Friday, December 18, 2015

We've Broken Ground!

Ground Breaking

This week has been very busy with getting everything ready for Christmas break, etc., but we were so happy to see yesterday that they have finally broken ground on our new house!  We now have a big hole in the ground, some cement, and (what looks like) the beginnings of a driveway.  As of today, they have the footers done, the tiling done, and the gravel laid.  Next up should be walls and flooring.  We're having some good weather here this week (in the 60's in December... what!?!?) so I'm hoping that they'll have the concrete done by Christmas, but we'll see.  It's raining today so I doubt they're doing anything.

Also wanted to give a shout-out to our PM, who for the past couple of weeks has done a VERY GOOD job at communicating things with us and who is bending over backwards to get our basement modifications done (bath rough-ins relocated).  THANK YOU, ANDREW!

Here is some photos of our ground-breaking:

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

More to come soon - hopefully before Christmas!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Facebook Page

If any of y'all are building with Ryan Homes in the Dayton, OH region, we'd love to have you on our brand new Facebook group:

Hosting Changes

In order to improve search engine optimization in an effort to allow for maximum visibility of this blog (because I want EVERYONE to know what my experience has been like, for better or worse), I am making some hosting/domain changes.  My goal with this blog will always be maximum visibility and maximum transparency.  All changes should be complete by this Friday.  THANKS.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

First Official Delay

Construction Delay

We got a little not so good news from our PM this past week. We were scheduled to break ground late this week and my PM informed me that day that our construction start was going to be delayed a week. So, we have our official first delay. Which I'm not too shocked about, but definitely disappointed because we have had great weather here (60+ degrees) for the past week, seeing how this is December. Anyway, checked on the weather for next week and its looking like upper 40s low 50s. Still good temps for digging and pouring the foundation. I just hope it doesn't get delayed again, because we are ready to get this train moving. Our lease end and our move in date are lined up quite nicley right now and I am really hoping not to have to do a month to month lease because of delays... its outrageously expensive!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


They've Staked the Lot

Drove by the site today and saw that they (finally) staked out our lot, so just sharing the pictures!  Hopefully breaking ground next week!  Everything seems to be on track, but I haven't heard much from the RH staff this week (which is odd), so who knows!

Ryan Homes lot Staked

Ryan Homes lot

Ryan Homes corner lot

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Electrical Changes?

Just wanted to pose question here:  have y'all talked with your PM about moving electrical outlets, switches, tying switches to different outlets other than per-plan, etc.?

Just wanted to know if you have asked to make these kinds of changes, how did y'alls PM react and were they able to accommodate your requests?

I am trying to setup a meeting with our PM to request some electrical outlet location changes (mostly just moved a couple feet over) and also there is a couple rooms I am trying to get the light switch tied to a different outlet.  Just trying to get a feel on what to expect here.... THANKS!

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Mortgage Approval

Got the word from NVR today... our loan application was APPROVED!

We have a few contingencies, but nothing major.  Just some documentation here and there to support some banking transactions.  Should be easy enough.

I have to tell you, this mortgage application has felt a bit like going to a new doctor for the first time - you have to reveal yourself in a very raw and vulnerable manner that makes you feel naked.  My philosophy on this though has always been... if you have nothing to hide than you have nothing to fear!

Anyways, this news couldn't come on a better day because TODAY is my BIRTHDAY!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!! (if I do say so myself)

The news on our loan approval was the perfect gift!  Thanks, NVR!  Now, let's hope that you do not suck!  :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pre-Construction Meeting Report

Pre-Construction Meeting with Ryan Homes

Well, we had our pre-construction meeting with our sales rep, Mindy, and our project manager, Andrew (who we met for the first time).  I definitely think our PM knows his stuff, has a very honest, no bull personality, and probably will keep a sharp eye on his subs and ultimately build us a very sound house.

Furthermore, and let there be no mistake here, Ryan Homes will tell you "no" a lot.  If you ask for anything during your pre-con meeting (or after your change order cut-off date in general), you'll get back a standard "NO" as a response.  That being said, occasionally they will approve something if you have a PM who is somewhat diplomatic and you have done your research and have a very good reason for your request BECAUSE YOU WILL HAVE TO CONVINCE THEM.  But, basically, the power rests with the PM, so their emotional state will undeniably have influence on how they respond to your request (they're human like the rest of us).  Further, Ryan Homes' philosophy is that they produce standardized houses that are easy and quick to build.  Their strict structural plans and change order procedures allow the builders to quickly build a home and move on to the next.  I completely understand that and respect their system because it seems to work for them. But lucky for us our PM was pretty understanding of our needs and was pretty accommodating.

The first 20 minutes of the meeting consisted of the PM explaining our lot plan, and confirming our selected features/upgrades/colors for the house.  He also gave us his contact information and relayed some other information on Ryan Homes' policies.  There were a few discrepancies in some of the features/upgrades we had chosen, but he made the corrections.  He did a pretty good job taking time to review our lot plan with us.  We took note of a couple of important things from this part of the meeting:

