Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pre-Construction Meeting...check!

Slight back-story - J & I both own properties.  It's been so much fun having 2 mortgages that we just can't take it any more so we're trying to sell his home.  Unfortunately, it needed some updating prior to putting it on the market.  So far, we've refinished the kitchen cabinets, changed hardware, installed a new pre-fab counter top, put in a new back splash, painted some rooms and changed out a vanity in the master bath & the vanity top in the main bath.  All I can say is that it's a good thing we're both handy and that I have a (realistic) vision.

Friday was the insane day when we had people doing work we couldn't do ourselves.  I made it to his place by 9am to meet the guy refinishing the bathtub/tile surround.  The tub had seen better years and the surround was a hideous smurf-blue tile.  That dude was awesome!  At 10, the window guy showed up, my in-laws arrived shortly thereafter, the storage container was delivered, etc.  Chaos, everywhere!  

Then came High Noon.  AKA Showdown with Our PM & SR.  No, not really, it wasn't a showdown. It was just our pre-construction meeting.  We I had a TON of questions for our PM, and he was pretty great at providing answers or promising to follow up with us.  Inside of 2 questions he correctly guessed that we're enginerds.  It was entertaining.  We had a slight snafu regarding the hookup in our laundry - somehow our gas hookup in addition to the electric hookup was missed - but we were able to resolve the issue without tears.  A real win!

The only slightly upsetting part of the meeting was finding out that our home will likely be ready 2 weeks later then anticipated since they're still catching up from the winter construction delays.  Not an issue for us since we're going to rent my place out after we close but we were hoping to be moved in before my parents come in for a visit in mid-July.  Ah, First World Problems.

I'll post all of our questions here but we're happy to report that we seem to be in good hands and that our footers should be poured next week!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Call Off the Search-Our Sign Has Been Found!

I, for one, am greatly relieved that our sign has been found! In truth, I doubt it ever left the site but due to the Big Mound O' Dirt that blocked my view and mud that prevented me from getting out to investigate during a heavy rain, there was no way to check for sure.

Saturday, J & I drove by to see if our house had been staked yet. It wasn't, but that was no surprise since our Pre-Con meeting isn't until this Friday. Since it was a reasonable day, J decided to jump over the utility ditch and climb the Big Mound O' Dirt to take a look at the grading work.  He found the sign!! Apparently it just hadn't been put back up yet. Mystery Solved!
J Stew has Found the Sign!  I made him prove it :)

Oh and our next door neighbors have footers! A month ago there was no activity on the court. Two weeks ago there were 4 basements but nothing else. Now, 3 houses have walls & roofs and my friends' house is going to start moving into high gear too...just as soon as their wall is fixed. It's pretty nice having friends about a month further along in the process. Good advice as to what to watch for, etc!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

We have a date!

Things are moving forward after a boring few weeks. We got word from our SR that construction is set to begin on April 1...the date is not lost on me! 

I'm in the process of creating a hefty list of questions for our PM-I'm sure he will know he's dealing with 2 engineers who understand construction, codes, etc pretty quickly. 

We were contacted about scheduling this meeting and offered one of two time frames-both during the week and both midday. J & I work downtown and it's not convenient AT ALL to drive to the model, even over lunch. We both are extremely busy and have major roles on projects that severely limit our availability. The one date was total garbage and the other was only slightly better. I pushed back and we were able to schedule for a Friday-good for me since it was my scheduled day off but J still has to take PTO.  I threw the phrase back to the SR that she was aware of our time limitations but these jobs are what's paying for the house.  Given the amount of money we're spending, you would think RH would be a little more accommodating up front.

PS-I'm still annoyed it was never suggested that we could upgrade to a double wall oven. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

WHERE is our lot sign?!?!

Seriously, RH, where in the blue blazes of hell is our lot sign? I drive by Friday on my way to J's house and decided to see if I could find our stone on another home in the hood (yes...at least I think so? It was raining). Of course I had to drive by our lot. That's just a given. I saw that 3 houses on our court are coming along nicely and our neighbors have been staked out-exciting! Theoretically, we're next!!

