Saturday, August 6, 2011

#72 - Cabin Dreams In my Waking Hours

As the heat ramps up and up, I find myself daydreaming about the moment I get to start living in our cabin in the woods...beneath the canopy of trees...shaded by God's good greenery.

I love this cabin, The porch and side deck are dreamy.
Having your house sit under the blaring Texas sun is not pleasant. But, that's what you get in the city and in most suburban neighborhoods. No one wants trees near their concrete foundations. We get by with a few trees and some neighborhoods have lots of trees, but they have lots of foundation problems. Because of our extreme heat and soil dehydration, our ground cracks, shifts, and moves. If you have a concrete foundation, this can spell disaster.

Without the environmental shading, we have days like we experienced this past week --- news reported the temperature to be 104 degrees, but in the sun, especially at our air-conditioning units on the side of the house, the temperature was 113. This meant that the inside temperature was 83 degrees and the units could not cool down the house further. It was HOT. During these moments, I do wish we had a swimming pool or a misting patio where I could sit and soak.

I've been afraid that I'll walk into the backyard and find that my chickens are no longer running around...I might find a-la-Texas-roasted chicken.

But back to concrete foundations...nearly everyone we know, who has a home that is ten years old or older, has foundation issues. Shockingly, a few with brand new homes have severe foundation issues. Of course, these builders go out of business before you can go after them to honor their warranties. No doubt, foundation companies make a pretty penny here in Texas.

For years, I was in real estate. In fact, I owned and operated a Real Estate Brokerage with associates working for my company. Thank God I am finished with that chaotic lifestyle. Deputy Dave and I are in retirement-mode. But, my chosen profession did expose me to see a huge amount of terrible home inspections revealing foundation problems.

The kicker with this sort of house ailment is that a buyer cannot get a loan for a house with a cracked slab, unless it is remedied by the seller presenting a foundation company certificate of repair...a certificate proving it has been addressed and that the warranty is transferable. This can create huge problems for a seller because they must repair the foundation before the loan provider will release funds, so this must be done BEFORE the closing takes place on the house. If a seller doesn't repair the damaged slab, they might be stuck with a house that has a willy-wonka foundation and would have to find a cash buyer willing to overlook the foundation problem.

What does this translate to? Big Price Reduction. Investment Special. Or...a person duped into buying a home with a major foundation issue is stuck with big problems, unless they get them fixed. And the so-called "Lifetime Warranties" on these slab repairs are misleading...they ONLY warranty the particular area that is repaired.

What does this mean, for the most part? "Oh Mr. Home-Owner, this problem you are having with your slab is not covered under the warranty you have with us because the area of OUR repair is actually strong and holding...but sadly (handkerchief shook out and touched to technician's eye for dramatic effect) the new area of damage is not in the area of OUR superb previous repair, so your new tragic slab woes are NOT covered under this worthless warranty in your possession. (Handkerchief is put away) is your estimate. Have a great day! I'll see myself to the door so you can have a quiet moment to regain control and stop hyperventilating."

A lot of homes in Texas with major foundation issues end up as a ball and chain. Many owners find they cannot sell the house, so they are forced to keep them as rent houses or they let them go back to the bank. It can be devastating.

This is beautiful. I am really digging the
entry steps. This is a definite design element
that we will incorporate.
The point is...I've seen too many houses with traditional foundations gone wrong. But, I've seen many, many historic homes on blocks, pier and beam, etc. that are still standing and are able to be tweaked with less cost. Also, a house up on blocks or on a pier and foundation is more likely to have pipes and wiring that are easier to access.

Whoa Mama! This is macho house!
It's also beautiful. Great mix.
With good insulation beneath the house, the lack of concrete might be a huge bonus. If one part of the house starts to sink, you can have it jacked up and leveled. No jackhammering existing concrete, no mudjacking through a tiny hole to fill it dirt gaps and no old concrete compared to the blaring fresh concrete that is highly noticeable to everyone passing by, " problems right here!"

If you've had foundation know what I'm talking about.

And man oh man, I have seen some real disasters with people whose pipes burst beneath the concrete. Talk about high repair costs and daily life interruptions!

So, I am leaning toward the pier and beam foundation. I'll even take blocks. Blocks work.

Some friends will say, "How can you consider a house that isn't on a concrete foundation? What about tornadoes?"

