Thursday, February 8, 2018

Master Bathroom Decisions

So, when we were planning our master bathroom initially, we had a couple of ideas and requests:

--Here is the custom layout.

--A separate makeup vanity for me to sit at in the mornings with adequate counter space.

--Tile in the shower (instead of all fiberglass) with vertical accent tile.

--Tile on the ground. We originally chose a 12 by 12 "greige" non-descript tile offered by Lexar like below.

--Tile surround above the bathtub.

--Subway tile counter-to-ceiling backsplash with a herringbone-ish style design.

--White cabinets in the bathrooms.

THEN, we decided.. NO, we are not going to settle for crappy floor tile. Nope. Too difficult to remove and change in 5 years.. So, we picked a tile company called Daltile that Lexar can use, and we spent an hour or so picking out tile we liked. I love love love tile that looks like fabric/linen, so we initially chose the following tiles:

Shower square 12 by 12 tiles

Moroccan tiles as one accent in shower and around bath.

Blue-ish fabric art linen-looking tile for the ground in 12 by 24. (I actually still love this tile.)

But then, we went to Daltile again, this time in Seattle, and my husband saw these 3 tiles together and he no longer wanted our previous tile choices.

We like taupe, what can we say? Honestly, I do like the chevron accent tile, but I'm afraid it's too trendy and will be out of style very quickly.. but, Graham held very strong opinions for it, so chevron tile it is.

So, these are our final choices:

Shower tile in 4 by 12, stacked horizontally in Chenille White Limestone.

Stone chevron tile accent with one vertical line in shower and horizontal tub surround in Fusion Gris.

 Floor tile in Exhibition Tweed 12 by 24.

We are still considering wall colors, such as a slate blue, or a taupe-gray or violet.. but we will probably take our sample tiles to match paint colors. Our master bedroom colors are gray, cream, with blue/purple-ish accents, so we are looking for a coordinating color. We will update later..

Monday, January 29, 2018

Blowin the Roof Off!

We have a roof ladies and gentleman! Yes, we do.. and I seriously could not be happier about it. I have a day off during the week due to illness, so I finally was able to see the house in the daylight and take some pictures.

The southwest view of the house. Can't wait for the covered front porch.

 Front of the house from the dirt road. Look at that roof! Metal would've been nice, but oh well. We actually decreased the pitch of the roof from 6/12 to 5/12 as part of a cost-saving measure, and I actually really like the look of it. Less emphasis on the roof versus the front gables.

The southwest view of the house from the driveway. I'm debating on where to put the address number of our house--front or side of the house that faces the street? Also, I opted to not get shaker siding in the gables of the side of the house due to the cost, and now I'm regretting it.

Windows arrived today!!

Look at that beautiful ThermaTru door. We plan to stain it a natural wood color..

We are currently in the process of drying the house out with industrial fans, because man that wood was wet. Our foolish hope was to have a roof by October (silly me) before the major rain started, but January is better than February! Man, we just didn't really anticipate all of the set-backs or additional money.. But, I'll cover all of the things I wish I would've known in a later post.

Anyways, I want to be able to post more positive things, especially now that our house has some cover from the elements. But, I'm also trying to be honest about the process. People have no idea what they're getting into sometimes when it comes to building a house. Really, it all comes down to time and money, right? Maybe if we didn't have a tight budget, or that we didn't have to rent a duplex and pay 2 mortgages, or the kids sharing a room, or so many things go wrong, and maybe we could say we have had a good experience so far..?

So, Lexar has paid more attention to my blog and social media than I would have thought. **Hey guys!** Honestly, I started all of this because I found blogs about people who built with Hiline Homes, Adair Homes, etc.. but not Lexar. I'm sorry if my experiences don't portray a positive experience so far, but it has been realistic... and it's not exclusive to Lexar.. just so we're all clear here. One of our future neighbors built with a different builder, and they failed an inspection so many times that their building permit was suspended. There were other issues with their property due to the company's non-payment of their subcontractors. One of Graham's co-workers built with a different builder, and they failed final inspection 3 times because they put in the wrong windows, didn't correct it, and tried to fool the inspector. All of these builders have the same clause that they can raise the base price of your house if you don't have the foundation in the ground within a certain time frame. Price changes can happen with builders and even a private general contractor. So yes, anybody with any builder can have a negative experience.

