Featured Posts

  • Castle Wall Stone Options

    One of the main reasons to build a castle is because you like the way castles look, obviously. Otherwise you wouldn’t take on such an ambitious building project. One of the key components to how they look is the exterior stone cladding for your walls, and that can also be a significant budget expense. I’m… [more...]

    Castle Wall Stone Options
  • Exciting Day: First Looks at Castle Exterior

    After dreaming this place up at least a decade ago, putting it in the “what if” and “maybe someday” category, gradually moving it into the “possibly” category, then the “probably” category, and now hopefully in the “definitely” category.  After over a year of finally getting down to the nitty gritty and nailing down the interior… [more...]

    Exciting Day: First Looks at Castle Exterior
  • An Energy Efficient Castle

    We’re building with concrete, for a number of reasons. It is strong, it can survive hurricanes and tornadoes, it is thick, giving us the wall thickness we desire, but also it is incredibly energy efficient, and I wanted to build an energy efficient castle. Concrete has immense thermal mass which allows it to only slowly… [more...]

    An Energy Efficient Castle
  • My Modern Castle Design Philosophy

    I am not building a time capsule. It is not my desire to recreate a castle as it existed back in 1350. I am aiming for a more evolutionary structure. Conceptually with the idea that the castle may have been originally built many hundreds of years ago, and the bones of the structure would be… [more...]

    My Modern Castle Design Philosophy
  • What Makes a Castle a Castle?

    Sometimes a castle may be hard to define, but like the courts with obscenity, you know it when you see it. Or rather, you know it when you do not see it. I have a pet peeve about people calling non-castles castles. Some people think you can put stone on the outside of something and… [more...]

    What Makes a Castle a Castle?

Castle Great Hall Feast Table

I have ordered the top for my table. I have always dreamed of have a big slab table, and I love walnut, how you get the different colors between the sap wood and the heart wood, so it was always going to be a walnut slab table top.

Walnut Slab Today, Great Hall Table Tommorow

Walnut Slab Today, Great Hall Table Tommorow

I got this from Goby Walnut. I’m sure there are other places one can buy a giant walnut slab, but I have not found them. This slab is 4 and a half feet wide and 14 feet long. It should sit 16 people, possibly more if people get friendly. One of the dreams I’ve had is being able to host my whole family for a holiday, parents, in-laws, brothers (I have 3) with their families. Getting everyone around a single table would be special.

14 feet is just about the perfect size for my great hall. Currently in my existing house we have a semiformal dining room (I hesitate to call it formal considering what the kids do to it) and we have a nice 6 foot mahogany inlaid table that can grow with the aid of leaves to 10 feet, and it barely fits with the leaves but it is nice for parties, this slab will be both longer and wider, and it’ll not feel crowded because the room is so large in the castle. It will also be heavy, so heavy it is unlikely to ever be moved. The top itself is 800+ pounds, once the legs are on it’ll go up more.

Sometimes you see these slab tables and they’re finished with a very modern sort of look, ultraflat, ultrasanded, etc. I’m hoping to achieve a more rustic finish, some degree of unevenness on the top (not so much though that cups will be spilled). I am not sure how we’ll finish it, other than not polyurethane. Possibly a penetrating oil of some sort so that the wood continues to wear and age and get character, or maybe a shellac. I like natural wood finishes, polyurethane and similar finishes never look authentic.

I as of yet have not picked out chairs for my great hall. I sort of like these beefy rustic chairs but I could also see going with something fancier like this but in a different color of course. Whatever I choose I am going to need like 20 of them so it will not be a small purchase.

Castle Interior Design

I sometimes get questions about what our castle will look like on the interior, and coincidentally I just saw an ad in a magazine that epitomized it pretty well.

Castle Interior

You could call it “mountain rustic” or ever a variation on log cabin or western styles. There are three key elements.

1. Exposed grey stone
2. Dark wood
3. Plaster-like walls in an antique white.

That is the color pallet, grey, dark brown, and antique white. This is very similar to western or log cabin styles except our wood stain is darker than those styles typically use, and instead of western motif decor we’ll have gothic or celtic style decor.

What is important to understand is that I am not building a time capsule. Some people like to do that, and that is fine, but that is not my taste. I am not trying to pretend I’m living 500+ years ago, I’m trying to pretend that my house was built 500 years ago, but it has been lived in continuously, and has evolved over that time period.

