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newrider3 Reader
5/3/20 3:28 p.m.

Since we have a lot of home improvement and general house project build threads lately, and we're almost at the 1 year anniversary of my project beginning, I thought I would share some progress and story for my new home build. 

You'll have to bear with me as I catch up to the present, we bought this piece of property in the mountains outside Denver last June after first seeing it mid-May 2019. We ended up selling our last house in August of 2019 and moving into a rental for a year. Turns out that was the right timing for the housing market to get our money out compared to this summer. Genuine work on the new house didn't begin until this February.

23 acres of mostly mountain and cliff, but tons of great views. Bordering a county park area on one side, and highway frontage far enough away from the build site that you can't hear the cars. The property came with a well, septic, underground electric run down from the road, and a nice flat build site with legal access easement.


First, actually before we even closed on the property, I had plans drawn up. We had found a few online plans that we liked parts of, but we ended up hiring a drafter to start from scratch because it was actually cheaper and easier than buying and modifying stock plans.



After we legally owned the property, I threw up a 12x12 shed for crap storage so we could move out of our old house into a (much smaller) rental. Built it on skids sitting on bricks, which turned out to be a good move because I ended up having the excavators move it about 50 yards.


ultraclyde (Forum Supporter)
ultraclyde (Forum Supporter) UltimaDork
5/3/20 3:33 p.m.

What a beautiful place! Looking forward to reading along on this.

Datsun310Guy UltimaDork
5/3/20 3:37 p.m.

A family we know bought a chunk of property in Wisconsin and put up a 20x40 Menards type garage, sold their house in Chicago 'burbs, moved into a cheap trailer, and built the home they wanted.  

I love the idea of what you are doing.  Keep us posted.  

Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
5/3/20 3:38 p.m.

This is our retirement dream. Colorado for the virws and people. We want the Durango area though.

newrider3 Reader
5/3/20 3:46 p.m.

I really thought we would be breaking ground before winter last year - I had my engineered structural and foundation plans ready to go, and I had stopped by the county Planning and Zoning office with my plans and paperwork to check that I had the correct things and to figure out anything I was missing. It ended up being small things in series that added up to permitting delays - first it was an expired well flow test that had to be redone, then an expired soils/geotech report that had to be redone, then it was a full site grading plan and grading permit despite the fact my land disturbance was below the area threshold for normally needing one, then it was a Manual J design for the heating that was oddly hard to acquire from a number of radiant heating contractors. 

We ended up finally getting our building permit at the beginning of February this year. Just in time for the biggest snowstorms of the winter, after having an unusually mild season up to that point. I actually got myself mildly stuck in the driveway one day in February, which lead to a massive tow bill after the tow truck got hopelessly stuck for 6+ hours after I mistakenly called them thinking it would be an easy recovery. Oh well, lesson learned :p



At this point I thought we wouldn't be breaking ground until many weeks later, due to the snow and frost. My excavators were planning to fit me in between other jobs, and they ended up showing up the last Saturday in February, way sooner than I had feared.  It was a little bit of a muddy mess but not awful.


We didn't dig down too far because this house is slab-on-grade main floor, 36" frost walls with 8" footings, somewhat unusual for the area but the two separate geotech reports indicated the site was all gneiss bedrock from about 6" down that would require extensive blasting and rock hammer work to build a full basement. Plus, I had a full finished basement on the last house and I never used it and I don't want to own/maintain extra space again.


newrider3 Reader
5/3/20 3:53 p.m.

The foundation contractor also surprised me by being ready quickly; the same week the excavators were done. The foundation was complete by the end of the second week of March.

newrider3 Reader
5/3/20 4:07 p.m.

Foundation forms were stripped, then I came in and added dampproofing and foam board insulation around the interior slab edge. Backfill was completed the first week of April. The excavators did a beautiful job, I had them take down an old retaining wall at the rear of the house and cut back/sculpt the hill. They got a good amount of fill material from the hillside, but we still ended up needing to import a bunch of expensive structural fill for the interior backfill. I had imagined the finished floor height being just above the existing elevation of the original meadow, but we built the foundation quite a bit higher to get good drainage and slope around the foundation. You can see the elevation difference between the original site grade and the finished interior subgrade.


newrider3 Reader
5/3/20 4:45 p.m.

In-ground plumbing rough-ins, then insulation panels and PEX tubing for radiant heat. Then flatwork.

newrider3 Reader
5/3/20 5:03 p.m.

