Building at the Ledge – Part 10 (Home Inspection & Tour)

Well, we passed our final inspection on Friday, October 6th!

This means that the El Dorado County Building Department is finished with us, and that I should be expecting a tax re-assessment soon.

It does not, however, mean that T.B. is finished. He is still completing the exterior trim, and has a few odds and ends to complete.

The interior is finished, however, I’ve moved in, and I had a housewarming party October 21st to celebrate.

Home Exterior

The bump-out for the kitchen windows was designed by T.B. to add some character to the front. It is finished with cedar to match the soffit coverings and entry, and vertical strips of redwood left and right. A stone ledge runs along the bottom.

As you enter the house, you look to the south through the great room, over the back porch, through the willows to the river. A pair of French doors on the left provides access to the porch.

On the right a pair of casement windows surround a picture window. The television is tucked into a corner just to the right of this picture. You may want to refer to the floor plan if you find yourself getting lost.

One change from the floor plan — I decided not to install the wood stove. There were three reasons: money, space, and lack of perceived need. The chimney is in place, however, so that I can add it later if I change my mind.

The window tops are 8 feet from the ground; the ceiling starts at approximately 10 feet on the north and south walls and peaks at around 14 feet. Note the six skylights in the porch roof; in the winter they bring sunlight into the great room almost to the center.

The next two photo shows the great room. The entry door is trimmed in plum; the green trim marks closets and bookcasees. The blue doors in the left photo lead to the guest bedroom (northwest corner of the house) and guest bath.

Great Room

I had a lot of fun picking trim colors. Originally we were going to use stain-grade trim, but it was just too expensive and we were already over budget. I’d also planned to paint a couple of walls, but was a bit chicken and had trouble coming up with colors.

When T.B. suggested burgundy or hunter green for all the baseboards and door trim, I balked. It seemed way to formal — even boring! So I came up with the idea of painting the various pieces of trim in random colors.

I asked my artist friend Michelle for advice, and she suggested a palette of five colors. I chose green, blue, gold, plum and a salmony color named "chili pepper." The painter pointed out that random color changes added time and expense, so I settled on green for baseboards, closets and the vertical bookshelf.

Master Bathtub

The bedroom and bath doors are trimmed in blue; the office and utility room door in chili pepper, the entry in plum, and all the kitchen stuff in gold. In some rooms we painted wall sconces to match the trim — $10 each at Home Depot and they look pretty spiffy with the paint!

Continuing to move to the right, you will next see the kitchen and dining areas. I’ll come back to the kitchen later. For now I’ll just point out the wonderful high bookcase above the counter, and the hanging shelf for plates and such — painted in gold and chili pepper.

In the photo below, you can see the full ceiling height at the ridge. This gable window faces east; there is another at the west end. They are delightful additions to the room.

Great Room Ceiling

The two beams that run the length of the room are the purlins; they support the roof. They’re gluelam beams, and have been sanded and finished with a clear coat. The ceiling fan can be used in the summer to draw the warm air up and out through the two ridge skylights, or in the winter to push warm air back down into the room.

One of the design rules when using structural insulated panels to form the roof is that one is not supposed to mount light fixtures in the ceiling — it eats into the insulation of the house. Hence the light soffits that run along the north and south sides of the house, and the track lights that you can just barely see attached to the purlins.

There are additional light soffits in the kitchen and master bedroom, and track lights in the office, kitchen and utility rooms. This turned out to look and function very nicely, but added an unexpectedly large amount of money — consider it a hidden cost of using the roof panels.

Master Bedroom

The porch on the south side is made of concrete. T.B. is still finishing the trim out there so the photos will have to wait another week at least. Suffice it to say that when the sun hits the concrete, it warms up the porch nicely. In the summer time the sun is higher in the sky so the oven effect isn’t a problem.

In general, heating and cooling have worked pretty much as advertised. The house is so well-insulated that it doesn’t heat up much during summer days. Of course, this means it doesn’t cool down that much at night either!

So the cooling system requires a lot of human activity — opening all the windows and skylights in the evening, and turning on fans, then closing the house up in the morning. This is not a problem for me now, but I do wonder sometimes how it will work out if I ever break a leg or find myself in a wheelchair in my 80s!

The heating system has only been in use the past couple of weeks. The radiant floors are GREAT! It took a bit of time to calibrate them — I tended to set the thermostat too high and to come on too early. But I must say I’m very happy with the quality of the warmth. Haven’t enough data to comment on the efficiency but I expect that my propane bills will be quite reasonable.

Home Office

Finally we get to the office, in the southwest corner of the house. The photo above shows the entrance to the office in all its chili pepper splendor. As you can see, I have my computer set up so that I have a view to the river on my left, and into the trees on my right. (Of course today the view is T.B. on a ladder finishing the porch trim!)

The office door opens onto the porch over looking the river. The trim should have been painted chili pepper instead of gold, but this door was done before the plan was fully established so it’s a bit of a rebel. That bland box to the left of my chair is a lateral file cabinet. I’m thinking of painting it too, maybe with a mural, or perhaps putting a poster on the back.

The kitchen windows face to the north, to the driveway, so that I can see whether my guests are arriving for dinner. The bump-out gives me a slightly deeper countertop near the windows, providing space for some plants.

Kitchen Details

The concrete countertop is by far my favorite part of the kitchen. T.B. built forms on the lower cabinets and poured the concrete in place. We added a coloring powder to the concrete before pouring, which gave it a nice brown color.

After the concrete had cured, T.B. spent a couple of days polishing the surface so that it is silky-smooth, and then sealed it with several coats of acrylic. It is not quite bulletproof, but not at all delicate either. It has the seamless feel of Corian or granite, but has a wonderfully earthy, organic look to it.

The materials are less expensive, of course, but the overall the cost is in the same range as these other materials, because of the intensive labor required for building the forms, pouring and working the concrete, and polishing and finishing it.

The cabinets are made by Kraft-Maid, sold through Home Depot. They have a clear maple finish, and shaker style moldings. The original plan called for an additional maple cabinet at the end of the peninsula, but when we placed it on the counter the effect was awful. It blocked too much of the view to the river, separated the kitchen from the great room, and took up a substantial chunk of counter space.

I didn’t want to completely eliminate that cabinet, however, as I needed a place for plates and bowls — and I wanted it to be convenient to the counter, the dishwasher and the dining room table. In trying to come up with a more open cabinet, I remembered what T.B. had done in my storage shed, using threaded rods to hang shelves. So we adapted the threaded rods notion for the kitchen.

The shelves are MDF, painted to match the other interior trim colors. The threaded rods are secured inside the soffit at the top, then go through holes in the shelves. Sections of painted metal pipe separate the shelves from each other and also camouflage the rods. Nuts at the bottom hold it together. As it happens, I have been collecting plates and other serving pieces in various bright colors for almost 30 years, so this also gives me a fun way to enjoy them.

There is another special cabinet. It’s built into the soffit over the peninsula, and is the perfect place for the turkey roaster, giant serving bowl, crock pot, waffle iron and other items that I don’t use very often. I have a small oak stepladder that allows me to reach up there.

The range is made by Dacor. It has a gas (propane) cooktop and an electric convection oven. It has many of the features of commercial-style ranges at a much more reasonable price, and has so far been wonderful to use. The cooktop is remarkably simple and easy to clean up after a spill, which is important for a wild and crazy cook like myself!

There is a lot of lighting. The photos show the lights in the soffits and under the counters, but there is also a large skylight and a track light on the ceiling. I never need to turn them all on, but it is nice to focus light on the task at hand.

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