So on the first floor we’ll have exposed “bones” of the house where you’ll see exposed stone and wood beams and the like, but also there will be parts that look like they were done maybe in the 1920s (such as, electric lights). Public areas of the 2nd floor will be similar, but with less stone, and on the 3rd floor or above it will just be house, no specific style. Nice oak trim through out, but just regular drywall, nothing too special.

In designing the house, the overall shape of the house was dictated by my desire for a castle, but the interior was nearly 100% dictated by what I though would be the most comfortable configuration for our lifestyle. I tried to envision my family living there, how we would function, and designed the house to that purpose. I located things like stairways and bathrooms at locations I thought that would be most convenient to us. So inside, the decor will have this unique old character to it, but the layout itself is very modern. Open flowing rooms, pretty much the entire 1st floor is one giant room, it is sorta bifurcated by the central staircase, into maybe two big rooms, or one giant doughnut of a room, depending on your point of view. The rooms on upper floors are also all typically larger, which is of course not typical in older houses.

There will be very little “fancy” in the castle. We are not “fancy” people and we are not building a palace. No hand inlaid italian marble murals. No custom curving mahogany stairways. The flooring we want to use should look like it came right out of an old pub, very well worn. Many of the other wood elements will have rustic finishes on them. Most of our light fixtures are wrought iron. Rustic really is the key word here. In that respect we’re sticking to a more traditional castle interior, not a later manor house or palace that can be called (erroneously in my opinion) a castle. Castles were military installations, and derived their architecture and other features from their needed function, not any aesthetic desire. The exception will be the master bathroom because, come on, its the master bathroom. The most private room in the castle, and we’re making it fairly modern and fancy. Otherwise the only thing potentially fancy will be the stained glass in the windows, because I love stained glass.

Castle Loan Details

So I guess the loan is real, I have the paperwork, signed, sealed, delivered, no backing out now. I guess I can safely talk about it without jinxing anything.

I thought, all along, that I would provide a litany of the banks that said no, but we’d be here all day. Pretty much, you can assume that if the bank exists, at some point they said no to me. I probably spoke with 30 banks all told. Some told me no straight off the bat, they either didn’t do construction loans, or didn’t want to do one this large. Others lead me on for awhile before saying no, some loan officers tried really hard but ultimately could not get the approval.

A few of them said they would loan me the money, but only if I deposited a nearly equal amount with them first. Some said they could do it, but at half the required amount. Many blamed federal regulations making it too hard for them to do it. Many told me the problem was the appraisals, our appraisals were high enough, but they were nonconforming to regulations because our comparables were too old and too far away. It has to be sometime like sales within 90 days within a mile – so good luck if you’re out in the country. There are many places where you’d never find 3 homes that have sold in the last 90 days similar to yours within a mile of yours. Then of course, many simply thought that if I was building a McMansion it would be okay, but they worried that, even with my 50% down payment, they would take a loss on it in the (inconceivable) event of a foreclosure, because, who wants to live in a castle? I mean, yuck, right?

Ultimately I actually used some website, because I thought, what could it hurt? To get “multiple loan offers” blah blah, I’m sure you’ve seen the ads for sites like it. Through this site a mortgage broker out of Florida contacted me. He said he thought he could get me a loan, he worked on commission, 2% of the loan. That is pretty steep, but I didn’t have a lot of options. So I said okay. I was still free to keep looking for banks, but if I went with one he referred I’d owe him 2%. Ultimately, he got me back in with two banks that had told me no before already, Sun Trust and BB&T. Sun Trust sort of dragged their feet and while their initial offer was really nice, it was hard to work with them and they didn’t respond very quickly, and we’re already about 9 months late on starting. BB&T worked steadily through the underwriting and ultimately approved the loan and I went with them. I got a $2 million construction loan that converts to a permanent 30 year mortgage on completion. The rate floats within a range for now, Sun Trust was going to lock a rate in the low 3s which I would have preferred, but like I said, they were taking awhile and their approval was not guaranteed. So now I owe the mortgage broker $40,000.

What? I mean seriously, I want to be angry at him, $40,000 for a phone call and an email? Nice work if you can get it. Just for “selling the sizzle not the steak” as he said. But I can’t be angry at him, all he did was exactly what he said he would do, and I agreed to it, and ultimately without him I would not have this loan. So I can’t be angry at him, and as much as I’m going to dislike writing that check, that is his money. I can be angry at the banking system overall for forcing me to use him. I should be an ideal borrower, wealthy, well employed, large down payment, excellent credit, and our banking system was hard for me to use. No wonder the middle class is still hurting. Our government has this habit of gross overreaction. So we had a banking crisis largely caused by poor regulation, and the solution is more poor regulation swinging the pendulum too far in the other direction. When what we needed was not more regulation, merely smarter regulation. So now, instead of being too easy to get a loan, it is too hard. One option presented to me was to put my home into an LLC and then I could have gotten a commercial loan on it because the regulations were more lax for those so they could get it done.

