Do not plant your dreams in the field of indecision, where nothing ever grows but the weeds of “what-if.” ~Dodinsky
As spring turned to summer of 2012, I was constantly looking online for inspiration photos for the house. It was totally consuming my thoughts and time. In fact, when I looked through my iPhoto library of photos for the summer, I found it was mainly filled with pictures I had taken at stores or snapshots of items from online sites. People would ask me what I was doing with my time since I retired. Hello? I’m de-cluttering the house and making decisions of what our new house will look like. They would look at me as if saying, “You aren’t done with that yet?” 🙂 Here are some of the inspiration ideas we had.
You can guess all you want about how much a house might cost to build, but until you actually send it out to bid, you will never know. Our dream home wasn’t going to be a cookie-cutter home in a subdivision. This would be our last home we would own. It would be the first and last time in our lives we would choose every detail in how we wanted our home and Bill’s workshop (pole barn) to look and feel. Some of the options were open for modification. Some were not.
Taking from their learning experience on their build, Jill and Jim suggested that the more products/materials that we specified we wanted in the house in advance, the more accurate the bid amounts would come in. They said that the least amount of allowances you put into the builder contract, the better. We did not want to make last-minute decisions on products or materials that were important to us.
We all felt we needed to send out a preliminary bid to contractors to get an approximate cost of how much it would cost to build this house of our dreams. Could we afford to build and maintain it on a retirement income? We could not go any further in our planning until we got those answers. Jim became our representative from his family’s construction company to build our home. He suggested we send out bidding information early in August. 😯 That meant we needed to make decisions soon about flooring, lighting fixtures, siding, stone, windows, doors, trim, counter-tops, etc.
With house plans and inspiration photos in hand, we made a long weekend trip down to the area where we would be purchasing all the materials. Some places were not open on weekends, so Bill took Friday off the last weekend of July. We made one appointment ahead of time – the trim company. They would provide all our interior wood doors and interior trim work. A week before we met with the trim rep, we sent him our house plans and inspiration photos via email. That way he made up mock samples to show us at our appointment.
I created a packet of the eight vendors we planned to visit during the weekend along with a Google map that had each of the vendor’s location pinned on it. Plus, we added each vendor address in our GPS. Even though we had visited Jill and Jim for 15 years, we had never been to a lot of these locations. It was a great way to learn the area. In two full days we ended up visiting a distributor for all our exterior products (siding, stone, windows, exterior doors, and garage doors), a trim company, a lighting distributor, two flooring companies, a granite yard, a kitchen and bath showroom, and a post frame (pole barn) builder. We made some decisions on the spot. I took pictures. We collected more literature and samples.
We spent the rest of the weekend keying in all the information of our preferred materials on our specification document that would go with the house plans when Jim sent out info to contractors to bid. Through the weekend Bill and I agreed on so many materials it was surprising. The one area where we didn’t agree was lighting. 🙂 Turns out my hubby likes fancy things – meaning lighting fixtures that have a lot of adornment and lots of curves and curly things. This was the one time I pulled the trump card and said I would make final decisions on lighting. I like straight lines – nothing fancy. I don’t like fixtures with chains. I don’t like white glass. For the preliminary bid I settled on lighting from this series of lights. Notice, this chandelier had a chain 😦 and white glass, although I requested amber glass.
On August 1, Jim sent out all our info for bid. He asked that all bids for services and/or materials be returned to him by August 12. He sent out a reminder email before August 12 and again on August 15 since he had not heard from some contractors. As Jim received bids he forwarded them to us via email. I would print them out.
Soon our email mailboxes were filling up. And, papers were thrown in pocket folders. I was feeling very disorganized. And, when that happens, I get stressed. I needed to get all this information in a format I could easily access. Before we had left Jill and Jim’s house in July, Jill had shown me the big 3-ring binder that their general contractor had used to organize all the bids. I had keyed in all the section labels he used in my Notes app on my iPhone. We had a large binder, so I went to work getting all the paper stuff into one place.
Then I started to organize all my emails. I made folders for all the categories (concrete, drywall, electric, trim, flooring, foundation, granite, insulation, lumber, plumbing, etc.) both on my hard drive and inside my email account and saved emails and attached documents to both places. After that, I started tackling looking at the bids and the line items on each bid. I looked online to see if there were any spreadsheet forms out there dedicated for building a home that we could use. I found several and with Bill’s excellent talent of formatting Excel and Word documents, I was on my way entering bids into the digital documents. By keying in items line for line, I found a few errors but mainly discovered where multiple contractors bid on same materials.
Jill and Jim and the grandkids were coming up to our area for Jill’s high school reunion over September 15 weekend. Bryan was flying in for a Colts game. Woohoo, family time! Well, a little time before everyone had to go their separate ways. Anyway, we ended up spending hours that weekend with Jim and Jill going over the bids, contractor by contractor and seeing if the materials/services were what we asked for and if the price was too high compared to what Jill and Jim paid for the same services/materials. We used another spreadsheet for our budget.
Were we going to be able to build this dream house or were we going to have to find another house plan? That mother of a decision came next.