Wednesday, October 12, 2011

#113 - Finding a Builder is Not So Easy

Over the past couple of days I've been trying to call a couple of builders who advertise in the Lake Livingston area as home construction builders, from the shell stage to turn key stage. So far, no luck. Either I place a call to a "Justin" and the person on the voice-mail is definitely not Justin and there is no mention of "...leave your message for XYZ Construction Company," so it is unclear whether or not I am talking to a stranger who is clueless or perhaps irritated by such calls.
Don't be sad Howdy, we will move to that place where you love to run
and play, even where you sometimes hop like a rabbit.
Then, there are others who are clearly out of business. Such is the world that we're living in...hard times hitting everyone, especially the builders.

So, last night I began to think creatively. Who to call? Who would have some reputable builder names handy? Handy? Handy? Oh yes...the handyman hardware store surely has personnel who are familiar with good builders in Livingston.

In Livingston, there's this incredible old-style mixed with modern kind of home building supply store with lumber and all kinds of fun things called the "Red Barn." And the store does indeed resemble a large red barn. Today, I phoned the store, let them know that we have shopped there for our needs for years and that we're trying to retire out there but we're having one heck of a time finding a builder to construct a shell home.

I got an old guy on the phone who knew his stuff. He's been around the block, but like Clark Kent in super-hero form, he came to my rescue and gave me exactly the information I had been trying to obtain. So, he was definitely my my hero for the day. I was thankful to be talking with him because he told me that he had about 3-4 names for me, builders who stay BUSY and would have 2-3 houses at any given time under construction that I could look at. In the end, he gave me six names and said that any one of them would be an excellent choice, but I got the lowdown on each one, such as, "This one is in semi-retirement and this one is really in demand and this one is...okay..." I was thrilled and took detailed notes. Who me? Detailed? Nawwww.

The old wise man from the Red Barn also told me that a few of those guys had already been in the store that day. That's a good sign. We want a builder who is busy and producing a good product for his clients.

Therefore, it looks like my day tomorrow will be spent trying to contact some of these builders. Deputy Dave and I first had a talk to confirm that we're on the same page with what we would like to have constructed...a country style home, probably with cedar siding from 1,300 to 1,500 square feet on pier and beam. We want the use of a few massive timbers to be used and preferably a couple of beams and overhead posts left exposed inside the home for a nice architectural element. Another definite wish-list item is to have a large front porch, wrap around would be great, but we at least need the front of the house to have a length-long porch and we can add on more later, if it is too expensive to start with.

Deputy Dave & another project of his.
I'm just so happy to have a solid starting point with the names of builders who are actually BUILDING nice homes in the area of our property. I know that one of these names on this list will end up to be our builder. And it really should not cost a lot to build a cedar sided cabin in the woods with a metal roof on pier and beam...the price per square foot should be rather low. But, I want solid construction with certain reinforcements that are city-level construction, such as hurricane clips, but that's how it goes folks. Livingston can indeed get hurricane force winds if a high-powered hurricane comes in off the Gulf of Mexico in just the right direction. In fact, we've been there, done that. Hurricane Ike destroyed our house here by the Bay and moved directly through Livingston where I had fled with the girls and impacted the city with great devastation.

This is the view from our land looking out over the private
spring fed lake at the back of our property.
Sometimes, I can't believe I'm going from a two-story, cookie-cutter, name-brand home in the city with upgraded brick, hardy plank siding and a concrete foundation to a country cabin in the boonies. But, I love the boonies and here here to Rae in Blissful in the Boonies!

But, here in the city, we have concrete sidewalks, a long concrete driveway and a detached two-car garage with a wood picket fenced in backyard. In the country, at the start of our living out there, we won't even be able to afford to have a garage!

In this suburb/city house, we have a new 30-year shingle roof and shiny surfaces throughout, but our house in the woods will be country designed. I am glad that my blog buddies have given me some good input, Rae at let me know that she LOVES her metal roof...I've always wanted a metal roof. I don't think you can claim to have a country house unless you have a metal roof or am I wrong? It seems like, here in the South, all of the old country homes have metal roofs. I'd actually love to hear the pitter patter of rain drops on a metal roof, but I'm not sure if you can hear it better than with regular composite shingles. If you know...Can you tell me?

