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week 15: the good, the bad, and the ugly

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Dec 06, 2012 01:03 AM
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by bubba of the bubbles ( last modified Dec 05, 2012



Sorry for the delay in posting: The weekend and the past couple of days have had our free time consumed with house stuff. Truth be told, that's what I should be working on now (but this strikes me as more fun at the moment [and needing to get done...]).

the good

Went out to the house on Sunday after a long but productive 2.5-hour meeting with the cabinet lady. We then spent the next six hours picking up nails, sweeping, and vacuuming the house. It was a full (and hot!) day.

The big news is (drum roll please): The big-ass window in the living room is installed! And it looks quite grand:

The biggish window at the top of the stairs is also in:

as is the storefront frame (no glass yet) for the powder room:

and the side window in the front:


Big news on the roof front: We're starting to get a finished (as in there-ain't-no-leaks-no-more) roof! We've been selfishly fortunate that it has been a very dry fall despite predictions of El Nino conditions this fall (El Nino was canceled). In fact, no rain fell in Austin in November, the first time that's happened in over a 100 years.

That white bidness you see here is the roof: thermoplastic olefin, what the cool kids call TPO. Highly reflective (it's white, afterall) and fully sealed (if installed correctly...), it should be a good roof (and better, wethinks, than torchdown).

There's tub in the house:

and there are holes in the LVL beam to run ductwork through:

Those darkish things you see are metal angle irons to compensate for those big 'ole holes in the beam. Helps hold the house up, so that's a good thing. The framer did a great job here: real clean and ready for drywall.

the bad

During week 14 the plumber ran the drain pipes hither and dither about the house. During the past week, he ran the water lines. And it wasn't purdy: There was a herd of stuff that was just plain wrong because he hadn't looked at the spec sheets. The plumbing for the powder room sink was all wrong (including the drain). He plumbed it for a standard sink in a cabinet instead of an in-wall faucet  and wall mounted sink (with the plumbing hidden behind the sink). That's gotta be redone.

Now picture yourself facing the garage. Off on the right side, out of the slab, is a water-supply pipe. Clearly marked on the plans is an outdoor spigot right at that spot where the pipe comes out of the ground. Makes sense: The ground is insulating the pipe, so that helps keep the pipe from freezing (and breaking). What did the plumber do? Ran the pipe up the wall into the attic space, then ran the pipe clear across the front width of the garage, and then back down the opposite wall. Huh? Seems like a freeze hazard to me. Comically (to my eyes) they insulated the pipe. But this is in unconditioned space, so I don't think that insulation is going to do much during an extended freeze. (I say pipe, but technically they run hose these days. It very well may be that the flexibility of the hose is enough to accommodate the expansion of water during a freeze.)

Given how the spigot for the garage was installed, it's good we had a central shut-off valve for the outdoor faucets installed. After discussions with the builder, we decided to install this valve in the pantry. Where did it get installed? In the laundry room. Not fatal. The valve could go in there, but they installed it where the backsplash to the potential bar area is going. Not good.

The plumber ran pipe for the potfiller. Again, he neglected to check the specs and made an assumption that it was a wall mounted pot filler. But it ain't: It's a deck mounted pot filler. Oops. In his defense, I bet 95 percent of America's pot fillers are wall mounted, but still: check the specs, dude. I mentioned to the builder that much of this could have been avoided with a pre-install walk through with me.

Looks like there may be a wee bit of replumbing going on...

the (not so) bad (but prolly for the best)

Our master bedroom door to the outside was installed! But it's the wrong door... After doing so well on the first bid, we upgraded the door to a storefront aluminum and glass door. However, the door we installed is the original one spec'd, not the upgrade. This is prolly for the best since we were having second thoughts on having a glass storefront door in the master. Not that I don't look (fairly) good in my whitey-tighties (especailly after a wax), but (cough-cough) I'm a little shy, so I'm not eager to give the neighbors a show. We'll stick with the door the builder installed and apply the money we save on the change orders.

I have dream of maybe at some point installing an Allandale door made locally (like across-the-street locally) by Crestview Doors, inventors of Door-o-Vision.

the ugly

There be some ugly at the house. I'm learning that some of the practicalities and code requirements result in ugliness. Reality sucks. Some of the issues:

The gas connection to the house has to be toward the front of the house. When the email discussion first when back and forth on this, I was later horrified to realize that I may have agreed to the have the gas connection placed on the front of the house, so I was relieved as heck when I saw that it was just around the corner of the front of the house. Ideally, this would have been pushed farther back, but the builder claims this placement is a code requirement. Regardless, given that it's on the side, it will be easy to hide with either a low (tastefully designed) fence or a shrub. Whew!

