Monday, September 14, 2015

Project House Update: Dan is Gonna Owe Me...

The shop is underway! It's more than underway, actually. It's pretty close (hopefully, dear god, hopefully) to being finished. Since there are so many steps and there have been so many pictures, I'm going to break this into three separate posts. First, the construction so far, to roughly August 28th. Second, the final touches. And lastly, a whole post on my thoughts on the process, a review of our contractor, and tips and tricks for building a shop of your own.

Back at the beginning, here's what the land looked like before any of this started. It wasn't the prettiest patch of desert. It must have been cleared at one point and grown back and was full of weeds and vines.

You can click here for a post about all the work that happened before we broke ground. A few days before July 4th, the ground finally got broken.{Sidenote: I'm sure the shop will fantastic when it is finally finished and I will look back fondly on the process. However, I had to play the 'bad cop' through out most of it, so I will be pointing out the negative side effects and the mistakes along the way, just to help anyone else considering building a structure like this.} The ground got broken, a lot. When we signed the contracts, I asked very specifically how much extra land needed to be cleared since any additional land would take a lot of landscaping work by me to get back to 'natural' desert. I was told 3-4 feet around the perimeter. On one side, it was almost 20 feet. I was pissed. You can see it better in some later pictures.

From there, they dug a trench outlining the structure. This should have been an easy step, but THEY LAID OUT THE SHOP WRONG. No one noticed until Dan told them, but they had it rotated 90 degrees off. This was after they dug the outline the first time, so there is still a good portion of the unused outline at the back of the structure.

Once the trench is completed, they filled it with rebar and cement, to act as a footing for the foundation work to come.

To create a foundation on the sloped area, they built a wall on the footing. This wall is completely level front to back, taking up the angle from the hill.

The interior of the wall was filled with sand, leveled,...

...and covered in cement.

With the foundation poured, the shop flew along really quickly. The walls went up.

The roof and its support beams were craned into place.

And a cinder block front was built to create the strength required for some massive garage doors.

One thing I do really love about my husband is how charming he is. During this whole process, he's been able to wrangle up some awesome free upgrades by making friends with the right guys. One of those upgrades was switching from light tubes to sky lights at no additional cost. It's amazing how light it is in the shop and the skylights still have their protective film on.

The exterior walls went up, prepared for stucco.

The interior walls were insulated. Unfortunately, a huge storm came through that night and pulled at least half of it out of the walls, so it had to be redone. You can't tell from this picture, but at this point, Dan also ran an incredible amount of wire and conduit between the studs for future upgrades he'll make himself someday. Like hose for his air compressor and wire for his speakers. It took him almost two days non-stop working, but it will save him from having to cut into the nice, new drywall in the future.

Speaking of which, it was amazing how quickly they were able to drywall it. It was two days, maybe less. And now we have the contact number of a good drywaller for when we do some bigger projects on our list.

I'm not a big fan of stucco. You see it everywhere in the Southwest. For good reason. It is freakin' cheap. So, we went with it.

Now, this next part, it's still not finished and I do my best not to think about it since it makes me so angry. I knew they would need to run electrical for the shop from the far side of the house and I understood they were going to run it through the driveway. Our drive isn't that great anyway so I became okay with this fact, the giant cut that would be in front of our house.

What was failed to be mentioned, however, was the fact that Tucson Electric Power wouldn't sign off on this unless we upgraded the electrical line from the street to the house. Apparently, the original line could only support the house, not the house and the shop.

So, when I came home, bracing myself for an ugly, yet small trench along the front of the house, I instead found a back hoe, a trench that was at least two feet deep and one foot wide, and at least thirty feet of beautiful desert, not ugly driveway torn up. 'Livid' is putting it mildly. It's been this way for weeks now because TEP, being government work, still hasn't come out to inspect the new line. There's a giant open trench I didn't agree to and I am doing my best (and failing) not to think about it. 

Onto something else happier...

When the drywall inside the shop was finished, they painted it 'Polar Bear', the white we like to use in our house. Easier to touch up that way.

I guess if we had been proactive, we could have picked a paint color for the exterior early in the process. That's not us. If I remember correctly, they told us on a Thursday we had to have a color chosen by the following Monday. For people who have made some serious paint mistakes in the past, that was a big pressure crunch.

I send an email with three color families to a interior designer neighbor of mine for some professional opinions. We were debating a terra cotta color to match the adobe brick, a dusty green to blend into the desert, and a sandy color to match the Earth and the Southwest. She was such a sweetheart about it and suggested the terra cotta and we quickly changed our minds and went sandy.

In a whirlwind Home Depot trip, I grabbed every swatch that could be remotely considered 'sandy'. Pink sands and green sands and yellow sand and white sands. Dan and I stood next to the shop on a brightly lit Saturday morning and debated each tone against the surrounding tones.

Our favorite was 'Natural Almond'. It's a very neutral sand color that compliments the orange abode bricks of the house while blending in seamlessly with the accompanying desert. We used Behr's online tool to project how it would look on the giant shop structure. It was only so helpful.

I was still worried until I saw the shop is its fully painted glory. We made the right call. We've even talked about painting other elements of our house the same color to better tie the two structures together. Oh, and the doors were installed.

So, that's where it is right now. It's almost done. Most of the items left to-do are fairly small, like lights, finishing the electrical, and filling in the remaining dirt. Things that seem small, but actually make the shop usable. We were really hoping it would have been done by Labor Day, but our hope now is for the beginning of October.


  1. Holy crap! Really fast, but I'm sorry about the TEP debacle. You are a saint...

  2. Thanks Deb. I needed to hear that.