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Building A Barden Home

My step by step experience with Barden Homes

Update on the Challenges with Our Land

clock July 14, 2009 02:49 by author Donny Kemick

If you’ve been following my posts, you no doubt saw my post about the challenges we’re facing in getting the lot behind our Barden Home how we want it, and usable.  You probably saw my illustrations as well and are familiar with the 2 options I discussed.  One thing that I DIDN’T do before making the illustrations is research the approximate cost per square foot for composite decking.  After doing so, I quickly adjusted the dimensions I was using to be a bit more economical. 

Show the Contractor What You Want

It was super helpful to have the 2 options illustrated to show the contractor today.  It allowed me to show him what our thoughts were for options, and get help in making the best decision.  At this point, we are proceeding with Option 1 from my post.  As a refresher, option 1 was the option with multiple tiers and rounded gardens.  This option also has a set of concrete steps that goes down the middle and into the yard. 

Here’re some revised illustrations:

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Pictures of the Progress

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Challenges With Our Barden Homes Land

clock July 11, 2009 16:37 by author Donny Kemick

I’ve shown quite a few shots/videos of our lot, so you are probably some-what familiar with our layout.  As I’m sure many new home builders are aware, flat land is hard to come by!  Our land is no exception.  That’s why we decided to do a walkout basement and have windows across the back wall of the basement.  One of the biggest challenges with the land is that we want to avoid giant hills if at all possible, but that is easier said than done, particularly since we would like some room to store things or sit under the future deck. 

The Back Of The House

Because we want storage under the deck, we can’t have a really quick taper of the backfill on the back basement wall under the deck.  So, we end up with a ledge that sticks out from the back wall, and then a very steep hill down to the normal yard grade.  As I’m typing this I’m realizing how hard to explain it is, and how equally hard it must be to understand!  So, here’re some illustrations:

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As you can see from the image above, we will have a deck off the 1st floor.  We would really like to have some storage or a play area for the kids under the deck.  Because it will only be about 5-6 feet of standing room under it, our initial patio idea won’t be feasible. The bigger issue isn’t shown in this picture, but is shown below:

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As you can see, we can certainly have a flat, playable, storable area under the future deck, but we will have a very steep, tall wall to deal with.  Our last home had a giant wall that needed mulched and weeded constantly.  Granted it was much larger than this one, because it was across our back yard, but nonetheless, I told myself I would deal with having to maintain a wall again.  Because of the proximity of the hill to our house, letting it grow in with whatever weeds decide to pop up isn’t an option.

OK, So What ARE the Options?

My wife and I have talked about a couple of options, but it’s so hard to make a decision without seeing the numbers associated with each, as well as the final look we’ll have.  Very frustrating!

Option 1 – 2 Tiered with Steps

The first option is to have 2 tiers of ground, with steps down the center to the back yard.  The 1st tier would go from the back wall of the house to edge of the deck or a little before the edge of the deck.  This tier would be the play area for the girls or a storage area.  There would be steps down the center to the 2nd Tier.  The 2nd tier would have rounded flower beds on either side, contained by pavers.  We could even do 2 tiers ON the 2nd tier of rounded flower beds.  Again, steps would go down the center of the 2nd tier and take you to the back yard.  Here’s my attempt at graphically simulating what I’m talking about:

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Option 2 – Huge Deck with Tapered Bank and Patio

With this option, the deck is significantly deeper.  The example above shows approximately a 12 foot depth from the house towards the steps.  Option 2 would nearly double that, making an absolutely enormous deck.  The bonus here is that we could technically have the living space under the deck that we wanted.  To do that the fill along the back would have to be removed, and relocated to another area.  I think it could easily go over on the side of our driveway, which would reduce the massive slope we have now.  See my illustrations below:

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Option 3 – Who Knows!

I’m sure we’ll come up with another option in the next few days, but these are the 2 sticking out to me.

The Driveway

I’m very happy with how the driveway has come together.  We’re going to have some bonus parking on the side and we’ve locked in a place for my large shed.  Having the shed sitting on an extension to the driveway will be very convenient for snowblowing, plowing, and mowing.

The challenge we have is that due to the slope in the back, the driveway had to be built up pretty high to line up with the garage entrance.  That leaves us with quite a large drop off on the side of the driveway and behind the garage.  See pics below":
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The Shed will sit at the end of this driveway extension, giving us room to park in front as well.

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This is to the right of the shot above.  In the middle of the pic above, right after the driveway line is a tall drop-off.

