Saturday, September 15, 2012

Stake Out

I copied the last 5-6 posts in one afternoon a week ago.  I can't guarantee any more updates here for a while.  I will be updating Mama Mullholland, so come visit me there!

I got a phone call from our excavator on Friday asking if we were set to start digging on Monday.  I had to explain that we were still waiting on the permits.  He let me know that you don't need to wait for the permits to start digging, but you have to have them before you pour the footing.  Great news!  

He asked me to stake out the house this weekend and then we agreed to meet out at the land on Monday morning!

I called up home depot to see if they carried survey stakes.  The doofus who answered the phone was quite confused as to why I had asked for SURVEYING stakes.  They did carry stakes in several sizes, but he didn't know if surveyor stakes were the same thing.  I just said "thank you" and hung up.  If you will allow, I have a rant about Home Depot.  Something I learned recently that was confirmed by several different contractors in several different areas of expertise is that Home Depot is considered a 'seconds' store.  If a manufacturer has a toilet that isn't quite level at the base, they sell it to Home Depot.  They figure a DIYer will assume it was their mistake and just caulk the heck out of it until it is level.  A plumber won't shop there to begin with.  A manufacturer of a faucet will have a specific style of faucet.  For a distributor like Ferguson, the insides will be made of metal with high quality gaskets.  For home depot, the insides will be make of plastic.  With cabinets, the same thing applies.  Their brand, KraftMaid, can be purchased other places.  Home Depot gets the second quality cast offs.  In most cases, the cost savings is NOT passed on to you.  In some cases it is.  The faucets I wanted were $100 cheaper EACH from Home Depot.  That tells me that a major component is different.  The metal the faucet is made from could even be different.  So, as much as we disliked Home Depot before, we have even more reason to stay away now.  They are basically the Dollar General of building supplies.  If you need building materials, go somewhere like McCray, ProBuild, or Menards.  Get your fixtures, sinks, ect from a place like Ferguson.  Believe it or not, custom cabinets made by hand from solid wood are LESS expensive than Home Depot Cabinets.  I'll do a post on Cabinets in the future.

Anyhow, this post isn't supposed to be about Home Depot.  It is about staking out the house!

John, Paisley, Charley, and I arrived with stakes, a hammer, pink nylon string, and a movie box to use as a square.  Oh, we had a set of plans with us as well.

We picked the front left corner of the house and drove in a stake.  We then measured off the rest of the walls with only minor difficulty.

Here is the first stake and you can see the string going east.  This is the north wall of the house and will be Paisley's room, the shared bath, and the room for the twinkle in John's eye.  

 Here is the bay window in our bedroom.  If you look closely, you can see a cow pie right in the middle.  Some day we will be laying in bed and we will remember this day and how there was once a cow pie where we are now laying.

Have a haiku:

Mindless bovine poop
Permanent?  Impermanent?
Below where we sleep 

Speaking of poop.  Here is our porta pot!  John didn't think it would be quite enough to provide each crew with a spade and a roll of TP. 

Here is the shot of the whole house.  John is at the far left corner and the far right corner is near the right of the screen.  You may be able to see more if you can enlarge the picture.  But, this will be the front view of the house.  

Friday, September 14, 2012


Check out Mama Mullholland

Something unexpected came up as we were looking at styles of houses and decor.  John and I have VERY different tastes in homes.  We were quite surprised to find this!  We are so compatible in so many ways that we were quite shocked at how passionately the other felt about some "small" details!  

John likes a very clean, modern look while I prefer a more soft, cozy county look.  We tried to find balance in things we agreed on.  No clutter.  No decor for the sake of being decor.  We both like clean and simple.  I felt like his style was cold.  He felt like mine was too country.    

Suddenly, we came upon something we both loved.  This discovery saved our house! Haha!  

The Craftsman style.  This is a very popular style from the early 1900's that started in Northern California and Oregon.  It is described as generally being a 1 story house with a low hipped roof, large porch, and exposed beam details.  The goal of the craftsman style was to bring nature indoors by using natural materials and colors.  

