Closing!

Big day today, as we emptied the storage pod into the house and then closed on the new mortgage.  The transition into our new home is underway.  But one big question remains:

Will the cat like it?

The foreground will be mostly green before long...

The foreground will be mostly green before long...

Landscaping Starts

A win-win scenario: A family a half mile away from our house is going to replace their deck with a patio this fall.  They offered the river rock under their deck to anyone who could use it, free.  Today, we started taking it away and spreading it over weed control fabric under and around our screened porch.

Soon, we'll put down some sod to define the site perimeter and blend it into the neighboring lawns.  The interior of our property will be low-water, no-mow fescues combined with various shrubs and ground covers.

Tests, Ratings and Tilling

The final blower door test was conducted today and showed that the house is very tight: 0.83 ACH @ 50 Pascals.  Current residential code requirements are for a maximum of 3 ACH, and Passivehaus requires a maximum of 0.6 ACH.  Ductwork was also tested and proved to be well-sealed.  The house's HERS score is 47.

I went over the LEED checklist with Building Knowledge's Pat O'Malley this morning.  The house should achieve LEED Silver certification once all the paperwork has been submitted.  Although I was shooting for Gold, my main purpose was to go through the process, learn from it, and apply those lessons to the next new home design.

Over the weekend, the site was rototilled.  We then fine-tuned the grading and started to prepare the site for ground covers and plants.

The Agony and the Ecstasy

The steel garage roof - the ONLY construction element preventing us from closing and moving in - was to be finished today.  Instead, nothing got done, and so we continue to wait.  And wait.  We are very thankful for the friendship and hospitality of friends who are sharing their home with us (and the cat!) as we await the day when we can finally take possession of our new home.  Thank you, Mike and Jeanne!!  There will always be a guest room for you when you need it.

Inside the house, punch list items are being addressed, and I am finishing the final bath accessory installations (a combination of Gatco and IKEA).  Recently, I installed some of the salvaged cabinets in the laundry room.  These cabinets were taken from the old house's kitchen.  Soon, I'll install the shelves and doors.

Outside, we hired a veteran who was advertising rototilling services.  If things go according to plan, he'll churn up the concrete-like soil tomorrow (which I'm trying to soften a bit with the sprinkler), and we'll then fine-tune the grading and spread some topsoil.  We'll either seed or mix sod and seed as a base.  Once turf is established, we'll start to subtract it and substitute it with native ground covers and various plant materials.  And, of course, plant the 6-8 trees we need to add to satisfy the city.

By the way, I'm past the halfway point in Irving Stone's The Agony and The Ecstasy (1961).  Not only is it a good book, but it captures our general state of mind as we endure these endless delays.

Yellow

The first coat of basement floor paint is down.  Color: "Afternoon" (Sherwin-Williams).  This will be where my office will be and I am trying to create a happy, bright environment.  Because clients want happy and bright architecture, and I am trying to be a happy and bright person.

Happy, at least.

Painted concrete allows a room to be counted as "finished" for an appraiser, I learned.

Painted concrete allows a room to be counted as "finished" for an appraiser, I learned.

This slab contains PEX tubing for radiant heat.

Painting the Garage

The garage siding painting is underway.  The paint matches James Hardie's "Deep Ocean" color.

We desperately hope that the steel garage roofing will be installed during the upcoming week - it is the sole reason we haven't been able to close on the house and move in!

We desperately hope that the steel garage roofing will be installed during the upcoming week - it is the sole reason we haven't been able to close on the house and move in!

Frugality in action

Today, as part of our ongoing efforts to contain costs and find new homes for old things, we made some important acquisitions, total cost: $725.

First, we found a solid cherry queen-sized bed frame on craigslist.com; a Room & Board product about a decade old, from a smoke-free home.  It will match the cherry nightstands and dresser that never really felt at home with the old brass bed frame (my wife's; it predates me by several years...) that we sold before we moved.  Upgrade!!

Second, on a tip from an old friend using a new app, we selected 5 trees from a property in Edina that the owner sold to a developer.  This developer, like most (sorry for exposing my bias), wants to clear everything on the property, including the 5 or 6 huge maples and oaks as well as the Chilton stone retaining walls, and the 112-year-old house and garage.  We purchased 2 cherry trees, 2 hydrangea trees and an arborvitae that we'll transplant 2 miles away this summer.  These trees, along with the Dakota Birch we already planted, will bring the total number of trees on our property from 1 to 7.  And still the City of Minneapolis wants us to plant more, but we're arguing this.  We'd happily transplant the 40" red oak if we could...

