Finishing Up – Sept 8, 2019

Linda has the distinct privilege of being the first to spend a night at the house.  She draped some sheets over the windows, threw down a mattress and called it “home” – at least for 2 nights.

There’s still a punch list but all minor and some of it due to missing items we thought we had in the garage (e.g., cabinet and door handles).  The garage got full of a lot of boxes and trash that it’s easy to see how it happened.  So those have been reordered and will go in soon.

Gary/Linda worked together to get the remaining “smart” light switches in the net and paired with the desired lights. This is in place of traveler wires so that any switch can control anything and also be programmed.

Linda also worked some soil erosion control with pine needles and netting.  We’re ok for now, but further rains will wash away the slope so we’re going to have to continue to work this.

At the time of this writing, the Walker fire continues to burn up there.  In fact, Claire’s boyfriend, Dustin, is up working on it.  It went from 2,000 acres to 18,000 acres to 40,000 acres in just 3 days.  This is northwest of Graeagle but eerily close and we feel badly for all those folks up there.

Next trip is Sept 19-22 as we go up for Mindy Barnes’ wedding in Auburn.  Linda will take a bunch of items up ahead of time (incl. the start of furniture) and then Gary plans to be there on Sept 20.  We all plan to spend our first night there together on Sept 21 – should be fun.

Still working things out on the financials with Wes but that will wrap it up.  The Effing House is soon to be the Effing Home.


The Home Stretch – Aug 17, 2019

Ok, I think we are on solid ground to call this the Home Stretch.  Estimating 2-4 weeks until “done”.  Progress since the last blog:

  •  Remainder of vinyl plank flooring is complete in the Kitchen and Mud (Laundry) Room
  •  Carpets in the bedrooms
  •  Toilets and sinks in
  •  Butcher block backsplash is in
  •  Some more painting on the facia boards (black)

We are down to a manageable list with:

  •  Remainder of painting of facia and beams
  •  Stone on fireplace
  •  A bunch of little stuff

We now have a “punch list”.  It’s a large list (20-25 items) but it’s all small/easy stuff.  Very cool to get to this point and the place is truly habitable now.  Got some temp mattresses on the floor, the fridge is in/working and same for the oven, stove and microwave.  Even got a few sheets and towels.

I came up this weekend to work the Internet and smart home stuff – getting the light switches “in net” and paired with each other for 3- and 4-way use.  Ran into a little glitch in that the electrician thought we could “daisy chain” power which we can’t.  Need power and neutral at every switch so he’s going to come back and do that next week.  Should be easy/straightforward to finish from there.  All lights and locks will then work “remotely” – just like a good little smart home should.

Finally got good Internet (well, as good as we’ll get for the time being) and setting up the rack/cabinet with the various Ethernet connections.  Maybe I’ll take a picture of that later.  WiFi is good (enough) and will see who about using that as our main TV service.  Also looking into VoIP phone.  Possibly too much reliance on the Internet, I know – but may try it out while we are up here “temporarily”.

Today I will document the full punch list which Wes is expecting.  He is eager for the inspection and move-in permit as we all are.  Linda will be back up here in a couple of weeks and then in Sept 21 we plan to be up here as a family.  Will represent about an 11-month build cycle…not bad.


Laying Floors – Aug 9, 2019

On Aug 3, we drove up with another van full of items including the fridge and a bunch of material and tools.  This time to work the floors.  Gary/Linda started on Aug 4 and were joined by friends Greg Bell and Dale Carline on Aug 5 along with Nate and Alanna.  On Aug 6 we had a full crew of 6 people working the vinyl planks and master bathroom vinyl too.  On Aug 7, Greg, Dale and Gary had to leave so the crew went back to 3 who finished up.

Pretty good progress over the 4 days (see Construction page).  Got about 75% done with only the remainder of the kitchen and mud room to go.  Fortunately, Wes and Adam said they would complete it.  We all worked really well together and adapted as we went.  A few of the team had done this before and others had not.  The small table saw worked well and made the needed cuts.  Ali/Nate worked as a team and did both bathrooms with precision.  Not bad for newlyweds.  Dale/Linda did the master bathroom and closet which turned out awesome.  Gary got some more door locks and handles in also.

Having the kitchen island in really helped with tools and lunch.  We even used the microwave for the first time.  A small thing to be sure…but all part of turning the “effing house” into the “effing home”.  The weather was warm but workable.  Met with electricians and plumbers while there and we can now see the end in sight.

Gary goes back Aug 16-18 to work the home automation stuff with lights and thermostats as well as some further IT type work.  The little desk that the girls got Gary for his 60th b-day makes for a nice starter office.

The builder is anxious like we are to wrap things up so still estimating early-mid Sept if not sooner. That would put this at an 11-month build cycle which isn’t bad considering the wet winter and the distance/time away from southern Cal.  One thing we anticipated and were right on…don’t underestimate the travel costs…they really rack up.

