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Blood, sweat, and yes, even tears

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Last Thursday, we were feeling pretty good about things. We had gotten through a week and a half of hard work, with much help from my dad, to get through everything that we’d been told we needed for our conditional occupancy certificate — and that’s what we needed for a significant tax break that runs out on April 30. The completed work included getting all the dry wall hung and getting a sink and toilet operational. We called for the inspection on Friday, figuring we’d still have a week if any small changes were needed.

So, Friday comes and goes. No inspector comes. We call. They don’t know anything about it. The inspection is rescheduled for Monday. That should still be fine. We have a relatively restful weekend and even take a day off on Sat. to take Dad up to the monument.

Monday comes. The inspector arrives this time, does the inspection, and gets out his camera and starts taking pictures of everything. This can’t be good. He says that dry wall and a sink and toilet are not the requirements for an occupancy certificate. (In fact, he doesn’t even look at the sink or toilet.)  No amount of explanation or cajoling has an effect on him. Instead, he leaves us with a failed inspection and a vague list of many, many things that need to be done including putting up the ceiling and having everything basically finished including a kitchen, counters and all. Deflated, we ask for a specific list to evaluate whether this is even possible. He says someone will call us later. They do and again say that the house needs to be basically finished “except for cosmetic things” like trim. They say it in a way that makes it clear they think there is no way to do this in 5 days.

We spend an hour expressing anti-government sentiment, asking each other questions like how can they require things like that you must have a stove and counter-tops. What if you only eat raw food? What if you barbecue all your food? Of course, it doesn’t matter.

In thinking about if this is possible (we had already decided previously that if they were going to make us put up the ceiling, we’d be unable to do it in time….but there was really a lot of money on the table with this), I called to check on our stove. We knew it had been in Tucson for a week or so, and they were having problems getting it to Portal. When I called, they said that, in fact, they could not deliver it to Portal. They claimed that no trucking line would deliver here. Really?!?!? We get deliveries here all the time. No matter, if we wanted our stove, we were going to have to go get it.

I was already committed to some work at a school on Tues., so Brad took the day to go to Tucson to get our stove, kitchen cabinets, and various other things that we thought we needed to get the job done. We decided to try it.

Wed. and Thurs. were long 18 hour days with lots of hard work and some other challenges thrown in. On Wed. the wind started to come up. And I mean it really blew. We heard from someone who has lived here a long time that it was the hardest gales they’d seen in 20 years. A large tree where we are living (not our property) was uprooted, and at our house, 16 foot boards were blowing around like paper.

Fortunately, most of our work was inside, except for carrying lots of lumber inside. We did set up the chop saw in the house though. At one point in the evening, I went out and something blew into my eye, causing me about 24 hours of excruciating pain. All better now though. We also had some kind of mosquito infestation. As usual, I was the target of choice, and every square inch of my body is covered with bites right now.

Still, we pressed on, though I wondered several times if this was the best course of action. On Thursday, we called for another inspection. (I called to confirm in the afternoon and again, they had no record of our call. Sheesh.) By about 1am this morning, we had the whole ceiling up, the light fixtures all operational, and the kitchen plumbing mostly done. Of course, there was one more part we still needed, so we got up at 6am to head over to Animas for the needed part. That should still have given us time before the inspector arrived (which could be anything between 9:30 or so and 4).

One of the things that we’d been told we needed was outside lighting. I know there are lighting restrictions here, but vaguely remembered that dim bulbs were ok. I meant to check the details but somehow forgot. Big mistake. On Friday morning at about 7, I checked the Internet and found that the county requires completely shielded lighting on all lights within 25 feet of the house (and you can’t not have lights — basically, they require lighting that doesn’t really produce any light.)

We decide that a last-minute trip to Douglas was needed, since we knew they were going to check this. I drive at maniacal speeds and then find out that no one in Douglas (including WalMart … that’s how desperate I am) has this kind of light. (After all, who would want a light that doesn’t really make light? On the other hand, it is a county-wide ordinance, albeit apparently one that no one follows. I even checked all the lights around the house where we are living, thinking I could scavenge. No luck.) I call Brad. He has a brilliant idea: Buy coffee cans and we’ll cut them to shield the light fixtures we have.  I do so and then race back.

When I arrive back at the house, coffee cans in hand, at about 10am, Brad walks down the driveway to meet me.

“The inspector has been here and left and gave us final approval.”

What? FINAL??? We weren’t even asking for that; we just wanted the occupancy permit.

I am in shock. Brad is so tired he can barely be happy about it.