I've also seen positive experiences. There's an Instagram network of us building with Lexar, Adair, Hiline, etc here in the Pacific Northwest. I've seen houses go up way faster than mine, and I've also seen beautiful results of their houses' interior and exterior details.

We met again with the project managers of Lexar of Tacoma on Friday. I was a little nervous because they didn't say what it was about. One thing that we have complained about is the lack of communication, so it was nice to be able to talk it out in person. We found out about some of the behind-the-scenes details that they didn't share with us initially, and it helped us understand why it took so long for framing to get done. We also finally addressed how they are going to make up for lost time for the next steps. Usually with building a home, the managers give their subcontractors a window of time to complete their part. So, when there's a delay, it sets everything back. So, according to the project managers, our house will have more priority and subcontractors will be scheduled as soon as they're available. We are going to clarify with them what the approximate schedule will be. We still have a completion date of May.

Let's talk about expectations. These things can really help make us happy or unhappy--unmet expectations. I expected our framing to be done in 3-4 weeks, and we weren't told until 26 days after our lumber was dropped that our framing wouldn't be done until the end of January... which would make it 8 weeks. However, if they had shared with us initially that they had to split a crew and it would extend the date, we would've understood and not been so disappointed. Also, I know nothing about construction while Graham knows a little, so when we found out our shearwall inspection was cancelled, it was seriously upsetting because we thought the roof couldn't go on until it passed. We were unbelievably relieved when Graham visited the worksite and the framers were there putting up the roof and finishing the interior. Again, we didn't know what to expect, so we were angry.

Now, we have better expectations of what the rest of the build will be like. We talked out a communication plan for a weekly email to let us know what's going on. So hopefully now that we know what to expect, we'll be able to make it through the next few months without major disturbances. Next up: HVAC, rough in plumbing, electrician, siding.

Last little nugget.. One of the project managers said that building a house should be a fun thing, and he knows someone who's having a great time. I said, yeah, this is the most stressful thing I've ever done in my life.. and I've gone to grad school, moved to places where I didn't know anybody, delivered a master's thesis to 4 straight-up doctors, and been separated from my husband. But then Graham said, well there are also some people that enjoy pregnancy.. and that totally brought it home for me. Building a home really is like having a baby. There's the planning, the detailed plans and purchases, the excitement, taking photos along every step of the way, the feeling of anticipation and anxiety, the moments of fear when you feel like what the hell have I gotten myself into, the delivery and the first time you see your baby's face, and then there's the time when you're confronted with the bill! But, when that baby comes, or when the house is done, there should be that miraculous feeling of joy and amazement... which I'm totally looking forward to. And yes, I'm sure there are some crazy people that like building their own house just like those annoying women who look and feel good during pregnancy... but I'm not either of those.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Quick Update

So, to all of you that don't follow my home-building account on Instagram, which you should (link is here), we have had some progress on the house..

December 1st: Our lumber was dropped for framing. We were told the framers were working on a house around the corner, and would be able to start the first week of December.

December 4th: Framers have not started.

December 6th: Meeting with our Lexar of Tacoma project manager, who said the framers would be starting within a few days.

December 11th: Homesite visit with the framers. They said they took another job out in Buckley near where they are located (far out from Puyallup and about 45 minutes from our house) to help keep them busy. This was not the same framing crew that our porject manager told us about because they said they haven't worked this far "in a long time" (aka they weren't the ones working around the corner). They were working on the under floor and pony walls on our house at the time.

December 13th: Failed inspection of the under floor as the framers left our house to work on a different project and didn't complete our under floor.

December 15th: Re-inspection of under floor. We were told trusses would be delivered the 27th.

December 18th-23rd: Exterior walls were put up.

December 25th-30th: Interior walls were mostly completed. Trusses were delayed and delivered on the 29th. Our project manager told us that the framers weren't coming back until mid-January on the 10th. Why? We don't know, except he told us that maybe our interior could be re-prioritized to make up for lost time.

