Friday, July 19, 2013

The House Rests

Not much to say except that the brick work is done on the exterior, but only half the shutters are installed. We were surprised yesterday when we went to the house and found some windows cannot be opened at all..  no up, no down. They are stuck unless you apply very serious force, and then don't move much. Perhaps half the windows in the house are like this now.. a few are cracked. It seems this house is really settling in full force, especially after brick and drywall.. Wondering if the weight of the brick in particular is crushing this little house. It turns out, apparently, not the case.  This is a standard part of the building process. Houses settle, and windows get adjusted, replaced, and greased as needed.. all is well.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Daredevilish Drywallers!

Drywall hangers started working Friday morning.. and were done sometime later on the same day.. An entire house drywalled in a single day.. and we thought the Amish were fast. Also the garage door was installed 4 days ago hours before we had 3 continuous days of torrential downpour. Our closing date is at least 1 week later now. Ticker thingy on the right has been updated.
Update: We found an extra large piece of R30 insulation on the basement floor. The only place R30 is used is the garage ceiling under the bonus bedroom, and we had seen that piece had fallen out earlier in the week before the garage door was in.. So I'm pretty sure the drywallers did not put it back in.. it.must.go.back!
Not many pictures today as most were taken with a real camera, but these below are from the phone. Certainly no external shots as we ran out of bricks and I'm saving the external shots to post together when the front is done!
looking from the kitchen into the extended family room with all optional windows..
morning room on left side, far right is entrance to office-now-laundry-room

upstairs hallway showing master bedroom, loft, and entrance of bonus bedroom
bonus bedroom entrance and full bathroom
bonus bedroom closet and windows

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Promptus Pre Drywall

A very busy time in the building process resulted in this delayed update. We must start with a shout out for our PM for doing a great job and addressing our concerns to the best of his abilities. Sometimes the man is nothing short of a miracle worker, especially considering how many homes Ryan has him building. 

I have to say that everybody who commented on the previous post gets an A+++ for reading. I honestly expected many people to be flipping through blog posts and looking at pictures, but it seems everyone who read passed my little reading test. Ha! How about that!

I reached out to our PM after the last post and setup a meeting at the house to go over a few things. We met for a couple of hours in the morning and went over all concerns and marked several spots with the deadly duo of mighty black marker and spectacular green spray paint. Our communication issue was simply the result of our preference to use email to leave no room for misunderstanding, and his dependence on phone calls as the preferred communication method. He has a Blackberry and with over a hundred phone calls a day, emails  get pushed way down so he doesn't see them until much later when using a computer. So if we need something, call, very simple and straight forward..

As for the Radon concerns we received a call from our SR's manager who basically said that Ryan Homes doesn't offer any Radon mitigation options as they don't want to be liable for it or its maintenance or success or failure to address any Radon that maybe present in a home. Thus, the general blanket disclosure that RH is not responsible for any naturally occurring substances, gases, or materials. The manager said that providing such options would imply assuming responsibility for its presence or consequences, and of a particular concern are possible health issues...

We understand that this makes sense for RH from a business and liability perspective, but as a personal concern we don't accept that they don't allow us to install a pipe in the gravel before the basement floor is poured just in case.. It doesn't have to be called a Radon mitigation pipe, it's just a pipe the owner wanted for whatever reason.. But that ship has sailed on.. At least we have the internal PVC chase we paid for in the dead space. The chase can be  used for Radon mitigation if needed. We hope we never need it..

We are also keeping an eye on water on the basement floor possibly entering from rear wall of the family room where water has pooled due to a spectacular amount of rain.. Our PM said that the water is the result of the GFI tripping and sump pump stopping which resulted in water overflowing into the floor. But he said we can keep an eye for the next couple of weeks to see if there is any more water, which he is confident will not happen.

Plumbing and Electrical are done. Basement has a concrete floor now and so does the garage. Insulation is done. Savvy readers familiar with the process may realize an "Aha! Moment" here.  Drywall is stocked in the house and ready to be installed perhaps 7/9. Siding was finished on 7/8 and it looks great. The brick for the front of the house has been in progress for over a week but only the garage and bonus bedroom are done.. the rain is not helping much. When I asked the brick layers if they'll finish today, he gave me an exhausted you-must-be-crazy-look and said, "My friend. It's a big house! Maybe next week."

Finally... the reason for this post is to say we had a posthaste predrywall meeting on 7/3. It came out of the blue as we were expecting much later. We spent about two hours going over the house and pointed out a few minor things. Mr. PM is very good and that's the truth, most of what we pointed was stuff that the trades missed even though it was clearly communicated to them.. But should be addressed before drywall.

