APRIL - MAY 2007

APRIL 13, 2007
If you can remember back to the beginning of this diary, you'll recollect we bought all of our appliances around the time we began building. We did this because the cost of steel is constantly going up - China buys every single bit they can get their hands on. And so we figured we could save several hundred if not a couple of thousand dollars with this plan. We also made sure the appliance store would hold on to these items for us until we needed them.

But who knew this project was going to turn into our version of the Sistine Chapel! And so, after keeping our appliances for two years, the store has let us know they must deliver them next month. This creates a big problem we hadn't really thought through before: the warranty begins at the time of delivery. And according to the appliance store - no exceptions. But that never stops me. I got on the internet and researched the name and address of the CEO of each of our appliance companies: Braun, Nutone, Jenn Air, Fisher & Paykel, and Maytag and sent them the following letter with the pertinent model number etc:

My husband and I are building our dream home - with our own hands. It is the only way we can afford it. We are watching every penny; stockpiling materials to take advantage of lower pricing whenever we can. This way we felt we could afford “the best” at a lower price to fit within our budget.

With that in mind, and knowing how the price of appliances have been steadily increasing, we purchased ours at the end of 2004, with the understanding that the store would warehouse them for us until we were ready.

Well, taking on such a huge project as building our own home has taken (and is taking) much longer than we had hoped. We broke ground on April 9, 2005 and here it is two years later and we are still working seven days a week. There is nothing in the world we would like more than to finish this as soon as possible, especially since we are both fast approaching 60 and this is a tremendous physical and mental strain.

The appliance store has graciously held on to our dishwashers for nearly two and a half years; but they are moving warehouses and have set a delivery date for the end of May.

And here is our concern: the warrantee. Although we will be taking possession soon, we will not be installing until perhaps a year from this summer (summer 2008). We are just now completing the roof and exterior and still have plumbing, electrical, drywall and a myriad of details to go.

I am writing to you today in hopes that you will understand our plight and help us to work something out whereby we can still receive a warrantee. Certainly we cannot be the first to encounter this situation.

We are honest people and thought perhaps we could structure some kind of agreement whereby we keep you appraised of the progress of building our home and let you know when we are getting ready to install our dishwasher. Rest assured we will take every precaution for correct storage.

Thank you so much for your consideration and we look forward to hearing from you.

I'll let you know what happens.

Meanwhile, we have an out of town guest coming this weekend and so we've been on a clean up campaign. We've been gathering up construction debris, sucking up with our wet/dry vac all the dead insects who met their demise at the windows, and generally just neating up the place inside and out. Which means I've been on overdrive cleaning up the landscaping from the ravages of winter. Having someone come for "the tour" is a great motivater to do periodic clean up. And we end up finding so many tools and things we've misplaced amongst the rubble!

I don't know if I'm just "coming down with something", but every time we do these clean ups and there's dust swirling in the air, I seem to get sick; and I'm not sure if it's allergy related. I must remember to put on a dust mask from now on!

APRIL 15, 2007
For months now since our stone mason finished his work, we have had
huge boxes of left over stone blocking up our driveway (covered by the blue tarp). So, we bit the rental fee bullet and got a forklift on Saturday morning - that way we get Sunday for free (most rental yards that aren't open on Sunday will allow you to rent equipment on Saturday and return Monday morning and only charge you a one-day rental fee). This is a big savings on large equipment rentals. We paid about $300.

We had started out with a plan for the day...and then everything changed. We hired a day laborer to work with me in the yard and help me sort through the stones, but he canceled And because it ended up raining most of the day, Greg couldn't work on the roof. So we made lemonade out of lemons with the forklift. And once we got into sorting the stones, we realized it was something only the two of us could do anyway.

But, it was shades of April 2004 when Greg and I were pulling electrical conduits from the street to the house in the pouring rain: we were just sopping wet when it was all done. A good hot shower when we got home felt sooooo good.

After repackaging the opened boxes, we were able to stack them neatly out of the way...as well as get the extras ready for sale.
Greg was an old hand in no time, and even I was able to master the controls which proves these pieces of equipment are pretty user friendly.

While we were using this piece of equipment so close to the building, we realized we'll have to come up with some way to the protect the corners of the house when vehicles turn around in the garage area.

A word about job safety....
As careful as you think you are, there is always room for an accident. Case in point, I was setting up some of the stones for a picture
to use as a sales tool and was placing them on a piece of plywood. And it was sprinkling. And I walked on the wet board and BOOM, I was on my derriere in an instant. I was very lucky, only my pride was hurt. But I've fallen several times now since beginning this project (and not necessarily all on the job) and I can't tell you how many opportunities there are for disaster. We have wild blackberry vine growing all over the grounds and many times my foot has gotten tied up in them and only a bit of quick thinking has stopped me from landing face first in the dirt.