  • Our PM wants us to notify him if we want to visit the site, because he wants to be with us, but he basically told us "he can't do it every day."  I have no qualms in saying that I DO plan on checking in on the house quite a bit.  I'll send the courtesy e-mails to him and he can meet me if he wants (if I actually want to go ON the site), but at least for a while, I will be driving by the site nearly every day checking on things, taking pictures, and documenting everything.  That being said, I don't have a problem letting our PM know if we want to go ON the site though - there are liability concerns there and I get that.
  • We cannot pick our slab of granite.  Bummer.  However, I read on someone else's blog that we should contact the granite provider directly to get this done.
  • In the Milan (and maybe others), if you don't opt for the double-bowl sink in the secondary bath, you don't get the extended counter-top/cabinet.  This was very confusing because, on the plan, it says "opt. double bowl sink" and says nothing about the cabinet/counter-top length. We thought that even if we didn't get the extra sink, we'd still get the wider cabinet/counter-top.  When I brought this up in this meeting and found out otherwise, I asked if we could get the double-sink now, or (better yet) just the extended cabinet/counter-top, they were quick to tell me "NO" because their manager would not approve that change at this point.  OK I'm not really upset about this, and it was probably due to sheer confusion, but I think they should've at least considered my request due to the circumstances.
  • If you want pendant lighting above your kitchen island, ask your SR BEFORE your change order cut-off date.  They said this was an option and had to be elected as an "upgrade" and since we were past our cut-off date we couldn't get it.  This actually was NOT an option on our options list that we saw, so we assumed it would need to be addressed with the PM directly.  When we asked, we basically heard the "no, manager wouldn't approve this" answer again.  But I pressed the issue and the PM said he might be able to get the electrician to move some of our kitchen recessed lighting around so that we could convert two of the lights to pendant light over the island later on down the road.  I'd be okay with this but the PM said to follow-up with him about it, which I will!
  • The SR told me when we picked out the lot that our backyard would, for the most part, be flat.  During this meeting the PM showed me a lot plan that has a pretty substantial grade to it.  I would have understood a slight grade, but this was a bit much and threw me off. I think this might've just been a case where the SR didn't actually know what the PM was planning. A little extra communication between the two probably would've averted this shock. 

That was the first 20 minutes.  The PM finished his part and I pulled out my list of questions at this point. The PM sort of looked shocked.  I told him "I have some questions for you.".  He looked at my list and said to me "those should've been asked while we were going through everything." Couldn't tell if he was joking or not. I just wanted to wait until he got through all his stuff first so I didn't interrupt him. At any rate, I went ahead and read through my questions and he definitely seemed knowledgable and answered everything to my satisfaction. 

So here's the main points that came out of this part of the meeting:

The basement plan (it get its own paragraph because it is, BY FAR, the most important request we made)

If you've been following my blog, you know I have plans for my basement, and you also know that I can't follow through on those plans without getting our builder to move the location of the basement bathroom rough-ins (because the per-plan location is absolutely horrible and doesn't allow you to properly expand your basement).  See my post "Basement plans" to see what I'm talking about.  Well I asked about this and immediately got the "NO."  I wasn't about to give up easily on this one though.  I told the PM that if he couldn't move those rough-ins then I didn't want them because they interfered with what I wanted to do with my basement and it's not like they could just simply be moved later on.  I pulled out my design plan that I made up for my basement, which has the bathroom rough-ins moved to a location where I can expand the finished basement space.  To my surprise, he was actually very impressed with my drawing and gave me a lot of credit for it.  Props to him on that.  I told him that, in the Milan, they put the optional wet bar where I wanted my bathroom, so obviously somewhere in their plans there is a blueprint for how to run water/drainage to/from that area.  He looked at his papers and at my drawing and, after some more of me babbling on about "this one thing would enable me to do so much more with this basement," he told me he would investigate into getting it done.  Not a resounding "yes" but I think it's all good - he made a lot of notes on his plans and even made a copy of the basement plan I designed.  I'll keep ya'll updated on this as it progresses but I have a good feeling about it.  Thanks Andrew!

Other points

  • When I asked about installing outdoor PVC tubing for future landscape electrical and also when I asked about light dimmers I got back a "no". On both points, his response included something like "sure it can be done, on the day that you get your keys and you can have a whole team come in and do it or whatever else you might want."  Sigh... I just figured I'll need to work on developing a better rapport with him.
  • Ryan Homes apparently does not caulk the seams between your counter-tops and cabinets.... weird... they should do this.
  • Ryan Homes does not install flooring underneath cabinetry.  They stop at the edges.  Again they should do this. 
  • We're going to have a gravel driveway/walkway (most likely) when we move in since our house will be built through the winter and they don't want to pour that concrete until Spring... understandable.
  • They actually do fully dry-wall the garages now.  That is GREAT!  Very happy about this.
  • Our PM agreed to let us choose the basement window locations... we didn't even have to present an argument for this!  Thanks Andrew!
  • Our expected completion date is in mid-March 2016.
  • When we asked where our attic access was, our PM said he could move it if we didn't like where it was per-plan.  We chose to keep it where it was, but I did like that he actually offered to do this.

Final thoughts

I had to be pretty determined with our PM.  I called him out on a lot of things that he did the pre-programmed-like "no" response with.  Only because if I am to be told "no" when spending all this money, there had better be a good reason why they can't accommodate me.  Just saying.  The things that I did my research on are the things we should be getting - the basement bath rough-ins relocation, and (possibly) the pendant lighting above the kitchen island, depending on whether or not I convince the PM to have our electrician install our kitchen recessed lighting to make it work.  I probably COULD have argued enough to get the outdoor PVC tubing for future outdoor electrical wiring done, but I didn't want to stoke the fire much more with the PM all but agreeing to the basement plan.  At any rate, Andrew seemed very down-to-earth, that he knew his stuff, and he was consistent in his responses.  I tested this because I asked him a few questions that I had already asked the SR weeks before this meeting to see if I'd get the same answers - for the most part, I did.  Like all of the rest of the Ryan Homes employees, his first response was "no" to a lot of things but I think that's how they are all "programmed" by the company.  He seemed to be understanding on the important stuff, so there's that.  I got the impression that, when it comes to running his crews, he runs a no bull-sh*t kind of operation, and is pretty thorough on checking EVERYTHING.  Which, clearly, is what we want.  I was hoping for an AWESOME PM.... not quite sure just by this meeting if we got that, though I do believe he will build us a quality home in the long run.  Here's hoping we can develop a good rapport as construction proceeds.  Will keep y'all updated as things develop.

Well, I promised transparency with this blog (good, bad, or ugly), and you're getting it!  How have ya'lls experience with your PM's been?  Anybody had a similar experience?  Would love to hear some comments on this, thanks!

Side note...