I’d like to say that it’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it, but the plain and simple truth is that the inspection process is completely random, and we got lucky. I’ll take luck any day though.

wood plank ceiling

(tile counter to come)

Status update

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

I hated status reports when I worked at Toshiba and Canon, but this seems like fun.

Progress has been made on the slab for the main house. (I wish we’d give it a name. Perhaps a contest?) Scott (the guy doing our concrete work) put up the forms and dug the footings. Then he walked me through the rough plumbing. We didn’t pass the first inspection because I (Scott too) was unaware that the sewer needed a pressure test. You have to clamp all the pipes but one closed. The one gets a pipe ten feet tall attached to it and you fill to the top with water. We passed once this was done. There was lots of digging and burying involved in this.

Scott has started adding the rebar, wire mesh, Styrofoam and other miscellaneous items into the mix in preparation for the last inspection before we pour. We’re thinking we’ll call for inspection on Thursday.

As for Tumbleweed, we started putting up the interior walls. Today we put up a wall 26 feet long by 8 feet tall at one end and 9 feet at the other end, made from 2×6 lumber. Whew! I wasn’t sure we could lift it, but we could. :) It was a little tall and didn’t quite fit under the I-joist. I used a floor jack to make it fit. :) Karen said that she will write about this later. (Stay tuned.)

We planted a few things in and around the green house. I planted mint and rosemary outside the green house. Neither seems to taste good to the local wildlife. The rosemary looks great and has been undisturbed. The day after I planted, I went to check on things and discovered the mint ripped out of its hole and about two feet away. There was a hole dug where the mint had been. Clearly, something (a deer I suspect) dug the hole to get at the water. I replanted the mint and added a watering hole for the locals. So far, so good. Karen and I also planted a few things in the greenhouse. I planted green onions. Karen planted lettuce. Little green spouts abound. We’re starting small.

A great thing happened today. Karen found us a supplier of formaldehyde-free fiberglass insulation. The search for this product has been crazy. Johns Manville makes it but no one seems to carry it. You can find it on the Home Depot and the Lowes web sites, but nowhere in Arizona or New Mexico has it, and no, they will not order it for you. We’ve emailed people and we’ve called people. We’ve visited web sites… Finally Karen called Johns Manville and told them that none of the places on their web site carried their product. They came up with a new name… in Tucson. I called and they have it and it’s reasonably price. We were getting ready to give up on this. It’s going in the ceiling of Tumbleweed. Mainly it’s to keep down the noise rain makes on the metal roof, however; another R-13 brings the roof insulation value to R-54. :)

One last thing… I don’t think we ever put this up, but we made a movie of the walls going up on Tumbleweed. You can see it here: The walls go up

Oh… We still need knobs.

Our first inspection

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Before bought our land, we asked the building department about the existing slab. They went out of their way to assure us it was permitted and that there were no issues. Despite their assurances, I’ve worried about it.

After we bought the land, they stopped with the assurances, and they made us dig a couple of inspection holes. I expressed my concern to the building department and this time their assurance was that they’d never make us tear up the slab. At the worst, we’d have to dig all new footings around it. Ugh.

Since we have a building permit, we’re entitled to inspections now. I called them up to get the slab inspected. They told me that they’d also be inspecting the setbacks (how close you are to the property line) and the rough plumbing… you’d need x-ray glasses to do that, but that’s ok with me.

One concern was that I really wanted to be there, but I had to plan for the possibility of not being there. It’s been raining and there’s no protected place for the permit and plans. (They assured me that I would fail if either were missing.) I put together a holder of sorts from some 2″ PVC. They did say the inspector would call in the morning and give me a time estimate. He did and I was able to meet him.

I arrived at out property about thirty minutes before Dave (today’s inspector) arrived. I fussed and worried about how things would go. As soon as Dave got out of his truck, the rain started again and we ducked into his truck to look at the plans. No problem with the setback. Dave said he remembered inspecting our slab back when Dan was the owner. He looked the slab over and measured the foundation (where we dug it out) and said it was fine. He looked at the pipes sticking out of the concrete and gave them his blessing too. I breathed a sigh of relief and started asking questions about the future.

I just wanted to be sure, and it’s true, the next inspection isn’t until after the walls are up, the i-joists are in, and the SIPS are placed for the roof. Even the interior walls will be framed. Rough electrical will be done also. It seems like a lot of work without an inspection, but I think this is a benefit of the SIPS.

Karen and I have started filling the inspection holes back in. Karen’s taken on the task of compacting the earth. I just throw dirt in the hole and water it. I like the way Karen does it better.

We survived our first inspection!