Feature Article
The House Project Ending

January 1, 2002
By Scott Lewis

The house is complete (sort of). It has been a very long and tiring project. At times is was exhausting, exciting, depressing, and frustrating. We ran through a plethora of emotions building our dream home. And home it is. We moved in on the 22nd of December (details below), just in time for the first Christmas of the new millennium. We thoroughly enjoy the house. Would we do it again? In a heartbeat. I may regret a few decisions we made along the way, but I in no way regret the outcome. Even over budget by almost $30,000 it was well worth all the money, time and energy spent to build what is turning out to be a perfect house. My sister-in-law is now extremely excited to get her house started... and my in-laws have a renewed enthusiasm toward building their own home. It is contagious, and rightly so.

You can't image how much enjoyment you get when you see the final product, and it looks almost exactly as you pictured in your head... before the first tree was cleared, before the first truck of concrete arrived, before the first nail was hammered, before the first brush of paint was applied... well you get the idea. So much of the house is exactly as my wife and I envisioned so very long ago. Even some things we were not sure of still turned out to meet or exceed our dreams.

Below I will give an overview of the entire project as it evolved since May. Then I will provide the details of the project as it came to completion in December. Finally I will provide some lessons learned and recommendations for any of you that are contemplating such a project of your own. So sit back and relax, this will be a long article. I just hope you enjoy reading about our house as much as we enjoyed building it.

The House

We broke ground in May when the foundation was laid. It was scary seeing how high off the ground the back porch was going to be. But as time went on it actually seemed kind of normal. I guess I got use to looking down 10 feet. The foundation guy went over budget by $3,000, but as this is probably the most important part of a house we felt it was money well spent.

I took many pictures of the foundation as it was being built. However it wasn't until the framing started that I really got serious about taking pictures of the house from dedicated spots. The framing looked different almost every day I went out there. So I marked three spots on the ground and borrowed a tripod. I took three pictures, from three locations around the house, every day I visited the house. The goal was to create a psuedo time lapse photography experiment. The framing stage was the most impressive. Obviously, you can't see the details inside the house from the time lapse pictures.

The first day the second floor was on the house I climbed up there with camera and tripod in hand and took a series of pictures to make a wonderfull panaramic view of the Texas Hill Country around our house.

Once the framing was almost complete my brother-in-law and I started doing framing of our own. O.K., he did the framing I was just his helper. We starting improvising on the house. My wife saw a picture of a beautiful arch in a magazine. The next day my brother-in-law whipped up an arch for us from spare lumber. This is the kind of thing that would cost a lot of money to add to a house at the last minute with any normal builder. But as we paid my brother-in-law a flat fee and used spare lumber it was essentially free for us.

We added other framing items that were not on the plans. We added a couple of niches as well as a built in entertainment center in the game room. Eventually I plan to make it a bar, wet or dry I have not decided. My brother-in-law says make it a wet bar. I don't think I want to go that far, but then again even as a dry bar I would want an under counter refrigerator and freezer. The freezer to keep beer mugs icy cold and the fridge for the beer. A sink would work nice to clean those glasses without having to go downstairs to the kitchen. Humm...

I added a few electrical changes to the plans as well. I had an outlet drawn on the plans at 7 ft high in the game room controlled by a switch. My brother-in-law had that changed to 3 outlets around the room. These outlets will allow me to have electric above a shelf I plan to run around the game room. I will be able to put lighted sculptures and my lava lamp up there. Having the outlets on a switch will allow me to turn everything on easily. I notice that most people rarely turn on light-up statues. Why? Because it is a pain in the neck to turn them on and off. People only turn them on when showing them off. My way, I can turn them on easily, and will, all the time. I can hardly wait until I have the time to build that shelf. Hopefully I will have time to do this by mid January when we are throwing a surprise birthday party for my father-in-law. Shhhh... It's a surprise.