Another reason for the lack of posts was waiting for something major to to post.. Perhaps that brick front, which will in a few minutes be on day 9 now. We selected Cagles Mill - Queen, but by God it looks dark velvet red, like red red wine.. Much redder than we expected. We will like it whatever it is, but this just goes to confirm the common knowledge that what you see in the RH design center is never identical to what you end up getting. We shall see in a couple days.. or more, "My friend, it's a big house."

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ryan Homes Flooring and Stairs Explained. Rite Rug Redeemed

Post updated and due to popularity (most visited page on blog due to severe lack of Ryan Homes Flooring information elsewhere). Originally posted in May 2013 when we had a tough experience with the flooring, which we wrote about. I forwarded the link to our SR. He forwarded it to his manager... who forwarded it on and on.. by the end of the day it had reached the head of RH in the Cleveland area and the head of RR (flooring company) in Ohio..

Later, my SR would explain that there is an entire department at RH that is dedicated to monitoring blogs and Internet customer feedback about RH. RH seem to value their image beyond belief and truly care about meeting and satisfying the needs of their customers. From what I have seen they strive to correct any issues and address any negative feedback. Very impressed..

After forwarding the blog post to my SR, I saw the number of hits for that blog entry go into the stratosphere.. So I edited it and removed the actual conversation that took place at RR and reworded the bulk of the post to lessen the impact on anyone who could have provided better service. I really did not want to get anyone in trouble.

Within two days I received a phone call on my cell from the President of New Construction at RR. I was floored (no pun intended, being a flooring company and all)! He apologized that we did not receive superior service at one of their dedicated RH flooring design centers at RR. He offered to meet us at the RR location to show us the products and answer any questions, but I indicated I had already seen the products and did not want to trouble him with a trip from Columbus to Cleveland just to show me the options.

He was very professional and very attentive and wanted to know what could he and RR do to help us out. Someone else may have requested free flooring upgrades and what not, I am no saint and the idea crossed my mind.. But that was not why I wrote my initial entry about the negative flooring experience. I explained that all I wanted was what I did not receive, which is information about carpeting and padding to allow me to make choices. So here is what he explained..

Standard: 5lb pad: It is 3/8" thick. Recycled and bonded material. He strongly recommended upgrading it.

Upgrade 1: 8lb pad:  Antimicrobial treated to prevent mold/odor, and it has a spill guard membrane.  It is 7/16" thick.  Recycled and bonded material. Made by Carpenter, private labeled for RR. 10 or 25 years warranty or life time, cannot remember.

Upgrade 2: 8lb memory foam pad:  Antimicrobial treatment that helps prevent odor causing mold, mildew and fungus. It is moisture resistant. Made from Memory foam with recycled and bonded material. It is 7/16" thick. Made by Carpenter, private labeled for RR. Lifetime warranty.

He recommended the 8lb memory foam pad for any family with pets as it is the most durable against spills and accidents, but was very truthful and straight forward in recommending the cheaper 8lb pad without memory foam for families without pets. Simple as that, and saved me a ton of money.

I walked on those pads at RR.. the standard 5lb is crap in all truth. The 8lb memory foam felt a tiny little bit nicer than the 8lb upgrade, but not too noticeable.. See bottom of post for further discussion.

In answering my question about not seeing a difference between standard Carpet A and Carpet B which is the first upgrade, he indicated that the only difference with upgrading to Carpet B is the R2X Shaw stain and soil resistance in B. They are both 25oz face weight and are very similar. He said Carpet A is sufficient for upstairs and the bedrooms and low traffic areas. He said if you are selling the house within 5 years or so, get Carpet B, clean it before you sell and you are good to go. If you plan to live in the house for a long time then the best first upgrade has to be Carpet C for comfort, looks, and longevity.

He was with me on the phone for half an hour explaining various options in details and really took his time to make sure we did not have any lingering questions. I was stunned by the attention to details and was in awe by how simple and truthful the answers were. He absolutely did not try to oversell. He explained what the marketing lingo really means and what is really needed for various situations. He spoke about personally dealing with RR employees and providing better training and taking the necessary measures to ensure that future RH customers visiting RR will not have similar issues. At the end he gave me his cell phone number and urged us to call if we had any questions or issues. I could not be more happy. RR is more than fully redeemed in my book!

Our final flooring selections were:
Carpet A in the whole house in the standard carpeted areas, except the family room where we practically live so we upgraded to Carpet B.

