Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Diary of Building A House: Sitework, Framing & Stairs

Okay, well the house is up and framed and thankfully, nothing completely crazy has happened.

Photo note: 
The top of the 2nd floor windows in this photo are being covered with Tyvek paper, they're not different heights, you just can't see the tops.
Also, the 3rd garage stall is around the left side of the garage. Like this...

As far as sitework, the only hiccup I found so far is getting the electrical to the house. 
Since I want an underground line, so there is no wire from the street pole stretching across the yard, I contacted the Electric Company to get the scoop. Long story short, they only provide the line to the house @ $22 sg ft. This does NOT include:
* Digging the trench to the house
* The pvc housing that the wires go through.
* The cement pad that the big green electrical box sits on
* The big green box (called a vault)
* The connection from the vault to the house.

So, this was day one. I was 6k over budget on day one. Awesome. I decided not to tell the hubs about this and just knew I would have to absorb that cost elsewhere (later). And, on top of that, it would be 8 weeks for them to start the work order. So, I got the invoice from the Electric Company, paid the bill and assumed I was on the schedule (By the way, everything being paid at this point is submitted to the bank and funded through the loan. This is not coming out of my pocket anymore.)
Four weeks later,  I decide to call the Electric Co. and check the status of my work order. The rep proceeds to tell me that I'm not even on the schedule because I need to send in an easement form. I'm like "HUH?" Perhaps I could've had a heads up on that. So, overnighted the form and my work order began it's 8 week wait. Ugh. That means the guys working on site would be using a generator for power which is a pain in the butt. 

Since we got off of our original schedule, we lost our scheduled framer, a guy recommended by the General Contractor helping me with parts of the build. I found myself scrambling to find a new framer, on short notice in the busy season and within the budget I had initially estimated. 
---Cue panic attack.---

After reaching out to a few of my builder friends, my husband actually came to the rescue with a framing referral, sent from one of his friends who happened to be a Builder. Long story short, out of pure luck in timing, vetting the new guy and getting a quote that was MUCH lower than the first guy, (because there was no mark up from a middle man) we were saved and moved forward immediately. ---Cue me jumping for joy over the found money in the budget to make up for the 6k plus extra buffer--- He caught a couple of quirky things that the Engineer had in the plan that needed to be changed. He also commented on how pleased he was that we used premium lumber vs. non-premium. There are no knots or bent pieces of wood, everything is super straight and fits like a glove. Okay, so we were back on track. 

On an added note; The Framer suggested we move a window higher than on the plan to line up with the other windows. I agreed and later realized why we had the window where it was in the first place. Most of his suggestions were but note to self, DO NOT just move windows and doors without going back and really putting thought into why it was there on the original plan. Now it drives me CRAZY seeing that window too high.

We got through the interior and exterior framing with very few changes. Yay! Have to say, I was pretty proud of myself on this one since I had this fear that this whole design might be an epic fail. My one issue was I was especially terrified that the roof would look squatty and I do think it does. I wish I would've pressed the Engineer on that one because I knew it was not pitched enough but he convinced me otherwise. Now I secretly want to rip the roof off, but will find some ways to visually increase the look of the pitch. (It's a 12 grade btw) (insert "growl")

I brought my laptop along to show the guys photo examples of the doors and windows to help communicate my vision. 

My furry little sidekick. She freakin loves it at the new house.

Onto the stairs. When I took my plans to the Engineer, I told him I wanted to do a curved stair and of course I had lots of inspiration photos.

Since there is not much space between the front door and the bottom stair, it quickly became a challenge. I finally just decided to have him design the plan with a turned staircase and knew I would find a solution somehow but didn't want to hold up the plans trying to press the issue.

So, armed with design determination, minus the million dollar budget, I knew I had to find a local stair specialist.  It took a little digging online and a few email inquiries, but I found a specialty stair guy with some good projects under his belt and a desire to work on unique projects. My kinda guy.

He of course figured it out, even with my request to have an open basement stair with the door at the bottom. Like this...

None of this is a big deal but in New England, the basement is typically entered through a door on the 1st floor, under the stairs. I also said I want to do the bottom stair in Calacatta marble, to which he said..."Of course you do."

The house was framed with a temporary staircase and Steve the stair guy will be over this Friday to take down the temp stairs and frame the curved stairs. (Buffer money spent, now I'm back to "on" budget without any drama.) We'll see how it goes. Super excited.

Updated: So Steve framed the stairs and as the build progressed in the meantime, he managed to need a major back surgery which would keep him from finishing the project. Cue panic-attack.

2 issues with this;
1) NONE of my guys wanted to take this project on at the mid-way point.
2) I was getting astronomical quotes to take on the half-finished project.

1) Win Lottery
2) Freakin figure it out and do it myself. Ugh.

I paid a flooring/stair guy to cut the treads and risers (close) to size and they were sent off to be stained with the rest of the flooring.

I then took on the task of making my a curved stair rail. (Wtf am I even talking about?)
Long story short, after considering every possible material from ski cables to lucite, I ended up ordering this bendable handrail in wood.  Mostly because I was in way over my head and also because it came in 16 foot length.
My awesome yet completely builder challenged husband helped me cut guides to screw into the stair framing. These were carefully measured to make sure the rail followed the path all the way down.

Once we had the guides in place, I carefully bent and glued each slice of the rail into the U shaped guides. Re-clamping the rail after each slice until the whole rail was tightly glued and positioned in the guides. This was left to dry for 3-5 days.

The rail was sanded and then secured with the balusters. The hardest part to installing these ballusters is keeping them exactly the distance needed per code. They're certainly not perfect but somehow, we pulled it off, with ALOT of help from my sisters, my Mother In Law, my Mom & especially my good friend Erin. :) Love those girls.

Unfinished (Apologies for the crappy photos)


I felt like one of those Mom's who has no choice but to lift the car off of the baby. It's like, I was in too deep and had to get it done. I had to find a solution and just do it. I know EVERYONE thought I was completely bonkers thinking I could pull it off. And yet...
Don't ever do this. :) Hire a professional.
By the way, I used this adjustable brass flange which I love.

And there was another rail to the basement. (dead)

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