Saturday, March 21, 2015

# 543 - Constructionzilla has Arrived!

The house we sold nearly two years ago was a great home. The main problem was the location. The suburbs of the Greater Houston area did not provide much privacy or space from neighbors because real estate is at a prime. The backyard gave absolutely no privacy. I longed to have space outdoors that would allow me to walk outside and enjoy moments of solitude and privacy.

Chicken poop bombs at back patio. Not fun either. Lol.

We loved our neighbors, but we were still too close for comfort. Some neighbors also had two story houses; they could see directly into our backyard and we could see into theirs.

Others had the ability to see straight through the fencing boards into our backyard and then there was the house at the corner of our backyard with about six kids who loved their trampoline and each jump meant they strained to look over the fence to see what we were doing and to sometimes scream things at us as we were in our backyard. Sometimes it was cute, other times, not so cute.


After we moved to the country and were settled on our land, in a glorious RV, I began to explore options for our country house to be constructed on the acreage. One of the houses we considered was a log cabin. It had a floorplan I loved, the square footage was sufficient, I believe it was approximately 1,600. sq. ft. and it was affordable for the shell kit. I believe the plain kit started at around $80,000. This price does not include any site prepping, interior finishes...all of that is extra and can get quite pricey if done through the log cabin company. However, matching any interior wood finishes can be a problem if not ordered through the same company that built the exterior portion. Having extra outlets precut, etc., also became an expensive addition...even the stairway banister and staircase was much more expensive to get it to look anything like the picture seen below.
However, this house would have posed problems for us because we still needed to find a local construction manager who would know how to assemble it. We learned that this is a serious issue as we spoke with another couple who did buy one of these log homes kits...they were in their THIRD YEAR of trying to finish it. My jaw was on the floor. I could NOT imagine having my house unlivable for three years after construction had begun. They had not been able to move into the house because things were not quite ready. Well, I am in an RV, I won't add three years of camping mode.
However, sometimes, life requires that we do things we don't like or that we sacrifice in order to reach a goal. On a side note about sacrifice...can you believe we sacrificed during our military life with the wallpaper in our German apartment as seen below? That wallpaper could be used a Guantanamo as a torture tool. Perhaps this is the reason we don't see much "Interior German Design" in magazines beyond the modern design. Yes, things are built very well in Germany, as far as engineering and function are concerned, but aesthetics for interior appearance is not exactly appealing. Germans do have great minimalistic and modern interiors, mostly in major cities, but outside of the city you truly get frumpy, clumpy and rather questionable interior taste. In other words, you get more of that wallpaper design.
This is our second apartment in Germany and that is our first daughter
Heather at about 6 months old enjoying her space. We lived in Germany
for three years.
Back to the log cabin being built by friends of our friends...When they first ordered their log cabin kit, they hired a well known General Contractor in the Houston area who said it would be no problem to build the house. However, for over two years, they encountered major problems. Finally, the couple were forced to replace the General Contractor with another recommended by the log cabin company. The new General Contractor made things work beautifully and did it in half the time. This couple told us that the kit comes complete with instructions, there is not any piece left over, you get exactly what is needed to put the puzzle together. However, an experienced General Contractor of these specific kits are the ones who know how to pick which logs look best in certain areas...he had the experience to flip around some of the puzzle pieces for a much better appearance, yet maintain the integrity of the house. They could not believe the huge difference his knowledge gave to the process. Their experience reminded me that hiring someone who is inexperienced might end up costing you more money due to their mistakes. Once that contractor was finished with his part, the couple began the long process of completing other details of the house, such as lighting, cabinetry, trim and on and on and on. Since they had another house to live in during construction, they didn't need to rush to finish this house. My temporary house is an RV, so once construction starts, we are boogying down the road to finish it, completely. 
I am really ready for a kitchen, even though our RV kitchen is decent for an RV. I am ready to boogy into a regular-sized kitchen.
Once we start construction, our expectation is to go full speed...our first mortgage bill arrives six months after the construction process begins, so at the end of the construction allowance, we should be living in the house and not paying for two homes with two different electrical bills, water bills, and such. Granted, we do have the RV to live in while we finish the house, but we do not want to stay in the RV for any extended length of time that can be avoided. Besides, the electric bills for an RV in Texas to be kept cool is comparable to a bill of a sizeable house with great insulation. The great news is...our country-style underwriter allows us actually move into our house whenever we feel we can endure it. In Harris County, the Houston area, this would NEVER be possible. So, we might try to at least get the Master Bedroom finished so we can sleep in the house as we finish painting and finishing the other areas. We shall see.
This is a Master Bedroom that I find highly
appealing. Soft, light colors. Our old bedroom
seemed to be very similar.
 The picture below was our last Master Bedroom...the lighting isn't showing the right color of the walls, which were actually a much softer yellow as seen in the following photo, but we did love it.

In the light of day, here is the actual delicate color of our bedroom as we were moving out.

