Holiday Delays but Still Pushing

We are still making progress on the Modern Bungalow trying to wrap this house up, but with the holidays its been hard to keep up the pace. Since my last update inside we got the central air conditioning installed, hot water heater, red oak stair treads and risers, and all the electrical trim and fixtures. The fire sprinkler guy came back and trimmed out too, installing all the sprinkler heads and bell box. There’s nothing left inside except for the tile setting while I wait for another week for the cabinets to arrive and get installed. The countertop fabricator is on standby to come right in after the cabinets, then its only hardwood floor refinishing and carpet in the 2 bedrooms. Garage door is also on order. I could have had it wrapped inside by now if I would have ordered cabinets before the drywall went up.

The new tile contractor I hired is done now with mud floating all the walls and getting into tile setting with his wife. This is the second husband and wife team we’ve had on this job, my exterior painters’ wife also was a painter. These ladies know what they are doing too, they are not just sweeping up! Instead of Hardi backer we opted for the mud float method where you do moisture barrier paper, metal lathe and then float out the walls with spec mix. The City comes and inspects paper and lath before you can start floating the walls. It gives a perfectly flat and plumb surface but definitely more work, he spent 4 days floating the walls when I could have put up backerboard in a few hours. The tile I went with in the master is a modern 12 x 24 light grey designer porcelain and I stacked it square to give a more clean minimalist and contemporary look. In the hall bath I went with the 3×6 ceramic but also opted not do do a subway pattern so it will be more of a clean look with a period material, working well with our home design. Both bathrooms got great niches in the wall for soap and shampoo bottles.

I thought by now I would have been done with the house but things always drag out at then end, time is on my side with Christmas and New Years coming up now so we’ll move in after the holidays.

The San Diego real estate market is still very hot. No signs of slowing even through the typically slow Fall season. With only a little over 2 months inventory it is a sellers market again and we are seeing bidding wars and multiple offers in all price tiers. I don’t see things changing through 2013 because interest rates will stay low and there’s no more huge waves of foreclosures coming as all the adjustable loans have reset already. Banks will continue to trickle out a few REO’s here and there, but even short sale volume is dropping fast. House flippers in San Diego will have a tough time competing with large, well funded buy and hold groups investing for appreciation. Some flippers are moving up the price range and flipping million dollar homes where there is less competition. There’s a lot of investor and first time buyer activity and prices are being affected by it, October was up 13% from last year and in some areas have reached 2005 peak home price levels again.

Construction Update – South Park

Just over 4 months since I poured the foundation on our Modern Bungalow, we are making progress over in South Park, walk through with me and let me know what you think. The grey interior colors might appear a little soft but don’t let that fool you. Once I get the warmth from the hardwood floor refinishing, and my bold surprise cabinet choices, it will all work. I’m moving straight into tile now and concrete flat work outside. My electrician is trimming out and we just passed the meter inspection Friday so I can call SDG&E now to get the power moved from my temporary pole to the house. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for following!

Color Me Mod

The exterior paint got finished last weekend, here are some pics that show how it came out. Its vivid and bold, definitely not predictable colors from the Craftsman era but leaning more modern. The bronze aluminum windows also really give it a sort of commercial modern look and contrast well with the light trim. The stained overhangs and individually painted rafter tails are really a surprise detail not to be overlooked.

On the front porch, I went with a bronze standing seam metal roof, it ties into the  windows and the main roof color. I feel that I got a really good deal at 700 bucks and my sub contractor hand made it on site. The cedar porch posts and beam were also stained to match the eaves. The visible T&G under the porch is also stained to match the eaves, I’ll show this detail later with a better pic.

While the house was getting painted outside, I was inside trimming it out. I went with the Craftsman style 3-panel doors this time. Its the first time I’ve used them and they are pretty swell, especially the 8 foot high ones and the parlor doors on the bedroom closets. Even the water closet pocket doors are the same style. I used 8″ baseboards and 4″ door casings. There are only 2 bedrooms that will get carpet, you can see I left the baseboards up 1/2″ off the floor in those rooms.

