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The hard work pays off – it’s over

KAREN WRAY
Special to Summit Homes and Properties
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Karen and Brian Wray are building a custom log home in Silverthorne. Brian is a general contractor, however Karen has never built a new home. Karen has been keeping a diary of her perception of the home building process. This is the 24th, and final, installment.3/1/06 – Everything is done! It is the 10 month anniversary of groundbreaking. We went for our first inspection to try to get a C.O. today. It was a disappointment, but not entirely unexpected that there were some minor issues that will keep us from moving in over the weekend. Our list is short, and can be corrected over the weekend. We talked with a friend recently who built a “modular” home who had three pages of code violations … we only have seven items. Brian had talked to the building department earlier in the week and was told that the town had never given a Certificate of Occupancy on the first try … ever. Brian took it as a little bit of a challenge and wanted to be the first … however, different interpretations of how the hand rail codes read and some issues with irregularity in our log stairs, as well as some miscommunication about what finishes were needed on our detached workshop, will delay our move into next week. Some parts of the county grant TCO’s (temporary certificates of occupancy), but Silverthorne does not do that. So, the house must be 100 percent finished and 100 percent compliant with the code book in order for us to move in. 3/4/06 – As much as I was hoping to move over the weekend, it turned out OK that we were not allowed to move anything into the house yet. The cabinet hardware finally showed up … 88 pieces! So, while Brian worked on correcting the items needed for Monday’s re-inspection, I cleaned, installed hardware, hung drapery rods and did a few other last minute things that will make it easier to move next week. Once again we skipped the ski slopes in order to finish the house.

3/6/06 – It’s over! What a relief. We passed the final inspection today and are allowed to move in. The house is beautiful and well-beyond my expectations! Even with as stressful as the last few weeks have been, overall, the process of building something as lasting as a log home has been a positive experience. If I were to do it again the only things I would do differently are: Save up more money before starting the project and have less other commitments for my time (work, volunteer work, family vacations) during the project.• If people who have read this column are curious about the house, it will be entered in the Summit County Builder’s Association Parade of Homes in September 2006, and open to the public. Look for information about the Parade in the official programs that can be found in most real estate offices by mid-August or in the Summit Daily News in September.• Finally, here are some key do’s and don’ts I feel I can pass along after two years of my life have been wrapped up in this project.

Do …1) Keep a scrapbook or file of photos, designs, etc. of everything you like from decorating magazines, architectural magazines, plan books, etc. 2) Visit Parade of Homes houses in your area to see the workmanship and style of various suppliers and subcontractors. 3) Keep the names of these suppliers in a file for reference in the future. Take a digital camera with you on these outings.

A custom home should incorporate a variety of things from various sources to make it fit your needs and style. A picture is worth a thousand words when communicating with your design and build team.Don’t … build a home that has odd features that will be hard to re-sell. Everyone goes into a project thinking they will never sell their “dream home.” But circumstances change. Always build some basic floor plan features for the next guy. Examples: closet space, ratio of bedrooms/bathrooms to square footage, neutral colored bath fixtures. Take advice from your Realtor and builder on features that are expected in your price range, and incorporate them to improve your resale value in the future.Do … use a local, reputable general contractor. A GC with relationships in the subcontractor community is imperative when scheduling things to be done in the proper order. A GC who has future jobs on the line has an advantage when schedules get tight and subcontractors will be loyal to their bread and butter contractors. I heard numerous horror stories while writing this column from people who had tried to be their own GC and could not get their subcontractors to show up for work, causing huge delays in construction. What you save in contractor’s fees, you will pay in interest because your project will take longer. Time is money when building. A reputable contractor will also be familiar with any recent changes to local building codes and assure everything will pass inspection.

Do … interview several builders and hire based on quality, references, comfort level and communication … not on price. Be sure you see examples of the contractor’s work and interview previous clients. You will be working with this person for a year or longer … make sure it is someone you like.Don’t … take the lowest bid. You get what you pay for. Enough said. However, stay involved in the costing of your project so you don’t have surprises. This allows you to make adjustments to your project as you go along so you don’t “run out of money” when it comes to the finish details that people see. Ask your contractor for a realistic projection budget, but remember that circumstances out of your control can sometimes affect this budget. In our case, Hurricane Katrina happened in the southeast at about the time we needed to purchase drywall and pour a concrete stairway and sidewalk. Price of materials skyrocketed at that time by almost 30 percent on these two raw materials due to increase demand in another part of the country. When we did budgets 18 months earlier there was no way to foresee this. We also under-budgeted our excavation and retaining walls. After these were engineered, the project was more involved than we first thought when doing the preliminary budgets. We were able to change some other items to make up for some of this cost increase since it was still early in the project. Do … be patient. Building a house is a long process. Take the time to make minor changes along the way and it will be well worth it in the end. We moved a wall, added some arched ceiling details and moved the door to a bedroom after we started framing because once the house was in “3-D” versus a flat image on paper, we realized we could improve traffic flow and add some interesting architectural detail that we didn’t think of when working with the architect. Once the drywall is on, these changes are a lot harder to do and more expensive.Don’t … let your suppliers/contractors bully you into making decisions. If you have specific things you want, listen to their professional advice and realize you sometimes need a compromise … but keep in mind it is still your house, and stick to your guns. Examples in our project: The cabinet maker tried to talk us out of some stain colors and decorative detail. After completing the project, he admitted it was beautiful and one of his favorite finished projects.

Do … use a lighting design service. Many designers include their time at no charge if you purchase your fixtures from them. Lighting is one of the most important aspects of the finished house, and one that most of us take for granted. Task lighting, ambient lighting and decorative lighting all need to work together. Enlist the help of a professional early in the project to assure the wiring necessary for your needs is done during the rough-in stage.Do … research products online, but purchase locally when available. The customer service aspect of being able to alter, return or exchange things with the local supplier is invaluable.Don’t … over commit your time. Building a home is exciting but stressful. Choose a time in your life that you can reduce other commitments and focus on the daily decisions and be involved.

Do … keep your focus on how much you will enjoy many years in your new home.For current pictures of the project visit http://www.mountain-loghome.com/gallery/album02.KAREN WRAY can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13705, or kwray@summitdaily.com.


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