So, John and I are going more traditionally craftsman with the exterior and doing a clean craftsman interpretation on the interior.  The exterior colors will be green with canvas trim and ox blood accents. Here is a link to a good example of the colors we want. 

For the interior, we are going to stay true to the wide baseboards and header over the doors.  but we will paint them white.  For windows and walkways, we will have drywall returns (no trim) with bull nose corners (rounded).  This should give us the craftsman feel with a modern touch.  

We will be going with a white kitchen.  We will have an extra set of upper cabinets with glass fronts, which is very craftsman.  A craftsman kitchen was often white as it was easier to clean.  We will be going more modern with the granite tops as well as by painting the interior of the glass front cabinets.  
We will have hickory flooring throughout the main living area.  I just love the movement you get from the color variations.  

I think that about sums up the style we are going for.  We will be using a more modern lighting scheme.    Traditional craftsman would call for bronze lighting, which is so dark and heavy.  So we have tried to find a style that is craftsman but in a brushed nickel.  Right now we are thinking of the Kichler Truett line from

However, on the exterior, we will go totally craftsman with something like this from

So, that about sums up our style.  Of course, all of this stuff happens in the last 4-8 weeks of the build process.  The first 4 months is all digging, concrete, and lumber!  I can't wait to post pictures as the process moves along!  

Thursday, September 13, 2012


The people who visit Mama Mullholland got this post like 7 days ago!

How we chose a floor plan.  We started by searching on sites that sell floor plans.  We knew that we wanted to minimize wasted space in hallways and extra rooms like formal living or dining spaces.  We wanted a large living area that was open and included the kitchen.  I wanted a laundry room that doubled as a mud room.  We wanted a luxury bath for the master.  The plan below was a start, but wasn't what we wanted, exactly.  

So, we took this idea to an architect.  Our guy was GREAT!  He took about a month and we met several times along the way.  This gives you an idea of what we ended up with!  We moved the master bath to give ourselves a bay window in the master bedroom.  We changed one master closet into a stairwell down to the basement.  We changed the laundry room around.  We changed the Jack and Jill bath to be more open.  We made the formal dining into an office and removed the walk-through into the kitchen.  

Now that our plans were finished, we make a bunch of copies of all of the sets and got pdf files of them as well.  I started sending them out to contractors for bids!  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


The plans we originally started looking at, before we met with an architect, had a detached garage with a portico connecting the garage to the house.  After doing a lot of number crunching and thinking, we decided that a garage that matched the house wasn't practical for our wants and needs.  First off, a 2 car garage was going to run us about $30-40 THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!  Holy cow.  On top of that, we really wanted the garage to be able to house farm equipment, lawn mowers, etc. as well as serving as a shop and garage for our daily drivers.  

We were thinking of something more like a 4 car garage.  Most 2 car garages are about 20x20.  We decided on 24x40 as a reasonable space for our needs.  

We started looking at prefab buildings, semi-custom metal garages, and finally settled on a pole barn type garage with Cleary Buildings.  Cleary is a bit smaller and less expensive than Morton, which is the most famous brand of pole barns.  Pole barn construction is really neat.  They start with a level dirt surface, drill in where the wood/wood composite posts will go, set a pre-poured concrete block, then set the post on that.  So, basically the structure is self supporting.  That saves you the cost of having to pour a concrete footing which would have run about $3500 for our size if we had gone with a metal frame building.  So, the set the posts and start framing the building.  It has a truss roof and metal roof and siding.  Our garage will be crimson and cream.  Boomer Sooner!  We will have a double garage door in the from and an single garage door on the back for the lawn mower.  There will be a person door facing the house.  The neat thing about post frame buildings is that they build the frame inside with a 2x8 lip around the lower edge.  So, it is basically its own form for pouring concrete!  After the building is up, we will just have out concrete flatwork guys come back out and pour in the slab.  We will do a rebar reinforced 5" slab to prevent any buckling or cracking.  

