Framing Frustrations

A booming Detroit housing marketing means a shortage of labor! After the basement was poured, approved by the city, and back-filled – we sat. And sat. And sat. For six long weeks. Apparently, there is a TON of demand for carpenters and our builder struggled to get a crew to commit to framing our house.

A few weeks ago they started (yay!). Unfortunately, they only worked one week before having to stop on our job to finish up an issue on a previous job. Not a great sign, but I was hopeful it didn’t mean anything.

We were told they had 5 days of work to finish up on their prior job. Well, 5 days turned in to over three weeks! The weather wasn’t helping us, we got a lot of rain during this time. Last week, I got a call from our builder that the crew was MIA and was no longer responding. They were making the call to pull them from the job and find a new crew.

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The boarded up the front door during the 3 weeks that the house sat.

Deja vu? I was really starting to believe this was the cursed project and it was never going to actually be finished. First, we lost our builder (read all about that here). Now, the framing crew is walking off the job? I was starting to think maybe it was us (although we only saw this crew one time, so hopefully it wasn’t!). Our building was looking for a new crew and told me he wasn’t sure if it would be 2 weeks or 6 months (say what?!). Please lord, I cannot handle a 6 month delay!!!

Prayers Answered!

Last weekend, the old crew re-appeared. Saturday they delivered their tool truck and a fork lift. Monday they showed up on the job. Hooray!

It’s really awesome to see the house taking shape. Seeing how the structure sits on the lot and where things will end up. It’s nice to see the rooms starting to take shape (and I am starting to dream about all the fabulous finishes!).

One interesting thing is that the rooms feel SO SMALL during the framing process. I remember feeling this when we built our last house. It seems backward, but once the drywall goes up, the space actually feels larger (strange, because it’s more closed in). I’ve had to take a measuring tape to the living room just to make sure our furniture will fit in there (it will!).

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Front of the house. The ramp is over the excavated front porch. We will have a “panic room” or “wine room” as I say underneath the front porch.

 

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The basement looks HUGE! Can’t wait until we have the money to finish it.

**Building Tip: getting out ahead of the design and selection process is important. We had to confirm with our builder where we wanted the fireplace to sit (how high off the floor and how far it should extend in to the room). I had to have a quick pow-wow with our designer to discuss the fireplace design and built-ins surrounding so that we didn’t make a decision that we would later regret!

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We Have a Kitchen!

The day our kitchen cabinets were installed was probably the most exciting day of our build for me! The living area took shape as soon as the island was put in and my fears about the space being entirely too small vanished. This is probably my favorite room in the house and definitely the one I spent the most time agonizing over when it came to picking everything out. I wanted it to be perfect for our family and stay true to our style. I also wanted it to be cozy, functional and inviting. I was pretty adamant about the cabinet style and color and luckily Hubs liked my choice because there was no way I was compromising on this! On a side note, I did make concessions on the laundry room and upstairs bathroom cabinets… hey, I’m not completely unreasonable!

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Once the cabinets were installed, it was time for Hubs and I to revisit the counter top debate. From the beginning we thought we wanted dark counters, something to contrast the cabinets since we felt we made mistakes with this in our last house.

I had been collecting pictures of beautiful kitchens and when I went back to look through them realized that they all had one thing in common, light counter tops. I brought up the idea to Hubs and he was willing to look at lighter options. We spent weeks, WEEKS, agonizing over this decision. We were confident that we couldn’t make a bad choice but we also wanted to make the “right” choice. In the end, I found a couple of white granite options that beat out both the black granite and quartz slabs we were seriously looking at. We planned to use Colonial White in the kitchen until I found a beautiful Latinum that I couldn’t live without. We decided to use the Latinum (our favorite!) in the kitchen and living room and the Colonial White everywhere else.

Counter tops are such a personal decision and there were so many that I would have been happy with! I loved the soapstone but not the idea of it chipping and scratching. I also loved the marble like quartz that is virtually maintenance free, that would be an easy choice for a busy household.