A few other electrical changes, made by my brother-in-law or myself, included outlets in the component sections of the entertainment center (the main one in the family room), a 4 plug outlet in the closet of my study. This closet will be a server room and even has its own air conditioning vent. I put an outlet at about eye level on the angled wall in the game room for the possibility of a flat panel TV being mounted on that wall... when flat panel TVs reach an affordable level.

It seemed every time I went to the house my brother-in-law had something for me to do. It wasn't until a couple of weekends before the insulation and sheetrock guys arrived that I had time to wire all the non-electrical stuff. I ran network wires from all over the house back to my server room/closet. I also ran speaker wire from the server room to six places in the house. Each spot has a wall mounted box that will eventually get a volume control. This will allow me to place a stereo (or computer acting like a jukebox/server) in the server room and provide sound all around the house with speakers in the ceilings of those rooms.

I put cable TV jacks in every room, including the kitchen, the garage, and the master bathroom. I put phone jacks everywhere, which is probably way overkill as we use cordless phones. I ran a phone line into the kitchen, but screwed up. As it turns out I was not thinking when I put the box on the stud. I placed the phone jack right behind the cook top. Oops! That will have to be re-run at a later time. Good thing we have cordless phones.

I was racing against time installing some of the wires. I was working at the same time as the insulation guys toward the end, and they were sealing holes with foam. They were sealing MY holes with foam. I had to dig the foam out to run my wires. It was a bit frustrating. I ended up missing a few connections. I wanted to put a network connection at the far corner of the garage. This is the closest point to my brother-in-law's property (he is building his own house next door). We were going to run a conduit between the houses and extent my network to his house. As it turns out, our driveway will make placing conduit difficult. So maybe I saved myself. Maybe I can just put a wireless access point in the other network connection in the garage. That may be good enough for my brother-in-law to get free internet access. I also forgot to run a phone and network connection to the built-in desk in the hall upstairs. This will be a work place for my sons and I would expect to put a computer there when they are older. It should be very easy to drop a line to the desk since the pull down stairs to the attic is directly over the desk. I am not worried.

We wanted the most efficient house possible so we made a number of upgrades. We used this product called Solar Board. It is basically OSB with a thermal reflective paper on one side. This is the sheathing for the roof. It reflects the heat back out through the roof. We also went with "low E glass." This also reflects out heat and solar rays from getting in the house. Of course the glass is all double insulated. We upgraded some of the insulation, including adding insulation around the bathrooms and between the master bedroom and the family room. This is to cut down on noise coming through the walls. We'll see.

We went with 14 SEER A/C units. The house uses 3 A/C compressors rated at 3 tons each. To get the 14 SEER efficiency rating from the blower/furnace units we have 5 ton units inside. That is a lot of air to move. So... I have an air conditioned garage. Cool! This will mean that if I ever get it organized I will be able to use the garage as a place to workout. Yippee!

I am very curious to see what kind of utility bills we will have with all the extra efficiency measures we have taken. But that will require living there for a while. I'll have to report on that later.

My brother-in-law ran all the propane lines. We do not have natural gas available and we prefer gas to heat a home. We also have a gas cook top... though the wall oven is electric. My sister is a chef. She says that electric is much better for even cooking in an oven, but gas is best for the grill/cook top. We have the best of both worlds. As a bonus my brother-in-law was able to run an extra gas line to my fireplace so I can use the propane to start a fire. No messing with kindling, paper, starter logs or anything. In fact, my father sent me a fireplace accessory set for Christmas. He is great about knowing exactly what we would not have thought of.

At the last minute I decided to let the sheetrock guys add rounded corners to all the traffic areas. This provides a nice elegant touch to the house. It was an extra $500. Seemed worth it to me. The down side to that was that it took a lot longer to run all the base board trim around those corners, since it had to be mitered with two 45 degree cuts at every corner. Oops! After all time is money.