I think that if you are happy with the cookie-cutter process that Ryan Homes uses and you go along with all of their cut-off dates and make NO non-standard requests, they'll love you - you're the kind of customer they WANT.  But, if you're anything like me, and like to make unique, personal touches to things... be prepared for a tooth-and-nail fight and to back up your needs with damn good reasons. Do your homework. 

And now, the list of questions (with answers)

Can I run my own low-voltage cabling?  If no, why not?
Not officially allowed per Ryan Homes’ safety policy due to liability concerns.

With the finished basement, can we move the location of the bathroom rough-ins?  Can we leave out the wall for the media room and have the basement extended fully to the foundation wall?  If this can’t be included in base pricing, how much would it cost to do both these things?
Should be able to get the bathroom rough-in relocations done, PM made notes and said he’d follow up with us.  No to the media room wall removal.

We don’t like the dry-walled in duct work in the family room that we’ve seen in some of the models.  Since we have a basement to run duct work through, can we make sure we don’t have this?
We will not have this per plan with basement, but follow-up with PM after ground-breaking to remind him.

We have several changes to the electrical plans to discuss, such as several electrical outlets we'd like moved or added in.  Can we discuss this now and make these changes (see electrical plans)?
Electrical outlets, etc. have to follow a strict code, but he said e-mail him the changes and he’ll do his best to accommodate them.

Can our porch be extended to a full porch?  Why, or why not?  If yes, what would be our cost impact?
No, it is not an option with our elevation and cannot be incorporated at this time as a non-standard due to structural requirements of the construction process.

Do the foundation footers and walls have rebar enclosed within them?  If not, why?
Yes, 2

How do you prevent garage floor cracking/sinking when having to backfill previously dug-out work areas?
They compact the backfill gravel prior to pouring garage flooring.

Will you ensure the foundation outer footer/wall seams are absolutely clear of debris before applying the black sealant?

With our house being next to a waterway, can you include a natural drain from the basement outer tiling out to the waterway?  If not, why?  If so, what is the cost impact to us?
Will consider this if it’s feasible for our lot plan, but follow-up with him after ground-breaking.

Do we have GeoMAT (or something similar)?  If not, can we get it?  If so, how does it help prevent basement leaking?
Yes, it prevents hydrostatic pressure from building up against the foundation walls by allowing water to drain down against the wall to the tile-work below.

What are the estimated milestones?  When is the planned closing date? 
Foundation/basement, framing and plumbing, flooring and electrical, cabinets and counter-tops, drywall, painting and finishing.  Planned closing date is mid-March 2016.

Can we visit the site?  Do we need permission?
Yes, but let him know when we are planning to do so.

What is the best way to reach you if we have questions or concerns? 
By text

Can we bring our own home inspector?  At what point(s)?  What is the proper procedure?
Yes.  Can do it any time, but must setup in advance with PM.  Inspector must be licensed and insured.

Will the sub-flooring be nailed, glued, or screwed?  Is this true throughout the entire house?  How far does this process go in preventing “squeaky” floors?
All 3, yes throughout whole house.  It prevents most squeaking, but there will be minor squeaking here and there as with any home.

What will our exact square footage be?

May we install, or request to have installed, underground wiring for future outdoor lights/other equipment?  If not, why not?  If yes, at what point in construction can we get this done?  Can we have PVC tubing ran under the driveway for future low-voltage wiring?  If no, why not?
This was a no, but not a resounding no.  If we do anything it must be to code and pass inspection and Ryan Homes is not liable for damage to the work we do.

Will there be deadbolts on all doors leading into the house?  Front? Garage? Morning room?
Yes, except garage

After construction is complete, can left over materials (tile, paint, hardwood, vinyl, etc.) be left on site for later use?

Can we have extra insulation due to our proximity to a main road (worried about traffic noise)?  If no, why not?
No, because the proximity of the house is not close enough for high traffic noise.

Will we have smooth or “rough” ceilings?  If smooth, is the “rough” option available?

Will we have dimmers available on any of our light switches? If so, where?

Which interior rooms will have door locks on them?
All bedrooms and bathrooms

Will there be a sump pump?  If so, where will it be located?  How is the location determined and can it be changed?
Yes, located in utility room corner per plan, can be changed but let him know immediately.

How many outdoor water spigots will there be?  Where will they be located?
2, one on front of house, one on back.

Are gutters around the entire house included? Are they covered? What’s the warranty like?
Yes, not covered, includes 1 year warranty (except for storm damage)

Where will location of the outdoor AC unit be?  Is this a heat pump system?

Can the locations of the water heater/furnace/sump pump be slightly altered to accommodate our future basement design plans (see plan draft)?  If no, why not?
Everything but the furnace can be moved.  Furnace is required to be next to return air duct which the location for is determined by the structure of the house.

Where in the foundation will the water/sewer enter?  If the locations are not desirable, can they be moved?  If no, why not?
Enter the front of the house in the media room but will be ran through the walls/flooring to utility area.

What kind of insulation is used in the house?  What kind is used in the attic space/roof?
R38 in the attic, R13 in siding, R11 in the basement

How many outdoor outlets are provided?  Where are they located?  Could we have one outlet tied to a switch on the inside of the house for Christmas lights, etc.?  If no, why not?
2, one on the porch and one by the back patio door.  Ask about tying switch in for Christmas lights prior to electrical phase of construction.

Are window blinds included with the house?  If no, can we get them (and for what cost)?
No, not offered, must get through third-party.

What are the measurements needed for us to buy a refrigerator?
35” wide, 71” tall

Is pendant lighting available for over the kitchen island?  If so, how much would it cost for rough-ins only?  For the full lighting?
Speak to Sales Rep.  If a change order can't be done, PM will look into having electrician position a couple of the recessed kitchen lights over the island so that we can convert them in the future.  Follow up with PM prior to electrical phase of construction.

Is there an option to get the glass-paned kitchen cabinets over the microwave?
Contact our cabinet provider to get this material.