Got the framers in finally on 04/24. Fairly quick progress, and they're doing pretty neat and clean work. The house and roof are sheathed as of this weekend; probably have another 4 or 5 days of details, blocking, truss tie plates, strapping, etc. 


Slippery (Forum Supporter)
Slippery (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
5/3/20 5:16 p.m.

That went up fast!

They don't use CBS for the perimeter walls in Colorado? Is that a Florida thing?

Looks great so far, subscribing. 

Datsun310Guy UltimaDork
5/3/20 5:23 p.m.

When I was buying a house my first stop was the basement - show me the foundation, wooden structure, and the main beam.  You built one of the best foundations - great job to you!  Kudos!

newrider3 Reader
5/3/20 5:34 p.m.

Thanks for all the positive replies! We're super excited, I'm stressing and worrying pretty hard about pretty much every step but it's all going to be worth it. Hoping to be moved in before our year lease expires on the rental we're in currently. It's going pretty quickly all things considered, though I'm used to seeing mass-built starter homes in big subdivisions that I've worked in before and those go up in something like 90 days.


In reply to Slippery (Forum Supporter) :

 As in concrete block/CMU wall construction? We don't see it much out here, not in residential at least. The concrete footing+frost wall foundation and stick built walls is pretty much standard in Colorado, though basements are pretty much standard.


In reply to Datsun310Guy :

Yep, our footings are bearing on undisturbed native bedrock, pretty much ideal. 


newrider3 Reader
5/3/20 6:42 p.m.

Last set of pics brings us up to date. It might be hard to even tell what's going on inside for someone who isn't me haha


View through front door to patio door/dining room area:

Dining room from the kitchen:




Looking towards the front door and living room from the back patio door:


Utility room:


Main bath:


Master bath:


Master bedroom:


Bedroom #2


Loft over the bedrooms via room-in-attic trusses. This will be library/office/playroom misc living space. The garage has attic trusses as well but that's unfinished storage for the time being.


maj75 (Forum Supporter)
maj75 (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
5/3/20 6:58 p.m.

We got a place near Park City, UT last year.  I love the radiant heat!  House is warm, floors are warm and my skin and sinuses don't get dried out.  Greatest thing ever!

bgkast (Forum Supporter)
bgkast (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
5/3/20 8:21 p.m.

Looks great!

Azryael Reader
5/3/20 9:39 p.m.

Seeing threads like these, with those vistas, the trees, the snow... makes me want to move back to CO as soon as I can.

Being an Army child, if there's one place I would pick where I'm from other than FL or Germany, it would have to be Colorado. Both times we were stationed at Ft. Carson created some of my fondest memories. There was something about getting up in the morning, hoping on my bike to go to school, and being at the foothills of the rockies. If it was dark enough and not foggy, you'd see the towers atop the mount for NORAD.

I've convinced the lady that at least a "vacation" home up in CO will be in the future; after all, it's only a short hop and skip from TX. I remember some beautiful properties in the area surround Cañon City . I love the Springs, but there's something about the Cañon City area that I've always really liked.

Definitely staying tuned to the house progress, looks fantastic so far!

dculberson (Forum Supporter)
dculberson (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/3/20 10:58 p.m.

That view is amazeballs. And the acreage!! Sweet setup man. 

John Welsh (Moderate Supporter)
John Welsh (Moderate Supporter) Mod Squad
5/4/20 8:33 a.m.

As I got to the floor plans, I studied it and then had a few critiques but then I scrolled farther and realized that concrete has been poured and walls erected.  This sort of makes the critiques a moot point.  I then realize that I should keep my thoughts to myself.  


#1: No direct access from garage to the house.  This might be good for not being interrupted while working out there but is a hassle for unloading groceries. 

#2: No bar stools in the kitchen.  If a short little L was added next to the stove you would gain room for 2 bar stools.  My house doesn't have bar stools either and it is probably the largest complaint that my wife has about the place.  

#3: There is a lot of space given to the doorway in the master bed.  If that door was moved to the right, the area that is the current doorway could be a small walk-in closet.  


Amazing property and views.  

karplus2 GRM+ Memberand Reader
5/4/20 9:02 a.m.

Awesome lot and very cool seeing the progress.

Something to watch out for when you get to that point is window seals. My uncle and aunt both have houses at elevation in CO and both have had issues with brand new windows blowing their seals on the way up the mountain due to pressure differential. My uncle said he had someone unseal the windows at low elevation and re-seal them once installed.

newrider3 Reader
5/4/20 12:01 p.m.