One item my brother-in-law had always planned on, but my wife and I were concerned with the cost of, was the railing between the game room and the two story foyer. If it was too expensive we were going to put up a half wall or something else cheap. Of course, since my wife and I had planned to wait until we knew the cost of the railing it was never in the budget. It was only $1,700 for the railing. It looks very elegant. We love it. What's another $1,700 we hadn't planned for. The spindles are white and the railing is a nice stained oak. This is the look I have imagined for a view into a game room for as long as I can remember. I can picture myself playing pool up there... and when my friends come over and I call down through the railing to them to grab a beer from the fridge and come on up. (That is until I get the bar and fridge upstairs. He He.)

Everything in the house went surprisingly well. There were very few problems. That is, except for the electrician. He said he would be doing this job as a side job and working mostly on the weekends. This was no problem, a number of the sub-contractors were firemen, like my brother-in-law, and were doing their parts on the side as well. But the electrician was always behind. He didn't show up for three weekends in a row prior to the sheetrock guys and then showed up the last weekend before they arrived to finish up his work.

We had the same problem after the sheetrock went in. The sheetrock guys cut the wires coming out of the two main switch boxes at the front door. They cut them to a length of about one inch... definitely too short to work with. Plus these were for multi-way switches and were marked so the electrician would know what they went to when it was time to install the switches. The story I heard was that when the electrician came back and saw the wires cut he got all pissed off and left. And then didn't come back for weeks. I don't know why he couldn't just tell us it would cost $X more to fix the cut wires. Then we could tell the sheetrock guys and deduct it from what they would get. No, that would be too easy. Instead he acts like an unprofessional jerk and caused us all kinds of headaches. He finally showed up... unannounced... about 4 weeks before we were to close. He was told he needed to be finished by the 14th of December. So what does he do... he leaves for 4 weeks and comes back on the 12th. I don't know about you, but when we told the electrician we needed him to be done by the 14th that meant that the electric company would be able to hook up the electric and we would have everything running by the 14th. Apparently he thought that finished by the 14th meant to show up on the 12th and be finished with just his part in time for us to have trouble getting the electric company out to the house before Christmas. When we asked if he would be far enough along to call the electric company one the 14th he said, "Hell No!"

When he finally got a temporary power line to the circuit breaker, most of the electric was working. But my study and the master bedroom had no electric. The switch that was supposed to run the plugs above the shelf in the game room... works the light in the foyer. So when someone comes over we have to go upstairs to turn on the light. Huh?!? There were some other strange anomalies. Basically my brother-in-law worked the wires that were cut because he was tired of the electricians belly aching. Also, it had been so long since he paid the sheetrock guys it would be difficult, or impossible, to get them to pay for the fix at this late date. As of this writing the electrician has not shown up to finish. We still don't have electric in 5 plugs in the master bedroom, and not ceiling fan or light. There are exposed wires at the entryway and by the rear door in the breakfast area. Since some of those wires are just hanging there with no apparent reason... and they are hot, we have the circuit breaker off and that leaves the lights in the kitchen off. Also the light above the breakfast table does not work.

Alas... my brother-in-law will never use Joe Morales the electrician again. In fact, my brother-in-law was so happy with everyone's work that he will use all the same people when he builds his house next door. Everyone except the electrician. Also, my brother-in-law was splitting the work with the electrician. My brother-in-law would install the light fixtures and plugs, and the electrician would install the switches. Although my brother-in-law is more than qualified to do his part, it turned out not to be worth his time. The electrician complained that the GFCI plugs were wired wrong. No Sh** Sherlock, you can't wire a GFCI without knowing which leads are the power leads, and that is determined when the power is on... which the electrician didn't turn on until the day before we were supposed to move in. This electrician was both unprofessional and borderline incompetent. Next time my brother-in-law will get an electrician to do the entire job, start to finish. But not Joe Morales.

We called the electric company on the 17th and they said "they would try to make it out that week." Great. We already closed on the house and the electric company can't even promise to make it to the house the week after. They made it out to the house on the 18th... we were shocked. As it turned out their paperwork showed that the house was approximately 100 ft from the pole. So they brought about 100 ft of power line. Well, what was not on their paperwork was that the power was being run through conduit in the ground and would have to come 25 feet down the pole... so they had to leave and come back on the 19th with more cable to hook up the electric. This went fine and we started planning to move in. The electric was on... not completely working, but on.