Here are a couple photos with our Latinum countertops:

 

**Building Tip: Spend time thinking though how you plan to use your kitchen. Where you put your garbage and recycling cabinet is just as important as where your flatware resides. Get ideas by asking friends what they love about their kitchens and what they wish they could change. Design the kitchen specifically for you and your family, staying true to your vision.

Xoxo,

Jenna

Fire Rated Building Materials

Are fire rated building materials something you need to worry about? If your house is a mere eight feet from your neighbor, definitely!

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Per code for our city, our new home must be constructed with one-hour fire rated walls. Although one might figure, given the short distance between homes on our lake, that this code has been in effect for many years, but that assumption is unfortunately false. Due to a horrible home fire across the lake from us in the spring of 2016, this fire resistance code is a new requirement and we will be the first house on the lake to have these fancy fire rated walls. Frankly, I’m excited!

When it comes to change, there is inevitably bumps along the way. We didn’t see this one coming since we had discussed with our architect the need for fire-rated construction materials, it was a topic at our Zoning Board meeting, our builder was aware and the city had signed off on our construction plans. After our builder met with the city inspector to get approval to move forward (since insulation was installed) we received our first insight into the issue. Per the email from our builder, our walls need to be fire rated and he was following up with the architectural firm for a solution.

Hubs and I were shocked to realize that the fire rated materials hadn’t been included in the construction plans, as we had assumed, and that no one had noticed until now. After a couple of days our builder presented us with two options and the cost of each (here’s where I will again stress adding a cushion in your budget for those unforeseen upgrades…). One option was to install a sprinkler system throughout the house. My immediate reaction was along the lines of “No. Absolutely not.” Because, seriously, who has a sprinkler system in their house??!? Not this girl! The second option was a lot more reasonable; add fire rated sheathing to the exterior under the siding and use fire rated drywall inside. Sold! You can probably guess that we went with the fire rated sheathing and drywall option.

Can you imagine if you had sprinklers in your house and they went off?… your entire house would be in shambles, drywall ruined, electronics fried, furniture soaked… you get the picture. There is a silver lining to all this drama on the lake front, not only will we have one-hour fire rated walls but the changes should provide even better insulation. A pretty great outcome!

**Home Building Tip: Keep all house related documentation and receipts, you never know if you might need them at some point.

Xoxo,

Jenna

So Many Updates!

So much has happened since my last update… I’ve been neglecting the blog. I have a million legitimate excuses: moving, working, starting a new side-gig (more on that later), summer, etc., etc. There have been SO MANY GOOD THINGS happening!

 

Moving Out

Even though we moved out of our last hour 18 months ago, I quickly forgot how much work moving is! Packing with kids is nearly impossible. We had to grab an hour here, an hour there and pack a few boxes at a time. Even after we moved out, we weren’t truly OUT! We went back another dozen times to get the remnants out of there. Luckily, we could leave our garbage, since the house was getting torn down!

Moving In… With the ‘Rents

We moved in with my mom and step-dad and are finally settled. Four adults, two children, one dog – one full bathroom. We’re literally using every nook and cranny to store our stuff. We’re getting spoiled having live in baby-sitters. We can scoot out for a late dinner and my mom puts the kids to bed. How fabulous is that?!

Stripping the House

I hated that we were tearing down this house and some of the charming elements. Luckily we had some family who wanted to take some of the stuff off our hands. We had family come and they stripped the house – taking out cabinets (kitchen and bathroom), appliances, lighting fixtures, hot water heater, etc. I felt so happy that these items were going to be put to good use in another home.

Demo Day!

Finally, demo day had arrived! It felt like demo day was the official “starting line” for our construction project and we were anxious to begin. We’re learning a lot about how the trades work and nailing an exact day/time that demo would start was challenging. Our builder worked hard to nail it down so we could be there to witness the demo.

I have to admit, I was nervous when they started the excavator up! I teared up, and I’m pretty sure some of our neighbors did as well.

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Me and Dax waiting for demo to begin. Ray’s in the background moving a bird’s nest with eggs from the house to a nearby tree. 

Things have been crazy busy, but we wouldn’t have it any other way! We’ve started the selections process and we’ve enlisted the help of a designer friend. I can’t wait to share some of the amazing ideas she’s come up with!

