Friday, September 13, 2013
Now that we are living there, we are finding all kinds of little (and sometimes big) issues. Like when the plumber hooked up the dishwasher, he forgot to connect one of the 2 hoses. First time we used it it flooded the kitchen. Some of the door knows are not fully installed correctly. They ordered and installed the wrong cooktop for the main kitchen. One of the light switches had been covered over while building the house. Just lots of stuff.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Inside there is not nearly as much progress happening. Our list of must haves before move in has had about 10 things completed and probably another 10 partially done (out of 43), but has also had 6 or so more things added to it, so they need to get busy to have things ready for our move. Right now I am not optimistic about making the deadline, despite assurances from our contractor. We'll see.
Sunday, August 25, 2013
Next we have a close up of the back side of the solar array which shows the propane tank installed. This one is not so interesting, but we have been waiting for the propane tank for a while so I wanted to show it off.
One of the things I never anticipated when we first discussed this project, would be the need for a retaining wall since the ground has a substantial slope to it. Looking at the land you really don't notice it, but it has about an 8% grade across the whole thing. So when we put the house in at ground level in the back, it was almost 4 feet above grade level in the front. No big deal to build up the pad and level the house, but the landscaping needs a retaining wall to keep the root system of the big tree from being buried and causing problems. This is our retaining wall. You can also see it in the panorama above. (BTW, the blue tint to the cap is the primer, but the final color)
Finally we have a picture of the Jacuzzi in the master bathroom. The base cabinet is not finished yet, but you can see the backsplash and the tub itself. The window is currently clear glass, but will be replaced with frosted glass before we move in.
OK, I had to add one more, the pool in the backyard. With the outdoor kitchen and the pool house in the background.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
The list of 43 things is still mostly there, but many of them are "mostly" done now and I am told that by the weekend maybe half of them will be finished.
We are now confident that things will be done soon and we have scheduled an official move in date of September 4th. The movers will come to our old house that morning and move everything we have boxes, packs, or marked to the new house. The plan is to spend that night in the new dome house!
Sunday, August 11, 2013
There had also been a lot of work done on the front retaining wall. The rock covering was about 75% done and all the cinder blocks and the wall cap were in place. It looks nice. Later this week I'll post several pictures with links to higher resolution photos of stuff around the house. It really is all starting to come together.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
They got the top half of the driveway poured this morning, amid confusion and a lot of mess. The road in front of our house is being resurfaced, and, of course, today and tomorrow are the days they are right in front of our driveway. I drove by about 8:30 this morning to see how it was going and I saw 6 concrete trucks and a pump truck all trying to get in the driveway and stay our of the way of the scraper working on the road. I just kept driving and did not stop to get in the way. When I went back this afternoon this much of the driveway was done. Apparently they also tried to deliver the granite for the outdoor kitchen this morning (I actually saw that truck driving up) but decided to scrub that delivery due to the mess. They are going to try to get the granite in tomorrow while the workers frame and rebar the rest of the driveway. Then maybe Saturday or Monday they will finish the pour.
My wife and I sent our list of 43 things to the general contractor that needed to be done, in our opinion, before we could move in. These ranged from the obvious "Finish the Driveway" to picky things like "install transition flooring to go from tile to wood flooring" We meet with him tomorrow to discuss the list and get his time estimate. I'm guessing 2 weeks, but we'll see. Somehow it seems like it has been 2 weeks away for the last month or two!
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Big things are still happening outside. The driveway is mostly ready to be poured. It is fully frames and all that is needed is to add the rebar and then the concrete. The plan is to pour the majority of it Thursday morning and then finish the rest over the weekend.
The outdoor kitchen is mostly done now. The stonework still needs to be routed and the granite and appliances need to be installed. That should happen this week. Then the outdoor lights will be added next week.
They have begun the process of digging the french drains to help channel the water where we want it. At least it will if it ever rains again, which I am beginning to doubt. The pond in front of our land is down to about 6" deep, from the 3' it was a month ago. All the catfish we had found in it are most probably dead. The big turtle has been caught and moved to a larger pond. It had a shell diameter of about 18". All that are left now are frogs, the biggest of which have bodies about 5" long, not counting legs.
