract, and planned to start when the weather was agreeable.

Not long after we had a signed contract, a crew showed up at our house to setup the scaffolding. It was a cold windy day, but they worked all day and got the entire house and garage surrounded. A few days later they showed up again and wrapped the house in a waterproof breathable material. You might see something called Tyvek on a lot of construction projects. This is a product by DuPont, a synthetic material made of polyethylene fibers. Our guys used a product called Jumbo Tex, an asphalt saturated kraft paper (or tar paper). This provides an effective water barrier while still maintaining a breathable barrier. Then they wrapped the house is stucco lath. They couldn’t quite finish because we didn’t have all our doors in place yet. A couple were special ordered and not in yet. For our main entry door we’re having a custom door built and they were a bit behind schedule. Over the past couple weeks we got all our doors installed and the jamb for our main entry installed as well. So the stucco crew came back and finished up the wrap and lath. We called for an inspection last Wednesday and everything went well.

I called our guy Thursday to say the inspection was good and he said he could meet Saturday morning at 9:00 to go over the details. I showed up at about 8:30 and there was already a crew of 5 or 6 guys that had taped all the windows and doors and were ready to go. I went over some details with the foreman and they all started off. By 6:00 that evening, our entire house and garage were covered in the scratch/brown coat of stucco. WOW!  The last step will be for us to pick a color and have them come back and put on the final coat. This layer contains the color, so the color is actually mixed into the stucco. That was one the biggest reasons I wanted to use stucco as the exterior surface. Once it’s on, there is very little maintenance needed. And as long as there are no major cracks, all should be good. Also, stucco is great in the harsh Colorado high UV sun.

So on we go to the next step in the building process. It’s nice to see things moving forward. I hope to have some more good news to report. I’ll keep you posted.

Feb
18
Posted by Mike at 7:33 am

Last week Rick and Sarah were up at the house checking on the progress. Rick is there pretty regularly, but it had been a while for Sarah. She was excited to see things coming together; after all, she has been helping us make decisions for the past 2 years!  So we were a bit surprised when we folded back the big “Wall O’ Doors” and it wasn’t what Sarah had expected… in a good way though. She thought it was amazing (we do too). She was thinking the panels slid over one another, which was one option we considered. But in the end, we really wanted the entire opening. So just to make sure others know how our folding door works, I made a short video. Enjoy!

Notice our two folding chairs. This is where I eat my sandwich for lunch most days.  🙂