Anyhow, I wanted to take a picture but our sign was missing! There was a random mound of dirt but no sign. Where is Lot 704?!?! I took a picture from my car of what I THINK is our lot.  I had high hopes for hanging that sign in J's man-room.  Alas, this might be an unfulfilled plan.

Do YOU see a sign?  I sure don't?  Nice trees, though!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Clear for Takeoff!

Great news sometimes arrives in weird forms...we were approved for our loan today!

Happy times!  

I was puzzled that they left a voicemail on J's phone and we saw no emails but whatever, the news was still the same...let the games begin!!!

Selling Safety & Speakers

We recently had our appointment with Guardian.  They handle the security system and apparently found a niche in "low-voltage wiring solutions."  Most people would know this as cable. Ryan Homes, in their incredible generosity, offered us 8 of these cables, plus the panel, free of charge.  Unfortunately, we have more than 8 places where we need data/cable.  Enter the extras.  Since apparently smart tv's work better when they're hard-wired, we decided to use the Cat-5e cable in the areas where we'll get the most use out of such devices.  I'm quite sure I don't exactly understand all of the details but I am sure I want reliable internet when I'm working from the house.  Apparently we're also taking a step back in time and getting a land line in J's office too.  I'm not sure we need one but it's a good place to send telemarketers to when I sign up for things.

We decided that we only need our great room pre-wired for the wall-hung tv.  Expensive but it'll be more attractive than wires on the wall.  That look will win no design awards.  We nixed the pre-wire in the basement since the wall behind the tv is open due to us leaving the exercise room unfinished.  I'm confident we can install a cable splitter and add an electrical outlet on our own.  We hold multiple degrees between the two of us & are both enginerds.

Surround sound earned me the nickname "Dreamcrusher."  I may get that air-brushed on a shirt.  We decided beforehand to visit the Bose outlet upon completion of the house & get a wireless system for the basement.  We still had both the Bose & Klipsch options priced out, "just in case."  The Bose clocked in at $5000 or so & I told the guy it was safe to remove.  J looked at me, made a fist, sighed and hissed "Dreamcrusher."  It was highly entertaining.  For the record, he can still have his wireless Bose system.

We did opt for the 2-room in-ceiling speakers - LyriQ.  These are cool since we took the option where we can plug in a normal device (i.e. tv) and pump the sound to the morning room & great room.  Kinda like poor man's surround sound, even though I was told repeatedly that wasn't how it works.  I think it'll be awesome for dinner music & when I want to cook & watch the Steelers but don't want to blast the sound from the tv.  We didn't expect to take this option but it happened all the same.

Security...they make an offer that's VERY difficult to refuse.  Basically, they install the system for $250 and you sign a monthly contract.  We picked the mid-level plan and did go for 60 months for "price certainty."  J asked me if we REALLY needed security...um, yes.  I get creeped out by weird noises easily.  And it's not a little house.  We might be building in a really nice hood but there's a strip of woods that are right behind us, never to be developed.  I saw one too many episodes of "Unsolved Mysteries" as a youth so my imagination runs away from me.  I at least want notified that the bad guys are in the house so I have time to sick the attack cats on them.  Apparently that logic makes me "completely ridiculous."  Whatever...happy wife, happy life!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Overwhelmed by Floors

We had our flooring appointment and it was quite the process.  I can't say enough nice things about our Flooring Consultant - she was great.  I can't say anything nice, however, about Ryan's idea of acceptable flooring that's "included."  We knew we were going to upgrade since J hates carpeting but the estimate from our sales rep was off.  Way off.  Like by half.  We weren't really extravagant with our choices, either. 2.5 hours later, we had all of our selections made.  We started with the stuff we didn't really care too much about but still were overwhelmed inside of 10 minutes.  Here goes!

