Friday, July 24, 2009

Closing is complete!


Our closing for our home sale went off without a hitch yesterday, and we can now (briefly) say that we do not have a mortgage. We're still shooting to break ground on construction of our new home by September 1.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Moving Day!

Today we spent a good portion of the day hauling our big furniture to our storage unit. I thought I'd share some of the photos from the day.

Here's our living room this morning. It's totally cleared out now!

And our lower-level family empty!

Clara in the garage--there's order in that chaos, I promise.

Then Brendan and Joe realize that there's something wrong with the equation printed on the side of the UHAUL truck. Engineers...

Brendan's dad then joins in on the nerdiness.

Most of the boxes (about 200 of them) were already packed and moved to storage so the day wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. Plus, the men were all paid with Jimmy John's so they were happy. Thanks dear brothers, dear friends, and dear Papa for using your muscles while I sat inside asking for the intercession of all your Guardian Angels. And thanks Nana and Allison for taking the kids to the zoo so that it was less of a zoo around here today!

It won't be long now!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Our home location is now staked!


In probably the first official action of building our home, yesterday (July 16) the surveyor for our project came out to our land and did the official survey for the home. The surveyor uses the foundation plan, prepared by my brother, to locate every corner of the home using GPS coordinates, after which he then places a stake in the ground with some written guidance on what corner of the home it represents. These stakes will then be used by the excavators to dig the foundation and re-grade the nearby land.

I met our general contractor out at the property and we both walked around the future home location with the surveyor, taking a look at the stake locations and ensuring that there did not need to be any changes in home placement. It was ultra-exciting to finally, after three years of driving out to the property and envisioning the home, see the actual layout of where the home will be. In the evening, Molly and I and the kids drove out to the property so Molly could see the stakes, and we took a few pictures (click any of the pictures to enlarge).

It's hard to see the stakes, but you can see a few of them (with pink tops) in this picture.

Here's Molly standing inside of what will be the new kitchen.

A rather large tree had recently fallen right at the East wall of the library. Here's me pretending to read a book (Molly made me do it).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Storage and Mechanicals


In the recent post regarding in-floor radiant heat I mentioned a number of challenges we needed to deal with once the basement was removed from the plan. Two of the biggest were where to incorporate space for storage, and where to put the mechanical systems that service the house. Both of these items were previously accommodated by having a basement, and without the basement it was going to require some re-design of the first-floor to create new spaces. Even though both spaces are needed, chief among my personal concerns was making sure the exterior architectural aesthetic of the home was not compromised. In short, I liked the home design the way it was, and after months and months of visualizing the design it was going to be difficult to make some changes.

Here was the home exterior and first floor layout as it was, assuming there would be a basement (click either to enlarge):

First lets go over the storage. Since the basement was no longer in the picture, my brother, Molly, and I all agreed that the space formerly devoted to the stairway to the basement would be a good place to start in designing storage space.

The only problem is that the space is smaller than what we'd like to have for storage. Since the space is adjacent to the kitchen, we would locate our secondary refrigerator (an old clunker that we use for milk and pop) and our chest freezer in there. That doesn't leave much extra room for storing things.

I had tried to work out in my own mind where we could possibly put extra storage space, and decided to brainstorm and draw up some ideas on top of an old drawing of the exterior of the home. Here were options that I came up with (click any to enlarge):

Both of these ideas essentially added square footage to the North of the garage, either of which would kind of be a "crawl space" in function. The essential difference between the two ideas is that the first one maintains the double doors on the North of the garage and the second gets rid of these doors. Both of these ideas weren't meant to be "the" solution, but rather to stimulate conversation with my brother on our options.

Luckily, I think my brother ended at a much better idea than either of the two above: pull the garage 3 feet to the West, rotate the orientation of the mudroom 90 degrees (maintaining the same size of the room), leaving a good-sized storage room without having to alter the exterior form of the home in this area.

It will be great to have easily accessible, heated, indoor storage space, something we don't have in our current home.

Okay, on to the mechanicals. Our general contractor had clearly told us that the best place for the mechanical systems was underneath the stairs to the second level, as it was a central location for efficient air circulation to both "wings" of the home. For example, trying to place the mechanicals near the garage in the proposed storage space would not work well. However, clearly there was not enough space underneath the stairs for all the mechanical systems; the old plan was to have this be a small closet for home school supplies. There was going to have to be some addition of square footage in this area.

Below are the ideas I could think of for additional space. Again, these are overlaid on top of an old exterior drawing of the home, so some of the windows and things are not correct (click any to enlarge).

The contractors stated that the space would actually need to be up against the adjacent brick wall so that the airflow tubes could go upward and directly access the floor of the second level. Again, it's good to have an architect maintaining the vision for the project. My brother came up with the best option for satisfying the contractors' needs and the aesthetic of the home. In fact, he actually likes this better than the original design. The idea is to extend the brick from the facade of the home outward, making it appear as if the brick is really a wall that extends past the home instead of an artificial facade that sits on the outside of the building (click any to enlarge).

You can see from the third image that the roof of the mechanicals room drains water toward the diagonal line and then out through the scupper that comes through the brick.

So there you have it. The foundation and floor plan is now set, and now we can get the survey and staking of the home started on our lot.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Close date is set...


The appraisal of our current home finally came back and it appraised well and there were no issues with our buyer's ability to finance the home. We have now set a date for closing: July 24th. Praise the Lord!

