I recently mused to friend and fellow travel blogger Laurel that no one wants to read a blog post about picking out bathroom faucets. She disagreed, so here goes nothing.*
In my first construction post about our new home, I mentioned all the choices we encountered when working with our architect on the house plans. We made it through the design process with our marriage intact, but as we now know, that was only the beginning of a seemingly endless parade of choices to be made.
Now Introducing: Subcontractors
Once our framing was complete, it was time for subcontractors to make their appearance in our little domestic drama, and they each brought with them a list of questions that we needed to answer. The first round was roofing, and for that we just needed to pick the color — silver, of course, to match the Airstream.
Next up: the electricians. For these gentlemen to do their work, we needed to tell them:
- where we wanted every single light switch and outlet in the house and in the carport below
- which light switches would be three-way
- where all light fixtures would be located in the ceilings and on walls
- where ceiling fans would be located
- the electrical load of all our appliances, especially the power-hungry on-demand tankless water heater
- location and style of bathroom fans
- the exact location of kitchen appliances like the refrigerator and oven, and the height of the range hood
- and more…
Needless to say, many hours can be spent discussing the placement of bathroom vanity lighting or the most intuitive spots for switches. The house we are currently renting helped us focus on these questions by providing handy examples of what not to do. Pro tip: don’t put light switches for a room behind the door of that room, making them impossible to locate; it very quickly moves from being mysterious to aggravating. After several marathon sessions discussing all our current and future electrical needs, we marked everything with notes on blue painter’s tape for the electricians. To supplement this communication strategy, we met the electricians in person on site several times to review the work in progress.
Once the electrical work was roughed in, it was time for the plumbers to appear. Predictably, they also presented us with a long list of detailed questions. We needed to advise the plumbers on the exact location of all our sinks, and in the case of the bathrooms we needed to confirm the dimensions of the vanity cabinets so the water supply and drain lines would be placed properly. We also had to finalize choices like the location of shower controls, the refrigerator water supply line, and exterior hose bibs. Here we resorted to sketches with detailed measurements to explain what we were planning to install.
Our septic system was also finally installed after being ordered in July. We have found that building in a rural area often means a long wait for service in specialty trades. But it should be worth the wait, because the aerobic septic system promises to provide an environmentally-friendly method for wastewater disposal, with our substrate of pure sand allowing for excellent percolation. Now that the septic system and drainfield are in place, we can finish up contouring the area around the house and start thinking about landscaping … because we are not making enough decisions already.
Why I Hate the Word “Options”
The last sticks and bricks home that we owned was in Palm Beach County, Florida, an area notable for its high volume of planned communities. We had a home built in one of those planned communities to our specifications. As a practical matter, that meant selecting one of 5-6 floor plans offered by the developer, and spending a few hours at the developer’s design center picking out finishes. We chose one cabinet style out of a dozen choices, one granite countertop color out of 8 options, one floor tile out of two dozen choices, etc. In retrospect, the notion that we were “designing” that home is completely laughable.
Let me just say that if you haven’t agonized over the placement of every single electrical outlet, then you have not truly designed your home. We can also confirm that the paradox of choice is very real. Normally, having multiple options allows people to optimize by getting the best result for their particular situation. But when your options are virtually limitless, the sheer volume of choices means that the cost of searching and analyzing them all overwhelms the incremental benefit of finding the exact item you are seeking. Moreover, seeing too many appealing options makes it easy to second-guess choices and wonder about the road not taken. As a person who has spent WAY too much time researching and reading reviews of various faucets, fans, shower doors, and more, I am here to tell you that finding something that is 95% acceptable is the sign to stop searching.
The fact that we had to make so many decisions already means that many choices are locked in, including the size and location of everything from the sinks to the appliances to the water heater. Now it’s just a matter of executing and implementing all these decisions. We’ve made a head start by purchasing small items that are finalized and storing them in a spare room in our rental house. We also have appliances and cabinetry on order, but because everything about 2020 sucks we are dealing with major shortages and delays resulting from pandemic-related supply chain disruptions. When we are fortunate to find items in stock, we buy them immediately to have on hand when the time finally comes to install them.
Construction is proceeding slowly but steadily. To help keep everyone safe and healthy, our builder never double-books trades. So the roofers, electricians, plumbers, and septic teams all had the house entirely to themselves for a week or more while they did their work. Upcoming work includes spray-in insulation and HVAC. Once all the subcontractors are done, the main crew will return to focus on siding, trim, interior carpentry, and finishes which will involve — you guessed it — more choices about things like trim styles, paint colors, and flooring options.
An Unusual Thanksgiving
Meanwhile, despite 2020 being a year like no other, Thanksgiving still appeared on the calendar. Unlike in past years, when we had traditional meals either with family or courtesy of Whole Foods, this year we knew we would not be gathering in a group so we opted for something different. Trying to replicate that big meal for just the two of us seemed pointless and sad, so instead we created a feast of surf and turf. Local oysters served as the appetizer, and we were especially pleased that we figured out how to pop those suckers open with our handy little oyster knife. The main meal of steak with a savory cranberry – rosemary sauce, mashed sweet potatoes, and green beans hit the spot. We achieved our ideal Thanksgiving experience of eating too much, drinking too much, and falling asleep on the sofa.
We hope all our readers had a safe and happy Thanksgiving! Stay tuned for more exciting updates on the house construction saga. At least the focus will not be on bathroom faucets. Probably.
* Complaints can be registered at www.ravenandchickadee.com.