It is looking like a house now

The siding is done, roof is on, drywall is up and soon the flooring will be installed.  It is now looking like a house and much easier to picture the size of the rooms and what it will look like with our stuff inside.

Our pond is overflowing with all the rain and the sides are starting to look a little unstable in places.  I wish there was a way to keep all this extra water and use it to refill the pond in the summer when there is not as much rain and the levels drop.

There have been a lot of very windy days here and so far all the trees on our property have been good.  The ones around the house were my biggest concern because I don’t want the roof crushed.  So far other than a few smaller branches there has been no problem.  We will get an arbourist out to check out the trees in the areas by the house and eventually all or most the others.

I am looking forward to being able to sit on my deck and drink my tea while listening to the birds and the wind in the trees.  There have been a few ducks visiting our pond and we hope they will decide to stay.  They fly away every time the see us right now so is not looking good.  We may throw some food in for the catfish on our next visit to see how they managed over the winter.

I will try to get Steve to show me how to get my facebook photos on here then I can post some pictures of where we are right now.

Where we are now

So the siding is now going up and the insulation is going in.  We have not be able to go in the house for a few weeks.  They are doing some spray insulation and the fumes need time to dissipate. It is taking a bit longer than expected because they can not spray around the light cans per the manufacture even though it says different on packaging.  There is a concern that it could overheat and cause a fire.  This would be very unlikely with the led lights we will be using because they do not generate that much heat..   The wood and stone siding have started on the outside and the roof is being put on.  This is making it easier to imagine what the finished house will look like.

Also because it wouldn’t be fun if everything went smooth we now have drainage problems.  The drainage system the county said we had to put in is not working.  This is not a surprise to the builder or architect both of whom told the county that this would happen when the submitted our plans with 2 different options.  The neighbours beside us who have been very nice now have a flooded area in their yard because of the drainage system failure.  We are unable to do anything without the county approval.  The first chat with the county we were told that we put the required system in and that was it.  We think since then the neighbours have complained to the county so now they are meeting with our builder and architect on our site to see what is happening and find a solution.  I am glad we will be able to fix it but not happy that we spent money on the required system and will now have to pay for another system that will likely be one of the ones we proposed in our permit application.  I am assuming that the county will not be refunding us even though the concerns were brought up.

We have now selected flooring, kitchen cabinets, and kitchen counter tops.  We are working on the backsplash.  We are also closing in on the wall colours.  I gave Dave all the samples that I liked and he is working from there.  Steve and I both agreed on the flooring right away which was the first thing we picked it is hickory.  The cabinets are a dark stain and the counters are a very light gray.

The last move in date we got was for mid July I am hoping that is still the case even though the insulation is taking a bit longer than expected.  If it does work out we will be starting the BBQ’s in August.

We are getting our current house ready to go on the market by getting rid of stuff we don’t need/want.  The kids have been great they have given away over 5 boxes of toys from their playroom.  We have the donation truck coming on the 27th so I should be able to get a lot of other stuff together by then.  I am hoping once we have it on the market it sells fast so I don’t have to worry about the kids messing up everything for the showings.  Of course that would also mean we would end up somewhere for a short time before we move into the new house.  I think we may end up somewhere else for a bit while they paint and replace carpet because it would be to smelly.  Not sure what we will do with the cat during that time.

One day I will try and get Steve to add some photos so you can see all the stuff I am rambling about.

We Are Underway

So last week on Monday the building of our house finally started.  We went to our first site meeting this morning.  It looks like a big muddy mess right now but the foundations, trees, and fences are down now.  It will be another week of clean up of debris then the start of putting the drainage in place.

We are starting with the drainage because the foundation guy has another job right now.  The long delay in starting because of the permit process made us lose our spot with him.  Not at all his fault he needs to work so it will just be a few weeks before he can start.  The foundations should be done by mid June. After that will be framing.

Steve is going to get the pictures from the camera he set up and I am sure will post a few.  The builder will be putting webcams up for security on the site and we will have access to them.  That should be fun to watch.