We called the phone company and they were able to come out on the 21st. Well, we have cell phones so that is not critical.

One other person that disappointed use (but only a little) was the tile guy. It was not that he wasn't doing good work... he was doing excellent work. In fact, I thought his craftsmanship was some of the best I had seen on the house. But he took quite a bit longer than he estimated. He was there almost every night... working under spot lights and with portable heaters. But he just took too long. He said he would be grouting on the Monday or Tuesday before the 14th. Well on the 14th he had the bathrooms & the kitchen grouted, but the family room, entry and hallway were all unfinished. He also hadn't even tiled the laundry room. He said he could work on Saturday, the 15th. We told him he would be in our way and would have to come back on Monday (the 17th). We hired movers and scheduled them for the 15th. So our stuff was coming... like it or not.

The lack of electric... and with that the lack of heat (even though we have propane for heat, the furnaces run on electric) made trouble for the carpet. The carpet was scheduled for the 13th and 14th. That's why we scheduled the movers for the 15th. Since we didn't have electricity, the carpet guys said the house was too cold to properly stretch the carpet. If they did it when it was too cold it would wrinkle when it warmed up. So we bought some space heaters and placed them around the house the night of the 13th to warm the carpet for stretching. It worked and the carpet guys finished right on time. What a relief that one big part was done on schedule this close to the end.

The cable guy was scheduled for the 15th. He too needed electric, but we were able to use extension cords for his needs. This was a big test for me. This was the first any of my own wiring would be tested. All went flawlessly. We got the Internet running in my server room (closet) where I will put my router/hub. I brought the laptop out because it would run on battery power. We are also getting digital TV for my big screen TV. All went perfect. In fact it went a little better than perfect. The cable guy showed up at almost exactly 8:00 AM (scheduled in a window anywhere from 8 - 12). The movers were supposed to be at my storage unit at 9:00 AM. My wife came out to answer any questions for the cable guy, and pay him if he finished while I went to meet the movers. The movers called and said they were running late. This worked out well because I was able to help the cable guy run his cable through conduit we buried between the pole and our house.

The driveway was supposed to be poured the Monday or Tuesday before the 14th. It was delayed due to rain and they only poured it on Friday the 14th. They finished after 7:00 PM when I finally went home to rest for the movers coming in the morning. Which leads me to...

The movers... through a series of pitfalls... showed up at 12:00 PM. I met them at the storage unit at 12:30 PM. I worked with them as much as I could. With the lack of being able to move everything into the house (not only was the tile not grouted, but the trim was still not painted in a few of rooms), that meant most everything would go into the garage. So it was a bit of an adventure to get some things in the garage a certain way... while I had this kind of help, and getting finished as fast as possible since I was paying the movers by the hour.

Of course, the driveway was not cured so the truck couldn't back up to the house and we had to carry (or dolly when possible) everything up the driveway (about 100 ft, remember), in the rain some of the time, to get to the garage. This added to the time it took to do the move.

The lead mover saw how good I was and actually said, "If you ever want a part-time job..." How flattering. They (we) finished at 7:00 PM. 6-1/2 hours... $650. I can easily see that by helping I saved at least 1 - 2 hours of the time. That's $100 - 200 saved. The movers ran out of gas around the block. So I had to take them to a gas station to get some gas. The lead guy told me that he has never had anyone help them before... and he had been doing this for over 8 years. Wow!

Over the rest of the weekend my brother-in-law and I were taking care of as many details as possible.

At the end of the weekend we still only had water in the master bathtub. No sinks were installed. We also only had one toilet, and we think there was a problem with the septic handling the water because the pumps for the septic tanks run on... you guessed it... electricity. The toilet was not flowing well. It turned out it just needed a good plunging. All is well in the potty department.

The A/C guy showed up on Monday (17th) to install the first of three compressors. He told me he would be back the next night to install the second unit, and the night after that to install the third and final unit. Well he didn't show up on the 18th, 19th or 20th. He finally arrived on the 22st to install both compressors and get everything working. This was Saturday, and we were determined to stay in the house that night.

The A/C guy got all the heat running and put the A/C compressors in place, but ran out of time to hook them up. This was not important since we had heat and could live there. He promised to return on Dec. 26th to finish. Alas as of this writing he too did not come back. However, it is quite cold and we don't have any pressing need for A/C at the moment. I (we, my brother-in-law and I) have used this A/C guy before. His work is excellent, and he is a really nice guy. The fact that he is a little behind hasn't hurt us and I know if we had a heat wave he would be there in the middle of the night to finish the job if it was necessary. I am sure he is using the cold to buy himself some time to finish up on other work.

The night of the 21st the tile guy just finished and there was a lot of wet trim, so I took the night off. Good thing as I has a fever of about 102.3 (I stopped taking it after that). Fortunately my fever broke around midnight, because I was moving the TV, oven, dishwasher and refrigerator the next day... sick or not.

My big screen TV was at one of my other brother-in-law's house, and my refrigerator was still at my in-laws where we were staying. On the 22nd, I ran to my brother-in-law/contractor's house to help him load up the oven and dishwasher to deliver them to the house. Then I had him come to my in-laws to load up the fridge, and then come with one of my best friend's and me to my TV watching brother-in-law's to load up the TV. My brother-in-law/contactor then had to go his primary job as a fireman. My best friend and I took his truck with the TV and my brother-in-law's truck with the fridge to the house. I was hoping that the A/C guy would be there to help us unload the TV. It is over 400 lbs. and I would be extremely uneasy with the idea of two amateurs trying to get it off the truck. We unloaded the TV fairly easily. And the fridge followed right behind. I had to trade the labor and help the A/C guy unload the compressors from his truck.

O.K. By this time we had most of the sinks hooked up. I had to "fix" the kitchen sink. My brother in law assumed the three water supply lines under the sink were for 1) cold for the sink, 2) hot for the sink, and 3) hot for the dishwasher. So we had no cold water in the kitchen sick... and still had no appliances installed yet, so no dishwasher. We couldn't wash anything we were unpacking as we were trying to live there.

I changed the water lines were top to following, 1) hard/cold water... for cooking and drinking, 2) soft/cold water for the sink, and 3) hot/soft water for both the dishwasher and sink. I temporarily hooked up the sink to the hot and cold, and closed off the extra cold line.

The holidays were fast approaching. We were determined to have a Christmas tree. But my artificial tree is a monster. It is 9 feet tall (one of the reasons we have 10 foot ceilings throughout the first floor), and each branch is hand wired. It takes quite a while to assemble, so I figured we could just get a real tree to be quick and easy. Trouble was that there were no trees left. Anywhere. Back to plan A... find and dig out the artificial tree from all the stuff in the garage. My sister-in-law and mother-in-law came over to help and we got the tree together in about an hour and a half. The power strip didn't like the load and kept switching off. To make a long story short... when I wired the tree I went a little overboard. I wired each branch so each one looked good when I held it up and looked at it. I didn't realize how many lights I would end up using. The total count was 3200 lights on one tree. Sure enough, shortly after I lit the tree I got a call from the airport to verify that they could use my house for auxiliary lighting for planes on approach. He He!

Sunday, 23rd. I installed all the door knobs and dead bolts to the exterior doors while my brother-in-law hooked up the dishwasher and installed the cook top. He needed a certain size socket/driver to install the propane conversion orifices. It was after 11:00 PM so we sent him home. I couldn't stand it... I went back to the storage unit where we had some stuff still there... including my tool box. I had little to no carpentry tools... but sockets and other mechanics tools... that's my bag. I put the orifices in the morning of Christmas Eve. Yes... we can cook. I cooked myself some Ravioli. My sister (the chef) sent me some imported Parmesan cheese for my birthday. I was saving it for this moment... my first meal in my new house. It was excellent. The plan was to collapse on the coach in front of my big screen TV... but we had to get going to visit the family for the holidays.

Thursday, 27th. My brother-in-law installed the microwave and oven in the cabinet (wall mounted). I had pulled the microware out of the box and put it on the counter so my wife could use it to bake some cookies. It is a convection microwave. The oven latch and light switch were broken, and we had to call the manufacturer to send someone out. They scheduled us for the 31st.

Friday, 28th. Our new bedroom furniture arrived. This is the only new furniture we bought for the new house. I got started on all the interior door knobs. A friend of my wife's youngest brother started on all the interior door knobs. We decided to take it easy for the night. Taking it easy for me meant getting my computer network in order. I had tried loading Win XP on my machine, but ran into troubles. (Read more about that in Scott's Column this month). Once my desktop was finally working and talking to the cable modem I started wiring the network. Two lines coming from the wall lost their labels. One fell off while I was go through them. I assumed I knew which one lost the label, and had to focus on the two that were not labeled since there was nothing labeled "Study." My study was the first place I needed to get working. I eventually has to work with the Master Bedroom wire because it was the closest to my study and would save me the most walking. I got it working pretty quick.

Saturday, 29th. I finished wiring the network. I got the kitchen counter connection going. This gave us two places to use the laptop... the master bedroom and the kitchen. Cool. We were having company over tonight so we had to work on getting the house looking as good as possible. My brother-in-law came over and wired the guest bathroom light, and left it for me to actually wire and mount the fixture. I installed the rest of the interior door knobs. And my wife and I did our best to clean up. The get together was a lot of fun. Very relaxing. We live outside the city limits, so we went and picked up some fireworks and and set them off from my brother-in-law's garage slab. He had the slab for his external garage/workshop pour when we had our driveway poured. It made a great place to light off the fireworks.

Sunday, 30th. We were pretty tired so we decided to relax. I got Windows XP running on my desktop, and managed to install most of the software I use, and prepare for sharing my hard drive to provide access to the laptop for all our files. Then I borrowed my brother-in-law's truck to get the last of the items in storage. We went out to dinner with family.

Monday, December 31st, New Years Eve. The oven people arrived in the morning and fixed the latch/pin on the oven. Now all our appliances are in and working. We have a list of little things we need to get finished. But for the most part the house is complete. We still have not seen the electrician and now I am seriously worried. It is my brother-in-law's problem, so I am biting my tongue (which is not easy for for those of you that know me) and letting my brother-in-law deal with it.

And I am officially closing this project on the web. I plan to take some more careful pictures of the house fully furnished and will place them on the web shortly. But I will no longer go through the details of building the house. It has been a great experience. I highly recommend that you design your own home and have it built rather than buying a house. This is our dream home, and I fully expect it to be my last home. We are living the American dream. Tomorrow is a new year... and we will think of it as the start of our new life. We built a house and bought a new car (Acura MDX) in 2001. We have done our part for the economy, now it is time for someone else to carry the torch.

