We’ve learned more in the last few months about construction than we have on our last 20 builds combined.
The construction world has a whole different language, it’s all ‘greenwood’ this and ‘LVL’ that. Do you know what a drop girder is? Yeah, me neither. Not that we can talk the talk quite yet, but our vocabulary seems to expand daily on the job site.
We’re rolling right along with a few (inevitable) ‘happy’ mistakes along the way. You just have to have the mindset of making lemonade out of those lemons, even if it’s an expensive glass of lemonade.
Foundation and framing are the two biggies. If you don’t get that right, well… just get it right. Getting either wrong is simply not an option. And we’re DONE with both, and somehow we got it better than right. Southern Comfort (SoCo) on paper was neat, but as this home becomes a reality it’s exceeding expectations… a trend that we hope continues.
I’m not sure if we just got lucky, but the crews that we have worked with on SoCo so far have been super impressive. They work at the speed of light and are masters of not only efficiency, but their craft as well.
Hire the right people, your experience is largely determined by your relationship with them.
Treat your crews well. Give thanks for a job well done… pay them on time for their hard work… and a random lunch or two never hurts. Having a good experience goes both ways. If they like working with us, they’ll be there the next time we call. And there will always be a next time.
When you dive into new construction, a whirlwind of decisions are thrown at you daily, and those decisions often have a trickle-down effect. Prime example… we thought we bought a decently flat lot. When the foundation block was laid, we realized otherwise. Raspberry and crew (these guys have the best nicknames) built the foundation three blocks high in the front and five blocks high in the back. At first we thought this would work, but at second (and third) glance, we realized the front was borderline too low… debatable at best.
Crossroads: let it ride and tackle grade/fill later, or call the foundation crew back to add another course of block.
I’m typically decisive but I’ve been really good at second guessing my judgement during this build. Blair was on the phone ordering more block before I had a chance to make a bad decision, and the crew was back in action. They also had to move the vents up. Seemingly simple but that labor bill crept up quickly.
And then the dominoes… the wrap around front porch and back screened porch footers were now sitting lower than the main house. We decided to ‘beef’ up the porches big time to ensure a normal transition between the porches and entrances. We also ended up using 2×6 deck boards instead of the thinner industry standard. She’s a sturdy girl for sure.
But since the porches are so elevated, we now exceed (by a healthy foot) the 30” code to avoid porch railings. (If the top of your porch floor is over 30 inches, construction code says you have to have porch railings). Well I hadn’t figured in railings to the aesthetics, let alone the budget.
But with them now unavoidable, it’s back to the drawing board to come up with a railing configuration that’s not going to fight the detail on the rest of the exterior. A simple ‘porch railing ideas’ search on Pinterest and I think we have a winner.
The lemonade? The house and porches look awesome elevated… a big curb appeal bonus.
Poof… It’s a house
The walls went up in a flash quickly followed by the roof. I was surprised by how fast it went from foundation to a completely framed house. Our guys started Thanksgiving week and were done in time to ring in the new year.
I might be making it sound easier than it actually was. Blair was onsite daily to oversee not just unforeseen challenges but also opportunities. For instance, did you know that engineers from the lumber supplier design your flooring/roof system? (I was shocked that they did this for free. Blair reminded me that they’re selling us all the material… oh yeah, good point.)
Well apparently they have never make mistakes so says our local rep. Their perfect streak ended with us, they had two fatal flaws in our design. On the original plans, they read the pony wall between the living room and kitchen as a full, load-bearing wall.
Some things can be overlooked… taking away the open concept is not one of them.
They had to build a temp wall to retrofit new support beams to get it right… not fun, not cheap. The second was an obvious oversight, minor in comparison but still a pain.
To think there won’t be hitches along the way is naive. But if you expect there will be a few, they somehow don’t bother you as much. Plus, there’s always a creative solution.
5 by 5 rule: if it’s not going to matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes being upset about it.
The challenges were overshadowed by the surprise opportunities. By flattening the roof line and raising the second story knee walls from the original Carolina Cottage plan, we gained a ton of walk-in storage space in the eves. Storage space that was just too good to keep storage.
They bumped one wall back three feet making the riverside bedroom larger. And with little effort, we opened up the other bedroom back wall into the eves creating what I envision as an office nook.
We will have a little extra flooring and sheetrock, but that’s seriously cheap extra heated square footage. I think we’re up at least 100 square feet post bedroom wall shuffle.
Let’s make this house a home
When the walls are up, you can really start to visualize functionality. I like to walk through each room and think about how I would live in the space. Here’s a few things we did to improve upon an already good floor plan:
- Turned open shelving into a coat closet in the laundry room… not sacrificing the storage, just hiding it
- Widened the vanity space in the master bath to accommodate side-by-side vanities (that we got on major sale at Lowes)
- Shifted a window in the dining room to the right to line up with the kitchen entrance, which also makes room for a tall piece of dining room furniture
- Added a pass through window from the pantry to the kitchen counter top on the other side of the wall… it’s the little things
- Put the controls for the master shower on the left where you enter the shower with the shower-head on the right. This way you can turn on the water without getting wet. Like so…
- Kept the front porch ceilings at a vault instead of flat, which makes the porch look huge and is ideal for my triple hanging lantern lights
- Left the wall under the steps open for additional space in the master closet
- Added shelving beside the upstairs tub/shower
- Added double lights over the garage door to bridge the gap between the door and dormer
We are in the middle of “rough-ins”. Rough-ins being the plumbing, electrical and HVAC mechanical that is eventually hidden in the walls. After a (hopefully successful) rough-in inspection, we move onto insulation, drywall and siding.
Of course all of this is necessary but my goodness, it’s kinda boring. This is Blair’s domain as he has a complete fascination with what is behind the walls of this construction puzzle, but he has given me free reign on colors and finishes. By now he knows to stay in his lane. JK honey 😊
All the pretty things
We’re finally shifting to my arena. I am currently knee deep in fixtures, flooring samples and paint swatches for not only SoCo but the Harley Lane Cottage model as well.
Harley Lane is coming along nicely. Though I’m anti theme, it seems to be organically gravitating towards a modern-farmhouse vibe.
We have some neat ideas for SoCo, but I remind myself often that this is a spec home. It’s a tricky balance between making the house unique and special while striving for mass appeal. We have to make thoughtful decisions because at the end of the day, we’re building someone’s home… and Pinterest fails are a real thing.
I have been pleasantly surprised by the outcome of the facebook polls and the decisions you guys have made. So far cedar shutters, two-toned cabinets, matte gold hardware, and white walls/gray doors have beat out their competition. All decisions that I can get on board with. #thehousethatfacebookbuilt
We are building this model in hopes that when all is said and done, the home has an overall pleasant-cohesiveness, with a little twist on timeless, all the while seamlessly blending of form + function. Simply put, we want it to feel like home, true Southern Comfort.
Curious about other projects we’ve done? Check out the Sink or Trim series. Wondering why we decided to build a spec home? Read Sink or Trim: Let’s Build a Spec. The next Sink or Trim post will be about fixtures and finishes and hopefully also about all of the amazing decisions we’ve made that have worked perfectly and how we’re under budget.
A girl can dream, right?