Here is the order I do interiors in: 1. Hang Drywall 2. Install Hardwood floors 3. Trim out 4. Spray Ceilings 5. Spray trims 6. Paint walls 7. Tile 8. Install Millworks 9. Refinish Hardwoods 10. Carpet.  When painting ceilings and walls I love coming with a roller behind the sprayer, your coat comes out way nicer and the roller pushed the paint into the new drywall. I also use PVA drywall primer on the new drywall. Everything always gets 2 coats as well. There are other methods that work too, I’ve seen guys actually put the wall color on before trimming out the house and hanging doors. Then they come back and just paint the trim. For me I think it causes too much touch up later and the dust inside the house when you are cutting all the MDF trim gets everywhere.

You can see the guys spraying the ceiling and back rolling while still wet. I’m trying a lot of new things on this project with the interior paint colors and finishes and reversing lights and darks in a way most people don’t see. Its always more work to try new ideas but challenging and rewarding to keep progressing.

I am doing a fully custom millworks package (cabinets) for the whole house. Its on order and getting built, should arrive around the end of this month. After the interior paint we will move into the tile jobs inside and the concrete driveway, small retaining wall and flatwork outside.

South Park Sneak Peak

Here’s a sneak peak of the exterior paint job on our Modern Bungalow. You can see the color choices are bold and edgy, playing into our contemporary design twist and coming out just as I planned. I didn’t pull the window trim color all around the house to the corners and smaller areas intentionally to give it a more mod feel, it worked well as there is enough detail already in the siding design without the extra coloring. For me the stained eaves and dark rafter tails really do it. Paint colors are all satin and as follows: Body SW Wheat Grass, Shingles SW Edgy Gold, Trim SW Ionic Ivory, Rafters and tails Cromwell Grey, Eaves Behr semi-transparent Natural Cedartone. Next, we are moving inside to the interior paint and tile.

Ready For Paint

My South Park Modern Bungalow new build is finally ready for paint, take one last look because the next time you see her she’ll have 3 shades of green, grey rafter tails and cedar stained eaves. It took me and a helper just over 3 weeks to do all the siding, knee braces and corbels but it was worth it.

The Hardi staggered shingle is very labor intensive but it paid off. It gives some great depth and adds texture while defining the pop out shed dormer too. You can see I separated the siding styles with a Hardi Trim 1×8.

We kept the corbels very simple to match the knee braces. I used Douglas Fir 4×8 and had it re-sawn at my local lumber yard. They will get a cedar stain to match the tongue and groove eaves and porch posts and beam. I’m really liking the big overhang look and all the open rafter tails, cant wait to see them individually painted.

I left the roof off the porch until after paint so I didn’t mess it up by walking on it. It’s going to be a Bronze standing seam metal roof that will be close in color to my aluminum windows. The reveal for the 3 small bathroom fixed windows was quite challenging to pull off but it looks very organic. You’ll notice the angle changes from the top as you go down. We used aluminum corners made especially for the Hardi staggered shingle to hide the edge seams and protect it from moisture.

Here are the 4 colors we picked for the house, The body is 2 shades of green, Edgy Gold and Wheat Grass by Sherwin Williams. The trim is a very light green that almost looks white, its Ionic Ivory. The rafter tails, barge rafters and knee braces will be Benjamin Moore Cromwell Grey. All the tongue and groove eaves, corbels and porch post and beam will get that cedar stain.  This is the first time we’ve stained the eaves on top of painted rafter tails so I’m pretty excited to see the results.

90% Smooth Texture and Red Oak Hardwoods

Outside we are now into the second week of the siding  job while the drywall crew finished up on the inside of our Modern South Park Bungalow. I ended up going with a 90% smooth, hand-troweled texture on the entire house and garage. It took 165 sheets of drywall, a case of tape and 30 boxes of mud for the entire job on this 1850 s.f. house. My guys do an incredible flawless job so I’m happy once again.

Now that the drywall is done, we are going straight into laying the hardwood floors this week. These are the real deal, 2 1/4″ x 3/4″ Red Oak unfinished wood. Once the house is all done, one of the last things we’ll do is then sand and stain them. These are the best hardwood floors you could ask for, they’ll last 100 years and you can refinish them many times and always change the stain color. Laying unfinished Red Oak and then paying someone to refinish it, is a little more expensive than just laying a pre-finished engineered hardwood, but the quality is second to none. After the hardwoods go in, I’ll then trim out the house on top of them. What you see here is about half of what I bought, I am doing 1200 of the 1850 s.f., which is the whole house minus the two secondary bedrooms.

