It's been two years...what I've learned, would change, etc...

fishpantsJanuary 18, 2010

Yup. Can't believe we've been in our place that long! After being our GC, making most of the decisions (with full support of DH), surviving a whirlwind adoption, a life-altering surgery, and living in the house for two years, I think I can go forth with my "list of oops and loves". So here goes:


-Living on a dirt road isn't fun when the snow melts or the June rains come.

-Want a bigger mudroom with separate cubbies for each family member.

-Laundry room is too small. Want a place for baskets for each person's clean clothes, to iron, etc. all in one room. And closer to the majority of bedrooms.

-Travertine kitchen floor with 3 (4 inc. DH) boys. And we cook/bake most of our meals from scratch.

-Air bath in master. It works great. But we just don't bathe. We shower. Extra money spent.

-Every bathroom has granite or marble countertops and stone floors. Beautiful. But it wasn't necessary. And harder to clean with all boys.

-Jack and Jill baths. Hate them now. Will only do private or hall accessed ones next time.

-24" griddle in kitchen range. Would rather have more burners.

-Gas fireplace. I want the real thing.

-White trim and doors. All boys. 'Nuff said.

-Bonus room over garage. Nice to have a huge playroom, but really a waste of space otherwise. Could have used the downstairs family room for a playroom instead. As it is, both rooms are underutilized.


-My quirky but fun "pendant" lighting in the kitchen. Five bulbs on each chandelier over the island. Lots of light!

-Garage is 30' deep. We wouldn't be able to get our truck or SUV in and be able to walk around them otherwise.

-Living on a dirt road. It's quiet out here :)

-Pebble stone flooring in master bath.

-Steam shower.

-Lyptus flooring. Color varies enough to hide the dings and wear of life.

-American Clay plaster in the 3 rooms I did it in.

-Big work space in kitchen = multiple people can cook at one time.

-The pantry is 17' long. A little narrow at 4.5' wide, but the length makes up for being more narrow.

-Air switches at the sink for the pendant light and the disposal.

-Verde Fire granite island in kitchen.

-The "peanut" DeVine paint color (we color matched to a different paint brand) for the main color throughout. Hue changes with times of day.

-Generator DH decided to get. Paid for itself first time the power went out for hours and it was 19 below zero F outside! We had a few neighbors come over...

-Undermount sinks.

-Home office.

-Our 36" (each) fridge and freezer units by Northland. Paid the same $ to get both units as would have to get a single SZ unit. Work beautifully.

-Ceiling fans in bedrooms.

-Our massive mechanical room. Every piece of equipment has it's own spot and there is plenty of room to walk around in there.

-24" deep engineered floor trusses. They hide all the mechanical and plumbing. No bulkheads in the basement.

-Corbond insulation everywhere. Our garage does not go below 34F even when it is -20F or lower for multiple days. The carryover heat from the car engines is enough to keep it warm! But it also stays cooler in the summer too...

-Heavy duty doorknobs. They feel SO much better in hand and "wear" well.

I'm sure I will remember a bunch as soon as I post, but wanted to share. I know the decisions get overwhelming after awhile. It helped me to hear people talk about their positives and negatives after actually living in their home for awhile.

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This was awesome! Thank you for taking the time to gather your thoughts and post it. Very helpful

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 8:48PM
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Great list! Thanks for posting. Curious - what do you hate about the j/j bathroom? We have one layed out in our floorplan but it is only accessible to those two rooms. There is a powder room in the hall for guest. It was something I really wanted. I grew up with all sisters and we always fought over the bathroom.

We are doing a gas fireplace upstairs and a woodburning FP in the basement. I hope I don't regret it either. I love the sound and smell of the wood burning but hate the mess.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 9:30PM
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cmill1if- The J&J baths...Do you put the lock on the bath side for the obvious privacy there? Or do you have the locks on the bedroom side so someone doesn't come running into the bedrooms (also could be some obvious there too!). And when visitors come and share a bath, is it a little awkward for them? We have found these to be some of the problems.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 9:44PM
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Hi Fishpants -- I am shopping for door knobs right now. Can you tell me which ones you went with? Thanks!

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 11:49PM
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Thanks for posting all this!
I hear ya about the laundry/mud room. I made the rest of the house just perfectly sized, but somehow just didn't realize that I had skimped on the mudroom until they framed it and I thought, "This isn't big enough"....what was I (not) thinking about? In the end, it's always the hardest working place and I vow that I should have a bigger one one day...but then my kids will be grown and gone ;P

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 11:55PM
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I feel like even though our mudroom is large (12 x8), it could always be bigger. Two of the three exterior doors (from garage and terrace/side yard) lead into the mudroom, and as we expected, it has helped keep the clutter out of the kitchen and other living areas. I really love it. It is the first place I straighten up and sweep (which keeps kitchen floors clean....) and that seems to keep the rest of the house somewhat orderly.