Duh...take a look at the historic part of downtown Houston or the historic part of Galveston with the hundreds and hundreds of homes on blocks or pier and beam that have survived numerous natural disasters as entire homes on concrete foundations were blown or washed completely away...the old-style foundations often stood their ground, literally.

Having concrete beneath your sticks and bricks does not guarantee that you won't blow away with Dorothy to the Land of Oz. And, they may not make red shoes in our size.

I love the substantial and natural front porch
tree beams - rustic, yet unique and gorgeous.
One of my good friends owned a historic home in downtown Houston and they ended up having the entire house lifted so that the support beams under the house could be completely was quite an awesome undertaking. The house was about 100 years old and magnificent.

How about the other critics of pier and beam foundations who say, "Well, critters will find a home under your floorboards if there isn't concrete to block their way!"

My reply is, "Your foundation only makes for a better foothold for some critters, don't be fooled by the illusion. Critters under the house can be tackled, like any other problem." Just don't ask me how.

Another bonus with a house on pier and beam is the air flow can circulate around the house. Our foundation home had big warnings for installing hardwood flooring on the bottom floor because humidity causes the concrete to sweat; this can cause improperly installed wood flooring to buckle and warp. I've seen far too many houses with this terrible problem. And, wood floors are not cheap. This is a huge reason we installed Italian porcelain flooring all throughout our first floor. Upstairs, we have a floating hardwood (tongue and grove) floor that required custom cutting and careful laying, but it is beautiful and it moves with the house.

In the country, our cabin will be on pier and beam, but we will build a skirt facade of natural stone to help cover the blank opening around the house. We'll leave a few openings, as required, for proper access to do future work beneath the house, but the access points will be closed up during normal daily living to prevent critters from making a home beneath our home. Perhaps we'll have a few bells hanging beneath the house so that an exploring critter will hit the jingle bell and go scampering in a panic. I'd love to hear of solutions by other people for these types of homes.

How long will it take us to complete all of this? Hmmm...I'm not sure, check back when I am near 90.

Today, I looked online at many different kinds of cabins. I found shell kits that I thought would work, for under $30,000. ---- that price is appealing. However, we'd still have everything to finish on the inside.

Since my husband wants to be in control of everything, this is a viable option. We will likely hire contractors to do certain parts of the finishing, but Deputy Dave can do a lot on his own, well, with a bit of help from this old gal. I am his "Sous Chef" of home renovations. Need painting, caulking, sanding, nailing (little nails), clean-up crew, or a handy dandy mobile tool holder? Then, I am your woman. Well, I am Deputy Dave's woman. He has a certificate stating this fact. Two certificates...eloping version and church version. Therefore, I am his permanent, low-budget Sous Construction Worker. (Note to Deputy snide comments!)

As for shell kits and beyond, I found sites offering to build luxurious cabins on your property, but I knew that these homes were WAY beyond our price range. However, I am determined to find the cabin solution that is JUST RIGHT for our taste and budget. Nothing is for's going to cost some heart-thumping dollars, but we'll also be rid of this house that has high taxes and high insurance rates that go with living by the bay along with other high priced city living costs. I can't wait!

The cabin in the picture below will probably be our new cabin in the woods. I just need to contact these people to tell them to get it shipped to our acreage ASAP! And, P.S., the decorations on the house and front porch rocking chair can stay...

This is my absolute favorite. There are many elements
that I love about this house...the metal roof, the large front
porch beams, the stonework, the rounded steps to the porch
and I like the roof over the porch that is separate from
the roof to the rest of the house. I just LOVE this house!


Tim and Kari O'Brien said...

Hi Lana,
Your log home tour was so fun! I am with you on your favorite! What's not to LOVE! I found your blog on Rina's blog in Australia!
~ Kari

Mike said...

I learned my lesson with slabs a long, long time ago in a state far away. Pipes don't stand a chance against tree roots. Luckily, the destruction was accessible from 'outside' the slab. Never again will I buy a slab. Trees? We have several here and they have destroyed one part of the driveway. Roots are coming above ground. What a mess. I wasn't around to inspect this place or I'da had the owner throw some more topsoil on and fix the problems. Oh well.

I've always loved a log cabin. The rounded steps look is awesome. I'd probably incorporate some sort of hand rail, though. As clumsy as you say you, balance and sure footing tend to fail you with age.

I do believe I saw you give Dave 'the look' when you forewarned him about the snide comments?

Rina ... also Chester or Daisysmum. said...

Now see ya you two, so glad you found each other lol. Your are both such nice people, but to think you had to go via Australia to meet.

