Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Homesite update and some issues we're dealing with

Yesterday I met with the contractor who's coordinating the set, Mark Wratchford. As you can imagine, West Virginia has its fair share of modular construction, and Mark's been setting traditional modular homes for a while. I met with him last summer before we had even found our land; he spent the day showing me around his various job sites in the Lost River valley (which has a pretty energetic second home boom going on). The guys at Res4 had told us that anyone with a good modular background would probably be good for our job; the trick for them has been finding competent people to do finish work when necessary. Because we've got so little (and such uncomplicated) finish work, the finer points of modern architecture and finish work that can slow a bigger job down shouldn't be too much of a problem (crossing fingers).

We're dealing with lots of little logistical questions at the moment. First, we got the structural engineer's report and third-party stamps a couple of weeks ago. (As I've said, Hardy County has what I'd call a "buy your permit, build your house" ethos when it comes to this process. This is another thing that makes this project a little unique for those trying to learn from our timeline - with a PERC test and a well permit you can get a building permit here; we dug the holes for the PERC last Thursday and expect to have our building permit by the end of next week. And there's no inspection process or certificate of occupancy req't; all this is likely to change as the county reacts to the construction boom.) The original design gave us the option for either block or poured concrete walls for the foundation, and Mark had planned on using block (which his crews can do). But the engineering report, apparently to reduce the complexity of the strap/hinge combination that will tie the box to the foundation, decided we needed to have poured concrete. Since Mark doesn't do the forms, he needs to sub it out and the subs are all booked for a few weeks (again, I imagine this project is unique in that changes like this, though causing a small delay, are not traumatic). So we need to figure out what to do with the manufactured box in the meantime (it's supposed to be delivered around the time the concrete walls will be poured). One option is to park it at the bottom of the road for a week while the concrete cures (not my first choice). Another is to ask the factory to hold it on their end (which is not ideal for them, but probably what will end up happening).

Second, we need to figure out how, when the box is delivered, to get the trailer around the 150 degree hairpin turn on our driveway. That's the scariest thing we're dealing with right now. Bulldozers can do lots of pushing and pulling of trailers, and there are special hydraulic dollies that can move them sideways, but it won't be pretty. And since I'm technically the GC, there's a little question about insurance (and who's responsible for the box from the time it's unhooked from the truck to the time the crane picks it).

Third, how can we minimize the clearing of the site to maintain as much of the trees while still accommodating a crane (which needs a 30'x30' pad below the foundation) and the house, which both Mark and the crane guy want on the other side of the crane? Our road comes into the house on the high side, and these guys want about 50' of room and a road on the low side as well. In our minds, we were imagining a quaint little driveway that bends into the house so you see it all at once. Instead, at the moment we've got a 60' wide road that holds very little in the way of suspense. These are the realities that we are getting used to, and one of the (minor) disadvantages of prefab - you need a bigger envelope than you would if you stick built in the same place (bigger road, bigger clearing for the homesite, etc.).

Today they finished clearing the site and dug the foundation (though I had to head back to DC before they started the hole). Here's where they were when I took off:

And we got a "911 Address" - though we wish they hadn't spraypainted it on the poplar tree:

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