Final building permit

Erin says: We've passed final inspection. Let's all stop and say Cheers to that! We do still have a few odds and ends, but they really are just a few, and we're fully living in our new space. Other than the backyard, my favorite area is actually our large hallway. It's a fantastic place to play, and I'm really loving the concrete floors. I'm sure as our little ones get older and I actually am able to spend an entire night in our master bedroom I'll love it, too!

Now on to my wrap-up:

Sixteen months. That's how long our 1200 sq. ft. addition took. Never in my wildest imaginings did I think it could get that bad. It would be easy to say that we have an incompetent contractor, or terrible weather, but neither of those is true. Here are a few things I've learned, for those of you out there who are thinking about embarking on construction or are in the midst of it.

  • Do whatever you can to keep a good relationship with your contractor. Vent to your mom, your dog, your best friend, but try to keep things cordial with the guy in charge. It'll take you a long way.
  • But. Call him at least every other day if you haven't heard from him. I think one thing that went wrong in our project was way too much downtime. We weren't aggressive enough in making sure that we were at the top of the list. We lost weeks and weeks in November, December and January. When I made it my goal to start calling him every day to check in, guess what? Things kept moving.
  • It really, really helps if you trust your contractor/architect's taste. There are so many little things to pick out, and we were lucky that we could trust their taste. With a new baby and a three-year-old, we didn't have a lot of time to research every last grout color.
  • Don't underestimate the mental toll. It was really, really hard to be home with kids while this was happening. Imagine random workmen wandering around outside in your yard at 6:30 in the morning, clearly waiting to get in. And you didn't know they were coming. And they're just wondering, do you know what color this trim is supposed to be? Now multiply that by 400 days or so, and add in the trucks blocking your driveway, the constant dust on every surface, the loss of any outdoor play area, and oh, let's not forget the noise. Would it have been better if we had just moved out? Perhaps, but then our budget would have been completely blown, since we went so far over schedule.
  • Keep a spreadsheet of expenses. We thought we were saving money by, say, picking way less expensive tile than was budgeted, but somehow that "extra" money always went to something else, and we still ended up over budget.
  • Don't do it. And I'm only kind of kidding. Honestly, I wish we had looked around at what was on the market a little bit before we did this. The house is growing on me, but it's going to take me a long time to forget the pain.

But stay tuned -- we'll continue to update; JP is planning a punch list extravaganza. I'm looking forward to our next solar power bill (especially since it's been over 100 degrees here this week), and I'm still angling for an orange front door. After property taxes, that's next. Thanks for joining us on our journey.

HVAC inspection

The inspector called for an additional HVAC inspection, to the tune of $400, but boy are we glad he did. It seems there was a good bit of cold air blowing directly into the attic. This probably will save us more than $400 over the next few of months alone.


Return of the Inspector

The inspector is expected to arrive in ten minutes. We seem to have fixed everything that was wrong since the last inspection. We'll post some photos this weekend of what that amounts to.

The main things that have happened are: dimmer switches got installed two days ago for all the can lights, the circuits are all labeled on the fuseboxes, and four paving stones were placed under the main electrical box outside. This meant replanting our parsley and rosemary, incidentally.

Also, as a continued follow-up on the solar panel cleaning, we've been churning out around twelve kilowatt hours a day. Go Sun!


Washing the solar panels

Think of all the things you could be doing right now other than looking at pictures of a guy washing his solar panels!


Dusty panels

Everything finally got submitted for our solar rebate, and we passed the solar inspection! I was up on the roof with John Joyce of Burbank Water & Power when I realized why our daily output had dropped from around thirteen kilowatt hours to fewer than seven -- dust.

So, I bought a giant squeegee, hauled a hose up on the roof and cleaned them all off yesterday morning. By the end of the day we were back up to around twelve.


We failed because of dimmer switches?!

Really?! Really. There is some code requiring them for can lights. Despite the fact that you can't use (normal) dimmers on compact fluorescents. I haven't talked to J.D. about it yet, so I don't know if there are other reasons we failed. But this one sure seems silly.


This just in: We didn't pass...

... but we don't know why yet. Erin and the kids left for an hour, and when they came home the inspector and J.D. were both gone. The inspection card remains unsigned. Erin has a call in to J.D. to try and find out what's going on. I'll post when I find out more.

Inspector is really, really there inspecting

Right now as we speak! Please cross your fingers with me.

By the way, this photo was taken almost exactly a year ago.


Working baby monitor

We bought a few baby monitors at Target, and only this one was able to punch through enough walls in our house to work properly. This one uses cordless phone frequencies (2.4Ghz, I think).

In a related note: While baby monitors seem to be too weak to actually function properly, ceiling fan remotes are overly strong! After the second morning of finding the lights on in Ronan's room, we realized that the fan remote in our bedroom was so powerful it was controlling both rooms. I hope there's a choice of frequencies on them that'll work.


Final inspection today?

We've been told the final inspection for Certificate of Occupancy is scheduled for today. Angel got the stair rails up last week, which was the last thing needed before the inspection, I think.

We need to walk around and make a punch list to figure out what zillion little things remain that aren't for the C of O, but need to get done. Stuff like swapping the mirrors in the bathrooms, fixing the cracked glass wall in the shower, screwing down the drain covers in the showers, moving the cable drop point, blah, blah, blah.

I've also got a call in to Burbank Water and Power to see if everything has finally been submitted by California Solar for the reimbursement.


Audio surveillance

Our baby monitors (a Sony and a Graco) don't reach from the kids' rooms downstairs to our bedroom upstairs. Why are these things so underpowered? Don't they test them in real houses?

I'm going to buy every model at Fry's and try them all out to see if one is powerful enough. (Why bother with online reviews; I'm a sucker for hands-on, scientific method!) If none of them work, I wonder if there's an easy way to run some sort of wired intercom over our Cat5 cable? When I was a kid we had Radio Shack intercoms that transmitted over the powerline, I think. Do those still exist?

Or is there some kind of computer network based solution?

I was getting excited about using a couple of pairs of Motorola FRS 2-way radios, but then I found out that that is seriously discourage by fans of the over-crowded FRS spectrum, and possibly against FCC rules.

Any recommendations would be great.