Final Thoughts

2013 is in the books and I wanted to jot down some final thoughts now that we’ve been in the house for 2+ months. In no particular order:

  1. Live close to the home you’re building – You’re going to want to be at the home a lot, so make sure it’s not too far of a drive to check in on the progress regularly.
  2. Choose the style of the home early – Craftsman, Traditional, Modern, etc. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the choices available to you, when you’re choosing your plumbing and electrical fixtures. It made our life so much easier to tell the salespeople to just show us fixtures that would look good in a Craftsman style home.
  3. Triple check the specs/plans/contract…everything that’s not in them could be a change order from your builder.
  4. If you have allowances, understand if they cover just material or material + labor. There were several times throughout the process that we thought we were coming in under budget only to find out that we hadn’t factored labor into our estimates.
  5. Repeatedly tell your builder when you want to try and save money on a given allowance. There will be allowances where you are going to overspend (e.g., cabinets) so you’ll want to make it up in other allowances (e.g., plumbing fixtures). Don’t have the builder show you the most expensive tile they have, only to fall in love with it, when they know you will go over budget with that choice.
  6. Budget for all of the stuff you’ll need after you move in – Blinds, rugs, furniture, etc. You’re going to be paying cash for this stuff (rather than rolling it into your mortgage) so try and plan and budget ahead of time for these high $ purchases.
  7. Make sure to try and get at least 2 bids for all of your allowances– Our builder had relationships with several vendors who had the best prices, but in other cases we were able to find less expensive/higher quality goods by asking around and checking the internet. For example, we were able to save ~$1500 in electrical fixtures by using a small mom and pop shop to supply our outdoor lighting.
  8. Capture every rebate/tax credit/incentive possible when building your home…Appliances are an area where you’re almost guaranteed to get some pretty hefty rebates, assuming you buy a suite of them from the same manufacturer. Check your local and state listings for energy savings tax credits you may be able to redeem (e.g., tankless water heater).
  9. Choose a builder you can trust – I can’t emphasize this enough. This person is literally going to be building the roof over your head, so you want to make damn sure they know what they’re doing. Interview, do follow ups, and conduct a thorough due-diligence before you choose your builder.
  10. Stop and smell the roses – it is incredibly amazing to see your dream home go from blueprints to framing. Don’t get too caught up in the inevitable problems associated with construction and instead make sure you stop to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.

Thanks for reading!


The final product

I plan to post again in a week or so with final thoughts and bumbles. Today’s post will just be a picture explosion…here we go:

The front:


I love how the mailbox creates that shadow line in the morning sun. The mailbox and address plate were created by Moda Industria. I found these guys on Etsy and they make custom metal work on the cheap!


The garage:

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The backyard:


I can’t wait to see the kiddo’s and dog go crazy in the backyard. It will be a mud pit for the next several months, but good things come to those wait.

The mud room, pantry, and laundry:

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The kitchen, breakfast nook, and keeping room:

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The family room and stairwell:

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The dining room and butler’s pantry:

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The foyer, office, and powder room:


The master:

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The upstairs landing and walk in storage:


The bonus room and guest bedroom/bath:

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My daughter’s room and her future sibling’s nursery:

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Their jack and jill bath:

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We moved in earlier this week and aside from a few broken glasses, it generally has gone well. We’ve got probably about 60% of all the unpacking done and the fam really seems to be enjoying the house. Baby #2 is supposed to be here in exactly 5 weeks, so I’m sure stress will pickup again as that time gets closer, but for now it’s nice to be in our new home, safe and sound.

T-minus 7 days until we move in

It’s been a crazy month but we’re moving in next Tuesday! Our builder secured the certificate of occupancy yesterday and now he’s just putting the final touches our house. Lots of finishing details have been completed since my last update and I won’t give away everything, as I want there to be some surprise when I show the final photos of the home.

Here are some photos of the hardwood floors:


Unfinished view of the keeping room.


And finished version. I love how the stain we chose is mainly brown but let’s some of the red oak shine through.