So BB&T is the winner, but even then it wasn’t a perfect situation. They had to charge a slightly higher interest rate because the loan wasn’t going to be underwritable enough to market it as a security or ever sell it. So BB&T was going to have to keep it in-house no matter what.

So now, I think, I can take the banking stress out of my life, and instead replace it with building stress.

Facts & Stats

I had to just add some stuff up to help some bids get put in, and I thought I would share.

The castle has a total of 10147 square feet conditioned above grade that you can stand on. I phrase it like that because we have some double height ceilings and some people count that as double square footage, but you can’t stand on air, so I don’t. Additionally there are 2632 partially finished partially conditioned basement square feet, 1035 unconditioned basement square feet. Then there is an attached unfinished unconditioned bare concrete floor/wall/ceiling patio basement (an artifact of the bedrock, slope, and position of the house) essentially a parking garage, that is 3544 square feet.

We will have 9 bathrooms. It seems like a lot, what governed our decisions on bathroom placement was making sure one was accessible without you having to walk halfway across the house or up or down a stair. You have to plan for things like the pool, do you want people to have to walk, dripping wet, across the house to use the bathroom or do you add one near the door to the pool? Many of these bathrooms are just half baths though. There will be 8 bedrooms, though not all of them will be used as such.

There will be a total of ~179 light fixtures, including things like fans and garage door openers. The kitchen is 314 square feet, which is just 3% of the conditioned total, and even less of the gross total.

Our total acreage is 20, and most of that is wooded forest.

I Have a Loan

After dealing with banks for a solid year, I’m happy to announce I finally have a loan. We could close as early as Friday, construction will start soon, I’m really happy, though now that it is finally real I am also a little anxious. In the time that has passed there has been some material inflation but I hope it isn’t too bad. I’ll post more details after we close, I don’t want to jinx anything.

I visited last weekend to do some business related things and took some more pictures of the lot. This was after some of the final grading was done and some rocks were moved around. It was also right after what Chattanooga called Snowmageddon, but as I’m from Michigan I found that adorable. The whole property was covered with snow on Friday and Saturday, but gone by Sunday.

My Builder and I.

My Builder and I.




Then I thought I would include this picture, what I call the best undeveloped view of Chattanooga. This is the lower 5 acres of my property, you can’t even get the entire view in the picture, if I had panned to the left you’d see more of downtown as far as Veterans Bridge, so essentially it is an unobstructed view of everything between Veterans Bridge to Lookout Mountain, and as low as Moccasin Bend. I’ll sell it one day or put cabins on it or something, I prefered the larger building site up higher for my own build as I like land and gardens, this is more of a brow spot, but it sure is a nice view.

The Best Undeveloped View of Chattanooga

The Best Undeveloped View of Chattanooga

Not Much to Report

Do I have a loan? No. I have three banks working on it, I’ve paid for more appraisals. The most recent appraisal was the highest yet, putting my loan-to-value (LTV) at 44%, and yet still no finalized loan. I do have “preliminary approvals” at two banks but I’ve heard that before.

Business is doing good to the point where I’d almost be there to just self finance, and I think perhaps in another year (maybe two) I could indeed to do that, not need a bank at all, but I don’t want to wait, still, you’d think with my strong financials getting a loan would be the least of my problems.

I have however recently done two interesting things. The first is I found a coppersmith to make me a custom copper sink. I found them on eBay actually and I asked them if they could customize one of their designs. I’m really pleased with how it turned out. It is a large copper farm house style apron sink with two bowls and 5 square quatrefoils on the front. There is a slight concavity to the front face, which will allow it to blend in nicely with our countertops, which are curved along the outside wall of one of the towers. See the kitchen post. This was $1500, which if you’ve ever priced out as sink like this is a great deal, of course I bought it direct from the fabricator, not from a middleman.

My Custom Copper Sink

My Custom Copper Sink

The second thing I bought is a sconce. This is also a custom design. I saw this light fixture at Disney world hanging off Cinderella’s castle and I had to have it. Of course that one was maybe 6 feet tall, mine is half the size, but it has all the style. What I particularly liked was that it didn’t have a fake candle. I’m not a big fan of fake candle light fixtures, I like the light bulb to be enclosed in shaded glass or something (in the case of my sconce it is mica, which is technically a rock, just a sort of flexible rock crystal they can cut so thin as to make it pliable). Glass shades give you greater flexibility in bulb types as well. I also liked how the metal came up and formed a basket around the glass. Finally, and importantly. I liked the angle of it. I see a lot of “torch” sconces where the torch is held parallel to the wall, but I don’t think that is period correct and I simply also prefer the look where the torch angles away from the wall. This thing is custom made in Texas, is solid steel, 3 feet long, weighs a good deal, has a nice antique finish on it. $380, I am getting a little bit of a discount because I’m buying in bulk. We’re going to need a bunch of these sconces all around the 1st floor interior. Neat huh, and I also think it is a good deal.

This is my sconce, there are many like it but this one is mine.

This is my sconce, there are many like it but this one is mine.

My Sconce, Front View

My Sconce, Front View

My Sconce, Side View

My Sconce, Side View

The inspiration for my sconce, see on Cinderalla's Castle at Disney World.

The inspiration for my sconce, see on Cinderalla’s Castle at Disney World.

My sconce was done by Iron Gallery LLC, I shopped around and they gave me the best deal and all told I’m super impressed by the quality of the work. In addition to doing lighting they do other things like doors, and I tell you what it is really hard to find giant metal 10 ft x 4.5 ft gothic arch castle doors on the shelf at home depot, and we plan to use this same company to do both some of our other light fixtures (like the ginormous one in the great hall) but our custom doors as well. Actually one of the doors I picked was one of their stock doors, if you browse their site maybe you’ll find it, it is square but with a gothic arch window.

One of the goals I have with my blog is to reputationally reward the suppliers used on the build. For two reasons, one because people who do good work deserve credit, and one because I know how hard it is to find some of this stuff and I hope to be helpful to any future would be castle builders. So I plan to plug the vendors contractors and everyone else I use as I use them so long as they continue to perform and provide me deals and do good work and all that jazz. If I wanted to be funny I could say it is like reverse product placement, instead of them paying me, I pay them. I really need to figure out how to do it the opposite way…

So that is all, when I do have a loan, which could be by the end of this month if I’m lucky, or by Valentine’s day, or maybe not until this Summer if I’m really, really, really unlucky, I’ll post here first thing.

Banking Frustration

I’ve really been wanting to use a local bank for the build because I think they understand the Chattanooga market better than a national bank and I think they would be easier to work with and have a better grip on what I’m trying to do.

I’ve been told by two banks that if I was building a boring plain McMansion it wouldn’t be a problem, I’ve been told repeatedly my numbers are good, my downpayment is good (I’m putting nearly 50% down if you can believe that), credit good, income good, castle… not good. They don’t understand the castle, they don’t want to finance the castle. Why don’t I just build a generic house, it wouldn’t be a problem?

They worry that, apparently, in the event of a foreclosure (again, remember, my numbers are all excellent) they won’t be able to sell the castle because…wait for it… no one wants to live in a castle. Please. If you’d like to live in a castle, go ahead and comment on this post. But whats more, they worry that people would hate living in castles so much, that they would despise it to such a high degree that they will be forced to liquidate the property for more than a 51% discount (remember, I’m putting 50% down) creating a loss for the bank. So even if your dream isn’t to live in a castle, go ahead and comment if you would “accept” a castle at the same price of an equivalent square footage McMansion. I mean, if you had to choose between two houses with the same size/amenities, and one was a McMansion, and one was a castle, which would you choose?

The first bank, recommended by the architects, the loan officer was all gun ho, and I thought it was a sure thing, I was told it was a sure thing, at the very last minute they pulled the plug because the management at the bank rejected it at the final stage of the process. This caused delays, we wanted to start building last Spring, all this summer has been finding other banks.

Of course, as I’m contacting other banks, the first thing I say is, its a castle, are you sure thats okay? The plans and those nice 3D renderings have been done for awhile, so it isn’t as if they can’t look and see exactly what I mean. Another bank, recommended by someone else, said okay, and I’ve been working with them… and then just now they pull the plug. They said the article made them realize it was more castle-y than they thought. But seriously, they’ve had the plans for months, and it was the very first thing I asked them.

I don’t blame the loan officers at either bank, they were on my side, the first one even said he would loan me the money personally (if he had it), I blame their bosses, the people making the final decisions. Our whole banking system is a mess because of the recession and Washington and everything else. I’m incredibly successful, I have a credit score near 800, I’m putting 50% down, and I still can’t get a loan.