1.  Basement...we stuck with the included carpet.  I have no issue with replacing it in 5 years when it wears out & we didn't see the point in paying the inflated price of upgrading.  The debate was between which shade of light tan to pick.  It appears we went with what's called "Thornwood."  The upgrade to the moisture barrier/antimicrobial/stain resistant 8 lb Commander padding was reasonable so we did take that option.  Hey, this is our basement and there will be a wet bar...things will get spilled!

2.  Bathrooms that are NOT the master...we did upgrade the tile to a level C.  At least I think it was a C.  Levels A & B were not attractive at all.  And tile upgrades are actually pretty reasonable so that was an easy decision.  We've got a gray-ish tile in a bricklay pattern in the basement bathroom, the powder room on the main floor and in the upstairs hall bathroom.  The grout is "Chateau" and honestly grout continues to be an incredibly difficult decision.

3.  Upstairs...we continued the Thornwood carpeting.  We did upgrade to the 8 lb pad but mainly because one can get away with low rent carpet with a decent pad.  Otherwise it's almost like sitting on a bare floor and that's fun for no one.

4.  Laundry Room...choosing the vinyl was difficult because neither of us really cared.  It's a laundry room.  If someone's judging my design decisions in a room where the focal point is a washer/dryer set, they've got issues.  For the record, we went with the Initiator included vinyl in some sort of fake stone pattern.

5.  Master Bath...we had fun in here!  We upgraded to Level E to find something that complemented our granite/cabinet combination and wasn't dark.  We chose Garden White (looks kinda like it has some veining but it's not the black/white marble) on a bricklay pattern on both the 12 x 12 floor tiles & 10 x 14 shower wall tiles/bath surround.  Since we upgraded our shower pan to poured (vs fiberglass) we went with a 2" x 4" matching tile on the floor.  We also went with the Tiger Eye Listello that's 3" wide.  I can't wait to see it all put together!

6.  The Main Floor...everything else was where J & I had one of our Come to Jesus talks.  We had agreed on laminate due to my existing townhome & past experiences with Big Dogs vs. hardwood.  One can get about 15 years out of hardwood but animal claws take their toll, especially at the base of steps and at doorways.  After talking with the consultant, we tossed hand-scraped selections because they can't be refinished.  Then I saw a gorgeous hardwood.  This was not in the plan.  We also spotted a fabulous laminate that had a bit of a reclaimed look.  After much back and forth negotiating I saw the light and we chose the laminate.  It wasn't a cheap option, to be sure, but less than the hardwood.  In my negotiations with J I got him to agree that since the laminate was significantly less that I could get a backsplash in the kitchen.  I've installed 2 of them in the past 3 years and have no desire to EVER repeat that.  So our kitchen/morning room/dining room/great room/office/mudroom/foyer are all Armstrong's Premier Classics in Brindled Oak.    I don't remember what my backsplash is called but it's glass mosaic tiles that are 5/8" x 3" long in a brick joint.

The Whole House...not too shabby!

Le Master Bath

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

14 Day Meeting & a visit from the Drama Llama

I knew the process wouldn't be perfect.  I just didn't expect a minor heartbreak this soon.  That does seem a little melodramatic so I should probably explain.

So Ryan Homes makes you go through a HUGE amount of choices in very, very little time.  Within 14 days you have to submit all non-standard requests and sign off on them as well as choose your kitchen cabinets, kitchen countertop, bathroom vanities and tops as well as your exterior selections. Within 30 days you have to finalize your floors, low voltage wiring and pay the rest of the initial 5%. So come to the meetings ready to play.

We had a few NSR's - no surprise as we're both engineers and wanted the house to be a "just push play" style - i.e. no immediate projects.  I got project-ed out in my current townhouse but that's another story for another lunch hour.  I'd heard mixed reviews on Ryan's willingness to accept requests so I was excited that all 4 of ours came back as "yes!" That excitement was short-lived as I quickly realized some they REALLY didn't want to do, based on the insane price.  Here are our NSR's & outcome:

1.  Move egress window from back of morning room (but in basement) to the outer edge.  J & I have a vision of a sweet bar with a stone feature wall with a tv, surrounded by bottles of bourbon from the KY Bourbon Trail.  It's a great nod to his love of bourbon and my Kentucky-ness.  We were stoked that this was accepted and even more so when it came back at no charge!  This is going to be fabulous for parties.  A real adult playground!