Siding and Mud

My new construction project is running very smoothly. After passing the inspection on my house wrap Monday, we were finally able to start putting the Hardi Siding up. I have really been anxious to see what the house will finally look like after all the rough work that gets buried and nobody will see. Now comes the fun part, which actually gives the house its personality. What’s inside the walls is just as good as you guys know, but this part is what I’ll look at every day.

First, I framed the windows with 1 x4″ Hardi Trim. The Hardi Lap Siding on the bottom goes up pretty fast in 12 foot lengths with a 7″ reveal, I went with the smooth version to look clean. The Hardishingle Staggered Edge style up top on the other hand, is quite labor intensive. The pieces are only 48″ wide and go up with a 6″ reveal, but really give the house some dimension and texture. I ran a 1×8″ dividing band board with a 1×2″ shelf on top to separate the styles and add even more detail. The siding comes in primer, but oddly enough the color is similar to what we will actually be using for paint. We are now on our second wall, I can see this siding project stretching out to several weeks as there is tons of detail work and not much room around the house for the scaffolding, but its looking great!

The second inspection we passed this week was on Thursday, for the drywall screw spacing. The mud crew was on standby to start taping and floating everything once the inspector signed off on the hanging  job. Once again, this is an extremely specialized crew. Different guys than the drywall hangers last week. We are putting one of the best drywall crews in San Diego on this project and after the whole house is taped and floated we’ll be doing 2 coats of a level 4 smooth hand-troweled texture.

In order to keep up my construction pace, I ordered all the pre-hung interior doors last week, bought the Red Oak unfinished hardwood flooring material this week, and am currently about ready to pull the trigger on the millworks package. It’s all about thinking 2 steps ahead to make sure you don’t run into a 3-week wait for a special order, which in my case is just about everything.

Frame and Rough Inspection: Passed

I’m rockin’ and rollin’ baby! Monday I passed the huge, monumental Frame and Rough inspection. The inspector looks at how the whole house was framed, Simpson hardware installations, shear panel nailing and then electrical, plumbing, hvac duct work, ventilation and fire sprinklers. There are so many little things that he looks for, that its easy to fail but I’ve been through this so many times we’ve got it dialed now. He was very impressed with the quality of my work and how fast we built the house, we just passed the 2-month mark from when we got our permit stamps and poured the foundation. I had the insulation company ready to come in Tuesday morning so we didn’t lose any time.

I use Tracy at OJ Insulation out of Escondido, I would pay the same money just buying the insulation at Home Depot for what it costs to have them do it. Since I went 2×6 on my exterior walls I was able to upgrade the standard R 13 wall insulation to twice-as-thick R 19, this is going to be a huge energy saver. The guys hung all exterior walls, between floors, attic, HVAC closet and bathrooms for noise reduction, in a day so I could call in the insulation inspection. The insulation job ran about $1500 bucks for materials and labor. Here in San Diego the inspector wants to verify the insulation before you can hang drywall, we passed this second inspection on Wednesday this week and I had the drywall hangers ready to come in on Thursday.

I’m using the same drywall crew that did my big historic project last summer The Painted Lady. There are less expensive guys I know that were chomping at the bit to do it, but this crew specializes in smooth hand troweled texture and I want the best for this house. They do all the custom spec houses and million-dollar Coronado remodels. I didn’t want the skip trowel or birdseye finish that most guys do, it costs more to go smooth because you are basically doing 2 coats of mud on the whole house and using lights at night to make sure everything is flat. The drywall hangers are old guys, one guy is 62 and another is 71 years old. I didn’t have to ask how long they’ve been hanging drywall but the texture guys wont use anybody else because the better its hung, the easier it is to get perfect smooth walls. The extra time we spent “straight edging” the walls is paying off. We took an 8-foot level and went around the whole house planing down high wall studs and shimming low ones to prep for the drywall.

