Saturday, July 27, 2013

A video tour of my flowers to celebrate 1 year since closing.

     Here's a little video tour of my flowers, if you like that kinda thing, otherwise this is probably going to be boring for you. Also today marks the 1 year anniversary since closing on house 2.0.  And after 1 year I am happy to say it was the best move I ever made.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Now for some yard work (before and after).

I've been giving the yard some TLC lately. Unlike the molding work, I'm doing all this labor myself. Here's the "Before" picture.

And now, the "After" pictures. 
That's 3 yards of crushed red brick nuggets.  

I love my Gorilla Dump Cart.  Go to Lowes and get one. You can thank me later.

Preparing the beds for the bricks.

You can see the bags of pine straw I had to rake out of the beds. That's only half of the bags. Interestingly I was able to give away the used pine straw on craigslist within an hour.

I lined the walkway with edger bricks to keep the  brick nuggets at bay.

Now that the brick mulch is in place, time for some plants.

These are whiskey barrels from Costco. They are made of plastic.
 $17 a piece is a great price for pots this large.

Myles is supervising me while mowing the backyard.

47 bags of pine bark mulch for the perimeter of the yard. The dogs wore out most of the original mulch running back and forth chasing the neighbor's dog.

This spot is shaded most of the days so these impatiens are going to be very happy.

View from the home office.

Audrey is airborne.

Added Cypress mulch to the tree. Also stuck 2 more whiskey barrels full of impatiens in the shady corner. Did I mention 47 bags of pine bark mulch?!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Trimming out the Verona - The "After" video

Update: 11/23/13  This molding work was performed by Tant Home Improvements. I would strongly advise against using Mike Tant's services. While Mike is an excellent carpenter. his service after you hand him a large check is lacking. After he was paid we found a couple of defects. It took a great deal of effort to get him to come back to the house. He told us we are "Too picky." The repairs took him roughly 10 minutes.   He said he lost money to have to come back to fix his work (work that I paid several thousand dollars for). My advice would be if you choose to use his services, go over the work with a fine tooth comb before you cut the check.
  • Chair rail in foyer and front room. 
  • Crown moldings
  • Picture frame moldings
  • Frame out the Windows
  • Frame out the room openings.
  • Paint all trim.
Note he had to change out the window sills. Ryan doesn't cut them long enough for the moldings so they had to be replaced.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Trimming out the Verona - The "Before" video

     It's time for a project. Today I am having moldings and trim work done in the foyer and the den (officially the dining room in the Verona).  I did not buy a molding package with the house as I did not know one was available. I'm confident the package Ryan offered didn't include all this work though.  Today I am posting the "Before" video.  I am getting Chair Rails, picture frame and crown molding.  He will also case the windows and case the openings to the room so they look like doorways.  It should be quite the metamorphosis.   This guy comes highly recommended and so far it's looking awesome! I will post the "After" video on Thursday or Friday. It will be fun moving the 75 gallon fish tank away form the wall.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

About face!

I decided to make a couple of changes to the front of the house.  This was something I wanted originally and decided to do it after the fact. It was painful watching the demolition to perform this work but it came out perfect and I'm really pleased. Here's a before and after picture. 

The work was performed by Charlotte Custom Stone who did the original stone work on the house.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Latest tweak!

      Things are going well in "Verona Alley."   No major issues with the house. Ryan has been amazingly responsive to any warranty requests that have come up. Usually within one day, my request is acknowledged and promptly addressed.  All builders will be your best friend during the build, but it's after the build that counts the most. I hope this doesn't sound like a paid commercial  lol but I really need to recognize Ryan Homes for the service I've received.

     Here's the latest tweaks in the kitchen. Pendant lights added above the center island. I'm very pleased with these. Also had under-cabinet lighting added as well. I went with good old fashioned fluorescent lights because they are cheap to operate and run very cool. Other types of lights produce quite a bit of heat and can affect things inside the cabinets.

Meet Cocoa and Carmen, the newest residents of the house. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The long awaited 3 month update is here!

Hi all! It's been about 4 months in the Verona now, so I guess really it's a 4 month update. My blog title mentions "Another Verona" well since then, it's been another and another and another Verona. I've lost count but with the exception of maybe 1 house, there are about 8 or 9 consecutive Veronas on my side of the street. They are at least varied in elevations. The last lot on my side of this street is going up and yeah, you guessed it, another Verona. This last one will be a copy of my house and elevation :(  I guess I will need to be careful coming home at night choosing the correct Verona. It's definitely a bit disappointing that Ryan is allowing identical plans and elevations so close to each other, but it is what it is. So back to my Verona! I am finally sitting down to update the blog as I'm home with Jenn who decided to put some spice into Thanksgiving this year by testing the laws of gravity at her relative's house on Thursday. Gravity is confirmed. We enjoyed an ambulance ride to the hospital where they located her missing knee cap and "Popped" that sucker back in place. Sounds easy right? Jenn will disagree.

