Tuesday, March 30, 2010

General Contractor Blues

The list of things done wrong, or not to our expectation, by our general contractor is growing.

We've got the General Contractor blues.

We have heard from a number of people who have gone through the home building experience who have told us that it is normal to hate your GC by the end of the project. I guess I can see how that could be true as no one ever cares as much about the project as the people paying the bills! But it is a real bummer to have to deal with poor quality work.

We've got the General Contractor blues.

So here is a list of things that have failed to meet our expectations:

1. The framing took such a long time, that completion of the septic system had to go on hold until Spring. We talked to several builders who indicated that 2 weeks was a typical amount of time to complete the framing. Our crew took 2 months!

2. Dean is not happy with the way the roof overhangs were constructed. So there is more than one "acceptable" way to construct these, but the way it was done was the "less strong" way. The way it was done is that the overhangs were tacked on to the side of the gable end wall. The better way would have been to lower the gable end wall and construct a ladder that is cantilevered and supported by the gable wall as illustrated in this diagram.

Thanks to my brother Tom for the loan of the book that this diagram comes from.

3. One of the windows was installed "un-level" and so would not operate correctly. He did fix this once it was pointed out to him.

4. The porch is not level. His partner tried to tell us that this was due to settling in the cement piers, but Dean noticed this within a couple of days after it was constructed, so I do not think that was the reason.

Does this look level to you??

5. One of the exterior door frames was installed wrong so that it did not operate correctly. The screws were too long, pushing the doorjamb down and causing the door to squeek and rub. This drove Dean crazy! So he had to fix it himself.

6. Dean had to go around the entire house securing the strapping where it had not been nailed up correctly.

7. The shower was not installed correctly. (It is not clear whether our GC planned to come back and secure it properly) but Dean spent 1/2 day leveling and shimming it, and securing it.

8. Some of the Zip tape on the outside of the house was put up incorrectly leaving the house vulnerable to rain water getting in.

9. One of the rake boards was put on backwards so that the bevel invites water into the house rather than away from the house as it is supposed to do.

10. The stair stringers were overcut rendering them less strong. This could have been avoided if he had used a hand saw to cut the last inch on each stair...

11. There is a squeek in the upstairs floor which Dean fixed.

12. Two of the windows had damage to the finish. He says he will get the window company to come out and fix this.

13. One of the electrical outlets that we had indicated in the plan for the outside of the house was not placed. We did not discover this until after the insulation was installed.

And last but not least, our drywall contractor has observed and commented that several areas of the framing is not square!!

I really don't think that it is too much to expect brand new construction to at least be square!

We've got the General Contractor blues...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Drywall and other stuff

I got to spend last week taking a short vacation to Galveston, Texas with my good friend CathyO. We left the day after the 3 day Nor'Easter that dumped about eleven inches of rain in this part of the world.

While I was away, Dean - who held down the fort and continued to work on the Ashby house - got this cool photo of the effects of all that rain on part of the driveway there.

Today, it's raining again, so I walked down to our brook to see what she looks like. Between the rain and the Spring thaw, she's pushing quite a bit of water!

While I was away, the drywall contractor got started.

Among the things that Dean worked on while I was away was the downstairs shower. He got it leveled and shimmed.

I have been the one taking most of the photos on this project, but while I was away, Dean was on orders to take photos. So here is another cool picture that he captured.

Here is the close-up of those two jets. I think it must be a good omen to have 2 jets fly in formation over your house, right?

This past Sunday was a nice sunny day, and I was off work (and back from Texas), so Dean and I spent the afternoon working at the house.

We moved the big pile of scrap wood that was left from the framing.

As usual, Pumpernickel looked on to make sure we were doing a good job.

I took a turn up on the ladder squirting silicon to seal some of the nail holes in the sheathing so hopefully the rain will not come in...

And we sat on the porch for a snack break of crackers and peanut butter and to make funny faces for the camera!

All in all, a nice day! It is a sweet feeling to work on the house where we will someday be living...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Materials Management

So the insulation has been completed, and we are now in the phase of deciding on and purchasing (and storing...) the various products for finishing the house.

The drywall contractor will start later this week, so the drywall and plaster has been delivered and awaits installation.

We got a delivery of the honed black granite tiles that will be used for the entryway and the woodstove hearth.

Here we are meeting the truck at the end of the driveway. The driver did not want to risk getting stuck!

We have them stacked in a corner of the basement until we are ready to install.

The kitchen cabinets were delivered last week. We have them stored in one of our on-site storage containers, and they take up a lot of room!

Here we are taking inventory.

We found one damaged cabinet so far :-((

A replacement has been ordered. I hope this does not end up slowing us down for installation.

Also in the storage unit are some of the light fixtures we have ordered. This is what we will be using in the dining room.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Flash & Blow

When it comes to insulation, there are a lot of options. Spray-in expanding foam is state of the art, but it was cost prohibitive for us to do a full thickness of this, so we opted for a "flash" - meaning a thin layer of foam is sprayed into the stud bays, and then the remainder of the space is filled with something else.

In our case, we went with blown-in fiberglass to fill the remainder of the space between the studs and also used this for the attic space. Hence the "blow"!

So, first is the FLASH...

This is the truck and it's inner workings.

Here is one of our guys in action. The photos were taken from the doorway. We had to stay out of the house during this process.

The next day, Dean was able to go in the house and take lots of photos of the finished job. We think it came out really good!

After just this layer, the house was already feeling much more cozy and quiet, and less like a big hollow box!

But wait, there's more...

Here is the BLOW.

A different crew of guys was sent out for this part.

First, all of the walls and ceilings are covered with this netting that looks like some type of spun fabric. The result looks and feels like we are in a cocoon.

Then the fluffy fiberglass bits are blown into the space between the fabric and the outer walls. They really pack it in!

This insulation system is expected to give us R values of 28+ in the walls and 38 in the ceiling.

What Is an R-Value you may wonder? Here is an explanation that I lifted from the Department of Energy website.

Insulation is rated in terms of thermal resistance, called R-value, which indicates the resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating effectiveness. The R-value of thermal insulation depends on the type of material, its thickness, and its density. In calculating the R-value of a multi-layered installation, the R-values of the individual layers are added.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Slippery when wet

I had in mind to use natural stone tile for surfacing the entry/mudroom and the woodstove hearth. I was thinking I would like to use limestone. I got some samples - which were beautiful - but then got the price which was way high, so...

Did a little more research and ordered a sample of honed granite which was about half the price of the limestone. A honed finish is more matte than the highly polished finish that you associate with granite, but it still seemed like it might be very slippery when wet, and since we wanted to use it in the entry, we were concerned about this.

So we did a "slip test" - which is what I am doing here. I put some water on the tile, and tried it out with several different pairs of shoes, and bare feet, too. I am happy to report that the tile was no more slippery that the linoleum that our current kitchen has. So we are going with it.

We have ordered 100 square feet and expect delivery later this week.

We have been working to get the house ready for the insulators.

The rough electric and plumbing are both done and have been signed off on.

I was spending a lot of time in the last 2 weeks on vacuuming duty to remove all of the little wood chips and saw dust left behind from drilling through studs for pipes and wires, and I was craving to do something that required using a tool other than the vacuum.

One of the cans for recessed lighting needed to be moved about 6 inches. Perfect - a chance to use a ladder, a hammer and a drill!

Dean, in the meantime, continued in his role as the "mad foamer" squirting foam into any little nook, cranny, crack or crevice that he could find.

Here he takes a moment to give a progress report to our job foreman

In other news... Yesterday, the kitchen cabinets were delivered , and the insulators started! More on this in my next post...