week 45: walls, landscaping, mailbox, floors, eyebrows, gas, glass, handrails, light, killer bugs

Lots going on as the builder punches the house like a boxer practicing for Vegas!

garden walls

The biggest addition since last week are the garden walls, four walls in the front yard. They haven't been painted yet, but they are in. Bigger than we thought, but they do a great job of carrying the neoplasticism to the front yard.

The neighbors are a bit perplexed by the walls (and think I'm crazy once I start rambling incessantly about neoplasticism). One of immediate neighbors is a designer, so he understands art history and has heard of Piet Mondrian (and even asked if we were building in some primary colors). Starting to describe is as "Mondrian as expressed in landscaping". However, not a lot of folks know who Mondrian is...

landscaping touches

The landscaping, as contracted, is nearly complete (we will do more later). The only things missing are the feather grasses in the front yard.

No more porta-pottie; all square wave!

The red bud is planted in the patio. When it gets cooler (and we have time...). we'll be modifying the hole to be more "random" and irregular.

We planted a blue fescue in the sidewalk up front (shade tolerant). We love this hole in the sidewalk.

The fescue from a distance. It tells guests "Whoa! That there sidewalk ends soon!"

The landscaping dude has installed these things he calls gators, which are real handy. You quickly fill them up and then they slowly disperse water over eight or nine hours.

Here you can see why it's called a gator: It looks like an alligator snout biting the tree!

This Texas Mountain Laurel is off the south side of the house and will be inside the fence line. The builder and landscape installer were perplexed as to why this beautiful tree would go here. It's there for the privacy and enjoyment of the office. We've learned that unless we have a visceral negative response to something, it's best to go with what the designers come up with. They're the pros, after all.

Our German-built greenhouse, something we brought from the old place, fits right in.

mailing it in

Finally decided on a mailbox: the "Etsy" box, designed and built by an artist. Does a great job of tying in with the wood on the soffit and ceiling. We were originally planning on putting the box on the wall near the front door, but given the handycraft of the box (it's too nice to put in the rain!), we decided to place it under the eave. Turns out to be a good choice.


The floors are getting re-epoxyed (part of the overall installation), so the death tape was out to keep folks out until the floors cured. Stinky as all hell in there.


It was 108 yesterday in Austin. Because of the epoxy, they turned off the AC. When we could finally go inside the house, after 24 hours of curing, the temp inside had only risen to 85. Not bad, not bad...

eyebrows painted

The eyebrows are touched up and looking spiffy!

gassed up

and under pressure!  Still need to get the gas connected. We have a certificate of occupancy, but we have no gas yet. Hope we get gas (the warming kind) before we move in!

glass rails

The glass rails are in, and they are gorgeous! Keeps everything open.

temporary handrails

The original plan was to not have any handrails to preserve the clean look of the stairwell. However, after going up and down the stairs several times, we found ourselves (and others) using the bare walls as props. Plan B was to have the the metal railing guys come in and build a single piece rail about the inside of the stairwell (this was a suggestion [a good one] from the architect). It was expensive, but it was going to fit in well with the rail. However, we did have some reservations about these guys since they had no sense of their surroundings when they installed the rails shown above, burning the hell out of everything around them (I had visions of them driving off, hi-fiving for a job well done, while the house burned behind them). The builder had the same qualms. Furthermore, they were ssslllloooowwww. We needed handrails quick, and three weeks later, nothing, while everything else around them was done (and therefore more susceptible to scorch damage). 

The last straw was when they did finally show up to fab onsite and discovered it was going to be harder than they thought (which is code for "more money, please"). We sent them on their way and went forward with Plan C, temporary handrails:

Which we'll replace later with Plan D, these:

with the wood rail in hickory. We ordered and received the hardware already, and it is impressively solid and heavy (and beautifully neoplastic!).

let there be light (in the stairwell)

We took time earlier in the week to connect the flowers to the IKEA lights in the stairwell. The builder was happy because he thought the flowers had been tossed. I found them while looking into and testing every drawer and cabinet in the house.

The plan is to ultimately restore a couple schoolhouse lights from the 1930s and hang them here. Spoke to a friend who does immaculate restoration work, and he's interested in fixing them up. It will be nice to have a wee bit of actual 1930s bling in a house with direct design ties back to the 1930s.

a visitor

Saw this bejeweled bug hanging out on the fence this past week. My buggy Facebook friends say he's an assassin bug! Kind of like a spider with six legs, they kill other bugs and drink their juices. Yum!


we can move, can't we????

While halfway through our punch walk with the builder on Tuesday, the inspector appears for the final inspection, the one we need for the Certificate of Occupancy, what the cool kids call the CO. The builder was a little miffed because although we've had the same inspector through the entire build, the city sent a different guy for the final. And sure enough, there was trouble. In short, we failed the final inspection for the three reasons: (1) the porta-pottie was still on-site (like we would leave that there [even though the mailman asked {jokingly, we hope...} to leave it out there]) and (2) the gas line wasn't pressured up to show him it had no leaks (that actually seems important).

