Saturday, July 24, 2010

Wrapping Up the Paperwork

This past week, we had our final "official" meeting with our contractor. In addition to making the last payment, we received a notebook of documentation we may need in the future. Inside this close-out binder is contact information for every subcontractor who did the work. There are photos of the wiring inside the walls just before insulation and wallboard covered everything. Also included are digital copies of the drawings in Adobe and Autocad format.
Since we chose to pay for the project through a cost-plus method, we maintained a notebook with all subcontractor invoices. These were put in a large notebook each month - divided by trade. After 8 months of work, this binder became very full.
One of the more interesting pages inside the closeout notebook is a document from Ace Waste that tabulates the volume of demolition and construction debris that they processed from our project. It was staggering to learn that 70 tons (140,000 pounds) of stuff went into the dumpsters over the past eight months. The good news is that 81% of it was recycled in some way. If we were tracking the project for LEED certification, we would get 2 points in that category.
Recycling this way was not free but was similar in cost to taking everything to the landfill. If the motivation is there, you can be more careful about what goes in the dumpster and also separate materials to get a higher percentage. We could have done more with the roof rafters and wall studs, but making them usable for future use would be labor-intensive. My guess is that it will soon be accepted practice (if not mandated by the locality) to recycle all construction debris.
Another item of paperwork at the end is the filing for the $1500 federal tax-credit for energy efficient renovation. The work that qualifies is the replacement of the HVAC system on the first floor. It can be earned only once - but there are a variety of ways to qualify if you're doing a project with a scope like ours; the most common are windows and doors, insulation, and mechanical systems.
Over the next couple weeks, we will be hosting a couple events and several overnight guests. On the 11th of August, Modern Richmond is scheduled to make a tour of our house. There are 50 or 60 people who are proponents of modern design and tour a property each month. The week before that, we'll be hosting a group of British scouts who are attending our National Jamboree in Caroline County. Some will be staying here for a couple nights and the whole group of 30 plus leaders will be coming over for a cookout one night.
The house is starting to feel like ours and being able to have guests use our house was part of the reason we did the renovation.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Move-in Plus 3 Weeks

We've been in the house now for a few weeks and there is still a pile of stuff in the rental house to remove. With the recent heat, it's been hard to get the motivation to finish. Ugh.

Yesterday, I lugged my very heavy drawing table into the second floor loft. This will be a temporary situation for two reasons: First, I want to limit the amount of design-work I bring home. Second, we need a place to pay bills and set the computer.
We have decided to build a desk that matches the wood cabinets and will wrap around the northeast corner of the room. It was always anticipated to have a desk there, but didn't know if we'd find a piece of furniture or just build something in-place. We installed several receptacles for powere and data, but like other decisions we decided to wait until after we used the space for a while.
Right now at night, a person at the desk is a bit conspicuous to passers-by. But when the window treatments are installed we'll be hidden from the street but will still see the sky, trees, and vista across the river. The top-down/bottom-up feature of the window treatments provides that flexibility.
We just received our first full-month's electric bill. We weren't living there the entire month, but the HVAC systems were all running as if we were; to dry things out and test them. The electric charges were a good bit less than what we would normally receive in the summer before the renovation. That is really great news as we added 800 SF of conditioned space (50% more) and more-than-doubled the glass area of our house. Also, this past June and July were unusually hot. There are several factors that I attribute this reduction to:
  • The old house had very little insulation in it. We more than doubled the effective R-value on the remaining old house walls and have a very high value on the new construction.
  • The house has less air-infiltration than before. The expandable insulation helps as well as having new windows that seal tighter.
  • The old single-pane aluminum windows were all removed and high-quality insulated (R-3)windows are being used throughout.
  • The lights were hardly used before 8:30 PM. With so much window area and the open living areas, there is plenty of light to do most any task.
  • The HVAC systems have a higher SEER value and should be more efficient.

We'll continue to monitor the energy consumption throughout the year and compare it to old bills for the 30 months we lived in the house before starting the renovation.

Monday, July 5, 2010

First Event

One of the special features of our street is its vantage for viewing the July 4 fireworks at Dogwood Dell just across the river. We could see them from our front yard, but the best viewing is 100 feet down the road where you have a wide view looking across and down the river. The city closes our block at 8:00 PM so people can put their chairs and blankets on the road. Last night, there may have been 500 people on this little stretch of road.

Because this is such a fun night for our street, we left my family reunion in Kansas City a bit early so we could be in town for the first Fourth in our new house. Most of our neighbors have friends and family over beforehand. We invited some church friends over for ice cream before the fireworks - and of course a tour of our house. The tour doesn't take real long as it's not that big of a house.

The list of things remaining grows shorter but there are a few important items. Anyone that has moved recently will remember how long it takes to put everything away and get those little details taken care of like the newspaper service. With all the things to do, we still go over to the rental house to pick up the paper each afternoon.

The biggest trouble we've had is with our communications provider Comcast. There have been 6 appointments made and have yet to get our internet or telephone service installed - or the wires buried in the back yard. They did manage to get the cable TV hooked up on the third try. Our general contractor warned us that this would be a frustrating task - despite having our entire house pre-wired. The technicians are friendly but the issue is one of communication with the people on the phone making the appointments. Ironic, isn't it?

The next things happening at our house will be the arrival of the dining room table, the installation of the cantilevered trellis over the front door, and the window treatments. On the design-front, I will be taking Preston's landscape plan and adjusting it into the new layout of the front yard. Because I shifted the entrance walk more to the center, some of the plant locations will need adjustment. This re-draw will be done sometime between now and mid-August so new plants can be placed this fall.