December 31st-January 11th: Zero work done on the house. We were told there were delays due to snow (for 2 days) and that infamous Amtrak train crash near Tacoma, WA. We contacted our project manager on January 10th to see if the framers were there. Quick answer: NO. We asked for an updated schedule on the upcoming projects and how they were going to make up for lost time.

January 12-13: Some trusses were built and put up.

January 15th: Beautiful weather and no work. We are still waiting for the schedule and how they're going to compensate for lost time. 6-8 weeks for framing? Maybe if that was our expectation, but it's NOT. A house that received lumber at the same time as ours has framing done, roof completed, plumbing rough-in, and HVAC done. Another house that received lumber 2 weeks after us already has their roof! We don't even have the trusses up! Both of those houses are working with Lexar, but we know someone who is working with Hiline who started MONTHS after we did and are way ahead of us as well.

So, Lexar, if you're reading this.. Tell me why our house keeps getting the shaft and what you're going to do about it.

UPDATE: January 18th. Framers are back and should be done by the 19th. Shearwall inspection set for the 22nd.

2nd UPDATE: Shearwall inspection cancelled as the framers did not finish in time.. again. Possible re-inspection set for the 24th. Doubtful here.

3rd UPDATE: Shearwall inspection on 26th. Received partial approval, but need review from engineering for hold-down straps. I hope that's an easy fix.

Thursday, December 21, 2017


We have officially been married for 10 full years. I really can't believe it. I can't believe I am 35, ahem, 29 years old! These years have been the happiest, most stressful, most miserable, and yet most joyful in my life. I wish I could tell you how good things are. I wish I could tell you that we are riding on unicorns across rainbows in the sky. I wish I could say that our love is unconditional and unwavering. I wish I could report how amazing our life is.

Unfortunately, it's not any of those things. Life is hard. Marriage is tough. Raising kids isn't always fun. Building a home (as you all know now) is not a walk in the park.

I can say that Graham is my best friend. There is nobody else that I'd rather be with. He makes me laugh, he frustrates me, he calms me, and he has literally made me crazy at times. Our marriage isn't perfect, but it's been full of laughter and tears.

I wish I could share more about what's going on in our private lives, but I can't. It's not the right time. When we went through hard times ~5 years ago, I was pretty open about our experiences. Now, I'm a bit more hesitant to share.. especially considering how much more jaded I've become. I've been pretty sad--actually sad doesn't even scratch the surface of what I've been feeling--and I've had a few friends help lift me up. It's sad when you realize how little support you have left outside of your marriage. It can be kind of isolating at times. I've been on this crazy roller coaster, feeling like my life was spiraling out of control... with nobody to confide in.. mostly because I don't want anyone to judge me or Graham.

Anyways, I'll share our story sometime, somehow, in some way.

Right now, we are continuing on in holy matrimony.. bound together by our commitments to each other, to God, our family, and this gosh-dang house. We are committed to making this work, for better or for worse.

Maybe next time I'll share some of my favorite moments over the past 10 years..

Until then, I leave you with one wedding photo.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I am fiery hot with anger

I wish I had more news to share. This process has been so painfully slow that I want to scream, or cry.. or both. I know we will have a home when this is all done, but right now that feels soooo far away that I can’t even imagine it.

Anyways.. FYI, I’m not in a good calm mood today. So please excuse my frustration.

This has just been delay after delay. So, the foundation was re-done late October, but there was another error made by the foundation crew—they left an air vent in the bottom of the foundation on one side, meaning water can seep into our crawl space from the surrounding ground. We are STILL waiting for the foundation guy to come back to get it done. I mean seriously—it’s been OVER a month.. WTF is the hold-up dude? Can you not just patch it with concrete to get it done??

Last week Graham and I had our breaking point. Graham and I usually balance each other out. We have a very nice symbiotic relationship where when one of us gets stressed, the other is calm.. But not last week. We built off each other’s stress and finally decided to email our project manager with Lexar. We have not heard a word on when the framers were scheduled, when the foundation guy was coming back, or even a general completion date for the house. We have not even met our new project manager at all. We don’t have the amended floor plans for a slight change for our storage room. I have been trying to arrange a new tile floor set-up for over a month, and a color change of bathroom cabinets.. and I’m the one who has to email and remind them to email me back.. Is it just me or is giving a week between emails being extremely lenient? In this digital age where we expect emails and texts back right away, a week is more than enough time to respond. So, we sent a firm and frank email to our project manager describing our frustrations and lack of communication.

