How to Build a House
Subtitle: “I want my money...”
Step 1: Listen to your wife. This goes for gay couples too because one of you is the wife and you know who you are. The wife KNOWS what land to buy and you need to listen to her. When we went to buy land I preferred a nice piece closer to town, near a nice museum and beautiful farms. Hubby/Hot Roommate and mom (who split land with us) disagreed. We went and put offers in on all sorts of crapola that fell through. Guess what we ended up buying? The FIRST piece of land. That I wanted. For more money. I’m still bitter.
Step 2: Don’t clear the land yourself. We had the insane notion that with a few chainsaws we could successfully clear 1/4 mile (1/2 kilometer) of land in order to create our driveway and then clear 1 acre for the house (sorry, don’t know that metric, I teach Spanish not Math). We got like 50 yards (46 meters) over the course of three weekends when we realized that unless the Incredible Hulk was going to show up and assist, this wasn’t happening. Just call a contractor.
Step 3: Make sure dead famous people might not be buried on your land. At the risk of telling everyone on the planet where I live, there was a chance that a famous man in American History who gave a famous speech buried his wife on our land (b/c it used to be his). See, she went loco and in the 18th century people liked to lock their locos in the basement. And when she died, apparently she wasn’t good enough for a gravestone. Ergo, we were informed that if remains were found on our land that they would need to be examined by state archaeologists before construction would continue. So every day those contractors dug down for that foundation, Jack and I held our breath that one of the lost wives of American History might not be discovered. She wasn’t. Obviously. Since I am blogging from my house.
Step 4: Be smart before you try to save money. Hot Roommate and I had the brilliant idea of doing a lot of work ourselves and hiring our own subcontractors so we could get house and land for 1/2 of what it would normally cost. Now, we did it, we did, with a lot of blood, sweat, tears and almost amniotic fluid. Because I was pregnant when we did this. Very pregnant. And vomiting. For NINE months. NINE. All I could eat for NINE months was Roast Beef slices from Arby’s (no bread), Chick-fil-A iced dream (in a cup) and salsa. That was IT. Alright, back to my point, if you are going to do it yourself, have a plan.
Step 5: Understand the construction loan draw system. When you get a loan to build a house it doesn’t work the same way as the standard mortgage. Every so often you are allowed draws, which let you take some of this loan, put it into your checking account and pay contractors. Please note that I say every so often. Without fail though, if you are doing this yourself, your draws dictated by the bank will NEVER coincide with when you actually have to pay contractors. Much of my house building was spent having conversations like these:
Contractor: The job will be finished tomorrow.
Me: Fantastic, and we will get our next draw next Tuesday.
Contractor: I want to be paid tomorrow.
Me: I understand, but when you took the job I gave you a copy of my draw dates. I cannot draw any sooner.
Contractor: I want to be paid tomorrow.
Me: We will have the money for you on Tuesday sir, like I told you. Besides, Virginia law allows me 30 days to pay you and you are getting paid within 5. That’s pretty good.
Contractor: I want my money.
Ok, the contractor actually didn’t say “I want my money”, my husband just started calling them “I want my money” conversations. For those of you who have built a house, normal contractors know this and how it works, these guys tried to intimidate us because we were really young. They should have known better. I am a black belt. With a temper. Who was pregnant. And teaches high school. I can handle federal prison.
Step 6: Keep an eye on your contractors, especially when you are a young person who looks naive. And especially if a really fat white dude shows up with a truck of Mexicans. This is because usually this nasty man is abusing these day workers and will tell them to cut corners. Which they will, not because they are lazy because Mexicans are the hardest working people on this planet, but because they want to make gross fat man happy to earn more work. Befriend these Mexican workers. Speak Spanish to them (we need a How to... for that, don’t we amigos?). That way, not only do they NOT cut corners, but they work extra hard to make you happy. Oh and slip them some junk food. They like that too.
Step 7: Abuse teenagers. Now, there is a lot of the work you will want to sub out, but there is a lot of work that can be done “yourselves.” And buy “yourselves” I mean by your AP Spanish students. Or the kids you coach on the debate team. Teenagers will help lay vinyl floor (yeah, skip tile until your kids are at least 6, trust me), paint the walls, move furniture and more. And, since you control their fate through grades and/or permission to go to debate tournaments, they will do a good job. The cost. Pizza and Dr. Pepper. Meanwhile, you get to sit your preggo booty in one of those reclining sports chairs with hot tea and watch TV on the tiny black and white portable set you have plugged into the one working electrical socket.
Step 8: Pawn it off on your spouse. Now, this is hard to do since spouses are smart creatures that after a certain number of years have probably figured out your tricks. Me, I was pregnant remember? I could do a lot pregnant in between vomiting spells, but whenever I didn’t want to do something the ‘baby was kicking’, I was ‘dizzy’, I was ‘exhausted’, etc. That got me out of a LOT of work. Michael Shanks does a good one too, he pulls the work card. According to his wife on Twitter, they are doing renovations with contractors in and out of the house while he is away filming, so SHE has to deal with everyone. Smart man; this is why I like you. We think alike. Oh, and lay off with me and the Twitter stuff, it gets me through grading all day because I am NOT in a school building with people to talk too. Mr. Canadian Hot Pants funny tweets > Grading the same essay all damn day long. (There's some math for ya!)
Step 9: Furniture. As always, I have a story. Contracts signed, new last name in place, Jack and I decided to go buy furniture like grown-ups. We went to a high end store, got swatches, brought measuring tape and bought a lovely living room set at an insanely high price with all of the warranties, bells and whistles. It was happily delivered to our new humble abode and we sipped wine on it (or in my case grape juice) to celebrate our next steps into adulthood. 2 weeks later I noticed a rip in the couch. And another rip. I called the store and come to find out, we had been sold the floor model at regular price because the sleazy salesman didn’t want to lose a sale once he found out the sofa had been discontinued. Lots of phone calls and much cursing later, we got NOTHING back. Since, we have learned that most furniture built after 1980 is made of three things: sawdust, glue and unidentified non-natural fabric. Ergo, I REFUSE to buy any furniture now that is NOT antique. In fact, my favorite chair is from 1938. I will give you a how to on this later. Stick it big furniture!! I am gonna bring you down, just wait and see!! (And even more things building a home has made me bitter about.)
Step 10: Relax. Hopefully the dust has settled, no one is calling demanding their money, you have signed enough papers to have single handedly destroyed 30% of Brazil’s rainforest, and you have at least enough furniture to entertain people in two rooms of your house. Make sure that you have your nice bottle of Spanish wine and pour yourself a glass, or a bottle. You deserve it. Oh, and vow to never build a house again. Ever. There are plenty of those b$*#hes pre-made and previously-owned that you should have thought about that in the first damn place.
P.S. - Tonight!! Don’t forget!! The most gorgeous man alive Michael Shanks on Saving Hope! 9 pm. eastern US time!!! NBC!! And NO excuses!! I am running in a 5K race tonight and I am STILL going to make it back in time to watch!! THAT is fan dedication!
And besides, help a man out. He’s doing renovations himself and I am sure someone is starting in on the “I want my money” calls. Handsome, I feel your pain.....