APRIL 16, 2007
Under other circumstances I'd say, "It's a Boy!" But we're talking portal here so I'll say,
"It's a Door!" . Yep, we have hung our first door!

Again, before we began to build, we were lucky enough to score a couple dozen beautiful doors from the salvage yard. This was quite a coup because we require 8 foot doors and they are mighty pricey - anywhere from $800-$1200 each. We got ours for an average cost of $200 a piece. And these are high quality. Many of them are brand new and made by Simpson, a preferred manufacturer. Each door is different which only adds to the quirkiness of our design.
This one goes out the back door to the yard (the exterior finish is, of course, a work in progress!). With Greg's master carpentry skills, he built a custom jamb. And how I don't know, but between the two of us, we were able to get it on its hinges (these huge doors are very heavy indeed). When all was said and done, Greg told me with the custom jamb, this is a $1500 door .

APRIL 18, 2007
Today, among half a dozen other tasks, I spent some time
working on the template for our living room beams. Scale is the important thing and so it's trial and error but I think we're getting close.

I freehand draw one half or side of the component (I'm working with a rendition of a gothic arch) and then when it looks right, we just make a mirror image of it to complete both sides.

Back on our cleanup campaign, Greg spent some time using a
magnetic wand tool to pick up nails, screws, and other metal debris that inevitably works its way into the gravel where we park and has the potential to leave us, or someone else, with a flat tire. In fact, the other day I actually found a nail in the sole of my shoe.

My appetite never suffers from...anything but more often than not, we get so involved in working...we forget to eat lunch, and we're constantly saying, "Is it really?" when one of us tells the other the time.

APRIL 29, 2007
Back to work on those beams. Greg cut out cardboard mockups and
hung them from the living room ceiling. The cardboard is obviously two dimensional but we need to keep in mind the finished product will be three-dimensional. So we realized certain parts of the design need to be larger to accommodate this.

Again, scale is all important...that, and thinking ahead for the sheet metal workers to make our design translatable to their requirements.

Now that we've gotten to this point, I need to stand back and mull it over for a while.

MAY 3, 2007
Another rainy day, another day Greg can't work on the roof. So plan B. We've had insulation and lumber stacked up in the kitchen, bedroom, and living room for months. This is getting in the way and I also need the living room floor available to work on the beam mock up. So Greg spent the day creating racks up and out of the way and moving the materials.

I don't know how he does it, all by himself, but somehow
he single-handedly creates miracles every day.

MAY 4, 2007
Last winter while Greg and I were at a garden club fundraiser, I bid on 4 hours of expert weeding and won...and today's the day.

The volunteer and I worked side by side for four hours and after she left, I spent another four hours. That's a total of 12 man hours on a patch of ground not bigger than a small bedroom. And once the weeds were removed, there was hardly any groundcover left. What started out looking green was now a
small field of brown. Hopefully it will fill in soon with some wildflower seeds I scattered.

In keeping with my "natural landscaping plan", there are many weeds I like because they either have interesting foliage or flowers. But some weeds are so invasive, they squeeze out space needed for more desirable (or timid) plants. Our yard is filled with these
huge clumps of some tenacious form of crabgrass. And the longer I take to get to them, the bigger they get and the harder to remove. So I'll just keep working on a patch here and there until I've completed the job. It'll take weeks and weeks.

MAY 5, 2007
Greg has been keeping his eye out for small trees and branches he can use to create stair railings for our exterior front staircase and our interior back staircase. The front staircase would require curved railings and the back staircase is all straight railings. The IRC building code allows that a "round" railing has to be at least 1-1/4" to 2" in diameter.

He's already gotten some alder and cherry and now he's hunting down cedar. Not only does he look for
misshapen trunks that he can use for transitions such as a turn in the railing, but he needs straight ones that he can bend for the serpentine staircase going to the front door. The cherry wasn't too bad to work with, but the alder was very difficult to bend. The cedar seems the easiest (and it's the most durable in the long run).

Greg first
paints the ends of the trunk pieces with a red paint specially formulated to stop checking (or splitting of the wood). Then he clamps the trunk to a recreation of the curvature of the front staircase and then holds them permanently in place using metal straps. There they will stay for the better part of two years, slowly drying into the necessary curved shape.

MAY 6, 2007
It sprinkled just enough to make it unsafe for roof work, so Greg and I found plenty of other things to do.

We dug out a trench from the septic tank so the control panel can be installed. I've been working on completing the dry creek bed and now it's almost done - just waiting on that control panel work to be done and then I can finish that area. I've collected hundreds of rocks on the property and have used them to create the creek beds. I still have so many rocks left over, that when I think I've completed it all, I'll go back and feed in more rocks to dress up the finished product.

