Tuesday, August 11, 2015

# 557 - Country House Shell is FINISHED!

Okay, it's a "Potty Blog Post" so sit on the potty and enjoy some old-fashioned reading.

Every day we are still living in a 30 foot RV in the woods, but our house is finally being built on our acreage. We have waited a long time to see our custom home come into existence.

To catch up any potential new readers...On a hot day in May of 2013, which seems like an ETERNITY ago, we sold our house in the Greater Houston area so that we could move to the country on acreage we've owned for about 15 years. The weekend we sold our house, we stayed an extra three days to pack and clean; thank goodness for securing a three-day leaseback.

Finally, during these leaseback days, we also ordered a new RV which would serve as temporary housing. We had spent many weekends looking at RV's and trying to narrow down floorplans we thought livable while prepping to build a custom home. The RV would make it possible for us to immediately live on our acreage after leaving the house we sold.

I estimated it'd take approximately six months to one year before we'd start building our dream home. If we'd known it'd take over two years of living in an RV to start construction, I'm not so sure we would've been as adventurous. There's a great reason God doesn't give us a crystal ball.

Life itself is an adventure...we make our plans but life has a way of working itself out alongside your well-thought-out plans, sometimes causing our plans to be completely altered or that we tweak it to adjust to life's twists and turns.

As I always told my kids, "Life is what happens as you're making plans."

I've also seen the reason so many people do not take this path. Building a custom home on rural land is quite a challenge. For one, if a person doesn't relish academic work, they probably won't like handling construction details themselves. Secondly, building a custom home in the boonies takes patience. Believe me, it's not a fast process, especially when you're doing everything from scratch.

 We are not in a "custom home development" so that means we don't have a developer handling any portion of our build. I have friends and former clients who built a custom home in a development, but the builder would send them to a design center and tell them...pick your brick/front elevation/carpet/tile from our pre-determined selection. They have so much prepared for them and the process is made easy by having limitations which caps the decision process to the developer's liking. However, for us, we must make every single decision ourselves; we must find every single item for our house, without a design center, without a developer, and without any of the contractors at the developer's beck and call. For us, it means major research, interviews, reference checking and comparison shopping, which equates to a LOT OF HOMEWORK. Again, if someone doesn't like doing their home-work, then they won't like handling a custom build without the aid of a developer.

No doubt, this has been an enlightening process that takes considerable dedication, time, effort, organization and a willingness to learn along the way and the acceptance of the bumps and bruises to the body and ego in the process. For me, this has been a full-time job. Most people just don't have the time to take on another full-time job. Some would rather pay someone else to handle all the details of building their home, but I've been the willing "General Contractor" and the savings that role gives us is significant. Handling much of this myself has given us valuable "sweat equity" into our estate. Proper design and planning increases the value of a home and makes it special...this home is uniquely our own.

My main area of indecisiveness and trepidation was selecting the home-site. This was difficult because we have a few considerations. All parts of our acreage are sloped, with hills, heavily forested areas, and we have a creek. Sgt. Dave had to make the final call on this decision; he was unwavering in sticking with the same home-site he'd selected 15 years ago. .

I STRONGLY RECOMMEND drawing and maintaining a rough Master Plan design of more than just the house, but of the land with any structures or roads or fences that are to be built. Design it as much as possible, even if some things are five years down the road. We have a Master Planned level of organization for our acreage. But, living in the RV on the land for about a year allowed us to truly get a feel for living on the property and allowed us to confidently select the home-site far in advance of any construction.

However, when we first rolled our RV onto this acreage and did our basic set-up, we were grateful to get a break from a house. Our immediate plan was to chill out and not do ANY extra projects for the time being. Truly, we never intended to rush any decision. For both of us, our entire grown-up lives together has been high-pressured with a constant sense of urgency and constant busyness...but this move would be different...we made an intentional plan to get the RV in place, do minimal work to be settled, do nothing permanent for a year and enjoy that one year of planning. One year turned into two years. Yes, over two years in an RV is what it took to build our custom home.

We selected our builder and closed on our construction loan, but it rained nearly every day and we could not start construction for the next month.

On June 5th, we began the first step in building our house, which was to have the ground level piers installed, ones that are designed for a "severe environment."

Then, we had the foundation built for our garage. Our son-in-law Henry handled that part of our construction because it is his life-long profession.


Of course, Henry got the help of our grand-daughter Coraline.

It is awesome that her hand and foot prints are imprinted in the concrete foundation!

Our builder has taken approximately six weeks to build the shell of our house, which is excellent timing. But, I have to say that seeing the flooring and wrap-around porch in place was a shock.

The house is a good size and we have utilized the second story for extra space, but the first story is mainly for our day to day life and it's about 2,200 square feet. The second story has angled ceilings due to the roof pitch, but gives ample room for more living space.

I had been panicked about the house having too steep of a pitch or too little of a pitch...

...and worried about the dormer windows being just right because sometimes they look way too off scale...the porch was something I've never considered, that was ALL Sgt. Dave's much that you can see on paper or look at, but until your house is built, it is still concept and not reality.

Now, I love the house.

Little touches, such as adding the antique stained glass windows I found at a local shop and that had once been in a restaurant we loved, but that has closed down.

The garage is close enough to make it possible to run electricity and plumbing to the loft overhead without much extra expense and the carport is twice as large as we planned, but it worked out.

The loft over the carport is going to be part attic space to store the normal stuff kept in an attic, such as Christmas decorations, etc. and that area will be walled off from the other part which will be used as the art loft, a space where I can work and not be worried about making a big mess.

Whatever flooring we use will be fine to spill paint...that kind of art loft.

But, we have much to do. Plumbing, electrical, HVAC, spray-in foam insulation, septic tank installation, sheetrocking, interior door installation, flooring, trim, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, cabinetry and more. Some of this work we will be able to do ourselves and some we must pay to have done professionally. Regardless, we have approximately three months of work in front of us.

It still seems like a mile away from reality because I can't even see the house from the RV location. The driveway to the house is on the other side of our acreage, so once we move to the house, we will be driving down a completely different private road on the acreage to go home.

But, I cannot WAIT until we are able to move everything out of this cramped RV! I cannot wait to haul this RV off our acreage and SELL IT. I cannot wait to say goodbye to RV life.

We will probably move into the house before it's really "livable" and it will be easier because we will be in the house, able to do work every day instead of having to be across the acreage.

But, I have no idea when we will actually be able to MOVE into the house.

We are planning on having our family/friend Thanksgiving gathering at the house, so things should be pretty much ready by that time, but I know we want to move into the house as soon as possible. It's difficult knowing the structure is ready, but we are still have so much to do before we can live in it!

This lean-to area for our outdoor kitchen is going to be moved
further away from the back of the house.

I won't even think about other details, such as landscaping and sodding the yard. I'd love to get some St. Augustine grass plugs started within a couple of weeks, but that yard is large and will take quite of lot of time, energy and expense to get sodded.

It has to be last on our list because we are pushing our budget to the max to finish our house.

Our family is very excited that we will finally have a home for us all to gather throughout the year. According to my own upbringing, it is vital to have a home-base for the grown kids and grand-kids to come home to enjoy...a retreat for whenever they need to be nurtured. It feels great that my children grew up enjoying this acreage and now we will continue to enjoy this peaceful spot for many years to come. Last weekend we had a baby shower for my daughter Heather as she is expecting our first grandson in about three weeks!

We are blessed.