From the Ground Up (Building Part 1)

I knew that building a house was never on my bucket list, but “life is what happens when you make other plans.” I feel like I could write a book on what I’ve learned in the last ten months but instead I’ll write a blog post (or series of posts) about it.

For the sake of this post, I’ll start with we own the land, and it is already cleared…just to make describing the actual building process easier.

This is our lot, in the final stages of being cleared.

Step 1: Select a builder.

I left the research of options up to Chris.  Last fall, I was in no frame of mind to deal with this. We divided the lengthy post-fire to do list and he drew this straw.

We selected David Weekley Homes. They are what I’ll call an all-in-one builder. They have an in-house design center so you do architect, design, and interior selections in a one-stop shop. This seemed the only way to go to me. Chris and I had been working on remodeling our two bathrooms for 15 months prior to the fire and were yet to commence work. There was no way I was going to deal with shuffling from sink stores to tile stores to carpet stores, etc.

Step 2: Selecting a Floor Plan.

Because we selected a one-stop shop with the bonus of being experienced in what we call down here “build on your lot,” we had their archives of floor plans to select from, modify, or start from scratch. We gave them the basic parameters of what we were looking for (square footage, number of stories, basic layout, number of rooms) and they pulled plans they thought we’d like. From here we selected the template that we wanted to work from.

But before you get going too far, it is critical at this stage to know what your home owners association rules are (build lines, max square footage, etc.) so that you don’t get your heart set on something you can’t have.

Step 3: Modify, modify, modify.

Working within your HOA framework and the template you’ve selected you can then make structural changes – move walls, add walls, etc. Because we have a corner lot we were able to move the garage from the front of the house to the side, which allowed us to add a second bedroom on the first floor, which was a feature I loved in the old house. It is great for the nursery and also a huge selling feature as it can double as a MIL suite or a place for someone recovering from an illness to convalesce without stairs! We designed this room with its own bath, including a roll in shower. We also moved the south and west walls of the house to make the dining room (and 2nd floor bedrooms) larger.

You also get to select the exterior features of the house (brick, stone, siding, etc). as well as door and window style, etc.

Once all the changes are done, off the plans go to the architect for rendering and to the HOA and City/County for approval.

Step 4: The Design Center

While all the bricks and sticks were in the finalization process, we headed off to the design center to pick e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g! And I do mean everything. Here are the headings from our transaction summary: appliances, bath glass, cabinets, countertops, doors, electrical (where your outlets go and how many you have), flooring, hardware, lighting, paint, plumbing (faucets, sinks, toilets, and tubs), audio/video wiring drops, trim (crown molding and staircase style), wall tiles, and windows. You also get to select the actual bricks and paint colors, and roof shingles. It is a dizzying process that is scheduled in two three-hour increments. We took 3 almost four-hour increments and have had literally dozens of emails and phone calls for follow-up and corrections.

Did I mention that all of this work took place before we had even broken ground…basically from January through May (and the refining and correcting is ongoing). Up next…Let the work commence!

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8 thoughts on “From the Ground Up (Building Part 1)

  1. maryann August 1, 2012 / 5:51 pm

    Building from the ground up is both a wonderful and terrible thing. I truly admire you and Chris and if anyone is up to the challenge, it’s the two of you. I worked with a woman through the time of her house construction. It started with the foundation being poured facing in the wrong direction and went downhill from there. I remember a big hullabaloo about cherry cabinetry in the kitchen. And who was going to scrape all the stickers off every little square of the colonial windows! Not for the faint of heart.

  2. Common Loon August 1, 2012 / 6:11 pm

    My head is dizzy! And to think that you have simplified and condensed it…just a lot to take in. I hope it will be more fun watching the Phoenix rise from the ashes!

  3. Mom August 1, 2012 / 6:47 pm

    OMG! The “yard” looks soooo different!! These chronicles will be an invaluable addition to your and Chris’ memories. Keep them up. Building a whole house (and then furnishing it from scratch) is, indeed, a daunting task. But you TWO can do it. Seize this “opportunity” and get it all done. YOUR WAY!!! (Remembering the “kick-line” dance from your wedding reception (Frank’s song)!!

  4. Joanne August 1, 2012 / 7:21 pm

    I’m exhausted and overwhelmed just reading the list of things you had to decide (the number and placement of OUTLETS? sheesh!). You have my great admiration for still being alive.

  5. Eileen August 1, 2012 / 7:42 pm

    Joanne, there is a base template for outlets too but I have an audiofile husband so we had lots of extras. And then there are silly things like if you have a double sink you need to ask for a second outlet (one for each sink). Details details…really my head is ready to explode daily 🙂

  6. Nancy Martin August 1, 2012 / 11:01 pm

    We built a fairly simple log home in Colorado. We copied alot from friends and then came up with the rest with the help of an architect friend. After we found a wonderful builder (he is such a great guy that when he was building our house, people he had built for before drove up our terrible 7 miles of incredibly bumpy dirt road just to say hello and see what he was working!!!) we pretty handed it over. Along the way, we picked out accessories. But here is the deal. We went to the one appliance store in Alamosa and pretty much had 2-3 choices for everything. After that we really did “let go”. My mantra was “it’s a cabin in Colorado”. And the fact that it was “a cabin in Colorado” , a second home and 2 days away made it sooooooooooo much easier!!!!! I think the hardest thing I did was choose knobs for the kitchen!!!!! If we could talk Kirk into moving to Houston long enough, we would scrape and rebuild here, but that is not happening and I don’t think I could do what you are doing!!!
    I need to drive by again to see the progress. Last time I saw it I could see the basic style and I love it!!! It is going to be absolutely wonderful and the very best part is that it is going to be absolutely YOURS!!!!!! Hang in there, it will be worth all. Can’t wait to see you chasing James around in it. (btw in Colorado you have to have an electrical outlet about every 8 feet. I had no idea how much I would appreciate that!!!!!
    Love your writing and all the good advice,
    Blessings, Nancy

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