All about that base, bout that base

Previously on “Charles and Jes Build a House” we had just started pouring the concrete for the foundation footings and stem wall. Since then, well, a lot has happened in our lives and we just haven’t had time to take a step back yet. The good news about having a builder though is that the house keeps moving towards completion, even when we don’t have time for it ourselves. With that in mind, the week of November 10th the builder was busy building our foundation walls and pillars out of cinder blocks. This will obviously serve as the support for our entire house, so it has to be done and done well. One thing that I learned in this process is that the way you ensure the top of the foundation wall is level all the way around is to vary the thickness of the mortar between the blocks ever so slightly.

The other thing that we learned is that our house is going to be taller than we anticipated. We went with the crawlspace at first because we knew that we didn’t want the house, and more importantly the porch, to sit right at on the ground. What we didn’t take into consideration 100% though was that the land slopes down from the back of the house to the front by about three feet. This means that the back of the house is the desired 2 feet off the ground, and the front of the house is about 5 feet off the ground. I think we always knew that would be the case, without ever really knowing it, but it doesn’t really sink in how tall that is until you can see it. We always wanted a regal looking house, and we will certainly have one when it’s done.

Front wall height - Jes for scale

The following week, after the cinder block walls and pillars were built, the next step was to put the bricks around the exterior of the foundation walls. This was the first “design decision” that has been built, and we both LOVE the bricks we chose.

Brick close up

Finishing the bricks

Foundation wall and pillars

Next up is framing, when the house will start to look like a house. They started framing this past Tuesday and are already moving quickly. It is slated to take 3 weeks, so we are holding out hope for good weather for the next three weeks, at which point the weather won’t have as much of an effect on the timeline.

We Survived – Part 2

There is honestly so much going on right now, I feel a little remiss just talking about the half marathon, but that’s all I can wrap my head around right now. We are still selling the condo on the 15th, we are moving to an apartment on Saturday, keeping tabs on the house being built, and we won’t be in town on the weekend until 2015, but today is all about running and turkey.

About to get stated

It has been exactly 627 days since our first official 5K, and we can both honestly say we never thought we would get this far. 627 days is roughly 18 months, or a year and a half, and we were able to stretch that initial 5K into a half marathon. Thinking back on that day in March of 2013, we have come a long, long way. For our first 5K we had never even run 2 consecutive miles, and we couldn’t finish the entire thing without walking. We finished that race with an overall pace of 11 minutes and 9 seconds per mile. Today Jes, Kelly and I were all able to  run (or jog) the entire 13.1 miles without stopping. Our expected time was around 2 hours and 20 minutes, and our “stretch goal” was 2 hours and 15 minutes. Official results won’t come back until later tonight, but unofficially we came in at 2 hours and 13 minutes, yes all three of us,  which put us at 10 minutes and 9 seconds per mile, and I could not be more proud,. I don’t know how this compares to other people’s progressions, but shaving over a minute per mile off our initial 5K pace, and adding 10 miles of distance is a solid 18 month’s work if you ask me.

Pre and post race excitement

Our race - the distance is off a bit, so the pace shows a little fast

Jes and I learned a good amount about ourselves, and our personal motivations, during the entire training process and already know where we go from here. 2 hours and 13 minutes is definitely something to be happy about, but instead of continuing pushing the envelope for distance, we are going to try and get faster. We are already planning on running the Atlanta Hot Chocolate 15K in January, but our actual next goal is to run a 5K in less than 25 minutes. Pushing speed is not something that we’ve done before, so it will be a fun challenge and hopefully an easy motivator. I have no clue how long that will take, but it will allow us to return to a more “boot camp” style workout routine, which will be far easier than all of the long runs we have been on recently.

But for now – we are going to eat as much as we possibly can and bask in the post race joy of getting our first race medal!


No Forwarding Address

photo (15)
Celebration = Champagne

Big week around here… so big that I woke up before 5, and could not go back to bed (Charles had no such issue as he is still there as I type). At any rate… WE SOLD THE

Now, you might be confused and thinking “why did you do that? I didn’t even know it was listed. where are you going to live? to who?”  I will try and answer below.