Texan over at reminded me to make sure that I tell our contractor that we are going out of the box with our mindset for this country-rustic-themed house. She had an excellent might be difficult for another person to grasp that we really do not want a sticks and bricks with mortar type home. We need to make it clear that we are not looking for a city slicker house to be tucked in the woods. We want to go C-O-U-N-T-R-Y for this build.

And as Mike over at knows, we are so thrilled about the prospect of not having neighborhood association fees! I think he'll be able to hear me tap dancing once we're moved.

Heck, you only live once. If you want to live in the country, in a old-fashioned kind of home, then you shouldn't be living in a condo on a city block. Make it happen. Sacrifice. Get there before life passes you by. Yes, we've had to be patient for this decision to start formulating into hard-core ACTION, but for ten years we've been dreaming and planning for this time in our lives. We bought this land over ten years ago and we've continually sacrificed in order to live there full-time one day. Determination mixed with patience is a good thing.

Getting farther away from this kind of city life...
But, in our house here in the city-suburbs, we are surrounded by people; we're squeezed in by our neighbors, life is congested. This weekend our neighbor's car across the street was hit by another vehicle on the street. It happens every six months here on the block, someone gets hit. In the country, it will be weird because we will truly not have any neighbors nearby. INCREDIBLE! STRANGE! UNTHINKABLE!

I love socializing; we are those kind of people who hold major events at our home, but I sure like having my vegetable garden, a LOT, and I will really enjoy our farm animals...and I'll love having a front yard that never seems to end; that is my personal dream. Not everyone wants a big yard. I do. I want plenty of space to do whatever we would like to do through the years.

However, for my wilderness eye to be alert in all those acres of greenery, I'll probably always be in close touch with Linda at because she is a mini-expert on poison oak, etc., which I believe is prevalent on our land. She has learned the hard way while visiting her own wild piece of land and those experiences are not easily forgotten. Linda is a blog buddy to whom I affectionately refer to as "Hermione" from Harry Potter because she is a gifted researcher...if you want an answer, she'll at least get you pointed in the right direction to find it, if she doesn't already have the info in hand. I love that about beautiful mother had that kind of personality.

Most of all, I can picture Deputy Dave and I being grandparents on this land. There's so much to do right out the front animal fun, fishing, hiking, mud pies, bug safari and so on. A kid can really be a kid out there and that includes us "big" kids.

Most of all, I'll love the fresh air that the country life offers as the breeze blows through the towering trees instead of the putrid smell we get in surprise batches after a nearby chemical plant dumps a release into the air, it's especially a rotten experience when the wind is blowing our direction. I tell you, some days it's so bad that I could be sick to my stomach. There will be no more driving into this refinery town to come home and having to smell the chemicals heavy in the air and to see the deteriorating pipelines, rusting holding tanks and smoke stacks lining the horizon. I've lived seeing this for most of my life, but the rather short drive to Livingston which is located North of Houston is not so bad for everyone to traverse to see one another. I'm just happy about leaving the refineries behind and getting to finally drive to our home while passing forests on each side of the road.

Who knows, perhaps city life will one day catch up to us in our country house, but I think it will be a long way off from happening. Either way, we'll still be tucked in the woods and enjoying a completely new way of living. Yes, I'm nervous about it, but I'm not really afraid. I feel as if we can tackle whatever comes our way. After all I've been through in life, I feel pretty much capable of confronting whatever crosses my path. Having a rough time of it will do that to will either freeze you in your shoes or send you running to live life to the fullest. I'm living life to the fullest and loving it.

Country life...we're almost there...almost. Bring on the builder selection process!


LindaG said...

Baton Rouge has those lovely smells.
And Paper mills have their own unique eau de cologne as well.

