Monday, February 25, 2008

Jolie's Self Haircut

Well it finally happened. I was really hoping Jolie would never cut her own hair but she did. Early this morning she took the scissors into her own hands and starting cutting. I went into her bedroom to get her dressed and ready for the day when I found her hair all over the floor. For some strange reason she was walking around the room and cutting it at the same time. So it was everywhere. Of course I screamed and then I saw Jolie. I felt like I was in a funky dream and that there was no way she had just cut that much hair off. I had to put her in the shower to get all the cut hair out. Later in the day I took her get it fixed. Now all her pretty long hair is gone. Jolie likes it but I'm really sad.

BEFORE: This is the good side. The other side was much shorter.

AFTER: To make it even this was the longest it could go.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Neverending Story
New Home Construction Update

Well, if there is anybody left out there who still bothers to check our blog (sorry about the extreme lack of posts,) I thought I could give a little update on what my life is about lately. (By the way, I think Amberly has pretty much put this blog on the back burner... maybe a few emails letting her know she should post more often would help.) Basically I am consumed by the construction of our new house. Now, this isn't meant in the normal sense of someone getting consumed when they are having a house built. I mean, that is my entire life right now. Let me give an abbreviated history of what I mean.

We first bought our lot, which is in a great neighborhood, and I proceeded to draw plans for our house. The intention was to build the house as owner/builder with me as the "general contractor" while subcontracting out almost all of the work. I got the plans approved and got bids from LOTS of contractors for the individual trades (framing, concrete, plumbing, etc) so that I could estimate the cost of construction. Well, things were still doing okay for contractors at the time, so the bids were pretty high. With that I got our construction loan stuff ready. As part of the construction loan process, we needed an appraiser to tell the bank how much our house would be worth when completed. This is when things started to go downhill. The appraisal came back way too low. I had two realtors look at it and they said it was artificially lower than it should be, since the appraiser didn't find much information on houses in the area that are as big as ours. Several have come and gone on the market since then that will help our future appraisal a lot, so I'm not worried about it coming in low again, but the fact remained that the bank could only loan us a much smaller amount than we were planning. This would require me to have to do a bunch of the work myself to save on labor costs. In the meantime, we would pay ourselves for our living costs out of our construction loan instead of paying more to some other contractor. So, I got started.

Long and tedious doesn't even begin to describe most of the work since then. I did all the foundation work and my dad helped me pour the footings. Then the impossible task of block laying began. Just to give you an idea, the house took a total of 32 cubes of block. A cube is the amount of blocks they fit on a pallet (roughly a 4-foot cube). This added up to about 2700 total blocks. That is quite a lot of block for one person to lay. The whole north side of the house had to have 5-foot deep footings, below the level of the basement slab. So I had to lay almost 5 feet of block down in that trench before even making it up to ground level, then continuing the block up for another 10 feet to the upper story level! In between all that block were 3 groutings (where you pump concrete down into the blocks, filling them all solid) and the basement slab pour. All of this concrete I had help with from my dad (what a lifesaver, even though I do blame him for talking me into this madness in the first place... just kidding, Dad.) Needless to say, I was a little tired of block and concrete by this time. So, leaving out the exciting details, I framed the basement, backfilled the front yard and the garage (totalling about 600 tons of dirt and 420 tons of bedding material for the garage,) and poured the garage slab with the help of my dad, my brother Shawn, and a guy in my ward. Then I began framing the upstairs floor, which is the stage I am almost done with now.

Since I started the house, the lasting effects of the building boom have finally died off, resulting in every contractor in the residential business scrambling for work. I have between 3 and 7 people showing up at the house daily looking for work, both subcontractors like plumbers or electricians, and laborers who got laid off from their last job for lack of work. All of this lack of work has REALLY made these guys competitive and dropped prices like crazy. Good news for me. You better believe I'm taking advantage of that fact. I only wish I was just starting the house now and I could have had all the work done up until now for pretty darn cheap. For any of you out there looking to move, this is a great time (at least in Arizona) to have a custom home built. So anyway, from this point I am finally going to sub things out, starting with the framing of the roof. I'm very excited to be able to watch someone else do all the work and see a crew slam through in a week what would take me a month or so. After the framing is complete, I will sub out several other trades, but leave some of the work for myself such as electrical and trim carpentry.

Sorry about the really long explanation, but I have so many people ask me about how the house is going, I thought this would help clear things up. (Plus, I kinda felt bad we haven't had a post for a couple months, we'll be better at that.)

Here's a quick photo history of the house construction:

A ridiculous amount of rebar went into the foundation. This section is for the retaining wall between the basement and the garage.
This is the north side of the house. It doesn't look like it, but if I get down in that trench, the top of the dirt is at my eye level.
A view from the back of the house. This is after the footings were poured and the stem wall block was laid up to the level of the basement slab.
A view from the front yard of the basement slab pour. Notice I say "basement" even though it's mostly above ground. It's considered a walk-out basement, because the street level is the height of the top story. So the front yard gets filled in and the "basement" opens up to the back yard. That's my dad and I along with a couple guys in the ward and the concrete pump truck driver. (That's the concrete pump hanging in the air.)
After most of the block is laid for the basement retaining walls.
Most of the basement framing complete. This has to be done in order to backfill against the retaining walls. The framing helps to brace up the walls against all that dirt. Notice the "stair-like" detail in the block. That will be the future ground level and the block popout serves as a brick ledge for a full brick veneer that will cover the exposed block. To the far right of the picture is the garage, which at this time was a 7-foot hole in the ground.
Save view as the last picture. This was during the backfilling process, bringing the front yard up to the level of the top story.
The backfill complete, I got the garage slab ready for concrete. Under that slab is a heavily-compacted 420 tons of bedding material, going down 7 feet. You can see the plywood floor over the basement in the background.
Finishing the garage slab. That's me running the power trowel and my dad on the far left.
First floor mostly framed. Unfortunately, I have been getting snowed out regularly.

A view of the back of the house. The house looks like a beast from the back. Too bad that's not how it looks from the front.