  • Why did you do that?
    • We have gone over my intolerance for things like patience before… if you are new to me this might still shock you.  But I expect most of my nearest and dearest wont bat an eye.  The idea of paying 2 mortgages was not my favorite, and I like to have looming problems solved…even if solving them creates new (yet less troublesome) problems for me to solve.  Remember: Im a master planner… I got this 🙂
  • I didn’t even know it was listed.
    • Thats the best part – it wasn’t!  After we found the Tobey Rd. house via Zillow’s Make me Move feature, we were truly impressed with the idea of never listing the condo or working with an agent (sorry agents but 6% is a lot of money).  So we posted a make me move on 10/7 carefully setting the price tag at something that was both reasonable, but would cover our additional moving costs and rent if we had to vacate early.  I thought the pics turned out pretty well, but you can judge for yourself.
  • Where are you going to live?
    • Ah.  Good Question.  Well, my thought was that most loans take 45-60 days to close and that would be enough time for us to find some temporary housing.  However, our buyer(more on him in a minute) doesn’t suffer from my need to plan ahead and needs the condo by 12/15.  Yikes!  So we have found an apartment that we can move into and will be signing a lease after our duediligance.
  • To who?
    • The best part – the first person to come look at it made an offer!  He is a recent college graduate that is just as cute as can be.  When he came to look at the condo, he brought his girlfriend and mom along for approval.  I LOVE IT!!!  They came over on Wednesday and asked lots of good questions and hung around after and met some neighbors.  I guess they liked it 🙂

Now we have to go through the contracting, appraisals, etc.  Duedilliagance ends the day after Thanksgiving – so if everything works out then we will have one more thing to be thankful for!  If not, oh well. I wont have to move into an apartment and we can just wait for the next interested buyer.  Pretty good deal 🙂



Remember Remember, the 6th of November

So it’s not quite the right date, but it is a date that I will always remember. November 6th was the day that we actually built something! No more drawing floor plans, no more negotiating contracts, no more dealing with the bank, no more demolition, no more tree removal, no more grading. We finally actually put something down on the property that was not there before. Throughout the first part of the week the team was grading the area of the foundation and digging for the foundation footings, with the plan being to make the concrete pour on Thursday, weather permitting. So of course Thursday was the only day in the past 2 weeks that was slated for rain. As the week went by the forecast got progressively better, but never good enough to make us have confidence that we would actually get the pour done. And our hope of progress were dashed when at 8am is started raining and didn’t look like it was going to let up anytime soon. As weather tends to do though, it turned pretty quickly, and by noon it was a gorgeous day. Assuming that the morning rain had wiped out any chance of working in the afternoon, I sent our project manager an email to confirm that nothing was going to happen, but low and behold we were a go!

They worked into the late afternoon and got all of the footings poured and the outer rim of the foundation complete. These guys work fast, which will hopefully be the case for all of the subs that Branden uses. About midway through the afternoon, I received an update of the progress:

So this is actually happening, and look how pretty the day turned out to be. Of course we have no patience when it comes to actual progress, and since this was the first time progress meant we were actually building, we had to go check it out that evening. As it turns out, concrete that is still drying is not very exciting, but for the first time ever we got to visualize our actual house without putting sticks and rocks down to mark the edges.  I’m not sure how well you can see it in this picture, but trust me, there is an outline of a house there. Yes, literally an outline. You can definitely see the fireplace, and I was standing right about at the front edge of the front porch.

And of course Radar got in on the fun. Note to all you dog owners out there, dogs do not understand the concept of “drying concrete”. Radar definitely stepped in it once, and tried to step in it a couple more times before we stopped him at the last second. Don’t worry, the time he did step in it, we were able to pick all of it out of his feet fur before it set, but his insistence on trying to cross it was a bit annoying 🙂

The next step that they have to do is actually build the foundation, which will consist of concrete blocks surrounding by bricks. The concrete will set fully set over the weekend, and the blocks were delivered to the lot on Friday, so we will hopefully get to work on that bright and early Monday. And yes, we have a picture of the blocks too because we just can’t stay away. Well, we actually were in Brookhaven last night to see Interstellar, so you can see me in one of my favorite blazers too 🙂 Hopefully by this time next week the blocks will all be in, and maybe even the bricks too.

Blazers and Blocks

Abandoned Power Pole No More

One of the smaller details on getting the lot prepared for the new house was that pesky abandoned power poll that was on the left side of the lot. We were fairly convinced that we would have to have a prolonged fight with Georgia Power for them to take it out and at first it looked like it was heading in that direction. When Jes first called them to ask about getting it removed, they had no record that it even existed. This of course is never a good thing. But they said that would send someone out to take a look at it and let us know what the next steps were by the end of the week. Well the end of the week came and went, but we never heard anything from Georgia Power. Typical. Or was it?

