Saturday, June 27, 2009

    The Trees

    We've been a little quiet lately, or maybe subdued is the word. After the thrill ride of house design, we had a few minor (and I do stress minor) setbacks that took the wind out of our sails. First, preliminary cost feedback came back a little high, which put us in budget mode — the stressful process of figuring out what to cut was one that we knew we'd eventually face (and we'll probably have another round later in the building process, too), but that did not make it any easier. 

    Second, our permitting attempts did not go quite as planned. We are very happy working with our architects, but they are the first to admit that residential design is not their core business. We also have never applied for a building permit. Setbacks at the permitting counter cost us a couple of weeks.

    Then, there is the tree saga. Anyone who has been following us on Twitter (or facebook, via my linked twitter account) may have noticed a stream of tweets about the neighbors and the trees. Here's the deal, folks: 1) yes, we had many tall, old trees on our lot, 2) yes, they encroached into the building footprint and utility trench, and 3) yes, they really, truly, honestly had to come down.

    The lot is 37 1/2 feet wide — a narrow start at best. Even though our house is several feet under the sideyard setbacks required by Salt Lake City zoning, our sideyard utility trenching will run directly under those trees. A line of Russian olives, Chinese elms and old cedars ran the full length of one side, at points extending in about 10 feet into the width of the lot and 6 feet into the building footprint. 

    We'll spare you the gory details of a neighborly interaction. Suffice to say that it's unfortunate that the most visible change to the lot is the one that had to happen first. The trees are no longer standing, but it is, for the first time, possible to see how a house may actually fit on this lot.

    Here's the lot before any major tree clearing, but after Tai did a little assessing and discovered a snail's paradise, crazy thorn patches and many parasitic climbing vines:

    This is our contractor, Davido Biesinger wielding a chain saw, and thus preventing Tai from self-inflicting another major injury:

    This is the beginning of day two of clearing, with the help of a former Forest Service employee whose job used to be solely tree felling in national forests. You really get a sense of the mass of green material that came down:

    And this is the after shot, including the piles of cut lumber after the bulk of the clearing was done:

    We still need to go back and take out the rest of the trunks and grind down stumps, something that may be happening on the long weekend ahead. Given that we're already about 3-4 weeks behind where we'd like to be, we don't want the lot preparation to be any cause of delay to breaking ground. Our fingers are crossed for breaking ground mid-July.

    Friday, June 12, 2009

    Itching to start

    Tai is at the lot right now clearing brush from some pretty nasty overgrowth on our sideyard. If the weather cooperates, we'll be cutting down some trees tomorrow. If the weather doesn't cooperate, then we'll doing tree removal two-by-two during the evening next week.

    As often happens with me these days, my earlier Tweet about applying for a building permit today isn't going to happen. For many reasons (with many people at fault), the permitting and bid sets of drawings won't be finished today in time to visit the Salt Lake City permit desk. We're hoping that visit will happen on Monday morning, which puts us about two weeks behind when we originally thought we would start the bid process (again, many people at fault).

    Our current circular pinch point is that we cannot start construction until we get a full set of construction drawings from the architects. We can't get a full set of construction drawings from the architects until they are, rightfully, paid for their services. We can't pay the architects until the bank releases money from our construction loan, and the bank won't release any money until they have a detailed cost breakdown. We can't give them a detailed cost breakdown until we have completed bids from the contractor and his subs...which takes us back to the permit/bid sets of drawings that will be done by Monday morning. Stay tuned.

    Monday, June 8, 2009

    Dumped On

    I spent some time on the lot on Friday and noticed that it has become quite the collector.

    We hope to start clearing the lot this weekend.

    Saturday, June 6, 2009

    Stabbing Pain

    We met with the architects and the builder on Friday and have made cuts and are close enough to just move forward. The plans will be done on Friday morning next week and we will go to the city and put them in for permit.

    So this weekend I went to my dad's house to help him on some projects before my life gets consumed in the construction of our house. We were fixing his fence which had fallen down in a few places and............... I stabbed my self with a bowie knife.