Lessons Learned

  1. Don't Hire Joe Morales as your electrician.
  2. Wire the crap out of your house. There is no better time to do this then when the house has no walls. I am glad I went overboard. I even ran a network connection to the refrigerator in case they ever really do start putting refrigerators online. We even installed conduit in a couple of places in case we need to run more wires... like fiber optic if that is ever necessary in the house.
  3. Don't get too caught up in room sizes. When we had the designer build the house he initially put everything we wanted in it, regardless of square footage. He said it is easier to remove stuff than add it. He had the house at about 3500 sq. ft. We had him whittle that down by shrinking rooms and rearranging some areas. We finally said, "Stop!" when he reached 3223 sq. ft. We were shooting for 3100 sq. ft. But we were getting worried that the rooms were getting too small. While building the house the rooms also seemed too small. I was worried how everything would fit in the house. But it turned our to be excellent. Every room I was worried about turned out to be just right. You really can't judge space until the walls are in and you start putting furniture into the rooms.
  4. Don't keep agreeing to extras that cause you to go over budget. Or worse, agree to stuff that was never in the budget... like $5,000 for a driveway a week and a half before we were supposed to move in. We blew our budget right out of the water.
  5. Even if you don't agree to things that cause you to go over budget... know that you WILL go over budget. As an example the price of the lumber went up $5,000 in the time from when we got the estimate to the time we started building. We went over budget about $30,000. Needless to say the money we worked so hard to save to keep our mortgage down went to pay for all the upgrades and extras we added and the items that went over budget without us making a decision.
  6. Don't schedule the move until the house is complete. It was not fun moving in with all the mud, in the rain, up a half dry driveway, with no electric, no heat, and rooms that could not be filled with furniture... and then try to live in a house that is incomplete. Be patient... which is hard... I know.
  7. Don't try to get everything finished close to a holiday. Trying to move in before Christmas just added to the frustration. It is hard enough to get all the loose ends tied up without having to worry about forcing it before such a big holiday. The electric company was particularly busy, as was the phone company, and everyone would rather be spending time with their families that working late on a house project.
  8. Never schedule a house closing on a house that is not finished. We did this because our appraisal was getting ready to expire and we did not want to have to pay for another. Plus the clock was ticking on the construction loan and all the interest we were paying. We may have saved a few bucks, but we ended up with more aggravation. Once again... be patient.


Do we have any regrets. Of course there is the electrician. My wife will say no, but she is ever the optimist. I am more realistic, and yes I have a few regrets. I wish I had been able to better keep track of the costs. My brother-in-law kept assuring us that we weren't that far off budget, which gave us false security in some of the money making decisions. I regret I didn't force him to let me keep track of "the books."

I would have liked to have more of my own time to work on the house. I had been saving leave for years in preparation for this moment. I was planning to take at least a full month off at just the right time to work on the house full time. But I was laid off and had to spend too much time looking for a job. Then when I got a job I didn't have any vacation time to use on the house. I really wanted to get a lot more dedicated time in on the construction.

Would I do it again. In a heartbeat. I would recommend anyone build their own home. Even if you hire a single contractor that will oversee everything. We sat with a designer to come up with a house that my wife and I really liked. We were not influenced by a contractor and his limitations. Get your house plans... from a book, a designer, an architect, where ever. Then take them to contractors and let them bid for the job. Make sure the contractor will let you run your own cable TV and network cable. These are not powered lines and there is no "code" for them. You can spend a couple of days at the right time adding some boxes and leave the wires rapped up in boxes with blanks plates over them when you move it. But the wires will be there and the cost to a contractor is nothing.

Trust me it really doesn't cost the general contractor anything as long as you do it at the right time. The sheetrock guys never complained about the number of holes they had to cut out for the "outlet" boxes. They cut these out after they nail up the sheetrock. They don't measure for every box and cut the sheetrock before installing it. So trust me, I know, it didn't cost anything more to build the house with the massive amount of wiring I did... except the $400 I spent out of my own pocket on the wires.

Try to find a contractor that is open-minded to changes. Most contractors charge a fortune for the slightest change. The electrician (before he showed his colors for being a jerk) told us he was working on a job and the owners asked if he could move a plug to a different place. Since he was there doing the job, he just put the plug where the owners wanted it. Then the general contractor took a hundred dollars off his pay because that would have been a hundred dollar change order he would have billed the customer for. That's bad. It didn't cost anything to make that simple change, yet the contractor was going to charge $100 for it. Find an honest contractor that won't charge $100 for a change that costs nothing.

That said, it is time to bid farewell to the house project... and say hello to the house. I hope you have enjoyed this trip through our project. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I have learned a lot on this project. I still feel like an incompetent boob a lot of the time, but there is a lot I will be able to help my brother-in-law do on his house next year. Payback is hell!

The End!