Countdown to Our Pre-Construction Meeting

Our pre-construction meeting is still three days away, but I’m starting to get jittery (especially since we leave for a long vacation in Japan exactly two days after our pre-con). In fact, we’ll miss the official groundbreaking, but as I understand it, we wouldn’t get the whole Groundbreaking Experience™ anyway — with all the golden shovels, hardhats, and applauding dignitaries.

Actually, since it’s been so snowy and rainy this winter, it’s probably a good thing we’ll miss groundbreaking — we’ve already ruined two perfectly great pairs of shoes visiting the building site.

It also makes me a little nervous that we can’t be there to watch what’s going on every day of construction. I have read so many blogs about the things that could go wrong that I’m considering getting something like this so I can keep a careful eye on the builders:


Obviously, our Project Manager would get a bad back carrying me around in a Baby Bjorn, but on the up side, maybe the rhythmic hammering of nails into wood would help me fall to sleep. I have such trouble getting to sleep…

I’m kidding, of course. Aside from needing to vent just a tiny bit of nervous energy, I’m really cool as a cucumber.

Everyone at NV/Ryan Homes has been super amaze-balls! From the guy at the model, to the loan officer, to the Guardian guy, tile lady, to the Veterans Administration, etc., etc., etc., everyone has been helpful, encouraging, and sweet as pie. This whole process of building a home has been smooth sailing. In fact, I can’t believe how smoothly it’s all been progressing.

(Of course, I am to blame for some of that, since I am always over prepared for everything. For example, when I put together my paperwork for the loan officer, I created a 100+ page PDF that shocked and amazed her in its design and comprehensiveness. She literally took my mortgage package around her office to show her colleagues how [insert flattering synonym for anally retentive] I can be.)

Thus, I am not really too concerned about outfitting our project manager with an over-sized Baby Bjorn so I can keep an eye on things. In fact, I trust the process so completely that I’m ready to disengage fully and enjoy our trip to Japan. After all, I started planning this trip to Japan a full year before we committed to building a house.


Countdown to Our Pre-Construction Meeting

Second Stage Decorating Ideas

While looking up other people’s experiences for the last post, I found some other really interesting ideas to keep track of for later. These are all going to be post-construction projects — customizing the house to take it to the next level.

This guy in Shorewood, IL seems very handy. He installed his own sump pump, apparently a better one than the standard. Something to consider? He also did his own built-in surround sound rather than going with the Ryan option — but there is NO WAY we are cutting into our nice new walls. One thing we definitely want to do is replicate the under-counter lighting he used. Rather than the $1000 Ryan option (which we didn’t even hear about, so maybe it’s not offered), he got some self-adhesive strips and put them up himself. They look great! We’re doing that for sure.

I also just discovered the concept of DIY wooden walls using reclaimed pallet boards!! It’s amazing. I pinned a bunch of the images to my Pinterest board for visual reference. But here are three of the stories with pretty good guides. Something definitely to look into after we take charge and can then customize to the next level.



Second Stage Decorating Ideas

Preparing for Pre-Construction

Things are moving fast, and we have our pre-construction meeting coming up soon. So I’m doing a little research around the other Ryan home building blogs, to see what types of questions people felt the need to ask. What should we be prepared for?

Here is a good account of a construction meeting, kind of walking through what the did.

A basic list of questions.

Some more questions.

A VERY detailed list of questions.

So these will be some things to study up on before the meeting. We’re excited to break ground!


Preparing for Pre-Construction

Floors, surfaces, and design studio drama

Not really dramatic actually. Just fun.

Today we had our appointment with T.A.C. Ceramic Tile Co. (Elkridge, MD) to choose floors and bathroom materials. GIVE US ALL THE OPTIONS YAAAAAS WAIT WHAT IS MONEY I AM UNFAMILIAR WITH THE CONCEPT.


It was pretty fun. But yeah, when you go into one of these you should expect to spend some cash. Each time you get a choice it is the same: The first level is hideous and unacceptable, the next level is decent, then the next levels after that are just a little bit more, so if you’re already spending that money why not do it and go all the way and get something FABULOUS. Or at least that’s the trap it is all too easy to fall into… the design associate was actually very cool about not upselling or trying to wring out the dollars, it’s just the dynamic you wind up feeling in retrospect.