More to come!

Erica

 

 

 

 

The Art of Carpentry

Amazing things happen when the trim carpenters begin working on your house! It starts to slowly transform from a plain slate of drywall to a home. The changes are incredible and you realize how the small details can change the entire feel of your space. Like so many aspects of the building process, there are lots of decisions to make when it comes to the finishing work. There are the obvious choices for trim, including baseboards, crown molding, and wainscoting. Then the not so obvious, like closet configurations. Did I want one rod or two or a combo? Should I add sweater shelves and if so, how many? What about that bump out in the hall by the garage door, what kind of bench/coat rack did I envision there?

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I had ideas about some, like the entry bench. I had pined a half-dozen photo inspirations for this amazing spot and our carpenter, with his mad skills, brought it to life!

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When it came to closets, I hammered those out on the spot with the carpenter since I wasn’t 100% sure about my options. Per my builder, “You can do whatever you want, just don’t go too crazy”. Super helpful and not at all vague! In our master I did a combo of single and double rods plus added a set of sweater shelves.

In the generous space next to our bonus room, after a little negotiation with the carpenter, we settled on lots of shelves.  We went with a similar option for our kitchen pantry. Both turned out great!

Then there were things that I discussed with the builder very early on that just appeared one day, in all its beautiful glory. Like our banister!

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When it came to trim, Hubs and I made a choice without my realizing it. According to my other half, the builder asked us about it over a weekend that sucked the life out of us and apparently we were too tired to care and told the builder that it was ok to use the same trim that we saw in one of his other homes. Now, I’m not saying that his isn’t a true retelling of events buuuuttttt…. I’m having a hard time grasping that this is how it went down. Regardless, I showed up to the house one day and the trim was in! Thankfully I really like it and the detail it adds to our home. If I’m being real honest, I probably would have chosen something a lot more plain (and possibly boring?). The good news is that it looks fantastic and we love it!

 

**Building Tip: Think ahead and research your trim options, proactively ask your builder about closet and various shelving options. Don’t overlook the details because they have a huge impact on the look of your home.

Xoxo,

Jenna

 

Getting Organized!

Our move out date is less than 2 weeks away! It’s exciting that we’re getting closer to actually starting this project, but it’s also daunting. We have a lot of packing to do! I commented to my hubby yesterday that it feels like we’re crawling to the starting line. The builder set backs put us back about 6 weeks (don’t get me wrong, I’m so thankful things worked out the way they did!). We were supposed to close on the new construction loan this Friday, but our bank just let us know we’ll be delayed until next week. No big deal, but I hate that things keep getting pushed back!

Getting Organized: Mobile Office Solution

This weekend I spent some time figuring out solutions for a “mobile office”. I work from home and in our last house had an office. In the current house, I work at the kitchen peninsula (which isn’t really that comfortable, but it works). We’ll be moving in with my mom and step-dad in 2 weeks and I will have zero work space. We’re going to be tight as it is! Additionally, my step-dad is retired, which means he’ll be lurking around while I’m trying to work. Not optimal.

This weekend I visited The Container Store to find a solution. I think I found something that will work! Check out my mobile office:

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The bin can fit my laptop (as long as I keep it tidy!). I bought a green tray and green dividers to keep it organized and maximize the space.

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I also purchased a new file case with super-cute hanging folders and files – isn’t this design adorable?!?

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I needed a solution to keep our house project documents close, since a lot of our paperwork will be in storage.

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Getting Organized: Storage Unit

We also spent a couple hours at our storage unit Sunday organizing. We set up the shelving and then organized everything by category.

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I’m convince we don’t have enough storage space for all of our stuff, considering we still probably have another 30+ boxes AND all of our furniture. My hubby and I made a friendly wager, so stay tuned to see who wins the bet!

Have a great week!

Erica

10 (Easy) Ways to Spice Up Your Salad

Lately, I’ve had a hankering for comfort foods – pasta, cheese, etc. Instead of reaching for an apple, I’m reaching for my kid’s goldfish crackers. I’ve been training for a half-marathon and all this running makes me feel like I should be able to eat whatever I want. Unfortunately, that is not the case, so in an effort to get back on track, I’m turning to my tried and true salad.