It’s clear now that “done” isn’t really “done” but more like “habitable”.  The journey will then just go into the next phase.


Almost the Home Stretch – July 21, 2019

Up for the annual trip at Gray Eagle Lodge with the group and took some more pics.  This time we had more visible progress:

First – noticeable are the garage doors which really look great (see Construction page).  Also got the back porch on and even the lattice to keep out the (big) critters.  Wes laid wood chips on the ground to soak up the mud a little which helps walking around, albeit it’s now summer.  All cameras re-aimed as they got knocked around during the exterior trim painting.  Chris (painter) still has the beam staining to do.  He says “any time now”  and is just waiting for (a) no one else there to kick up dust and (b) his calendar to clear from a large job in in Quincy.  I’ll admit we are anxious to see that done but can continue to be patient.

Good progress on the inside.  All walls are painted and some baseboard on in the master bedroom.  (Note:  Gary doesn’t care for the style of paint that was done but everyone else says it’s fine).  Kitchen cabinets are in and appliances will go in them next.  Island is in but not the quartz countertop yet…next 2 weeks.  Same for butcher block countertops.  Lights and (smart) switches are in – but not energized yet.  Geothermal, HVAC and hot water tank is in as is the 120 gal propane tank – only for back-up generator.

I struggled with Internet service for some reason.  Coax feed was ok but connection to the Internet was disrupted.  I put the old AT&T cell modem back on line temporarily until I can call PSREC and get it sorted out.

Linda goes back on July 24 and will start working the floors with Adam.  As soon as the bathroom flooring is on, the toilets can go in (which is good).  Then, both Linda/I will go back on Aug 2 to continue working the floors.  We’ll be joined on Aug 4 by our friends Greg and Dale, along with Ali/Nate, to complete the floors.  The plan is the carpet goes in on Aug 9 and having the floors on will allow the front slate and fireplace stone to be completed.

After that, I think we can safely say it will be the “home stretch”.  Estimating sometime in Sept for move-in occupancy.


Quick Update – June 22, 2019

Linda/I took up more things on June 15 and also attended the annual HOA meeting – this time with an “effing house” on the lot to demonstrate our seriousness on being part of the community.

The paint on the inside was done and some of the exterior also done (see black trim on windows on the Construction page).  So it’s moving right along.  Next up will be completing the black trim (mostly done at the time of this writing) as well as the stain on the beams.  Guys are super busy up there right now so it takes some time.  We took up the vanity cabinets so plumbing can go in around them.

Also got Internet (slow coax but better than the cellular modem/router) and also a propane tank (120 gallon) for the back-up generator.  Light switches and receptacles are in.  Those would be “smart” light switches, of course.

Linda heading up June 29 to bring all appliances (except the fridge) and more flooring as well as some smaller stuff.  Gary’s beginning to build all the smart home stuff and IT infrastructure.  Still quite a bit to do but it’s getting to the tail end of the main build.


The Final Quarter – May 26, 2019

A natural question about now is “when will you be done”?  The real answer, of course, is “never”.  Still, it’s a fair question and there is an answer…sort of.

Here are the rough steps remaining.  Mostly this is in sequence but a few items are done in parallel:

  1.  Paint interior.
  2.  Cabinets/countertops – bedrooms.
  3.  Garage doors.
  4.  Shower enclosures.
  5.  Slate – front entry and fireplace hearth.
  6.  Cabinets/countertops – kitchen.
  7.  Doors – interior.
  8.  Paint trim and casings.
  9.  Hardwood floors.
  10.  Appliances.
  11.  Electrical finish.
  12.  Plumbing/HVAC.  (Note:  geothermal loops and lines are already in)
  13.  Carpeting – bedrooms.
  14.  HVAC.  (Note:  geothermal loops and lines are already in)

Latest revised estimate for all this is July-Aug and then maybe we can start the “rest” of the work which should take about 10 years.  Home Stretch.


Starting a Smart Home – May 25, 2019

Good progress yesterday on the camera system.  Got 11 cams up & running into the NVR (Networked Video Recorder).  Which means all the lines we ran last visit (before drywall went in) are good.  So 11 cams are ow visible and recording.

Speaking of dry wall, it’s all in and looks great (as great as drywall can look before paint).  See pictures HERE at the bottom of the page.

Also got our first true ‘smart home’ device in.  A Kwikset deadbolt lock.  Once we have Internet, I will connect it to the main hub and start building the “app” and events.  This isn’t just a fun smart house, it’s also the LiveSmart showroom, of sorts.