A crappy photo of the floors in the kitchen. I promise I’ll use a real camera for the final photos.


The backsplash and hood have been installed in the kitchen as well.


The laundry room countertop and sink look great on the white cabinets.

All of the electrical and plumbing fixtures have been installed. The water and power connections are live but I want to wait for the final photos to take pictures with the lights on 🙂


Here’s the giant fan that’s in our family room.


The breakfast area fixture. I somehow forgot to take a picture of the island lighting so you’ll have to wait till next time to see.


The dining room.


And our master bedroom/bath.

Moving outside:


The driveway has been completed and the aforementioned knee-wall has been corrected by the stone masons.


A view of the sidewalk from the front stoop.


And the front landscaping has been completed.

We met our builder yesterday to make our punch-list of items we would like fixed before the house is completed. A lot is still left to do in the house, but I’ll highlight the big things in my book:

  • Complete the fenced in backyard and rear landscape
  • Finish touching up paint around the house
  • Deep clean all the rooms
  • Install the gas meter and test water heater/stove
  • 3rd and final coat of poly on the hardwood floors (another whole day, where no one else will be allowed inside)
  • System test of the HVAC

I expect my next post will have lots of pretty pictures of the (completed) house!

Our Smurf Blue House: a lesson watching paint dry

A few weeks back, I stopped over at the house immediately after the painters had completed the paint on the exterior of the home. This is what I saw:


Yes, it’s smurf blue.


I had a small panic attack because this was absolutely not the color we had chosen. After freaking out all night and getting very little sleep, I went over to the house the next morning and this is what I saw:


Bumble #20: Watching paint dry. I’m sure it was a combination of the time of day and duration the paint had to dry, but man, what a difference ~12 hours makes in the color of the home.

A few days before the paint went on, the garage doors were installed:


I love color of them. They look like wood, but they’re actually a painted metal product (I’ll never have to worry about maintenance).

They also stained all of the bead board ceilings and beam work on the outside:


Here’s the front porch. We plan to stain the front doors to match the darker color of the beams.


And here’s a view of the rear porch.

Moving inside all of the granite has been installed:


I think the rectangular sinks really set the granite off in our master bath.


Here’s a shot of the one of the two vanities in the jack and jill bath.


The guest bath (they forgot the sink at the time of install).


Here’s the powder room vanity DIY project. I love how they curved the front of the granite to match the curve of the vanity. They still need to install a vessel sink on top which will come in a few weeks.


The butler’s pantry turned out awesome with the chiseled edge front. I can’t wait to see this area with lights on above it.


And finally the kitchen. The receptacle box in the middle of the island is going to have subway tile wrapped around the sides with another piece of granite installed on top. The subway tile will also serve as the backsplash on long perimeter wall.

The painters have also been busy inside. Here’s a couple of shots to give you a flavor of the work that’s been completed so far:


The first shot shows the keeping room with board and batten trim and the second photo shows the wainscoting in the mud room.

We stopped in this morning and they were starting the railings for the stairs:


I think the big newel posts are going to look amazing when they’re all stained up.

Moving back outside, the metal roof and gutters have been installed and the driveway and sidewalk are prepped for concrete:


They should pour the concrete tomorrow (sorry for the crappy photo).

Our builder has committed to having the house completed by Halloween, although we hope we can move in a few days before to be able to hand out candy to the neighborhood kids. It’s crazy to think that one month from now we’ll be living in this home.

This week the hardwoods will be installed. They need about 2 days to install them, 1 day to sand, and another 2 days for staining/polying the floor, so there will be virtually no other progress on the inside until they finish up. Once that’s done, all of the trades (i.e., electricians, plumbers, and painters) will come back to do the finish work on the homes.

Our builder expects to get our certificate of occupancy by mid-month…fingers crossed for a better inspector than last time!

Early September progress on the home

Another 7 days in the books and another week of great progress.


The exterior of the home is almost complete (just needs paint, metal roofs, and garage doors).



The cedar archway has been added along with the columns underneath it. The archway will be stained and the columns will be painted.