All in all progress is still being made fairly quickly. My wife and I are about to sit down and develop our punch list of stuff for the contractor, and we sort of expect it to be done during the next 2 weeks. This makes move in during the week of August 19th.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
They have been hauling in a bunch of dirt to build up the area underneath what will be the driveway. I suspect they are sort of dragging their feet on this to let people who have heavy things to deliver get them done without driving on the newly poured driveway and possibly cracking it. That time is very close since they got the retaining walls done and the last bit of the back patio in as well. They also delivered the flooring for the pool house so that is ready to be installed as well.
So where do we stand on the progress meter? By the end of this week was the "be finished with the inside" time given by the contractor. It looks like he has shifted his focus to the outside now and I predict at least one more week (probably 2) before we are ready to apply for the certificate of occupancy. That makes it August 16th by my count, which is, of course, the Friday before the kids start back to school. That is the absolute worst timing in the world, but then again I should have listened to Murphy long ago and predicted that as a move in date.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
I admit the pizza oven is not quite complete, but it is very much close enough to see exactly what it will look like when it is done. The side you can't see does not have any rock on it yet, but hopefully tomorrow they will finish that up.
While they are working with the rock, the front entrance is getting a lot of attention. The small walls that define the front porch are in place and the rock vernier and the stucco caps are in place, as are the pillars supporting the awning. There are no front steps yet (which makes that first step a real douzzie) but they are coming. There will be lights on the ends of the walls and a wrought iron gate across the opening with stairs going down to the driveway from there.
They have started making good progress on the outdoor kitchen and by the weekend we should be able to better visualize how it will look next to the pool. Hopefully by this time next week I will be talking about possible move in dates.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
We have all the wood flooring installed now. They still have to add the transition pieces to connect the wood to the tile, but they did manage to get it all installed this weekend. Early next week we'll deal with the Jacuzzi, back fence, outdoor kitchen, the remaining AC units, and retaining walls. After that comes the driveway. Somewhere in there they still need to put the appliances in place, add the molding around the baseboards, do paint touch ups, and other little things. It really is looking like we'll get the certificate of occupancy by the end of July!
Saturday, July 20, 2013
Sunday, July 14, 2013
The air conditioners are supposed to be installed on Monday and the wood flooring will be delivered on Tuesday. Give it 72 hours to acclimate to the house and on Friday it should be installed. I suspect it will take a few days to get all the wood flooring in, so by the 23rd or so we should have flooring across the entire house.
We also now have about half our door knobs installed, the other half will hopefully go in either today or Monday.
Thursday, July 4, 2013
The air conditioner trim work has been mostly done by installing the grates over the ducts in the house. The return air grates are not in place, and they missed a half dozen closets, but they got most of them. Now once we get power, they can set the AC units and we can get on with the flooring and other interior work that needs power.
There are piles of cinder blocks and fire brick that have been delivered the last few days to build the various retaining walls and the pizza oven. Yesterday we also got a load of lumber which I think is devoted to the outdoor kitchen. I am hoping to see that go up next week as well. We still have a small section of the back patio that needs to be poured before the retaining walls can go in, lest they have to wheelbarrow in the concrete to the patio.
If we can keep this level of activity, then I think the timeline I gave in the previous post is reasonable, but there is always the potential for bad weather or other things to get in the way. by the end of next week I will be able to give a solid picture of how viable that schedule is.