The next inspection I have next week is for drywall screw spacing before we can tape and float. At the same time the inspector will sign off on the exterior moisture barrier so we can start installing the Hardi Siding on the house. I used the best product out there, Tyvek Home Wrap. My siding delivery comes on Monday so we’ll be off to the races on the exterior siding while the drywall guys continue inside. This project is running like a machine, its all production work and as long as you have the materials ordered and ready, pass inspections in a timely manner and have sub-contractors lined up, its like running a factory, I should know from my old days from the snowboard factory. Thanks for following!

Fire Sprinklers!

It seems most sub-contractors are having a busy summer. Building is definitely picking up by talking to everyone in the industry. Because of this, my regular electrician couldn’t get to my project right away so I brought in a new crew. These guys are new construction, not messin’ around, real-deal electricians. 5 guys showed up on Saturday and by Sunday at 4pm the whole house was 90% done including 200 amp service, riser, all 24 branch circuits, home runs, under cabinet lighting, multiple 3-way switching and 24 can lights. I went with LED recessed lighting for energy savings, having just used it on a customers kitchen remodel I was surprised that the light quality is far superior to the florescent cans we were using last year to conform to Title 24 requirements. For only 9 watts of power usage you get 65 watts of clean lighting, a huge savings on your electric bill. Just another green feature on this project.

We took the drywall delivery this week, too. I like to get it in the house and stacked in all the rooms ready to go before we close everything up outside. It would have been impossible to carry the 12′ sheets upstairs later so this is essentially planning ahead. I measured 160 12′ 1/2″ sheets of drywall for the house and 5/8″ for the garage and under the stairwell per City Code. Material cost was $2021.00 not including tape, mud and corner bead.

For more energy savings we always foam the doors and windows before drywall. Some guys still wont do this because they think it will warp the window frames, but its the only way to get a complete seal after the new construction windows go in. We learned this in the hot Texas climate. After it dries you just remove the excess that comes out and then you have a great energy seal. Per Building Code you also have to use the Fire Block foam on all the holes you drilled through the top plate for mechanicals. The inspector will look for this at my insulation inspection.

After the electrician was done I brought in my last and final mechanical sub-contractor, the Fire Sprinkler guy. Fire sprinklers on all San Diego residential new construction, and some addition/remodels in fact, has been mandatory since 2007 after we had the big Cedar and Witch Fires.

The supply lines come from a panel location near your water service. To handle the increased volume, water supply size is stepped up to 1 1/4″ to the house and 1″ at the cut off. The fire sprinkler lines are 1″ CVPC that is orange in color, its ran throughout the entire house keeping heads around 8 feet apart and away from A/C registers and lighting, and the calculations call for a certain number of sprinkler heads per room size. Per his City permitted design, my sub-contractor has 4 heads in the great room, 1 in each bedroom and bathroom, and even 1 in the walk-in closet, water heater closet and HVAC closet. The master bedroom got 2 heads.  The fire sprinkler heads will not be visible in the living areas and look like flush mounted white discs after trim out.

The fire sprinklers in the garage go by different calculations and are a bit different, visible sprinkler heads will be in place after drywall. The requirement is 1 head for every 150 s.f. of garage space.

This is the fire sprinkler riser that is located in a panel accessible from the outside of my house near the water service. It also feeds the bell box which gets mounted high on the house in an area where bedrooms can hear it easily. Once the system is pressurized with water the Fire Marshall will come inspect it and give me a card, which in turn I will give to the City Inspector at the Frame and Rough inspection this week. The cost for this complete fire sprinkler system installed, with design and permits was $2,200.00. I’m ready for this big monumental inspection this week, its all going to be downhill after we get to start insulating and hanging drywall, stay tuned!

New Construction South Park

Here’s a Sneak Peek of the new build we are doing in South Park. Rough framing is now complete, roof on, Milgard aluminum windows in, plumbing done, HVAC almost complete, next up is electrical and fire sprinklers then I can call for the big “rough-in” City inspection.

South Park Framing Video

Not Just a Big Box

Week 3 got us pretty close to being done with the rough framing on the Modern Bungalow. We have a lot of features and angles with this house, its not just a big box so its taking a little longer than originally planned but well worth it.  You can see we got the trusses up and the roof is almost completely sheeted. I left the rafter tails open with no facia board to replicate the craftsman bungalow style. The barge rafter also has a nice detail to add some interest.

