Friday, April 30, 2010

Final Cut

When we signed our contract and the price for the contract we had seven pages of architectural drawings and a line by line item contract that was almost 30 pages long. You would think that these items would leave very little wiggle room during the final invoicing part of the process. Oh how wrong you would be. Fortunately for me, I spent basically a year at work doing nothing but arguing over finer points in billing invoices and pretty much knew the process.

Step 1: Go through the charges with a fine tooth comb and compare everything they are charging you to the contract. This step yielded about $3,800 worth of disputed items. The largest was an argument over how much the contractor paid for the tub. Colleen sent them a very explicit email stating how much the tub cost both at an online retailer, or if thy weren't comfortable with that, then the price at Lowes. They chose to get the tub elsewhere and overpaid by almost $2000 and passed those 'savings' on to us. Most of the remainder of disputed stuff was for not reducing the amount we owed for items on our allowance sheet which we purchased ourselves (after the tub incident, we preferred to make purchases when possible). Everything from bathroom mirrors to overhead lights added up to quite a bit.

Step 2: Have a meeting. Experience has taught me that you need to have a meeting with all interested parties on your home turf and talk in generalities about what's wrong. If you get too specific at this stage, they will get defensive and try to hone in on one dispute, tell you why you shouldn't be disputing that item, and then assume all the rest of the disputes are wrong because they disagree with that one piece. Colleen and I had a great meeting with our Project Manager and our Architect in our new dining area. They listened attentively, didn't get defensive, and when it was all over, I sent them the detailed workup of every cent I wanted back.

Step 3: Be prepared to bargain. In Step 1, you really want to ask for the moon. That way, they can counteroffer to save face and you still end up getting most of what you wanted in the first place. Fortunately for Colleen and me, the only thing they didn't really go for was some vague he said/she said items that I didn't really think would fly anyway. They gave us pretty much everything I felt we were owed.

Step 4: Pay the invoice. Unfortunately, the approved final invoice ended up coming at pretty much the exact time that Colleen was paying for the second half of the Beach Week trip (we split a house with about 16 friends so paying for half of it is a big check). It also came just before we got our tax refund. Fortunately, we were able to shuffle enough cash around to get everything paid, but never forget the importance of cash flow.

So nearly 11 months to the day after giving them the first payment, we gave them the last. Now for all the stuff Colleen and I have to still do . . .

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Moulding Day

Even before I first put in the great room floor I knew that there was no way I would get to the moulding anytime in the near future. It's a surprisingly time intensive job, especially if you want it to look nice. Also, Jeremy and Duncan had once again agreed to help me. Jeremy with his nail gun, and Duncan with his 'mad moulding skills.' So it took awhile to finally find weekend days we were all free, but the moulding is down now, and it looks great.

I will take this opportunity for a quick analysis of Jeremy and Duncan and why they make such a great team to help with projects. First, they work for beer, which I tend to already have in great supply. More importantly however, is how they compliment each other.

Jeremy showed up to my house first. He brought an air compressor, a nail gun, a saws-all, a miter saw, a Drimmel, and a tool box big enough for a toddler to build a fort inside of. Duncan brought three coping saws, each one smaller than the last. I'm not sure exactly what the smallest one is supposed to be used for, it may have actually been a cheese slicer.

So while Jeremy is measuring and cutting eight foot long strips of moulding and nail gunning them into the wall, Duncan is delicately carving corner pieces and half inch sections to fit in the tiniest nook and/or cranny. When trouble areas arise they tend to both think of solutions in opposite directions too. Jeremy's solutions often require rebuilding large portions of the house, while Duncan is always certain that, given enough time and a sharp enough knife, he could whittle a piece of moulding down to the molecular level and it will fit just fine. Surprisingly, they never seem to argue about these things and really do a heck of a job. If you have construction work and beer, I highly recommend them.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snowpocalypse 2010

(From an etymological standpoint, Snowmaggedon would more accurately reflect my feelings on the matter, but Snowpocalypse just rolls off the tongue so nicely.)

The snow was beautiful . . .

The snow was deep . . .

Then snow piled on an additional 30 inches a week later . . . and nearly destroyed our brand new gutters . . .

But did I mention it was beautiful?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Getting Out of the House

Since this really is a blog about the addition and not a general 'The Life and Times of Bruce and Colleen' blog, I won't dwell too much on our Europe trip. But I'll give you the gist and then share just a few pictures because we got some really nice shots.

We started out flying into Geneva where we met up with some college friends of mine and headed to our first major destination: Flaine (pronounced Flin). Flaine is a ski town in the French alps. The snow was good, the scenery was awesome, but the mountain was way too 'natural' for my liking (natural means they don't cut trails, so there are lots of places that are uphill). I nearly killed myself on the last day trying to get some nice pictures, but that's another story. For now, just enjoy the photos.

After Flaine, we spent two days on panoramic trains (basically all glass) and headed through the glaciers of Switzerland to the northern border of Italy. When you are in a train with nothing to do but stare at great scenery, you take a lot of pictures, here are but a few:

Once in Italy we spent about a day and a half in Florence:

And then a few days in Rome before flying home.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rest for the Weary

With the holidays, the painting, the flooring, and the packing, Colleen and I have been really busy these last few weeks, but I wanted to get a short blog update in before we head to France, Switzerland, and Italy for two weeks. We'll be fitting a lot of stuff into those two weeks, but it should be more relaxing than life has been around here lately.