Saturday, June 29, 2013
- Front Porch Work - Early next week
- Finish electrical install and get power to the house - Mid next week
- Install Air Conditioning - Late next week
- Finish back patio - Early next week
- Install Wood Flooring - Start Monday july 8th
- Put retaining walls in - Next week
- Install Propane Tank - Week of July 8th
- Complete driveway - Week of July 8th (probably finish early the next week)
- Install door knobs and cabinet hardware - Late next week
- Finish plumbing install - Early during week of July 8th
- Paint and Stain final coat - Week of July 15th
- Complete Back Fence - Week of July 15th
- Install batteries for solar backup - Week of July 22nd
- Shake down week to make sure everything is working - July 22-26
- Start move in the week of July 29th
Building your own house is an interesting experience, but as everyone who has gone through it will tell you, be prepared for the unexpected. Realize contractor timeline are, at best, guidelines. Groundbreaking was on April 17, 2012 and we are looking at being finished in late July 2013. That's about 15 months to complete. Actually that is a bit slow, but not too bad, all things considered.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Almost 24 hours into the filling of the pool and it is continuing apace. At this rate finishing tomorrow afternoon/evening is very reasonable. Pretty soon I expect them to move the hose from the main pool to the spa at the near end based on this photo.
Edit later in the day: It looks like the water is rising by about an inch an hour, so by mid-morning the main pool should be close to full.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
Earlier this week the crews were out and pouring our patio. They used a concrete pumping truck with the intention of going over the dome, but the driver was uncomfortable with that and decided to go across instead. It all worked and we now have a complete patio (minus one small area that still had some scaffolding in place and they could not pour).
There is a lot of work going on right now to get the electrical ready for final inspection on Tuesday. The pool is being filled as I type this. I should get pictures of that early next week. They actually fill it with a garden hose. It should take around 50 hours to fill the whole thing. By late in the week we should have power to the house (and pool) and can take it for a test swim.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
Friday, June 7, 2013
In any case, we currently do not have any idea who we can get to insure our new home. Make sure you talk with your existing agent and explain to them what you are doing. It is a nasty surprise to find out that within a month of move-in, we don't know if it is insurable. If our agent does not come back with something soon, we are going to talk to Monolithic and see if tey have a recommendation abot who might insure the house. I'll keep you all informaed about the progress of getting insurance.
Monday, June 3, 2013
Things are continuing to happen around the dome. Last week they installed our front doors and with them in place you can almost fully imagine the foyer. The only thing missing are the lights and ceiling fans and the stain applied to the stair railing. In any case we are very happy with how it is turning out.
In other things, the back fence posts have been set (other than about 15 which were set in the wrong place, sigh). Later this week the actual fence should be going in. It was strange looking at metal uprights in place for a wooden privacy fence. The purpose is to be more durable and not suffer the problem of rotting. There will still be wooden fencing applied to the uprights. We also have most of the forms in place to pour the back patio. As of right now, the concrete is scheduled to be poured on Wednesday morning. Once that is done, the pool guy can come in and finish the pool.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
There are some things which you realize might be an issue, but until you see them you don't realize just how much effect the curved walls of the dome can have. The above wall sconces were mounted flush on the walls in our living room. The intention is to have an adapter like thing made to let the sconces mount vertically, but I thought this is a worthy picture for the blog to let everyone see the potential pitfalls of a dome home.
Friday, May 24, 2013
We now have our solar panels installed. In the picture there are three panels missing, they have now been installed and are capable of powering about a quarter of the power demands of our house. It is now a matter of determining which 25% of the house we want to keep on during a power outage. Historically we don't have many long term power outages. In the past decade there has only been 1 outage lasting more than 24 hours here in the city. However, in the outlying areas and the small cities around us there was an outage lasting almost 2 weeks for some residents about 5 years ago.
While they are building the electric infrastructure, they are busy putting in the fixtures, plugs, and outlets. This is the light that will be over the dining room table.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
This is not really a major complaint, but one of the issue we are facing as we finish out the house is that virtually everything we use comes pre-made is nice rectangular pieces: Wood, Tile, Marble, Sheetrock, etc. When you have to make use of those in a round house, there is the inevitable problem of waste. The pile above is the scraps of floor tile after a few days of laying tile. If I would have thought about this earlier, I might have decided to pick some things differently to save money, time, energy, and the environment. I'm not too worried since I am certain we'll make up the environmental problems with the efficiency of the house overall, but it is something for you aspiring dome home builders to consider.