The trusses were a breeze and went up really fast, but things slowed down we moved to the conventional “stick” framing of the roof line for the master suite above the garage. There are 3 more big parallam beams up there that allow us some really fun and unique ceiling angles, I’ll save that one to show you in the walk through video.

Under the eaves I used 2×6 tongue and groove on the 18″ rafter tails. It’s a great detail that many guys skip because it adds extra cost but its the right way to do open rafter tails and really also mimics the craftsman style. There are going to be several prominent Modern elements also to the home design, so I thought it was important to have as many period details alongside them to balance the blend.

For the roof sheathing I used OSB with a Tech Shield radiant barrier on the under side. It cost about 2 bucks more per sheet but it will be another huge energy saving feature of the home and save money on electric bills. Keeping your attic cool, and well ventilated is key to saving energy as we learned while building in Texas. This product blocks 97% of the radiant heat from entering through your roof sheathing.  Adding this radiant barrier will reduce attic temperatures by 30 degrees and result in a 17% savings in cooling costs. Before putting the roof on I have to get the nail spacing inspected by the City. You have to have a big ladder available but I don’t see this guy climbing up there its so high, it’ll be fun to see what he does.

My plumber got a great start too working alongside the framers, all the ABS waste lines and black iron pipe gas lines are done. Everything inside is real close and we even got the stairs finished. The electrician and HVAC sub contractors can also start once all rough framing is totally done. There’s a cool new construction project in Encinitas called The Leucadia Collection I want to check out, similar idea to what I’m doing. We might drive by this weekend and see if they’ve started framing or have a model home up.

South Park Second Floor

We moved into second floor framing on my South Park new construction house this week, it was way faster than the first floor even though there are more walls. We are up pretty high now but still within the 30′ height limits from the City. It only took a day and a half to frame everything on the second story, although there is still a lot of pick up carpentry work to be done everywhere and we still need to do the stairs.

This is the upstairs shared bathroom front corner of the house. You can see below the 3 small windows facing the street, this is one of the neat and unique features on this house, we framed a second 2×4 wall inside the 2×6 exterior wall for the windows to facilitate the window recess as seen in the architectural rendering.

The roof trusses come on Tuesday from Ramona Lumber Company, we’ve slowed down a bit because I was told it would only take 3 days to get the trusses from the date ordered but it ended up taking 6. Its key to remeasure the actual second floor before you order trusses as things can change by a few inches and the trusses have to rest perfectly on these second floor walls. My goal is to put the roof on this weekend, we’ll see. Mechanicals can start now, I always do plumbing first then HVAC and electrical. The fire sprinklers will be the last to go in before rough inspection. Windows are arriving around the 28th.

Modern Bungalow Framing

Huge progress this week in only 4 and a half days of framing, the Modern Bungalow is starting to take shape now with the whole first floor and garage framed up. I haven’t seen anyone doing this in San Diego, my architect is doing these in Austin, Texas and this is the hottest new construction style for the old metro neighborhoods. The house will still have the classic lines of a bungalow but mashed with modern construction and design features. Everyone loves bungalows but this twist is going to give you the best of both worlds with contemporary style being the most popular right now in the home design world.

The underground plumbing, floor system and insulation inspection went a little better the second time on Monday, my regular inspector said everything looked good and he wouldn’t have made me change the sanitee fitting to pass. 3 more signatures on the card and we were able to get the 3/4″ T&G CDX subfloor down.

We put up the North living room wall first and then the front, or East kitchen wall. Notice the 10 foot ceilings downstairs and the 8 foot door heights. We also made all the windows a little taller and lined them up at the 8 foot door height as well. The doors and windows are as high as most peoples ceilings, it makes the house feel so much more expansive. My framers thought I was crazy and never even do 8 foot doors, normally its reserved for McMansions and is popular in Phoenix and Texas so its probably safe to say this is a first for South Park. The coolest thing ever is walking in the front door and looking straight back at the green canyon through the custom 9 foot wide by 8 foot high patio slider doors.

The highlight of the week was lifting up the 19′ balloon wall. Its the exterior wall on the driveway side of the house that reaches all the way to the roof trusses because there is a stairway in this location. You can see the 3 headers that follow the staircase up. It took 9 guys to lift the wall in place it was so heavy with my over sized material. For this house I’m using 2×6 framing for all exterior walls instead of standard 2×4. Besides being structurally superior, this will give me room for a greater insulation barrier for huge energy savings and provide better sound proofing from the nearby flight pattern. Some builders move spacing on wall studs out to 24″ when they go to 2×6 but I left them at 16″ on center. A friend of mine who works for a large National home builder called it a energy saving fortress.