Will the garage by dry-walled?  If no, can we get it fully dry-walled (and what’s the cost)?

Will the garage floor be pitched to allow water to drain away from the house structure?

We didn’t opt for the double sink in the secondary bathroom, but will we still get the extended counter-top so that we can install a second sink at a later date (this was a bit confusing on the plan)?

We will be mounting our family room TV above the fireplace.  What size TV would you recommend to fit the space that we’ll have there?  Can the mantle height of the fireplace be adjusted to accommodate a bigger TV?
50” TV or less, mantle height can be adjusted if need be, just let him know prior to construction.

Is a powered garage door opener (and remotes) included with our home?  If no, can we get it (what cost)?

Will there be light switches at both the top and bottom of both stairwells in the home?

Where will the attic access location(s) be and how will they be accessed (e.g. pull-down ladder, etc.)?
Bedroom 2, panel access (no pull-down ladder)

Can we still make modifications to the house’s build plan since we have not yet started construction (want to add bedroom #3 window and extended vanity in secondary bath if necessary)?
Not usually allowed but talk to Sales Rep ASAP if we want anything changed

How often will you be on site and personally supervising the sub-contractors?
Every day for visual inspection, but personally supervises critical phases (electrical, plumbing, foundation, drywall).

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Just taking a minute during this busy time, to wish everyone reading this a very, very...


We're Ryan Homes Home Builders

Thank you to you ALL for following our blog and our journey in building our first home, and we wish you the happiest Thanksgiving from our family to yours.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pre-Construction Meeting Questions

Next week we have our pre-construction meeting where we will meet our project manager for the first time.  He is going to walk us through our build plan, including blueprints, timeline, closing details, etc.  We're very excited about this meeting and are hoping that we have an AWESOME PM.

To make sure we ask everything relevant to our home's construction, I've put together a list of questions that we'll be asking our PM in addition to the information he'll be giving us.

I'm looking for comments or suggestions here (what else should we ask, etc.), so please please don't hesitate to comment on this post as it very well could be one of the most important posts yet.

Here is our list of questions thus far:

Can I run my own low-voltage cabling?  If no, why not?

With the finished basement, can we move the location of the bathroom rough-ins?  Can we leave out the wall for the media room and have the basement extended fully to the foundation wall?  If this can’t be included in base pricing, how much would it cost to do both these things?

We don’t like the dry-walled in duct work in the family room that we’ve seen in some of the models.  Since we have a basement to run duct work through, can we make sure we don’t have this?

We have several changes to the electrical plans to discuss, such as several electrical outlets we'd like moved or added in.  Can we discuss this now and make these changes (see electrical plans)?

Can our porch be extended to a full porch?  Why, or why not?  If yes, what would be the cost impact?

What are the estimated milestones?  When is the planned closing date? 

Can we visit the site?  Do we need permission?

What is the best way to reach you if we have questions or concerns? 

Can we bring our own home inspector?  What is the proper procedure?

Will the sub-flooring be nailed, glued, or screwed?  Is this true throughout the entire house?  How far does this process go in preventing “squeaky” floors?

What will our exact square footage be?

Will there be deadbolts on all doors leading into the house?  Front? Garage? Morning room?

After construction is complete, can left over materials (tile, paint, hardwood, vinyl, etc.) be left on site for later use?

Can we have extra insulation due to our proximity to a main road (worried about traffic noise)?

Will we have smooth or “rough” ceilings?  If smooth, is the “rough” option available?

Will we have dimmers available on any of our light switches? If so, where?

Which interior rooms will have door locks on them?

Will there be a sump pump?  If so, where will it be located?

How many outdoor water spigots will there be?  Where will they be located?

Are gutters around the entire house included? Are they covered? What’s the warranty like?

Where will location of the outdoor AC unit be?  Is this a heat pump system?

Well, that's what we got so far...

We would like to give credit to LaRon Scott over at, as well as one of our own commentors, John, for giving us tips and inspiration in putting together this base list of questions.

But we're still open to more suggestions!  Please let us know what else we should ask - don't hold back!  I sincerely believe the only dumb questions are questions not ask when your building a house.  THANK YOU!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Finalized Non-Structual & Exterior

Today we finalized our non-structural changes.  Here is what we will be getting in terms of upgrades/options.  Not including our structural changes which I outlined in an earlier post.

Our Final Build

  • Interior single french basement door...$395
  • Kitchen faucet fixtures level 1 upgrade (brushed nickel)...$200
  • Kitchen cabinet upgrade level 1 ("cherry bordeaux")...$2595
  • Whole house cabinet hardware & knobs (bushed nickel)...$395
  • Kitchen granite counter-tops level 1 upgrade ("santa cecilia") with under-mounted sink...$4995
  • GE stainless steel range, dishwasher, and microwave...$1195
  • Fireplace surround granite ("tropical brown")...$595
  • Carpeted stairs with wooden railing ("black cherry") and white balusters...$895
  • Trim packaged level 1 upgrade (yields more trim throughout house and chair railing in formal dining room)...$495
  • 4 overhead joy lights (family room, study, bedroom 2, bedroom 3)...$1000
  • 3 complete ceiling fans with wall plate controllers... $1185
  • Vanity baseline cabinets ("fairfield wheat")...$0 (included in base pricing)
  • Vanity baseline counter-tops (white)...$0 (included in base pricing)
  • "Shell white" (off white) paint throughout house...$0 (included in base pricing)

