It’s now three months since we broke ground on this build way back in May. Half of the time we’d allotted has been consumed with the big stuff: earthworks, wells, foundation and basement, framing, roofing and chicken coops.
The remaining months are, to put it poetically, like a fat Geordie in a lycra dress: squeezed in way too tight and at serious risk of collapsing in an ugly mess the minute things get too funky. Or, to put it another way, tight enough to make your heart stop.
Windows, polished concrete floors, bathrooms, kitchens, electric and plumbing, plasterboard, even stairs need to be done. There’s the outer sheath of steel siding and stucco to put on, a wood stove to install, internal doors to hang, heating and the small matter of a septic bed to lay.
I suggested to Emma that Dave The Man and his Merry Crew could work weekends and evenings but that went down like a liberal manifesto at a Tea Party rally (bit of politics there for my American readers). So, reluctantly I have to accept the odd day slipping here and there for vacations, plumbers that fail to show up and lightweight jessy concerns that it’s too hot to work on the roof when the thermometer nudges 40C.
For all that, I’m not alarmed (even though I probably should be). At 50% time complete, we’re only 35% done with the work. But the reason for my unrealistic optimism is simple. It’s because what we have completed is unabashedly, unreservedly, unmistakably…astonishing. Like a pint of Guinness, the best things come to those who wait and we really have waited for this.
From the south it’s clean, box structure is clear. Unlike anything the Ottawa Valley has ever seen before, the south face is pretty much just glass. Every room will be flooded with brilliance and vistas. Then turn around to the west face and you are presented with a very different perspective. Here you can see the slope of the single pitch roof, the height and delicate stacks of the building.
Around on the north face, it’s all business. Very few windows so we conserve heat and retain privacy from the road. Once the siding is on this perspective will have an almost agricultural or industrial feel.
Similarly from the east, there are very few windows to reveal what lies beyond. Only the vast solid oak Portal of Doom (otherwise known as the oversized front door) we’ve bought from an architectural salvage yard will hint at the grandeur inside.
Finally, the clear-span interior design is starting to be visible now that the supporting struts have been taken away.
This sounds like a little thing, but it’s almost as important to the design as the windows. Like the Tardis or your mother’s handbag, the space inside feels bigger than you know it actually is because there are no pillars to obstruct the eye. Every room is unified and part of the whole, no corner of it cut off or expected to be “low traffic”. So even though it’s smaller than our last home by 10%, we’re probably getting much more usable space.
That’s further reinforced by the views from every room that are open and draw the eye outside. When we have the money next year, I’ll be building a patio off these ground floor sliding doors / windows. That should add to the available living space and unify the inside and outside. Until then, we’ll have to be content with the view of fields and forest.
Of course, talking about money, there’s a price to pay for all this luxury. We’ve managed to get this far with our savings but, like a first year student who’s heard the rumour of a cheap pint, wandered into the wrong Gentleman’s Club and ended up having way too much fun, we’re about to come face to face with the ugly end of a whole lot of bills. Luckily, Canadians are a rather pleasant bunch so while I don’t expect a visit from “Norman The Negotiator” and an invitation to inspect his Very Deep Pit, I could do without the disappointed looks and lifetime ban at Roots. My sister simply couldn’t live without their high quality hoodies.
So, taking advantage of the prolonged global economic recession and plummeting stock markets, we’ve landed ourselves a rather sweet deal with the bank. Disappointingly, we’ve had to ditch HSBC, our long-standing filthy money-lender of choice on account of them transforming over the last 18 months into a bunch of utter morons with the customer service skills of your average earthworm and all the charisma of an unwashed arse. Instead, we’ve gone all Canadian and signed up with TD Canada. Mainly because the “D” in TD stands for Dominion and that’s all Sisters of Mercy-esque.
I mean, who wouldn’t borrow a boat load of cash from a man who wears big sunglasses at night and has the singing voice of a depressed gargoyle? As you can imagine, I was trembling with excitement for my first meeting with them. Unfortunately, in a devastatingly cruel twist of fate, our personal banker at TD Canada turns out to be a middle-aged chap called Allan. He offered me a cup of tea and told me about his passion for cycling.
Pushing aside my crushed expectations, Allan Not A Goth, explained that unlike a normal mortgage, i.e. where your lawyer gets all the money in one big payment, takes his dirty undeserved cut and then sends the little scrap that remains to the poor sod you’re buying from, it works differently for self-build construction. These loans are done in draws and you need to be as quick as John Wayne and twice as smart to work the buggers out.
We’re 50% of the way through our build, have spent nearly 45% of the budget, done 35% of the work, but only get less than 30% of the money. That’s bank logic if ever I heard it. I’m a reasonably intelligent man and know my way around a quadratic equation, but the way they work out how much money you can “draw” can only be decipherable by bankers or blissed out Fine Art students who have done way too many mushrooms.
Eventually though I did work it out, which is a little worrying since I haven’t been anywhere near a mushroom in years and quite frankly would rather pluck out my own pubic hair than become a banker. All I can imagine is that it has something to do with being a Jedi Knight.
Anyway, using my new-found multi-dimensional mathematical ability, I’ve put in place a schedule of draws that should keep as much of our money out of the filthy grubby hands of banks and lawyers while enabling me to pay The Man. All is good, and the massive crater that appeared on our land last week can now be filled up with water for swimming and ducks, instead of a very deep hole for dealing in a very British way with very debt-ridden dreamers.
Hope you all enjoyed the photos. More will undoubtedly be coming soon!