I’m a sucker for a restaurant salad. I mean, come on! Those toppings! That dressing. YUM. But, the calories…

I’m determined to make an at-home salad that lives up to restaurant quality without the calories. Here are 10 ways I’ve been making my salads more interesting (and more filling!).

  1. Lettuce: The right lettuce is important. I’m a big fan of mixing romaine (for crunch) and spinach.
  2. Protein: So important for staying full. Add frozen chicken strips (be careful to pick an organic option with as little “stuff” in it as possible!) or cook up some frozen shrimp. I also like hard boiled eggs, chick peas or nuts.
  3. Veggies: This is obvious, but I like a lot of texture variation to keep my salad interesting. I like adding cucumber, peppers, cherry tomatoes, carrots. Sometimes I’ll throw frozen corn in the microwave and add that to my salad.
  4. Fruit: Apples, strawberries, blueberries, clementines are good additions. I especially like these with a balsamic dressing or a ginger sesame dressing.
  5. Leftovers: This is where things get weird. I like to take leftovers – especially cooked veggies, quinoa, or rice dishes, warm them up and put them on my salad. The warmth and additional flavors make things more interesting.
  6. Fresh herbs: I like adding parsley or cilantro (depending on the salad ingredients and dressing)
  7. Cheese: Just a little goes a long way! I throw a pinch of parm on for texture. Feta is also a great addition that adds interest to your salad.
  8. Pepper: This is my favorite go-to move. A little fresh ground pepper adds a ton of flavor.
  9. Avocado: Yes, it deserves its own spot on the list.
  10. Dressing: A really good dressing is the finishing touch. I find that the more of the above I put on my salad, the less dressing I need to make it delicious. My favorites are balsamic vinaigrette or ginger sesame.

What do you do to make a salad interesting?

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Today’s Lunch: romaine lettuce and spinach topped with red peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, warm chicken, fresh ground pepper and balsamic vinaigrette. 

 

Tile: The Struggle is Real!

 

Of all the decisions we had to make, picking tile has been the most stressful and time-consuming for me. It could be the enormous number of options available or the pressure to pick the “perfect” tile or maybe the feeling that my choices are so permanent. I’ve spent hours in various tile shops and even longer looking at pictures on Pinterest and Houzz trying to find a look I love. It’s been fun, or at least the idea of picking tile is fun, but mostly it’s been daunting. Hubs and I did finally make a few decisions and then we decided to table it until our builder needed our selections.

 

Fast forward a few months and its final decision time! Thankfully I had our preliminary selections to start with, but I still made a lot of changes to our initial choices. We decided to use the same tile for both boys’ bathrooms. With one bath having a tub and the other having a shower, I felt they would be different enough. My kids are at the ages where having anything match means that “he’s coping me!”, so finding ways to make their baths different is important, apparently. For me, having one less bathroom to make decisions about could be a matter of my sanity, so just varying the tile pattern in each bath feels like the right compromise. I knew, based on pictures I found online, that I wanted their bathrooms to be done in brown tones. Their vanities are dark brown and I found sand colored floor tile that compliments well. We stuck with our original shower tile find, which has both sand and grey colors in a more modern finish that Hubs and I both love. The accent tile was a tough choice, though. Do we go with a dark brown or add a little color? After an exhausting trip to every tile store in the area, I found small square tiles that are a perfect mixture of neutrals and blues!

 

Our full bath on the first floor was fairly painless. We decided early on that we would put grey floor tile into both the bath and laundry room so I went with classic white 3×6 inch subway tile for the shower walls. Since I’m obsessed with marble hex tiles, that was an easy choice for the shower floor and we finished the look with rectangular marble accent tile and medium grey grout.