In order to do the wide open modern floorplan, I used Parallam beams to span the 22 foot living room and then hung the joists off the beams. You can see us here lifting the largest beam up which measures 7″x14″x22′

Upstairs I used engineered I joists from Trus Joist. These TJI joists are the highest quality available and resist warping, twisting and shrinking to prevent bouncy or squeaky floors. Besides allowing greater spans from the engineering, one nice thing is you don’t have to crown the wood, they are all perfectly straight and will give a perfectly flat floor upstairs. I’ll fir down each joist so the 14″ beam wont show when we drywall the ceiling in the living room.

In the shear wall locations I’m also using CDX instead of OSB. You can see how large the house is looking here with just the first floor up. It’s going to dwarf the 2-story bungalow next door. Seeing this huge 2-car attached garage and wide driveway is also very atypical for the neighborhood, of course I did a 8′ high garage door to accommodate my truck.  Notice also here how the 9′ high garage ceiling height is lower than the second floor, this is where steps lead down to the master suite from the secondary living space to provide a little more interest and privacy. I’m so happy with this cutting edge design, there’s going to be so many cool things going on when its complete to make this a real fun house to live in. We are ready to start the second floor framing this week, there are more cool design features that I cant wait to see take shape. I planned on 2 weeks for rough framing but it will probably stretch out a little longer with all the small pick up work to be done at the end.

You’re The Boss

In any other state I could have been all the way up to the second floor framing this week but here in San Diego the City inspector wants to see your floor system framed up first, verify the hold downs and framing, then come back and inspect the underfloor plumbing lines, then come back again and inspect the insulation. You lose a day in between each inspection so this would have dragged out for a week. It really makes sense to do it this way because its easier to do the under house plumbing now, rather than crawling under the house later to do it but the reason the inspector wants it done in this order really just comes down to the fact that he’s not crawling under the house no matter what.

After framing up the floor system in a day I had my plumber come and set all the under floor ABS waste lines and fill them again with water to make sure there’s no leaks. Lastly the insulation got dropped in on nylon netting we strung between the floor joists. Its a real trick way to insulate the floor on a new construction raised foundation house. I’ve used wires in the past but the insulation always ends up falling down in some places. Once we pass then we just sheet over it. The threaded rod you see sticking up is for the Simpson HDU hold downs that secure 4X6 posts in the exterior walls all the way down into the concrete foundation footing. This is to securely hold the structure on the foundation in case of an earthquake and they are strategically placed in shear wall areas by the engineer on the plans.

Of course I had a better idea. I tried to speed things up by only calling once to have him come do all 3 inspections simultaneously. I had the insulation pulled back along the sides so he could see the framing, plumbing and hold downs thinking this would be fine, unfortunately he wasn’t really that excited about my idea. My regular inspector didn’t show up but rather a Senior Inspector who happens to be very thorough and whom I’ve dealt with before. He almost gave me the signature required in order for me to sheet the floor with CDX and start putting walls up, but he found one plumbing fitting that he said wasn’t correct so he’s coming back Monday after we change it and also wants me to pull more of the insulation back for a better look. Uggghhh. My plumber swears the fitting he used is allowed, its a Sanitee on its back for a 2″ vent pipe. The inspector wanted a sweep which is weird cause its only a vent, not a waste line. Who knows but I wasn’t going to argue with him, I told him he’s the boss but I kinda want to check the code book now though just out of curiosity.

The senior inspector asked who the general contractor was. Hesitantly, I told him I was an owner/builder. Seeming surprised he said it looked better than most jobs and kept congratulating me on doing such good work. Maybe he was just trying to make me feel better because he could see it on my face that I was bummed not being able to start putting up the walls. He knew I was totally ready to go, as he was doing his inspection I received the first delivery of truss material for the second story. I should pass on Monday and we’ll be back in action. I’m a Chevy guy but how cool is this early Ford extra cab delivery truck from La Mesa Lumber?