Maybe future houses one day will have multiple mudrooms w/ laundry and utility sinks/baths? Or do they already? They keep getting bigger and bigger.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 9:24AM
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We've been in one year after GC'ing as well.

I would've spec'd open floor trusses with engineer
11 or 12 ft basement walls instead of 10ft. Combined with HVAC ducts and our 8ft doors, we had to get creative on the basement ceiling.
Laundry Room needs to be even bigger.
My electric radiant heat floor on the covered porches isn't powerful enough (can't keep the dog's water dish from freezing at night).
Mahogany French Doors for the exterior. I saved a lot going with them over our window manufacturer's aluminum clad... but one or two is warping and most don't seal well.
Spray Foam insulation... I'd use taped foam boards over the sheathing and blown cellulose in the walls next time. I'd still do the unvented attic.
Spray Foam all DWV pipes.
Moen multiple spray heads unit - one handheld, one rainfall and 4 body sprays; the 3/4 inch supply isn't enough for the body sprays and an overhead. I'd split it into two thermostatic valves, each with a 3/4 inch supply.
Redwood deck railings... did you know that 4 out of 5 carpenter bees prefer it to any other wood?

We used the GE 36" Fridge and 36" Freezer. Just wish the suction wasn't so high on the door.
Hardwoods everywhere. Only carpet is the Home Theater.
Heated Master Bathroom Floor.
Wood burning fireplace
Slate Tile deck
8ft doors everywhere (I'm 6'4" so it makes me feel normal sized)
Whole House Audio
Remote location for TV/Satellite boxes
100" TV Screen in the Home Theater.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 9:29AM
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Thanks for your post fishpants. Very helpful for all who are building and it's nice to hear from people a few years later.

Interesting comments about the mudrooms. Our mudroom is 10 x 14 plus a 5 x 5 desk area, yet I feel like I could still use more space! I think I need to follow mdev's rule to straighten up that room 1st. It keeps the clutter out of the kitchen and the rest of the house, but does tend to become a dumping space. Still working on getting a better system for all the kids school "junk."

We chose to use our above the garage "bonus" space as garage storage rather than a finished bonus room. Before we built many people commented that we should finish it as a bonus room, but we much prefer the extra garage storage space.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 12:10PM
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I'm curious, bdpeck. Why are you unhappy with your spray foam insulation?

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 5:25PM
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I love this post! Thanks for sharing it. Do you have any photos to post? Just wondering why you hate all the granite and tile in the kids' bathrooms...I thought they were easier to keep clean? What would you put in differently?

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 8:18PM
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ok bdpeck - at the risk of me sound incredibly judgmental - are you really using electricity to heat the floor of covered porches all night? And really - needing 2 3/4 in supply lines for your shower although for what you have, yes 2 lines would be nice.

And what is wrong with spray foaming DWV pipes? Did it not work for sound, because my one big regret is not doing something to quiet our DWVs - I'm sure we used cast iron but you still really hear the upstairs toilets when you are downstairs. I know part of it is they are the powerful flush kind but it was still a surprise. I do think spray foaming a house is not worth it in our climate.

My other regrets:
I should have run HDMI to TV locations instead of component - the component are ridiculously bulky in the media area. HDMI cables have gotten cheaper and the switchers are also reasonable. The retrofit is not a big deal since I have "chases" but the cable will be longer since it isn't as direct.

Now after living with whole house audio, my wife wishes we put speakers in the nursery. Not a big deal to retrofit but still a pain.

Basement has 10 foot ceilings but the windows and doors are conventional height. The main floor has 8 foot doors and transoms over the windows but the basement does not. To be fair the ceilings are more like 9'8" in the basement but the higher windows/doors would have helped bring in more light.

Warming drawer with white cabinet face - we are seeing some discoloration but it might be because we left it on all night once (no indicator light on outside)

Blower on hood is a bit loud. We were going to do an inline blower but there was no place to put it - we would have had to lower the pantry ceiling - didn't seem worth it at the time but maybe it would have made a big difference. We have a 48 in wolf so the CFMs are big.

Loves: IPE deck, whole house audio, hide-a-hose vacuum, 2 stage HVAC, zoned master bedroom, recirc pump on hot water, direct vent gas fireplace - we run that thing many hours a day.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2010 at 9:42AM
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Okay-to answer some questions or comments...

We went with Baldwin "Tahoe" doorknobs in ORB. Sturdy suckers!

Our mudroom-I don't recall the dimensions, since it is an angled room, but it definitely isn't even as big as what the rest of you are posting! Yeah, I'm envious...

Our basement ceilings ended up being 9'4". Worked out well and doesn't feel like a basement. All our doors are 7'0" height.