The floor tile in the main house is complete. It's actually not the pattern we were looking to use, but it is a reasonable alternative. This tile is in the foyer, utility room, hallways, powder bathroom, kitchen, and dining room, as well as the master bathroom and the kids bathroom.
Also complete is the back splash for the dining room and half of the kitchen back splash. The picture above is the dining room. It's a deep green granite with a river rock back splash. Ungrouted it did not look too attractive, but when the grout is added things really look nice.
The outside rock is progressing as well, but we were surprised to find that no one worked on Saturday (yesterday) when the weather was beautiful (maybe a bit warm, but the longer you wait, the hotter it will get). They have the next section of dome ready with the mesh and the scratch coat, so now all they need to do is lay the rocks on that section. That should take a few days and then we'll be about half way finished with the rocking on the main dome. The contractor says he's hoping for a move in in 30 days. I can't see that happening. I think July 1st is probably a decent expectation at this point.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
One surprise we got last week was the requirement to install an emergency disconnect for the Photovoltaic system that the utility company cold disconnect without entering the house. To accomplish this, they had to drill a hole in the dome wall, install a flex tube, remove 2 or 3 rocks, and soon mount an external box to allow the battery pile to be disconnected from the system. Just watch out for unusual city codes and make sure everyone knows what needs to be done. This was not an expensive almost mistake, but it could have been.
One bright spot that came from this si the realization that since we have a penetration through the house right there, we could also install a plug that connected directly to the inverter to allow us to connect a generator from the outside of the house. Thus if things get really bad, we can run the gasoline (or whatever) generator on the patio, and not have to worry about running wires through the doorway or whatever.
This is our solar hot water heater panel on the roof. It is going to be connected to a 120 gallon tank, with an electric backup. The solar should be able to heat the water up to 120-130 even in the winter. Since we are in Texas, that does not surprise me all that much, but my concern, being a morning bather, is how will it feel first thing in the morning. The panel is facing mostly south-south-east, so it will not actually catch a lot of the late evening sun. I suspect that in the winter, it will be in the shade by 5:00 in the evening, and 6:00 am is a long time from then. On the other hand, that is why we have electric backup for the system.
Last week we found this little guy sitting on our front porch at the new house. He is about 15 inches long. It is a copperhead. This is a good reason for us to be careful, not only with ourselves, but with the dogs as well. By the time we took this picture, it was already dead.
We also find a lot of these little foot prints inside the house. These are going down the stairs. It's just little reminders like this that we need to remember we are moving out of the city into a much more rural area. Only a mile or so from town, but still, we have lots of open spaces around us and things like this will be common around the house, especially for the first month or so.
Friday, May 3, 2013
We have been looking at everything and my wife and I ask, "is that really the fixture we picked out for this room?". I'm sure they are, but at least one seems very out of place. When you are starting down this path of building your own home, make sure you write down or even take a picture of all your various selections. I know we should have, and we did for most things, but not everything. Our bad, but live and learn.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Over the last week the two smaller domes have had the rock facade applied. By the end of today they should be grouted and the scaffolding all moved to the larger house. I'll get another picture once all the scaffolding is out of the way, but I wanted to share this one now anyway.
By now most, if not all, of the floor has been stripped back to the previous layer and the leveling process should begin again soon. The last time they tried the weather got too cold and the final layer did not adhere to the foundation as well as it should have. Within a few weeks it had begun to bubble up and crack. That was back in December/January. I know most of you northern readers will be saying they should have known better, but we will frequently go all winter and never drop below freezing. That said, the forecast was for temperatures that were very close to freezing and they lost the gamble.
Today is supposed to be a clean up and take care of details sort of day. The trim crew will be doing lots of little things, and by the end of the day the stairway should be 100% finished (maybe the hand rail will still need to be stained to match, but structurally it will be done). All the baseboard should be installed and a few other little details should be cleaned up.
