Monday, April 29, 2013

Change brick selection - is it possible?

Has anyone successfully changed their brick selection after the foundation walls have poured?  I know it's still early in the constructions process and probably another month or more before they lay bricks for the front of house.  We want to change our brick selection to a brighter color because our current selection is a little too dark.  We emails our SR about our concern and hope they have not ordered the bricks yet.  We are really hoping our SR can pull through for us at least this once and let us change our brick color.

Has anyone done this before?  Maybe not for bricks but may other major options like granite, cabinet, sidings, etc after the cut-off date.

Ground break and foundation walls

Quick update:
On Friday our PM emailed us  that the concrete crew is ready to pour our foundation with a picture attached.  We are happy to see construction has finally begun.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Questions and Answers for and by our PM


Questions and Answers during our preconstruction meeting

As mentioned in my previous post a few minutes ago, our PM is very "by-the-book" type of person.  After talking to him the first 10 minutes I knew most of our requests will be a "NO" answers.  Here are the list of questions  we asked our PM.

1) How many meetings will we have during the whole building process?
3 times: Preconstruction, Pre-drywall, Final walk-through.  The first 30 days (after closing) will depend on how many issues we have.  After the 30 days, we will contact another person to fix things or contact RH customer service.

2) Can the basement window be moved to another location so it's not blocked by the deck?
yes and he actually recommended to move it to the side of the house.

3) Can we put extra insulation in the laundry room and garage?
yes as long as it's done after the county inspection and not getting in the way of workers.  It'll has to be a day when they are not working on the house or at night.

4) Can we add an extra switch for the backyard floodlight?  1 in the morning room and one in the basement?  
He'll need to ask the electrician and pay for extra labor and material.  Don't know the cost yet.

5) Move wetbar rough-in?  Yes but we kept it at the same location as the model home.

6) Can we select our garage door? PM and SR didn't know there were 2 types of garage doors.  1 has the squared windows and the other has curve/elliptical windows.  We wanted the elliptical one.

7)  Put in 2x4 where we will hang our TVs?  Yes but we'll need to bribe the workers with coffee and doughnuts :)

8) Do showers have soap dish?  According the the SR, yes, If not then they will not provide them, we'll have to install it after.

9) Move the washer/dryer hookups lower so we can install a counter-top?  No because it prevents future access for maintenance.  We'll need to mount the counter-top higher or cut around the lines like pictured below.

 10) Can we expand our basement bathroom to use up the empty space behind the wall?
No, it has to go by the blueprint.  I really wanted this and it's not much work needed.

11)HVAC specs:  Our concern was that our house is 3 levels, over over 4000 sq ft, 2 story foyer and family room but we are only getting 1 zone unit.  Our PM said it should be enough and we just need to close the vents to regulate the cooling and heating.  It doesn't sound very comforting. 
AC unit = 13 SEERS (I was hoping 14 or higher), 13 is bare minimum.
Heater = forgot to ask about this one
Water heater= Was told 55Gal high efficiency.  Didn't ask for make and model
Insulation: Walls = R15, Attic R45. Sunroom is R38 since the ceiling is sloped.

12) How are drywall installed?
They use glue, nails to hold, screws to tighten.  This is what I was hoping they use and it's good.  If it's only nail than you'll see pop nail everywhere after year 1.

13)Type of door is the front door?
Insulated Fiberglass.  This is good, it's efficient and long lasting vs wooden door.

14)If I bring my own medallions for the chandelier and foyer lights, can you install them?
He'll need to ask his installer for labor and paint cost.

15) Can I use my own building inspector?
yes but let him know when

16) Can we paint the walls before the 10month inspection?
yes but not recommended.  If you paint the walls and repairs are needed, they will only prime the area but you'll need to do the final paint to match the color.  I'm ok with that.

17) We didn't pay for the fireplace blower ($350) but will there be an electrical plug inside if I install the blower myself in the future? Yes

18) Can you keep the extra building materials in the garage instead of dumping it?
No, they have to clear the house of any material for inspection but I'm free to jump into the dumpster and salvage anything I want.

19) Some other stuff I didn't even bother to ask because I knew the answer will be no but I'll list them here anyway in case your PM is more accommodating.

-Extend my front porch a little wider.
-Walk way from the garage to the front door (we have a side-loading garage)
-Extend the driveway 1' to the left and 1' to the right to make it wider.


Finally....Preconstruction meeting....

Finally we can start building

It's been a long 4 months and 22 days since signing our contract with RH.  
Our building permit has finally been released and yesterday we had preconstruction meeting with the PM(and SR).  It was suppose to be a 45min meeting turned into a 3 hour meeting for reasons good and bad.  Bad because we had to correct some errors in our selections.  Good because our PM took his time to explain things to us and make sure exactly how we want our house to be customized. What I meant by customize is locations of our electrical outlets, water bibs, rough-ins and things like that; no non=standard requests :(.   Our PM seems to be a very "by the book" type of person, very calm and organized.  
This can be good and bad.  Good:  We know he'll be very detail oriented therefore less mistakes.  Bad: Can't ask him to do things that's not in the blueprint.  