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This is to the right of the shot above.  To the right, you can see the entrance to the garage.  strait ahead is another steep hill that goes down to the back of the house and yard.

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This shot is the slope right after the end of the driveway.  You can see the height of the grade by looking at my friend, relative to the top of the back foundation wall.  It’s pretty steep.

OK, So What’s the Plan Here?

Great questions!  When I know, I’ll let you know!  I;m more concerned about the back of the house right now.  Once that’s figured out, I’ll worry about this part. 



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We’re Finally Closed with Building Permit In Hand

clock June 11, 2009 06:12 by author Donny Kemick

It’s funny to say this, but I’m worn out and we haven’t even started building the house yet!  As of June 5th, 2009, we are officially closed on the Construction Loan/Mortgage, and have a Building Permit to get rolling.  Wow, that took forever!  Some of the hurdles we have faced are listed below, and will hopefully serve as a learning tool for some of you.

Changing Your House Plans Changes Your Schedule

This may seem like an obvious one, but every time you submit changes to your house plans to Barden Homes, it takes 10 days to get the changes done.  Knowing what I know about technology, computers, and CAD, I know that the changes we requested are not 10-Day projects.  I also know that we are not their only customers.  Having my own businesses, I have always tried to make our clients feel like they are our only customer.  Barden should try that approach.

No Sewage Permit – No Building Permit

The first challenge we faced in the “legal” aspect of building a home was that we couldn’t get a sewage permit, thus we couldn’t get a building permit.  I explained the issue in this post: Expect Delays… They Will Happen, As I Now Know, but to put it simply, the Department of Environmental Protection restricted our local sewage authority from issuing new permits because of an issue they were having with our sewage plant.  Luckily, the DEP gave them just enough “emergency” connections (EDUs), so that we could get one.

The Lawyer Needs The Abstract to Your Land

I had heard of an abstract before, but never knew what it’s purpose was.  That is, until we needed one and didn’t have it.  When my In-Laws sold us the property, the sale went through in no time and with no issues.  When we were in the process of closing with the bank, we ran into the need to have the abstract for the land.  Unfortunately, my In-Laws couldn’t find it.  So, we had to have the lawyer redo the abstract, which cost an extra $250.00 and added a week to our closing time.

The abstract is a history of Title to the land, noting all Conveyances, Transfers, Grants, Wills and judicial proceedings, and all Encumbrances and Liens, together with evidence of satisfaction and any other facts affecting title.  In other words, it traces the land back as far as it can go and says who has rights to the land based on previous transfers and legal documents.

The new abstract that we had done goes back 60 years.

Guess What, You Own A Pool

OK, this wasn’t really a surprise to us, but the fact that it caused an issue for us was.  In fact, we had to deal with it in a less than ideal way to get through it.  Our soon to be neighbors put a pool in about 10 years ago, and against better judgment, never had their lot surveyed to see what they actually owned.  Come to find out, half of their in-ground pool is on our property.  Imagine that! 

You can see our half of the pool in this photo:  http://www.buildingabardenhome.com/post/Our-Parcel-in-Google-Earth.aspx 

We had planned on dealing with the pool issue (having them buy a small piece of land), after we got started with construction.  Unfortunately, our bank’s Title Insurance company wouldn’t give us title insurance until the issue with the pool was resolved.  Rather than spending several more weeks working out a deal with the neighbor, and closing on that deal, we grant them an Easement for the area just around the outside of the pool so we could progress with our project.  We’re already over 2 months behind!

Lawyers Are Slow Sometimes

I like my lawyer, so don’t interpret this as a hate-note about him.  That being said, it took forever to get done with the legal part of the close.  The worst part is, his secretary (a sweetheart) does 90%+ of the work!  It’s something to at least consider when choosing a lawyer to work with.  The process is pretty standard, so as long as they’ve close mortgages before, they should be able to handle your project.  Ask them how long it will take up front and call weekly to make sure it’s on track.  It may annoy them, but you are paying for their service, so they will have to deal with it.

Some Contractors Will Need to be Certified In Your City

I never really thought about this, but our city requires that our plumber be a Master Plumber and have a current certificate to operate in our City.  Ours was a master plumber, but not certified in our city.  He had to provide a bunch of documentation and pay $30.00.  It wasn’t a huge holdup, but it took a week or so.  Keep this in mind if you are using a builder/contractor from out of town.

Not All-Inclusive

I know that I didn’t remember everything, but that’s a decent start.  I’ll do another post after we have some work under our belt, as I’m sure more things will crop up.

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