The revelation came while enjoying lunch with the family my 4 year old was eating and rice was flying around into the floor like a tornado, and my 2 year old was swimming in sauce.. I looked at my wife and said, "you can get the most expensive carpet in the world and nothing will save it from these two... We need ceramic in the dining room. We need ceramic everywhere"

We used Upgrade 1 with the 8lb Pad in Zone 2 upstairs and the family room downstairs, and standard 5lbs pad in living room, dining room, and office.

We selected resilient (vinyl) flooring for all other areas because we really did not like the ceramic choices, and we had thoughts to replace some later with the hardwood looking porcelain tiles we saw at Lowe's.
or how about a picture..

 6 Months Later Update:

This is a 6 Months later update is based on question and answer below. As detailed above we have two different kinds of padding, the 8lb upstairs and in family room, and the standard 5lb in living and dining rooms and office. Without a doubt the 8lb is the way to go. You can absolutely feel the difference when walking over the better padding vs. the standard padding. We are pleased with our 8lb choice. Also, the 5lb feels cheaper and made of smaller separate parts (scraps) than the 8lb which feels like more continuous pieces were used.. We do not have memory foam anywhere, so I cannot speak about that other than the trials at Home Depot and Lowe's.

Just yesterday, however, we were commenting that just 8 months later, the baseline carpet upstairs looks beat up and flattish.. the 1st level upgrade from that we we only have in the family room is doing slightly better, but not by much. There are six of us, no crawlers and no pets. I hope you find this helpful in making your choices. .


Stair options for the Victoria Falls.. 
The house comes standard with carpeted stairs (not hardwood with carpet runner). We were told that if we removed the carpet then the pine stairs underneath would just not work as it is not finished and can't be finished. I looked at them in a house under constructions and they are rather hellish (but I saw a fellow blogger post their during construction pictures and they looked OK). Mr. SR said the hardwood stairs are shipped in full pieces and are extremely heavy and solid.

As I understand it, all stairs come with unfinished pine underneath. The standard option carpets those stairs, and gives you Oak Handrail and White Balusters. As for the bullnose our SR just confirmed via email, "Yes, that's part of the upgraded stairs. On the Victoria falls its just on the one side since the wall is on the other. It looks nice." The upgrades are as follows:

I looked up some you tube videos on installing hardwood on the stairs and it seemed that is doable task given sufficient tools and time.. But those stairs are of varying sizes and shapes.. And as J Grisby points out, the Victoria Falls have multiple stair cases, "I just know the stair case is pre manufactured. They screw it and glue it together. There is absolutely no creak or groan emanating from my stair case." This is exactly what I needed to hear. I double checked with my professional handyman friend with over 30 years of experience and he said that while it can be done afterwards, it will not be as good as if RH installs it and may end up costing more..

In the Victoria Falls the stairs really shine, one of the most astonishing features of the house. Our SR couldn't show us a house that had them in our development because none of the houses going up selected that option, but he did say the stairs are very heavy solid hardwood. In the model home (Courtland Gate) the stairs are outstanding, so after banging my fists against them and hearing the super dense wood talk back in a very muted tone, we paid the $2,700 to upgrade the stairs to hardwood without carpet.
So.. here we go, it should look like so..

Note: Stairs section was a separate post but I combined it here for relevance.. Please visit original post for useful reader comments: 

Important Flooring Notes for Later:
1. Home Depot will not install over existing pad. They must install their own.

2. Lowe's will install over existing pad in some cases, but it will void the carpet warranty.

3. Warranty: According to Home Depot and Lowe's and some manufacturer documentation I saw, to be able to claim carpet warranty you must show a proof (via receipts) that you had cleaned the carpet professionally once a year. So in other words, when it says lifetime warranty... It is, but most people won't be able to claim it.

4. I flat out asked Home Depot if anyone came claiming a carpet warranty, and the rep said no. At Lowe's the rep said he had seen it done.. I know most people will not professionally clean those carpets, and if they do they won't find the receipts when they need them.

5. RR will install over existing pad purchased from them through RH when purchasing the house, and warranty will be valid. No issues to worry about here if going back to RR in the future.

More about Pads and testing at Home Depot:

There was some negative sentiment about memory foam pads from a highly experienced rug installer I spoke with, something about it not bouncing back up quickly enough to protect the carpet. At Home Depot I did blind tests walking on a whole lot of covered pads and realized that 8lb was the sweet spot.. the 21lb rubber did not feel good. The Scotch guard 8lb 1/2 inch one felt the best.. and the Step ahead 8lb at 69 cents was very good too. The memory foam at 79 cents was also pretty good. The rest was awful. The traffic Master 8lb @ 49 cents was closer to the 6lb than 8lb in comfort and I did not like it. Here is a picture of the Home Depot selection.. At Lowe's the selection was rather limited..