There were a few things that I was disappointed with during the meeting.

1)We wanted to extend our basement bathroom all the way to the wall (about 3 ft) and  make use of the empty space but our PM  has to build it by the blueprint.  GRRRRR.  This should be fairly easy and simple to do.
I don't mind paying for the extra 15 pieces of ceramic tiles on the floor and labor.  I'm going to nag him again about it. 
 2)The sink upgrade never made it the original selection sheet and our SR have no record of us talking about the sink upgrade.  We wanted a single sink, not the standard 50/50 because we find it more useful when washing large items like pots, pans, wok, etc.  It was one of the first upgrade we mentioned to our SR and she has no recollection of any of it.  We were told it's too late to make any changes.  grrrrrrrrrr

3)We just found out the recessed lights above the fireplace are not eyeball lights, they're just regular recessed lights like the rest of the house.  The one on the left if preferred for the fireplace and that's what we thought we were getting.  All the pictures we looked at have the eyeball lights.  GRRRRRRRRR so frustrated with these little things.
These folks have eyeball lights above their fireplace:

4)I wanted to change the chandelier in dining room and foyer hanging light color from Bronze to a lighter color Sea-brook and our SR also turn that down.   These are very minor request and yet they can't even make it happen.  
What happened to customer service, satisfaction and accommodation?  I'm paying for a home (a very expensive one at that),  I'll remember this come survey time.

See next post of our questions to the PM and his answers.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Permit still pending + Parking Ticket in DC???? WTF!!

We only need one more permit to go (WA Suburb Sanitation Commission)  in order to obtain the final building permit.  Some of the blame can be place on Ryan for not starting the permit application until almost 4 months after we signed our contract (Signed 12/31/2012).  We were originally told the delivery date would be in June but now slipped to July.  It'll probably slip further.   Our house will be the last house (Out of the 5 houses) to get built on that section and I think we were of the 1st to buy.  Go figure.

More bad news (not house related).  Over the weekend I received a letter from the DC DMV and inside it was a parking citation (parking abreast) that's overdue.  It stated I owe them $50 for the violation + $50 for overdue charge.  I never received the 1st citation because I haven't been to DC for the past 2+ years AND I don't drive an UPS TRUCK.  The officer who write the ticket must made a mistake reading off the tag or some type of scam going around.  I did a quick Google search and sure enough others people from different states are getting the same BS letter. This is such a big hassle because now I have to either:
-Show up in person in DC (which I hate going due to traffic and long line waiting)
-Don't pay but might go into collection
-Change my tag (pay for new tag and other fees)
-Write them a letter (wait 6 months or more).  Many people are reporting the the latter option does not work and they will still make you responsible for the fine. 
It's such an obvious mistake, but yet they make people go through hell to get it resolved.  Maybe I'll report this to the press.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Living Room, Dining room & Family Room

I enjoy blogging more than I thought initially.  It feels good after posting my thoughts and I can stop thinking about them like releasing a steamed pot of hot air.  Maybe I'm getting old and my memory capacity has deteriorated.  I need to free up some memory by posting/saving it in my blogs.  Does that make sense?

Lets continue with the blog by talking about the other rooms on the main floor.

My last blog (yesterday) I talked about our kitchen selections, today I want to talk about the Living Room, Dining Room and Family Room/great room.  These rooms don't have nearly as many options available as the Kitchen and the ones you want are mostly structural upgrades.

Living Room:  The Living Room is usually the first room people see when they walk into your home.  It's really just an empty room so it's up to you to make it nice (or leave it empty).  I don't see much use for this room but only to stage it to make the rest of the house flow and look nice.  Our Shakespeare is Elevation C so we have a bump-out to the front but can't get the full porch which is fine since we prefer more interior space.
Our options/upgrades: Really not many options are available for this room. Good place to save money and spend elsewhere.
-Side windows (+990)
-Hardwood floor ( +1695)

Dining Room:  We don't see much use for this room either since we normally eat dinner in the kitchen or dinette area.  The only time we will use our Dining Room is to host dinners with family and friends, otherwise, we'll just stage it with a nice china, cabinet, dining table and chairs. 
Our options/upgrades: Again, not too many options are available here.  Skip the upgrades if on tight budget.  I would recommend getting any extensions or bump-outs where possible to add extra sq. ft. to your home.
-2' Extension (+1895)
-Tray ceiling (included) 
-110v outlet in Tray ceiling (+75)
-Hardwood floor (+1995)
-Crown molding, chair rails and trims (+2895) - This can be done later but we prefer to have it done now.  Definitely a skip if on tight budget.