We went over to the house on Saturday to complete our first ever 10 mile run (mission accomplished bytheway!), and low and behold, the power poll was already gone! Apparently they just decided to go ahead and take it out without even bothering to tell us. I’m not sure how you get one of those things out of the ground, but it could not have been terribly easy, but there is not even any indication that there was ever a power pole in the first place. Someone remind me of this the next time I am cursing Georgia Power for whatever reason 🙂


Ready to Cook up a Storm

The whole house was built around one room – the kitchen.  Now there were other reasons we wanted to leave the condo – mainly for access to a yard.  But as far as the interior of the house goes …it was all about the kitchen.

The condo has a galley style kitchen with a 3 foot hallway in between 11 feet of sparse laminate cabinet space and topped with limited lighting tucked into the back of the house – much like a cave. It has been painted 5 times since I moved in – desperately searing for a color that would make it feel bigger, brighter, cleaner…. in the end, I suppose it worked in comparison to what it was.  But at the end of the day its still a pig with lipstick, a cramped, dark, and windowless kitchen with no view to the rest of the house.  We literally hate being in there – even if we do love to cook.

So anyway – I will stop crying about the condo and move onto happier subjects: our amazing new kitchen!  When I started designing the house floor plan, the kitchen came first, and everything else was filled in around it.  Every decision was made with function and enjoyment in mind.  We wanted to make sure it was built for two cooks who cold easy pass each other while doing independent tasks.  And thats why we have 4 foot walkways and two sinks (prep and dish).  I also wanted to make sure that when the cook was working, they were not cut off form the rest of the world.  Because so much active cooking time is spent on prep and at the cook top, I wanted a way to face the living room while doing these tasks.  Well that would have been fine, if I didn’t mind a huge hood looming over my island…. but I do mind that.  So we went with a pop-up downdraft – that resides underneath the island counter and rises when you need ventilation.  SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS!  The combination of the 8 foot island for prep space, and the cook-top facing the living area,  will easily allow the cook and talk while working in the kitchen!

Anyway – after meeting with the cabinet maker a few times, we are almost done with our plans.  There are a few more tweaks that we might need to take care of, but they are mostly finished.  Take a look!!

Overhead View of Kitchen
Back Wall
Back Wall of Kitchen – Windows overlook side yard
Side Wall – Front of House. Window overlooks front porch
Side Wall – Next to Walk in Pantry
Front of island – other side has seating for 4

Fall Fun Day

Everyone hopefully knows that one Jes’ favorite activities is to just enjoy being outside in the fall, looking at the leaves as they change colors, exploring corn mazes and pumpkin patches, and just generally enjoying the crisp fall air. We wanted to make sure that Oliver also developed this love of being outdoors in the fall, so a month or two ago we made plans to spend the day with the Henry’s driving up through North Georgia, visiting pumpkin patches, spending some time on the town square and just generally enjoying the fall. Yesterday was the day that was chosen, and we could not have asked for a nicer day. The weather was warm in the sun and cool in the shade, which made for a very pleasant day indeed.

We started off the day in Dahlonega town square to spend some time with Ron’s aunt and uncle, who had not had the pleasure of meeting young Oliver yet. For those of you that don’t know, Dahlonega was the site of the country’s first major gold rush in 1829, and as such, most of their “small town charm” is centered around that long since past gold rush. And for a little more recent Dahlonega history, it is also where Jes and I had dinner the evening I proposed at the corn maze a few miles away, so it holds a special place in our heart. But getting back to present day times, Ron’s aunt and uncle were obviously over joyed at getting to spend some time with Oliver (as anyone who has met him would be) – and it was great for them to get to know him.

After lunch we headed over to the pumpkin patch that we had picked out. Jes and I wanted to ensure that Ron and Kate actually had some real family photos and essentially forced them to allow us to direct them. Or least 2 of them. Ron and Kate take direction extremely well, but Oliver…. well he needs some special coaxing 🙂 In between fits of hunger and dirty diapers, we would have about 10 minutes at a time of a happy baby, and as photographers, we jumped all over that time. Unfortunately Oliver is just a little too young to be able to support himself on a pumpkin, so we will have to get that sort of picture next year, but we definitely were able to get some family photos that we are hoping they will cherish.