Flooring Recap

  • Basement: baseline ("thornwood") carpet and base (5 lb.) padding
  • Family room:  level 1 upgrade ("northern cliffs") carpet and level 1 upgrade (8 lb.) padding
  • Dining room:  level 1 upgrade ("northern cliffs") carpet and level 1 upgrade (8 lb.) padding
  • Study:  level 1 upgrade ("northern cliffs") carpet and base (5 lb.) padding
  • First floor hall:  level 1 upgrade ("northern cliffs") carpet and level 1 upgrade (8 lb.) padding
  • First floor powder room:  baseline ("armstrong initiator 66205") vinyl
  • Foyer:  level 1 upgrade ("oak/cherry") hardwood (2 1/4")
  • Kitchen:  level 2 upgrade ("oak/cherry") hardwood (3 1/4")
  • Morning room:  level 2 upgrade ("oak/cherry") hardwood (3 1/4")
  • Family entry:  level 2 upgrade ("oak/cherry") hardwood (3 1/4")
  • Second floor (zone 2):  level 1 upgrade ("northern cliffs") carpet and level 1 upgrade (8 lb.) padding
  • Second floor owner bath:  baseline ("armstrong initiator 66205") vinyl
  • Second floor laundry room:  baseline ("armstrong initiator 66205") vinyl
  • Second floor bath:  baseline ("armstrong initiator 66205") vinyl

Exterior Selections

  • Siding:  "Pebble clay"
  • Shake:  "Sandy tan"
  • Stone:  "Conestoga Cutstone"
  • Windows:  White
  • Vinyl Trim:  White
  • Gutters:  White
  • Garage Door:  White
  • Front Door:  "Tricorn Black"
  • Shutter Color:  "Dark Berry"
  • Shingles:  "Weathered Gray"


Cherry Bordeaux Cabinets
Kitchen cabinets level 1 upgrade ("cherry bordeaux")

Fireplace Granite Surround Tropical Brown
Fireplace granite surround

Armstrong Initiator 66205 Vinyl
Vanity cabinets ("fairfield wheat") with vinyl floors ("armstrong initiator 66205")

Black Cherry Rails Northern Cliffs Carpet Level 2
Kitchen cabinets, "black cherry" stair railing, "northern cliffs" level 1 upgrade carpet, "oak/cherry 3 1/4"" level 2 hardwood, "santa cecilia" granite kitchen counter-tops
Conestoga Cutstone
"conestoga cutstone" for our exterior stone

Milan Exterior Selections
All of our exterior selections

Sandy Tan Shake Pebble Clay Siding Dark Berry Shutters Tricorn Black Front Door
"conestoga cutstone" stone, "sandy tan" shake, "pebble clay" siding, "dark berry" shutters, and "tricorn black" door

Well, that's pretty much it for now.  We're pretty excited about this build - we got everything we wanted and still stayed slightly under budget!!

Next up will be our NVR mortgage approval (fingers crossed)...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Basement Plans

So, as evidenced by my previous posts, we are getting the finished basement in our new home.  What irks me about Ryan Homes' finished basement jobs is that they typically only finish about HALF of the basement (sometimes less) and leave you with a crap-load of (what seems like) unnecessary storage space.  Granted, some unfinished storage space is desirable, but I would say a ratio like 75% finished, 25% unfinished would still yield plenty of storage space while giving you a bit more living space too.

To make things worse in our case, with the Milan plan, the basement situation is aggravated by the awkward design.  They just put things in weird positions such that it hinders the expansion of the basement.  A perfect example of this is that they put your bathroom (or bathroom rough-ins) right in the middle of the floor plan!  Basically, if you ever want to finish the unfinished (or "storage") space, you'll find that you either can't, or you'll have to move the bathroom (costly), or you'll just have to deal with the bathroom being right in the middle of your open space (which would look really weird IMHO).

To demonstrate what I am saying, take a look at these unmodified basement plans for the Milan:
See, if you add the bathroom as it's designed in these plans, you've basically cut yourself off from finishing the "unfinished" space to the right of the bathroom.  And even if you elect the finished "exercise" room, it's still awkward because you have that slight hall that goes past the bathroom to get into the exercise room and then that hall dead-ends into a doorway into the "unfinished" space.  Weird.

So, after being pretty unhappy with the "out-of-the-box" plan, I decided to make some changes.  Take a look:

Ryan Homes Milan Basement Plan

This is the compartmentalized design that I am going to hand to my project manager.  I expect for them to push back a bit, but the ONLY thing I really need them to do is to move our bathroom rough-ins.  They don't have to finish the rest of the storage space - I don't expect that at all.  I expect them to wall it all up according to their plan and I will change the configuration later the way I want.  But, you see what just moving the bathroom can do for this layout????  In this design, I have everything placed (including our Guardian equipment) according to how I am planning to change the wall configurations in the future.

On a more personal note, I am a bit let down by Ryan Homes in the basement (and bang for your buck) world.  On every basement design that I've seen for them, they only give you a small area as "finished" then charge you extra for any extra finishing you get (e.g. media or exercise room).  That's very convenient for them.  Personally, I think they should finishing those spaces with the pretty high price they are charging to get the finished basement.  Beyond that, I don't like the fact that they don't seem to give you any leeway to customize anything in the basement (wall configuration, etc.) and, from what I've seen so far, they're pretty resistant to any changes that you do propose.

At any rate, I plan to do whatever it takes to get that bathroom moved....... don't care if I have to go run around the job site naked every day until they give in!  :)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Flooring Selections (detailed)

From what I've seen, this is one of the most viewed posts for new home builders like myself.  I think that's because a lot of us are VISUAL people... we tend to like to see things with our eyes.  The complexities of trying to put together a unique, combined scheme of cabinet colors, counter-tops, and flooring are astronomical.  That's because there are so many combinations - and most of us want a combined look that is truly unique!  So, as a visual species, we naturally search out possibilities on the web to view examples of what other people have done, so that we can pull the elements we like the best from those examples to put together in our minds what we LIKE, and what we DON'T LIKE.  It's a process of visual construction aided by the process of elimination.

Of course, it could just be a "me" thing because I'm admittedly indecisive... ESPECIALLY when it comes to matching colors and schemes... I don't have what you would call a "natural knack" for it so I have to be careful :)

That all being said, with no further adieu....

