Saturday, September 22, 2012

Our Contractor

Brian German, Our general Contractor
I thought I'd spend a little bit of time and band width talking about the importance of a good general contractor who shares your vision and understands what you want. It seems like such a long time ago that we were talking with various general contractors around our area. Most of them were fairly neutral and business like about he plans and how to approach them. Only two of the contractors we spoke to actually seemed interested in the job in the sense of it being more than just a job, but being a project they could work with. It's that quality you feel sometimes when your talking with someone who really doesn't care what you are talking about but is being polite and listening with half an ear, compared to someone who is really interested in what you are saying and will make comments back that are relevant and thought provoking.

Of the two, only Brian seemed excited about the prospect of working on the house. The other seemed interested in it, but kept pointing out the difficult aspects and seemed to feel that these made the project less interesting, while Brian thought these make it more interesting. So when we sat down at the end of the process, we really had only one reasonable choice to go with, Brian German. He has a website at Brian German Custom Homes.

I will admit that we have had a few concerns about getting in touch with him at times, but these have been when he was trying to finish up another project and he likes to personally devote the time necessary to each client. What we had going on, while important, was not really urgent (many of us over estimate how important/urgent OUR problems are when compared to other peoples problems/needs). So far (I'd guess we are just over half way thought the process) we've been very happy with Brian and he has worked with us and provided feedback that seems like good sound advice along the way.

I just want to make sure that those of you that are contemplating a project like this (or even a conventional house) realize how important it is to choose the right general contractor or that you really understand what you will have to do if you choose to do the general contracting for yourself. I really can't help with the later, since we are using a GC, but make sure you look into what is required before you go it on your own. For me, I like to know I have to make one phone call if something is not going the way I think it should be.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lots of Stuff to Talk About

I met our contractor, Brian German, at the house today and we talked about many things, both large and small concerning the house. The biggest, and main reason we met then was to talk to the pool subcontractor about the possibility of putting a pool in the back yard for play and exercise. We spend about 30 minutes looking at the site and talking about features and concepts. The plan is for him to get back to us early next week with a concept and we'll iterate from there. All things being reasonable, it is no big deal to have it done by the time the house is done.

We also spoke about the water feature inteh entryway and discussed concepts and pumps for that. The pool guy, Shawn, and Brian are going to continue that discussion and put together a plan.

Secondly, we talked about the conversion of the attic storage into being a living room. The biggest complication is that the air conditioner units are being placed in that space. The solution is to place a closet around those units and still have the room as a living room. The problem this causes is the fire suppression system. The longest distance a sprinkler head can spray is about 18 feet. Unfortunately the distance from the closet to the far edge of the wall is about 22 feet. Brian is going to talk to the fire suppression people and see if there is another option or concept we can use. If not, then we'll have about 4 feet of pipe mounted to the ceiling and just hanging around in the living room.

Hopefully by now the doors are all (other than the main front door) hung and the house is weathered in save the front entryway. Looking around with the doors and windows in place really gives you a better feel for the size and shape of the rooms. Especially upstairs with the dormers.

Work on the interior of the auxiliary house (also called the guest house, the pool house, the workshop, and probably several other names) has begun and the walls and windows are in. There are a few details that need to be adjusted, but in general it looks nice. While the original dome looked very small and I wondered how we were going to make a livable space out of it, I now see clearly and sort of like the coziness of the house.

We met with the decorator, Mia, today as well (lots of meetings) and selected the floors and some of the counter tops. Next week we'll select the other counter tops and maybe make some progress on the cabinets. In general I think the selection process went well.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Second Floor Windows Installed

No pictures yet, but the windows on the second floor are installed. At least all but the large picture window over the Foyer. Having the windows in place certainly helps make the rooms feel more well defined. The dormers give more headroom extending to the windows, so it also makes the rooms feel larger.

The rough plumbing is in place, mostly. It is strange looking to me, since it used flexible tubing, not rigid pvc pipe. The tubing is color coded with the hot being red and the cold being white/clear. It looks to me like they made one mistake and put a red segment on a cold water run, but I have to ask the contractor about that. I also noticed they studs in the walls had small metal plates attached to them adjacent to the locations of the pipes/tubes. This is to prevent someone from driving a nail into the stud right above a pipe and causing a real problem. Sort of a nice system.

We have also decided that the upstairs attic is not going to be storage, but is going to be our "formal" living room. We have to deal with the air conditioners being in the back of the room, since that was originally planned to be uninhabited space. It does make a difference in the fire suppression system, so we need to get that system redone.

We also met with the decorator on Friday and are making headway on the flooring. Once we get that decided, we need to work on the cabinets and countertops. Things are really starting to happen that we need to be involved with on a weekly basis. We are at about "T minus 13 weeks" until move-in.

Friday, September 7, 2012

We have Windows, at least the frames for them

Front with Dormers, Front exterior with Dormers
We now have the exterior structure of the windows on the front (and some on the back) for the second floor windows. They are sort of like dormers but with an arched roof to keep with the dome theme. The exterior will eventually be covered with the same rock that is going on the exterior of the house, sort of medium sized flagstones. (I'll get a picture of them when we have the final product selected, probably another week or so). In my opinion this really gives me a better visual feel for what the house will eventually look like, rather than just having those holes in the exterior. here is a close up of one of the dormers.
Front Dormer, Detail of Dormer

Monday, September 3, 2012

More Work Today, we sort of have second floor windows

Went by the house for a quick look and noticed the framers have begun to frame out the dormers on the front windows. I did not get a picture today, but will try to snap one in the next few days. I think it really give a better image of how the final house will look.

I do however have one picture to show from yesterday. I love the way this corner looks. This view is from the foyer looking up toward the second floor, but there is a similar corner in the library. It just looks so smooth and organic.
From the Foyer, Nice saddleback corner

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Old Video of the inflation

I don't think I ever actually posted this video of the inflation. In theory this should have an embedded video in the post.

Meet with Decorator

I'm going to start talking about our meeting with the decorator first, then show some unrelated pictures later. Friday afternoon we talked with the interior decorator, Mia, our General Contractor works with at the new house and showed her around. I feel sort of bad because she'd ask things like "Are you all more into this style or that" and we'd just look at her or each other with the "What styles are those" looks. Anyway, by the end of the meeting I think we sort of imparted some idea to her of what we were interested in.

One nice thing about meeting with her Friday afternoon is I think our contractor told the workers to sort of clean up and make it nicer (as much as is possible for an active construction site) for us to look around. As such, I took a bunch of pictures. I'm not going to use all of them today, but here are a few.

First of all is the staircase.
Stairway, Main Dome Stairs

Next is the Dining Room window as seen from outside the house.
Dining Room Window, Exterior view Dining Window

Finally, a proud (and slightly scared) little girl looking out her soon to be bedroom window.
Veronica, Veronica in her room