The journey of two millennials

Welcome to Fun Home Building, a blog on design, construction and building a dream house on a budget. We are documenting our journey of building a custom home in the suburb of twin cities, Minnesota and will share what we learn along the way.

  • House on West Shore

Week Seven to Ten: Everything Behind the Wall

Updated: Nov 2, 2019

It’s already week 11th of construction. After framing was completed, we moved on to the mechanical stage. This includes plumbing, electrical, HVAC, low-voltage, and insulation—things that excites people with an engineer’s mind like my husband, but for me, these are things behind the wall, I can’t wait for the fancy stuff to begin coming in.

We also had our last round of meetings and finalized quite a few design decisions.

Week 8: Cabinet Design and Electrical Walk-Through

Week 9: Final meeting with our designer to discuss hardware, bathroom accessories, wood stain, paint, mirrors, etc. We also took one day off to go to Twin City Hardware and Innovative Surfaces to browse their selections and pick out all the hardware and countertop slabs.

Week 10: Landscape, especially location of retaining walls, flower beds and walkway.

I will write about cabinet and electrical design in separate posts, because there are a lot to cover in these two areas. But we have had a few lessons-learned so far that are important to point out:

1. Pocket doors are compact and can save space, but they can't be used to install outlet or hang heavy hardware like regular walls. We have a pocket door inside the kid's bathroom right next to the vanity, we need to cut into the mirror to put an outlet and find special ways to hang the towel ring.

2. Plumbing code requires a good access to the drain of a bathtub for future servicing in case of leakage or clogging. We originally envisioned the shower head and valve in the kids bath would be on the same side of the toilet, however our plumber suggested moving it to the opposite side, so access will be low on the master bedroom wall and will be disguised as a vent.

3. Plumbing and vent take up space. When drawing floor plan, it isn’t always clear where these hidden objects would go. We thought the empty space next to the shower in 3/4 bath on main level would be sufficient to fit in all the pipes and vent to the second floor. Turns out there is an air duct that we can't fit in that space, and it ended up being in the mudroom closet.

4. Mounting sconces on both sides of vanity mirror is tricky for small spaces. I really wanted to make the guest bathroom fun with some funky sconces, but we can only fit a 36“ vanity in that space, which limits the size of lights and mirror we can choose from. The rule of thumb we heard was to leave 3” on both sides of the mirror for the electrical junction box. Luckily we found a 20” rectangle mirror from Rejuvenation, which should fit nicely.

5. Fireplace mantle height and depth are important considerations if placing TV above the fireplace. The lower the mantle, meaning the closer it is to the fireplace, the narrower it needs to be if using wood. We want to mount the TV at eye level that would not cause neck pain. The measurement DH decided was 4’ from the floor, depth 3” and height 5”.

6. Coordinating the location of outlet/switch with bathroom accessories is important. We didn’t think much about where all the bathroom accessories would go, this was totally an afterthought to us. When we went and picked out towel bars, we realized the perfect location for the kids to hang towels near the bathtub already had a outlet put in, right in the middle. Fortunately insulation didn’t go in yet and it was still possible to change the location. It would have been a real bummer to not have a 24” bar there.

That is it for now. Building a house has a pretty steep learning curve. As newbies in construction, we try to learn and plan as much as possible. But inevitably there are things that we overlooked or made the wrong choice on. It is all part of this valuable life experience. Maybe we will do better next time around. :p


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