     So let's see, what can I tell you about the Verona. Here's a few highlights that may help if you are building a Verona or any Ryan house for that matter.

Foundation:  The house was built on a crawl space. I do like how the floors don't get cold and the ease of access under the house.  Only drawback I can tell you is that it's a bit noisier walking on the floor downstairs as opposed to a slab because there's some degree of flex. It's easy to hear someone walking downstairs.

Landscape: Big fail on the grass. Ryan put seed and straw in the backyard at the beginning of August. I don't think 1 blade survived. As you'll see below, I gave up and sodded the yard because the dogs were constantly bringing mud into the house. They should offer a deferred seeding in the fall. It's impossible to grow grass in the Summer, at least here in N.C.

The Floor Plan:   I'm very pleased with the floor plan.  The downstairs bedroom option was a great choice. Not only was it good for company, but also it is now an infirmary for Jenn who is currently challenged by the 16 step climb to the master bedroom. I really love the kitchen and the endless counter space. I also enjoy the Morning Room for the dinette. I'm very pleased with my choice to not get the Fireplace. I can't imagine how I would have set up the Great Room with the fireplace taking up the wall.   I am also enjoying the roomy laundry room upstairs and having the tub in there is handy for my fish tanks. I know everybody says they don't have enough closet space but I really feel that for a 3380 sq. ft. house, the closet space is poor.  I am glad I chose the closet option in the bonus room even though it eats up some of the room.  I converted the mudroom closet and the home office closet to storage. I had several tiers of shelves installed instead of the one linen rack.

Flooring:  If I could do it again, I would take builder grade carpet and pad, no upgrade. I would tear it out day 1 and buy "Good" stuff. The price of the upgrades at Rite-Rug was staggering. The level 1 carpet was pretty disappointing. It feels very thin and cheap. I got the Stainmaster waterproof carpet pad which is good but, wow, I spent a fortune on that upgrade too.  I don't see this carpet holding up long term.  I like the hardwood flooring in the kitchen. Guests usually compliment it.  It does however  have some "snap crackle and pop" noises that Ryan says is "Normal."  This is likely due to being on a crawl I assume.

Electrical:  Overall the outlets worked out well. Only one half-hot ended up in a bad spot behind my office desk. I'm not sure how I missed that when picking the location.  Since closing I added an additional outlet in the powder room for a nightlight.   If I could do it again I probably would have put an outlet in the stair well for a nightlight or the vacuum cleaner. I don't like how the lights over the bathtubs for the hall bathroom and downstairs bathroom come on with the main light.  I wish it had been separated like it is in the master bath. I am going to pursue having a switch added for that. The house uses all CFLs. They definitely save money but they take a while to heat up. I'm entertaining changing them in the kitchen to standard bulbs but I do like the savings. We joke about having to Pre-heat the lights before we eat.

Cable and Network: I'm still bitter about the cost of working with Guardian. As a reminder it was $125 for every jack whether it was phone, cable or network. I would have done more network wiring but spent a fortune on the jacks I chose just to have cable in every room.  Recently I found out how Guardian skimped on the phone wiring. Normally a phone line can support 2 lines. I recently added a second line of service and discovered that Guardian wired the outlet for ONE phone line. They literally did not use the second pair. Would they have charged me another $125 for a 2 phone line jack? I don't know, but I certainly didn't call them.  The cable guy also found one bad wire where they did a bad crimp and was affecting one of the TVs.  Luckily the cable guy fixed it so I didn't have to call Guardian. I've heard many people get at least one bad cable.

Plumbing: Water pressure in the house is okay but not great. The plumber says the reducing valve is already maxed, I need to confirm that. When showering it's pretty noticeable when someone turns on water during a shower.  The tank-less hot water heater works fine but it does concern me. We originally had problems getting consistent hot water on the first week in the house when showering. The plumber came back and removed the water restrictors from the shower heads. Apparently the water heater wasn't sensing enough draw and would intermittently not heat the water. Now it works fine but I find it ironic that in the house that Ryan boasts as Energy Star 3.0 I am forced to use more water when showering in order to make the tank-less water heater happy.   I do see a difference in the gas bill from not having a conventional tank, but I fear those savings will be given right back the day that tank-less needs it's first repair.  I am not an expert on water heaters but I do believe for a 3 bathroom house, Ryan put the very bare minimum size water heater in. It's rated at 1-3 concurrent showers.  One thing I want to clarify is that instant hot water doesn't mean instant hot water from the faucets. You still have to wait for the water to run through the pipes to get the faucet, so you still stand there waiting just like a conventional tank.