We also did a clever camouflage job on an air intake vent for the drainage trench of our buried propane tank. We had part of a tree trunk left over from materials we've collected for our pond and waterfall and other yard elements, so we painted the pipe dark brown and
fit the trunk right over it (the before picture is in the upper right of the image). Unless you know what you're looking for, it's just another natural element (the rock pile in the background is temporary).

And finally, we worked on the living room beam again. I made another template for the smaller elements. The previous try had to be enlarged and we had to work out how these separate elements will fit together. We came up with a "fit over" in the shape of an arrow which had been part of the design anyway; but making it a separate element will help in the construction.

And, Greg has been working on placing a spotlight on the roof to illuminate our
moonvane which tops the belvedere roof. We think we've found the right place, but it's a logistical problem getting to the light when it comes time to change the bulb. And as we've been doing all along, we're trying to build in "ease of upkeep" with everything we do. We mocked it up last night before dark, went to dinner, and came back after sunset to see how it looked. It looks fantastic....a copper moon glowing in the dark.

MAY 7, 2007
Today Greg decided to work on some of the siding for the front facade above the stonework. This is exciting because it's the first time I'll get to see what the two materials - stone and siding - look like together. As soon as the weather warms a bit more, I have to get back to spray painting the rest of this siding.

MAY 12, 2007
Putting up the staggered edge siding is a time-consuming project. It goes much slower than just nailing up the long planks that we're using mostly on the back of the building.
For this relatively small area it took 70 pieces. As we look at it, we've decided to use more of the staggered edge in areas we weren't originally planning on, so we counted up what we have and we may just squeak by.

MAY 14, 2007
Another trip to the
salvage yard to get some building materials for some small projects. While we were there, we spied a few dozen sheets of our Hardie siding. Full price would be about $10 a piece, we bought what they had at 50 cents a board! A savings of several hundred dollars.

MAY 21, 2007
One of the larger Douglas firs on our property is dying. I am very emotionally connected to trees. I remember everyone laughing at me when we cut the first one down when we were clearing the land for the house. This is especially upsetting because the last time this land was clear cut and replanted was about 20 years ago. And this particular tree is one of the oldest and one of our biggest and adds to the privacy in our backyard. It's been looking rather "chlorotic" - meaning a yellowish green - and losing some needles. I had a suspicion that this was a big problem and decided to bring in a forester to take a look. I was very lucky with my selection from the local yellow pages. I chose one that had been in business since 1981 and gave him a call. Turned out he'd be "in the neighborhood" this afternoon and when we met here, he ended up spending a good two plus hours...and wouldn't charge us a thing!

He was a veritable fountain of information.

At first the forester thought the shedding of needles might just a natural phase but then he pointed out black earth at the base of the tree as well as a
swelling at the base of the trunk which causes the bark to begin to split. This is not good news: the tree has root rot. There are so many things that can affect a forest and everything in it, that I could write a very fat book. There's nothing I can do except keep my fingers crossed that it doesn't spread to other trees; although he didn't feel it was close enough to others to do so (roots must touch from one tree to another in order to pass it on).

We talked not just about trees, but about other plants and weeds. One weed you definitely want to eliminate is
thistle which is very invasive and extremely difficult to eradicate; these invasive weeds take up space needed for beneficial plants which are good for the environment and feed the wildlife. And there are several different kinds. Our area mostly has Bull and Canadian. I had been using Round Up to get rid of them - pulling them out is impossible. They weave a deep underground root system that that connects one plant to another. I would rather not use chemicals but it seemed worse not to. Our forester explained that Round Up isn't the best product for this (and also explained that the reason I was getting such poor results is that you must be careful where you purchase this product because certain versions have less concentration than you expect). He recommended Crossbow, an herbicide which shouldn't harm any other nearby plants and will quickly eliminate the thistle. As you'll find out when you get into maintaining your landscaping, these chemicals are mighty pricey. A gallon of Crossbow concentrate was nearly $80.

The forester also turned us on to a type of shovel called a King of Spades which foresters use to plant sapling trees. It's narrow, about 8", and square at the bottom. It makes a perfect opening in the soil and allows foresters to plant hundreds of trees in a day.

MAY 22, 2007
Good news!

My letter-writing campaign to all the CEO's of our appliance companies has been a success. I was able to convince every single one of them to work with us and extend the warrantee. Although I did have a little trouble with one company, which necessitated a second letter to the CEO:

I am again writing to you regarding our request for an extension of warrantee on our Sharp Microhood with Convection R-187.

As a result of my original letter sent to you on April 26, on or about Friday, May 4 I was contacted by your representative, Michelle C (630.378.3364). Ms. C assigned me the above referenced case # and then requested that I send to her a copy of proof of ownership of the property. On Monday, May 7, I complied with her request and faxed her a copy of the deed.

After receiving my fax, Ms. C attempted to contact me and, after several missed phone calls back and forth, she finally reached me this afternoon.