Here you can see the brackets have been installed on the home on the roof over the garage and the guest bedroom windows. They will be stained to match the archway.


Moving inside, they have started the interior trim work. It will probably take them another full week to get all of the doors and moldings installed.


These last photos show the tile work that has been going on in the Master bath.

Other activities we expect to happen this week:

  • Granite is being installed (I can’t wait to see how it all turns out)
  • Garage doors are being installed
  • Exterior paint should begin
  • Tile work should wrap up

Lots of photos to come in the next week or so!

Amazing changes in just 7 days

Our builder really kicked it into high gear this past week. We’ve had major changes to the inside and outside of the home:


The stone work on the outside of the home is almost complete!


The front doors have been installed and look beautiful. You can also see the cedar wrapped beams and pine bead board ceiling in this shot. The tapered columns that sit on top of the stone columns should be installed later this week to complete the front porch.


All of the siding has been installed. Garage doors should go in later this week.


Here’s a shot of the knee wall that juts out past the garage. I asked the masons to make it a more smooth radius, so the next time you see this photo it should look more like a semi circle. A lantern will sit on the end of the wall when it’s complete.


Moving inside, the masons completed the fireplace, and I love it. The colors of the stone blends really well with the stain of the built-ins. We’re going to install a piece of old barnwood as our mantel in the coming weeks.


A random shot of the foyer with the front doors installed.


Tile work has begun as well. Here’s a few shots from the guest bath.


The shared bath is coming together nicely. I like how the floor tiles run at a 45 degree angle.



And the master bath. I can’t wait to see it go up the shower walls in this room.

In addition to the items I mentioned above, by the early next week, we expect the following:

  • Tile work should be completed
  • Kitchen hood should be installed
  • Exterior paint should get started
  • Interior doors and trim should get started
  • Granite templates should be measured and installed

I’ll check in soon.

2 months and counting…

It’s getting cooler outside, which is odd at this time of year in NC. Fall just happens to be my favorite season and I’m ready to put August behind us.

We had a framing inspector who seemed to have some sort of personal vendetta against our builder and held up our progress almost 2 weeks.  He routinely showed up late (or not at all) and often failed our inspection for very small items (e.g., having suppliers on-site during the inspection). Bumble #19: Expecting inspectors to be prompt, courteous, and/or respectful. The worst part is that my tax dollars are paying for this incompetent jerk.

The good news is that we still have managed to make a lot of progress since our last update:


IMG_1448The outside siding is almost complete and the cedar brackets, beams, and archway should be installed in the next week or so.


I love how the back has come together. The steps for the back porch should go in the next month, along with the concrete patio.


Moving inside, the insulation has been covered with drywall and you can really start to see the ceiling detail. The foyer beams will be wrapped in cyprus.


The coffered ceiling in the family room looks great and is only going to get better when they wrap the inside of the squares with crown molding.


The master ceiling has two beams that will be wrapped in cypress.

IMG_1395Here’s a shot of the keeping room.

Interior trim and doors should be installed the week of labor day which really start to make this feel like a home. We’re doing some wainscoting and board & batten detail in a couple of the rooms which I’m excited to see come to fruition.

They’ve started the installation of the cabinets:


The fireplace should get the stone installed next week which is really going to make this family room feel cozy.


Here’s a shot looking into the kitchen from the family room. We used a glazed cabinet for our island with a pecan stain on the perimeter cabinets. The island is enormous; there will be almost a full granite slab covering the top.


Other views of the kitchen. The hood is sitting on top of the island, along with the receptacle box that will serve as the second level of the island.


They need to rerun some duct-work for the hood so it hasn’t been installed yet. I love the bead board.


These are the mudroom lockers where we’ll store shoes in the drawers and hang jackets/backpacks for the kids.


The olive stain on these cabinets turned out better than I expected. Sorry for the crappy image resolution. This will serve as our bar/butlery between the kitchen and dining room. We’re planning on using a brick backsplash which, teamed with the glass cabinet doors, will really make this look rustic.


Here are cabinets for our master bath. A simple stain makes the wood really pop.