The granite counter tops were supposed to be cut last week, but the fabricator apparently thought we had too much money and decided he wanted to raise the price by over $3000, so our contractor selected a new fabricator and the slabs have been moved to the new location. The trouble is that the templates have to be remade and remeasured. It will be at least a week before they can be installed now. sigh. But they are not really slowing anything else down, so I guess I don't mind.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Regardless of the weather, the inside is proceeding. The granite counter tops are supposed to be installed this week and they are making preparations for them. The kitchen will be having a deep green marble on it. I am looking forward to posting a lot of pictures of different countertops in the near future.
The stairs now have treads on them. They were freshly glued down last night, so we could not use them, but they look nice. I am going to wait until the bannister is also up and post a picture of that soon.
Sunday, March 31, 2013
Next week we are looking forward to the outside rock being delivered, the stairway treads and banister parts should be installed, the counter tops should be installed, and we might even get a start on laying the flooring. I'll get a picture or two for the next update.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
There were two workers out there this morning working on finishing the window sills. On Monday we are supposed to be up to a full crew working on the exterior of the house with all the scaffolding. I'm hoping that makes short work on covering the ~10,000 square feet of dome with the rocks.
The painting has gone well this week, and it looks as if everything is primed now and they have begun to pain the door frames and base board in some of the rooms. My hope is that they can finish the painting this week and the floor next week. I don't know if that is the sequence the contractor will use, but I think it is close.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
With the decision made to put the propane tank above ground and behind the solar array, the plumbers are now laying the piping to connect the tank to the outdoor kitchen and the pool heater. It looks to me like the pipe will be finished today and will have to be inspected in the next day or two before it is reburied. While they are working on that, the clean out trap for the main house kitchen has been moved out of the middle of the patio and near where the outdoor kitchen will be located.
The main thing I take away from this post and what has been happening is the stuff HAS been happening and maybe, just maybe, we'll actually make it on the Parade of Homes in early May.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
- Interior painting of all domes
- Back patio poured
- Outdoor kitchen built
- Fire pit installed
- Pizza oven installed
- Driveway poured
- Propane Tank installed
- Counter Tops installed
- Stairway finished
- Flooring done
- Lighting installed
Saturday, March 9, 2013
The frame for the solar array is now in, as is the connection for the Solar Water Heater. We are certainly not going to be fully off the grid, but we hope these will put a serious dent in our carbon footprint. The solar PV array will be about 6m x 10m. By my calculation that is somewhere in the 9-10 kW range, during full sun, so an average of about 3-4 kW throughout the daylight hours or about 30 kW-hr of power daily. It does not have any tracking ability, but should still be very useful.
The inside on the dome has now been primed with tinted prime, so we can start to see the final color of the dome. The rest of the interior walls should be primed soon and then final coats will go on everything.
The stair treads should be delivered on Monday, so we will have a fully functional staircase by the end of the week.
Much design work is happening this week with regards to the outdoor layout. The fence, the driveway, the patio, etc. I am going to try to get a few renderings of the outside of the house done this week.
Finally, I think we have a fairly confident move in date on the first week of May. Just before that the area has that annual parade of homes, which is a chance for the various builders to show off what projects they worked on. Our builder wants this house to be on the tour, so I hope everything will be done in time.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
This week we have begun the process of applying rock to the garage. It actually took a few tries to find the right combination of adhesives and techniques to get a good bond in a reasonable amount of time. Once our contractor found the optimum solution I asked him to write up a description of how he did it, in technical terms, in case anyone else would like to cover their dome in the same fashion. Here is his description:
Over the many months I have pondered the best application of applying the veneer rocks to the dome structure. In a normal application, we would seal the house with a house wrap, then secure some metal lath to allow the base for a “scratch coat”. A scratch coat is simply a mortar bed that is installed on a surface as a substrate for stucco or rock veneer. After that substrate has been installed, this allows us to bond our rock to the “scratch coat”. As you know for some time, we have planned to adhere the rock directly to the dome membrane. Seemed like an unusual yet practical approach to such a unique situation. The membrane would act as the moisture barrier, allowing any moisture that penetrated the rock and grout to easily migrate down to the bottom weep holes. As we started off applying various amounts of adhesive, we quickly found that the weight of the rocks was too much for the adhesive. The rock just simply would not stay in the placement we desired. After 30 min there was no measurable adhesion. We even tried samples with several different types of adhesive and even epoxy. With some patience the original adhesive and epoxy did set up enough to hold the rocks. Unfortunately, at that pace it would take us many months to install the rocks.
