The Project House Week 1

August 28th, 2013

theprojectgirl_excavationThe Project House V.2 has officially begun! We got our hole in the ground one week ago, and boy has it been a crazy crazy week!

We knew going into this process that there would be a lot of quick fire decision making, but we didn’t expect those decisions to come so early in the process and have such a huge impact on the build. On the first day we found out that our sewer was only buried 6 feet deep. That might not mean much to many people, but in Utah most homes have basements and if you plan on having any plumbing in your basement, then your basement has to be at least 1-3 feet above the sewer line. And then the basement foundation walls are another 8-10 feet tall on top of that. Then your floor joists are another 15″-18″ on top of that. Generally speaking sewer lines are buried 12 feet or more deep so that the basement can be fully underground.

Originally we had planned on a 9 foot basement. I love tall ceilings in basements, and really had my heart set on 9 feet. Well with this sewer issue, the first thing that had to go was the 9′ basement. Even with the 8′ basement, the house is sticking out of the ground 4.5-5 feet. Which is a lot. And because our lot slops a few feet in the back, the house now sticks out 7-7.5 feet in the back. Which is a lot. So as you can imagine, we’ve been panicking… wondering what are the best decisions… wondering if we should even keep going! And it’s the first week people! So stressful! Cooler heads did prevail… we dropped the basement to 8 feet tall, and decided to embrace the “daylight” basement and make the foundation wall feel less like a basement and more like a house. Here was our initial elevation of the back – we did have one portion “dug out” to have an exit from the basement. There was going to be about 4 feet of stairs to get out of that digout area:

theprojectgirl_rear1I changed the window configuration to take advantage of being above ground – added several windows (there weren’t any before where the triple windows now sit). And also added siding/board & batten instead of having giant exposed concrete areas. The result is that the rear of the house doesn’t feel like a giant concrete basement is just sitting out above ground. Seeing this helps me not panic so much.


Of course this is just the house portion of the house. There is also a very large garage to contend with. We found out a few days later that because of the slope in the lot, the garage foundation will need to also be 8 feet tall. Which is a lot. Twice as much concrete as we had budgeted. And this is not a small 2 car garage… So we went totally off the deep end trying to see if it was worth it to completely halt construction and just go ahead and excavate under the garage and have an extended basement (daylight still in the back, so not unlivable). We could have a rentable apartment and a theatre room, etc etc etc. But to be able to afford all of that, we’d have to take money from the budget elsewhere, and we’re already camped firmly in the danger zone of the budget. So again cooler heads prevailed, and we coined the motto “STTP” Stick To The Plan. And as tempting as it is to gain another 2000 sq feet of space for pennies on the dollar (we’re already paying for 8 foot foundation walls!), we decided it wasn’t worth the cost of sanity, time, dollars, and a million more what-ifs and try-this. Have I mentioned it’s only been ONE WEEK? Anyone want to trade therapy for design advice?

So the build continued. Except we had record rain fall, mud slides, call-in-the-sand-bags crazy rain. All this AFTER we just dug a big hole in the ground (I really could use that therapy). And we were told that everything would have to wait because they can’t set up concrete forms while it’s raining, and they certainly can’t pour concrete when there is mud pouring down the mountain. We must be lucky though, because when the rain cleared up, our site just had a little compacting, no flooding, and no back flow into the hole. And we must be really lucky, because even though it was supposed to rain for many consecutive days after the big storm came through, it didn’t. The ground dried and the workers came and set up our footings.

The house is kind of long, so I can’t get it in one frame. This is the middle section where the breezeway is.


And here is a panoramic shot – the panorama distorts the image, but you get the general idea.


This morning Mr. Project went on his morning jog to the build site, and could hardly believe his eyes when he saw this big concrete pump at OUR BUILD SITE.  I got his excited text message and this photo:


So amazing to see actual progress after so many odd setbacks. It’s happening. It’s really happening! Here is the concrete in the footings forms:

theprojectgirl_footings3The city will inspect tomorrow, and then foundation wall forms will begin to go up. And then I think it will really begin to feel real.


One interesting part about this whole process is comprehending the reality of the whole thing. Up to this point, it’s all felt like a fantasy in a way. A plan, something fun to think and dream about. Kind of like when your a kid, and you can’t wait to be a grown up… but you don’t think it will ever ACTUALLY happen – even though you KNOW it will of course happen. So your knowledge of something doesn’t quite jive with your experience. Up to this point we’ve only experienced the design & planning phase. Even now, I don’t believe that this house is actually being built, although I can see it and actually touch it. In my brain, it’s still just a dream and binder/blog full of plans. I look at the floor plan, and I know it backwards and forwards at this point. I’ve imagined living and using every single space in the house. And now even with something concrete in place, it still only exists in my imagination because the final product doesn’t exist. So maybe it wont feel real until we’ve actually moved in. I guess I’ll let you know when it does feel real.

Either way, I’m through the moon excited. I miss my old house every single day. I miss having my own work space, my own creative space, everything pretty much organized, and clean. I miss my clean house. I can’t seem to keep this transition house clean because nothing really has a spot, everything is transient and wondering when it’s going to taken to its final destination. Soon enough. My daily motto – soon enough. And it really is happening!



5 responses to “The Project House Week 1”

  1. Cari Skuse says:

    Sounds like you need a vacation away from big decisions for a day! At least the rain held off.
    Here in the NE, we all have walk-out basements (at least that is what you hope for). Our lot that we plan on building on is on the top of a huge hill, so we know that we’ll be having a walk out basement. Really makes the basement filled with light!
    That stinks that your sewer line was so shallow. Man, it stinks how one thing can screw up so many plans.
    And I know what you mean about waiting for your own space! When we first moved back to Pittsburgh from Chicago, we had to live in an apartment for over a year while we totally renovated our current house (a 100+ yr. old farmhouse). It was so hard not to have the spaces we used to have.
    Good Luck and try to keep your sanity!

  2. Amy says:

    We are planning and writing a budget for our home build. We break ground in March ’14. How did you begin to write a budget? Our builder has told us he will help and show us the cost of everything but I need a plan now. Your blog is great. I love reading all about your build and ideas.

  3. Jen Allyson says:

    We really just waited to get back pricing from our builder. Everything is so varied especially if your building a larger home. There are so many prices of goods and services that as a regular person you cannot access without a huge amount of footwork. And the actual budget is quite a bit of guesswork if you will. I know I have x amount of $ for doors, but I don’t know how much the doors I want cost… I can’t access that info, only my builder can, and it takes a few weeks to get that info back from them. It’s really stressful for someone who likes to budget shop!! In general a builder should be able to tell you how much to budget per sq/ft of the build. But that’s going to be ballpark depending on your finish levels and floorplan economy. Best of luck!!

  4. Jen Allyson says:

    I know!! Ever since we applied the “STTP” protocol things have been much less stressful. Just enjoying watching the build for a minute until our next big decision. I actually love walk-out basements, but if I had known that’s what we were getting, I would have gone about the design quite a bit different. Oh well, that’s the process I guess!

  5. libbywilko says:

    Wow what a start!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *