Sunday, December 21, 2014

2.5 Inches is Serious Business

I've held off on writing anything on here until the issue was completely resolved so this post will be long (and at times repetitive) but a word to the wise in dealing with Ryan Homes, 2.5 inches is very serious business. The too long; didn't read version of this that part of our fence ended up being over the property line and we're not only disgusted with how they handled it but also the way the way the issue was handled by the contractor we hired to build the fence. (Russell Fence Company of Petersburg, Virginia.)

As I mentioned in this post from mid-October we had a fence built around our backyard. We were the third house in the neighborhood to have one built and from talking to the neighbors the only one to follow the proper process to get it approved by the Homeowners Association. We submitted to them a proposal listing the fence type, placement, etc and then researched and hired what we thought was a reputable contractor to do the work. All was well for a few weeks following completion of the job with Jenny and I being very happy with how quickly the work was completed and the quality of the fence.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Trim Repair

Within a few months of moving in we started noticing a gap developing between the baseboard trim and the wall going up the stairway to the second floor. Several of our neighbors that had been in their houses longer told us they had experienced the same problem so I was expecting it to happen in ours too. Once we turned the heat on in late October it only accelerated the rate of separation to the point where it was two-thirds of the way up the stairs and relatively wide in spots. When I spoke with the service manager about it he said he sees it in 99% of the homes they build and can't be prevented. It's caused by the water based latex caulking drying out and is just one of those things that happens. (Silicone caulk can't be used because it can't be painted over.)

For whatever reason the only spot we've had this happen is the staircase and on the side against the exterior wall at that. Our original plan had been to get it fixed at the ten month review (which for us is only two months away) but it reached the point where it looked awful and with having family over at Christmas we didn't want to have such an eyesore sticking out.

Fixing it was easy enough. The contractor that showed up to do the repair used a nail gun to pop a few nails in the trim at the widest spots and followed it up with a bead of caulk. It looks good now with barely any hint that something has been done to it.  Now that I've seen how it's done it should be fairly simple to do it myself should the need arise again after we're out of the one year warranty.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Christmas Lights

When I was a kid I always wanted to put lights on our house at Christmas but my parents would never do it. They put a tree up and such but it was pretty much only inside. I always swore when I owned a house I would put up lights. When Jenny and I bought our first house in 2006 I started out small, with a few strings of lights along the front edge of the roof and around the front porch.

Our old house in 2006.

Every year I added to it and by our last Christmas there I had a more elaborate display with far more lights and a few inflatables and a lighted deer in the yard as well. It was never enough to qualify for the local Tacky Lights Tour but it was more than anyone else in our neighborhood put up.

Even while our new house was under construction I could already envision it's potential. From the time we moved in I looked forward to putting lights for Christmas. I started a few weeks ago and made more than a few "one more trip" visits to Walmart, Target, etc to pick up additional lights. Part of the problem was everything I had for both lights and extension cords was based around the measurements of our old house and I had to adapt everything to much different dimensions of the new one. Below is what I've come up with. It's no where near full on Clark Griswold but it's the biggest display in the neighborhood. And I'm already thinking about next year including buying a new extension ladder so I can reach the top of the house.

It really needs to be seen in person as the photo doesn't really do it justice. But I'm really happy with how it turned out. I may be adding a few more in the coming weeks as well especially if I can catch a decent sale. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014


With the weather getting colder it's time to do a bit of winterization around the house to prevent problems later.

A few weeks ago I had the company that installed our irrigation system out to shut it down until spring. There wasn't much to it. The technician that came out ran an air hose from a tow-behind air compressor to a valve under the house and blew air through the lines to clear them out. Had we received a frost while water was present in the lines it could have caused them to crack. I'll have to get the company back out in the spring to open it back up and adjust the sprinkler heads.

With a frost warning scheduled for tomorrow morning I also took a few precautions to keep the pipes underneath the house from freezing. The main thing is closing the crawl space vents. I also ran out to Lowe's this afternoon and picked up two styrofoam covers for the outside spigots. They're on a drawstring that fits over the handle and then tightens to form a seal against the side of the house. At $3/each it's cheap insurance against having to repair a frozen pipe.

Crawlspace vent closed and spigot covered.

The last thing I did this weekend was to adjust the dampers in the attic to change the airflow. Like I referenced in this post from over the summer, in the winter time the downstairs damper needs to be wide open while the two for upstairs upstairs need to be half closed. Since heat rises this directs more airflow downstairs.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


I'm happy to say we've finally got a fence up around our back yard. One of the few things I've missed about our old house is the fenced in yard and the convenience in letting our two dogs out to run around instead of taking them out on a leash multiple times a day. Based on a recommendation from a coworker, their stellar Better Business Bureau record, and a competitive price quote I hired Russell Fence Company Inc. in Petersburg, Virginia to do the job.

About a week and a half ago they showed up one afternoon to sink the posts and then came back the following week to put up the rest. We chose a simple six foot dog eared wood fence with a four foot wide gate. It was cheaper than vinyl and Jenny and I both feel like it looks better. The only downside is it will need to be stained/sealed it in the spring (Barring a few days of warm weather this winter which isn't unheard of in Central Virginia) and then every few years after that.

The only small complaint I've got is with our neighborhood HoA. Our lot isn't very big and I would have preferred to have run the fence up to the front corners of our house so the sides would have been enclosed as well. Due to the HoA rules however it could only come up to the rear corners. Other than that we're really pleased with how it turned out and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Russell Fence to anyone else looking to get similar work done. (Edit - Read this post to see what ended up happening with Russell Fence Company. The only recommendation I can offer is stay away.) Our happy idiot cocker spaniel was ecstatic to finally be able to run free outside for the first time in six months.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Someone Screwed Up

If you haven't done so already, add "check the outside electrical outlets for spare keys" to your list of things to do after you've moved into your house. In our neighborhood at least that's where the construction crews like to keep one and in our case, leave it there for us to find five months after closing.

Shortly after closing on our first house years ago we, like most people I'm sure, changed the locks on every door. During the final walkthrough with the project manager on our new house we specifically asked if we needed to do this on the new house as well. He assured us that the locks would be changed just prior to us taking possession so only we would have the keys.

This afternoon I went outside with my older son to put up a Halloween pumpkin inflatable. Just to the right of our front door is an electrical outlet with a clear plastic cover. While I've used the ones on the back of the house a few times for power tools, this was the first time I'd had a reason to access the one on the front. And that's when I noticed it. Sitting inside clear as day was a house key. One that fit the locks on our front door perfectly. Five months we've been in our house now and all that time a key was sitting a few feet from the front door waiting for anyone to access it. To say I was livid (and my wife for that matter once I told her about it) was putting it mildly. 

So thanks Ryan Homes. My home was essentially sitting wide open the past five months for anyone thanks to someone within your company's screw up. Seeing as my next door neighbor mentioned to me that she had noticed every time she'd come by to look at her house prior to closing she'd seen them slip the key in the same spot on her's it must be a common practice to place it there. So any of the work crews around here would have known exactly where to go to gain easy access to my house.

Even though it's a weekend I've already called and left terse messages for the project manager and the supervisor over him. I'm not entirely sure what I expect from them at this point but this goes beyond a simple mistake and someone needs to be held accountable for it.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dear ADT Security

We received a knock on our door from an ADT Security saleswoman earlier this afternoon yet again violating the No Soliciting sign we put up earlier in the summer. In frustration dealing with a barking dog and a crying child I posted a gripe to both ADT's Twitter account and their Facebook page. A little while later I received a canned reply directing me to email the company with my concern. I'm not sure it will make a difference at this point but this is the email I sent them:

I was told in regards to a post on the ADT Facebook page to email this address with concerns I have regarding your door-to-door salespeople. Hanging very prominently next to my front door is a "No soliciting" sign that was put there in part due to so many visits by people from your company. Yet for some reason your sales representatives either cannot read, don't understand what the word soliciting means, or simply choose to ignore it. The latest violation occurring this afternoon around 2:15pm. I did not answer the knock on the door but the woman left her ADT card:

[Sales representative's info on the business card was here.]

Your chances of getting me to switch security providers at this point are non-existent due to these repeated violations of the simple request on my sign. Furthermore you can be assured that should the topic of security companies come up in conversation with anyone I know the feelings I share about ADT will not be kind ones. If representatives of your company cannot even read or pay attention to a simple no soliciting sign how can they be trusted to watch over my home?



At the very least I hope they enjoy a bit of bad publicity from me posting this. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014


As I mentioned in an earlier entry we opted not to have a deck included when our house was built. Our sales representative was honest with us that a better one could be added for less later. The downside to this was that a railing was placed over the sliding door opening on our morning room per the building code. Sometime next year we expect to add a deck and possibly a patio but haven't figured out exactly what we want to do yet. Until then we needed a set of stairs to get in and out and this past week I finally got around to building them.

There's not much to it. This is what was required to build it:
One 4x4x8
Three 4-Step Stair Stringers
Bag of quick set concrete
2x10 lumber cut to the width of stairs
3" Galvanized screws
Paver Stones

All of the wood listed above is pressure treated. The stair stringers are 25 inches tall so I cut the 4x4 in half to 48 inches for each piece. Using a borrowed post hole digger I dug a roughly 20 inch deep hole on each side of the sliding glass door of our morning room about two inches away from the foundation wall. (It wasn't worried the two holes being the exact same depth since I later trimmed off the excess 4x4 at the top once the stringers were in place.) In the bottom of each hole I placed a paver stone so the posts wouldn't sink over time. I then placed the 4x4 post in each hole, had my wife hold it straight, and then poured water and the concrete mix around it.

The bag said the concrete only needed a few hours to dry but I ended up not getting back to this until a few days after I set them so they were more than ready at that point. I was then able to attach the stringers and steps with the screws. I also had to use two additional paver stones under the middle and right stringers in order to make the whole thing level as the ground slopes slightly there.

It's worth mentioning that I had originally wanted to attach the stairs directly to the side of the house like what is shown here on another Sienna. Unlike that house however we have siding all the way down to the foundation and I didn't want to mess that up for something that will ultimately be temporary. It certainly would have simplified things had I been able to do that. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dryer Vent Cleaning

When was the last time you cleaned your dryer vent? Clogged up vents can cause fires and also cause the dryer to work less efficiently as it takes longer to dry a load of clothes.

While there isn't much I miss about our old house I do miss the ease of cleaning the dryer vent. The dryer there backed up to an exterior wall and was less than a foot long to outside. After several attempts by birds to build nests in it I replaced it with a vent tube with a cage to keep them out but otherwise it was easy to clean. I'd scrap off the lint stuck to the outside off every so often and pulled the dryer away from the wall once a year or so to replace the hose connecting it to the vent. (As it's easier to replace a $10 hose than it is to clean one.)

I noticed a few weeks ago that the flaps on the dryer vent cover on the wall outside weren't closed all the way due to lint build up. I didn't expect it to be clogged up so quickly after moving into the house. With it being roughly 16 feet up through the wall and then across the ceiling to the side of the house 20 feet up from the ground I was expecting I might need to hire someone to clean it out. But it turns out my trusty shop vacuum has more than enough suction power to get the job done. I shoved the hose as far up the vent as possible and even after only three months of use it pulled out a large amount of lint. There's still a little bit stuck on the vent outside so eventually I'm going to have to get an extension ladder to get up there clean that off as well. But the flaps are closing now at least. I also vacuumed inside the dryer as well. And thanks to our dimwitted younger cat I had to replace the vent hose due to him tearing holes in it for whatever reason.

I'll also note here one annoyance I have with the way Ryan Homes builds these houses. The vent pipe going up through the is oval while the hoses are round. There was a considerable amount of frustration involved in getting it on there. Apparently it's an issue with the thickness of the wall or so I was told but it's still irritating. If our cat destroys another hose I'll probably order a round to oval adapter that is available several places online. (But no where locally in-store oddly enough.)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dampers and Energy Efficiency

Since moving in three months ago Jenny has been complaining about how it's hotter upstairs than down. With a single zone HVAC system I figured this would be the case at least to some extent and the reverse in winter since after all hot air rises and cool air sinks. About a month ago I was talking to my neighbors and they mentioned that it was possible to adjust dampers in the attic to change the amount of air flowing to each floor. This was news to us as it had never been mentioned by anyone. (And definitely not at the final walkthrough/orientation like I would have expected.) I went up in the attic a few times looking but never could figure out how to make the adjustment.

I saw our project manager outside last week and asked him about it. He explained in more detail what I was looking for and once more I went up in the attic. I found what I thought was it but still couldn't figure out how to make the adjustment. (I also didn't want to do it wrong and screw it up either.) I ended up calling the service line Thursday and they in turn put in me in contact with a local HVAC contractor that sent a technician out Friday afternoon.

Essentially the damper is a lever secured by a wing nut on the main air ducts running from the air handler. (Two for upstairs and one for down.) Along with showing me how to make the adjustment the tech also labeled everything for future reference. In the summer the downstairs damper needs to be halfway closed and the two upstairs need to be wide open. In the winter it needs to be the exact opposite. He also discovered that the rear upstairs damper was closed which was definitely not helping our situation.

Instructions left on the air handler for future reference.

The lever that opens and closers one of the dampers.

On the topic of the air conditioning I continue to be very impressed by how energy efficient our house is. Ryan Homes really pushes this fact in their sales materials and what I've experienced so far has proved it. Our old house was a mid-1950's brick rancher that definitely was no where near as sealed up as the new house. On days when the temperature hit the upper 90's or over 100 the air conditioning would routinely run all day and never quite reach the 76 or sometimes 78 that we set it for. At our new house we've had the thermostat set at 74 and with similar temperatures the A/C cuts shuts off throughout the day. Even with the lower setting and a 30% larger house our electric bill has so far been roughly the same or slightly lower than it used to be at the old house. I'm curious now to see what happens this winter with our heat especially with it running on gas now. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

More Odds and Ends

-I changed the name of the blog from "Build" to "Built" recently since the house is no longer under construction.

-The No Solicitation sign I mentioned in the last post appears to have worked for the most part. We went from receiving multiple door-to-door marketers a week to none for the first three weeks after it was posted. (And I saw several of them roaming the neighborhood during that time. I finally got a chance on Tuesday of this week to mock two of them for willful stupidity in ignoring the sign however. Somehow I'm guessing neither of the violators expected the response I gave them when I opened the door.

-Two weeks ago I finally got around to cleaning up and organizing our garage. I've been kind of embarrassed to open the door lest the neighbors think we belong on an episode of Hoarders. At our house we had a shed in addition to the garage so a lot of the stuff in there like the lawnmower and yard tools normally wouldn't even be in there. Hopefully sometime in another month or two we'll have a shed. There's also quite a bit of stuff in there I still need to sell, donate, or otherwise get rid of and I've really been lazy about taking care of it.

-I probably still wouldn't have gotten around to organizing it except that since old house finally sold I needed to move my Beetle project over to the new house. Since the engine caught fire in 2004 I've been very slowly restoring my first car, a 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle. (Link to the restoration site I set up for it.) Moving it also required a truck and large trailer, neither of which I have easy access to so it required making arrangements for that as well. But with the help of my brothers and a friend we got it safely moved along with my other work bench and a few parts. Getting around in there requires a bit of effort at the moment to not trip and fall over anything.

-A contractor for Comcast came through our section of the neighborhood at the beginning of the month running cabling and installing pedestal boxes. I only had a few small holes in my yard but in other yards, particularly the corner lots they dug huge holes and did a poor job putting the sod back. I was also disgusted by how the crew threw cigarette butts in my yard and in the street. They also didn't dig deep enough under the driveway of one of my neighbors causing it to buckle.

-Having never had an irrigation system before we were surprised by the amount of water it uses. I've had to dial it back from twice to once a day and shorten how long each cycle lasts to avoid using so much. I guess it will take a bit of experimentation to see how much we really need to water to keep the yard in good shape. It would also help if we could just get some more rain. I think eventually I'm going to add a rain barrel or two to the downspouts in the back to save water as well.

-Construction finally started on one of the two empty lots to the right of our house. I've been taking a picture from the same spot in our bedroom window every afternoon hoping to do a time lapse once the house is finished. I also spoke with the project manager earlier this week and he told me construction on the other vacant lot directly next to us where the concrete washout and a storage container currently sits should begin in a few weeks. They're the last lots on our side of the neighborhood so I'm looking forward to them being done and finally having neighbors on the other side of the house in a few weeks.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Farewell Old Friend

The sale of our old house finally closed Friday evening. As glad as we are to be in our new house and be done with the old (including the paying of two mortgages for the past three months) we're also a bit sad to see it go. It was our first house and home for 7 years, 6 months, and 27 days. We have a lot of memories in that house and walking through it for the final time last weekend we paused in each room to reminisce a bit. I also remarked to her about how small it seemed compared to our new house and how I wasn't sure how we had lived there for so long.

When we bought it we had just had our first son earlier in the year and were looking for a place to call our own. Jenny also wanted a decent kitchen and I wanted a garage/workshop. After looking at a number of houses we came across this one on Stevie Road. Three bedroom, one bath brick rancher on a large corner lot with a shed and garage/workshop and a fenced in yard. It was exactly what we were looking for.

We watched our older son grow up in that house. His first Halloween, first Christmas, first birthday, all celebrated there. I proposed to my wife on our second Christmas there. (Seeing as we already had a child and a house I'm not sure what she could have said aside from yes on that one.) Our first spring in the house we planted this little twig of a tree in the front yard the survival of which I was highly skeptical. The following Christmas I put lights on it and deemed it the Charlie Brown tree. As of last Sunday it's got to be at least 30 feet tall with a trunk diameter many times the size of the sapling planted. (I even enlarged the border around it last year due to the roots spreading.) Somewhere up top there's still a string of lights that I put up one year and was never able to get back down.

If there was a low point it was probably following Hurricane Irene in August 2011 when we lost power for eight days. We ended up going to my in-laws house most nights for hot food, showers, do laundry, and just to stay sane. It was miserably hot and humid for most of that week and was an experience I have no desire to go through ever again. It didn't take much to lose power in that house. Twice we had squirrels fry themselves on the transformer out back knocking it out for a few hours each time. ("They like to run around up there," said my neighbor once as we watched the Dominion Power lineman fix it. "This one won't be anymore," replied the lineman as he flung the crispy critter into the neighbor's yard.)

There are definitely things I won't miss. Yard work was a beast. I ended up buying a riding mower for the lawn but between two sidewalks, the fence, and other various edges it took me almost as long to run the weedwacker (something I hate with a passion) as it did to mow the lawn. On our new house with a smaller yard it takes me about a third of the time to do everything. I also won't miss the maintenance that comes along with having an older house. (It was built in 1955.) It seems like there was always something that needed fixing or adjusting. I managed to accumulate a nice collection of power tools over the years at least. We also spent a substantial amount of money over the years replacing the HVAC, most of the roof, gutters, and updating the septic system among other things. We also did extensive landscaping and left it in far better shape than it was when we bought it.

Through it all though it was a good, solid house that served our needs well for the years we were there. We will definitely miss it.

I also want to take a moment to thank our real estate agent Linda Earnhardt of Long and Foster in Richmond. We used her for the purchase and sale of this house and building/buying our new house. I couldn't ask for a better, more responsive agent who did a lot more work behind the scenes than I think Jenny and I realized. Any time I had a question or issue with anything she was quick to return my calls or texts. We also appreciate her constant presence from the beginning in dealing with Ryan and felt confident in knowing we had someone looking out for our best interests. While I have no desire to go through this process again anytime soon Linda helped it go as smooth as possible for us and for that we are very thankful.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Odds and Ends

A few various things from the past week or so:

-I discovered a downside to living in a new neighborhood weekend before last - I picked up a sheet metal screw in the tire of my car. I can't say for certain it occurred around our house but odds are it probably did. Thankfully it was only took a $10 plug to fix. (I really didn't relish the idea of replacing a less than two year old tire which is initially what it was looking like.)

-The door-to-door marketers have been really obnoxious since we moved in. At our old house we might get one once a month at most. Here it's been more like once or twice a week. I guess they see far more opportunity with new neighborhoods. It got bad enough that Jenny finally made a no solicitation sign for our front door.

-Speaking of things my wife has made she also did this wreath for our front door too:

-Aside from the various scuffs and smudges we put on the walls moving in we finally incurred the first self inflicted damage on the house a few weeks back. We had family over for our younger son's first birthday and because our cocker spaniel lacks any sort of manners we put in the master bedroom for the duration. He wasn't very happy about that to say the least so along with barking he also ripped up the carpet in front of the door.

-The project manager came out last Wednesday along with two other guys to fix the handful of issues we've had in the house since moving in. The soft spot in the floor upstairs ended up being a spot in the subfloor that just needed to be filled in with putty to level it out. The crack in the toilet tank in the hallway bath was limited to just the outside but the project manager went ahead and replaced it. (Learned something new - the bowl and tank are two separate pieces.) And the issue with the weather seal around the door was resolved by adjusting the strike plate. (I didn't know this was possible.) All told it took about an hour.

-There's one other small annoyance we have right now but there's nothing that can really be done about it until construction is finished concerns the sewer drain in front of our house. It currently has a barrier in front of it of rocks and wire to keep construction debris from flowing into it. Because of that however whenever we get anything short of a drizzle in a short period of time it backs up in the gutter and in front of our driveway. A few weeks ago we had a huge downpour that was high enough to keep us from going anywhere until it subsided. This was the scene a few weeks back during a particularly heavy spring storm:

Having been through several tropical storms in the past few years I'm a little concerned about what will happen if we get even more water within the span of a few hours or day as typically is the case with those.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Few Issues and The Survey

We've now been in our house seven weeks and have started having a few issues that need to be addressed.

Our 30 day post-closing walkthrough occurred about three and a half weeks ago. The only real problem that had come up by that point was a soft spot/dip in the carpet in the doorway of bedroom #3. It almost feels like there is a lack of padding underneath the carpet in that spot. The project manager noted it and assured me I would get a call from the flooring subcontractor to schedule a time to come by and take care of it. A week went by and I heard nothing so I called him back. This was followed by a few more calls over the following week after continuing to hear nothing from the contractor. When I was finally called to schedule the appointment (two weeks after the 30 day meeting) the woman I spoke with said she had just been given the report to call. Because of their booked schedule we weren't able to schedule the service appointment until Wednesday of this week, nearly four weeks after the 30 day meeting. It's a minor problem but Jenny and I are both annoyed that it has taken so long to get addressed.

In just the past several days a few more issues have cropped up. I noticed late last week around our front door that I could see daylight through the spot where the door meets the frame. It appears the weather stripping has gotten deformed and isn't creating a tight seal anymore. More pressing is a crack in the tank of the toilet in the upstairs hall bathroom that Jenny discovered Saturday. It's leaking slightly so we've shut the water off at the wall and flushed the toilet to keep the tank empty until it can be fixed. There's no crack in the toilet lid itself (and we haven't even removed that since we moved in) so we're guessing it must be some sort of manufacturing or installation defect. I called the customer service line this morning to report the issues and within 20 minutes I got a call from our project manager to follow up on it. He's putting in an order for a new toilet tank and is hopeful it will be here by Wednesday so it can be installed at the same time the flooring issue is fixed.

The other thing we did several weeks ago was the 30 day post-closing survey. This (and giving perfect 10's) was harped on constantly every step of the way to the point of being downright annoying. Overall we gave everyone high marks and wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of them or Ryan Homes in general to anyone we know. There were a few issues however I noted with the process:
-Getting information about the Homeowner's Association and how to get approval for a fence, shed, etc required far more time and effort on my part than should have been necessary. What should have been a simple question to the model home staff or sales rep with a simple answer in return instead required several hours worth of phone calls and emails to track down the correct information after being given incorrect information by several folks within NVR.
-Visits to officially (i.e. walkthrough with the project manager) check progress on the home were not convenient for working professionals. The project manager was unable to meet beyond 3pm so Jenny was only able to officially walk through the house twice during construction. Thankfully with working for the school system I'm generally done with work around 2:15 at least a few days a week and was able to meet with him otherwise I would have not been able to take off to do so.
-While the front yard was sodded and nicely done, seed and straw was simply dumped down in the backyard without any prep work . We had high winds and rain not long after it was done and a lot of it blew away leaving bare spots all over the yard that turn to mud when it rains. It was almost a waste to have done it if they weren't going to do at least a simple aeration beforehand.

Lastly, on the topic of grass that leads me to one other annoyance at the moment:

I had to call a few weeks ago and again this past Friday to get the grass mowed at the finished but unoccupied house next to us along with the grass on the empty lots on the other side of us. The project manager called me not long after I spoke with customer service and assured me that they're on a rotation to get mowed. It's high enough to be in violation of the county ordinance and has been for over a week at this point. I would have thought the developer would be more on top of getting this taken care of as it makes the community look bad as a whole. With kids and dogs we're quite concerned about the higher chance of ticks, snakes, and other not-so-fun things coming into our yard.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Inspection, Final Walkthrough, and Closing

Time really go away from me since I last updated this blog. I've been meaning to come back and update it for well over a month now but just couldn't find the time to sit down and do it. So let me try to recap everything that has occurred since my last post on April 10.

The week before closing I was on spring break from work and it was a whirlwind of trying to finish getting everything packed up and ready to move from our old house. We also had a walkthrough with the project manager that week that allowed Jenny to finally see the nearly finished inside. This was followed by a trip to Ikea to get some additional furniture to fill up the larger amount of space we would have with the new house.

On Monday afternoon (April 21st) of the following week I had a home inspection done by an outside company. With all the various inspections done by the county and Ryan Homes I debated about the value of this but I felt like it was worth the peace of mind to have an independent inspection done by someone outside of the process. I used a local company, Burgess Inspections Inc., that was recommended to us by one of Jenny's coworkers and they couldn't have been nicer to work with. The inspector found a couple of very minor issues (small amount of water in the crawlspace apparently from the irrigation system install and a few things on the siding and trim) but otherwise said it was one of the best built new homes he had ever inspected.

Tuesday morning April 22nd Jenny and I met with the project manager to do the final walkthrough and orientation. We'd been through the house so many times at this point that there wasn't much of anything new to see but he went over the various warranties, operation of the irrigation system and other things, etc.

Thursday morning April 24th was the big day. A little after 11am Jenny and I met up with our realtor at the lawyer's office, signed the paperwork, and officially took possession. I'll note here that we used a lawyer of our own choosing for settlement rather than using NVR even though it cost us more in closing costs. We personally felt like using NVR Settlement Services was a conflict of interest and just like with the home inspection we felt better having someone independent and outside the process put their eyes on it. I'll also mention here that our realtor got a rather rude and poorly written email from someone at NVR Settlement not long after we made them aware of our decision to use our own lawyer that wanted to know why she was steering her clients away from them. This type of thing only reinforced our decision. (Although it's worth noting that particular incident was by far the exception rather than the rule. Everybody else we dealt with during this process with Ryan/NVR was incredibly nice and helpful.)

Following the closing (and the following day) we immediately go in and started painting. Jenny opted for accent walls in the living room and morning room along with completely painting every bedroom. Every wall in the house was painted an off white color so while she'd like to eventually go back and do more painting it's not an overly pressing need right now.

Friday and Saturday were spent moving. We had gotten rid of a lot of stuff in the previous months but still moved with way too much. Since moving in we've put together a fairly large donation and sell pile in the garage that I've got to deal with eventually. We also managed to quickly mark up the walls moving furniture in. Having the laundry room upstairs is great but getting the washer and dryer up the stairs not so much. There was a considerable amount of sweating and cursing involved in that. (Along with getting our king sized mattress and some of the other furniture up there too.)

So at this point we've been living in the house just under four weeks and absolutely love it. There's so much extra space compared to our old house and the open floor plan downstairs is great. We're also really glad we got the morning room on the back. It adds so much extra space and between the windows and sliding door is full of natural light all day. We've met some of the neighbors and everyone is very nice. Our lot is at the beginning of a cul-de-sac so our older son has been able to ride his bike out in the street without us worrying about traffic. We're already making plans to further personalize the house so stay tuned.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Almost Finished

We stopped by the house last weekend to discover that exterior lights and front porch railing had been installed along with the yard being graded. The front sidewalk had also been poured for the third time.

And then this afternoon I talked with the project manager on the phone and he mentioned that something big had happened but he would let it be a surprise. So when went by there I discovered landscaping. Sod across the front yard, shrubs, mulch, and a tree. 

The backyard has been seeded with straw overtop. It doesn't look like much though and along with the over seeding I've already been told I will probably need to do I'm probably going to have to get more straw too.

In other news I submitted the request with the Homeowners Association to get approval to put up a fence. I'll save the full story for another post but simply tracking down how to do this was a tremendous ordeal and one of the most irritating parts of this whole process. What I expected would be a simple question with a simple answer (What is the phone number and name of the person I contact for this?) turned into multiple emails, phone calls, misinformation, and whole lot of wasted time. But it's been submitted and the plan is to get it put up as soon as possible after we close on the house and move in.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Drywall and Primer

I've been a little behind on updates on here. The day after my last post on Week 6 progress we had the dreaded stomach virus make it's miserable way through our house starting with our youngest son. It delayed the drywall walkthrough as the day I was originally supposed to meet with the project manager I was feeling half dead and had to postpone it with him a few days.

When I finally met with last week not only was the drywall up but the first coat of primer had been put on the walls as well. He explained to me that painting is a multistep process done over the course of a week or so with primer, patching, paint, more patching, and another layer of paint added before it's finished. The kitchen and bathroom cabinetry had also been added with everything covered in plastic to keep it protected from stray paint.

On the outside the driveway was in the final stages of paving when I arrived for the walkthrough. Gutters had also been installed. With a lack of trees in our yard leaves won't be much of an issue but at some point I plan to get some sort of cover installed on those. Getting up on a ladder to clean the gutters on my existing one story house has been difficult enough and I definitely won't be climbing high enough to reach the second story on this one.

The project manager asked me not to include a picture of it but he was also going to be tearing up the sidewalk and getting it re-poured for the third time. I mention this because I've really appreciated his attention to detail and it seems like everything Jenny and I have noted as potential issues during construction he's already seen and made note of. The previous two pours of the sidewalk looked fine to us and we never would have thought to ask about it. But clearly he saw a problem both times warranting redoing it. I've also really appreciated his constant communication throughout the build. He's called at least once if not twice a week and always been willing to meet me for a walkthrough. As I've noted before Jenny and I have read through numerous other Ryan Homes building blogs and at least some of them have noted a lack of communication from the project manager but this has certainly not been an issue for us. 

On to photos:

Paved driveway.

Rear of house. Note the safety railing covering the sliding door. After we move in my brother-in-law is going to add a simple set of steps for us until we can build a deck. We opted not to one built during initial construction as our sales rep told us that their cost was around twice as much as what we could have it added for later. We're also probably going to add a patio of some sort too.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Week 6 Progress

The house is coming right along. From the outside at least the major things completed this week have been the siding, shutters, trim, and garage door.

The project manager called me this afternoon to give me an overall progress update. In addition to what I noted above several other things have been completed as well. The big thing inside is that drywall has been hung. And just this afternoon the water, sewer, and gas lines were finished, inspected, approved, and buried. He also told me that the sidewalk had been pulled up and re-poured because he wasn't pleased with the finish on the original one. I've arranged to meet him Monday afternoon to do another walkthrough to see the progress on the inside and take pictures. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Water and Sewer Lines

Jenny and I drove by the house this afternoon on the way out to get some groceries. We noticed as we approached that a small excavator was out front and a guy was working in one of the trenches that had been dug. I thought one of them was for the drain line from the French drain under the house but come to find out from talking to the contractor doing the work that it was our sewage line out front and water line on the side. Standing at the street I snapped a few photos:

Sewage line coming from the house.

Curving around to where it connects with the sewer underneath where the driveway will eventually sit.

Trench for the water line.

I didn't notice it until this evening until Jenny pointed it out but you can also see from that first photo above that the sidewalk that was poured earlier in the week has apparently been removed. It looked fine when I walked through with the project manager yesterday but something must have happened to cause it to be ripped up. I guess I'll ask him the next time he calls. 

Friday, March 14, 2014


The project managed called me yesterday and asked if I wanted to do another walkthrough with him now that insulation has been put up. I'm definitely not going to pass up an opportunity to go through there with him so we arranged to meet this afternoon. Seeing as I just went through there with him on Monday and the only thing that had been done so far as the insulation it didn't take very long as there wasn't much else to see. We talked briefly about the failed inspections from earlier in the week. He showed me where the missing fireblocking is supposed to go and also in the garage where the steel i-beam needs additional bolts. It didn't sound too major but at least the issues were caught and corrected.

As I left crews were working outside putting up the vinyl siding. I also noticed that the concrete for the sidewalk and front porch floor had been poured as well.


Front porch.

Insulation along the side wall of the garage. They only add insulation to the living area walls of the house and don't do the parts of the walls of the garage that don't back up to inside areas of the house. I wish it had been an option to do the other areas as well. I insulated the walls of the detached garage on my current house and it made a big difference. I will probably eventually go back and do something similar in here as well depending on how cold it gets in the winter. I want to be able to work out there comfortably year round. 

Insulated walls of the garage against the living areas of the house.

Uninsulated side wall.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Failed Inspection

Throughout the build process Jenny and I have been checking the county inspection records that are available online. Everything so far has passed until today. Checking on it this afternoon the house has failed not one but two inspections.

Jenny and I both think based on the comment on the second framing inspection that the inspector is just a wee bit annoyed right now. I was supposed to meet up with the project manager this week to do another walkthrough once the insulation was up but it doesn't look like that will be happening until next week now. I drove by the house today and boxes of vinyl siding were sitting in the driveway so it looks like that will be done in the next few days at least. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Pre-Drywall Meeting and Closing Scheduled

I met this afternoon with the project manager to do the pre-drywall walkthrough of the house. Similar to the walkthrough we did last Wednesday it was another chance to see everything done so far and prior to the hanging of drywall and ask questions. Similar to the pre-construction meeting Jenny and I read through numerous other Ryan Homes blogs to find out what to expect and questions to ask.

The major things were to double check to make sure that things such as cable and phone jacks, ceiling fan rough-ins, and similar things were installed and placed where we wanted them. Most everything else were things we went over in the walkthrough last week or even in the pre-construction meeting or subsequent phone calls with the project manager.

One thing I noticed today that I was especially impressed by was how thorough they seem to be with the energy efficiency thing. Everywhere you look there's either yellow or pink expanding insulation foam that has been used to seal every possible area where air could leak into the house. Even the electrical outlets and ceiling fan rough-ins have been sealed in this way.

Based on suggestions I received from several coworkers one thing I did today during the walkthrough was take photos of each wall to have a record of where the wires and plumbing are before they're covered up by drywall. This way if we ever want to hang a picture or something else that requires putting a nail into the wall we have a rough idea of where things are. (Along with using a stud/wire finder of course.)

Over the weekend we also received a letter in the mail with the schedule for our new home orientation meeting and closing. The former is scheduled for Tuesday April 22 and the latter for April 24. It sounds like this is pretty much set in stone at this point although after talking with my realtor the closing date might change slightly since we're using an outside law firm for settlement.

Breaker box in the garage.

Main air intake and wastewater lines.

Laundry room hook ups and plumbing for washing machine and dryer.

Upstairs central ductwork.

Upstairs bathroom plumbing.

Bedroom wiring.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Surprise Walkthrough

I got a call from our project manager early this afternoon. Along with the usual progress updates (ductwork and HVAC installed over the weekend; plumbing and wiring being installed this week) he also asked if I was available to meet with him and do a walkthrough of the house later in the day. (NOT the pre-drywall meeting. That's going to happen next week.) Since I work at a school and my day generally ends by 3pm anyway I jumped at the chance meet him. As luck would have it Jenny was also able to leave work a bit early and also attend.

Jenny and I had walked through the house over the weekend and noted a number of minor issues that we went through with him. Among other things (and his responses):
-Gouges in the garage floor. (Normal and unavoidable. Will be patched prior to closing.)
-Several cracked 2x4's in the framing. (Imperfections are common and these were on non-load bearing walls so it's not an issue.)
-Several holes in the plywood on the walls. (Apparently the construction crew will do this intentionally to give them hand holds to lift walls into place and they will be patched later.)
-Numerous spots where you could look up at the second floor and see where nails were secured into the floor joists. (Also normal and results from going so quickly with a nail gun. The subfloor is secured with not only nails but screws and glue as well to prevent squeaks.)

We also found out what the deal was with the bedroom closet/laundry room nook issue I noted in my previous entry, Slight Deviation in Plans. According to him this was a result of a common tweaking of the house plans based on customer input and other factors and it just hadn't been reflected in the sales materials yet. Like I mentioned in that entry Jenny actually preferred it that way and is glad to have the spot in the laundry room for extra shelving/storage space. (Although he said if we really wanted it the other way it wouldn't have been a problem to re-frame the space.)

We went room by room and had a chance to ask questions. All the ductwork and plumbing had been run, and a crew was working inside on the wiring as we went through it. Being as curious as I am about such things I probably bordered on the annoying with everything I asked about. Seeing as all of this stuff is covered up behind the walls it was absolutely fascinating to me seeing how these systems come together and work.

A few other things of note I learned today that I found especially interesting:
-Electrical wiring around the exterior walls of the house is run at the bottom instead of in the middle as you see on interior walls. Apparently this is an energy efficiency thing. Lower on the wall creates a smaller gap when insulation is placed over it.

-Each spot where the wire is passed through a stud is covered by a little metal plate. This prevents a nail from accidentally hitting the wire if someone goes to put up a picture or otherwise do something that involves putting a hole in the wall through the stud.
Small metal plate protecting the electrical wire.

-One of the things Jenny and I had noticed over the weekend and were curious about was why there a piece of house wrap on the interior wall of the master bathroom. It's the only spot inside the house like that and we figured it was there for a reason but just weren't sure what that was. Turns out we were right and it's actually yet another energy efficiency thing. That piece of house wrap sits between the tub and the exterior wall and helps to keep the water in the tub warmer.

House wrap on the wall of the master bathroom.

I also received a slight slap on the wrist so to speak from the project manager regarding my visits to the site. He had told us any time we wanted to go on the property we needed to check in with the neighborhood office and be escorted. The first time I had done this I was told by the sales representative there that this was more of a formality and I could go down there whenever. I've also read on numerous blogs and talked to other folks that have been through the build process that they had no problem visiting anytime so I didn't think much about it. I've been waiting until evenings once the crews leave to go look around and snap photos and check on things but I was reminded this afternoon that I do need an escort for my own safety.

As it is we're scheduled to do our pre-drywall meeting next Monday and should find out for sure at that point our expected closing date. Hopefully we've finally seen the last of the snow and things should move right on along from here.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Slight Deviation from Plans

My wife came back from a work trip this afternoon after being gone for a few days and of course she wanted to go see in-person the progress made on the house. She has a better eye for detail and when we went upstairs one thing she noticed almost immediately was a difference in the floor plans versus the way the house was actually framed.

On the floor plan it shows the closet in room #3 as running the length of the wall and having double doors:

The way it was framed however leaves the closet smaller with only a single door and a small nook on the other side of the wall in the laundry room.

Looking at the closet from the bedroom.

Looking at the wall from the laundry room with the small nook on the right.

I haven't been able to find pictures on other Sienna blogs to see if other houses were built in a similar way but Jenny says she remembers seeing it in the house identical to ours that we walked through several weeks ago. I'm going to ask the project manager about it the next time I talk to him to see if there's been a change in the plans or an actual error in framing but Jenny would rather have the extra nook for shelving to store linens, towels, etc. so I guess it will be staying that way.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Week 3 Progress

One thing I've noticed both in our neighborhood and on the various Building with Ryan blogs is that the framing of the house doesn't take very long at all. Ryan seems to have the process down to a science almost and doesn't waste time putting it together. Our house has certainly been no exception. Every day I stopped by this week there was progress.

When I stopped by Monday the crew had begun building the second floor:

When I went by Tuesday the garage floor had been poured and roof trusses had been delivered:

By Wednesday the rest of the second floor above the garage had been added along with the stairs:

On Thursday afternoon the roof was on and windows had been installed:

This afternoon I got a call from the project manager letting me know framing had been completed and roofing work would proceed this weekend. Next week work will commence on installing ductwork, wiring, and plumbing with the expectation that we will have a our pre-drywall walkthrough sometime in the next ten days. 

I had a chance to walk through it this evening. It's amazing to me how far things have progressed. Just three weeks ago the lot was still bare and now we've got a framed house.