Saturday, June 2, 2012

House Building Obsessions

Things I never thought I would spend enormous amounts of time thinking about (but I am because we are building an off-grid house in the desert):

  • Window heights. And shapes and sizes and styles. How high off the ground should you place a window? Seriously I bet most of you have never spent time thinking about this, or as much as I have. Its a big pain, and once they are in, they are in. Have you ever noticed that all of the windows in all houses (at least all the ones I've seen) all have the same top height? I never noticed this before. We spent an enormous amount of time deciding the number of windows, their sizes and styles, and placement, and of course how high off the ground they sit. And be prepared, because windows will be one of the biggest chunks of your home building budget.
  • Placement of absolutely every little thing. Where do you place doors? Which way do you want your doors to open? Where do you place everything else? Electric sockets? Lighting? Ceiling fans?
  • Colors, colors, colors. For the outside wood, outside windows, shutters, porch beams, doors, inside walls, inside window frames and trim, baseboards, floors, bathroom fixtures, kitchen counters, cupboards, and on and on and on and on. Never have I had to make so many color choices! Its exciting and overwhelming all rolled into one.
  • Kitchen Design. Probably my biggest obsession with this house building adventure has been the kitchen. The layout of every square inch. How to place appliances and shelving and cupboards and everything so that the kitchen makes sense - so its user friendly and happy. Having an open slate to design your kitchen is like a dream come too, but it involves a lot of decision making (not exactly my strong point, but boy building a house will sure cure you of this). What can I say? I dream of a bitchin' kitchen. I know I make my husband nuts with all of my kitchen ideas and freak outs about how things have to be just so.
  • Cement. I've learned more about cement and concrete than I ever thought I would know or care to know. We had to make a color decision there too. We had six huge cement trucks and like 20 guys to pour our foundation and I was there to watch the whole exciting and stressful thing. Cement is actually pretty cool.
  • Water. Will the water from our well be drinkable? We haven't had it tested yet.
  • Communications. What do you do when you don't have a cell signal on your property? We are hoping a satellite service is going to handle our computer and tv needs. And I am praying the internet will be fast enough so that I don't lose my mind as my job requires fast internet services all the time. What does one need to do to get a land telephone line installed at your home when the phone company won't do it for you? They will hook up a number, but its up to us to trench and lay line from the nearest connection up to our house which is about 800+ feet away. They advise, but we do all the work. Bet you never had to think about digging your own telephone line trench. :)
  • Heating and Cooling. How do you properly design a house, in the high desert, for heating and cooling, so it can handle a lot of sun and high temperatures in the summer, and cold temperatures (even snow) in the winter - powered only by solar. We hope we've got it right, but we'll just have to live in it to really know.
  • Balancing energy supply and use. How will we ensure energy use balances with supply? Is it going to be a problem running various kitchen appliances, an iron, hair dryers, etc off of our solar system? We are going to have a large solar system, but I imagine it will still take time to figure out how to balance out energy use so we don't ever drain the system. I've never lived in a solar powered home. Its very exciting but full of unknowns.
  • Snakes and scorpions oh my! We are going to need a snake bite kit and to know what to do and where to go in the event of. We are, after all, building in rattlesnake country. We also need to buy one of those poles you use to capture snakes and move them away from your property.
Its one big exciting adventure full of endless choices and decisions. If you get the chance to do it, I recommend it. Just be prepared to spend a lot of time thinking about things you never thought you would, and to be a little crazy during the process.

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