That is something that brings back memories (My grandmother - where I lived on weekends and in the summer - lived just a few blocks from a paper mill); but I definitely won't miss such smells on our property.

When we first bought the property, we had the same problem trying to find someone to work on the pump for the well. And in the couple years we've needed work, the gentleman has passed the business on to his son (fortunately for us!). That was a great idea you had, to ask at the local building supply. Glad you talked to someone with knowledge. Could just as easily been someone clueless.
Hope you find someone soon!

P.S. Thanks for the kind words, too. ♥

Mike said...

I know Association fees are common-place anymore and I suppose a portion are required for management. However, I couldn't allow myself to pay someone to tell me how to live. (exempting Congress. I don't have a choice)
Just like Linda, I spent a few years engulfed in the Tacoma paper mill odors. Wind blowing just right? There's that lovely 'Tacoma Aroma'.
I loved country living. If ever you needed a hand there was always a handful of folks readily available. Scratching each other's back is the norm. Waving to everybody. Folks stopping on the road to 'just say hi.'

Vickie said...

Sounds like you're on the right track now, Lana! Great that you called the Red Barn and found someone knowledgeable about builders in your area. I know you'll find just the right one.

Fortunately for me, I work for a contractor here in northeast Texas. Building has continued through the recession in our neck of the woods. I also go to church with this guy and his family, and we have several builders in our church. So I have quite a few people I can call about any given thing. I know lots of subs, too. When our big home was hit by a tornado about 8 years ago, I did the job of contractor myself, figured out what I wanted, and called all the subs to come get the work done. Not that I know anything about that. My boss/friend did help with "code" issues and such, but it all got done and looked great!

You guys, especially with your handy hubby, can do this job on your house, too! I'm a big do-it-yourselfer, and between my dad, my sons, and hubby and me, we have gotten alot of things done out here at the farm that we didn't have to pay anybody else to do. Y'all are going to be worn out, ragged, and thoroughly ready to get your house completed inside and out, but you're going to LOVE the process and LOVE the results!

Sorry so long... now go find your contractor!!!

Rae said...

:) !

Noise factor for a metal roof... I don't notice more noise, unless the windows are open. Granted, our windows are nearly always open, and we live in Oregon, so we hear a lot of rain. :)

While metal roofing is more expensive initially, it has many many benefits. It lasts longer than composite (you'll likely never need to reroof). It reflects heat instead of absorbing it, so it helps on your energy usage. It is fire resistant. Apparently is rated well for high winds. You can get different styles that mimic the look of shingles, slate, etc, though I'd expect fancier styles to be more pricey. We went with standing seam, and for our 2000 sq ft home, we paid $7400, which I understand was a screaming deal in our area. Also, you may want to check with your homeowners insurance company and see whether you would qualify for a discount if you installed a metal roof.

Karen said...

Lana, it's all starting to come together for you! Great idea to talk to the people who supply contractors with their needs, if anyone knows a good builder, it would be them.

We've been thinking about metal roofs, too. We've already reroofed our house once and in a few years it will need it again, as will my mother's home. Since we do the shingling ourselves and since I'm getting older (gasp) I'm thinking a metal roof would be just the ticket. I guess I'll know sooner than later when it comes time to put a roof on Aaaargh. Someone suggested a stone/slate roof...ha ha, they can go right ahead and do that in their spare time.

And the rat in your previous post was humongous! Dang, I hate rats. We have 'em around here, but they're rarely seen since they're so sneaky and smart. My chickens fling feed everywhere and I'm not ambitious enough to keep it all swept up, so I know we have the varmints. We also have owls, too, who come in every night and sit in the trees by the chicken hopefully the mice and rats have their own problems to deal with!

I wouldn't give up living here in the country for anything, I'm so blessed to be able to live in the middle of the farm that's been in our family for over a hundred years. Our nearest neighbors are a quarter mile away (too close for me, lol, I'd like my very own State.) Nothing like listening to the hoot owls at night and the stars so close by with a lone dog barking a mile away. You're gonna love it!