Yes. I know. I haven’t posted anything for a while.
We have been busy, busy, busy.
We have also had lots of rain and snow, computer problems (darn hackers), along with limited data availability to blog because we are using up all our data researching stuff for our new home!
We are preparing to submit our plans for the second time to the plan checker for our county soon. We are building with a product called Faswall, which is an alternative building product, so the county is being a bit nit-picky with their code requirements. The only thing holding us up right now are the corrections for electrical plans. We gave them to the guy we thought was going to be our contractor about a month ago who said he would do the corrections for us, but he has yet to get back to us on them. Perhaps this is a sign that we shouldn’t hire him. The electrical plans were mostly done the first time we submitted. So, to keep the ball rolling, we are contacting another guy to see how much he will charge to complete the electrical plans for us. Harrumph!
In the meantime, we have been doing a lot of planning and shopping and dreaming. First, we saw this building in Sonora, California, that we just fell in love with! Since we will have quite a bit of retaining wall, built with concrete block, we really liked how it looked with the gray brick. Stunning! So, we went searching for gray brick to use as wainscotting on the outside of the house, accents for the top of the retaining walls and bricking up some columns. We will also use the brick for the facing of the masonry heater inside.
Believe it or not, even though gray is becoming one of the more traditional colors for brick, we had a hard time finding some. We finally found this brick at a brick yard in South Sacramento. It doesn’t have the variegation of light and dark gray that I like in the picture above, but it does have some variety and it is fairly rustic looking, so I think this is what we will end up with!
Then, while in Sacramento, we went to IKEA to shop around looked at their kitchen cabinets. My sister remodeled her home a few years ago, and used IKEA cabinets in her kitchen and has been very happy with them. In fact, I helped put her cabinets together! Since we are building our home on a strict budget, the cabinets are fairly easy for the do-it-yourselfer to install, and they wear well, we are ALMOST certain we will use these. In fact, here is a computerized picture I drew up on their website tool of what our kitchen could look like with the IKEA cabinets.
The only problem is that we haven’t decided what color to use. The style of this cabinet comes in gray or off-white. I know that gray cabinets are becoming all the rage, which is one reason I am reticent to use them, but we only have one window in the kitchen, and that window faces north and is covered with 12 feet of patio cover, which would make the kitchen fairly dark. Yes, we are installing one of those solar tube thingys (don’t know which one, yet) over the kitchen island, but with dark wood floors and gray cabinets, we are afraid that the kitchen would be just too dark!
Now, the truth is that I love white kitchen cabinets. I had white cabinets in the house we had before we move up here to our homestead and absolutely loved them! We had medium dark brown laminate floors and I was obsessed with that combination. The problem? I want a farmhouse sink. The one IKEA sells. The farmhouse sink is white white but the cabinets are just slightly off-white. Yes, IKEA sells cabinets that are white white and would look good with the sink, it’s just that the style of the white-white cabinets are not mine. They are just too modern for me. I am more of a traditional gal. Wood stained cabinets? Well… I don’t think they would look good with wood floors. Too much wood for me.
What would you do? I could sure use some advice on this one!
Another decision we have been researching (and researching) is the solar system that will power our off-grid house. We attended a large “home show” in Sacramento, CA and a smaller one in Chico, CA and talked with quite a few solar companies. Let me tell you, about 95% of the solar companies out there are for grid tied options only… they don’t do off-grid. In fact, some of the smaller companies who said they would do off grid didn’t know as much about off-grid solar as we do! When we started asking them questions about their systems and they talked to us about micro-inverters, we learned to politely walk away. You don’t use microinverters in an off-grid application. One guy even tried to tell us he would use the new Tesla Powerwall. Well… Um… No. We talked with Tesla representative last fall (after being on their list for almost a year!) and the Powerwall is NOT to be used for an off-grid application. We politely walked away from that guy also. We have been dabbling with solar power on the homestead for several years now. We are running a 5 cubic foot freezer, our satellite TV receiver, flat screen TV, lights, a small refrigerator, and laptop and cellphone charges on a less than 1 kilowatt system with some generator back-up. (SEE HERE and HERE) We did find four companies that we feel would do a good job with our solar system, so to get a fair bid, we are asking each to give us a 4 kWh system to include everything needed for a complete off-grid situation, along with installation on a two story standing seam metal roof. So far we have received only one bid. We have also seen some pretty nice solar electric “kits” at online stores. Renology is an online alternative energy store that has quite a few off-grid options. Here is one we like: renogy-4500-watt-48-volt-monocrystalline-solar-cabin-kit. Another company Wholesalesolar has kit that is a bit more expensive, but may be more complete as it includes mounting racks: the-lodge-4.68-kw-18-panel-astronergy-off-grid-solar-system. Of course, we would have to hire an electrician to hook it up for us, and that would add to the cost, so before we were to commit to something like that we would also need to get a quote for installation. Plus, we would still have the cost of the batteries to back-up the whole system.
Decisions, decisions, decisions!
Right now we are also in the process of building a shed over our water well so that it can enclose the well head, a 500 gallon holding tank, a pressure pump and a booster pump.
We had a local contractor (he is a fire sprinkler installer) give us a quote on a system he would install for us, including the water requirements (pump, booster pump, holding tank, pressure pump) and the requirements for the sprinkler system. He said he would use all USA manufactured parts (something we desire if at all possible) and explained what we would need for the whole system to be up to code. This is a bit tricky because of the required fire sprinkler system in our house which has certain pressure requirements, along with the water for the house. Well, believe it or not, he lied to us about what we would need! He gave us the cadillac system with integrated this and that, and told us that it was code. When we called the county to verify, we realized that the chump was trying to over-sell us! Arrrrruuuuugggggghhhhh! That was about two months ago. We found a company from a neighboring town who will do the job for a lot less. Then we had a local pump and well guy come up that said he could install just the water system (not the fire sprinkler system) and would send the quote on-line in a week or so, but never did. That was over a month ago. We don’t want that quote anymore. ;(
What is with these guys? Apparently we are on mountain time!
We found another guy who actually showed up when he was supposed to, gave us a quote we liked, lowered the quote because we are doing some of the work ourselves, and has returned every single one of our phone calls. I will be proud to recommend him for any locals and I will show you his work when he is done.
So, let me know what you would do about the kitchen cabinets. I had a friend suggest “kitchens to go” or something like that, so I will be doing more research into that during these next few weeks. Also, I have found a few possibilities at both Home Depot and Lowes. Even though we haven’t even broken ground yet, I am researching these things now so we have a better idea of the costs involved. Hopefully we will also be hearing from a few of the other solar companies we have contacted and will get some reasonable bids. There is one company I hope comes in with a great bid because the owner, Loren, has some other very innovative ideas regarding water heating along with the solar electric.
Okay – so now you are pretty much up to date with our lives at this point! Please leave a comment if you have any ideas, questions, comments… just click on the comment bubble next to the title of this post, but keep it family friendly, please!
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