Stemming the Size Tide of Doubt

stem walls 1218

I was deep into a discourse that was intended to be today’s blog entry, but as I was rambling (and rambling and rambling), it became clear that the topic was Bigger Than All of Us, and needs more control than I’m bringing this morning (and now I am fighting for supremacy of the computer and my lap with Na Ki’o, who absolutely will not hold still).

So instead, now that we have somewhat of a definition of stem walls, here is a visual display. They may be made of concrete, but they smell all cementy.

This is the southeast corner of our Someday house, where a bedroom with French doors opening onto the deck that isn’t in the foreground (and, depending on the budget, might not be there immediately anyway).

I keep waiting for this house to look bigger. Instead, every time I’m out there, whether it was paint on the ground, or stakes, or an excavated hole or footers or now stem walls, it still seems small. Dusty keeps assuring us it will seem larger and smaller by turns, as it goes through different phases, but so far we haven’t hit a single “larger” phase.

My dad used to tell Tia she was trying to lead a champagne life on a beer budget, and sometimes — although we didn’t really think we wanted anything fancy — that seems how Lynn and I are trying to build a house.

Through the first three months of design, no matter what we said we wanted, Dusty’s response was automatic: “That’s expensive.” Lynn wanted her kitchen island to be on a diagonal: “That’s expensive.” When we thought we would be cutting some trees down, I wanted to use that cottonwood for shelving or ceiling coverage or something. “That’s expensive.” That’s what we heard when we requested stucco for our exterior finish, too, although when Dusty checked, he reported back that it wasn’t as expensive as he thought.

I wanted to use smart glass for our windows, but that really is expensive — and the Colorado vendor I wanted to use took forever to get back to Dusty, and then coldly informed him that they only do the glass, not the windows themselves. (Huh? How do you suppose they’re still in business?)

Even with a 30% tax credit, my coveted solar panels are likely to have a 15-year payback before they save us any money. I still want them. I gave up the straw walls (a $70,000 savings, if that’s the way you want to view it); passed — not necessarily willingly — on the smart glass; and have made no attempt to harvest the cottonwood that crashed down on the neighboring lot last summer. The solar panels are still in my mix.

But none of this alters the part where I stood outside the stem walls yesterday, trying to envision rooms bigger than the walls make them seem. When we initially provided desired dimensions, we emphasized that these were the internal dimensions. I kind of think that maybe got lost in the 10-month process that involved two different designers and some floor-plan changes, and my fear is that everything will be at least a foot smaller than requested.

One foot doesn’t seem like much, but that could be as much as 25 square feet in one bedroom. When you’re trying to cram 400 desks into one house, that 25 feet could make a difference.

And yet the plans still say it’s a (marginally) bigger house than the one we’re in.

I did think, for an attempt at sweat equity, that perhaps Lynn and I could shovel the snow out from what will become the crawl space. Maybe if we really try that, the house will seem much, much bigger (“Are we done yet?”).

I actually haven’t made any attempt to get inside the walls and walk around. That would involve getting down into a hole, then climbing over a wall with rebar, then getting down — and having to repeat it all to get out. It’s not a plan that fills my knees with enthusiasm, but perhaps I should try it today, possibly with a snow shovel in hand, and see if maybe things seem bigger from the inside than they do from without.

I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

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