We have been working with an architect and an engineer to design our house plans, and were finally able to submit the plans to our building department last month. They wanted a small fortune in building fees, but our biggest shock was the $8,500 + impact fee to our school district. Holy cow, I think we just paid for half a classroom!
In the meantime, we have been getting bids for the final excavation and foundation work.
The estimates are much, much more than we anticipated. The problem is that we are essentially building a three story structure, so the foundation under the basement is requiring 7 foot wide footings and a poured in place concrete wall 8” thick and 35’ long! Holy Cannoli – we can’t afford that! Especially since the concrete trucks are tacking on a premium to bring the concrete up the mountain to our property. (Some silly thing about diesel costing a lot 😉 of money)
Hmmmmm… So, we thought long and hard about this. Why do we want a basement?
- The back third was going to be walled off and turned into a root cellar.
- Storage – canned goods, household stuff and, of course, junk.
- A cool place to sit on a hot afternoon.
We decided (no brainer) we can always build a root cellar elsewhere. Also, going up and down stairs when I am 85 years old to get my canned goods and stuff – well, let’s just say it’s not something I am looking forward to! Besides, this is supposed to be our final forever home, and we need to have everything required for everyday living on one floor! The upstairs only has two bedrooms and a bathroom, so I will only need to go up there when we have guests!
Therefore, we decided to send the plans back to the architect and engineer and nix the basement. Besides, they had LOTS of changes to make for the county plan checker anyway. Let me tell you – California has some crazy codes that we must adhere to! More about that later. Now, if you look at the floor plan above, maybe we could turn the area where the stairs going down to the basement would have been into a nice long pantry? What do you think? We will see what the architect says.
People warned us that this was a very long, frustrating process, and let me tell you… they were so right!
In the meantime, we have already purchased the Insulated Concrete Forms, or ICF. We decided to go with a company called ShelterWorks and their product called FasWall. We have done a lot of research for a few years now, and these FasWall ICFs are probably the easiest to work with, the most insect and fire resistant, and breathable insulated forms on the market today. FasWall is also easier to build with because regular carpenter tools are used and, unlike the plastic ICF, you can actually screw or nail into the form at any place. One more reason we were sold on FasWall is that the wood used in the form is made from mineralized and recycled shredded wood from old wooden pallets. The ICFs are stacked together like Legos, with rebar placed vertically and horizontally within the cavity of the ICFs, and then concrete is poured into the cavity. Essentially, this makes a waffle grid of concrete within the walls, and gives the effect of superior insulation and stability.
Doesn’t that sound fantastic?
It does cost a bit more (5-10%) to build a home with these forms than it does a stick built house. However, the payback comes with the energy savings. The houses built with these forms are solid, very energy efficient, almost sound-proof, and essentially pest (think termite, carpenter ant, mouse) proof! Also, the fire resistance of these ICF walls is important when you consider that we are living in the middle of a forest here in Northern California, where wildfire is not at all uncommon. We have been working with Paul Wood, one of Faswall’s representatives, who has been very helpful in getting our building plans moving forward.
In the meantime, we have been getting our building site ready. We had some beetle killed trees that needed to come down, and a couple other smaller trees that were right where our living room will be, so they all had to go. We had a massive Douglas Fir that we wanted to save (above), but sadly, after some excavating and figuring right where the house would go, we realized that it was going to be too close to the house for fire safety. Not to mention the fact that it was leaning right toward where our master bedroom was to be. Since the tree was too big for Ray’s chainsaw, we called in Clyde, a Professional and Licensed Logger to drop the tree for us.
The initial excavation has also been done. The excavators popped out the tree stumps we had cut, scraped the lot clean of brush, and then cut into the hillside a bit so that the land would be level. They were wonderful to work with and very respectful of our property, keeping clear of the septic tank so they wouldn’t damage it.
All of the brush was piled into a huge pile, so later Ray and I burned most of it, and cut up for firewood what was large enough to bother with. It took us several days to get that accomplished, and we were able to get the brush burned before our burning permits were restricted for the fire season.
We are also busy raking up the forest duff, pulling out small bushes and trees, and laddering up the trees that will remain, so that the immediate area thirty feet around our house will hopefully keep a wildfire from getting too close to our house, and help firefighters to defend it. Nancy, from our county fire department, will be up soon to tell us how we are doing and what else we need to do to make our home fire safe. Unfortunately, getting homeowner’s insurance in our neck of the woods is nearly impossible, so we want to make our home as fire safe as possible!
So, wish us luck, send good thoughts, or even a few prayers that our architect and engineer don’t take too long to get the changes and corrections made to our plans! I would really like to at least have our foundation poured this year – God willing!
Here are some parties I attend:
Thank Goodness It’s Monday; Clever Chicks Blog Hop; Grand Social; Mix It Up Monday; Create, Link, Inspire; Amaze Me Monday, Motivation Monday; Homemaking Mondays; Show & Share Tuesday; The Gathering Spot; Tuesday Garden Party; Brag About It; Tuesdays with a Twist;The Scoop; Two Cup Tuesday; Tweak It Tuesday; Inspire Me Tuesdays; Tuesdays at Our Home; Lou Lou Girls; Party In Your PJ’s; You’re Gonna Love It Make, Bake and Create; Wicked Awesome Wednesday; Wined Down Wednesday; Wake Up Wednesday; Fluster’s Creative Muster; Homestead Blog Hop; Wow Us Wednesday; Wonderful Wednesday Our Simple Homestead; Share Your Cup Thursday; Home and Garden Thursday; The Handmade Hangout; Create it Thursday; Think Tank Thursday; Homemaking Party; Treasure Hunt Thursday; This Is How We Roll; Inspire or be Inspired; Inspiration Gallery; No Rules Weekend Party Freedom Fridays; Friendship Friday; From The Farm Blog Hop; Friday Flash Blog Party; Weekend re-Treat;Family Fun Friday; Friday’s Five Features; Real Food Fridays; Show Off Friday; Craft Frenzy Friday; Awesome Life Friday Simply Natural Saturdays; Saturday Sparks; My Favorite Things; Dare to Share; Scraptastic Saturday;Share It One More Time That DIY Party; DIY Sunday Showcase; Snickerdoodle Sunday; Best of the Blogosphere; Small Victories Sunday