Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A stinking river runs through it

To steal a line from a recent Robert Redford movie I really should have either seen the movie or read the book, but I haven't. What I did see was a river that was undocumented on our property this past weekend. Ohio received a boatload of rain this weekend after a steady work-week of the same. So the ground was well saturated before the heavy rain on Saturday and Sunday morning. After I dropped Linnea and the kids at the front door of church I took a trip to the property and was very surprised to see a two acre lake on the neighbors property that was flowing through our pine trees and off into the oversized culvert under the road. It looked drivable, so I put the truck into 4WD LO and sloshed through. Good news, the house site was dry and high above the water. Bad news, the garage was flooded (well, the site for it anyway). And Linnea's art studio/temporary storage site was in the middle of the river that had appeared under the pine trees. The roadside culvert under our driveway was blocked but that wasn't a problem as the ditch was higher than the neighbor's lake. I think that once we get the backhoe on site regrading the ditch and clearing the culvert will solve the overflow problem. But that afternoon when Linnea and I were trying to solve another problem we got into a fight over the art studio location. I, with great clarity and objectivity, pointed out that it was the dumbest idea since eating a certain apple to put the art studio in the middle of the seasonal river. Linnea, with equal aplomb and self control, insisted that she could design a footing that would allow the water to pass under without problems. I do have to say that this disagreement was resolved without name calling or really getting mad at each other. The dam broke when I said, "Fine, you can put your art studio in the middle of the stinking river!" That brought on giggles and healing and eventual resolution. We have been repeating that phrase all week. I guess the art studio will be in the middle of the "Stinking River".

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A few good reads

As we are going along and getting all of the bids collected, I am constantly learning more about the entire industry of construction. Tuesday evening we spent an hour at the house site with Tim the Dozer. He works as a jack of all sorts of trades, as long as it involves concrete and earth moving. He is working a bid for the driveway, pads for the house and garage, septic system and foundation footers. Everytime I explain to a tradesman that we are contracting our own house, I try to make sure that I give them permission to speak their mind. These men and women are the ones who make their living doing their trade. Even if I know a lot about their trade, it doesn't make me an expert. Linnea can talk their lingo and keep up with them, while I flounder along looking for a English to Contractor dictionary.

I am still looking for a good English to Contractor dictionary, as well as a book on how to build a house yourself. The best books I have found so far are Habitat for Humanity: How to Build a House by Larry Haun and How to Plan, Subcontract and Build Your Dream House: Everything You Need to Know to Avoid the Pitfalls by Warren Jaeger. Both are still in print, although the second book is $40 and I found it at the library. I am only a third of the way through it, but the author has proven his competence already with what I know from experience.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Getting hot or getting cold

Today's progress was to get a resonable quote for a heating/air conditioning system. This is our second quote and it's almost $5,000 cheaper than the other. So, is that a better bid or a worse system? It's a tough job to figure out what is a resonable quote for work done on a house if you don't know what a fair price is. There is a lot more to hiring someone to do a complex job than just price. If price was the only thing important, we would buy everything on E-bay. But hiring a contractor gets you more than just the work--you are also hiring their time, attention and quality. When I worked in the bike shop before I joined the Air Force, I remember customers saying that they would come to our shop for the prices, but they would go to the small shop for work on their bike. I asked them why they would do this when we had great mechanics and great prices. The answer surprised me; "I go to that other shop because I like the way they do their work and I think they do a better job." I am trying to remember that as I hire sub-contractors to work on our house. The more expensive job isn't always the best. It's the fair price done by the hard worker that I want to hire.