DSC_0036-b DSC_0117 DSC_2673 DSC_2749

Its Going Down, We’re Yelling Tember

Lets take a look at what we were going to get done this week…

  1. Tree Removal – Check
  2. Change Order (known) – Check
  3. Potential Change Order (unknown) – Check
  4. Site Plan Red Lines – Check

I guess I could end it there, but I might as well provide some details while I am at it.

On Sunday, my parents came down to see the lot and they had the joy of assisting us in the marking of 14 trees that were scoped to be removed by the builder.  These specimens were slotted to come down due to their proximity to the house, the driveway, etc.

The crews showed up first thing on Monday morning, and started taking down marked trees – they projected that they would be done by Wednesday.  We really wanted to get 2 dead trees in the middle of the front and back lawn taken out.  After confirming with the builder, we learned that anything that was not included on our site plan could be taken out without penalty.  Lucky for us both of the dead trees were missing from the plan, so we asked the crew to add them to the list.  We went by on Monday after work, and got there just in time to see a large tree on the west side of the property come down.

After we saw the tree come down, we went to a local taco shop for some dinner and to wait out the crew.  We wanted to check out progress, and see if there was anything we needed to ask them to address in the following days.  Besides the fact we were a bit depressed to see so many large trees taken down, everything looked great.  You know us, we had to document…

Family Oak Tree
Pile of “Trees = Taller than Jes

It ended up taking the crew an extra day to wrap everything up, but we went onsite on Thursday and all of the logs were cleared off, the mulch and wood chipper vanished, and what was left was a mostly cleared lot.  They did us the favor of removing the ivy off the property, but I am sure that it will come back quickly, as ivy tends to do.  We were so happy that we were able to save our huge oak tree in the back yard as well as a beautiful magnolia tree.  There are others, but those are by far the family favorites in the back.  The front lot is much improved with the removal of the dead tree in the front center of the property, and we still have a Mapel and two Crape Myrtle’s in the front that we were able to save.

Scale. Big Trees. Sad to see them go
Street View – with all trees removed

One lesson learned, pulling a stump is not the same as grinding one.  Of course we knew this, but didn’t stop to consider the impact.  The tree guy ground our stumps, but the builder needed anything within the foundation pulled, to prevent issues with the foundation if the ground stump settled over time.  So we have a bit more work to do there – but the builder is going to handle that one for us (for a fee of course).  Because of that, I have to say that we were about 95% successful in our management of the project – Ill take it!

As for the change orders and red lines, we wrapped those up on Thursday with the builder.  The main changes were: adding additional recessed lighting,  removing the beams I was going to have installed in the living room and added shiplap to the living and dining rooms, moving a window to accommodate to cabinet style, and some minor accounting changes for permitting and asbestos.

Folsom Tasks For next week:

  1. Meet with Haven interior designer to choose remaining finishes:  Interior/Exterior Doors and Paint colors, Brick Styles, Fire Place Surround, Etc.
  2. Have Tree Folks put the silt fence back up – they managed to knock it down with some of those big trees 🙂
  3. Check out refrigerator to make sure door will be able to fully swing open in current design location

Haven Tasks For next week:

  1. Grade Lot
  2. Start digging foundation

Time Line Updates:

Builder thinks they will have foundation pored and settled by November 8th.  Framing of the house will be done before Christmas, but unlikely by Thanksgiving.

What goes up must come down

October 15th – Write that down.

That is the day we officially started building our new home!  It look the excavator, 3 men, and several dumpsters all day long, but at the end of the day – there was nothing left.

Lets boil this down into a re-cap….

The builder told us that the house was coming down between 7 & 8 AM on Wednesday October 15th.  Charles and I had 1/2 marathon training scheduled for Wednesday morning, so we got up at 5:00 and made our way over to our new neighborhood for a run.  After a 4 mile run around the streets that will “soon” be our new rout, we headed to Starbucks for some much needed coffee and headed over to the house for some necessary documentation…..

Note the appearance of a house in the background – that will be important later 🙂
OH LOOK – Sunrise!

The wrecker and dumpster were already onsite, now we just needed the crew.  They showed up around 7:45 and got started about 8:15.  I am sure any neighbors still sleeping appreciated them waiting until after 8 – as it turns out, taking down a house can be a bit noisy.  We were trying to stay outside of the silt fence while documenting the wreckage, so it was hard to get a great video, but our favorite is the chimney coming down like a stack of legos.