Still using the Cradlepoint router which gets to/from the Internet via ATT’s cell towers which are so-so here.  Part of this may that it’s crowded this weekend for Memorial Day so bandwidth is impacted.  Will monitor in the days to come. Unfortunately, Interned connections will be constrained for us because we are ~1 mile away from the fiber run.  Would cost like $50k to bring fiber to the house/neighborhood.  Not likely.

Met with the painter (Chris) and made more color decisions (or reaffirmed them) and will do some sample areas this morning with him.  That locks things down.

Then it’s the home stretch – see next post.


Cameras & Color – April 27, 2019

The main purpose of this trip was (a) Make some color decisions on the trim (facia, pillars and window trim) and (b) Get the Ethernet lines for the cameras and speaker wires run prior to the dry wall going in.  Good progress on both.

For color, we are going with a dark grey (almost black) trim around the windows and facia.  The pillars will get a brown stain which we are told will darken over time .  So maybe next pics will have this done.  Garage will be brown and be a nice contrast with the Mahogany siding.  The porch will be trex material (color TBD).  Decisions = Progress.

Gary and Adam (works for Wes) ran the camera lines.  New personal record…11 lines in less than 3 hours.  Really helps when Adam can just walk across the trusses and drop the lines into the office.  Gary had run a couple on the last trip up but still this went lightning fast.  So now all lines are run.

Using a cellular router (and ATT data service), Gary was able to get a few cameras mounted for live streaming.  So far, this is only 3 of 11 external cameras that will eventually go in, but it will help to keep an eye on progress when we cannot be here.  Will install a few more when we come up on our next trip (currently planned for May 17) to provide even more views.

Also looking at a 5.1 speaker system so Adam/Gary ran some lines out to the center of the Great Room for future listening.  Gary will run the rest today along with identifying all the “smart” light switches that need to go in.  We also have a few measurements to take on the kitchen island so we can size the cabinets and countertop.  As it stands, it will be pretty large (80″ x 50″) and be in prime position for TV viewing and chatting during meal prep.

The weather is spectacular.  Cool at night/morning and in the mid 70’s during the day.  The alpine tree smell is back and all snow gone in town.  The Feather River is running high from all the winter snow and rain – which is really nice to see.

Met some more neighbors yesterday and getting to know Mike Boyd (Wes’s dad) better.  Everything so far is falling into place.  On our way up here Thur, we were commenting on how all this is now “real” and fully happening.  The early vision from 2003 is playing out and the journey has been extremely gratifying.  If all goes as planned, we may be able to spend our first night on a floor mattress sometime in June!


General Update – April 8, 2019

Back from Graeagle today and another productive trip on the house build.  The weekend’s posts were more of the “soft” side so here is a more technical update.

The roof is on and looking good.  Due to the wet winter, we had water infiltration into the crawl space area.  Wes has blowers in there to get the dampness out.  While it is unlikely to ever get that way again (usually wet winter), another strong snow/rain winter season could produce some infiltration so we are going to trench out the back and have a drainage down the hill…just as a precaution.  Want to keep the crawl space dry in case we need to go down there.

All the siding is on and the windows are in.  Electrical is in (and live) and the plumbing is also mostly in.  We are going to move one wall in the master bathroom over a few inches to provide more space in the toilet area and decrease the linen closet a little.  Other than that, the interior is looking good and getting ready for insulation and drywall as next steps.  The fireplace and vent is in and Linda’s design of cabinet spaces on either side of the fireplace was a good call.  We’ll use it for books, music equipment, storage, etc.

Interesting to see the sprinkler piping in (the orange lines in the pics) as new code.  (Familiar for hotels, but not for residences until now).  Also interesting to see all the geothermal venting and electrical as we won’t see it this way again after the drywall is in.  The angled ceiling turned out great and really gives it a very open feel.  Even the bedroom ceilings are high and don’t feel cramped, despite the somewhat small size of the rooms themselves.

Gary ran the first of the Ethernet lines for the cameras and Internet runs.  More on this when we come back in a couple of weeks.  The race is on now for the drywall install times and we need to get these lines run before then.  The in-celling audio speakers is another story.  Running the speaker lines is very doable but am still thinking about installation of the speakers themselves.  Not sure if I will get those picked out and purchased in time.

The weather is supposed to clear up starting later this week which should help.  Timing now is paced by inspections and availability of the insulation and drywall crew.  Completion of the place is expected to be in June sometime.  A big chunk of that is when we can get up there to put the flooring in.  Carpet will be after that and then the appliances.  Maybe we spend a night on a mattress in June?

Might be without heat or air at that time due to the timing of the geothermal.  The ground has been so wet and muddy that they cannot get the tractors in there to dig for the ground loops.  We need no rain/snow for 2-3 weeks to allow things to dry out.

That’s it for now.