The third reason was goofy. It was the second inspector's opinion that the garage should have been built under a separate permit from the house, despite the fact the entire project was permitted together, the first inspector was cool with it, and the garage has been inspected along with the house. The second inspector said the city didn't realize the garage was not attached to the house. The builder pointed out that the permit clearly stated "house plus detached garage", but to no avail. The garage was the third ding.

The goofy part is that we needed to permit the garage and go through all the inspections with the hope the inspector didn't make us tear down the drywall and insulation for the inspections that already happened. Frustrating as heck. The city has a bad rep for stuff like this, where there's no final say or policy on anything: It's all up to each individual inspector.

Ultimately, this is a waste of time and money, and for what purpose? The big broad reason for these inspections is to ensure the safety of the folks that will ultimately live there. How does re-permitting a structure that has already gone through inspections achieve that goal? If there's a grey area and safety is not compromised, it seems the grey should be interpreted to benefit the consumer, not to earn a macho point or two. Sigh...

We could have fought the re-permit-the-garage conclusion but, as the builder pointed out, that would almost certainly take longer than simply re-permitting the garage. The builder said that as he went through the re-permitting process, a number of folks downtown were quizzical as to why he was re-permitting the garage.

When everything was addressed and the builder requested another final, we got word that we have a third inspector. The builder warned us: Who knows what this third guy will do. That guy showed up on Friday. While yapping about water in a Dallas high-rise, my phone buzzed in my pocket, but I wasn't able to see who was calling until a couple hours later. It was the builder. He had left a message. He sounded despondent. He said "I need you to call me."

I pressed his number. He answered. I said: "Give it to me straight. I can tell this is not good news." He seemed perplexed. "Have you seen my email?" he asked. "Nope." "We passed!" He had sent an email with the good news and was already onto the next challenge to wrap things up at the house.


So there you have it. We have CO! As well as big, big smiles!


week 44: landscaping, garage door, gate, mirror, punching, details

It's been like an HGTV remodeling show with the deadline fast approaching over at the house lately. Lots going on as the builder hacks his way through the lingering items list. Let's check in, shall we?

front landscaping

...has been going fast and furious and it's looking great. The landscaper has been putting in metal edging that is just perfect (as in straight and crisp) for our modern house. They were also able to square around the trees out front, something the builder was balking at early in the process. That gravel is Texas Black, but it actually looks grey, which is fine by us.

alls the walls

They were working yesterday (Saturday) to get the footings in for the four (count em: four) neoplastic walls in the front yard. Next up will be laying the concrete block and then the stucco on top of that to match the house. May get done next week; may not.

That nub is to run power to the wall.

a feat of grasscrete

Besides the wall footings out front, they also poured a concrete edging for the grasscrete driveway (and also did a mighty fine job). That was a surprise to the budget but was needed to hold the grasscrete drive in place. We also think it will look good as well. 

Still curing...

garage door

Did you notice the final garage door in the photos above? It looks nice! It allows a nice amount of light inside and, surprisingly, keeps the garage cooler than I would of thought (think hothouse with that western exposure). 

The installer also installed the electric door opener, a belt-driven deal that doesn't look too bad:

landscaping overall

Overall, we're really happy with the landscaping. The minimalism complements the house, and the mixture of materials (done more for cost cutting than anything) works quite well and even enhances the cubism, 


There's been a lot of detail work going on inside, including touching up the drywall and the painting.

Still need some glass.

Cover for the ERV.

Not sure about this color for the posts. Meant to approach the color of the anodized aluminum. Something we may change later...

mirrors mirrors on the wall

We hung up the powder room mirror(s). Looks good!


Primed and (nearly) ready to go.


The builder has been using blue painter's tape to mark where something needs to be done. We went ahead and marked stuff with green. Besides the obvious stuff, there's not much more to do! A couple examples...

Missing a bulb here...

When they siliconed the countertop to the wall, they neglected to first clean the groove. Here are two wire bits "petrified" into the groove. (sigh...)


The builder hopes to have the city inspector over mid-week to inspect for the Certificate of Occupancy. He says it's a crap shoot: How long does it take for an inspector to show, what does he find, how long it takes to address what he finds, how long does it take for him to come back and re-inspect (and does he find something else)? So we shall see. At least we're days away from having that inspection.

Drama-wise, we have to be out of our apartment July 7th, so we will be cutting it close. We haven't scheduled movers yet. Ideally we get the CoO by mid-week and schedule a move for next week. Non-ideally we plan for a July 5th move either to the house (if we get a late CoO) or (very non-ideally) to storage and get a hotel room. Talking to various friends and colleagues, it doesn't seem uncommon for this to happen, with unexpected stays in hotels ranging from two days to two months. The German blood that courses through the bride's veins doesn't appreciate the scheduling uncertainty. Her right eye has developed a persistent twitch...