After about 30 minutes, we realized just how long this process was going to take, and headed into work after getting some stills of the wrecker doing its job.

Excavator vs. Refrigerator
Sheesh – Dusty
Demo Started on the East side of the Property
Glad I got the video, because Charles missed the chimney coming down getting this awesome action shot!

As we left, we saw trucks lining the street with additional dumpsters.  AWESOME – they are going to “clean” up as they go.  We decided that we would come back after work to see what sort of progress they made…. Now I have to take a pause from this account to talk about how amazing my husband is.  We met at the house after work, and he came prepared with a coat, hat, socks and shoes for me as well as a bottle of Champagne and apricots.  LUCKY GIRL!

Notice anything different???
I’ll give you a hint – The House is GONE!

Now that I am properly bundled up with proper footwear, we got down to some exploration and celebration!  We marveled at the lack of anything left on the property – no lumber, no drywall, no windows, no foundation, no driveway, no barn out back, NOTHING was left.  The dumpsters full of 56 year old building materials had been hauled off and we were left with a beautiful piece of Gods green earth and a John Deer excavator that made a lovely table for our snacks!

Pure Determination! Cork went pretty far too…
Nothing like a step on heavy machinery as your serving table
Scale is important
Letting your wife play is also important 🙂
I became quite good friends with the excavator

We took a tour of the land with the sight plan in hand and identified the 4 corners of the house.  We discussed where each room would be and what view we would have from each window.  All of the careful planning paid off – and our first date “in” our new house was perfect.

Next Steps:

  1. Tree Removal – Charles and I are in charge of this one  – so we will see how well our PM skills translate into building world.  Thinking a can of spray paint is in my near future…
  2. Change Order Needed- Update contract to reflect pricing for additional permitting fees due to new zoning, the actual cost of asbestos removal, and 14 additional Canned light fixtures that we determined we would need after careful consideration.
  3. Potential Change Order – Additional trim work in the living and dining rooms and adding a whole house water filter.
  4. Site Plan Red Lines –  Placement of additional beams and cased openings we added after we had final copies from draftsman,

Due Date: Next Wednesday: 10/22


Demo Permit Day!

At long last – after what feels like an entire lifetime – we are oh so close to tangible progress! We got a surprise from our builder yesterday in the form of an email telling us that our demo permits have been approved by the City. We were told when they were submitted that it was possible to have them turned around that quickly, but nobody really believed it would actually happen. I mean, how often does a government entity even come close to delivering on a their own timeline? So apparently miracles do actually happen, and our timelines have aligned almost perfectly.

What was the other timeline that almost aligned perfectly? Well Larry (the previous owner) officially finished moving all of his belongings out of the house on Tuesday. With Larry out and the demo permits back, we wants to go explore our “house”, before it comes crashing down sometime early next week. As we drove over to Brookhaven last night, for the first time ever we both felt like we are real, bona fide, homeowners. I think the prospect of actually seeing the yard, without feeling like we were intruding on someone else’s home was really what was doing it. Because let’s face it, absolutely nothing about what is there currently will be there in 6 months.

Allison and Branden at Haven told us that they would go by and put up the Haven construction sign and the permit box, so it was no surprise when we saw there, but that didn’t make it any less exciting to us.

Demo Day

We probably lingered in the street far longer than we should have, but eventually we decided to make our way up our actual property. First thing to do was check out the back yard, and the . Unfortunately it’s not much to look at just yet, but we are determined to change that. Eventually. But that dream back yard, well it’s probably a couple of years off. For now, this is what we are working with (and of course, you can’t forget the “garage” that’s back there now).


The most important part, however, was that Radar would finally have a yard. Which of course is a very bittersweet thought, as this was really Marble’s yard and she will definitely have her place in the back yard, but Radar was super excited to start exploring. He obviously doesn’t fully grasp it yet, other than it being some new place to pee on everything, but he will. And if yesterday is any indication, he’s going to love it.

Radar Explores

And of course, we got in on the backyard fun too!


After exhausting ourselves in the backyard (and getting eaten by a million mosquitos), we decided to venture into the house. Honestly, there’s not much to look at on the inside. Afterall, we did decide to buy the house without ever stepping foot in it. But since people have asked, this is what we would have to look forward to if we weren’t building a new one:


There are a few more photos in the Family Gallery if you are interested. But better days are ahead of us, and they are so close we can taste them. Sometime early next week we should have photos of the house and garage actually coming down. And from that point forward, it’s all looking up.