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When the day came to submit our selections, I had a total change of heart on the master bath and scrapped all tiles except the floor, which is a neutral grey. I spent more than 5 hours in tile shops over two days sorting out the new master bath tiles while trying not to sweat the fact that I was now late getting the selections to our builder. When I looked online at pictures of the shower tile we originally picked I couldn’t get over how busy the pattern was when installed. The single tile was beautiful but dozens of that tile in one area was just too much! I needed something plain, something simple. When I found a marble look porcelain tile, I knew I was on the right track. The tile has subtle veining of grey and brown that ties our grey floor and dark wood vanity together effortlessly. Staying true to my marble hex obsession, those beauties will be covering my shower floor. In keeping with the marble theme I choose a rectangular accent tile in varying grey and white shades that wraps around the walls. This may be my best tile decision yet and was completely worth the last-minute rework!

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Xoxo,

Jenna

**Building Tip – Don’t agonize over grout colors, most tile installers have a favorite grout brand and will work with you to select the best color choice for your space. Also, consider using grout with a sealer built-in, the benefits are worth the extra cost in the long run.

Moving Ahead

After the setback of having our first choice builder back out on us, we have been busy figuring out what to do next. We have considered scrapping the whole project. I had a feeling that maybe this wasn’t “meant to be” since we had encountered such a big stumbling block. But, we had our interest rate locked until 5/1, so we had a few weeks to figure out if we could still move ahead with the project.

We ended up talking to 4 builders: 1 who was really our 2nd choice the first time around, and 3 new builders. Having learned a thing or two the first time around, we cut loose the first two without getting a bid. We received two bids and our original 2nd choice came back in the range (he was just over what we’ve set as our “max budget”). The other was $40K over, so it made our choice pretty easy.

Now that we’ve decided to move ahead with the project, I am relieved to have some direction. We’ve been in limbo for the past 3 weeks not knowing what we were going to do. I didn’t realize the amount of stress the unknown was having on me! I have found comfort in the fact that if this build didn’t work out, we would find a new direction. Living in a smaller, simplier house has taught me a lot about what I need versus what I want. And I can certainly live with a lot less than I’ve been blessed to have in my life.

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So, here we go again. I’m slowing allowing myself to get excited about the prospect of building our dream home and to dream about what we’ll put in to it. But, I’m a little apprehensive this time around knowing that we have a long way to go until we cross the finish line (or the start for that matter!).

More to come soon!

xoxo

Erica

 

Heartbreak and Hope

We’ve been moving right along toward the start of construction… our financing is in progress and we are planning our move out of the house. I started getting nervous because our builder wasn’t providing necessary information to us (for insurance) or the bank (to be an “approved builder” with them). My intuition was screaming at me that something wasn’t right (I even texted Jenna freaking out). I am a big believe that our intuition is a powerful thing and it unfortunately proved true in this situation…

Tuesday morning I woke up to an email sent from our builder at 2:29 AM:

Subject: Notice

Erica/Ray, It is extremely hard for me to have to resign from your project but it’s where I’m at. There is a recent issue that has caused me financial stress along w/ standard stress…”

I immediately felt sick. A million thoughts ran through my head… what are we going to do? What about our financing? Are we going to have to start over? How long are we going to have to live in our current house?

It sucks to get bad news… especially on a project you’re putting your heart and soul (and a ton of money) in to. But, it also helps me take stock in what’s important… my family is happy and healthy, we have a roof over our heads, and we’ll be fine. Deep breaths. So, we picked ourselves up by our bootstraps and got back to work.

The next day was spent connecting with builders – 1 builder we had previously talked to and 3 new builders. We had to talk to our bank to find out how long we had to get back on track before we have to completely start over (we have to close in 6 weeks in order to get our locked interest rate). We put our architect on hold until we figure out our situation (because we might need to make changes based on the way our new builder does things). The list is longer than the days right now.

I continue to look back and try to figure out where we went wrong. Did we not do enough due diligence? We heard through another builder that our original builder is being sued for unfinished work. If this is true, we really dodged a bullet. I’d much rather find this out now. We haven’t given him any money and this would’ve been a much worse situation if we had started the build and then run in to problems down the road. So, I thank God because I’m pretty sure he was looking out for us on this one.

xoxo

Erica