Lori has enough faith and confidence in me to trust me with my share of painting chores at the new house. But she checks my work. Thoroughly. Relentlessly. We do have a rare difference opinion on this: I believe that perfection is a worthy goal but only for worthy objectives; she believes that she’ll have sleepless nights if she knows the underside of that doorknob is showing some primer. We continue to make progress regardless.
Well, it seems our home building project is stalled for the time being. Our general contractor pulled up stakes to do another job that needed to be completed before tourist season starts. Meanwhile, Lori and I are the only ones doing anything at our house the last 3 weeks. So, what do you do when your new home is 3/4 done and there’s nobody around to finish it? That’s right, redecorate!
Lori decided that she didn’t like the sheet vinyl flooring we picked out for the bathrooms. We agreed that we were unlikely to find another vinyl flooring we liked any better. (We’ve been spoiled by ceramic tile and wood floors.) Lori was willing to have it all pulled up and replaced with ceramic tile but I managed to talk her off that ledge, instead repainting the upstairs bathroom a different color to better coexist with the sheet vinyl. So that’s what she did.
Don’t tell her I said this, but I must admit it looks much better. We both liked the first color but it just didn’t play well with the muted earth tones of the sheet vinyl flooring. It was cheaper to repaint the room than to rip out and replace the floor covering.
Meanwhile, as we anxiously wait for some sign that we’ll ever get this house finished, we continue to plug away at painting and other small chores that are within our limited capabilities. We have a good start painting doors, installing door hardware, painting trim, installing light fixtures, and installing ceiling air diffusers and wall and floor vents.
Our geothermal contractor was supposed to install all the heating vents but they’re AWOL. It’s been weeks since we requested they finish up so we decided to pick away at it ourselves. It has not been a pleasure. For example, one floor vent is placed flush with the baseboard and is an odd size so no normal floor register will work in it. We kicked around ideas for fixing it but decided to just rig up a temporary solution until we can eventually get somebody in who knows what they’re doing to relocate the vent. We ended up making a flange extension that a normal size register can fit into so that the extension at least covers the oddball sized hole. (As an aside, we would love to talk to anyone considering geothermal contractors in the Tompkins County area.)
We’ve also picked away at odd jobs like moulding trim, cleaning and scraping crud off windows and trim, picking up construction trash blown around the property, and painting, always painting. We’re trying to keep progress going but we’re getting antsy.
Over the last couple of weeks, Matt has chipped away at an seemingly endless list of tasks as we progress toward the final stretch of home building. Most of the kitchen appliances are in. After Matt installed the over-the-range microwave, he built the venting duct work out the side of the house and then built some tidy crown moulding over the kitchen cabinets to obscure the view of the duct work.
We covered the kitchen floor with bamboo flooring as an extension of the open living room area. We like the look a lot. It’s supposed to hold up well but time will tell.
Lori and I continue to plug away at painting and we’ll wait for the ground to dry out a little before the final grading can be done. We’re getting eager to get this wrapped up but there’s still a lot to do.
Highlights at our Newfield home include the following:
- Matt completed the custom oak stair railing leading to the loft area. We had seen his style at another home he built and asked him to do the same thing for our home. It turns out this is the third time he’s done this. We like the style for it’s distinctive look and as an attractive alternative to traditional railings.
- The bamboo flooring is in the process of being installed. We chose bamboo, after a lot of research, for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a renewable resource, much more so than other hardwood floor alternatives. Second, this particular brand claims to be among the hardest and most durable of the wood floor alternatives. We went with Cali Bamboo and are quite pleased with the way it’s turning out. Matt had not installed bamboo flooring before, but has had enough experience with very hard wood floor installations to be ready to deal with its challenges. The look is an acquired taste but we think it works very nicely with our desire for a more relaxed informal look to the house.
- We continue to chip away at the painting, mostly dealing with the stuff that would be much more tedious to deal with at later stages. We’ve painted the bathrooms, 320 feet of baseboard (before installation), the master bedroom, kitchen, and various other miscellaneous bits of trim. This will make it much easier than if we waited until all flooring was installed, bathrooms fully-deployed, etc.
It’s been a very busy couple of weeks at our Newfield home site, with major progress on a number of fronts:
- The 2 story living and dining areas have been painted. In the case of the ceiling, it’s been painted 4 times! Jim, who works for Matt, wouldn’t give up until he got it right. It was quite challenging between paint quality issues and the 16-foot high ceiling. After we abandoned the problematic Sherwin-Williams paint and went to Benjamin Moore, things went much more smoothly. We’re Benjamin Moore converts after trying it ourselves for walls and trim painting over the weekend.