Our Flooring Selections

We met with our flooring consultant at Rite-Rug today to do our flooring selections for our new home.  The consultant's name is Lyndsay and she was absolutely fabulous to deal with.  She offered valuable tips and, most importantly, was PATIENT with us as we struggled to make our choices.  She spent nearly a total of 2 hours with us.  She was very friendly and kind, and we are pleased with our experience.  We actually had a lot of fun choosing our flooring, but it definitely entailed some of the hardest decisions we've made yet in our construction process.

First, let me explain how flooring through Ryan Homes works (and I can only speak for the Milan model but I would bet it's all the same).

You have 4 types of flooring: carpet, vinyl, hardwood, and ceramic tile.  The house is divided into zones (typically by rooms).  The zones determine what type of flooring you can put in.  For example, all "wet" zones (kitchen, bathrooms, etc.) must have a water-resilient type of flooring (basically, not carpet... but hardwood, strangely enough, is allowed).

Obviously... when you select carpet, you also select to have padding installed.

Basically, on the first floor, you can have anywhere from 8 to 10 "zones."  For us, we had 9 - the foyer, the hall, the study, the dining room, the family room, the kitchen, the morning room, the family entry, and the powder room.  What Ryan Homes did not make clear to us (until the day we had this appointment), was that, if you're doing carpet, any "connected" carpet-supporting rooms (not "wet" rooms) that aren't isolated by a structure (e.g. a wall or a door) MUST share the same carpet and padding.  So, for us, this meant that our dining room, first floor hall, and family room all have to have matching carpeting/padding.  Same rule applies for the kitchen and morning room ("connected," "wet" zones when selecting water-resilient flooring).  Not a huge deal, I just wish that would've been clear from the start.

The first floor is the only floor you can specify flooring types by zone (with some exception).  The basement, second floor, and attic, are one-for-all deals.  Basically, whatever you select is what they apply to the whole floor (the exception being any "wet" zones or "storage" areas).  In addition, basement flooring dictates first-floor-to-basement staircase flooring, and second-floor flooring dictates first-to-second floor staircase flooring, and attic dictates the second-to-attic staircase flooring.

Flooring (regardless of type) and carpet padding, like anything else in a Ryan Home, has a base (which is included in your house's base pricing), and then several levels of upgrades which get more expensive as you go up the chain.

Based on our experience, here is what is included in base pricing:

  • Builder-grade carpet (basically what you would find in a modest apartment) for "non-wet" zones - 5 year warranty
  • 5 lb. padding (which provides little support and will degrade quickly in high-traffic areas) in carpeted areas - 5 year warranty
  • Vinyl flooring (basically linoleum) in "wet" zones - 5 year warranty
When I was researching flooring options, I had a hard time finding prices associated with upgraded flooring... so I am including that here (please excuse my scribbles and scrawls):

Ryan Homes Flooring Prices

Now onto what we selected (with pricing as always) :)

To keep things consistent, we selected the same carpet on the first and second floors, as well as the same vinyl for the "wet" zones (bathrooms/laundry room).

For this next part, note the standard warranty on any base flooring is 5 years.  I'll note where this is different if applicable.


We elected the base carpet ("Thornwood" color) with the base padding (5 lb.).  The thought is that this is going to be the main rec/play area of the home, so we didn't want to sink a bunch of money into carpet/padding that will be destroyed and replaced eventually.  Not to mention the "F" word (no no, I mean FLOODING you pervs! sheesh!!).

First Floor

  • Powder Room:  Vinyl - "Initiator 66205" (base / $0)
  • Dining Room:  Carpet - "Graystone/701 Northern Cliffs" (level 1 upgrade / $100), Padding - 8 lb. (level 1 upgrade / $75) (10 year warranty, carpet and pad)
  • Family Entry:  Hardwood - "3 1/4" Oak/Cherry" (level 2 upgrade / $500)
  • Family Room:  Carpet - "Graystone/701 Northern Cliffs" (level 1 upgrade / $225), Padding - 8 lb. (level 1 upgrade / $175) (10 year warranty, carpet and pad)
  • Foyer: Hardwood - "2 1/4" Oak/Cherry" (level 1 upgrade / $595)
  • Hall - Carpet - "Graystone/701 Northern Cliffs" (level 1 upgrade / $25), Padding - 8 lb. (level 1 upgrade / $50) (10 year warranty, carpet and pad)
  • Kitchen:  Hardwood - "3 1/4" Oak/Cherry" (level 2 upgrade / $2195)
  • Morning Room:  Hardwood - "3 1/4" Oak/Cherry" (level 2 upgrade / $1495)
  • Study:  Carpet - "Graystone/701 Northern Cliffs" (level 1 upgrade / $100), Padding - 5 lb. (base / $0) (10 year warranty, carpet)
We didn't upgrade the padding in the study because we have vinyl mats we put down for our rolly chairs and weren't too concerned about padding degrading since this isn't a high traffic area.

Second Floor

  • Carpeted throughout (including stairs), sans "wet" zones:  Carpet - "Graystone/701 Northern Cliffs" (level 1 upgrade / $995), Padding - 8 lb. (level 1 upgrade / $795) (10 year warranty, carpet and pad)
  • Bathrooms and Laundry Room:  Vinyl - "Initiator 66205" (base / $0)

Pictures, pictures, pictures...

Ryan Homes Flooring Choices
We started with this - "Cherry Bordeaux" kitchen cabinets, "3 1/4" oak/saddle" hardwood, "Fawn's Leap" level 1 upgraded carpet, "black cherry" stair railing, "Anqitue Mascarello" laminate counter-tops, "Fairfield honey" bathroom cabinets... Um, I forget the vinyl name, but that's the base "Thornwood" carpeting for basement underneath.
Ryan Homes Flooring Choices
We ended up with this - "cherry bordeaux" kitchen cabinets, "3 1/4" oak/cherry" hardwood (level 2 upgrade), "Northern Cliffs" level 2 upgraded carpet, "black cherry" stair railing, "Santa Cecilia" granite counter-tops, basement carpet same as above.
Ryan Homes Flooring Choices
BUT.... we may change back to the "Fawn's Leap" level 1 upgraded carpet for a "less gold" look... what do you all think???
Ryan Homes Flooring Choices
And finally... we settled on this for our bathrooms/laundry room - "Fairfield honey" cabinets (base cabinets) with "Armstrong Initiator 662052" vinyl flooring (base vinyl, we dropped the upgraded vinyl we had in the first photo to make some $$$ room for upgraded counter-tops and hardwood flooring).

