How Legislation Could Affect our Plans

It probably seems odd for me to be looking to Congress to help determine some of our plans for the house, but it all comes down to one technology.

Geothermal heating and cooling.

You see, geothermal– which is an incredibly efficient and green method of heating and cooling– currently benefits from some very nice tax credits.  However, those credits are set to expire at the end of 2016, and we won’t have even broken ground by then much less have the system installed to be able to qualify.  If we could take advantage of those credits– which amount to 30% of the cost– then the added expense of geothermal over a conventional HVAC system would be significantly decreased.

I think the energy savings of using a geothermal system might still justify the upfront cost, but with that tax credit, it seems to be a no-brainer.  Unfortunately, with just over a month left in 2016, the window of opportunity for Congress to extend the credits is closing quickly.

People in the geothermal industry have, as would be expected, seen significant jump in business because of the credits, and are saying that it is arbitrary and unfair that other green technologies like solar and wind did receive extensions of their respective tax credits while geothermal was left out.  They continue to lobby, but who knows what is going on behind closed doors that will ultimately dictate what happens.


In the meantime, we will wait and see.


Who Knows about Pools?

One of my motivations for starting this site is the hope that we’ll be able to get helpful feedback and advice about the many decisions we will have to be making during this process.  Whether that’s deciding between 2 paint color options or, in this case, a much bigger decision, I welcome others’ input.

When we decided to move off the lake, we knew that we would miss the water, so we pretty quickly decided that we needed to include a pool in our plans.

But neither of us has ever had a pool, so there is a ton to learn before jumping into what will be a very expensive project all its own.  Our community guidelines require an inground pool, which we would have done anyways, but before starting this research, I wasn’t familiar with the different types of pools.  Fiberglass, vinyl liner and concrete — plus some companies do hybrids of these techniques– all have their proponents.  And, of course, most people are very loyal to their preferred method and are quick to bash the others.



So, I’m hoping that people out there can provide some advice.

  • Do you have a pool or at least have you researched them?
  • What kind did you get and why?
  • Has there been anything about your pool that surprised or disappointed you?
  • If you were planning a new pool right now, what factors would push you to one pool type over another and why?
  • Any other advice?

Thanks in advance.

We will definitely keep you posted as we explore more and make some decisions.

Stakes in the Ground!

After months of just looking at preliminary floor plans and exterior elevations, we took a small step forward this past week and actually put some stakes in the ground at our building site.  This was a completely informal exercise that I did with our designer using just approximate property lines and a tape measure, but it still made things seem that much more real.

We had a couple of main reasons for wanting to do this.  Beyond simply seeing some sort of tangible progress, we wanted to see how close we needed to be to the required setbacks to avoid a large raised mound which is planned to be the septic field and also to see what the site will look like behind the house for pool construction.

The topography of our site has been a huge consideration in every aspect of our design.  While the site we chose is flatter than many of the others in the neighborhood, it is by no means flat.  We chose it because it gave us the best option for a usable backyard including a pool, but until we put stakes in the ground, we had no idea where the pool would sit on the slope that exists.  We put the stakes in assuming the house would be as close to the road as the setbacks require and hope to get some pool contractors out before everything is buried in snow so they can get a lay of the land and we can start some planning and budgeting for that part of the project.

Incidentally, this exercise proved to me that I’m terrible at estimating sizes.  When we staked off the setback from one side and I looked at the remaining space before hitting the raised mound on which we can’t build, I said “there is no way the house will fit in that space.”  But, after measuring off the width of the proposed foundation, we have at least 10 more feet of space that will probably allow us to slide the house over a bit.  And, it is amazing at how small it feels when all you have is stakes!  The building envelope is just over 2000 square feet and about 72 feet wide, but it seemed tiny.  I know that they say rooms feel small when they are empty, and that effect apparently gets magnified when you don’t even have walls.

Anyway, here are a couple of pictures to try and show you how it looks right now.

This first picture is oriented looking from what will be driveway toward the front of the house.  The stake in the middle of the frame is about where the front door will be although it will probably be a few feet higher that ground level there since the whole lot is sloping downward from where I’m standing.


This second picture is looking along the backside of the house.  The 4 stakes that are in a square represent the dining nook that will represent the back part of the foundation.  So, it starts to give a sense of the topography that exists behind the house, but it is still hard to really grasp.  The main floor, where that dining nook will actually be, will probably be 8-10 feet higher than the level where the stakes actually are.  We don’t know yet what will be in the walkout basement at that location.


Facebook Fan Page is Live!

We are happy to announce that we have created a Facebook page specifically for this website.   Hopefully it will make it easier for you stay up to date with our progress instead of having to manually check back.  Please “Like” the page now.

We will try to remember to link to each new post there.  Also, going forward, we are going to be utilizing Facebook comments rather than the default WordPress comment system.

And, if we have all the right checkboxes checked, then any comments made on the blog should mirror back to the Facebook page and vice versa.  The magic of technology… or it might be the thing that makes me pull out my hair!

Go Cubs Go!!



I have good reason for not posting anything recently.  The Chicago Cubs just completed an amazing playoff run and brought the World Series trophy back to the north side of Chicago after a 108-year drought.  And I just had to watch every minute that I could… and I’m so glad I did.

I grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago and was a Cubs fan from my earliest memories.  Ryne Sandberg was my favorite player and when I wasn’t watching him, I was trying to emulate him on the field.  It’s safe to say that baseball was a huge part of my life during my early childhood.

I’m not going to claim that I’m a diehard fan or tell you that I have season tickets and never miss a game.  Quite the contrary, I’ve fallen away from the game as I’ve gotten older.  But my allegiance to the Cubs has never swayed.

I do remember thinking and hoping that Theo Epstein would be able to work his magic in Chicago the same way he did in Boston, but it still seemed so improbable.  The Cubs have always been the “lovable losers” and it seemed to so many people that they always would be.

But all of that frustration was wiped away by this season.

It was an absolutely heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat postseason that culminated in one of the greatest endings I could ever imagine.  I don’t think anyone could have dreamt up a crazier, more intense game 7 if they tried.  It seriously looked like the Cubs were purposely letting the Indians back into the game on a couple of occasions.

Perfect Hollywood drama… except that it wasn’t scripted.  It was pure and genuine competition and watching and hearing the players’ reactions as the playoffs progressed and seeing their joy and gratitude through their victory rally today reminded me much more of Little Leaguers winning it all with their friends than grown men who make 6, 7 or even 8 figures a year to play a game.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt a bit betrayed by professional sports.  Yes, of course, the players would like to win a championship, but it frequently seems that the fans are more invested in the outcome than the players are.

This year’s Cubs team, however, seems to genuinely embrace the game and recognize the significance of what they were ultimately able to accomplish–not just for themselves, but for the city as well as fans and former players, many of whom lived their whole lives and never got to see a Cubs championship.  I’m sure the fact that they are a very young team has something to do with it, but the team leadership and ultimately each individual’s character played a huge role too.

So I’d like to join the estimated 5 million people who lined the streets and packed Grant Park in Chicago today for the victory parade and rally–along with probably 10s of millions who would’ve liked to have been there– in congratulating and thanking this Cubs team and the whole organization for an amazing season.