Building our New House

In the summer of 2006, Kelly and I purchased 16 acres in North East Dallas. We are currently in the process of building a house on the property.

12/9/07

We have let our original architect go because he was taking too long. We have recently switched over to another architect and we should have the plans done pretty soon.

1/15/08

Whoo Hooo! The new architect (www.creative-architect.com) has finished the house plan! Now, we are getting bids and all those other fun things sorted out.

4/26/08

Well, there has finally been some progress with the house! After waiting for several weeks to get the bank appraisal done (it took longer to appraise this project than it took for the Empire State Building to be appraised) we got the construction loan completed. Once that was done, the dirt guy came and benched the lot and we've had the survey crew out doing the survey (along with setting the back corners of the house), and we're about to get the building permit from the city. Since we're building a pretty energy efficient/green house, we'll have to see how much fun using new technology is going to be with the building department! Here are some of the more advanced items, which are beyond the normal Energy Star requirements that we are putting into the house:
  • 6" SIP exterior walls. These walls have no studs in them, so you get a much stronger wall with no thermal 'bridging'. These walls are also rated for over 160MPH winds, so you can tell how strong they make them. www.sips.org
  • A closed attic assembly. Instead of insulating at the attic/ceiling area, spray foam insulation is sprayed on the bottom of the roof decking, to give a semi-conditioned attic space.
  • We are going to use a SlabTek foundation for the house. This is where they pour the foundation on the ground and then lift it up a bit off the ground (think of the second story of a parking garage, but only lifted up a few inches off the ground). http://www.slabtek.com
I'm hoping that in the next 15-20 days we'll really start making progress on getting things started.

5/26/08

Getting the city permits has been a bit painful! It's nice being in a smaller city, but when it comes to dealing with the city administration, that is one area where having a large well funded department would come in handy! Oh well, I think we're only a few days away from fulfilling all their requirements.

Also, on Friday we went and picked out all the appliances that will be going into the house. Our builder, Derecor Homes let us know that this was a tax free weekend for certain Energy Star items, so we were able to get our Refrigerator, Dishwasher, and Washing Machine tax free this weekend. She was also able to get our A/C unit purchased tax free as well.

We also received the energy analysis back from the engineer. Right now, even without all the advanced things we are adding into the house, we are in the top %2 of all houses when it comes to energy efficency.

7/26/08

We have some progress finally! The rough in plumbing and the foundation are done. Here are some pictures of where it is today:

If you have a really fast link, you can view a short video of the foundation before it was poured. Video (AVI 46MB)

8/10/08

Progress has come to a halt since the Slabtek (www.slabtek.com) foundation has proven to be very troublesome. On the initial raising of the foundation, two of the lifting mechanisms sheared through the foundation on the back porch. So, after a week and a half delay, the concrete company came out and sawed off the back porch and re-poured it with super high strength concrete. However, on the second time to raise the foundation, another one of the lifting mechanisms sheared through the front porch! I sent an email to Tony Childress (owner of Childress Engineering and Slabtek) and Joey Childress (GM of Slabtek) this weekend asking them to explain why we are having so many problems.

Here is a picture of the latest Slabtek lifting mechanism shear on the front porch.

9/9/08

Lots of things have happened in the last 4 weeks! We had a meeting with Tony Childress and Steve Kaufman (owner of Kaufman Concrete who poured our foundation). We think we know what has happened and everything appears to be fixed!

Also, we are now knee deep into the framing of the house. In fact, itís going so well and so fast that itís almost done! Iím hoping that by the middle of September, the whole house will be dried in.

The framing crew has been doing a spectacular job with the SIP panels and with the regular interior framing. I checked for bowed studs in the interior walls last weekend and in the entire house, I only found five studs that needed only a slight touch of adjustment!

Here are some pictures of where we are as of a few days ago:

In this picture you really can see the SIP 'sandwich' (OSB-Foam-OSB) in the panel above the front door.

10/15/08

I've been a little behind on updating the website! The framing crew is now done, the spray foam folks have sprayed the roof deck and other areas, and today the sheet rock is going up! Here is a picture from the front of the house right now:

Also, during the last month I ran 50+ Cat 6e Network/phone drops along with all the security and TV wires. It was a big job for sure!

April 2010..

Yep.. I was way to busy to update the website and now we've been in the house for over a year! Here are some additional pictures and notes from building the house:

These pictures show the SIP panes being uploaded from the truck and few of the other panels being put up.

Here is a picture of the A/C unit up in the attic. Because the house is so sealed (the guy who did our blower test said he's never seen a house so tight in his life!), we only have a sinlge 5ton unit. It's a 20SEER Carrier Unit that has the Carrier Infinity Air Purification system. Basicly an electrostatic filter, a 4" pleated filter and two UV bulbs. The system also has dampers so each room has it's own thermostat for even more energy savings. In the picture below the thermostat, you can see one of the 6 button keypads that's a part of the Control4 home automation system I installed.

Here you can see the Soy based foam insulation that was blown on to the bottom of the roof deck. This makes my attic only a few degree different than the house (in fact, the attic is used as the return air plenum for several rooms). Also, you can see the CAT6e, Coax, and security cables coming down the wall. I ran around 6,000 feet of Cat6e, 2,000 feet of coax and a ton of security cabling in the house. Everything connects here to a 42U two post rack where all the switching, servers, home automation, and other gear is installed.

The fireplace is a propane gas, direct vent unit. This means that it pulls in outside air into the combustion chamber and then out the chimmeny. This way, there is little to no air leakage and no problems with indoor air quality. The mantel is a piece of custom sawn Mesquite. The texture on the front was made by grubs eating the wood under the bark. Once the bark was removed, that is the resulting look. It's pretty cool and one of a kind!

A couple of pictures of the brick and stone work with the super cool weep hole covers that keep the critters (mice and snakes) out of the house. Also, there is a picture of the custom steel door I ordered. That sucker weighs several thousand pounds and was a serious hassle getting it installed. The metal box on the side of the house is the housing for the propane tankless hot water heater. That thing is amazing and I'd recommend them to anyone who thinks they might want one.

A couple of interior pictures. Of all the subcontractors we had working on the house, there were only two that I felt did a bad job. The concrete guys and the painters. The painters took forever and didn't do all that great of a job. The cabinet folks were a bit of a mess as well, but they cabinets turned out fantastic, so I forgave thier faults!

And here it is all completed. We've planted quite a few more trees and done some other minor stuff, but all it all it's been a great house and all the turmoil and grief was worth it in the end. Our energy bills are crazy low and the house is incredably comfortable to live in.

If you have any questions about the rest of the energy saving stuff (or just cool technology like the home automation system or the automatic doggie door), please feel free to email me directly.