Family Room:  One of the reasons we picked the Shakespeare is because of the double story Family Room.  The 2 options I really wanted are the double story Stone Fireplace and Coffer-ed ceiling.  We see ourselves spending a lot of time in this room.  It's usually next to the kitchen so it's great for entertaining guests or just hanging out and relaxing.  The room feels very open so it's great for that purpose.

Our options/upgrades: Options are expensive but few.  I wanted it to look just like the model home with the 2-story stone Fireplace and Coffer-ed ceiling.  There is an option to turn it into a 5th bedroom (bonus bedroom is $15,095) upstairs but why close up such a beautiful room unless you need a 5th bedroom.

-2 story stone fireplace (+5595) (Cost even more if you do this later so not too bad)
-Coffer-ed ceiling (+2195)
-Hardwood floor (+2695) 
-2 eyeball recessed fireplace lights (250)
-2 regular recessed lights (250)

That's all for now, see you next time.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


.....or something like that.  :)  I'm terrible at similes.

Hello, It's been about 2 weeks since last blog.  The only progress on our house is .... not much.  The permit application has finally been submitted and waiting for approval.  Our SR didn't let us know, we had to check the county's website to find out.  We also noticed our "lot" number was wrong but was fixed a week later (after we notified our SR).  The lack of communication is a concern with our SR.  She didn't even reply back to acknowledge the error and didn't let us know it's been fixed.  Maybe she doesn't like us but still, one should always be professional and do what one is paid to do.

Continuing from our last blog, lets talk about  the KITCHEN - The most important room in the house.
One of the main reasons we picked the Shakespeare model is because of the kitchen.  It has a large kitchen and we like the layout.

Shakespeare Kitchen
Shakespeare Kitchen

Shakespeare morning room- not very big but makes a perfect breakfast room.

This is the part of the house you don't want to skimp on.  The kitchen is more than just for cooking.  It's a room for all kinds of gatherings, parties, dinners, etc...  It will also bring value to your home if you decide to sell later.  So why not spend some extra money here today?  You'll get back a lot of the cost in the future and get to enjoy it yourself as well. At least that's how we see it.

With the said, we upgraded as much as possible structurally and wisely upgraded on materials that are reasonably priced vs buying or upgrade later.  If you are on a budget, I would put priority in the Morning room (also will give you extra sq footage in the basement and 2nd floor depending on your model and elevation), windows, double oven layout and recessed lighting.  Any left overs can use for upgrading the materials.  These are structural so can not be done later (at least not at the same quality or price).

We were able to remove the refrigerator to save a little.  We would rather buy our own because Ryan's selection was limited.

We didn't know changing sink selections were this expensive.
A standard 50/50 split sink is included but changing to 40/60 is a $450 upgrade fee.   huh???  I'm flabbergasted. We went with a single large sink upgrade instead.  (update: SR forgot to add this in the options so we but PM allowed us to work with vendor to do the upgrade.  The vendor actual cost $100 more to upgrade vs Ryan's listed price).

We selected:
-Morning room (included in promotion) - funny thing about the morning room is that you have to  pay   for the side windows. Morning room is suppose to be bright.
-Side windows in morning room (+990)
-Hutch(+3595)- over-priced

-Gourmet Island
-Gourmet Island Granite
-Gas hook-up
-Appliance layout (+1990) - this is expensive for a layout (appliance not included)
-Premier VI Built-in cooktop/oven/hood vent/no microwave (+3998)
-Single large sink upgrade - (+250) We found this more useful for washing large items (pots, wok).
Anything other than the 50/50 split sink will cost you.  40/60 sink was ridiculous $450 upgrade fee. What!!!
-Wyoming square cherry Bordeaux Timberlake cabinets
-Kitchen recessed lighting
-Hardwood floor (+2295)
-Pendant light rough-in above island (+175) -- don't forget this one!!!  We only added 1 rough-in to save money and can split that into 3 later or buy a light with 3 bulbs.
-Pendant light rough-in in morning room (+175) - Again don't forget to add this!!! I know someone who regretted not getting this because their SR didn't tell them about it (happens to be same SR as ours).
-Extra outlet in pantry (+75) - useful if you have electronics that needs charging or plugged in.
-Extra outlet on island (+75) more convenient having 1 on each side.
-Extra TV outlet in morning room (+150) - since the morning room is next to the kitchen, it's a good place to put a TV here instead of wasting precious space in the kitchen.

As you can see, we pretty much max out on the structural upgrades for the kitchen.  We skipped on upgrading the granite to level 2 since we liked the Santa Cecilia anyway.  If we upgrade the granite we would have to pay for the upgrades to the hutch and island counter-top as well.  They are asking way too much for those upgrades.  We don't like how RH separate everything and make you pay for each individual pieces and upgrades. Who is going to upgrade the counter-top and leave the other counter-tops with different material?  It would look whacked and out of place.  Counter-top is counter-top and should be a set.

On the side note:  We've heard great things about the PM (Craig?) from one of our neighbors .  We can't wait to meet him and get started on building our new home.

until next time.....