My choice is also the last home. Piers are good and east for a little extra storage, just make sure their's no rattlers down there. There's is a snake and mice proof wire which can sort out that problem. We have to go with the piers too cause our block is a gentle slope from two sides. In a space of 4 mtrs we had a good 12 inches height difference. Makes build difficult. Is someone going to build for you?

Charade said...

I'm still chuckling about the Sous Construction Worker. You know the old saying, "Behind every successful man is a good woman!"

LindaG said...

I think any roof can be metal. And pretty much most houses in the south have them.
Now you can even get them in colors. I've seen red and blue metal roofs on houses around here.

I don't think hubby's home ever had any problems with critters. They have had snakes in places that I don't remember and I am not comfortable going under the house, so I can't tell you about them, but he is not afraid of snakes and pretty much just takes them and moves them. I hope he is careful when his reflexes slow down.

Having the open space under the house makes it very easy to do plumbing and wiring, and if you're worried about heat and chickens, between the trees and the house there is plenty of shade for them. :)

You all have a great week!

WhisperingWriter said...

These cabins are fabulous!

Texan said...

love the cabins~ yes I am the helper to my honeyman as well. Today though he was the helper. We had to install a new faucet in the kitchen ... corner sink. I fit under the sink totally in the cabinet LOL honeyman could not fit. So I installed the new faucet with my helper lol

Vickie said...

Hi Lana - I love the cabin that you picked out. My favorite, too, and I like the separate roof over the porch. Makes it look more "cabin-y".

Our 80-yr old farmhouse is on pier/beam and our area is all sand. We had to have the house re-leveled 4 yrs ago, and it's still shifting. It cost us $2500 for a small 1100 sq ft house.

We can't do that every few years. We are planning on building a little larger home on this property - we have 78 acreas - but can't decide whether to go pier and beam or slab. They build up a thick layer of clay, and then put an extra thick slab on top. Don't know how that'll work, but it sounds good. After reading your experiences here, I'm not convinced that we shouldn't go pier/beam again. surely there are new ways of doing that where your house wouldn't settle too much. Some friends of my folks laid a slab and then built a pier/beam home on top of it. Hmmm, that might work...

Lana from Farm Life Lessons said...

Tim and Kari --- Your blog about running the white-water rafting business is so fun! You guys seem to be loving life. Maybe we'll be able to make it out to see you one day and sign up for one of your tours!

Mike --- you are right about pipes and roots not making a great partner. And you have a very good point about the rounded stairs still needing a railing -- as you know - my clumsiness will require a railing. Perhaps I can get something to match the cabin style. Railing is my friend. And yes, Deputy Dave was indeed getting "the look."

Rina --- we definitely will get wire that is snake/rodent proof. Our acreage has heavy cottonmouths (water mocassins). I've already killed one myself because it kept coming at me. As for building, we will definitely be hiring a crew to help, but Deputy Dave will likely be overseeing everything himself since he grew up in construction, his dad owned a commercial constructions company; hence the reason he is a Deputy Sheriff. haha

Charade --- I do believe a man is made even better by the woman who is his mate. Hopefully, I make Deputy Dave a better man, but he's pretty darn good already. Of course, I'm slightly partial.

Linda --- just so you know, I'm not going under any house myself. No way Jose. It's great that your husband is not afraid of snakes; Deputy Dave is not so fortunate, neither are the snakes that cross his path. Our land has a lot of snakes, but it's to be expected when you have land tucked in the midst of dense wilderness. At least we'll have plenty of space for chickens.

WhisperingWriter - I remember the days of being a military wife and wondering if we'd ever have a "permanent" home. I admire you living in base least there are not any maintenance fees. Enjoy it while it lasts! I love your blog!

Texan --- Your husband is fortunate that you are flexible and tiny enough and willing to go under the kitchen cabinet. I've had such moments myself...especially when Deputy Dave needs tiny hands.

Vickie - I think that you getting to live in an old farmhouse is amazing! Just think of all those farmhouse walls have seen! A little shifting is to be expected, but at least you're on blocks. It is expensive though. However, I'd so so glad to not have a crumbling foundation underfoot. If that house were built on a regular foundation, it probably would not still be standing. Another testimonial for elevated living! You have a lot of acreage in this hot Texas sun, so I hope you don't wander too far from home-base during the heat of the day! I'll be so glad to not have to cool a monster house any more. Be sure to post details about your future, larger farmhouse. I'll be reading!