First, the bathroom vanity is all done. They finally got the new top in and installed the faucets just a day or two later. It looks really nice. The shower enclosure still isn't done and there are a few towel bars to hang, but this sucker is getting really close to complete.

Our washer and dryer were delivered the weekend before last. The dryer had a piece broken off of the door preventing it from snapping closed, but we were still able to use both and did so a lot. You can say I'm biased because I used to work there, but my whole experience with Sears on the product delivery side has been really great so far (obviously the sales experience was good since I hand-picked my sales person). Also visible to the right is our tankless gas hot water heater.

The next big thing, as the previous blog alluded to, was the floor getting installed. I spent better than 20 hours over two days with help from a cast of thousands. It really was a team effort. Snap in flooring is most easily installed by putting an entire row of boards together, and then snapping that row in all at once. This isn't a big deal if your room is 10 or even 15 feet long. However, when the room is more than 30 feet, it becomes challenging. To help, whenever Paul and I (then later Duncan and I, then even later, Jeremy and I) would finish a row, we would yell "Huddle Up" and anyone who was in the house (sometimes as many as five people) would show up to snap in the row. Unfortunately, toward the late night of Sunday, it was pretty much just me working. This picture is me still working to finish those last few rows (you can see the blue underlayment to the left). [Colleen would like to interject that she was trying to help and took this picture while awaiting her next assignment]

Just to really make the project feel complete, after the floor was all done we set up our futon (which I somehow convinced Jeremy to help carry down the stairs). Here is a shot of the new room with the new futon. Take note, some of you may be sleeping on it someday.

I'm hopeful, though not confident, that the shower enclosure and all the little items left on our 'punch list' will be completed when we get back from our trip. We can't wait to move into the new bedroom! Check back with us in two weeks and we'll find out together (I may have to use this space for some vacation pics too).

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A-wop-bab-a-loo-bop a whop . . .

Bamboo flooring is done. I'm too tired to upload pictures right now. Coming up with that awesome blog entry title took the last of my energy. Suffice to say, it looks really good. Thanks to Duncan, Jeremy, and Colleen's parents who all pitched in.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Comes Early

Merry Christmas everyone! It's been awhile since I've put up a blog, largely because I was waiting for a few things that were almost done to get completely done so that I could take nice pictures of them to put on the blog. As has so often been the case, getting things that last 10% done is the hardest part. I'll catch everyone up room by room:

We had just finished painting the walls of the master bedroom in the last blog entry. Shortly after that at 7:00am on a Saturday, the carpet guys showed up to carpet the bedroom. I won't even get into how unpleasant it is to be unexpectedly interrupted at 7am on a Saturday, because the big problem was that we were planning to paint the trim of the bedroom that day. Colleen, who was also sick, 'greeted' the carpet crew and thoughtfully explained to them that perhaps it would be better if they came back a few days later. They left the rolls of carpet and exited stage left. Five verification calls and three schedule changes later, they showed up again to install the carpet. Below is our new master bedroom and it is done! Well, we need to paint the doors and there is some minor touchup paint work to do, but it is ready to be moved into as soon as the bathroom is done and we don't have the threat of workers walking through our bedroom.

The bathroom has had a lot of work done to it. The tile was installed and the flooring were both installed a few weeks ago. As I alluded to before though, it's the last 10% that is holding things back. Even though I sent a warning email to our project manager not once, but twice, telling him that the tile guys were going to tile over the access to the tub plumbing and motor, nothing was done. The result was that they had to cut out tiles that we had just paid to have installed. Ultimately they will have to create some kind of access panel to replace those tiles. Early this morning we saw the first attempt at that panel and it was a feeble attempt. I had a conversation with the carpenter and I think we are going to find a better solution to that little issue. Since this is Christmas, this little story has to have a happy ending. In this case, it was that the plumbing was all done! Our early Christmas present was getting to try out the tub last night. I have to say, it was pretty awesome. Our tankless hot water heater definitely did the trick and the inline water heater in the tub (it heats the water as it recirculates in the jets) is fantastic.

There are a few other things around the bathroom that still need some work. Our bathroom counter was ordered with the faucet holes in the wrong place, so that still needs to be replaced and the faucets installed. The shower enclosure needs to be done as well. The contractor for that spent all of last week and most of this week not returning our calls, so that is still in the very early stages of what will likely be a few weeks long process.
Not much happened in the greatroom for a long time, largely because the contractors are done with that room and Colleen and I have been trying to get paint done elsewhere. Finally, Colleen got to lay down the first coat of paint in the greatroom only hours ago. We are hoping to get the walls painted over Christmas, the trim over New Years, and the floor in the weekend after that. The goal is to have the room ready for entertaining in time for our Super Bowl party. That would be a pretty simple task except for the fact that Colleen and I are headed to Europe for two weeks. Such a tough life . . .