To our project manager’s credit, he called us right away after receiving this email. It was 8:30 at night on a Tuesday, so that was unexpected. He said that the email blindsided him because he thought he had communicated with us regarding the hold-up with the framing crew. Surprise—NO, he didn’t let us know the framing crew may take a while to get out to our house. That really upset me, and it was quite insulting to not be notified of potential delays.. especially when the delays affect our house’s building schedule right now. We feel like the red-headed stepchild of our Lexar office, because it feels like we are being neglected. WE are not the ones who have made errors or caused delays. Anyways, he apologized and emailed us an update the next day.. but really, it was damage control because we were still both very upset.

Phew. Now that I’ve updated you on the negative.. here’s the positive: our foundation has been backfilled and the footing drains have been installed (although both of these were delayed due to the snow--in November--when the machines got snowed in). Our retaining wall has been built. We haven’t been able to take pictures of it because of the rain and our schedules. Our dirt guy is seriously the best. If you have excavating needs, Steel Justice with Justice Construction in Graham, WA, is awesome. He is honest and hard-working. We highly recommend him. We showed up at our house on Wednesday night last week before Thanksgiving, and he and his crew were putting up the retaining wall in the dark, the mud, and the rain. He made some further recommendations for the wall and for soil stabilization for our slopes. I will definitely take some pictures this weekend when we can see it in the light.

Our fire hydrant was installed a few weeks ago. The great and very petty thing is that none of the people that will buy the lots around us will be able to use it for fire code credits for building their new houses. It’s my $8K hydrant, thank YOU very much.

Our framers are set to come next week.. hallelujah. I wonder if they’ll be delayed too, but hey, the weather has been dry on and off for the past 3 days. So, hopefully they’ll get finished with their house now and move on to ours. I watched this framing video on YouTube and I got super excited because our house will actually start to look like a house! Our excavator plans to lay more quarry spalls past our construction entrance because the rain has been relentless over the past month and our lot is now pretty muddy (no standing water though—woohoo!). The rain in the PNW has not bothered me as much as it has now because of the house building project. I literally prayed on Sunday for the rain to back off a bit, and much to my surprise, it has!

I hope to have more positive posts in the future, but I’m just here wallowing in my misery and anger. Maybe it’s because I ate a protein bar and Granny Smith apple for breakfast—super lame.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The good, the bad, and the ugly..

One thing Graham and I always ask each other on our conversations.. what do you want to hear first: the good news or the bad news?

We almost always ask for the bad news first, so I'm going to do the opposite to mix it up. I do apologize for the lack of blogging. I just started my new job early last month, so I've been all over the Puget Sound area training in various clinics. I'm getting used to a slightly longer commute, working out in the morning, and preparing my breakfasts and lunches. Also, with my change in job, I'm talking more and more throughout the day (I'm not really a big talker), and walking way less, so I come home kind of emotionally exhausted but physically bound up with energy. Anyways, on to the home update..

The Good:
--Our foundation footings were inspected and poured the third week of September. It was a huge relief to finally get something solid in the ground.

--The foundation was inspected and poured the last week of September. No issues with the county.

--We finally got temporary power at our property (the foundation guys had to use a generator for their tools).

--We picked out our finishes and everything the first week of September without major arguments surprisingly.

This is our interior color: Sherwin Williams Mindful Gray
Image result for mindful gray

These are our exterior colors by Sherwin Williams:

Main Siding:  Waterloo
Image result for waterloo sherwin williams

Accent Siding in the Gables/Shakes: Tavern Taupe
Image result for Tavern Taupe

Trim: Gossamer Veil
Image result for Gossamer Veil

Kitchen Cabinets:
Procraft shaker-style in espresso (sorry to disappoint all of you white cabinet kitchen fans!). In case you're wondering, we did pick out a white/gray quartz for the counter tops..
Image result for Procraft shaker-style in espresso

Kitchen backsplash:
Subway tile in Dorian Matte

This subway tile design in kitchen
Image result for subway tile designs in kitchen basket