Still Waiting

Well our November 1st ground breaking date has come and gone.  Still we are waiting on the permits.  They have been approved by most of the departments but the person in charge of drainage is known to be a bit of a curmudgeon.  He had 3 pages of notes before he had even looked at the site plans.  He did not look at the plans because they were not submitted in the 11×7 format he will accept.  All other departments had no problems.  We are now adding a ditch for drainage because it will be easier and faster than getting an signed easement agreement from the neighbour.  Currently the run off from the pond leaves the property via a pipe that comes out at the property line into what is now a small creek on the neighbours property.  In the summer it is empty because the pond level is low.

We have met with a landscape architect and he has shown us some amazing plans for the property.  There is a formal garden, vegetable garden, sports court, play area, path that is almost exactly 1/4 mile around the property, fire pit, expansion of the pond, several little seating nooks, and a plan to make the under side of the forested area more natural again.  This will all be done in phases.  Steve was excited when he saw the plans I loved them but immediately thought about how much that would cost.  I guess that is why we will do it in phases.  The formal garden and vegetable gardens will go in when the craft cabin/man cave go in.  The sport court and play area will be later.  We will probably gradually bring the forested area back to a more natural state as well.  I am also hoping to do some screening along the shared fence line with one of our neighbours.  The horse and the llamas I don’t mind but the shirtless old guy mowing the lawn I could do without.

We are trying to get everything in place so when the permits come through we can get started.  We have to get a person in to take care of some asbestos that is in the house on the site now before we do demo.  That can be done now so we will be ready to knock everything down and tear out the odd cement water feature that has not worked for years.

We are still thinking finish for the house will be 2016 but it will be a bit later in the year than we were hoping.  We were hoping for February or March and now it may be May or June.  So maybe we will be having great bbqs and summer parties at our new place in 2016.  The craft cabin/man cave should be done sometime in 2017 then I will be having girls craft time a lot.  Steve will probably be hiding in his area alone or maybe he will invite one or two friends to join him.  I am also thinking that in Christmas 2016 we will have a Christmas party and I will be doing an ornament exchange.  I will have lots of room.

Will keep everyone up to date.  Maybe Steve will post some of the plans for everyone to check out.

Construction of House

We are now finally gearing up for the permitting process.  If all goes well we will break ground in October this year and be done at the end of next year or in Spring 2016.  We were originally going to just to the craft cabin then start house later but because of permitting complications we are now doing the house and then probably starting the craft cabin/man cave a few months after the house is done maybe in September 2016 it will take 8-12 months to finish once it is started.

I am hoping that the house will be done in November next year so we can spend Christmas there but am thinking it will probably not be.  Maybe it will be done in time to celebrate Zoe’s 11h birthday there.  I do know I am going to try and plan a house warming when we are done.

I have kind of been over the whole house thing because it is taking so long and I am no longer excited.  I am trying to get back into the excitement mode and hope that once it gets rolling again it does not stall out.  I do enjoy going to the property and sitting by the pond.  We grew flowers and some veggies this year too..  It is a great place for the kids to run around.  I think once the house is done I will enjoy sitting on the deck watching the kids in the yard.  We can get splash pool for them and they can have hours of fun in the yard.  I would like to be able to put a play set in for them and maybe a small sports court too so they can really have fun and have friends over often.

I also hope when our house is done it is the place for many gatherings and game nights. I have warned Steve that if we are going to have such a great house for entertaining I will want to use it.

What is happening with the house now

So we have finished the design process for the house and the craft cabin/man cave.  Now the architects are working on the engineering drawings that will be submitted for permitting.  We are hoping they will be in by the end of the month.  Then we will once again be waiting 8-12 weeks for the approval.  I am hoping there are no issues with our plans because it has taken 10 months to get to this point and I am ready to be done with this part.

The property is back to the way it looked when we bought it. The apple tree that was bursting with apples is once again bare and dead looking.  I thought it was dead because I have not gardening skills whatsoever.  The pond is the highest we have ever seen it and was clear but is now a bright green from the reflection of the evergreens and bamboo around it.  Once it goes down a little it should be crystal clear again.  We are going to find a way to keep the level of the pond up through the summer months as well as the rainy time.  A few branches have fallen from the trees in the big wind storms but nothing too bad.  We will need to have an arbourist come look at them and take off any dangerous branches.  Although the wind has probably blown most down.