- Our Silestone quartz kitchen counter tops are installed. We love it. We worked with Tim Warren of Ferrara Lumber in Seneca Falls to make it happen; he was a pleasure to work with and we’re fans of Ferrara Lumber now. The fabrication and installation was done by Roma Tile & Marble of Syracuse–they did a very nice job.
- Our house is now heated with a geothermal system! The guys from Meadowlands Geothermal of Binghamton installed the heat pump yesterday, filled the ground loops and fired it up. We just have a little duct work left and the system will be complete. They also installed a GeoSpring hybrid heat pump hot water heater. We’re hoping for substantial energy savings for our hot water now too. The house is very comfortable as the system quietly keeps everything at a steady temperature. We’re very excited to see how this works for us over the year for heating and air conditioning.
- Lori and I are busy painting in our spare time, trying to keep ahead of Matt and Jim as they work through the final stages of finishing the house. They’re busy doing trim work at the moment but will shortly begin our bamboo floor install.
We’re at the stage in home building where we actually get to contribute some labor in a meaningful way. For Lori, that means painting. Here she is starting to paint the kitchen ceiling. What a woman! Is it any wonder why I’m nuts about her? She even let me help although there were a couple times while I was plying my artistry with the paint roller when she said, “Give me that thing!”. Picky, picky–I was getting a fair amount of the paint onto the ceiling in places.
It’s been another week of great progress at the house. We’re getting anxious to get to the finish point, as is Matt. We’re busily ordering kitchen faucet, cabinet handles, various lights, and other odds and ends to have everything available when ready for installation. Our kitchen counter gets installed next week and bamboo flooring gets delivered this week.
The only significant fly in the ointment at the moment is money. The bank carefully crafts everything to protect themselves and conform to a simple rigid checklist presided over by committed bureaucrats. The only problem is building a house is a highly complex operation involving all kinds of schedule burps, sub-contractor availability, weather contraints, etc. So, even though we’re nearing completion of the house and Matt has been doing an extraordinary job, we supposedly can’t get the money we borrowed to help build it because the sequence that Matt has done things doesn’t conform to brittle bank requirements. The bank would gladly free up our money once the house is complete but what’s the sense of having a construction loan if it doesn’t provide funds to construct the house? Do you sense some frustration? You haven’t heard anything yet! Wait until my final rant once we get this thing done in a few weeks.
This past week has been very busy at our Newfield home building site. After Matt’s push to get plumbing and electric finished and inspected, he brought in Sunrise Insulation to apply spray foam insulation in roof sections and exterior walls that were not already insulated by the modular company. Although I wasn’t able to be there to see it, Matt kindly provided several pictures of the progress:
The foam insulation already makes a huge difference in the feel of the house and it makes it quieter too. It gives us great confidence we’re going to have a very efficient and comfortable house free of major heat leakage or drafts. The insulation was applied and trimmed in one day and it was immediately followed the next day by the crew from Choice Drywall and Insulation from Van Etten, NY who started hanging the drywall.
When Lori and I visited the house this weekend, we were amazed by the progress that had been made this past week. Also, it’s the first time since the house was installed that we had seen the living and dining area without the wide room-length scaffolding overhead. Matt suggested adding dropped sections to the ends of the living/dining ceiling area. He framed them up and the drywall guys finished them off so that now we have the impression of a tray ceiling over the area. It was a great suggestion, well-executed, and we like how nicely it adds to a finished and integrated look.
It was an exciting tour this weekend and we love how things are coming together. We spent some time appreciating how the late afternoon sun played through the windows and imagining what the finished project will look like. It’s happening quickly now.
Among the things we admire and appreciate about our general contractor, Matt Ness, we’ve grown an appreciation of his years of experience working with subcontractors and culturing relationships with the ones that share his devotion to quality workmanship and professionalism. We are routinely impressed with the people Matt brings in to work their trade specialties. We wish our record of selecting contractors was anywhere near as good as Matt’s. We’ve come to understand how important that aspect of a good general contractor really is.
This weekend at our home construction site we noted the large amount of work Matt has accomplished with the electrical wiring. Upstairs plumbing is roughed in as well. The geothermal guys have made significant headway with the duct work. Part of that effort entailed routing a large HVAC pipe through a small space. We had to make a small compromise with framing to accommodate it but it’s the best that could be done given the upstairs was not designed to accommodate duct work at all.
We are recognizing, more than ever, how much work Matt and crew have had to do to turn our modular deliverable into a home. Yes, it takes the site crew only a day to set the modules for the house but there is an incredible amount of work left to get all the systems hooked up, finish the second floor shell, install all the electrical wiring, plumbing, etc. We won’t even get into all the work Matt has had to do to fix problems with the modular deliverable itself: everything from missing parts, incorrect installation, major adjustments, repairs, and general screw-ups. This was not the modular company’s finest work but Matt’s doing everything necessary to make it all right. More on that later when we give the modular company its report card after everything is done.