The parable of the seeds...
So we are in...and we love our new house! But it isn't without its challenges. So to any of you out in "blog world" who are considering building, or perhaps are in the midst of it...here are some tips from the trenches.
- pay for extra "raking time" for your lawn. They don't put top soil on before seeding--they just level out the dirt that is already there (which includes litterally TONS of rocks that they poured on to allow heavy machinery to drive around without sinking into mud), and then put on a couple inches of dirt that they dig up from elsewhere on the construction site. And thus the name of my post. Because we were SO happy was we watched our green grass coming in. And then saddened as we watched it go brown in large patches. The seed sown on rocky soil will quickly spring up, but then the sun comes out, and it withers and dies. We are going to start paying the kids by the lb to pick rocks out of the yard.
- when you write your contract, put in a clause where by the builder has to pay you if they don't finish within a set period of time after the projected completion date. This wasn't an issue for us (the builder was actually waiting on us to get our house sold), but I've known people who were put in the position of having to spend money on storage space and rental houses because of a gap between when their previous house sold and their new house was completed. A neighbor had this clause put into their contract.
- insist on having the location of water line entry to the house drawn onto your blue prints. Our water line comes into the basement right by the stairs, and then sticks out from the wall a good 10 inches when the main water valve is in the open position. This restricts the walkway to the stairs to about 24 inches wide. Lets not even talk about the pump that is sitting a few feet away that we had no clue we were getting...we like that we have it (its a booster in case water pressure is low--right now we don't really need it, but as the development expands we might), but why couldn't it be in a corner where it could be built into a closet when we finish out the basement?
- While we are talking about water issues, lets talk hose connections. Who was the genious who decided that the front of the house was a good place to put it? You would have thought I would consider that since the one at our old house was so difficult to get to, what with having a decorative pine tree in front of it....but no, I didn't. It sits on a wall with a 5 ft deep shrub/flower planting area in front of it. Side of the house would have been MUCH better. And we paid extra to have a second hose connection put on the back of the house, expecting it would be put pretty much in the center of the back. But it wasn't. We have a walk out basement, but the yard slopes downward from the garage side of the house. The hose connection is technically on the side of the house--near the rear of the garage. It is up a pretty steep slope from the majority of the back yard--down right dangerous to get to.
- Don't allow your AC unit to be placed near a slope. We already had to have ours re-leveled before we even moved in, and it is already starting to lean again. Of course a good part of that problem is that the condensation drain line for the AC comes out of the house right behind the AC, so as it gushes water it is eroding the dirt under the AC unit, causing it to lean. At least it leans toward the house rather than down the hill away from the house... I am dumping rocks back there that I pick up from the yard--I think that should help minimize the errosion.
- Put a light switch to your exterior garage door light by your front door. The electrician suggested putting one there, but there were already 3 switches going there (front porch, foyer, and the "Moravian package" for our Christmas candles in the windows), and I didn't want to add a 4th. I realize now it wouldn't have made big difference--there are light switches all over the place anyway. The switch for the garage door light is only by the door from the house to the garage. (on that electrical topic...oh my goodness...OUTLETS!!! They are EVERYWHERE! ;-)
- If there are items still to be resolved at settlement, make sure you keep some money until they are resolved. We've been in the house 4 weeks today and I still have a glorified bath tub for a Jacuzzi (the "on-off" button apparently was not connected before the tub was tiled into place), a non-functional fire place, a chunk of concrete broken out of the front walk, a family room light that doesn't work correctly, and a missing dishwasher panel. I'm sure there is something that I'm forgetting...but my point is, we didn't hold back any money because we expected the builder--who is a respected member of the church my husband grew up in--to be prompt about fixing things. But there doesn't seem to be any rush about getting stuff fixed, and he is trying to back out of some changes that were agreed on by his agent at settlement.
- While we are talking "Jacuzzi," make sure you know what you are getting. We didn't ask. Nor did our neighbors 2 doors down. It's a "Pearl"--a brand I've never heard of. It only has 2 jets. It is a corner unit that is 54" X 54" along the walls. I bet I could have "creditted out" this tub and gotten a 10 jet Whirlpool model that is 60" X 60" from Lowes for the same cost--or not too much more (the tub at Lowes is under $1000, and our entire tub--including installation and tile--was budgetted for $5000). The size isn't a HUGE problem for me at 5'3" tall (though it does get cramped when DH and I are in together), but my neighbor stands about 5'8", and her husband is a bit taller, so I would think the size is an issue for her--she just commented to me about being annoyed with only 2 jets.
- And the final issue...kitchens. Guys...when your wife starts telling you that she isn't happy with the "custom" kitchen manufacturer that the builder is using and she wants to credit out the kitchen and go to Home Depot (especially if she had a Home Depot kitchen in the past!), listen to her! Don't say "but honey, this place is supposed to be really good, lets just stick it out." She knows what she is talking about. Our kitchen is beautiful, really. But the quality is much less than what we had before from the Thomasville line at Home Depot, and the customer service was night & day different. No end to the problems with the kitchen designer at the small "custom" kitchen place not staying with the plans we had given her and not catching flaws that she should have (for example, the double oven and fridge are side by side. She was going to have the cabinet over the double oven have its bottom about 1" lower than the cabinet over the fridge. Now wouldn't that have looked odd??? Fortunately I caught it. But I didn't catch a few other small things, and somethings weren't done in the actual kitchen the way they were drawn in the plans). The kitchen designer at Home Depot was very courteous and helpful. When she didn't agree with our plan she talked it out with us until we came to a resolution--sometimes we swayed her, sometimes she swayed us--but it was always amicable. Found out from neighbor 2 houses down that they had some of the same problems we did with the kitchen folks--including that they put in a single bowl sink when a double bowl had been specified and paid for (we had that changed out PRONTO--the folks down the street were so frustrated from other arguments with the kitchen people that they didn't want to get into it, and changed out the sink themselves). We started saying that this "custom" place was "custom" the same way Henry Ford would make you whatever color Model T you wanted--as long as you wanted black. They would make you a "custom" kitchen--so long as it fit into their idea of what the kitchen should look like. So if I had it to do again, I'd go back to a place with fixed cabinet sizes--because I was able to get a more "custom" experience with that route. Also on kitchens...this is a room to consider enlarging. I really wish I had bumped out the rear wall of our house 2 feet from the kitchen through to the breakfast nook to get more room in the kitchen.