In reply to John Welsh (Moderate Supporter) :

We have definitely considered all the various trade offs, we were actively trying to minimize the square footage of this house so there were some compromises. Our last house was 1550sf upstairs, 1000sf finished basement and 500sf unfinished basement, 4 bed 3 bath, and it was just ridiculous and excessive for us. Our temp rental is something like 1100sf and it feels nice and cozy, I even feel less stressed since I don't have extra space I don't use that I have to clean and maintain. 

The garage access is probably the worst thing on that list, but it doesn't bother us greatly. It's a short walk all under the covered porch, and it would've been odd flow to have a garage service door right next to the bedrooms. 
We had an island with a raised breakfast bar in the old house and I can count on one hand the number of times I sat there in 3 years. 
We also had a decent sized walk-in closet in our old master, we have a fairly small standard closet in this rental and we're doing fine. My wife and I are trying to be more minimalist and keep less crap around and a smaller closet helps with that. Same goes for the lack of a linen closet (the one under the stairs will be the coat closet despite the label), I hate them and they just accumulate spare stuff you never use. Towels can live in the bathroom where you need them, and spare linens can live in drawers under the bed they go to.
The space behind the door is also a good spot for a (locking fireproof box for storage of projectile delivery devices).

I've definitely spent a lot of time agonizing over the details of this project. My wife is generally easy to please and has nearly identical taste for simple/rustic design that I do. It also helps that the kitchen is 100% my domain along with the groceries and cleaning.

I do appreciate detailed comments, even if we're already committed to something, it's good to hear other perspectives.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/4/20 12:21 p.m.

How far are you from Denver? What's the elevation?

Looking great. Thank you for not building a 6,000 square foot monstrosity like all other new construction in the mountains. That is a very reasonably sized construction. Your comment about not wanting unused space seems to be legit :) I really like that porch/veranda across the front, that's going to be popular and it looks right.

Basements are unusual in our part of CO. Most construction is stemwall or slab. I like the radiant heat floor, that's a great way to just make the whole house comfy. Are you going to need any sort of cooling or are you high enough to avoid it?

newrider3 Reader
5/4/20 12:34 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

We're about 20 minutes up the canyon from Golden, or 40-45 minutes from my wife's office in Denver (LoDo area). This is actually a vast improvement in commute for her compared to our old house out North on I25. 

We're at 7400 feet. We have no plans for A/C, just lots of ceiling fans. It does get pretty warm up there in the dead of summer, but I wanted to get away from forced air HVAC for comfort and indoor air quality/allergy/dryness reasons. I think with the level of insulation and air sealing I plan, we should be ok even in hot/cold extremes. We're definitely super excited about the in-floor radiant heat. 


I will (shamefully) admit I often forget about the Western Slope when I'm thinking of standard practices in Colorado. It really feels like a completely different state, really it's like three separate states when you compare Denver Metro to the Western Slope and the Northern Plains where I grew up. 

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/4/20 12:45 p.m.

I went to college in Golden and my best friend from college now lives in Genesee with similar views...

Pretty sweet spot. Congrats!

newrider3 Reader
5/4/20 1:03 p.m.

In reply to Robbie (Forum Supporter) :

My wife and I both went to Mines also, we met in a sophomore project design class. We never really thought we would miss Golden when we moved away after graduating, but we're glad to be back in the area.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/4/20 1:07 p.m.

Nice area! And that's surprisingly close to LoDo. You'll just have to watch out for the Friday/Sunday traffic. Can you get reasonable internet to work from home, if that's a possibility?

Colorado really is at least two different states from just about every viewpoint - political, landscape, population density and cost of living. We'll just ignore the parts that are really just rebranded Kansas and Nebraska :)

Suggestion - the Haiku fans from Big Ass Fans. You can get smart versions that will try to maintain a given temperature and/or are motion sensitive and you can program them to run at different times. Or you can get dumb ones which are like normal ceiling fans. But where they're NOT like normal ceiling fans is that they move a ridiculous amount of air and they're completely silent. They've also got a very minimalist look that you might like. They're expensive, but you only buy them once. They also tend to have 30% sales on the usual weekends and will sometimes dump a bunch of inventory of the low-end stuff via their email list. We actually moved our Haikus from our old house to our new one because there was no way we were leaving them behind :)

The idea of keeping the house small to force limits on stuff is excellent. No matter how big your house is, you WILL fill it. But only until it's full. Then you either start building more sheds or you stop gaining crap.

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