HVAC:  I was given very little information about my HVAC system.  While I know a great deal of math goes into calculating the size for an A/C I am confident Ryan skimped here. I have a 3.5 ton unit which is for the entire house. I only had 1 month of high temperatures left when I moved in but the A/C definitely struggles in the bonus room over the garage. They don't put a return in the bonus room, personally I think there should be one. The vendor who did the HVAC system refuses to discuss anything about the system. The vendor responds with "Ryan designed it, not us" to just about everything I've asked. It's almost like they signed a gag order. The heat however, works really well.   The house is also equipped with a Honeywell fresh air circulation system. It regularly pulls in outside air and circulates it. This is nice, but if you turn off your HVAC, you will still hear the system cycle on and off regularly so that the blower can circulate fresh air.  My furnace is located in the hallway. It seemed loud at first, but now I don't notice it anymore.

Warranty Requests: I haven't had any real show stopper issues. Anything I've called in has been addressed very quickly by Ryan or their vendors.

   As far as tweaks to the house, here's some things I've done.  I had a split rail fence installed in the backyard. I also bit the bullet and had the backyard sodded. Also had 4 arborvitaes added on each side to ultimately give some privacy in the morning room. and when sitting on the deck.  A little maple tree was planted too for Myles to do this thing. I've added a dog door next to the sliding door which you'll see in the pictures below.  I added some cabinetry to the upstairs which matches what the house came with. So as usual, completely randomized by the blogger editor, here's some improvements since closing.
Master bath tip-outs from Rev-a-Shelf. 

Morning room side of the yard with the 4 Arborvitaes. The yard is sodded and
a natural area around the perimeter to keep maintenance easy along the fence. It also
attracts the dogs so they hopefully do their business away from the sod. That theory works, sometimes.

Pella Storm Door added. You can see Audrey and Myles ready to bark at passers-by

An attempt to take a panoramic picture of the yard.  The yard is a rectangle in reality. 4 Arborvitaes on the left and right sides. 

I had the garage finished and painted. Also added an 8 ft. fluorescent on the ceiling. Lights up the entire garage quite nicely.

This room is supposed to be the dining room in the Verona. Because the morning room is the eating area, this room is now called the den or front room or sitting room, whatever you choose. It seems to be the most popular room in the house for some reason. This is a 75 gallon aquarium. It has African Cichlids which are still very tiny but it won't be long before the tank is swarming.

Hall entry bench and coat hooks from Hayneedle and Kirkland's respectively.

Another view of the "Front Room". Jenn is on the couch convalescing from her injury. The dogs watching every move I make as usual. 

I'm really liking the porch.  We got the porch furniture a few weeks ago at Garden Ridge. For some reason the ones we pick are never the ones on sale.

Here's the Great Room. Still hoping to score a larger TV during the holiday weekend. Notice nobody is in there. It's so much more comfortable in the small front room...LOL

Another view of the porch furniture.

This is called a Valet Cabinet. I hooked up with the cabinet vendor after closing. This matches the original cabinetry. It's above the toilet in the powder room. The cabinet is perfect for extra supplies and the shelf is a very inviting place to put the iPhone down.

Myles is frustrated because I put the security panel in the dog door. He's dying to get out there and bark at anyone or anything.

Added a matching medicine cabinet to the master bathroom. Seriously I don't understand why this isn't standard or even optional. 

A view outside of the dog door. This dog door features dual flaps and both inner and outer locking security panels  As far as I was able to research this is one of, if not the best pet doors on the market. It's from Hale Pet Doors. It's pricey but given I was cutting a whole in a brand new house I didn't want plastic junk. 

Inside view of the dog door. I was originally thinking I'd have to give up the outlet but the door just fit. This is probably the most critical tweak in the house because the dogs are in and out countless times per day. 

Tip-out added to the kitchen.

Myles on his way out after I removed the panel. 

This is looking into the front room from the Great Room.
This is the study featuring my "Guest" computer workstation.

Upstairs guest room.

46 gallon Goldfish tank in the home office. This room would normally be one of the upstairs bedrooms. 

I liked the valet cabinet so much in the powder room I had to add one to the hall bathroom.

The bonus room. That workstation is for my personal use and paying the many bills accrued by a new house.  Exercise equipment in the Alcove plus cold beverages in the fridge.  
Another view of the powder room with its valet cabinet.

I tore out the wire shelving in the laundry room and replaced with Timberlake cabinets. The color is called nutmeg.