Sunday, July 31, 2011

Finally progress, We have a driveway!

The first step towards our house has finally happened. The driveway went in on Friday and will be finished on Monday. Our driveway will be about 400 feet from the road so the house will be quite a ways back. After 2 weeks of delays with our County the driveway was able to start.

Next step for the house will be the basement hole to be dug, and that is scheduled for Wednesday (in 3 days). After the hole has been dug the County will inspect the areas where they want the footings for the foundation. Once the footings are established they will need to be inspected again before we can move on to pouring the concrete for the basement foundation.

During this time the drain tile will also go in beneath the basement to encourage any water to follow a certain pathway away from the house, this is meant to always keep the basement dry. There is still so much that needs to happen but its a start!

This is a view at the end of the driveway looking out at the road.

This is the view from the future garage area towards the road. That's Kyle's car parked on the driveway.

In addition to the driveway going in we also now have a sign from our builder on the property.

We also picked out our roofing color and the stone for our front porch columns this weekend. We selected a mid tone grey called Georgetown Grey by Certainteed for the asphalt shingles. We would have liked to go with steel for the roof but it just wasn't in the budget.

We decided to go with a stone by Quarry Ridge called Rustic Ledgstone Bella. We love the stacks of stone and how they have minimal grout showing. We still haven't picked out the color for our cedar shakes, we just can't decide! The cedar shakes are a large part of the house exterior and we just haven't been able to make up our minds yet. We hope that seeing a bigger sample will help us because soon here we need to make a choice.

So to recap here are our exterior choices: Vinyl siding by Norandex in premium Fire Brick Red. 35 year asphalt shingles by Certainteed in Georgetown Grey. Quarry Ridge stone in Rustic Ledgestone Bella for the porch columns. White for all the decorative trims, soffit, fascia and dentil shelf on the second level of the house. We are thinking about some level of beige/tan for the shakes? Any ideas would be appreciated!

More updates next week when the foundation starts!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

How we got started building a custom home

Kyle and I have had this crazy dream to build a house since before we were married. We always knew that someday we wanted to create a beautiful home we could live in forever, but we also knew we wanted to build a house that was "green". On our budget it has not been easy.

We set a goal in mind several years ago to continue to live frugally and save every extra penny towards our house. During college we worked and went to school full time and along the way we collected countless architectural house plans and photos for inspiration. Over 500 photos at this point in my "Home Inspiration" folder!

We found one particular plan that we loved, so we tweaked it and made it smaller and added extra touches like built-in and a master bathroom walk in shower. It takes a lot of care and time to make a house layout feel right. You need to really picture your self walking through each room, opening the windows and moving furniture up the staircase.

At this point we already had our land purchased. Then we started searching for builders in our area that had knowledge or specialized in energy efficient homes and SIP's (Structurally insulated panels or Panelized homes). We first searched for builders through the SIPA website. We found 4 builders that were worth interviewing and meeting with. We also met with a few other builders in the area that did not work with SIP's. Most builders we found liked to stick to what they are comfortable working with, like traditional stick built framing but that wasn't what we were after.

We were more comfortable working with someone who had knowledge of SIP's and that's how we met our current builder. He used to work for a manufacturer of SIP's in Michigan and then started his own company building custom homes. We met with him and talked about our plans and our budget. We had a great feeling about him and what his company stood for. We met with him one other time before we decided he was our guy.
Our builder visited out property and reviewed out house plans to make sure they would work. Sometimes the grade or slope of a property doesn't lend its self to some house layouts. We then took our plans (that we had hand drawn as well as drew in Microsoft Excel) to an architect that could bring them to life and be up to code with Michigan building laws. That was the fun part! Seeing our plans come to life was so incredible. Kyle and I felt like two kids on Christmas morning waiting for that email of our plans.

We have made several revisions of our plans as the budget was made and as Kyle and I changed our opinion on what was important in the house. Paying attention to the layout is key to feeling happy with your home in the end. We have spent many evenings looking at the plans and seeing if anything is out of place with our vision for the house.

We had several budget meetings with our builder, both here in Lansing and in Grand Rapids (where our builder is located). The budget of course was the most stressful part of the whole process. Even though we saved like crazy and had a nice down payment set aside, we were pretty surprised when we saw that final number! We worked hard to get the budget back down and still keep some of the important amenities. We got rid of a few items but kept many others (like my granite counters!)

We have learned so much through this process and although we wont be doing it again (ever), we can pass on what we learned not to do to others looking to build.

Any questions about finding a builder, finding a layout or building a house in general? The treehuggers are always available.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Getting ready to Start Construction

Next week will mark the week we start construction on our home! The gravel driveway and the culvert (threshold to get over the drain ditch by the road) are going in this coming week and the septic and excavation will start the week after.

It is quite an interesting feeling to see progress happening on the property. It feels like something magical is about to happen. One week there is a field sitting vacant and a few weeks later we will see a foundation and then walls and a roof! Its hard to comprehend and so exciting.

Last Friday we had a perk test (a percolation test, of the absorption rate of soil for septic drain field). We met with our builder, our excavator and someone from the County Health Dept for the test. The test included having our excavator digging an 8 foot deep hole where the septic will go and then a hole for the secondary septic if we every need it. It seems odd to be talking about the septic and drain field but its an important part of a good, well thought out home.

After the test we met with the supplier for the driveway gravel and mapped out the placement of the driveway. It was another great step forward and was a great afternoon except for the sunburns that both Kyle and I got from our time in the sun. We are typically SPF 50 kind of people, but we completely forgot that afternoon in all the excitement. Now we've got to work on the tan lines!

This is a view down into the hole dug for the perk test. Thankfully they filled in this hazardous hole when they were done.


More updates to come as we get closer to construction!