2.  Add hose bib to exterior of garage.  There's a hose bib in the garage, but on the back wall.  I don't want to drag a hose 20' just to get to where the car is to wash it, nevermind running a sprinkler or something that'll be needed.  That was $195 but I was more amazed that not one but BOTH of the community SRs got their home specs confused.  They tried to tell me (initially) that I had poured concrete walls. Uh, no...Palermo garages are above grade but thanks for playing.  Amateur Hour!

3.  The Plumber's Box.  I had no idea what this was called.  Basically it's an access panel that hides the supply and drain connections for our future bar sink & potential dishwasher.  This was pricey at $695 but easier (and cheaper) to do it now than have J fight with it later.

4.  The Master Bath Fan.  Clearly, Ryan doesn't want to do this.  $695 for an extra fan in the middle of the master bath.  By code, you have to have one in the enclosed toilet room but in our layout (alternate, c/w shower/seat & soaking tub) there's not a fan in the middle.  Guess I'm risking fighting humidity with my hair for eternity because $695 is just extortion in my book.

Now for the Drama (cue the music)

When we originally signed/chose cabinets/granite/etc, we didn't choose the exterior.  No worries - we were to choose at this meeting.  We knew our neighbors had a Palermo but different elevation.  Cool.  We also knew that beige was still on the table. Cool.  So J & I chose the Bucks County Stone (mimicking our fireplace surround) with Sandy Tan/Pebble Clay siding & black shutters w/ red door.  Adorable!  We loved it!
Our original picks - the red wasn't quite that bright but that's what you get with a phone camera.

Then the hammer came down.  We were debating on Sandy Tan/Pebble Clay vs Pebble Clay/Sandy Tan (yes...that was a real struggle...) when our SR told us we couldn't have our stone.  Apparently it's a design sin of the highest magnitude to have the same stone as someone in line with you.  I call BS based on what I noticed in the rest of the hood but whatever.  So since they were there first, we had to change our stone.  We have Dakota Ledgestone now with gray shutters & a gray door.  We are going to put faith in the designers who chose the combinations for now but at least we can paint if we so choose.  It was a crushing blow, but as the sun rose the next day apparently life will go on.
Our revised selections.  The stone is more of a uniform color but it'll still look great

Choices, Choices, Choices...

Ok so I've been a little busy but given the gauntlet of meetings & choices that Ryan puts you through up front it's understandable. At least it is in MY book. So here's the lowdown on our choices so far:

At signing;
We picked out all of our cabinets, countertops & the stone for our fireplace surround. We went with Timberlake's Scottsdale Maple Espresso cabinets in the kitchen and the master bathroom. In the hall bath & basement bath we went with the Fairfirld Wheat vanities w/ white cultured marble tops. I hate those but didn't want to pay for the upgrade and the oak ones reminded me of 1996. Eh, whatever. I'm good with stain if it comes to that.  

For the kitchen counters, we went with the crema caramel granite countertops and in our bathroom, the burlywood granite for the vanity. 

Our fireplace surround was a splurge but after the (many) upgrades that I've done to my current townhouse I wanted the house that was "just push play." We decided to go with the Bucks County Ledgestone for the surround and to match our exterior stone...best laid plans, it would seem but more on that later.

Overall it was quick since Justin & I tend to agree on most of the big ticket items! Apparently I'm very decisive when I know what I want!

Our Kitchen Cabinets...Master Bath too!  Timberlake Scottsdale Maple Espresso, to be exact.  I <3 them!

Kitchen Countertop...my phone doesn't do this justice.  We loved this paired with the above cabinets. 

Burlywood Granite vanity top for Master Bath.  Because I need pretty things when I'm getting ready to face the world.