One year later

Oh, hello. It’s been a year since I was last here updating you. Honestly, life has really gotten in my way – the idea to document this house building had totally good intentions, but the actual building of the house was taking up so much time that there wasn’t time to blog about it!

We also ran into some snags soon after we dug the well last year and I got discouraged and unmotivated to write about the house. After drilling the well and getting our plans drawn, we started the mortgage process. We got an amazing (though adjustable) mortgage rate and were totally ready to close – yeah! And then our bank lawyer let us know that we couldn’t close on the property until they could get their hands on a death certificate for someone who had owned the land prior to my uncle. Then we found out that said certificate was in a closed record state and it ended up taking months to get it. Like, we met with our attorney one 6/14 and closed on the land on 11/9.

NOVEMBER

In the meantime, we discovered that we were simultaneously building our family – I found out that I was expecting our first in October. Yippee!

So here we are, early May 2013. I’m due in just under 6 weeks and we’re a few weeks from being in our brand spankin’ new house. I’m going to try to document as much as possible in a few posts and then take it from here. I hope you’ll join me on this journey!

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Well, oh well!

Our new house will be out in the boonies, where we will have to have a septic system and a well.  We would have  loved to be on town water (the septic system doesn’t bother me because it’s my family’s business), but the well made me nervous.  When you are digging a well, you want to hit water early because the price is dependent on the depth.

The houses in our neighborhood hit water anywhere between 300 and 800 feet.  We were hoping to be close to the 300 feet but had no idea what to expect.  My uncle called in the morning of April 13th (Friday the 13th, what luck?) to tell me that they would be digging the well and to not bother going over because it would just make me nervous to watch.

He texted me when they hit 200 feet to tell me that there was no sign of water yet.  At lunch time I left work early to go to the lot and see for myself what was happening.  By that point we were at 400 feet and there was nothing to show for it yet.  I took some pictures and walked the land, but decided I didn’t want to just hang around.

About an hour after I left, Ian got home from work and we decided to take another trek to the land.  I was getting anxious and didn’t want to know if we hadn’t hit water yet, but being there wouldn’t change that.  As we pulled up, we saw that they were packing up the truck to head out.  We had hit water at 525 feet and the pressure was good.  Yay!  While it was obviously deeper than we were hoping for, I was happy that we hadn’t gone down 800 feet and come up with nothing.

The water is then pumped for a whole day and then taken to be tested.  Our results came back a little disappointing – there was 0.12 level of arsenic in the water.  Previous regulations allowed for up to 0.5, but it was recently changed to 0.1, meaning that we have just barely too much.  We are now researching water filters (whole house and tap water only) to see how we want to make our water drinkable and at acceptable levels.

Does anyone have experience with this?

Draw Something

After choosing the house plans that were closest to what we wanted, we decided that it would be best to have them re-drawn to exactly what we want and fit to local code.  There were enough changes that we wanted to see to the plans that we were willing to shell out a little cash to have them fit to our needs.

The first thing we wanted to tackle was the bathroom.  The current plans had the bathroom smack dab in the middle of the house.

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You mean you don’t want to do your business right where everyone in the kitchen and living room can hear you?

We didn’t either.  We also didn’t like how the big bathroom area broke up the flow from the kitchen to the family room. 

After visiting lots of open houses, we decided the bathroom should go before you even get to the kitchen, opening up the flow and separating the bathroom.  This would also give us an opportunity to add a closet for shoes and coats next to the garage. 

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One thing that we really loved about this floor plan is that although it has a 2 story foyer like we were looking for, it didn’t waste tons of space due to the curve in the stairs.  The curve allows the staircase to not take up as much space as it would if it were straight back, which is really the best of both worlds for us.

The only thing I didn’t love about the upstairs was the fact that the laundry room was just a double door with no additional space to hang clothes, set out drying racks, and leave piles of clothing on the floor.  On any given day, our guest bathroom floor, which currently holds our washing machine and dryer at our apartment building looks like this:

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We knew we needed more space for this, we we took the original floor plan:

 

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and moved it around to accommodate for what we needed.  To do this, we simplified the master bath and lost the separate closets, but we felt that it was the best fit for what we need:

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Working with an architect was a great choice for us for many reasons.

1) it gave us the freedom to do exactly what we wanted

2) it gave us the professional opinion of someone who has done this before

3) it is going to make things so easy on our builders because the plans are very detailed, unlike many of the ones that you order online.  It should save us lots of money by allowing us to not over-purchase lumber and supplies because all calculations are very accurate.

4) he provided us with lots of resources and subcontracters that he would recommend.  Word of mouth is key when you are working as your own GC, so this was invaluable to us.

5) now that we are right down to breaking ground time, it looks like we may have to mirror image our plans.  If we had purchased our plans online, we would have to order a completely new set.  Now, we can have the architect do it for a fraction of the cost.

Final plans in the next post!

Where to start?

We started our house search in the fall of 2011 and after looking at quite a few houses with our realtor, we realized that we could probably build a brand new home in the town of our choice for the same price as purchasing a house that was maybe a little bigger but didn’t have the features that we wanted.

We started searching for house plans and let me tell you, this step was not easy.  After looking at anything and everything out there, I decided that we needed to narrow our search because there are thousands of plans online.

We started with a list of our wants:

  • 1800 to 2200 sq ft
  • 3+ bedrooms
  • Master bedroom with walk-in closet and master bath
  • 2 car garage
  • Optional bonus room 
  • Open floor plan
  • At least one room downstairs that was not part of the open kitchen/living room
  • 2 story foyer
  • front porch
  • walk-out basement
  • upstairs laundry

My favorite sites were dongardner.com, eplans.com, thehousedesigners.com, and thehouseplanshop.com.

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We loved this design by Frank Betz because of the curved staircase and the front porch.  We also liked the master suite and huge optional bonus room.

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After sending it to our architect friend, though, we realized that the complicated design may be too expensive for us to build and bedroom 3 seemed a little small (not tiny by any means, but not huge). 

 

Our other favorite was this one from thehouseplanshop.com

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Being in New England, we felt that this Colonial house plan (found here) would look really nice in the neighborhood.  It was the right square footage and had most of the things we wanted.

  • 1800 to 2200 sq ft
  • 3+ bedrooms
  • Master bedroom with walk-in closet and master bath
  • 2 car garage
  • Optional bonus room 
  • Open floor plan
  • At least one room downstairs that was not part of the open kitchen/living room
  • 2 story foyer
  • front porch
  • walk-out basement
  • upstairs laundry

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We decided that this plan was going to be our shell, but that there were enough things that we wanted to change that we should meet with an architect. 

Choosing a house plan can be difficult, but setting good expectations for yourself at the beginning is key.  We knew we couldn’t afford a house with tons of peaks and a huge back deck plus a farmer’s porch and lots of stone work on the front but were able to find great plans by narrowing down what we really wanted.