Even though the rocks did set, this was not an acceptable application. So I decided try a different strategy. We adhered a 1/2” fiberglass mesh that is similar in shape to expanded metal. Because it is fiberglass, it conforms to the shape of the dome easily and does not weigh much. We apply the adhesive in a vertical line so that this does not cause any moisture to be trapped. Once the mesh is set, we have a perfect base to install a “scratch coat” This worked perfectly in out trial area. Once the scratch coat was dry we could then bond the rocks directly to the mortar bed like normal.
In the end, I am very pleased with the application. The color and rock style is a great choice for the home.
If you look closely at the picture you can see the fiberglass mesh on teh left hand edge and the scratch cost in the upper right corner.
I think it looks very nice and will provide a virtually maintenance free exterior for our dome.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
Progress is currently being made on the stairway and the upstairs walkway. We now have a railing on the walkway, but the bannister rail is still being shaped for the actual stairs, so we several days away from getting the full railing up.
The big thing that still seems to be slowing down the progress is the sealing of the first floor windows. I know I have talked about this before, but this needs to be a chief concern of anyone contemplating building a Monolithic Dome. It is apparent to me that sealing windows is a main problem on many domes. As of now, 4 months after they were first installed, the first floor windows still leak, despite 4 or 5 attempts to properly seal them.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
It's hard to believe that it's been almost 3 weeks since my last update and a lot longer than that without a picture. Things were pretty slow at the house since mid December, but they are picking up rapidly now. The weather is turning a bit warmer (it got up to 74°F today) and more is going on.
The biggest thing now is the cabinets are installed, as are most of the closet interiors. You can see the kitchen cabinets above, with the island in the foreground. The sink is actually inthe wrong place int he picture, but it will be moved to the opposite side later this week.
The pool is now about 1 foot full of water at the shallow end from the rains we've been getting. This is a wonderful thing as the water tables and ponds are beginning to fill back up from the drought last year. We still need more rain, but this is a start. The work has been on the plumbing and equipment side of the pool now. The actual interior of the pool will not be finished until the house is ready, which I am betting will be mid-March.
The front entryway now has an awning. It has actually had one for a while, but it is finally the correct awning (the first one was way too big and did not look good at all).
The rock for the exterior was supposed to be delivered today, but it has been delayed a few days. The time frame for installing it on all three domes is 3 weeks, so this is a massive undertaking. However, before it can be applied on the main dome, the first floor windows need to be properly weather sealed. one thing all the recent rains has shown us is the windows are NOT well sealed, but leak like a sieve. Everyone we have talked to about domes expressed a concern about sealing the windows, getting the window bucks square and proper, and other things about the windows. Please make sure you tell your contractor (even if it is yourself) to be very careful about the windows.
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Last week saw the installation of the interior doors and the exterior front door, along with locks to secure the house. It seem as if we have been having a few 'visitors' lately. So far we've seen no vandalism, but hopefully this will detur people even more.
The exterior rock should be delivered next week and that will take several more weeks to apply.
We picked up sinks and tubs and such last week so they can be ready to put in in a few weeks. Also the stair railing and spindles and such.
Next week we need to actually select the slabs of granite for the counter tops. We have the general type we want, but since each slab is slightly different, we have to pick out a particular one for each counter.
The floor leveling is almost done. It actually would be done, but for a cold snap one night that caused the final coat to not adhere the way it should and to buckle and bubble on the slab. It has to be scraped and reappplied now.