Our front porch is something I think about, a lot. I don't know what it will be like to live with a wrap-around porch that allows people to walk by your bedroom and bathroom windows. Of course, the windows will have privacy glass, but the concept itself is still strange. The porch will have a beadboard ceiling (exactly as seen below) with both outdoor ceiling fans at the back part of the porch and recessed lights all the way around. The beadboard will have a natural coat of polyurethane.
Our windows will be white aluminum windows with black shutters at the front elevation. The house itself will be painted white with the porch decking a light grey color. I want the painted porch to feel great to bare feet.
Okay, here is a serious pet-peeve of mine, well, it's actually a pet-peeve that can affect property value. I know that weddings can have a "Bridezilla?" Well, maybe in this area I am a "Constructionzilla," but this is how I feel...
As for the painting of the house, I am anal-retentive about painting sharpness with proper preparation. Seeing a sloppy paint job, especially of a home's exterior makes for a bad curb appearance. Overspray hitting windows, the roof, or other parts of the house is intolerable and expensive because those paint-damaged areas must now be "fixed" or remain crappy looking. And exterior paint, once dried on a surface, isn't exactly able to be washed clean. I won't tolerate crappy looking exteriors or interiors due to laziness with painting. If the painter cannot tape off other areas or cannot take the time to lay tarps properly to protect other surfaces, then they shouldn't be painting because they will damage other parts of the house while painting the target.

Beyond that, I have seen people destroy the finish of their windows, their roofs and other finishes in an effort to remove the over-spray that should have never happened in the first place. The worst is to get that worker who feels as if they are not being paid enough...they justify that doing a bad job of over-spray is your problem, not theirs...keep these people away from your job sites.
Coming from the real estate profession, I remember hearing potential buyers ask me, "WHY did they overspray and get paint all over the roof shingles? Did they think others wouldn't see that sloppy job and question how many others things were done on a sloppy level?"
It stuck with me...I agree. If a person does a sloppy job, then it is most likely that they don't really know what the heck they are doing in the first place or that they shouldn't be doing it at all.
So, I am already thinking about all of the painting we must have done for our house. I am considering the cost and the quality of work expected. It is important. If the painting is done right, the house will look fabulous. If someone tries to cut corners and do a half-a$$ job, then the effort is worthless and probably more costly than can be imagined.

After our last house was hit by Hurricane Ike, we had one guy hired to paint our two-story foyer and the winding staircase that had extremely high ceilings.

I painted most every bit of trim, chair railing and
crown molding (after I caulked it) with high
gloss white, and I painted most of the walls.
Sgt. Dave laid the Italian Porcelain floors as seen
above with the decorate "tile rug" at the entry.

Our hired painter did a horrible job. He left huge areas without coverage and he even tried to talk with me about brush strokes. You should see the paint jobs we did in that house...I couldn't believe he was lecturing me about painting as he was leaving spots left unpainted and without a straight edged paint line at the top of the ceiling.

Yes, we do stripes. In the below photo, the black stripes on the lower part of the wall go from matte black to glossy person it was quite detailed. Stefie and her dad painted this room together, with precision. This was Stefie's room, our youngest daughter. We always encouraged our kids to do whatever they wanted in their bedroom. 

After having to look at that two story entry with the big gaps of missing paint driving me nuts, I known that no sloppy Joe's will be allowed on our home-site. After we saw the terrible job that the painter did in the foyer, we let him know that we didn't need any more painting...WE GOT IT!

Sometimes, it is still better to do what you can yourself. Believe me, with our country home, we are doing as much as we can ourselves. The next few months are about to get really interesting! These country boys are about to meet Constructionzilla...a woman who knows a lot about construction and who is easy going, as long as the job as done right.

It's a GREAT thing that our builder can cope. I went through THIRTEEN potential builders before settling upon our builder. One of the questions I dropped during the "initial interview" of each builder was whether or not they could deal with strong women who are a little knowledgeable about construction being involved in the process, and I also asked if they could build a house capable of being topped off with a metal roof. I actually had one builder insist that his composition roofs were all we would need so I should forget about those metal roofs. But, I just said I don't want a composition roof. Well, you will like what I build, I promise. HA! No, I will like what I would LIKE to have built! I could see which ones were worth their money and which builders were not.

I am eager to work with our builder and to work out any issues that come along our way, but the design of the house belongs to us, not to the builder.

There is our builder...Dennis. Nice, knowledgeable,
outspoken, guy who is passionate about the homes
he builds for his clients.

If they can't build what we have in mind, then they aren't the builder for us. Some were extremely expensive, up to $220. per square foot...GOOD-BYE. Others were "retired" but might think about just one more. Oh my goodness, it was a fun process that took months. Several months ago, we invited our prospective builder to a late working lunch, Sgt. Dave and I met with him and talked about the construction process, family and work ethic. We liked him, both as a builder and as a person. Many more meetings later, we are all on firm footing. And our builder sees the Contructionzilla side of me and it doesn't even phase him. Yes, we are all getting along just fine!

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