November 10th, 2009

The Last Two Weeks

For the last couple weeks we have been out of town. The photo above is from the platform of the Palm Springs train station… We didn’t stay there, we were on our way home on a train trip that brought us to Chicago, Austin/San Antonio, and points in between. Meanwhile, work has been progressing on the house.

Our rough electricity is done. Plumbing is done with the exception of our tub connection… Our plumber needed our tub to be able to get the waste and overflow in, the tub showed up (way ahead of schedule) but only after our plumber took off on a vacation, so we’ll wait another couple weeks before its in place.

Lessons Learned

One of the big ordeals that we needed to get square before our trip was to get paperwork in for our next construction draw. This one was relatively straight forward, our bank decided arbitrarily to not give us money for interior doors because we haven’t installed them yet… never mind that we need that money to purchase them in the first place. We can probably go out of pocket to get those ordered but it brings up a point that I think is worth making in case anyone reading this is thinking of building new themselves – dealing with the construction loan is a skill in itself and is frustrating in ways that I’ve been learning to deal with but was not entirely prepared for. I’ve mentioned before that the process is set up for developers who are able to float large amounts of money, and not for individuals trying to scrap together resources and make something nice. So I have a couple of pieces of advice for anyone thinking of doing something like this:

1) Front load your budget. Banks tend to only want to fund things that are completed, as you go your labor builds equity which allows the bank to feel secure in releasing funds that equal what has been built. The problem with this system for us is that we just don’t have the ability to do things like put a $9,000 deposit on our windows, this is why we need the loan in the first place. We ended up inadvertently getting a fair amount of freedom to make those sorts of large deposits because we were able to get a large portion of our permitting fees waved. Were we to do this again we would definitely pad those kinds of items that occur early in the process, a few thousand dollars added to excavation or foundations can make everything go more smoothly and will contribute a lot towards staying on schedule.

2) Don’t feel weird about paying yourself. By the end of construction, I probably will have put in $15,000 – $20,000 worth of my time into the house. It might sound odd to take out a loan that you will have to repay with interest and keep the money for yourself, but there is opportunity cost involved in the construction management. Despite the slow economy, I’m likely down a few thousand dollars in missed work and having that buffer again would make things go much more smoothly.

Changing Weather

The rainy season has definitely begun and it feels like a little bit of a race with the autumn to get the house wrapped up as quickly as possible. Flashing finally went in over all the windows just recently, we had delays in getting it made and had to deal with wetness. It would have been nice to get it all in a couple weeks earlier, but now that the windows are flashed everything is staying pretty dry inside. A side note about the flashing, being a little worried about shininess being visible through the rain screen we had looked into copper flashing that would patina and visually recede behind the cedar. We didn’t go for it mostly because of cost, but our contractor was discussing flashing with people at the Bureau of Environmental services during the recent ecoroof seminar who actively discourage the use of copper because it can cause groundwater contamination.

Today we are hopefully getting our TPO roofing membrane installed. The process apparently requires dry weather for the actual installation and fortunately the weather is cooperating because who knows when the next time we will get a day of sun. This is the last little bit of weather proofing necessary to keep our house secure inside.


Our huge tulip tree dropped a pretty intense amount of leaves while we were away.


  1. Hi,

    I wondered if you would share more details about your windows, namely what the total cost was, and how many windows there are in your house. You’ve mentioned that they were expensive, and apparently the deposit was $9000, but I’d like to have a better idea of what to expect if I were to purchase similar windows.

    This is a great project. I love that you have put in a root cellar.


    Comment by S@sha — November 10, 2009 @ 14:31
  2. Hi,

    Our windows ran about $19,800 for the whole package. Thats for eleven total pieces. Everything is triple pane, the expensive units were our sliding patio doors with attached awning windows… Those were about $4,000 a piece. We have a couple of small fixed windows that only ran a few hundred dollars, but most window assemblies were some combination of fixed and awning mulled together and those were $1,000 to $1,800 a piece. Its a lot more than we were originally planning on spending on windows but so far its pretty apparent that they’ll add quite a bit to the quality and comfort of the space and were so worth the money.

    Hope that helps.

    Comment by Matt — November 10, 2009 @ 16:25
  3. Thanks, totally helpful! Eleven windows is exactly the number that are in my house, although mine would be replacement not new construction. I live in NM in an adobe house with good summer shade and no air conditioning, and just keep the house comfortable through passive cooling at night and shutting the house up tight during the day. Triple paned windows would be a huge help, especially on our really hot days.

    Comment by S@sha — November 15, 2009 @ 13:33
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