Non-centered exhaust vents. This is a view of the powder room looking towards the toilet. That metal box up yonder is the vent. That looks (slightly...) off center. Not the installer's fault 'cause that's what the framing looks like but boo nonetheless. On the other hand, a wee bit of asymmetry may look cool (perhaps balanced by a toiler plunger to the right of the toilet). Why yes, we meant to do that, yes we did.

General infrastructural kookiness. Look at that picture below taken of the ceiling area of the master shower. Holy moly, there's a lot going on up there! That ceiling's got more snakes in it than Samuel L. Jackson's emm-effing plane! Here's a case where the ventilation fan (the square box) could have been centered (ain't no framing to prevent it) but can't because of the need to run the ductwork through the truss. And then there's ventilation ductwork, and water lines and (yet to come) electric wires. Dang. Maybe we need a glass ceiling in here to show this off.

Those aren't the ventilation fans we wanted. Oddly, for whatever reason, the issue that has made me the most angry during the build of the house so far (somewhere between "dang-that-dude's-face-is-really-red" and "smashing sh!t up") are the ventilation fans. I proudly found some swank ventilation fans that had the perfect intersection of price, function, and aesthetics. During the back and forth with the builder and sub on ventilation fans, I asked that they put in the ones we wanted. The builder responded that there wasn't a local supplier for those fans. I responded that they could just order the ones we wanted. And these are not them.

When I first saw these suckers, I coulda eaten a handful of fire ants. Maybe two handfuls. When we got back home, I looked up the emails of what we agreed to on the subcontract. We agreed to "lo sone" fans, and I assumed they were the ones we wanted (we indeed wanted low sone fans [super-duper quiet]). But it turns out "Lo Sone" is a Broan model, so we unwittingly agreed to Broan fans. Irritating, but we don't have much (any?) ground to stand on here (and there are probably more important things to worry about than this [Focus Bubba: Context! Context! Breathe! One. Two. Three. Breathe!).

Nonetheless, I predict we won't have any fire ants for a few years after we move in...

What up, shower wall, what up? The last we left the shower wall, the builder was super nervous about having it only go up eight feet instead of the full nine feet of the ceiling height. We first investigated installing steel posts to support the wall, but the engineer couldn't guarantee the wall would be inflexible. At that point we said "Screw it." and said finish the wall to the ceiling. The architect then suggested that the end of the wall could be carried up to the wall to support it and the rest could be open. Although not as elegant as the original design, we thought this was better than running the full wall up to the ceiling. So that's what we decided. So we were surprised to see plumbing plumbed through the as-yet-unchanged wall. When we mentioned this to the builder, he responded that anything other than a full wall was a bad idea, which is why it's a full wall. Hmmmm... Still thinking about this (and will probably discuss with the architect). While writing this post and looking at the photo, I realized that without that wall, you can't run the water to the tub control and spout very directly because of the big window over the tub. On the other hand, do you need "instant" hot water for a tub?

Where will art thou hang, kitchen pendants? Since electric is coming up next, I methodically walked through the house looking for potential electric problems. And I found them. The most vexing are the pendants for above the kitchen peninsula. The air handler (I think that's what that big silvery box is called) is located in the very place the pendants need to hang. In other words, there ain't no place to put the electric boxes for the lights. Given that that's task lighting, I don't think that lighting is really optional. Not sure what the solution is, although I've read that not having pendants over islands and peninsulas is the new thing. So perhaps we will wind up hipper than we anticipated.

 Closet space? A large part of the infrastructure kookiness is the difficulty in dealing with the HVAC system in the house. As the builder puts it, the HVAC system has been a pain. I had envisioned the ductwork running up the spine of the house defined by the hallway from the front of the house to the master bedroom. Unfortunately, there's something like four solid beams between here and there that make that impractical, so the duct work had to run through the second story attic down to the master bedroom. Only problem: No place to run the ductwork down to the master suite, so we had to give up space in the guest closet (already not very big) for the duct work. Not a problem for how we plan to use the space, but I can already see the House Hunters episode filmed at our house: Hip young couple with 12 children liking the house but then, when opening up this closet, grimacing and making a snarky comment like "Is this where they keep the backup espresso maker?"

Spirited design makes for spirited challenges in installing internal infrastructure.




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