UPDATED: Closing slots at the title company were booked on the 24th. New closing time is 2pm on the 23rd.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Home plans update (one of many)...


Again, it's impossible to adequately follow the previous post, so this post will seem kind of silly. Nonetheless, we are excited about closing on our house and getting started on our new house, and I thought I'd do some posts on things that have changed since our set of bid plans. For the best background for this post, I'd recommend re-looking at where we were at the end of the bidding process (including known cost-cutting measures at the time).

This post specifically regards the elimination of the basement that we had originally planned, and our new plans for the home's foundation. Eliminating the basement was certainly done in order to save on cost, but the decision was made very easy when, in further conversations with the city of Ham Lake, MN, we were informed that our original plan would not be allowed since the depth of the basement was below the water-saturated soil level (which, due to the wetland nature of the Ham Lake area and our particular lot, is only a couple feet below the ground level). Never mind that this detail should have been given to us a long time ago on our site plan (and that it was written on a "livability plan" document that the city had, but we were never given), in the end all that matters is that elimination of the basement needed to happen. Due to our architectural sensitivities with this home, we also were not going to go with some sort of large grading effort to create an artificial hill for the home site in order to have a walkout basement (this would also be necessary even to create a simple crawl space). Actually, the neighbors to the South of our lot did that, and it looks a little silly. So the best option for us was to go with a simple slab-on-grade foundation (basically a solid concrete foundation, with frost-footings).

Switching to slab-on-grade is no simple deal when the house was completely designed with a basement in mind. Here's a list of just a few of the challenges this creates:
  • Where do we create above-ground storage space?
  • All the mechanical systems were going to be in the basement. Where will these go?
  • Air ducts were being run through the basement ceiling, how will these be re-arranged?
  • It's Minnesota. The first-level floors will be freezing cold in the winter with a slab foundation, won't they?
I'll address these challenges in future posts. The final bullet point I'll address here. We decided, with our general contractor's advice, to go with a hydronic radiant heating system on the first level. This will cost us moderately extra, but not too bad (4 figures, total, for the rough-in of the tubing and the mechanical services). Coupled with the large savings of not having a basement, it's still a big net cost savings. And it will be almost a necessity in the winter simply for livability and enjoyment of the home. No one wants to walk around on freezing cold wood floors. With radiant heat, floors will be toasty warm in the winter and will be a pleasure to walk on barefoot.

Here's how it works. During creation of the slab foundation, tubing is weaved and secured to a grid of rebar (or other support system), ensuring coverage of all areas of the floor. Concrete is then poured over the tubing, embedding it in the slab. The tubing will carry warm water through the concrete floor, warming the floor and eventually heating all of the rooms themselves as the heat radiates upward. It's a very clean, efficient, non-allergenic, and comfortable way to heat a home. The upstairs will still have air services for heating, but hopefully that mode of heating will be infrequent as the lower-level heat will also contribute, indirectly, to heating the second-level (especially with our highly insulated SIP's home construction).

Above: A section view of a hydronic radiant heating system installed in a concrete slab foundation. The water-carrying tubing is embedded within the concrete and is insulated from the bottom to prevent heat being transmitted to the ground. (Okay, the guy with the blue socks is annoying, but the time investment needed to photoshop him out just isn't worth it ;-)

Below: Examples of hydronic radiant heating being installed in new construction.

The case for radiant heating over forced air: with forced air we heat our ceilings (wasted heat) and the floor is the coolest part of the room; with radiant, it's the opposite. Because of the higher efficiency of radiant heat, it also costs less to heat the home. Why doesn't everyone do radiant then? Simply because of the higher up front costs (though you can get your money back over time with reduced heating bills).
One final note, this works ideally with concrete floors, and also does work particularly well with engineered wood floors. It can work with hardwood floors too, but you have to be careful which wood species you go with (the harder, the better). The issue is expansion and contraction of the wood. Engineered wood floors are multilayer constructions that don't expand and contract much, and that's the type of wood flooring we choose for the house anyway.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Another Son, Another Saint

We wanted to let you know that our baby is safely in the arms of Jesus along with his big brother, Henry Blaise.

The miscarriage began on Sunday at the end my silent retreat experience and still continues. Although I had spent much of the time praying for a miracle for this baby, we are at peace with the Lord's will for this short, but purposeful life.

Through prayer, we decided to name him Jude Thomas. St Jude is the patron of impossible causes and a dear "friend" of ours. Clara has especially loved the name Thomas for about three years now and we wanted to honor her connection with that name. We were also praying for twins and believe the Lord answered our prayers in His own way as "Thomas" means "The Twin".

We will bury Jude's remains at Epiphany Cemetary near Henry's grave. We will also include his name on their memorial for babies lost in miscarriage.

We thank you again for your prayers for our family. The chaos with our home continues and it's a bit of a relief to have something wonderful to look forward to as we continue grieving for our sons.

Isn't it beautiful to envision Henry Blaise and Jude Thomas together with all the saints at the throne of Our Lord?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy "Jesus Year" Birthday, Brendan!

Happy 33rd Birthday to my wonderful husband. You have officially reached your "Jesus Year," as your buddies like to say. May it be the holiest year of your life so far!

I am so blessed by you and praise God for the wonderful husband, father, spiritual leader, and provider you are. Thank you for walking this sometimes intense road with me. I wouldn't have it any other way.


PS--Maxy says "We go get [surprise]. Ah Daddy Boofday." You'll have to wait until you get home to see what it is!