Ms. C thanked me for sending the requested information.

And then, she informed me that Sharp will not extend the warrantee.

When I asked her why Sharp Corporation was unwilling to accommodate us, she explained the decision was based on the fact that both the property as well as the microwave were purchased in 2004.

I found this explanation rather puzzling.

Note: the property was purchased in April 2004 and the Microhood was purchased in December of 2004. At that time, we thought we could complete construction within the year (which is why we bought our appliances so early on), but unfortunately details and special projects have extended our completion date. By the time plans had been submitted to the building department, we were unable to break ground until April of 2005. As explained in our original letter, we hope to move into our home in the fall of 2008.

Thinking there had obviously been some misunderstanding, I made an attempt at clarification. I reiterated that we purchased bare ground in 2004 - thinking that possibly she believed we had the opportunity to use the appliance since that time. When I made it clear to Ms. C we had not yet taken possession (as explained in my original letter) and that the hood is scheduled to be delivered at the end of this month (on or about May 29), she asked to put me on hold.

At this point I thought my clarification would surely result in a more desirable outcome.

But no, Ms. C came back on the line and reaffirmed that Sharp is indeed unwilling to delay the start of our warrantee until after installation.

I then explained to Ms. C that all of the other appliance companies (Broan, Fisher & Paykel, Jenn Air, Maytag, Nutone, and Venmar) have been very gracious and understanding and have agreed to delay onset of our warrantees until the actual installation date.

When I attempted to further discuss Sharp’s decision, Ms. C abruptly concluded the call.

(I would like to add that none of these other companies asked me to produce any deed or other forms of proof of purchase of the property - an odd request at the very least.)

Mr. Fujimoto, I am bringing this to your attention because I cannot believe this is the result you intended when you passed along my original inquiry to your representative.

Surely a successful company such as yours wants good customer relations and wants to be of more assistance in a situation such as this.

I also know that such delays are not unusual since my husband was a contractor in Beverly Hills, California where large homes took two to three years to complete but necessitated the purchase of items such as appliances early on in order to customize cabinetry etc.

Needless to say, I am extremely disappointed.

Perhaps we made a mistake in choosing Sharp?

I am still hoping this is just the result of miscommunication and that Ms. C simply did not have the authority to right the problem.

But you can be sure that if this is not just a misunderstanding, we will contact the store where we purchased the hood and attempt to change our choice to one of the other appliance companies which were willing to work with us.

No sooner did they receive my second letter, I got a phone call - from a different representative. And this time they were, indeed, willing to wait to begin the warrantee until installation.

It never hurts to start at the top.

Greg now says the roof won't be completed until August - but that's only because he's installing siding, completing little projects, as well as applying the finish coats of paint on anything he can reach. This way he won't have to move the scaffolding back later on. The scaffolding takes an entire day to break down, move, and reassemble....with only one man doing all the work.

MAY 23, 2007
The staggered edge Hardie siding that covers the exterior of the front of the house outside the living room
is now complete. This is especially exciting for me because it's the first glimpse I've had of what the siding and the stone look like when they meet. I had worked with the stone mason to tint the grout to make it compatible with the stain on the Hardie...and I'm pleased with the results.

Eventually that window will get a set of shutters.

MAY 29, 2007
Ya can't be on top of everything all the time....

If the subject of building permits hadn't come up at a recent party, we wouldn't have realized that ours expired last month. In California they're good for three years....here only two. We got very lucky. The laws changed just after we were issued our original permit so we only had to pay $25 to renew for another year (the maximum renewal allowed). But we were told that if we didn't get to a certain point with our inspections within the next year, we would have to reapply. And that could cost us double what we originally paid for our permit. We are trying to see if there is any chance for mitigation since we realized that if not for the half year we fell behind last fall and winter (due to circumstances beyond our control) , we wouldn't be under this crunch.

It seems our electrical permit won't be such a problem as it keeps getting extended out with each inspection.

MAY 30, 2007
Greg is working on the portico roof that covers the porch at the front door. It takes a long day for him to single-handedly assemble the scaffolding. Then he must bring up his tools and the roofing material using a pulley system. And each evening, the tools must be taken down and put away....and the process begins again the next day.

MAY 31, 2007
While Greg works on the house on projects I can't really assist with,
I've been working on weeding the landscaping. I have a long long way to go: we have two plus acres and a good portion of it is weeds; mostly a type of clump grass. Any time you disturb the ground with excavating etc., you give the weeds the perfect conditions to flourish. Basically, a weed is anything you don't want in your garden. But there are some weeds you don't mind having. Unfortunately, that's not the case here. I will be weeding for weeks and weeks. And then it will start again next spring until finally and slowly I reduce the weed population and give the vegetation I do want a chance to fill in.



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