Thoughts from Sophie The Dog – April 6, 2019

So first Mom and Dad decide to schlep me a thousand miles from home and don’t tell me anything.  I thought I was going to boarding school or something.  Then – you should see where I had to sit.  They literally crammed me in this van between the seats.  My baby sister Nina would barely fit there, never mind a full grown husky.  I’ll be speaking to my attorney about this.

I have to admit that once we got up there, things have been pretty cool.  Finally – some winter weather that was meant for me.  They have been feeding me really well (I got Dad’s left over prime rib from last night) and plenty of good walks.  I’ve really been on good behavior and treated well.

Then there’s the “effing” house.  Man that is one cool place!  I didn’t exactly like sleeping on the plywood but Mom explained that was temporary.  This guy named Wes bothered me and I’m not quite sure why but I kept barking at him.  Seemed nice enough and Mom/Dad sure like him.  Eventually I chilled out and relaxed.

I think I’m going to like it here.  I’ve been doing some Google searches on Graeagle and the place is rich with history.  Some of my ancestors were here and so I am going to do an ancestry trace….see what I find.  Meanwhile, I’ve been getting Mom/Dad all to myself which has been great.  Mom says there will be more room on the way home since Dad is flying home.  Good thing because I’m pretty sure I’d cramp up.

I’ll write more another time and be sure to follow me on #sophierussell.


Killer Progress – April 6, 2019

Linda and I drove up in one of those sprinter vans yesterday full of bathroom stuff needed for installation. Pretty easy drive until we got to east Sacramento heading to Auburn on route 80. It was 51 degrees, raining and we were concerned about chain control. Unlike previous times when I had a 4-wheel drive truck, this was just a van with no snow tires and no 4WD.

We kept our eye on the temp gauge. Down to 49 degrees, then 41 and full on snow. The hills get steeper at Donner Pass and chain control could turn us back. If that happened, we were in for 3-5 extra hours to get up to Graeagle. 38 degrees, 35, 33, and then 32 at Donner. Full on snow and sleet now but the van kept ticking.

Gary promised Linda that if it was snowing in Truckee, that we would bypass route 89 and head on into Reno to take the (longer) route up 395 and 70. Which we did and it dried out in Reno. Up to Graeagle we went and ended a 12-hour drive.

A quick unload of the van at where we were staying and over to the lot. The boys have been doing good!  Siding is on all around, windows in and doors on too. Looking really good as you can tell from the pics at the bottom of the Construction page.

Interior has made a lot of progress also. Electrical lines and can lights are in along with plumbing lines and ducting. Really getting a sense of what it’s going to be like. The Great Room is looking…great. The view from both that room as well as the master bedroom is sweet. We are starting to imagine waking up to that view – in all the various seasons.

Got several things to accomplish today. We meet Wes in a couple of hours to go over everything. Also getting more cameras up so we can watch from Anaheim and will plan our next trip up.  Thinking to run lines for Ethernet and in-ceiling speakers.  All home automation and security has to be planned out now and implemented shortly.  This is really moving along!

Check out Linda’s blog too.

Until next time,

Linda Speaks – April 6, 2019

I’m finally writing a blog- funny how uncommunicative I’ve been about this labor of love we’ve been engaged in for so many years.  You’d think since communication is key to my profession, I’d be better about it. Ah well, I’ve communicated plenty with our long suffering and immensely patient builder (Wes Boyd) so maybe that counts for something.  I know he appreciates all my suggestions and changes….  Gary’s also been a rock about all  my doubts and obsessing over expenses, colors, materials, cabinets, floors, windows, antler chandeliers (yeah, we have one), etc. I have shown a degree of patience as well and have only bit Gary twice- so far.

Yesterday was our first look at the “effing” house as it’s now affectionately referred to (we’ve GOT to change that name soon) with the windows, siding and doors in.  I didn’t cry like they do on the home building TV shows; I just kind of walked thru hyperventilating. It’s beyond my dreams (I know, they all say that on the shows) and yet it’s pretty modest and simple in some ways.  My favorite part is the view from the kitchen – you can see views out the front and back windows and the great room is…as Gary says…great.

Some things still need changing (like the water closet in the master bath – we made it too small to turn around in. You’d have to kind of go in face first to the toilet and back out again like a truck in a loading bay (is that TMI?) and we forgot steps to the front door; you’d have to be a kangaroo to get to the porch without the gangplank somebody on the crew put there. We also discovered the window in the kids’ bathroom faces the front porch and entry (that we knew) and is low enough to give any guests a nice full frontal “hello” of a bather’s top half (that we didn’t know.)  Yikes, that’ll take some fixing.

Some things are still to be decided like the color of the trim around the windows and the eaves. We still haven’t picked a floor for our bathroom yet, but I have 25 pounds of samples with me so that should happen this weekend.

All-in-all it’s a wonderful, amazing, brain frying, self indulgent adventure so far. Here’s to love, house building and the adventures yet to come…