We’re still waiting on the arrival of our front door but that should be installed very soon. Over the past month, we’ve made our final selections for tile, carpet, interior paint, mirrors, interior hardware, and lighting. Every week moving forward should have some pretty substantial changes, so I will try and post more frequently. Thanks for reading!

Lots of progress and a DIY vanity project

It’s been too long since I posted my last update (again). I’ve been traveling a lot with work so when I’m home with my family, it’s hard to find the time to write new posts. Hopefully August will be better. We’ve been really happy with the progress this month so I can’t think of any major bumbles. Also, after several meetings, we’ve made our selections for our cabinets, granite, and tile.

Let’s review the big changes since the last update.  The shingled roof and windows have been installed:

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The shed roofs over the garage, front porch, and upstairs bedroom will be standing seam metal roofs which is why they are not shingled.

photo (14)I’m loving how the back profile of the home is shaping up!

photo (9)Here’s a better shot of the shingles; I like how the greenish blue-browns really come out in this photo.

Inside, almost all of the core infrastructure has been completed. The framing, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems are complete and all inspections should be complete by early next week. Additionally, all of the low voltage work (i.e., security, audio, cable, and data) has been completed. We spent a lot of time this month figuring out where we wanted outlets, switches, and vents.

Here are a couple of shots from the inside that I thought were particularly cool:

photo (11)The foyer ceiling has really come together well. You can see the beam detail in this shot of the ceiling.

photo (13)Here’s a shot of the keeping room. I didn’t realize that the ceiling in this room would be high enough to capture the small window at the top of the gable which was a really nice surprise.

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The master tub has been framed out. They’re going to tile that rounded edge which I think will be really cool once complete.

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The firebox has been installed in the family room. I can’t wait to see how this looks with the stone installed around it.

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Last week while we’re visiting her hometown, Holly stopped into an antique store and found this awesome antique wash basin that we’re going to transform into our powder room vanity. We’re going to replace the top with the granite pictured above and put some sort of white vessel sink on top. I’m very stoked to see the end results of this project.

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Yesterday, they poured the garage slab. I was actually out there while it was happening which was pretty cool to watch.

Sorry for the mish-mash post…July has been a month where the big focus was to get a lot of the systems completed, which makes for rather boring pictures and writing :). August, however, should be a lot of fun. Here are the things I expect to be completed in the next 30 days or so:

  • Insulation and drywall should start next week
  • Exterior siding, boxing, and stone should be installed
  • The front door should be installed
  • The cabinets should be delivered around mid-month
  • Interior trim should begin towards the end of the month

I think things are really going to take off as we race towards our October finish date. Exciting times ahead!

What do mortgage rates and framing walls have in common?

They both have gone up faster than I thought possible.

Over the past month, mortgage rates have increased by the fastest rate in the past 26 years. Remember that we have a construction loan with a 3/1 ARM that we plan to refinance into a 30 year fixed mortgage after we move into the house. The average 30 year rate has increased from ~3.5% to ~4.5%:


To give you some perspective on what this means to our mortgage payments, “An extra percentage point will cost homebuyers with 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages $56 more a month for every $100,000 they borrow.” Thousands of dollars more over the course of a year, and tens of thousands over the course of the loan…not chump change.

Bumble #18: Betting that “past performance will be indicative of future results.” I think I heard this in every economics class I’ve ever taken and still fell into the same pitfall with assuming that mortgage rates would be more or less equal to where they were when we started this process a few months ago. We’re not in any sort of danger of being able to afford our future mortgage payments, but I sure hope the rates don’t continue to skyrocket upwards from now till we refinance at closing.

Ok, now let’s talk about more fun stuff…like how much progress has been made on the home in just 2 weeks…first, here’s what the front of the house looks like :


Quite a change from last week, eh? You can see the 2 garage cut outs on the right hand side and really begin to see what the roof is going to look like now that most of the trusses are in.


Here’s a view from the inside of the foyer, looking out at what will be where the front doors will be. Note the vaulted ceiling (not completed on the right side) that will be around 14′ tall when complete.


