We Have Cheap Taste

Okay, that title’s a bit misleading.

What I should have said is that we don’t always have the most expensive taste… just most of the time.

A few years back, I was out car shopping and Stephanie was thinking about what her next car might be.  She casually pointed to an SUV parked at the dealership saying that she liked the look.  It was a Porsche Cayenne!  I’m pretty sure she didn’t even know that Porsche made an SUV, but that’s just how it goes.

I’m not any different, though.  When I was in high school, my family went to pick out a new dog. The breeder had quite a few puppies at the time (cocker spaniels).  It didn’t take long playing with them for me to fall in love with this little brown puppy with quite a lot of personality.  Decision was made.  As we were getting ready to check out– for lack of a better term– she mentioned that some of the puppies had chocolate coloring in their lineage that would come out if they were bred and the chocolate coloring carried a premium.  Sure enough, I looked down at Nugget and she had a chocolate nose, not black.  We had no intention of breeding, but that nose cost me an extra $100.

Anyway, back to the house.  We went out to look at kitchen design yesterday and tried to educate ourselves a bit about the different options.

And there are a lot of options, some of which I may tackle in future posts.  But, for now, I’ll focus on the topic at hand: how we actually didn’t have the most expensive taste possible when it comes to cabinets.

First off, I think we’ll just try to keep ourselves from even considering custom cabinets because I’m sure we would want them if we really investigated it.  Plus, from looking at the semi-custom cabinets that are available and knowing that we don’t have an irregularly shaped kitchen, we will definitely be able to get some really nice stuff without going custom.

The other conclusion that we came to was that we don’t want inset cabinets.  This was something I didn’t even know existed until the designer showed it to us.  In my mind, all cabinets are the like ones I’ve grown up with, with the door mounted on the front of the cabinet frame.  But it is also possible to have doors that are inset so that they are completely flush with the cabinet frame.  I can see how it would be appealing, but at least in the display we looked at, it wasn’t our thing.  And they would have been an added expense that we don’t have to worry about now… hallelujah!

(Sorry, I totally neglected my duty as a blogger to take a picture to show what we are talking about, and when I looked online, none of the pictures I can find are allowed to be reused, so just google “inset cabinets” to see some examples.)  #Fail

Again, inset cabinets probably can look really awesome.  Our impression might have been swayed by the fact that the display also happened to have lots of added details in the edges and moldings that we definitely don’t want, but we’re happy concluding that we don’t need or want inset cabinets.

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We Started Appliance Shopping

Our builder is hoping to work on a first estimate during the month of January, so they have asked us to start working on selections, which is very exciting, but equally stressful.

We need to pick– or let someone else pick– everything about our house.  That’s the double-edged sword of building a custom home.  We have ultimate freedom to create whatever we want– within constraints of the budget, of course– but have hundreds of decisions to make.

I’m sure I’ll spend some time here discussing many of the bigger decisions for us that will keep me up late at night researching, but the prospect of all the little decisions– like trim shape or cabinet pulls– has me stressed enough.

All of these decisions will not only determine the look, feel, comfort and durability of our home, but they will significantly impact the bottom line.

We are getting good guidance from our builder and they have narrowed some of the massive options out there so we aren’t, for example, trying to research every single hardwood floor provider in the area.  As a result we’ve been pointed in the direction of trusted, local resources for specific things.

One of those recommendations is Big Georges Home Appliance Mart here in Ann Arbor.  It happens to be right down the street from my daughter’s swimming lessons, so we decided to stop by today after her class.

Appliances are definitely one of those items that could majorly swing a budget.  Big George’s has ranges listed on their website over $18,000 and I know there are ranges out there that easily exceed that price.  (No, we aren’t going to be spending that type of money.)  A nice kitchen appliance package could easily be $6000 and as soon as you start talking about a cooktop with separate wall ovens, vent hoods, built-in microwaves and a refrigerator and dishwasher with some of the latest bells and whistles, the price starts to soar.

I was hoping today’s visit would allow 3 main things:

  • Determine a general style/feel.  I know that Stephanie doesn’t care for pieces that have too much of an industrial appearance.  I do actually kind of like the look, but won’t be sad that we don’t select a pricey Wolf cooktop that really exemplifies that style.  I think we saw things that we both like that are industrial enough, but don’t look like Wolfgang Puck should be using them.
  • Figure out which pieces we want and sizes.  One of the other big things we need to figure out to make the estimate as helpful and accurate as possible is the kitchen cabinets and counters.  So, we need to meet with a kitchen designer to figure out what cabinets we need and how much counter space will be present  Knowing, for example, that we probably will go with a 36 inch cooktop with separate wall oven(s) vs an integrated range will affect those plans.
  • Try to start narrowing brands.  If we knew we needed/wanted to have a  specific brand, that could certainly have budget implications, but we really didn’t have enough time to get to that level of decision making today.  Lunch time snuck up on us quickly and our daughter got fussy.  That was probably just as well, though, because we won’t be actually purchasing the appliances for 8 or 9 months probably, so who knows what new features or designs could come out by then

What I wasn’t hoping for was to create new questions that need answering.

And that’s when the salesman mentioned induction heating.  I had always assumed that we would have gas burners since that’s what I’ve used for nearly my entire life (our rental house has electric burners, but otherwise, it’s always been gas).  But hearing about how induction heating is more efficient than gas, easier to clean up since it is just one smooth surface, faster to boil water (we love our pasta!), but still very responsive like gas has me very intrigued.

As one might expect, an induction cooktop is more expensive than the other options.  In fact, it appears to be double the price of a gas cooktop if not more in some cases.  Beyond that, I am concerned about durability.  I don’t want to always worry that I’m gonna put a pot down too hard or slide it across the surface and leave a scratch.

So, now I’ve got something else to research.  I’ll let you know what we decide.

Please share any thoughts you have that could help us out regarding induction vs gas or anything else about appliance selection.

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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.

geothermal-tax-credits-expiration

In the meantime, we will wait and see.

 

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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.

pool-planning

 

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.

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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.

staking-lot-01

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.

staking-lot-02

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