So, the site prep will be done by our excavator when he is already out to dig the basement.  That should cost about $1000.  Then the building will  be put up and should only take about a week. That will be $16060.  The slab will be about $3100 and will be done as soon as possible before it starts getting cold and freezing!  So, once the basement is dug and the foundation is in, we will know an exact location for the garage.  I am hoping the garage will be done while we are giving the concrete foundation some time to cure.  Hopefully the garage will be complete by the end of October.   

We have decided to build the garage sooner rather than later for a few reasons.  First, we wanted a storage space where we could lock building materials up overnight.  Second, we are currently renting a storage unit in town while we try to sell our house.  I'd love to move our stuff and not have that monthly expense.  Third, if we can get our excavator and concrete guys to do the work while they are already out there, it will save us a little money and save them some time.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Building Permit

Seriously, come on over to Mama Mullholland and get updates WAY faster!

What does it take to get a building permit?  

2 sets of architectural plans ($1500)
a site plan by a professional surveyor ($200)
Deed (cost of the land-haha!)
driveway application (cost of driveway ~$4000)
approval from the health dept ($550)
selection of master certified plumber, electrician, and mechanical (HVAC) contractors
Plus we will be paying about $1700 in fees to cover all of our inspections during the build process

The hold up for us was getting approval from the health department.  The reason we need that is for septic approval.  In order to get septic approval, your excavator has to dig test holes with the health dept there watching.  Our excavator was one of the last contracctors we selected.  So, we couldn't even start the process without chosing an excavator.  

When I met with the health dept and excavator, it was a really neat process.  Back in the 1960's, the USDA went around digging test holes and categorizing the soil.  They printed copies of the maps and handed them out.  They are no longer in print and the health dept guy told me that he has 3 unopened copies in his office that are like gold to him!  

The map showed that our lot had 3 kinds of soil.  We dug a test hole and the soil was just as expected.  We dug another test hole a little further east and it was a different type of soil.  It was great soil for the septic systems lateral field.  So, we dug a third hole just south of the second hole to make sure the soil would be consistant for the whole lateral field.  Luckily, our soil is great!  Which means that we can have a traditional system instead of an unsightly and expensive mound system.  

So, I submitted the application Monday the 27th and hope to have a permit in hand by Friday the 7th!  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Home Building

Again, I am reposting this from:

I know it has been a while.  I've been busy.  John and I have been working on the process of building our home on the 20 acres be bought this spring.  

I started doing my homework on how to have a custom home built.  I learned that a General Contractor charges about 20-30% of the homes value to build a home.  Ouch.  I like transparency in bookkeeping and every angle I looked at the situation from was muddled.  There was no way for us to know exactly how much each part of our house would cost.  I wanted to know numbers down to each board and screw.  I know that that information would lead me to know EXACTLY how much the GC would pocket.  

I learned pretty quickly that the only way to find out how much stuff costs was to ask.  So, I started sending out our architectural plans to different sub contractors and getting bids.  I compared costs between subs.  I had found a great website and used their percentage guideline to know how much things *should* cost for the value of house we were looking to build.  I was surprised to find that my bids were coming back VERY close!  

I was acting like a GC.  I convinced John to let me continue on and try to manage the build myself.  He was hesitant at first, but when he started to see how organized I was and how serious I was about the project, he came around pretty quickly.  

I had every job multi-bid and selected contractors based on how good their recommendations were and how easy they seemed to be to work with.  I didn't always pick the low bidder.  We were about to save 25% on the cost of the house, no need to cut corners now.  

Building the house ourselves will allow us to have WAY more house for WAY less money.  Think solid hickory wood floors, custom tile work, granite, spa tub etc.  

Currently, I am wrapping up the 5-6 week process of getting bids.  Our building permit has been submitted and is waiting on approval.  I have started scheduling contractors.  We will start digging as soon as we get approval from the county.  I am aiming for Sept 10 or before.  

Now that you are up to date, I need to go call a few subs, our insurance company, and the zoning department!  

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Building a road

In case you were unaware, I am posting about building our farm house over here:

Anyhow, if you are too lazy to click over, I'll post the updates here for a while too.  

Here is how we built a driveway in a weekend!

First it was like this

 and then he

 used this

to do this

then this happened

 and now we have 775 glorious feet of this