Laminate flooring in hallways, kitchen & entryway:
evoke "rebecca" in wide plank

Shaw carpet in bedrooms: Color 501
Image result for shaw carpet color 501

3-panel shaker doors
Image result for 3 panel shaker style interior doors

Outdoor Lanterns:

Front door (we're not painting it--we're going to stain it a natural wood color kind of like in the picture). The glass on the door will not be separate, but it will be privacy glass.
Image result for s601xc fiberglass door with chord glass dentils

Not pictured: quartz kitchen counter tops, vinyl flooring in laundry, tile flooring in bathrooms, tile shower in master, subway tile backsplash in bathrooms, sinks, exterior Hardie plank siding with shakes, exterior stone veneer (seriously--how could I not take a picture??), etc..

The Bad:
--After the foundation was poured, our excavator met with Graham to prepare for backfilling and they both thought, HMMM, this doesn't look right. The vents for the crawlspace are too low, so where are we going to put all of this dirt? So, we made a call to our builder, and they said, no, that's the code for vents and foundation. Graham insisted that something was wrong. So, we brought up the plan that we were supposed to have a 4' foundation with 2' pony walls in the front. Our construction manager said, no, we don't do 4' walls. So, we showed him the foundation plan that he himself had made, and the $13K (!!!) charge for the 4' foundation walls. Apparently, the builder made the plan but the subcontractor didn't follow it, which would've given us 2' foundation, 4' pony walls on top.. which would've looked freaking stupid. SOOOOO, they admitted their mistake, and had to send our plan to engineering. The 2 options were as follows: bulldoze the entire foundation to pour it all in one layer, or have engineering figure it out to avoid bulldozing the foundation but still have 2 layers of foundation that are stable.

--The builder put it through engineering, who figured out they had to jackhammer out the old vents, drill holes in the original foundation, and put rebar through the holes. This has all put us back another MONTH. We are waiting for the foundation re-inspection today (YAY--I just got the notification that we passed!), with the plan for the foundation guys to place the forms and pour the remaining concrete later this week.

--Our temp power pole failed its first inspection, so then it took L&I another full week to get out there again. Lesson learned: pass the first inspection always.

The Ugly:
--Well, the guys working at our Lexar office were unhappy with their situation (I don't blame them--having to tell 15+ customer they now owed $24K+ would suck), so the construction and salesman left their jobs within the past month.. but luckily, not really leaving us in a bind (other than the foundation situation).
--Here's where the "ugly" comes in:

  • The finishing options at Lexar were a little disappointing to say the least. Luckily, the cabinets weren't a let down, as they had the exact finsh and style we liked.. but they told us at the time that having a different color cabinet in the bathrooms (I want white in the bathrooms) was an upgrade, even though they would be the same style. 
  • The quartz choices were just ok--we already paid more for that upgrade, but they had even more upgraded styles for more $$$ (which of course were better, but we weren't going to pay even more!).
  • They literally ONLY had subway tile for the kitchen and bathroom backsplashes. They didn't even have upgraded backsplash options. 
  • Their vinyl selection was acceptable (we are getting it in the laundry room only), but still, we didn't like any of it. I foresee us putting in tile in our laundry room one weekend in the future..
  • The floor tile selection was not good. you could only get it in the 18" square option in vague beige/gray colors, which honestly is a bit outdated. I like the rectangle options, including the ones that look like wood and/or linen. So, we paid for the tile and installation already, so if we just substitute the floor we really want, that'll help us get our dream bathroom. Having them install blah floors, and then taking them out in 5 years would be a waste of time and money. What would you do? These are the finishes we're thinking of for bathroom tile floors:
This is my favorite tile that looks like linen. Not as trendy as the wood-looking tiles, but just as beautiful.
Image result for rectangle linen tiles

I also love the wood-grain look, but I may go for the linen-looking tile in the bathrooms just because they were my first love.
Image result for rectangle wood tiles
All in all, I think our home will now be finished in April/May.. Please Lord no longer than that. I can't take this crappy townhouse any longer!!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Mo money.. Mo problems..

This was me two weeks ago. Literally.