We go to the property regularly to check on things and clean out the mailbox. Here is some of the adventures and mysteries we have had.  In the summer we met the neighbours across from us with the Lamas and a man who lives up the hill.  Another day the people right next to us that share the most fence line with us just wandered over to fish in the pond.  They had been told to come over anytime by the previous owner but that was the day they decided to take up the offer.  They knew it had been sold but did not know we were there.  A couple days later a large outdoor sink went missing and a couple other small things have gone. As this is an out of the way area it is very likely someone who lives in the area and it would of taken a couple people and a lot of effort to get the sink out.  I have suspicions on who it was but no proof.  We did not want the sink but I am annoyed that people feel they have the right to take something or come on the property without our knowledge or permission.  There have been hoof prints so we know horses visit our property.  We found a dog toy in the middle of the field just over a week ago.  This weekend on the way out I said to Steve I would like to surprise someone who has wandered onto the property without permission.  Then we did there was a guy and his friend there.  The guy lives across the back road from us and had his dog with him.  Dog toy mystery solved.  Apparently his dog likes to play in the pond.

I am sure once we start construction they will all be coming out and looky looing I hope they are not helping themselves to materials.  The bandit has left the items we left in the garage alone even though we know they have been in there because the door is often open and it has to be hip checked to get open.  We will be fixing the fence and have a gate once we are done so that should stop the random visitors from dropping in to use the pond when they choose.  Our one neighbour has a pool I wonder if we could just wander into their yard with our suits and towels in the summer and go for a dip.  Take advantage of the sharing of property rules.

All of the people we have met have seemed like nice people time will tell I guess.  I am trying to relax about everything after all we are going to be building a house there and will be living by them for some time.  Also the construction is bound to cause some annoyance for the neighbours with noise, trucks, and other things so best to keep on their good side so they are not complaining to us or the county about things.

I am sure once the permits are approved Steve and I will both be writing more about what is happening.


Many changes, but little progress

Since it has been a few weeks since we declared victory on the wetlands designation I thought it would be useful to provide a brief update. In general there has been a decent amount of activity, but unfortunately no real progress. We need to complete engineering drawings so that they can be submitted to the county and we can wait approximately three months for permits. However, since we received the wetland designation a number of changes have been proposed (mostly by me, much to Chris’ feelings of consternation) and that has ground most of the engineering progress to a halt.

First the good news. We have multiple quotes on both septic system designs and drilling of a new well. As you may remember the original well, which is awesome in all ways (high water pressure, clean, etc.) doesn’t meet code and so needs to be decommissioned. We are hoping that we can use it to either feed the sprinkler system for the buildings or feed irrigation systems, or hopefully both. In any case we need to drill a new well and that seems like it won’t be a problem. Finding water on this property is not one of our challenges. The soil samples and changes to house location (more on that in a minute) have likely simplified and reduced the cost of the septic system.

In addition to making good progress on the septic and well systems we have selected a builder.  We interviewed a number of builders, all came as recommendations from our architect.  In the end the choice was fairly easy.  The builder we chose has a ton of experience building custom homes in the area, has worked with our architect in the past and we absolutely fell in love with one of their builds.  Here is information on the builder if you are in the market, can’t comment on anything first hand but they seem top rate:

Bender Construction Company
150 Lake Street South, Suite 224
Kirkland, WA 98033

Since the wetlands designation came back with no protected areas it caused us (me) to re-imagine the whole lot and this has created quite a few potential changes. The original placement of the house was up on a small hill in the middle of the property. This location was mostly selected because it was the only viable location given our understanding of likely wetland designation and setback restrictions. With those out of the way we started playing with alternative locations.