...the house is looking great! The builder says this is the nicest house he's built (he prolly says that to all the girls...). He, the cabinet lady, and the architect all plan to hire photographers to come shoot the house, evidence, perhaps, they're not flattering us. The builder and cab-lady are taking photos before we move in; the architects after.

The anticipation of moving in is rather exhausting. We're looking forward to actually being in the house and then crashing on the sofa with (large) glasses of wine...

punch list

black = builder
orange = us
gray and crossed = done!
red = new item

general items:
- touch-up paint (partial; almost done)
- touch up drywall
    - various locations
    - tops of doorways
- polish/finish concrete floor
- window hardware
- clean windows
- seal sills
- door hardware
    - knobs
    - doorstops
- pocket door hardware
- wood floor
- general clean-up! (partial; almost done)

master bedroom:
- art can (partial)
- seal outside door
- outside door hardware
- plugs in bedside tables

master closet:
- light
- hanger poles (partial)

master bath:
- faucets
- toilet
- tub
- shower faucet
- tub spout
- tub faucet
- plumbing connects
- mirror
- vanity lights
- above tub light cover
- drawer plug
- cab adjusts
- switch cover in toilet room
- touch up tile trim

master hall:
- thermostat

buds and suds:
- faucet
- LEDs
- backsplash
- plug cover
- counter plug electric
- light
- cab adjusts
- drawer interference with sill (bumper on sill?)
- plumbing connects

rear entry (hee hee!):
- CO detector
- art can (partial)
- level door?
- thermostat

- hot water control
- cable/data hookups

- wood for peninsula
- reinstall drawers
- back splash
- cooktop electric (partial)
- cooktop gas (partial)
- fridge
- oven/microwave
- dishwasher
- LEDs
- cab adjusts
- sink faucet
- potfiller
- seal countertop edges
- hood
- hood top cap
- plumbing connects

- art cans (partial)
- paint pillars
- crystal

- speakers
- art can (partial)
- LEDs
- touch up cabs
- cab pulls
- seal upper windows to wood?
- floor plugs

- light switch covers
- door bell chime
- door knob
- door bell working

coat closet:
- pole

- sink
- light
- mirror
- toilet
- toilet buttons
- plumbing connects
- toilet stability

office: (done!)

- missing plug?
- treads
- hand rail (partial)

romeo landing and hall:
- railing (partial)
- floor plug
- thermostat
- gas to furnace
- ceiling switch covers
- cans
- pendant lights (partial)
- switch cover

guest bed:
- closet pole
- closet doors
- closet door hardware

guest bath:
- faucet
- plumbing connects
- mirror
- light
- tub faucet
- can light
- shower rod
- toilet

work out room:
- ERV cover
- closet bars (partial)
- light
- closet light

- garage door
- entry door paint?
- entry door hardware
- garage door opener
- stain floor?
- switch cover
- lights
- faucet
- back light

- faucet by master
- plug by master
- cable
- plug by condenser
- water heater
- wiring to stage  (partial)
- wiring to hot tub  (partial)
- gutters
- gas meter
- gas connection
- finish out sewer clean-out under cantilever
- wire to outdoor light on front wall (partial)
- window bottom trim at front
- window bottom trim at back
- entry plug
- doorbell
- seal limestone to door at front entry
- roof over limestone/bookshelf bump-out
- carport faucet
- paint eyebrows (partial)
- seal to cypress?
- clean roof
- holes for outside speakers
- install outside speakers
- house numbers
- mailbox

- north side fence Sol
- north side fancy fence (partial)
- gate (partial)
- south side fence Sol
- south side fancy fence (partial)
- rear fence (partial)
- white gravel in back
- mulch in back
- pavers
- grasscrete
- plant grass in grasscrete
- black gravel in back (partial)
- black gravel in front (partial)
- mulch in front (partial)
- feather grass
- trees in front
- trees in patio (partial)
- tree on south side
- front walls (partial)
- horno base
- place horno

stuff we'll address later on our own:
- built-in shelves in the master bath
- gate beside the garage and property line (to hide trash)
- built-in shelves in the guest bath
- built-in desktop in the guest bedroom
- in-shelf shelves in the kitchen
- cat door
- stage
- planters
- garden
- shorter drop pole for the ceiling fan in the office
- upgrade plugs and switches
- upgrade outdoor plug covers
- upgrade outdoor spigots
- cabinets in pantry
- glass shelves for buds-n-suds
- wood for shelf in living room window
- plug cover for living room
- front agaves
- hedges
- rainwater tank
- solar
- wine fridge
- window treatments
- security
- clothes line