Stay tuned.

Blue.

The exterior is being painted, in between scattered rainstorms.  Inside, final tiling is scheduled along with punch list items.

Here is a scattering of new images, taken today:

The start of the "Deep Ocean" exterior paint is on the siding.  We debated between pre-finished siding and field painting.  The former made more sense with the lap siding (no exposed fasteners) and the latter made more sense with the board-and-batten.

Fireplace stone

The stone cladding on the fireplace is now in place.  Soon, the "Shadowbox" fireplace trim will be added by Woodland Stoves & Fireplaces, and the matching stone mantel slab will be placed.

The stone is from Rubble Tile: "MSI Ledger Panel Split Face, Glacial Black", ungrouted.  The wall panel beyond is clad in birch plywood.

The stone is from Rubble Tile: "MSI Ledger Panel Split Face, Glacial Black", ungrouted.  The wall panel beyond is clad in birch plywood.

Kitchen, at Dusk, in June

The kitchen, in its near final form.  The bulb is missing in the semi-flush light over the sink, but the appliances work and the faucet now dispenses water, so we're getting close.

The major appliances are KitchenAid, all EnergyStar rated.  The hood is a 290 cfm Zephyr.  The cooktop is a 6-year old Electrolux, salvaged from a remodeling in Saint Paul.  Cabinets are either clear maple or paint (Benjamin Moore "White Dove").  Backsplash tiles are from The Tile Shop.  Base cabinet pulls are IKEA "ORRNÄS", which nicely echo the KitchenAid handles.

The major appliances are KitchenAid, all EnergyStar rated.  The hood is a 290 cfm Zephyr.  The cooktop is a 6-year old Electrolux, salvaged from a remodeling in Saint Paul.  Cabinets are either clear maple or paint (Benjamin Moore "White Dove").  Backsplash tiles are from The Tile Shop.  Base cabinet pulls are IKEA "ORRNÄS", which nicely echo the KitchenAid handles.

Anniversary

It's been a year since construction ostensibly started.  One year ago, a temporary power pole was put up in anticipation of a building permit.  Although we didn't need a variance, the project had been in review by the City of Minneapolis for a few weeks by then.  As it turns out, we wouldn't have our building permit until July 20.  It was the first of several unexpected delays on the project.

We kept the small conifer behind the pole, and transplanted the rest.  The fence was salvaged and is now part of the screened porch.

We kept the small conifer behind the pole, and transplanted the rest.  The fence was salvaged and is now part of the screened porch.

The delays continue as we await the certificate of occupancy.  The closing is contingent on the garage roof completion.  In the meantime, we are limbo, waiting.

Tree planting and ground prep

The Dakota Birch was planted today - an entire family activity!  We got the tree as part of the Minneapolis Tree Trust's lottery, and we placed it in the southwest quadrant of the yard.  This way, it won't interfere with any buried utilities and won't shade our neighbors to the north.  We already feel guilty that the 2-story portion of the house shades them much more than the previous house did.

25 years ago, when we bought our first house, we planted a 3-stem paper birch in the front yard.  It was a little thing in 1992, but now it's taller than the house!  Now, we seem to have continued the plant-a-birch tradition.

25 years ago, when we bought our first house, we planted a 3-stem paper birch in the front yard.  It was a little thing in 1992, but now it's taller than the house!  Now, we seem to have continued the plant-a-birch tradition.

Once the sidewalk is poured next week, we'll rototill the compacted soil, rake it smooth, and anticipate the seeding.  As the grass starts to fill in and stabilize the ground, we'll begin the next phases of landscaping.  Not all of the yard will be turf, of course.  We'll leave some at the perimeter to provide smooth transitions with the neighbors, and we'll plant the rain garden in the back with a variety of plant materials.  A lot of transplanted shrubs, flowers and other plant materials - both from the previous house and from our old house - will be integrated with new material over time.

The backyard is another hardscape of overly packed soil.  A future rain garden can be seen hinted at on the right.

The backyard is another hardscape of overly packed soil.  A future rain garden can be seen hinted at on the right.