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a chat with the builder

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Mar 22, 2012 01:04 AM
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by bubba of the bubbles ( last modified Mar 21, 2012



We sat down with the builder to go over his estimate anddiscuss material choices and whatnot, and that was great fun. Builders have alot of practical experience that can be real useful. And given that thisbuilder has a lot of experience and appreciation for Modern architecture, wedon’t have to listen to ”Get the plans from that there architect and we’ll evenout them windows during the build and put a real roof on that house.” or “Whatthe hell!?!?! You building a house or a Jiffy Lube!”

Random things we talked about:

1. Stucco: The builder said that stucco with imbedded pigmentwill crack (which freaks some folks out) and that painted stucco with elasticpaint is less likely to crack (and easier to "fix" [seal and paintover] if it does crack). We’re prolly-definitely in the ”freak out” category,so based on that information (and our previous good experience with paintedstucco), we’re thinking painted stucco. However, the architect was thinking twolayers of the standard stuff with a topcoat of elastic stucco with embeddedcolor to deal with the cracking issue (and lower the maintenance). The builderand the architect will discuss…

2. Outside walls: The architect specified 2x4s for theoutside walls. The builder says he hasn’t built a house with 2x4 exterior wallsin seven years. Given that his pricing assumes 2x6 exterior walls, we’re goingto go with 2x6 walls. We feel better with 2x6ers.

3. Geotechnical: Now’s the time to get technical done!

4. Roofing: The architect specified TPO for the roof. TPO(thermoplastic polyolefin) is white (reflective = green) and typically used incommercial roofing. The builder says that TPO is top of the line, and, if wecan afford it, go for it. Otherwise torchdown (sheets of fiberglass, polyester,and bitumen that are melted together with a torch) can be had for a bit less.We can afford TPO. And with a sizable part of our roof visible from the secondstory, white is even better.

5. Cladding on the garage: Stucco is expensive, so thebuilder suggested Hardie on the garage as an alternative. The architectsthought this was a good idea as long as they could clad part of the house(where the laundry room and master closet are) with Hardie as well to bettervisually connect the garage to the house. Makes perfect sense with the addedbonus of saving even more money on stucco.

6. Drywall finish: The architects specified light orangepeel. The builder noted that a smooth finish can be had for 20 percent more.We’re considering smooth in the public areas of the house (something a puremodernist would shudder at since one Modern tenet [at least among some…] is tohave consistent finishes throughout the house; we just won’t invite them overfor dinner!). Smooth is sweet.

7. Dishwashers: The builder loves Bosch dishwashers. We spentquite a bit of time talking about ’em. We will disappoint him if we don’t get aBosch dishwasher.

8. Central vacuum: A la Corbu, we demand a (central) vacuumcleaner. The builder says they run $1,400 installed (and are quite handy).

9. Orientation of the garage roof: We want the garage to besolar ready. The garage roof is currently oriented toward the east. The buildersays that although it’s possible to orient panels on a roof sloping the ”wrong”direction, it’s better to orient the roof in the right direction in the firstplace (makes a lot of sense...). His suggestion was to slope the garage roof atthe appropriate slope (which seems to be 45 degrees?) rather than orienting thepanels to the appropriate slope. We’re amenable to that if the architects thinkthis would work compositionally with everything else going on with the house(see helpful sketches we provided to the architects below; weprovided those so they knew we were open to a non blocky roof line if it “madesense”). He also said that fixing solar panels to TPO is a little"disconcerting" (my word to describe his discomfort). He recommendedattaching them to standing seam metal. Bonus: Standing seam is 35 percent lessexpensive to install! Since it appears that you can get 1 kW of capacity per100 square feet, our ~500 square-feet of garage roof might-could support a 5 kWsystem.

10. Neoplastic walls: The builder said that footings (justthe freakin footings!) for garden walls run $140 a foot. That means my dream ofneoplastic walls will run us at least (let’s see here, that, plus about that,plus [squinting] about that, times 140) 20,000 bucks. Gulp.

11. CMU sound wall: The builder says this would run about$8.50 to $10 a square foot (area facing you). So that’s about 5 to 10K. Hmmmm…

12. Building time: The builder thinks he can build the housein 7 months, start to finish! Wow!

In other news:

A. We decided we would rather have the storage space in thelaundry room than the ”special spot” for the grill. The loss of storage spaceplus the (shockingly) high prices for built-in grills (think thousands) promptedthis decision.

B. After we staked the footprint of the house out on the lot,we ”looked out” the windows of the house and now think that theover-the-counter horizontal windows in the kitchen would be better up high(where we can see the neighbor’s trees and the sky). Otherwise we’ll be lookingat fence.

So there you have it. Builder input. 




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