Four years ago today, we moved into our partially completed house. It's still not done, but that's a post for another day. You see, we built this house ourselves. We only hired three contractors: the basement guy (because he had a backhoe and forms to make concrete walls), the insulation guy (because he had this cool pulverized newspaper to blow into the walls), and the concrete people who poured the light-weight concrete over our in-floor heating tubes. Mike did 95% of everything else, and the kids and I helped out when he needed a few more hands. No, he's not a professional carpenter; he's an electronics engineering professor. My main contribution was keeping him well-fed with four meals a day as he worked 18-hour days all summer. Our big joke was that he lost 20 pounds eating my cheesecake and creme brulee pie daily.
"Everyone" told us not to move in until the house was finished, but when someone walks up and asks to buy the mobile home where you're living, it is hard to say no. We only seriously regretted that decision for about six months. When we first moved in, we were all sleeping in one bedroom, and we only had one bathroom operating. To get the occupancy permit, we only needed to have a working bathroom and a working kitchen. That's about all we had.
Even though I've been getting up to go the bathroom every night since the first time I got pregnant, I foolishly suggested that the first working bathroom should be on the main floor, since that's where we'd be spending our days. Ha! In addition to having to traipse downstairs in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, I was hoofing it up and down the stairs all day too, because guess which room I wanted to get finished first? My bedroom!
How far have we come in four years? Well, when we first moved in, we had no floor coverings, which means that we were walking on this light-weight concrete, which created a LOT of dust. You had to wash your dishes before you used them, even if they'd just been washed a few hours earlier. It was disgusting. Rooms were not painted. Most didn't even have drywall. There was no trim on any doors. In fact, there were very few doors -- there wasn't even a door on the bathroom. We had a sheet hanging over the opening for privacy. For more details on the construction, you can visit our website.
Where are we today? We still need a lot of baseboards, crown molding, some door trim, and all the window trim. We need to finish the stairwell, and Mike is working on the bookcases for the library over the Christmas break. We thought we would be able to finish the library completely, but the power outage really messed up those plans.
Here are a couple of tidbits we have only recently learned -- but wish we'd have known sooner. Windows that slide (double hung) are not very airtight. The best ones are casement or awning style windows. That's what they're using in all the most energy-efficient homes now. As much as I love our in-floor heating, there is an issue with the house being too air-tight. Yes, I know I just said the double-hung windows are not very air-tight, but they're air-tight enough that we have a problem with mold growth in the winter. [sigh] I'm not sure we can do much about that now.
Plans for the future: I want to add on a dining room, so when our kids are married and coming home for the holidays, we'll have a big dining room for those holiday dinners. I also want to add a master suite for the first floor, because I'm not sure that my knees will last a lifetime. (More on that in a couple days.) And we really need a garage! During the summer, I actually enjoy having the cars in the driveway because they get washed when it rains. In the winter, however, the doors have frozen shut on more than one occasion. Usually, a door on the south side will melt, and I can get in there and crawl over to the driver side. A couple weeks ago, however, a friend broke off her car door handle trying to open a frozen door. So, a garage is definitely at the top of the list of upcoming building projects. I'm not sure if we'll be able to afford it in 2009 though.