It broke down like this:

  • Flooring: In fairness, I should say that the first level wood floors were perfectly great, we were just in love with a thicker and more dramatic type that they had in the model. We came into the appointment already decided to have these – but not to go crazy putting them everywhere. So we extended them into the dining room, but nowhere else. We will actually need to put wood in the upstairs bedroom that will function as an art studio. That’s for practical reasons of not getting paint on carpet. So otherwise, we didn’t extend it elsewhere in the house, as amazing as it seems to have it EVERYWHERE.
  • Carpet: Level one carpet is perfectly fine if you don’t mind the standard type of pile carpet. Whatever it is technically called. But neither of us really like that, so we upgraded. In retrospect, this is where most of the money we spent today went – upgraded carpets and wood floors.
  • Bathroom: Once we got to the bathroom, these rooms you can essentially go crazy without worrying about it. You’ve got three levels of tile upgrades, but the overall cost is low and the difference not a lot. So you can really feel free to just pick what you like best.
  • Kitchen backsplash: We went in wanting what they had in the model (who doesn’t) — a white marble brick type effect that looks amazing. But that was not only the top level upgrade, it was “custom pricing” that would work out to be around $3-4k. Not cool! We went with a smaller marble tile type effect that will look very nice, but at half the cost.

Here are some pics of the materials we selected:

Main level flooring, cabinets, countertop combo:

Basement bar flooring (ceramic, for ease of cleanup with spills, possible floods, etc.). The countertops, cabinets, and carpet on that level are the same as the main ones:


Basement bathroom (I actually like this just as much as the upstairs ones, even at a lower price tier!) We’re going with a nice grey type style, with an accent strip that has a cool vertical pattern. We hadn’t really seen much of that before, and it’s a nice contrast to the horizontal type patterns that are more common.


Upstairs bathrooms — full on polished marble baby LUXURIOUS GLAMAGANZAAAAA


I hope all these look just as great when full sized. I’m sure they will.

And so we left the appointment quite happy and excited. Inevitably, we did think of some other questions once we left the building. Always happens. And although we (read: I) don’t want to spend another dime at this stage, we did not discuss:

  • wainscoting in the dining room.
  • whether / how to get the kitchen cabinets to rise all the way to the ceiling. Looks better, and above all it removes a huge dust trap

So we’ll get back them on that when they contact us to follow up. But for now, a very successful and fun day!

Floors, surfaces, and design studio drama

Deck notes

When it comes time to actually design the deck, here are some resources to consider. Taken together these have tips about planning, designing, building, maintenance, etc. (Sample: know how big your table will be, then plan at least 4 feet of deck space around it. Neat.)

A lot of these are unfortunately listicles where you have to click for new pages every time you want to see something new. Ugh. But the information is useful.

DIY Network: 10 Tips to Know Before Building a Deck / 10 Things You Must Know About Paver Patios

HGTV: Building Tips and Design Trends for Patios

This Old House (YAAAAS! My dad watched this every Saturday when I was a kid. So many warm and fuzzy memories.): Read This Before You Build Your Deck



Deck notes

Interior and exterior brainstorming

We are still in the stage of major design choices. AKA the fun stuff! There is a lot to choose and a lot to think about.


We had our meeting with Guardian yesterday, to choose the security and electronic (“low-wattage”) elements for the house. Very excited about speaker systems! Researching these is somewhat hard, because you quickly get in the weeds with very technical discussion on home stereo buff sites, and that’s a level of appreciation and technical detail that we aren’t really bringing to the table. They use the Klipsch 2650 or 3650 speakers, but I’m having a hard time finding out what exactly the difference is between them — other than the basic logical principle that the more expensive, the more vaguely “better” it would be.  Whether it is worth it, is the question. It’s certainly a feature that gets a lot of use, so it might be.


I’m super excited about the deck, patio, landscaping, and all other outdoor elements. This is what really makes up for giving up the urban lifestyle – your outdoor spaces! Ryan (or at least the Fairwood development) has a nicely developed landscape plan that comes standard, so for now we’re not going to worry about that. (Though in the future we’ll probably put in a cherry tree or two!) So the advance planning work on the exterior is going to be on the deck and/or patio. Our sales rep at Ryan recommended two companies for it:

Deck and Fence Company in Millersville, MD is Ryan’s standard recommendation; they’ve done many decks in the development. Our sales rep herself used North American Deck and Patio for her house, and loved the result. (their web site is here, Facebook page is here)

I’m starting my research now and will be consulting for quotes, designs, price schemes. Browsing some other Ryan home building blogs, I saw some considerations that others have had to follow — either pouring a foundation for a deck at the same time as the rest of the foundation, or waiting to build at least six months until the house has settled. Our rep said that neither of those would be a concern; we can just plan the deck as we will and not worry about it.


Interior and exterior brainstorming