Our foundation was dug out at the beginning of August, based on measurements made by our construction manager. He marked out the corners, and our excavator dug out the foundation. Then, Graham met with our builder to mark out the foundation corners. Our builder said, "this won't work".. the second time he's said that. So, Graham drove out to the engineering firm that did our site plan, and talked with the engineer face-to-face about the slope, the foundation, and adjustments needed for our site prep. But, our excavator wasn't comfortable with the foundation being poured without confirmation from a surveying firm.

And so, that day when I heard we needed a surveyor, I laid down on our carpet with my face down and legs in the fetal position. You see, surveyors don't come cheap. Depending on the scope of the project, it can be several thousand dollars. When we initially got a quote from a surveyor, it was $5K to stake out the property corners, and to mark out the clearing limits and open space. Hmm, we said, no thanks. We were under the impression that a surveyor would be at least a thousand dollars.. Again.. more money out of our bank (and this was AFTER our builder told us our price was going up on our home by $24K). I just couldn't handle another delay and additional cost.

BUT, the good news was that there is a local surveying company in Gig Harbor that is family-owned and operated. Aspen Land Surveying was recommended to us by a future neighbor, and we also know one of their employees from church. We called them up, they gave us an extremely fair price, AND they were done by the end of the week. I would highly recommend them if you have surveying needs in the Kitsap, Pierce, or Mason county areas.

See the red mark at the bottom? That's where the builder marked the corner of the foundation.

Anyways, so while it was an extra expense we didn't originally budget for (goodbye to part of the contingency fund for our construction loan!), it corrected the foundation layout (the angle was off by about 5-6 feet in one area!), and it put our minds at ease. So, Graham met with our builder AGAIN (making this the 3rd time) to make sure the dimensions were correct. And, believe it or not, he said the foundation wouldn't work because the foundation would have to be greater than four feet tall.. Anything more than four feet tall would require extra engineering, time, money, etc.. I just about died when Graham told me the news. Luckily, they were able to work it out with an additional small step in the foundation and two-foot pony walls (I really don't know what those are). So, our excavator should be finishing the foundation dig this weekend, as well as trenching for power and water.

Getting power to your house is the worst. Luckily, we have underground power at our property already.. so a trench just has to be dug to within two feet of the power source. Then, the electrician has to run the power from a temporary power pole into the trench. Then, the state (or county, I'm not sure) has to inspect to make sure it's within code parameters. Then, the power company has to connect the last two feet from the trench into the power source. And, somewhere in all this mess, the trench has to be filled with dirt. Literally, we are coordinating between our builder, our excavator, the electrician, the power company, the county, the excavator again, and then our builder again. I am exhausted. It's a stress circus of phone calls, texts, and emails.

So, last night, we went to the lot to go measure out the changes needed in the foundation, and I had to use garden shears to attack any remaining roots or branches sticking out from the ground. My forearms kind of hurt today. The kids were just filthy from playing in the dirt. We stopped by our future neighbors house (did we mention we have three future neighbors that are all young families building homes down the street?), and we struck a deal. We had some huge logs (cedar, pine, etc) that we needed to get rid of, and they were too big for us to cut through.. So, our neighbor took our logs this morning, and they are letting us borrow their industrial drying fans for our drywall and stuff. Win win. Always a good solution. We let strangers and co-workers come on our property to cut and take a giant amount of wood home, and some people freaking trashed the place. One person left a broken bike, others left melon rinds, and some of them trampled our silt fence for construction and didn't put it back. Craigslist people, man...

All in all, we are feeling an extreme urgency and anxiety to get our foundation INTO the ground. We don't want to get any further price increases, and we REALLY want the roof on before the rain starts. We have had such a dry summer up here in Seattle, and now it's just been wasted with delays and such on our house. But, nobody else feels the urgency that we do to start the house! It's maddening, and yet, par for the course..

To end on a good note, I have Wednesday off this upcoming week to complete new job paperwork (my last week at the hospital!), and so Graham and I are meeting with our builder to make selections for our house. This means, floor, carpet, siding, stone, tile, etc. We are SO excited. I'll try to take pictures to give you an idea of what things will look like.

Master Bathroom Decisions

So, when we were planning our master bathroom initially, we had a couple of ideas and requests: --Here is the custom layout. --A sepa...