    Long story long, my dad has a knife that he uses for sprinklers that he had just gotten cleaned up and sharpened. I went to look at it and then decided to throw it in the grass, because that's what really cool people do. My stance had my right leg in front of me and I threw the knife handle first (first mistake) and let go of it a split second too late and so instead of going forward and down into the grass a few feet in front of me, it went straight down and into my shin. The point of the knife went into my leg, pierced the shin bone and then bounced several feet.

    At first it just felt like I hit my shin with some blunt object but then I remembered that I had been throwing a fracking knife and fell to the ground and put pressure on the stab hole that I had put in my leg. My dad helped me into the car and we went to the ER. I got to ride in a wheel chair for the first time though and that was cool. When they were checking me in they asked what my pain level was on a 1 - 10 scale. It was about a 4. After about an hour the doc showed up and shot the area up with some very nice stuff that makes it feel like nothing happened. As he got to cleaning the wound he found that the knife had pierced the shin bone, which changed things quite a bit since if infection got in the bone it would be a really really bad thing (amputation was mentioned). So he stitched me up and ordered an x-ray to see the extent of the damage to the bone and gave me a huge shot of anti-biotic in each of my butt cheeks and prescribed me a 7 day round of anti-biotics. This with all the cleaning he did of the wound should take care of any danger of infection, but I need to follow up with an orthopedic surgeon if it doesn't feel better in a week or so.

    After about 3 hours I was able to leave the hospital and I was feeling pretty good, if not like a complete idiot. I went back to my parents where I had dinner and then took off for home. I needed to pick up my prescription first. This took about an hour and half. Each minute that passed more of the local anesthesia wore off and the pain increased. By the time I was driving home from the pharmacy the pain was approaching a 9. Nobody was driving fast enough and I hit every red light. I was screaming louder than I ever have at everyone in my way all the swears I could think of.

    All I could think about was getting home to the Lortab that was not prescribed to me for this, but that I have in my cupboard from some oral surgery last year.I took it and now the pain is a 6 or 7. Advil just wasn't going to cut it.

    I had ridden my bike 30 miles this morning and then worked in the sun for a few hours and I was pretty dang filthy. Now, you're not supposed to change the dressings for 24 hours and you really aren't supposed to get them wet. Well, I put a trash bag on my leg and taped the top with tape that wasn't sticky enough and got in the shower. I got my dressing all wet, so I changed it with the stuff I got at the pharmacy, but it isn't really doing the job and I'm alone because Kersten is in San Francisco for the weekend. So, I'm basically a wreck and though they stitched up my leg, my ego needs some major work right now. Like maybe a transplant.

    So, don't throw knives because getting stabbed hurts exactly as much as you think it would hurt.

    Thursday, June 4, 2009

    Almost There

    It's been a little quiet on the blog for a while, but there has been a lot going on behind the scenes. When we left off last we were working on getting some cost feedback on the design to see how we are doing relative to our budget before pushing through to finished construction docs. When we got our feedback last week, we were a bit high. So we had an emergency meeting with the architects on Friday last week to see what we could do about it. We took a look at things we could delete from the plan, things we could defer to a later time when we can better afford it. We targeted the high ticket items in the feedback and are trying to trim here and there.

    Windows obviously are a high ticket item, but we didn't want to attack them or the square footage too aggressively because you can't come back later and add those in easily. We deleted a couple of windows and are seeing if there are configurations of windows that could be a little more cost effective. Right now the plan calls for metal clad wood windows. If we went to vinyl windows we could cut the cost in half or more, but we really feel like the windows need to be done right the first time.

    We are doing radiant heat and that is important to us, but also important was having good air conditioning. We don't suffer the heat very well. Our original plan was to use a high velocity system with flexible 4" ducting that would be easy to hide. This number came back much higher than is feasible for us. We are going to now go with an exposed duct on the first floor that will feed floor registers on the second floor connected to a standard air conditioner and fan unit. Early feedback is that this will be much more affordable and still keep us very comfortable. The greener option would be to go with a swamp cooler, but because we are heat wimps our love for the earth could be summed up nicely by Meatloaf, "I would do anything for love, but I won't do that."

    We have decided to defer the fireplace and stone countertops for now, which will also save a lot of money.

    We think we have found the savings that we need and will spend the next week with the architects and engineers finishing up construction docs for delivery next week. Then we will march them into the city for permit and work on getting our formal bids tied up.