The first iteration of this was to move the house down the hill and onto the edge of the pond, looking north towards the main road. We would then refurbish the existing workshop into a new office/workshop for me. However, after further thought and some preliminary sketches putting the house there created a lot of new problems. It cleaves the yard into two large sections, which greatly diminishes the utility of the yard and having two large structured built on the pond would I think not look very good, given the relatively small size of the pond. So we then thought that we should move the house to the other side of the pond, bring all of the buildings together on that end of the lot. Greatly reduce the amount of driveway and pavement on the property and situate all of the buildings around the pond/garden area. This would leave a majority of the yard to the south open and more natural.
snip - layout
Of course this change in position requires some fairly radical changes to the floor plan of the main house. The original design was three floors with a daylight basement containing theater, rec room, au pair bedroom, bathroom and exercise room. The new location doesn’t allow for a daylight basement and we don’t want three stories, so we have eliminated the third floor and moved most of the rooms from that floor over the garage. Below is a fairly rough sketch showing placement on the lot and general design changes to the house. We are waiting for the architect to complete full designs of the new house layout and will review those when I get back from a business trip next week.

snip - new layout

I really like both the new location and the new house design. I was never a huge fan of the basement and the new design will allow the main entrance to look right through the house out the back windows and have a full view of the pond and a majority of the lot. Chris is somewhat ambivalent at best about the new design and fairly unhappy about the delays and constant changes. I hopeful that when she sees the finished project it will all be worthwhile. As always would love to hear comments on the changes.

Critical Areas Designation complete!

We finally heard back from King County and have no critical areas on the property that will affect construction or landscaping.  This is great news as we had a lot of concerns about where this would land.  We went from minimal wetlands, to significant wetlands, to management wetlands to no wetlands.  This is a brutally opaque process and if you are doing a construction project expect this phase to take much longer than you expected.

We hired The Watershed Company, who are a Preferred Wetland Consultant for the county.  I would highly recommend them.  They definitely went to bat for us and didn’t just take the route of least resistance.

Here is their contact information:

The Watershed Company
750 6th Street South
Kirkland, WA 98033
Phone: (425) 822-5242

Now we need to start on septic field design, well placement and pick a builder.


Quick update on permits.

I wanted to provide a quick update, so you know we haven’t fallen off the grid.  Things are moving very slowly right now.

We filed papers with King County to finalize our critical area designation.  As you might recall from previous blog posts we have gone back and forth with the wetland consultants on how much of the property will end up with a wetland designation.   We started with a belief that a large portion of the property was going to be designated as wetlands, which would have meant we would be quite constrained on where we could build.  Then we ended up during the final feasibility with a much more conservative view of the wetlands designation, this meant much less constraint on where we could build.   We waited until the property was quite dry before submitting the final report from the consultant.  The process involves us paying for a county approved consultant to draft a report, which is submitted to the county for review and hopefully approval.  We submitted the final report about two months ago and were surprised that the consultant found no wetlands on the property.

So we have been quite hopeful that we would get a speedy approval from the county.  Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case.  We heard back from the county and they want to have a meeting with the consultant on the property next week to review a number of items.  Hopefully shortly after that we will hear back.

In the meantime we are reviewing a draft proposal on the home automation system and preliminary bids on the construction from builders tomorrow.  This will give us a better sense of how close to budget we are on the current design and will provide insight into the builder that will allow us to short-list a few builders for a final proposal.


We are currently working with two builders to get preliminary bids:

Bender Custom Construction –

Lanzinger Construction – strangely these guys don’t have their own web-site

And the home automation company we have been talking to is:

Madrona Digital –


I’ve also attached a copy of the questionnaire we will use (supplied by our design firm) to interview the contractors – Contractor Interview Questions

We should have updates on home automation, construction bids and county permitting shortly.


My thoughts on Exterior

This is not the house I pictured when I thought of my dream home.  I am more drawn to traditional looks.  I like the Tudor or stone look.  I like peaked roofs and turrets.  I was not surprised with the look of the exterior after we decided on the interior.  I like the layout of the interior although even that is not what I envision for my dream home.  It is I think going to be an amazing home that I will enjoy living in.  I have decided that it is more important to have the interior be what I like as I will spend more time there than looking at the outside.

I can always make sure my craft cabin has a peaked roof.  Although Steve has said it needs to be the same as the main house.  I am going to have a zen type garden behind it so maybe I will make it have an Asian spin and have the peaked roofs like in China.  He also keeps trying to design it but I am not going to let him mess with what I have in my head.  Of course as I learned during the process of doing the house Dave may change my mind for me with his suggestions.