Here’s a photo of the family room. Behind my daughter, the fireplace is framed out with built-in bookshelves on both sides. This room will have a 12′ coffered ceiling. The double windows look out onto the porch and ultimately the backyard.

IMG_1259Another view of the family room, now looking into the kitchen/breakfast nook/keeping room. Check out that 18″ beam that spans the opening between the two rooms…that’s the stuff engineering dreams are made of.

IMG_1256Here’s a shot of the stairwell.

IMG_1246The breakfast nook, with door out to the porch on the left.

IMG_1245The kitchen…kind of hard to visualize without cabinets/island, but you’ll just have to see that a little later in the process.

IMG_1247View inside of the keeping room out to the backyard.

IMG_1248View from the keeping room back to through the kitchen and family room.

IMG_1253Here’s a shot of the tray ceiling we’ll have in our master bedroom.


Here’s the view from our master out into the backyard. Duke energy is supposed to come and remove that power pole in the not too distant future. I’m really happy we we’re able to save that dogwood in the background as it’s going to be beautiful in the spring time.

IMG_1243View from the upstairs guest bedroom.

IMG_1242Just a random shot of a roofline that would be impossible for me to even try to build. Just thinking of the geometry gives me a headache.

IMG_1241View from the upstairs bonus room out on the backyard.

IMG_1263Here’s a view of the back of the house…which I think turned out beautifully.

This week, they should finish up framing and start on laying down the shingles. Next week, we should begin the rough-ins for plumbing, electrical, and HVAC. We have a 2 hour meeting set up next week with our builder to walk through the house and make sure we have the location of all our plumbing and electrical fixtures set.

Sorry for the lengthy post, hopefully the pictures made it a worthwhile read.

A long overdue update on the progress of the home

Rather than drone on about everything that has been completed since the last update (6 weeks ago, sorry for delay), I figured it would be better to show with a series of pictures. First off, here’s what the lot looked like after the existing structure had been completely removed and the rough grade was complete:


Bumble #17: Not roping off the two, big trees on the lot till too late. A lot of big machinery drove around on the lot and got very close to the tree trunks…I hope they didn’t damage the root systems of the trees before we got them cordoned off. Only time will tell…

Next, here’s a photo showing the footings that were dug and later filled with concrete to support the foundation:


I don’t have a shot of the poured footings, but here are a few pictures showing the progress on the foundation over the last week or so. You’ll notice we have brick on three sides of the home and then the front is concrete block, which will later be covered in stone:


They came back a few days ago to complete the steps which look really cool (I really like the cathedral style steps that wrap around):

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After that, they completed the interior prep (lining the ground under the home in a very small small rock layer that helps with drainage):

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Then they back-filled the foundation and began framing:

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You can see the final grade of the home in this shot as well…they had to bring in some fill dirt to help with drainage on left side of the house. The floor joists are in and they should be laying the decking and beginning the first floor walls today. I’m really, really happy with how the home sits on the lot. It’s almost square in dimension (70′ x 70′ at it’s widest points) but the irregular symmetry of the foundation walls of the “keeping room” are going to look amazing when the walls go up.

In other news, we’ve selected our garage doors, front doors, exterior paint, and appliances. For the hardiboard siding, we decided to go with a slate blue color, trimmed out with an off white color:

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The next big decision is to go to the cabinet makers shop to begin our making our selections. It’s a 4 hour meeting, so I hope we can make some serious progress in that time. This week also marks the first construction draw against our loan. Our builder has met the requirements for the first major milestone of completing the foundation, so the bank has asked for our approval to release the funds to the builder. I approved the request and a check was cut for my builder. A corresponding amount was added to my construction loan (e.g., if the prior loan amount was for $100k, and the first draw was for $20k, the new mortgage payment will be based on $120k). This goes on until after the sixth and final draw, when construction is complete, and we convert to a traditional 30 year mortgage.

Framing should be done in 2 weeks, so I expect to be able to post some great progress in the next post (which I promise will not be as delayed as this one).