It has been nearly a month since the last post. Why haven’t we posted? Well, for starters, the utility worked was unexpectedly paused. After the water tap was installed, our place on the priority list was bumped and then forgotten. The new status is that work should commence after the holiday. We shall see. As for other causes of our post delay – business at the coffee shack is going great and we are having so much fun! We’ll add a little about it at the end…
We decided on our house design – we are going with 20′ x 24′ with a big open floor plan. There will be an enclosed bathroom (duh) and a bedroom ‘nook’ created by the bathroom walls. Additionally, we decided to go with a house kit that could be easily and quickly assembled. More importantly, we decided to hire the kit manufacturer to start the house build. They will get to the dried-in stage in about 4 days. The company we are using is called Arched Cabins (you can check them out here).
Because we decided to go with a kit, some of our design decisions have been made for us. For example, their system uses galvanized steel as the arch, which limits the placement of windows to the two end caps. Additionally, the curved walls will create some need for modification when framing the bathroom and installing the kitchen counter.
The tallest point in our ceilings will be 17’4″ high. Those are some tall ceilings! Many people who build an arched cabin choose to build a loft to make good use of the vertical space. While that is logical and all, we don’t need the square footage and we don’t want to deal with the rules that come along with a loft space (primarily the requirements to build-in full stairs and/or an egress window). We are going to install the loft cross-beams, however, for added structural stability and for play space for our flighted friend. (The placement of the loft beams is depicted in the images above as pink lines on the floor.)
Here are some of our other decisions –
- The house will be oriented with the end caps facing north and south. We will have two, 3’x5′ windows on the south side (to optimize solar gain during the winter) and three, 2’x3′ windows on the north side (situated higher up to allow for adequate soft, natural lighting without going overboard and causing heating/cooling difficulty).
- We selected our windows based on guidelines established for passive solar building. The south side should have no more than 7% of the square footage of the house as glazing and the north side should have 2-4%. In case you are curious, the west side is 2% and the east side is 2-4%.
- Brand – we chose Pella because they were one of only a handful of companies that offer a glass option that allows for solar heat gain. If you’re looking at a window, make sure to examine the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC). This is a measure of how readily solar heat can pass through the glass. For windows on the south side, we chose glass with a high SHGC and for windows on the north side, a low SGHC. You can read more about window decisions and solar heat gain here.
- One of the bathroom walls will be arched and therefore an unsuitable place to install a bathtub enclosure. However, there’s no problem with a slight arch above your head if you’re sitting on the commode. Problem solved!
- The bathroom will serve as a great place for storage…not in the bathroom, mind you, but on top of it!
- The door is steel and was selected solely on its u-factor so we could satisfy the conditions of the building inspector. He follows a program called ResCheck – as long as your structure (including the windows, doors, etc) create an acceptable overall u-factor, then the plan can move forward in the approval process.
- We will now be building on a pier and steel i-beam foundation. While this will not create the giant thermal mass that a slab foundation would, it will allow us to easily penetrate our ‘unnatural earth’ (the fill created by the cut-and-flip excavation) and get the piers all the way to original earth, without spending a fortune on concrete. We also chose it because it was the only option if we wanted the Arched Cabin crew to do the foundation.
Speaking of crew…Hiring Contractors
When we first moved here, we were told that it was very difficult to hire contractors. The reasons stated were that they either don’t call you back or they cost a fortune. “All those Californian retirees driving up the prices; blah blah blah.”
Our initial impression was the total opposite. When we were getting estimates for the building pad, all of the excavators got back to us quickly; the work was scheduled almost immediately and the cost was surprisingly minimal. So what’s with the negative contractor gossip?
Well, since then, we attempted to get plumbing estimates for the stub out at the house – that’s laying the plumbing before the foundation work and extending it out a bit for connection to the city utilities. We spoke to three or four plumbers and only one ever got back to us. It took forever and the quote was $1500. This is the first house we’ve built, but it seemed high given our incredibly minimal plumbing needs – all the plumbing will be in one wall!
Given that we decided to go with a pier and beam foundation, the plumbing matter is no longer an issue. We’ll lay the pipes ourselves with the 30″ access underneath the structure. We have since moved onto our next contractor interaction – someone to handle the wood work.
We are toying around with the idea of someone else framing the bathroom (a simple 5×8) and building the 3 steps outside that will get one inside the house. Our reason is simply to expedite these tasks using a professional so that we can wire, plumb, insulate and then finish it ourselves. One day, we were discussing how we were going to find a contractor to help us out when lo and behold, one drove through the drive-through.
It was an interesting conversation. He actually knew of our property and opened up the conversation by saying if we ever wanted to sell, he wanted it. He followed that by saying he’s a contractor and available for hire if we needed work done. Great! We immediately sent him graphics of the bathroom and steps – but after two weeks, no response.
It also took two weeks to hear back from a friend’s son. He quoted an extremely reasonable figure but we have doubt in the relationship given the extended response time.
So, in a way, I guess some of those contractor rumors are true. It took a week and a half to get the HVAC guy to return our call for the coffee shack; but then again the electrician scheduled us pretty quick. So who knows…
As I mentioned before, the primary motivation is to sub out the work that may take us a longer-than-necessary amount of time, given our inexperience with construction. Additionally, while we do want to be intimately involved with the house build, we also have our bean business to tend to. So there it is, we’re stuck between a bean and a building pad.
Brewing, roasting and scooping ice cream
We are having so much fun at the roast shack. We added ice cream to the menu this week and offer it straight up as well as blended into an iced coffee. We received two new bean origins last week – from Guatemala and from Colombia – and added those to the menu this week as well.
We have been open for ten weeks now and we still have customers who say they had no idea we were here. On the flipside, we get way more customers who say something like, “Jim Bob told me about your place and that you had the best coffee he’d ever had. So I’m here to try it out.” Or “I keep hearing about your amazing kale chips. Give me 3 bags.”
Some food fun
While we were in Las Cruces last weekend, we prioritized getting some ethnic food not found in Silver. When we first moved here, I felt there were four big things missing – a coffee roaster, an ice cream source (not soft serve, gelato, or frozen yogurt; REAL ice cream), a Thai restaurant and a movie theater.
Well, we are now the source of fresh roasted coffee AND hard ice cream and a movie theater downtown is going to open up in December. Now all we need is a Thai restaurant to move to town; preferably one owned and operated by someone of Thai descent.
Critters and Creepy Crawlies from the Property and Around Town
If you managed to read this far down, then you get to be in on some exciting news. The Arched Cabin build starts this coming Monday. The house will be dried in by Thursday or Friday. Brian will take his owner/electrician exam soon and we’ll start making internal house progress on the weekends. Super excited!