I really do like the granite countertops. I don't regret the choice from an aesthetic or cleaning standpoint. More of a "did we really need to spend the money there?" sort of issue. We'd probably go with a solid surface material next time for the kiddie baths.

Still would go with tile for showers and such, but I kind of think we'll use a 'vinyl' (?) for the kid baths next time. We were just shown a friends new (and very, very nicely done) house. They had some kind of newer flooring in the kid baths and craft room. DH and I thought it was regular tile and were shocked when she told us otherwise. I don't know what the product name is though. Need to call her back on that. I swear--it was amazing stuff.

We also ran HDMI to TV sites. In some areas, DH put in 'smurf' tubing so he could run/repair lines in the future as needed.

I will post pics soon. Need to go through some older photo files to retrieve them. Sorry!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 3:15AM
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Here's some pics. Guess I didn't have to look too hard after all! LOL

Boy's J&J bath:

Another bath:

Master bath:

Verde Fire kitchen island:

Great room. We were still finishing up a few things in there. Undecorated.

Lyptus flooring:

Walnut staircase (dusty!):

A view of the "bonus" playroom:

The crazy big mechanical room. There's even more than you can see here:

Back view before landscaping:

Fun pic of deck in progress. Taken from lift raised to full height:

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 4:17AM
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David_Cary, the DWV Sprayfoam is what I should've done, not what I did. I regret not sprayfoaming them, because you can hear water rush down in parts of the basement.

My wife is the one who uses all the shower nozzles at once, I just use the handheld. Maybe on city water, it would work with only one supply, but for us, we're not getting the pressure or flow.

The radiant floor uses a couple hundred watts, so it's like leaving some lights on all night. It was supposed to take the chill off the cold winter nights for the dog and cats who live outside. Well, the cats passed away within 3 months of us moving in and the floor can't keep the water dish (with the pump that makes it moving water too) from freezing. So it was a failed plan all around.

If you think those two are anti-green, I didn't mention our AGA. It's a British oven that's on all the time... that's right, burning gas night and day, cooking or not, even in the hot summer. We cook a lot, and due to the design, we probably aren't wasting fuel over a conventional oven, but the added heat to the house in the summer isn't very good. It would be a much better product up north.

We used HDMI cables for the remote locations of AV equipment, but I wish I would've known that after 50ft, you need to have a repeater to boost the signal. I have wall plate boosters, so it turned out alright. I still don't have all the kinks worked out for the IR repeater system that goes with the HDMI runs.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 8:43AM
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Those IR repeaters are a pain. I am literally running a new wire this evening. The trick I've learned is that cat5 does not work well for this despite what everyone says. I am running some speaker wires through a chase for the signal right now.

That oven sounds pretty bad....

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 5:47PM
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In this house, we put the laundry room off the master bath/bedroom. Kids are grown, and all the laundry except kitchen towels happens there. I LOVE it!! The only drawback is that our daughter, her DH and 2 kids are living in the downstairs right now, and the location means they need to adjust their laundry patterns so they're not walking through our bedroom and bath at inappropriate times! If there wasn't a second family using it, it would be perfect.

Loved my walk-in shower in the last house and repeated it in this one. My hand-held shower is mounted so that I can bathe a large dog in there. We called it "Sammy's shower" in the last house . . . but sadly, Sammy is no longer living. The eventual new puppy will benefit!

I love my quartz perimeter counters and brushed granite island counter . . . love how they look and how they function, although I'll admit that the brushed granite is less easy to clean up than smooth. But I expected that, so it's no surprise.

Love the beverage center -- hot/cold filtered water is an absolute treat, as is the beverage fridge. Wouldn't get the same brand, though -- it doesn't keep things cold enough.

Love the circulating hot water. In the last house, I washed my face in the laundry room because it took so long for hot water to reach the MB.

Love having a generator -- we're on a ridge in a very rural area, so power isn't restored very quickly here.

Wish I could have persuaded DH to do in-floor heating in the master bath.

Wish we'd been smarter about heat/cool zones. DH's office is geographically in the master bedroom wing, but should have been heat zoned with living space because in the daytime we keep the bedroom much cooler in winter and warmer in summer, and his office should be consistent with living quarters, not sleeping quarters.

We put a kitchenette in the lower level -- a lifesaver now that kids are living there.

Love the Silgranite sink, FD fridge, larger foyer than last house.

We were just saying the other day that we were so pleased with how things came out . . . many thanks to the generous people on this forum!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 8:36PM
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Hosta, can you post some pics of your kitchen. I've been planning all along to go with granite, but now have decided to go with quartz instead. Also would love to see your beverage center.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 8:41AM
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Fishpants - Thanks for sharing some pictures. I especially love your walnut staircase and lyptus floor. Your expansive deck space is also fantastic! Enjoy your beautiful home!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 10:14AM
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"Living on a dirt road isn't fun when the snow melts or the June rains come."