All in all, we came out slightly over-budgeted, which is okay because we made up for the overage in other areas of the home (we came out under-budget w/ our low-voltage selections w/ Guardian).


Please comment!

Okay, it took me LITERALLY all day to write this post!  I'm looking for suggestions on whether or not to switch our main carpet back to the "Fawns Leap" (see first picture) for a "not so golden" look.

Also, I'm not so sure on our bathroom/laundry room scheme... does this match??

Thanks everyone, I really hope this posts finds you all doing well and that I have helped someone else in their flooring ventures with Ryan Homes!!!!!

Next up...... Pre-construction meeting (or, hopefully, NVR mortgage approval??)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Guardian Selections (part 2)

Guardian... A Done Deal

That's right, we have FINALIZED our low-voltage wiring selections provided via Guardian.  This post is a direct follow-up from my previous post Guardian (part 1).

We met with Nate, our sales rep, again and it didn't take long at all because I knew exactly what we we're getting because we had plenty of time to review our selections from the first go-round with him.  So, with no further delay, here's a list of our final selections:
  • A total of 7 CATV outlets (All 3 bedrooms, loft, family room, basement rec room, and basement unfinished media room).
  • A total of 7 Data (Cat5e) outlets (Master bedroom, loft, family room, study, family entry for a project I'll be doing down the road, basement rec room, and basement unfinished media room).
  • Flat-panel TV behind-the-wall cabling pre-wire (family room).  We'll have one plate above the fireplace for the TV and the other one will be on the same wall near the corner for our source equipment.  We elected the standard configuration for the wall plates (2 HDMI ports and 1 data (Cat5e) port).
  • 2 Room Whole Audio System (includes 2 speakers and 1 wall-mounted volume control per room). We're doing the family room/kitchen area as one room since it's basically one big room, and the other room will be the basement rec room.  Note that we elected NOT to get the source receiver for this system, we will provide our own for much cheaper.  The system cables will terminate to a wall plate that will have a optical cable port in it for plug and play access (this will be in the basement - more on that below).

And a couple points of note....

  • All of the CATV/Data cables will be ran to a "source" box that will be wall-mounted in the unfinished basement storage area.  That box will be connected to our non-wireless router, which will be connected to our cable modem.  A nice-and-neat configuration that will have all the major components wall-mounted in the same area to cut down on exposed wiring and overall clutter-ness.
  • The whole-home audio system will terminate in the same area as the components mentioned above.
  • We'll be running two servers side by side next to all of these components.  One is our main server, configured for DHCP, DNS, Active Directory, etc.  The other is our file server (or media server) which provides centralized file/media access and will be connected to our whole-home audio system AND our network, providing a source for our audio system AND any network-connected devices for streaming media.
  • We did not opt for Guardian's security system.  Even though I like the hard-wired configuration, their equipment was just too dated for me.  Not to mention that I don't like long-term contracts for things I don't really "need" (they have a 36 mo. contract, but you do get the first 6 mos. free).


  • 6 wall outlets came included with our home (3 were included in our base configuration... adding study added 1, and adding the finished basement added 2), so had to add on a total of 8 outlets.  Guardian has a 6-pack of outlets for $495 and each individual outlet is $100.  So, our total price for outlets was $695 (not bad).
  • Flat-panel TV behind-the-wall cabling pre-wire setup... $370 (which IMHO is pretty high, but with mounting our TV above the fireplace, we didn't want to mess with this after the house was built).
  • 2 room whole-home audio system sans the source reciever... $1330.
That's it for now.  I like what we're getting even though I think some of the things are overpriced.  BUT.... still worth the price because of the a** pain to do some of things myself (which I am sure they are counting on and price aggressively because many people feel this way).

IN OTHER NEWS... we also had our flooring meeting with Rite Rug!  So expect a post with our flooring choices soon!!!!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Finalized Structure

Structural Selections

Well it's been a busy week for us with all kinds of doctor appointments, builder meetings, work, etc., but we managed to get our finalized structural changes into our sales rep the day before they were due.  So, here it is... these are what we elected structure-wise in addition to what's included in base pricing.
  • Elevation L (the cottage elevation that's included with our lot)
  • Finished Basement
  • 3 Piece plumbing rough-in in basement
  • Morning room
  • Morning room additional side windows
  • Kitchen gourmet island
  • Family room side fire place w/ granite surround
  • Converted formal living room to Study
  • Owner's bath soaking tub & shower (level 1 upgrade)
  • Laundry room window
  • Carpeted stairs with wood railing
  • Joy overhead lights in the bedrooms (sans master) and the study
  • Complete ceiling fans in master bedroom, loft, and morning room
  • Water softener rough-in
  • Electric 50 gallon water heater w/ mixing valve
That's it.  We're pretty happy with this build.  The cottage elevation is beautiful, though I wish the porch extended fully across the front of the house instead of just in front of the front door.  I mentioned it and it was not an option to add on as a standard upgrade.  The SMR said we COULD order it as a custom upgrade, but would definitely be expensive.  Eh... I supposed I can live with how it comes :)

Here is what our house will look like :)

Other thing... we did not opt for a deck or patio because we have a very good deck designer/builder in the family who will help us do this after closing at a fraction of the cost of what Ryan Homes wanted to do it during construction.  Although, we may get a patio instead because of the low maintenance.  Something to think about!

There was a big debate about getting a gas water heater as opposed to the electric one that Ryan included in our base pricing.  Although we've had gas and have found it more than sufficient for our needs, we decided to give the electric one a try since it's basically a no-charge item..... kind of worried about this one.  We have a family of four and I just hope it can keep it.... eek!

That's it for now, next up is Guardian (low-voltage) selections and then of course flooring!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Guardian Selections (part 1)

Well we had our meeting with Guardian, Ryan's partner company to do the low-voltage wiring, and naturally this was a very important meeting for me.  Being an I.T. engineer, I have very specific ideas on how I want my low-voltage wiring done.  Data and AV outlets are of particular interest to me because I've already analyzed our floor plan and applied a concept of where everything will need to be placed from a network infrastructure point-of-view.

First thing of note is that I am working with a budget of about $3000 for our low-voltage wiring.  This doesn't leave a lot of play room beyond the things that I MUST have.  Naturally, my list of things to do are prioritized by "must haves" and "nice to haves" depending on where we are with the budget.

Now, a word about Guardian themselves...

The sales rep I met with, Nate, was extremely helpful and understanding.  He didn't try to push things onto me like I half-expected him to do.  Basically, he let me control the "flow" of the meeting by itemizing things I wanted to get by order of priority.  Guardian's pricing (which I will include below) is mostly fair but overpriced on specific things.  Their outlets come at a price of $100 a pop.  With each outlet, you can specify it to be either data/phone (CAT5e, or CAT6 for an upgraded fee) or CATV (coaxial).  They have a bundle deal where you can buy 6 outlets at a discounted price of $495.  Each outlet is ran to a powered "smart box" in a location of your choosing for centralized access.  All in all, pretty fair prices with the outlets.

The flat-panel TV pre-wiring pricing also seemed appropriate.  Basically, the pre-wiring comes with two panels (one for behind your TV and the other behind your source equipment) that are connected with wiring behind the drywall so it hides all of your AV cords between your TV and your source equipment.  The panel comes standard with 2 HDMI ports and 1 data (CAT5e) end-to-end and starts at about $180 if both panels are on the same wall and within the same stud space.  On the same wall, but separate stud spaces will cost you a bit extra at about $250.  Having the plates on totally separate walls will cost around $370.  And if you exceed their maximum length between the two plates by 25 feet (I think) then you're shelling out some additional $$$ for that.

Now, the audio selections.  The nice thing about Guardian on these is that they offer a wide variety of choices for what you might want to do while also giving plenty of options for those of us with limited budgets.  The not-so-nice thing is that the equipment they install is overpriced (even though I think the pre-wire only prices are fair).  That being said, Guardian does use some quality equipment, most notably their speakers which are made by Klipsch. Not top of the line but certainly good quality speakers. I read that they're the speakers used by many cinemas.

Here is some pricing on Guardian's audio packages...
  • 5.1 Dolby Surround full package pre-wire and built-in speakers... $1800
  • 5.1 Dolby Surround pre-wire only (no speakers)... $650
  • Rear surround sound speaker pre-wire and built-in speakers... $700
  • Rear surround sound pre-wire only (no speakers)... $200
  • Whole-home audio system (4 rooms with 2 speakers each) (can have 1 room be an outdoor deck/patio area) with individual room volume control and one source receiver... $4200
  • Whole-home audio system (same as above but with only 2 rooms, 2 speakers each)... $2700
  • Whole-home audio system (2 rooms, 2 speakers) with individual volume control, but no source equipment (pre-wired to a outlet plate only)... $1350
Couple notes on the whole-home audio systems (I was interested in these so I asked a lot of questions).... the whole-home audio systems (if you get the source equipment) works either via Bluetooth or you can plug a device directly into the source receiver.  You CANNOT play different things in different rooms with the standard setup.  Basically, one source for all rooms.  You CAN upgrade to individual sources but the cost increases exponentially for each additional source you add (close to $1200).  If you do not get any source equipment from them, then you must provide your own.  However they will pre-wire everything to one wall plate for easy plug-and-play capability.

Finally, the security system.  Pretty much on par with the rest of the standard systems out there as far as cost for equipment and monitoring, though Guardian's equipment does seem a bit dated.  They'll give you the basic equipment for free (1 keypad, 1 motion sensor, 3 door/window sensors, 1 garage door sensor, and siren) but they'll charge you $250 for installation.  Even though the equipment is a bit out-of-date, I'll give them props for the $250 install since everything is hard-wired (not wireless), which is better IMHO because wireless signals can be BLOCKED.  So, you get the basic equipment for free (you can also add extra components for an additional charge), but Guardian will require you to sign a 36 month contract with their monitoring service (for which they give you 6 months free).  Might seem a bit extreme, but I did some research on the Internet and this is how about 90% of home security companies out there do their deals as well.  After the 6 months, you'll pay $45 a month for basic monitoring.  There are, of course, different tiers of monitoring services.  Not sure what they are though.  At any rate, our sales rep also attempted to sell us monitored heat/smoke/CO2 detectors (which were quite expensive, but don't remember the exact prices).  Also a couple of home automation features that I promptly nixed as well.

OH... I almost forgot about their central vacuum system.  It looks cool, but it alone costs $5000.  NIXED.

So, what did we get????

Well I was a little indecisive about what we chose initially so we haven't officially gotten anything yet.  We'll be meeting again next week to finalize selections (which is why this post is "part 1").  But here's what I'm thinking....
  • 12 data/phone/CATV outlets (6 are included w/ our house, all depends on what you add... e.g. getting a finished basement yields 2 outlets).  So, I opted for the 6-pack outlet deal on top of what we already have - $495
  • Multi-wall TV pre-wire in family room (our TV will be above the fireplace) - $370
  • Whole-home audio system for 2 rooms (incl. speakers but NO source - I'll add a good one later for much, much cheaper than what Guardian charges) - $1350
That's it.  So in total we're looking at $2215 in low-voltage expenditures.  Not bad seeing how that puts us under budget by about $800.  Still considering all our options though, nothing will be finalized until we have our second meeting with Guardian next week.  Will update again after that!