Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Blogging the Straw Bale Home

When this project started to have issues, I started a conversation with myself. This conversation allows me to turn the many events over in my mind and hopefully learn from them. Blogging has allowed me to articulate the negative thoughts, feelings, and frustration associated in dealing with contractors in general and Three Little Pigs Construction in particular.

This blog is a conversation about this frustration. This is a conversation with those who are looking for straw bale construction info, those who are looking for construction nightmare stories and those who just desire to have more info on Green Building or the Central Coast of California.

I have stated time and again that the internet is leveling the playing field. Whether you are purchasing a car, or buying a house, the internet gives you access to information that until recently was hard if not impossible to come by. And by extension, blogging allows us to have a wider conversation about our lives experiences that others can learn from.

What this blog is not. It is not 'Top Ten things that went wrong with building my house'. It is not 'Things I hate about my contractor', it is a conversation with all of you about my experiences. It is a small window into my life.

Someone said to me that this blog is a poor reflection of me. Perhaps it is, but I am not perfect. Trying to hide my dislike at feeling as if I have been taken advantage would not do any good. Keeping silent about my pain and frustration in watching a 9 month construction schedule stretch to 23 months does not do anyone (mostly myself) any good. Keeping a stiff upper lip and my mouth shut as I see what should have been a very nice looking custom home become a project I have to salvage is not who or what I am about.

As I continue to learn and grow from this experience I can only hope that others take away enough to avoid some of what I have experienced. I will continue to blog and flog.

And for those of you who read this, please take the time to leave a comment. It only takes a second and I would appreciate it greatly.


Rachel said...

You're a great guy who's had to deal with a crappy situation and if someone can't read this and understand that, then they are not very intelligent. Of course this doesn't mention every part of your life, just a very small slice. And I know some of the rest of that pie and it's a good one. Love ya.

Kevin Prendergast said...

I appreciate reading the good and the bad, helps when I enter into large undertakings such as this.

So haters can STFU.

kate said...

I’ve been doing some research into building a straw bale home in Northern CA, and your blog has some very useful information….so *thank you* for sharing all of that. I was curious to know some basics about how you found the land, the construction loan, the permit process, and the design process. I’m looking for a land lot to buy in Northern Sonoma County right now, and am having a hard time getting honest answers from sellers and agents. Any suggestions? Was it hard to get a construction loan for a straw bale building? What pitfalls did you find in the permitting process that you can warn others about?

Whatever you can offer would be helpful…

Lesliehm said...

Hi Kate,

To answer your questions, getting a loan for straw bale construction should be fairly simple as many lenders (I used have no problem with strawbale.

In my experience, I bought the land several years before I started building. I think it was easier to get a loan because I owned the land outright.

The permitting process I did not have much visibility into due to the original contractor dealing with it and therefore do not trust anything he communicated to me. :-(

Do you plan to do load bearing or post and beam? Are you going with a contractor or owner builder? Those choices could also have an impact on getting a loan.

Here is how the process went with me...

The contractor and I agreed on a price and submitted the contracted price and item by item breakdown to the bank. The bank then arranged for 'draws' for each line item. e.g. foundation, rough plumbing, rough framing, etc. I would then make a request for a draw from the bank and they would send a inspector out to make sure the work was being done.

Depending on size of your project, your construction time could be anywhere from 8-20 months. If you are going with a contractor have the completion date as part of the contract with monetary penalties for missing it, as well as a bonus for finishing early(because that should save you on interest on your construction loan) Also if you are having a contractor build, find a damn good construction project manager(not affiliated with your contractor) to help you manage your project. If you are not living on site, make frequent visits and ask for frequent updates. Also, do not be afraid to be mean. It is your money and you should never accept less than what you deserve.

As with anything, upfront planning is the key to making the process go smoothly. If you have all of your ducks in a row, the planning, permitting, and construction will go closer to plan.


Anonymous said...

i only read a few entries. It sounds like a wonderful and eco-friendly project. I'll stick it out in my rented apartment for awhile.