It is incredibly frustrating to me to be told “Hey, great income, great credit, great downpayment, but sorry, we can’t lend to you because my boss doesn’t understand why you want a house that looks like a castle.”

Do you know what banks are supposed to do when they have no idea how much a house is worth? Get an appraisal, duh. So I paid, out of my pocket, $3000 for two appraisals (it has to be two, because of the size of the loan). Guess what? According to the appraisers, these being the people whose job it is to figure out how much houses will sell for, my castle would do perfectly fine on the real estate market, better than fine. I’m still sitting pretty with a loan to value of near 50%. But even then, the bankers say no, despite having the appraisal in front of them telling them what they could sell the house for, they say no.

I tried other local banks too, many told me know right off the bat, it was just too big of a project for them to handle. All is not lost, I have one more bank, the most likely bank, they did another high end vaguely castle-like home recently, still working the loan. We hope to close on that in 3-4 weeks. Since the first bank bailed on me I learned not to put all my eggs in one basket, but now that another bank bailed I have just the one egg left, and that makes me nervous, and stressed, and angry.

So maybe I can turn that article in the newspaper into something beneficial, since the cat is out of the bag and apparently everyone in town now knows about my house, if anyone is a banker or knows a banker in the Chattanooga area who might be interested in this project, please, let me know. I’ve had the rug pulled out from under me too many times not to be intensely worried about that one wee egg left in my basket. Of course, everyone please comment if you’d like to live in a castle so I can have a sort of moral victory over those stuffy bankers, and if anyone is looking for a bank recommendation, I’ll post giving them my whole hearted recommendation.

Originally, with this blog, I was hoping it to be anonymous, I didn’t think of building plans being public record, a journalist seeing ours, Googling my name, and voila. But now the cat is out of the bag, and everyone in town, apparently, knows what I’m doing. So, let me put that to use. In addition to me wanting a backup bank, just in case, we still haven’t picked many of the trades who will be working on the house. If you think you have something to offer please let me know. I will be continuing to blog about construction, and apparently, there will be media interest, so it could be good promotion for you as well if you’re chosen. Also, my wife still is looking for a job, she is a child psychiatrist and they’re so rare they’re basically in demand everywhere, she has interviewed at different hospitals or healthcare providers down in town, but hasn’t signed a contract anywhere yet. If you know someone who might need a doctor with her training, we’ll certainly take the referral. Erlanger specifically we’ve never heard from, through I hear through the grapevine they need someone like her. Oh and hey, I guess, since HGTV is just up in Knoxville, since this is no longer a secret I guess it can really not be a secret if anyone knows anyone who works up at the network.

Excavation, Site Preparation, Digging, Leveling

For almost a month now they’ve been digging on my mountain.

I think I mentioned before, but I’ll mention again, what you pay for your land is not the only thing to consider when choosing your land. Assuming you’re not building in a graded flat subdivision you’re going to have costs associated with putting your land into a buildable condition. In my case I bought the high point of the ridge and it needed to be brought down to where I could have roughly 80×120′ of flat area for the footings, patios, parking, etc. The driveway and front turnaround drive also had to be built up and leveled, a septic field built, etc.

Foundation hole from corner tower

Foundation hole from corner tower

I had looked at one lot that was cheaper than this, and way way way worse than this besides, but also it likely would have had 250k+ of excavation costs, making it, in the end, not cheaper. Additionally I toured a house under construction nearby where I was told they had a million dollars in site prep. They took a lot that was hardly flat at all, the peak of a little foothill that was all rock, and had to blast it apart (literally) to create a level surface (and a large one). Though they got tons of “free” rock to landscape with.
Foundation from Forest Side

Foundation from Forest Side

My lot is great by comparison. It was a high point, but not so steep or severe, and mostly soil, very little rock. Around 2 feet from subgrade we did reach a really compacted layer of almost-sandstone. Not quite rock, but not quite soil anymore. That has slowed us down and cost more money. All told it is looking like site prep costs of around $100k, if you include the tree clearing. Cheaper than other options, but still quite expensive. Of course, that isn’t the end of the earth costs, on the backend things will need to be put back into order, the foundation backfilled, the lot graded with soil, etc. Plus this isn’t including the long driveway, which I categorize under concrete, but which could also have been less (or more) with a different lot.

Excavation on our property was done by Joe Palmer of McKinnley Excavating.