Limited experience with 'country living'?

Gravel is not expensive.

Buy a few truckloads and have the road graded with it.

Dirt and gravel roads require maintenance.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 10:23AM
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excellent points-

is the pebble stone flooring done by hand? and if so sounds pricey?

do you have a photo of the quirky pendants?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 8:59PM
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LOL. We would, except that the (dirt) public road is 1.5 miles before we reach our drive! We do some pretty fine country living out here in Montana--I'm definitely not a city gal--but I'm not always wearing my Carhartts either!

Here's the "pendants" over the kitchen island:

The pebble flooring comes in sheets of approx 1 sf of tile for each. They are not square sheets but rather set up to be interlocking. So no, they are not done by hand. Now, having said that, ours were partially! Here's why: We purchased the tile about a year before the construction started and stored it in an enclosed hauling trailer on the property. It went through a few heat waves as well as freeze/thaw cycles. The adhesive used to attach the stones to their mesh backing failed as a result. So our poor tiler ended up installing much of it by hand when the stones fell off the sheets as he pulled them out of the boxes. Luckily, he was a friend and didn't charge us extra for the headache! Per SF, I believe we paid $11.00(?) just for the tile. Ours came from Daltile.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 9:37PM
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Fish.... absolutely gorgeous home. Very nice. Love SO much about it. We too are building out in the country, on the middle of a farm, about 2 miles down a dirt road. I'm not looking forward to that aspect, but can't wait for the serenity of the country. If you don't mind sharing, what is the tile in your boy's J&J bath floor? I really like those colors with the black counter. Enjoy your home and the country!!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 10:34PM
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wow.. so much to do when you build.. those are quirky lights.. very neat..

do you have cupboards above the fridge and does it stay white?

very neat on the pebbles.. well not for your friend..LOL

what are your cupboards - wood and stain? are you happy with the 2 tone?

do you have anywhere on the web with more of your build pictures.. I would love to see more

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 10:48PM
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-The tile is 'copper slate'.

-There are no working cabinets above the fridge, but we do have some woodwork and moulding around it that ties everything together. The refrigeration units and our (2)dishwashers all have cabinet fronts. It looks much better than that pic shows! I'll have to find a pic of the final product...

-The kitchen cabs are Omega/Dynasty in natural cherry, with a "coffee" glaze/stain. The cabs in the boys bath and such are alder, with "sage" stain.

-I am thoroughly happy with the black accent trim, if that's what you mean by two-tone. It pulled things together with having the perimeter countertops black.

-I'll work on putting something together for those who want to see more pics. Give me some time on that.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 5:08PM
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Fishpants - love the painting over the fireplace...I have had that same print for years in my office. As a dad of two boys it's nice to remember that in their wonderfully independent ways they still need me...

Congrats on your lovely home.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 6:07PM
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This is such great information. Please tell us what brand windows you put in, and now that you've lived with them for awhile, what do you think?

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 12:33PM
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Thanks for sharing your experience. It's so great to hear from others who have gone through the process. We are building a house out in the country, as well. We are planning on doing the back up generator (we are in wyoming) so it's nice to hear that it is worth the extra cost.
We are not putting in a basement (the water table is too high on our property) but I do have some concerns about my laundry/mudroom. I don't know the dimensions but we ended up stealing space from that area to make our master bath even larger. In the end we are doing a stackable washer and dryer but that will leave me room for a big closet for coats, as well as, a smaller closet with a doggie door for the cat boxes. We will also have room for a bench/cubbie unit. I've worried that I will hate the stackable washer and dryer (I'm short and with 3 small kids they will be used alot) but I thought I'd appreciate the extra storage.
The mud is ridiculous here but we've been living in a mobile home on our property for a year while we built so I'm hoping that just the extra space (3 kids, 3 cats, 3 dogs in less than 1100 square feet now) will help me look past the mud that will be inevitable for a long time. We are afraid to pave our road because my hubby worries he will just tear it up snowplowing with his tractor in the winter. And it's true that gravel is cheap (relatively) and can make a big difference.
We are doing a playroom in the bonus space above the garage but otherwise our house is just one level - thank you so much for sharing.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 1:03PM
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Anyone else? Post your loves/regrets/pics.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2010 at 9:54AM
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Fishpants, I love your fireplace and would love to know what kind of stone you used. I'm new here, just starting to build hopefully breaking ground next month!

    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 11:46AM
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Do you mean the small tile or the actual surround? Either way--
The surround is actually cast concrete intended to look like travertine.
The tile is an onyx.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 12:23PM
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fishpants, do you mind please sharing the paint color in your family room, master bath and bonus area?


    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 4:11PM
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