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In 2002 we had the incredible experience of building a new home. The name of our home is Fallen Oak. During construction we kept a journal as a kind of progress report for our family and friends to follow along. This page, the journal, and the over 1000 pictures we took as a record of the story of our experience.
Why Fallen Oak?
We bought our property three years before we began construction. The spring after we bought the lot--which was in October 1998--we visited the lot to find one of the largest oak trees had fallen over some time during the winter. Needless to say we were quite disappointed--even if there were hundreds of other trees. We wanted the new house to have a name and spent several months leading up to construction trying to think of one. That event caused the name Fallen Oak to pop into my mind. We considered lots of other names but that one stuck in my head. So, there you have it...Welcome to Fallen Oak.
When we bought our previous house in 1992 we already knew that eventually we wanted to build our "dream home." Over the years we looked at countless plans. We still have a huge stack of plan books. Nothing was exactly what we wanted so we decided that when the time came we would hire an architect and do a custom home.
In 1997, we decided it was time to start thinking about making our dream a reality so we started looking for a lot. We found one in a new "executive" development called Catterson Hollow. We had been looking for some time but had not found just the right lot. We actually went to Catterson Hollow based on a listing for one of the other lots in the development. We looked at that lot and were not impressed. But, when we turned to leave, the lot across the street caught our eye. We looked at it, and liked it, but we did not fall instantly in love with it, mainly because it was smaller (4.8 acres) than the 10 acres we wanted. We looked at many other lots, but still did not find anything we liked--at least anything that wasn't over an hour drive away from work. We returned to lot 7 of Catterson Hollow several times and it grew on us. We also did some soul searching and decided we didn't really want to take care of 10 acres. So, we decided to buy the lot and did so in October 1998.
From the point we bought the lot, we began planning what we wanted in our house. We went back through all our plan books and picked the features we liked from them. From those ideas we made lists of "must have" features and "would like to have" features for the house. Here is the list of must have features we came up with. I got several computer house plan programs--most of which, by the way, sucked--and tried coming up with a design. We finally settled on a design that had everything we wanted. Here is the original design we came up with.
Knowing that the lot would be paid for in October 2001 and we would want to start building Spring of 2002, we hired an architect in June 2001. After talking to a few, and based on references, we settled on Wick Rimert at Keystone Architecture, Inc.--Wick has since retired. By October we had our "final" plans. They turned out very close to our original plans, just squared up and refined to make them realistic to build. Here is our final house plans.
We almost started building in October of 2001, but Scott talked me into waiting until spring as we originally planned. I am glad we did. It gave us lots of time to work out the detailed specs to go with the plans. We used the Internet extensively to do research during this entire process. I could not imagine going through this without that resource.
For a builder we selected John F. Wood, Inc. (Joe Sukits general contractor) the company our architect selected to do a "sanity estimate" on the price of the house. We liked him and felt we could work with him so we never really went out for bids.
We signed the building contract on March 6, 2002. We applied for our loan and away we went. That brings us to the start of our Journal of our Home Construction. The journal was written by me, Gary, throughout the process. It is very interesting to go back and read it now that we have been in the house nearly two years.
We are often asked, now that its over, how things went and what we would do different. Well, there are two aspects to this. How was the process and how do we like the house.
As to the process, we ended on good terms with the builder and from the many things I have read, we are in the minority on that point. There are many horror stories out there, ours, thankfully, is not one of them. Was it perfectly smooth, No. But there were no major falling outs. We take a lot of the credit for this because we were extremely diligent in watching what was going on. I drove to the construction site nearly every weeknight during the 8 month construction! This meant I caught many problems when they were small, well before they became major. I was a little concerned I would annoy the builder to no end, but he said this was great because it also prevented problems for him.
As to the house, we love it! Is there anything we would change? Actually, very little. There are a few light switches that did not end up in exactly the right place now that we are living here and have certain "patterns", if you know what I mean. We tried to put a lot of thought into where they should be, but in the end, until you actually live in the house, you just never know. The only other major thing is that one of the water heaters (we have two) is on the wrong side of the house. Without thinking, we simply stuck all the mechanicals in one corner of the basement. No one, not us, the builder, architect, or plumber, caught the fact that this meant hot water would have to travel the full length of the house to get to the kitchen, laundry room, and upstairs bath. Oh, well. We have since installed a continuous-loop hot water system so the problem is fixed, plus we have nearly instant hot water.