Castle Wall Stone Options

One of the main reasons to build a castle is because you like the way castles look, obviously. Otherwise you wouldn’t take on such an ambitious building project. One of the key components to how they look is the exterior stone cladding for your walls, and that can also be a significant budget expense.

I’m looking at about 30,000 sq/ft of stone wall on the exterior, and another 5,000 sq/ft on the interior. That sort of high volume means you can negotiate discounts, but it also means every additional dollar you spend per square foot really adds up quickly.

There are five main options you can use to clad your castle. Stucco, brick, manufactured stone veneer, real stone veneer, or full thickness stone. I’ve ranked them I believe in order from cheapest to most expensive.

Stucco is absolutely the cheapest, you’re not really going to find stucco castles out there in history, but many castles were built so well or otherwise coated to have very smooth walls, especially later ones, and if you used stucco but then used real stone trim around windows & doors, or at corners, it can look okay. You won’t be able to pull off the look of an early castle, but later castles (which were mostly used as palaces) often had the smooth look. Stucco can last awhile, but it doesn’t have near the longevity of the other items

Brick castles are not really common, and included in brick would also be brick veneer. But it was used as a building material and you may be happy with it and able to pull it off. Lots of gothic revival castle like structures from the early 1900s were done with brick, and you might be able to find some really old true European castles that used it as well (quarries were not always conveniently located). Brick is fairly cheap, and brick masons are cheaper than stone masons so you save on install. You can do full thickness brick where a brick wall is essentially built just outside your building’s structural wall, or brick veneer where thin brick is adhered to your building’s structural wall.

Manufactured stone is essentially brick, built the same way, but made to look like stone. It is usually only sold as veneer you apply to your wall. From a distance it looks really good, but up close you can usually tell it isn’t real stone. It is usually more complex to install, needing more labor than regular brick, but it is cheaper to install than real stone because it is much lighter and easier to handle. Weight also matters for the freight costs of getting it to your build site.

Both brick and manufactured stone last darn near forever, mortar can fail but brick tends to keep on chugging along.

Thin veneer stone is where they take real stone, and saw it to be an inch thick or less, and then it is adhered to your wall. It is much cheaper and easier to install than full thickness stone, but more expensive than manufactured stone veneer. It isn’t available, or availability competitively priced, everywhere in the country, as it relies on a good supply of local stone.

Full thickness stone is usually 3+ inches thick and is built like full thickness brick. A second wall is built outside your structural wall with stone. This stone is by far the most expensive option, it is expensive, heavy, takes a long time to install, and requires the most specialized labor. The freight can be killed if the quarry isn’t close to your build site.

Stone of course, also lasts forever.

For my project I explored the last three options. I had bids on full thickness stone of about a million dollars, ~$30 sq/ft installed. This was not affordable in the least. Thin veneer stone I was able to get for less, around $12 sq/ft installed, and I would have gone with it, except I really need to hit my budget numbers and need to find savings where I can. Because of volume I was able to negotiate manufactured stone veneer down to $9.5 sq/ft installed, which saves me almost $100,000 over thin veneer stone at the volume of 35,000 sq/ft.

My stone mason did a mockup for me, overall I want a dark grey stone with light trim accents, so in the below mockup I choose the middle dark stone color.

Exterior Wall Stone Mockup

Exterior Wall Stone Mockup

For the actual trim, like for window trim etc. There are also a variety of options. You can use standard aluminum brickmold style window trim, precast stone trim (a very fine concrete essentially), architectural foam trim (foam coated with a stucco like product made to look like precast), or cut stone. Turns out my mason figured the cheapest way would be to just buy flagstone (about $1 sq/ft) and cut it as needed. It’ll look a little more rustic than precast would, but I like rustic. We haven’t quite figured out what to do for corbels and some of the other exterior architectural details yet.

Clearing the Land

We’ve just had our land clearing done, it makes it a little more real now I guess. I’ve spent the last 6 months or so just working on budgeting and pricing and it is taking way longer than I wanted, I had hoped to have a budget by thanksgiving, I’ll be lucky to have it by March I think.

We cannot do any more work until the loan closes because of title issues, which is unfortunate because I’d be willing to pay for the excavation to start now just to get a head start because I think the house isn’t going to be done by the time we’ll want to move (which means we’ll be stuck renting). But we were able to get the trees cleared at least.

I haven’t been there to see it yet, but I think it turned out really good from the pictures. This is the view from dirt level, we’ll be much higher when looking out a window, even the first floor is above grade.

View From the Road

View From the Road

View Down the Driveway

View Down the Driveway

Big View

Big View